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4Edit

Dawn found Coruscant already bustling with activity. Its surface completely covered with buildings towering kilometers into the sky, the planet was a testament to centuries of prominence as the seat of governmental power in the galaxy. Thousands of speeders and craft constantly filled the skylanes of the sleepless world with traffic. The galactic capital was uneasy with war tensions, the population seeking security in the Grand Army of the Republic and the Jedi Order.

The towering Jedi temple, with its five spires, was a clear reminder of the Order’s presence and dedication to the greater good on Coruscant. Inside one of the temple’s practice rooms, sweating hard, Selu Kraen balanced himself upside down on one hand, eyes closed in concentration. Two piles of metal disks were on the ground next to him, partially depleted by the half dozen floating in the air around him. At a signal from a nearby Jedi, a spherical remote hovered into view, circling. Hovering gently, it spat a green bolt of energy at Selu, who mentally moved a disk into the path of the bolt, deflecting the blast. The remote continued to seek an opening in Selu’s defense, while Selu kept the disks moving in patterns to intercept the blasts. As Selu demonstrated proficiency in blocking the remote’s blasts, the apprentice sent another one after him. Soon, Selu had five remotes firing at him. His hand and his body shook from the effort of blocking the blasts with the disks. Some of them were only partially deflected and impacted on the walls centimeters from him. Selu realized that he couldn’t maintain his defense. With a final burst of exertion, he found a disk in the pile, lifted it, and began spinning it at increasingly faster speeds while still blocking the bolts fired from the remotes. Then, he telekinetically smashed the disk through four of the remotes, disabling and knocking them into walls. The remaining remote he shoved the other five disks he was controlling into, sending it flying back. Then, very slowly and deliberately, he opened his eyes and casually vaulted into the air to land on both feet.

“Not bad, Selu. Not bad.”

Serra Keto, recently promoted Jedi Knight and a good friend of Selu’s, deactivated the remotes and smiled as Selu took a small bow.

“Thanks Serra. I know everything just comes so easily for you.” Selu was used to Serra’s sarcasm, usually directed at him whenever she knew she was stronger in area than he was.

“No, really, I mean it. You have a gift with telekinesis. Seriously.”

“Well then. Thank you, Serra.”

Selu smiled and so did Serra, dimpling nicely, but then Serra’s smile turned into a smirk.

“Now that you’re warmed up, how about a sparring match or two?”

Selu keenly understood the reason for her smirk. Serra was the former apprentice of lightsaber instructor Cin Drallig and Serra had learned much from him. On his best day, Selu could sometimes hold her off, but he had been up early today, meditating and training, working and studying. Serra would have the upper hand and he knew it. Nevertheless, he hauled his protesting body up and squared himself into a ready stance while Serra lit both her lightsabers and assumed a double-bladed Jar’Kai stance with practice ease.

Twenty minutes later, as his lightsaber went flying out of his hand for the third time and Serra pointed both her green blades at him, Selu protested.

“Enough, enough! I yield!”

Serra smiled triumphantly, “I’ll give you credit, Kraen. You do know when you’re beaten.”

“Thanks, I think. Sometimes I think the Masters put you with me just to test my patience and humility.” “An excellent idea, Padawan, and one that I may propose to the Jedi Council, but weren’t you the one who asked for her help?”

Cin Drallig’s voice came from the entry into the training room, and Selu winced. He had indeed asked Serra for her help, not the other way around.

“Yes, Master Drallig.”

“I have need of Serra elsewhere, but you can practice with her some more later, after you have fixed all these remotes you’ve presumably smashed into walls, at the very least.”

As Serra walked to join her former master, Selu acknowledged Master Drallig and collected the remotes, taking them to a small workshop area for repairs. Even as he worked, he reminded himself that this was part of his training. Ever since Master Koon had told him that he was to take the Jedi trials soon, Selu had thrown himself into his studies and training more seriously than ever. He barely slept now, studying late into the night in the Jedi archives, pushing himself harder and harder, to the point of exhaustion. No matter—bags under the eyes and sore muscles were of little consequence to a Jedi Knight. Now, what was he doing again?

Frustrated by his inability to comprehend and readily finish such a simple task, he concentrated increasingly hard on the remote, trying to remember which repulsorlift coil needed to be torqued. He was so focused he didn’t even notice the diminutive, wizened green-skinned figure on a hoverchair floating up silently behind him. Exasperated, Selu slammed the hydrospanner on the table.

“A problem, have you?” croaked a familiar voice behind him.

Selu jumped, startled, but didn’t turn to answer.

“Master Yoda. Um, no, no problem. This repair job is just a bit frustrating. I can’t seem to figure out which coil needs adjusted.”

“So old am I not to deserve even a passing glance from the young? Hmph.” Yoda poked Selu’s shoulder with his walking stick.

“Sorry, Master Yoda.”

Selu turned and gave Master Yoda the deference he deserved, although inwardly still fuming over the repair job.

“Better, yes. Hear I do that take the Jedi trials soon, you will.”

“Yes, Master Yoda. I hope to do well on them.”

“Hard, difficult, perilous, the trials can be. Calm you must be, Padawan Kraen.”

“Yes, Master.”

With a bit of an impish sparkle in his heavy lidded eyes, Master Yoda gave Selusda a further bit of instruction.

“Your eyes, too heavy are they. Barely slept you have, for two weeks, no? When completed the repairs, have you, a rest from your studies for the day you will have.”

Before Selu could make a noise of protest, Yoda continued, “Even Yoda forever cannot be working. Rest, he must sometimes, and be with friends. Not too busy make yourself that cannot see around can you.”

“Yes, Master Yoda.”

The aged Jedi Grand Master silently turned and floated out on his hoverchair, leaving Selu to fiddle with the remotes for several more hours until they floated and moved satisfactorily. Returning the remotes to their storage bin, he sighed and tried hard not to think of all the productive things he could be doing. Wandering around the Temple proved a pleasant enough diversion, giving him time to simply observe sentients going about their business. Eventually, his meandering course took him to the Room of a Thousand Fountains. The room was largely empty, although in the days before the Clone Wars, it was more heavily occupied. Now, the roar of the fountains and splashing sounds of the cascading water drowned out the few scattered conversations. With a furtive look around, Selu saw that no one else was around, and leaping lightly over the wall and over the surface of the water, he streamlined his body until he slid behind a waterfall into a crevice in the rock.

The crevice was cool, with enough room for him to sprawl out comfortably, and best of all, totally obscured from view if one didn’t know about it already. As light refracted through the water danced random patterns on the gray stone, Selu sat back, satisfied. He once had spent much time in this area, but the urgent callings of war had lessened his times here until it was a rare moment when he could slip off to this corner of the temple for a respite. Jedi weren’t just needed on the battlefield, but also to do research, study, and prepare reports. The workload of the order had more than doubled, and the loss of so many Jedi at Geonosis and elsewhere was taxing. Selu suspected that the primary reason he was being promoted to Jedi Knight was because of the pressing need for more Jedi Knights rather than a sign of his development in the Force. He settled into a meditative pose, calming his mind much as if he was calming a stormy wave-tossed pool of water. Just as he had pictured his thoughts resolving into a glassy-smooth surface, he felt another presence skitter across nearby, the disturbance like a rock skipping across the surface of the water. Selu focused for a bit, and then opened his eyes to see Serra Keto looking down at him.

“Serra. You surprised me.”

“It’s funny, too. You looked so serene, and I hated to disturb that, but I just couldn’t help it.”

“Hmph,” grunted Selu.

“Oh, what’s bothering you today?”

Selu was in no particular mood for polite conversation, especially not with Serra. As talented as she might be, she knew it, and consciously or not, often expressed that confidence.

“It’s nothing.”

“Fine, be that way. I’ll just remember that the next time you spar with me.”

Selu rolled his eyes. It just wasn’t fair. He was one year younger than Serra, yet his skills with the Force just hadn’t seemed to progress as fair as he wanted. Sure, he could telekinetically move a starfighter-sized object on a good day, but that hadn’t helped him grow more attuned to the Unifying Force or out-duel most of his peers in saber combat.

Selu’s lack of response miffed Serra, especially since such a comment usually loosened him up. She was well aware of his competitive, self-criticizing nature and could see it getting the better of him.

“Selu, what’s wrong?”

“I already said it’s nothing, Serra. I’m just tired, and I’m not progressing as much as I want to.”

“Patience, Selu. Haste can lead to fear, and fear is of the dark side.”

“Ugh, now you’re lecturing me too.”

“I am not. Except when you need it.” Serra was indignant. “And except maybe on your lightsaber technique.”

“Yes, yes, I know. It needs work. My bladework, and everything else; they all need work.”

“You’re too one dimensional. You start off well, and have decent technique in the first few minutes, but then you get one-minded, either attacking or defending, but not both.”

“I’m sorry—saber combat doesn’t come as easily to me as some other things.”

“Well, that’s true, though you’re pretty good at telekinesis and unarmed combat.”

It was not empty praise on either regard—Selu was considered better than average in both areas, one from a natural attunement and the other from practice.

“Selu, have you ever considered using two blades?”

“Don’t I have enough trouble using one?”

“Yes, but Jedi who use two blades typically use one for parrying and the other for attacking. Might help with that one-sided nature of your style.”

“I don’t know. A second lightsaber is awfully hard to handle in the off hand. Most Jedi I know don’t use two.”

“Well, then how about a shoto? They’re smaller, easier to control, and you could probably even throw it.”

Selu considered for a minute. Shotos, the smaller dagger-like counterparts to lightsabers, were easier to handle, despite their relative obscurity.

“But then I’ll have to re-learn all the attacks, all the parries, all the velocities with two blades. I don’t have time for that.”

Serra smiled easily. “Tell you what.”

“What?”

“You make a shoto and I’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to use it.”

“But what about Master Drallig? All your classes?”

“I’ll tell Master Drallig that I’m taking a break to focus on another area for a bit. Just leave it to me.”

“Well . . . you’d do that for me?”

“Sure I would. You’re my friend, even if I do beat you terribly when we spar.”

“In that case . . . I accept. And thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Selu.”

As the two sat in the cool crevice and the drops of water reflected rays of light into their hideaway, the rest of the Temple continued about its business, ever vigilant guarding against any outside threat. However, for the moment, the two young Jedi were free to simply drink up the peaceful moments spent idle.

Months later

“You will be placed in a room for seven days. You will not eat, drink, or sleep. You will meditate on the Force. You will endure whatever conditions are set upon you. You will not speak to anyone. You will not see anyone. When you have found what it is you are looking for, you will be given further instructions.”

Selu Kraen sat cross-legged in a small room in the Jedi Temple, behind a locked door, eyes closed, meditating. Those instructions had been given to him by the Jedi Council, by senior Council member Master Windu after he had successfully repeated the Jedi Code. They, and his Master’s wish that the Force be with him, had been the last words he’d heard from anyone in almost seven days. Since then, he’d done little but meditate, searching the Force. Though his awareness of its currents had increased in the past few months, the past few days had revealed nothing especially significant to him. To make matters worse, the powers that be had apparently seen fit to alter the environmental controls on the room, ranging from freezing cold to parching hot. In addition, the room was featureless and empty, with no variety or decoration, just a bland earthy-colored duracrete wall, and three others like it. The hours dragged by slowly, and with only his Jedi tunic for attire, Selu had no idea of the time in the windowless room. He would spend hours at a time meditating on the Force, take breaks and exercise, and then meditate some more. He was bone-weary, but the fact that he knew was being observed forced him to stay awake, stay focused, and keep his mind off the gnawing hunger.

Selu Kraen let his thoughts flow back into the Force, but instead of looking throughout the galaxy, trying to see the past, the present, or the future somewhere as he had been since he’d been in the room, he decided to focus his senses on himself. Perhaps what he was looking for was inside him. For a minute, his concentration wavered, and then his mental focus sharpened, catapulting his perceptions.

Betrayal. Loss. Pain. The utter destruction and sacrifice of everything you hold dear.'

“No!” Selu thought.

You will lose everything, and you will do nothing to stop it. You will abandon everything you have fought for. There is but one way to prevent this, and that is to do something against everything you’ve ever learned. Something of the dark side. This is the choice of your life.

Selu’s mind whirled. This terrible choice, this dark voice had come from within him, calling him. He was faced with an insurmountable obstacle—either choice represented ruin on some level. Worst of all, the option had only come from within him, meaning that it was a weakness in his character.

Selu pondered this concept for some time, wracking his mind for some explanation, some way to gain an understanding and control the situation. And then, the epiphany came to him.

He stood up and opened his eyes.

“I reject the need to understand and control the situation. I will be at peace, and I will make the choice when the time comes. The future is not set in stone, and I do not need to control it.”

As he said these words, a sense of peace washed over him. Selu smiled, tired and hungry as he was. He had found what he was looking for—the peace to accept the future and its uncontrollable nature. Selu continued to sit and marvel at this revelation for some time, attempting to discern its meaning.

Eventually, the door behind him opened, and Selu, stretching, arose and walked out the door into the dimly lit hallway. Suddenly, he felt a disturbance in the Force. It seemed as if a dark shadow had materialized out of thin air to block his way. It was hungry, malevolent. Selu reached down and hastily grabbed for the lightsaber on his belt, only to find that it wasn’t there. It, along with everything else typically he kept there, was back in his quarters for the duration of the Jedi trial.

The shadow stopped and directed its attention at Selu. He felt its gaze drift over him, even though it was an incoherent shape. Not knowing what to make of it, he squared his shoulders and attempted to stand up straight and muster his courage.

“The dark side has no place here. Be gone.”

The shadow halted, and then seemed to laugh at him. And then it assumed a coherent visage, a frightening sight Selu remembered well from his classes. A tattooed Rattataki woman, sneering with contempt, the description given of the Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress, a Separatist commander known for killing several Jedi. It spoke.

“I am already in this place. I smell your blood, Jedi. You are undone.”

“You did not win before, and you will not win this time.”

“You will join me or die.”

“I will never join you.”

“Very well then.”

Selu felt as if he couldn’t breathe as the shadow bore down on him. His throat went dry as he was stricken with fright. Part of its dark essence reached out to him, cold and clammy on his sleeve. He jerked back. He felt a person approach the end of the hallway. Selu had an epiphany—all he had to do was destroy the person at the end of the hall and the shadow would flee. Though weaponless and with nothing to throw telekinetically, Plo Koon had taught him an arcane technique eschewed by the majority of the Jedi. Known as Electric Judgment, it channeled the Force in tangible bolts of energy similar to Force lightning, and could be lethal. Selu knew the technique, but had never used it in action before. He felt the surge of energy, the tiniest coruscation of greenish sparks around his palm as the Force was channeled through his arm, collecting in his palm like electrons flowing into a living capacitor. All he had to do was unleash that charge. Then Selu reeled back, thunderstruck. Attacking an indiscernible person was of the dark side. He dissipated the energy built quickly—use of the Electric Judgment could kill someone.

However, he could still disable the person. The Force could also be channeled into a powerful telekinetic attack. Used to push someone into a wall, it could disable the person while Selu went to summon help. It would stop the dark-side shadow and let him escape; find Master Yoda or Master Windu or do something. Selu stopped short again. Attacking was still of the dark side, and there was only one appropriate response to the shadow—and attack was not it.

“I stand in your way,” Selu said calmly.

“You will say that, but when it matters most, you will run and abandon your duty.”

The shadow laughed, mocking him, and the sound of it was like razor blades flying at Selu. Then it vanished.

Selu jerked his eyes open. He was still inside the meditation room, still in a kneeling position. It had only been a vision. He looked down, and saw that his hands were trembling, and beads of sweat were rolling down his neck, but he had stood strong, had faced the dark side and not given in to it.

The door slid open quietly, signaling that the seven days were over. A breath of cool air blew in, and Selu stood up. Plo Koon was standing in the doorway, smiling broadly.

“Greetings, Padawan. I bring word from the Council. Your test is over; I’m sure you have done well. Return to your quarters, eat, sleep, refresh yourself, and await further instruction for now.”

“Yes, Master.”

Selu stumbled off towards the nearest dining area. Still thinking about his vision of darkness and looking wistfully up towards the Hall of Knighthood, he nearly collided into a tall Jedi dressed in dark garments and walking with a hurried pace.

“Oops, sorry about that,” he said.

“It’s all right—just look where you’re going next time,” replied Anakin Skywalker.

Sheepish, Selu was careful to pay more attention to his surroundings after that incident. After a breakfast of Alderaan stew and flatbread, he returned to his quarters, and sprawled out on his bed, quickly falling sound asleep, for despite his use of the Force to refresh himself, he was bone-tired.

Several hours later, a small hand brushing the back of his hand awoke him, his eyes darting open to find a human male youngling of about twelve or thirteen standard years of age crouched next to his bed, gently shaking his hand and forearm.

“Padawan Kraen, wake up.”

“Mmmph—I am awake.”

“Master Koon wanted me to come get you.”

At the mention of his Master’s name, Selu sat up straight.

“Did he say what he wanted?”

“No,” the youngling—his name was Burtola, Selu remembered—admitted, but with a gleam in his eye said, “You might want to get cleaned up.”

“Hmm?” Selu sounded confused, but a quick look at a mirror showed his unkempt hair and tunic, both untouched for seven days.

Burtola wrinkled his nose. “You stink.”

“Oh, right, sorry.” Selu rummaged around in the small chest at the foot of his bed that contained his few possessions, looking for his other tunic.

“They told me to expect you to come within half a standard hour to the base of the main spire.”

“Thank you, Burtola.”

As the youngling departed, Selu headed into the refresher for a quick sonic shower. Doffing a fresh tunic, he dried most of the water out of his short black hair and the Padawan braid that hung down his right shoulder. Strapping his belt around his waist, he hooked his lightsaber onto the belt and strode out to the base of the main spire, his knee-length boots creaking as he walked out to meet his destiny.

Selu met Plo Koon at the base of the Temple Spire, and wordlessly the Kel Dor motioned him to follow him. Selu walked along in silence, somewhat distraught. He had passed his test, hadn’t he? Why wasn’t Master Koon saying anything to him? Koon’s path led them up the main spire, past massive statuary of ancient Jedi looking at him, and stopped at the Hall of Knighthood. Selu felt as if his heart could leap—he was to become a Jedi Knight! Exuberant, he strode into the darkened room, with Plo Koon following him.

Twelve Jedi Masters, many of them from the High Council and bearing their cloaks and lightsabers, were standing in a circle in a hushed silence. There was an eerie, reverent feeling to the room, and Selu could almost visibly see the Force in the presence of so many powerful auras.

“Kneel, Padawan Kraen.” Mace Windu’s deep voice resonated across the small room, his ebony face barely visible underneath his cloak.

Selu kneeled down in the center of the room, folding his legs underneath him.

“Place your lightsaber on the floor in front of you,” came the dry voice of the Cerean Master Ki-Adi-Mundi.

Selu complied, palming the cool metal cylinder of his lightsaber from his belt and placing it onto the smooth floor.

“Passed the Jedi Trials have you. Endured the trials of both flesh and spirit and passed them, have you.” Master Yoda’s voice, old and wise, brought Selu’s gaze off of the floor to the wizened Jedi Master. With his words, twelve lightsabers sprang to life, held in a vertical salute in front of each Master. Yoda, Mace Windu, Plo Koon, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Coleman Kcaj, the Nautolan Kit Fisto, Saesee Tiin, Luminara Unduli, Agen Kolar, Jocasta Nu, Jurokk, and Cin Drallig all stood ready, their blades providing the only light in the room.

“Step forward, Padawan,” commanded Yoda.

As Selu stepped forward to where Yoda stood on a chair, Yoda leveled his lightsaber over Selu’s right shoulder.

“Selusda Kraen, by right of the Council . . .”

The green blade was raised over his left shoulder now, and Selu felt exhilarated.

“. . . by the will of the Force, I dub thee Jedi Knight of the Republic.”

As Yoda repeated the last part of the ancient formula, he brought his lightsaber over to Selu’s right side again, severing his Padawan’s braid with a quick twitch of the wrist and a small stink of burned hair and ozone.

“Thank you very much Master Yoda.”

“Earned it, you have, young Kraen.”

Selu couldn’t hold it in any longer, and a smile burst out on his face.

“Several of your friends are waiting for you. I believe they have prepared some sort of celebration. It would be most unbecoming to keep them waiting,” said Plo Koon.

Selu looked up, replying, “Then by the Masters’ leave, I’ll take mine.”

“Our leave you have,” said Yoda. “Assignments we may have for you, but another time, given they can be.”

Bowing respectfully to the gathered Masters, Selu went to seek his friends, finding them in the Temple dining area. Gratefully he accepted a glass of fizzy bubblezap from Skip, a short dark-furred Tynnan Jedi Padawan himself nearing his own time of facing the trials. As Selu took a drink, Serra Keto moved around the table, and seeing his missing braid, threw her arms around him.

“Congratulations Selu! You made it—you’re a Jedi Knight now!”

Carefully balancing the drink in one hand amid backslaps from the Skip and Serra, Selu smiled broadly as he sat down at the table. In addition to Serra and Skip, Bairdon Jace, a gray-haired Jedi Knight was also present, grinning broadly at hearing of Selu’s success. The four knew each other well, despite their differences in personality and talents. Still, their group had been greater before the Clone Wars had started. The youngest member of the circle of friends, Aubrie Wyn, had been killed on Jabiim in the act of slaying the lead resistance leader there. Though young, Aubrie had been precocious and a talented healer with a knack for knowing exactly how to fix a problem. She was missed sorely, even though her loss had served to draw the rest of the group together and knit their friendships together more closely as they recovered from the tragedy of her death.

Over a steaming hot meal of kommerken steak and ootoowergs, the four recounted old memories, talked about the future, and forgot about the galaxy full of responsibility, war, and pain that loomed outside their cozy little group.

“Do you remember that time that we showed Scout and Whie how skilled we were with the Force on water?” Skip recounted.

“Of course I remember,” said Selu. “I camouflaged myself and stood underwater with my head down and my breather on while you stood on my shoulders. To everyone else it looked like you were walking on top of the water.” Selusda had a very rare gift in the power of Force Camouflage. While his use of it was hardly refined, with considerable effort he could hide himself from view for a brief period of time. In this instance, he had ventured over to the hidden alcove in the Room of a Thousand Fountains and then used the camouflage technique while walking along the bottom. Getting some weights so he wouldn’t float to the surface had been a necessity, but it had worked well.

“That’s right. We even had her put her hand in the water to show it wasn’t a trick,” chimed in Serra.

“And as she leaned in close to try and see the trick, you splashed her all over.”

“That’s right,” beamed Skip.

“The look on her face was priceless. She was so fooled.” Serra’s voice was a bit hard to discern between her laughing, but as all four of them were laughing with her, it didn’t matter much.

“But the best part was when Bairdon over here had carefully levitated a container of water over Whie’s head while he was laughing at Scout and dumped it on him.” Bairdon, usually reserved since the death of his master on Geonosis, was near tears, but from laughter, not sorrow, by now.

“Those two. It was so easy to fool them, even if we did in get in trouble for it from Master Fisto for making a mess.”

“Yeah, well doing the afternoon dishes was a fair trade for that prank.”

Much of the rest of the afternoon was spent recounting past stories and memories, and very little on productive activity. Bairdon, Serra, and Selu had already passed their Jedi trials, so they were not accountable to any particular master, nor did they have pressing responsibilities. Skip’s master, a Caamasi Jedi named Ylenic It’kla, was away on a diplomatic mission, as he often was, so Skip had been free to join them as well. To the four young Jedi, it was a welcome relief from the grim demeanor of war so pandemic around the galactic capital. Dark clouds still brooded on the horizon, but were temporarily forgotten.

5Edit

Selu Kraen stood in one of the corner rooms of the Jedi Temple, having arisen early and eaten a small breakfast. The day was still young enough that Coruscant Prime was still only partially over the city’s starscrapered horizon. Today, the star seemed veiled and hooded, casting a dull red gleam over the cityworld. A shiver ran down Selu’s spine. The dark side of the Force was strong today, hanging over Coruscant like a stooping hawk-bat. Selu couldn’t pinpoint the source, though, and went about his duties with only the faintest sense of unease. He received briefings on Cato Neimoidia, the Neimoidian purse-world marked by bridge-cities and where Separatist resistance continued despite Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s successful breaching of Trade Federation Viceroy Gunray’s citadel. Soon, he and Plo Koon were to take over operations on the planet, with the aim of flushing out the last Separatist holdouts.

He was in the middle of teaching a class on mathematics to a group of somewhat attentive younglings when alarms started blaring across the city. A massive disturbance rolled through the Force like a wave created by the deaths of several thousand sentients. Mace Windu’s voice came calmly through the Force, echoing in his mind.

“Coruscant is under attack. The Confederate fleet is in low orbit around the planet and has penetrated the shield.”

Selu leaped to his feet from behind his desk, instantly alert, his hand on the hilt of his lightsaber. His shoto was still in his quarters, mostly because he still wasn’t sure of his skill with it yet.

“Younglings, report back to your dormitory master immediately and await instructions. Quickly.”

As the small Jedi hopefuls raced out of the room, spurred by the urgency in Selu’s tone, Selu sprinted towards the Temple hangar, his cloak billowing out behind him and his boots clattering on the smooth floors, to retrieve his Aethersprite. If the Separatist fleet had arrived in force, his skills in a starfighter would be needed. Throughout the halls of the Temple, Jedi were scrambling to their positions, to their craft, to do something, like some sort of stirred up insect collective.

Reaching the hangar, he didn’t find his Delta-7 but there was an Eta-2 craft ready, with the truncated astromech droid used for targeting and navigation already powering up the craft. Strapping on the mind/starfighter neural band that allowed his actions to be more quickly processed by the fighter, Selu ran an extremely abbreviated checklist, and activated the communication system. The planetary defense channel, it seemed, was jammed, judging by the garbled static on that frequency. Switching over to the local frequency, Selu found that Saesee Tiin was preparing to lead a group of fighters into orbit to cut a hole through the blockade and send an emergency distress signal. Selu formed up on the right flank of the wedge of a sizable group of Jedi craft, all the new Eta-2 interceptors, as they soared up into Coruscant’s atmosphere. In some ways, it was one of the deadliest fighting forces available to the Republic.

There was a strange beauty in watching a team of Jedi fight together. Their level of coordination and teamwork was unmatched and the precision of their reflexes and precognitive abilities allowed them to make shots and avoid traps was unparalleled throughout the galaxy. Each pilot covered the other, keeping the entire group safe from harm, and the eerie display of precision flying prevented them from being easily split up.

Moving at high speed as they ascended through Coruscant’s atmosphere, dodging an odd tangle of droid starfighters and desperately fleeing civilian traffic, the group of twenty-two fighters cut through the chaos and destruction like a vibroblade through duraplast. Any droid starfighter that attempted to intercept them was destroyed in a quick series of high-intensity laser blasts. As they flew higher, they could see more and more of the Separatist fleet blockading the planet. Gargantuan Republic Venator and Victory-class Destroyers, their triangular hulls distinct even in the melee, engaged in close-range turbolaser brawls with oblong Providence and round-hulled Lucrehulk-class battleships, and shots that missed often impacted into other ships or onto the planet’s surface with devastating force. Smaller warships combined for assaults onto their larger cousins or dueled with their own kinds, with similar results on a lesser scale. Clouds of starfighters flitted around, unleashing lasers and missiles, with Republic pilots locked in desperate combat with the latest in combat automata.

A closer look at the battle, without the dazzling brilliance of turbolaser bolts and the seemingly random missile tracks accompanied by brilliant explosions, would reveal the defensive nature of the Republic commanders and the seemingly random movements of the Separatist fleet. It would also show the hundreds of Confederate landers and fighters making their way to the planet’s surface to unload battle droids and other ground units. The Force reverberated with the deaths of thousands per minute, both military forces in space or on the ground along with civilian deaths.

Most of this detail was lost on Selusda Kraen, who was focusing on staying with Master Tiin’s group of fighters as the atmosphere beneath them thinned and eventually gave way to the cold void of space. The formation looped its way under a skeletal Confederacy Recusant-class destroyer. Flashes of laser fire leapt from the cannons of Jedi starfighters, seeking weak points in the shields of the capital ship, burning through lightly armored Vulture droids and tri-fighters. Selusda’s mind was racing, and sweat trickled down his neck, soaking his tunic as he jinked and rolled his craft, his fingers depressing the firing studs on the lasers to send brilliant green laser bolts streaking out. He had no idea of the amount of damage or kills he was scoring, and didn’t care at this point.

Selusda rolled his craft on its starboard side to avoid a stream of laser cannon blasts fired from pursuing tri-fighters. Chopping back on the throttle, he rapidly fell to the back of the Jedi formation, spitting laser bolts at the tri-fighters, whose cognitive matrices hadn’t anticipated his quick maneuver and quickly fell to the storm of energy from his guns. Adding more power to his engines, he noticed one of the now-hulled Recusant’s turbolaser turrets lining up on Bultar Swan’s craft. Mentally, his danger sense was felt by Master Swan, and as she wove her craft through an intricate evasive pattern, Zabrak Jedi Master Agen Kolar slagged the turret with a quick strafing run. Selusda felt Swan’s gratitude wash over him and Kolar and he sent a mental nod of affirmation. By now, their starfighters were in the middle of the blockade, and he could barely see through his cockpit for all the turbolaser and laser cannon blasts he was flying through. Separatist fighters launched desperate head-to-head attacks on the lead Jedi, who evaded their fire and more often than not left bits and pieces of debris behind as the survivors tried to wheel around for another attack run on the fast moving knot of starfighters.

“Skim along the surface of that battleship up there, and we’ll use its bulk for cover,” thought Saesee Tiin, and each pilot felt his thought and complied.

The other Jedi wordlessly narrowed their formation from a wedge to a concentrated line of eleven wing pair as they skimmed meters above a toroidal Trade Federation battleship. With such a low altitude, many of the warship’s guns couldn’t depress low enough to hit them. Similarly, nearby picket warships and starfighters ran the risk of hitting their own craft if they fired at the Jedi.

Hurtling along at high speed as the battleship’s gray surface blurred “beneath” him—there being no up or down in space of course- Selusda’s craft eventually rose as he pulled up on the control stick, and, dodging the final few blasts of laser fire, he and the other Jedi were past the bulk of the blockade. Aside from a few straggling droid starfighters and scattered turbolaser bolts, they had run the Confederate blockade without losing a pilot or sustaining significant damage. Saesee Tiin wasted no time, and quickly activated the Jedi Holonet Beacon, sending an emergency distress signal across the Galaxy at faster-than-light speeds. Suddenly, their comm boards crackled back to life.

“We’ve cut through their jamming and are beginning to restore communications now, though it’ll take some time to get them fully restored to all units. Master Tiin, do you read me?”

Gatemaster Jurokk’s voice cut through the Separatist jamming, along with various transmissions across a broad band of Republic military and civilian frequencies.

“Saesee here. We’ve sent an emergency distress signal to all nearby forces. How goes the battle?”

“The Separatists have landed thousands of droids on the planet and are attacking it with starfighters also while their capital ships engage ours in low orbit. Jedi are needed everywhere.”

“Do we know who’s leading the Separatist fleet?”

“We believe it’s Grievous, but we can’t confirm that, and we don’t know where he is.”

“Hrnn. All right, we’ll split up and try to cover everything.”

Circling back towards the planet, the Jedi broke up. Some, including Master Tiin, elected to stay in space, moving to reinforce the beleaguered Republic ships. Some warships had been destroyed, sending fiery wrecks plunging through Coruscant’s atmosphere down towards the cityscape below, and still others had sustained damage from turbolaser volleys and missiles that had crushed bulkheads, smashed weapons emplacements and in some cases blown out entire compartments. The Separatists sought to breach the Republic’s defensive line, trading massive volleys of energy between the two fleets. In between and around the larger vessels, starfighters and gunships fought each other in vicious dogfights, and occasionally made runs against larger vessels. However, other Separatist ships also targeted the skyscape of Coruscant, blasting civilian craft, skyhooks, and orbital mirrors. Full battle raged over Coruscant, and already Selusda was sure that the death toll was in the millions.

Selusda flew his Eta-2 back towards the surface, intent on targeting the droid landers that were unloading more droids on Coruscant, with Bultar Swan flying his wing. The two Jedi wove their craft through formations of Vulture droids. Suddenly, space in front of them was filled with a fusillade of missiles fired off at the Jedi en masse. Selusda fired his lasers, shunting them to single fire for rapid firing, and slewed the nose of his interceptor across the vectors of the incoming missiles, detonating them in brilliant orange fireballs. Bultar attempted a skittering evasive maneuver, but one missile detonated near her interceptor, tearing off one of its wings and scoring the fragile craft along its port side.

“Master Swan, return to ground. You’re damaged,” called Selusda.

“Will . . . do. . . –careful,” came her reply. Clearly her comm board was damaged by the missile blast. Heavily scored from the blast, Bultar began nursing her crippled craft back to a landing pad. Selu realized that his position had suddenly become much more tenuous. In such a large space brawl, a lone pilot often becomes a dead pilot, and Selu knew it. Spiraling down towards the surface at a sharper angle, Selu began evading as many droids as possible without actually engaging them, using the agility of the Eta-2 Actis to avoid stray shots. His comm board suddenly lit up again, startling him.

“General, you have Blues Three and Four,” came the calm voice of a clone pilot.

A quick look at his sensors confirmed two Republic V-19 starfighters tucked in alongside him. Relieved, Selusda acknowledged their presence with a comlink click, banking towards a pair of Confederate landers.

“Save your missiles for the landers, Blues,” Selusda ordered as he triggered his double laser cannons, sending verdant green energy bolts at the ungainly craft.

As a quartet of tri-fighters spun out from under the transport to attack him, he switched targets to the more dangerous starfighters, blasting one with a quick snap shot, but only grazed two others. Meanwhile, he saw that the V-19s had launched concussion missiles at the rear lander, but the tri-fighters were making runs on them. Selu banked his craft to bring him back to cover the V-19s. Seeing a tri-fighter line up to fire on the clones, he called out a warning.

“Break port, Blues!”

The two fighters aborted their attack run on the second lander and turned sharply away from a series of laser blasts from the tri-fighter. The initial volley from the droid craft, instead of destroying the V-19s, hit the already damaged first lander, sending it into an uncontrolled spiral as the starboard repulsors were blown away. Selu smiled and quickly ended that tri-fighter with a burst of laser fire. Switching to ion cannon, he sent sizzling ion bolts into the other lander as the clone pilots dealt with the other two tri-fighters. One of the V-19s exploded in a head-to-head pass, but the two concussion missiles it launched at the tri-fighters blew both droids into tiny pieces. The other V-19 returned to Selu’s wing, both of them spraying laser fire across the lander and dodging its return fire until it too joined its companion in crashing below. Selu winced at the thought of civilian casualties and glanced at the rudimentary sensor board, which was still covered with red dots. This particular group had been whittled down to the size of relatively easy pickings. Other Separatist formations wouldn’t be so easy to crack. Setting a course for a group of Vulture droids, Selu dove back into the fray, Blue Four in his wake.

Several hours later, Selu Kraen was still in the cockpit of his now-battered Jedi interceptor, still flying against the swarms of droids. He was rapidly becoming fatigued, and was drawing heavily on the Force to keep fighting and he was certain his precognitive danger sense wasn’t what it usually was. He’d gone through several wingmen and was now operating with a group of ARC-170s in strafing runs on droids in support of beleaguered Republic ground troops. Overhead and all around him, the battle still raged, with ships constantly exploding into pieces and raining down while the smaller starfighters largely just disintegrated when destroyed.

Suddenly, his comm board lit up again.

“All Jedi near Sector One, intercept all shuttles fleeing the area, but do not destroy. General Grievous has captured Chancellor Palpatine. Repeat, General Grievous has captured Chancellor Palpatine.”

Selu broke sharply, leaving the ARC-170s to deal with the remaining droid tanks. His skill in a fighter and the agility of the Eta-2 meant that the larger craft simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with him, though Selu preferred sturdier craft anyway, for their durability, not to mention missiles. He’d sustained several grazes and near misses, and several lights on his damage board were amber or red. As he set a course towards Sector One, a familiar-looking Aethersprite formed up alongside him.

“I’m your wing, Selu.”

“Master Koon. Glad to have you,” said Selusda, relieved at the presence of another Jedi to cover him and glad to have his former master alongside him.

The two Jedi flew directly into a cloud of droid starfighters escorting several Confederacy shuttles. There had to be literally hundreds of them in the area, engaged hotly by Republic V-wings, V-19s, ARC-170s, and Jedi starfighters. Selu could barely see through his canopy for all the laser bursts headed his direction, and fired when directed to by the Force. Sighting on a shuttle, he and Plo Koon fired several bursts of laser cannon fire at it, damaging its engines with precise shots and rendering it incapable of reaching orbit. And then his craft was rocked by the explosion of several fighters behind him, sending shrapnel into his already damaged interceptor. Several pieces gouged chunks out of the craft, while one piece sheared through the cockpit, nearly decapitating Selu. Instead, it left him with a nasty gash along one shoulder.

Selu’s damage board lit up red, and immediately his craft began rapidly descending.

“Oh blast. I’ll have to catch up with you later, Master Koon.”

“May the Force be with you, Selu.” Plo Koon wanted to add “Be careful,” but didn’t.

The distinguished Kel Dor was enough of a Jedi to know that forming attachments could be dangerous, and that his mission was to intercept the Separatist shuttle with Palpatine onboard. Accelerating rapidly in the wake of the shuttle, he returned to the fray with steely determination intent on reaching his target, droids falling apart from his lasers. Trailing smoke, Selu’s fighter plummeted towards the scarred cityscape of the planet.

6Edit

Tellanroaeg, in the Outer Rim

Crouched behind a large bush, Spectre peered through the visor of his dull gray helmet, squinting at the battle droids mustered below to launch a flank assault on the Republic medical station a few dozen kilometers away. Clustered below were thousands of the common B-1 and B-2 infantry battle droids, scattered dwarf spider droids the size of small speeders, and a few artillery crawlers. Looking closer, Spectre zoomed in on the rear of the formation to something obscured by a cloud of dust. Peering in and sharpening the resolution on his visor, something caught his eye-a pair of laser cannon jutting out on a long extended mechanical arm.

Spectre’s breathing changed with a sharp intake of air as he realized what he was seeing. Rising slowly, he focused his vision on the armored vehicle and slowly reached for his wrist comlink.

“Command, this is Steel One,” he harshly whispered into the comlink.

“Command here. Go ahead, One,” a bored sounding non-clone comm officer’s voice came back over the system.

“I’ve spotted the targets. Be advised, Command, there is a Scorpenek with the attack group.”

A short pause followed that statement, and then a new voice came over the comm.

“Steel One, confirm Scorpenek.”

“Steel One here. Scorpenek confirmed, along with other types of smaller hostile droids.”

“Copy that. Please send holorecording data and stand by for orders.”

Spectre quickly punched in a series of commands that sent a data packet with images of the droid formation to the command center and sat back. His original mission had been to spot air strikes from LAATs on the droid formation, but the presence of the Scorpenek changed all that. Also known as Annihilators, they carried two pairs of laser cannons and were heavily shielded, much larger cousins of the droideka droid so loathed and feared by clones across the galaxy. With a Scorpenek present, the slow LAATs would be destroyed before they had a chance to take it out. Squatting down on the dry ground, Spectre checked his weapon one more time before resuming his silent vigil observing the droids. He checked his chrono—he had started this mission early the previous day, and now it was four hours before sunrise, local time. It was going to be another long day. If he could find a way to destroy the droids and get out of it alive, he’d count himself extremely lucky. So far, Tellanroaeg wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and he’d been kept extremely busy trying to head off Separatist attempts to counter-attack against the Republic forces.

An hour later, Spectre was still shadowing the droids, keeping himself down as he discreetly shadowed the attacking force. Tireless, the droids stopped for nothing, but the ARC was worn out and thirsty. Hours of seeing scenic Tellanroaeg up close and personal had quickly lost their appeal and the local insect life wasn’t a great study either. Spectre hoped command had an idea of what they were doing, or else the droid force could probably take the med center. Standing on a ridge overlooking the droid army, Spectre stumbled to avoid a nest of particularly vicious local six-legged large-toothed fauna that he’d previously encountered and, with the aid of his vibroknuckler, fought off already. Amazing how the briefings never mentioned all the important little details—like the types of hostile wildlife. In the process, he kicked some loose stone, which plummeted off the ridge, connecting several times with ridge face in the process.

“Oh shunfa,” Spectre swore. It was time to get to cover, and fast. The droids weren’t so single-minded that they wouldn’t notice a disturbance like that. Scurrying back away from the ridge, Spectre found a small cave that was relatively obscured from view and pressed himself into it after checking for more unpleasant local surprises. A troop of rusty-brown BL-1s came around, checking out the area for the source of the disturbance. Spectre went totally silent. All the droids would have to do is come a few meters closer, and they would see him. What seemed like a lifetime passed, and then one of the droids spoke up in its monotonic synthesized voice.

“All clear.”

Spectre breathed a sigh of relief and watched as the droids turned around and moved off to rejoin the slow moving column. Resuming his shadowing duty, flitting among the rocks, he peered through his binoculars from time to time, surveying the army.

An hour later, he suddenly heard the swift whine of repulsors and flattened himself on the ground. Small dots in the distance quickly resolved themselves into STAPs, each moving along the flanks. While Spectre had seen the droids in the convoy, apparently they were now scouting the flanks in preparation for their assault. That’s all nice and well, thought Spectre, except that I’m on the flanks. Judging by their speed and pattern, there’d be no escape this time. Opening his comm again, he called for help.

“Command, this is Alpha-28. Am under attack and need assistance.”

When no response came, he unstrapped his WESTAR-M5 blaster rifle and found a reasonably defensible position in a cluster of boulders. The STAPs quickly spotted him, and he returned fire, ignoring the blazing shards of stone kicked up by their twin blaster fire. Ducking among the rocks, he avoided a new set of blasts caused by a column of infantry droids moving up to attack him, returning fire when possible. Several agonizingly long seconds later, he reached the other side of the boulder, putting another pair of droids down with blaster bolts. Scrambling back to dodge another flurry of fire, he primed a pair of grenades and chunked them over the rock, and, pleased by the sound of a pair of explosions that followed, he continued his fighting retreat, hotly pursued by scarlet energy bolts.

“Command, I am under heavy attack. Need air support. Situation untenable. Alpha-28 out.”

Ducking behind a scattered outcropping of stones, Spectre threw himself to the ground in a side roll as a high intensity laser cannon blast nearly blew him apart from underneath, although his swift move, caused by the vibration precluding the blast, caused him to lose his rifle. Seeing the oversized red photoreceptors of a burrowing spider droid less than a meter from him, Spectre acted quickly. Throwing himself forward, he lunged inside, and fired his DC-17 sidearm into the photoreceptors. Stuffing an ion grenade into the crater blown out by the blasts, Spectre leapt out of the tunnel as the explosive set off a roiling wave of ion energy, alerting every droid nearby to his presence. Landing on rocks, Spectre knew his back would be covered in bruises and lacerations, despite his armor, in the unlikely event he survived this engagement. Looking out, he saw more than two hundred droids advancing on him with blasters raised. His mouth settling into a feral slash of a smile, he pulled another grenade off his weapons belt and reloaded his DC-17.

Spectre didn’t wait for the droids. He moved forward with the agility of a sand panther, firing deadly blasts into droids, hurling grenades into clusters of enemy battle droids, dodging return fire, moving to new cover. His motions were fluid, his whole body moving as one swift organism as recalled some of the techniques he’d picked up on Boz Pity. Scattered droid fragments flew into the air, blown apart by his fire. Spectre did not escape unscathed either, and his armor was soon pitted and scarred from battle damage. The ARC didn’t care, lost in the heat of the battle. He could already feel the burn damage and the blood seeping out of him. Clambering onto a rock, he prepared to make his final stand as he threw his last grenade, tunnel vision keeping him from seeing the droids moving up on his flanks. Sudden the concussive force of a groundquake threw him back with a loud thunderclap. His visor darkened by a brilliant light, Spectre lay on the ground, stunned, as the world exploded around him.

When his vision finally cleared, he could see the massive rectangular bulk of a Carrack-class cruiser hovering a scant few thousand meters over the planet, sending brilliant bursts of turbolaser fire into the droid formations. His attackers were nowhere to be seen, blown apart by the concussion of a close turbolaser shot. Spectre saw the turbolasers criss-crossing a pattern of destruction and his battered mind realized that it would sweep over his position soon. He triggered his comlink, to no avail, and his DC-17 was missing from his hand, leaving him with no way to signal the gunnery crews. Another blast hit the ground, sending rocks and debris a dozen meters into the air. Putting on all the speed he could summon, Spectre sprinted forward to get out of the bombardment pattern. Stumbling, rolling, scrambling to his feet, trying to keep himself oriented over the ground, shaking from the blasts as the heavy gunnery exploded behind him. With a final burst of effort, he half-leaped, half was thrown forward amid a cloud of rocks, dust and debris out of the blast radius. Spectre was concussed and gasping, a sharp pain in his lungs racking him with every breath. He coughed, and saw his own blood splatter the inside of his visor, then fell unconscious.

Spectre awoke on the floor of a bumpy shuttle passenger bay being attended to by one of his brethren, his armor largely removed.

“Good, you’re alive,” said the clone attending him, also an ARC.

Spectre didn’t know if the ARC was surprised to see him in that state, but even thinking about replying hurt, so he groaned and laid back again, drifting off once more into an inky black oblivion.

His next memory was lying in a recovery bed in the medical center smarting from a new collection of injuries. In the bed next to him was another clone with a prosthetic leg and a series of bandages over one eye watching a holonews feature. Though his mouth felt dry as a Geonosian desert, he croaked out a hoarse question to the trooper.

“What’s on?”

“Live holonews—the Seps are attacking Coruscant.”

“What??!!!”

Except for the pain that it would have caused, Spectre almost sat up in shock.

“Their fleet dropped out of orbit and started pounding everything in sight. Rumor has it they might’ve even taken the chancellor.”

Osik.”

The Mandalorian expletive seemed particularly appropriate to Spectre at the moment.

“Definitely. But our fleet is finally starting to arrive, and those Seps are in for a nasty surprise if they stick around, if this news holo is any indication.”

Spectre looked, and saw visions of war over Coruscant on the hologram, with ships exploding and smoke rising from the surface. Mass hysteria and chaos was rampant. He felt a sinking feeling in his gut and tension mounting in his arms and shoulders. Spectre looked down and noticed that his fist was clenched so hard his knuckles were turning white. Relaxing his tense arm somewhat, he watched as the holo showed clone troopers, outnumbered, holding out against overwhelming odds and Jedi starfighters flitting through the city-planet, blasting droids. As wedge-shaped Republic destroyers engaged assorted Separatist craft, Spectre couldn’t help but feel that he should have been on the capital, helping to defend the beleaguered Republic. But his job had placed him here, and so all he could do was sit and recover while the Republic capital burned. Silently cursing his own helplessness, he sat and watched the holonews. ARCs didn’t take defeat lying down, and Spectre promised to visit retribution on those responsible.

Coruscant

Selu Kraen knocked his canopy open and, guided by the Force, landed like a thunderbolt in a cluster of droids massing on a ledge to attack a small knot of clones as his fighter continued its descent into the depths of Coruscant, finally smashing through a bridge and into an entertainment district a few hundred meters below and detonating. Green blade whirling, his blade moved at a dozen strokes per second, slicing through metal and plasteel, parrying blaster bolts. His presence a powerful ripple in the Force, he raised a hand and shoved several more battle droids off the ledge and into oblivion. Going back to the clone troopers, he waved them forward as he stooped to pull a belt of grenades from a fallen clone.

“Follow me—we’ll try and break through to more friendly forces.”

“Yessir, General.”

The clones quickly fell in behind him, moving along walkways, firing at droids, the blank expressions on their visors betraying none of the pain, fear, and adrenaline spikes that Selu sensed through the Force.

Selu, already worn out, was battling recklessly now as they cut through scattered groups of droids. Burning through another droid with a sliding lunge, he Force-pushed a B-2, commonly called super battle droids, into another as he whirled for a decapitating strike. Finishing the last two droids with swift stabs, he waited for the clones—reduced in number to only three now—to catch up with him. If their pitted armor was any indication, they were suffering as much as he was. Spotting another group of clones led by an ARC with red armor ahead, Selu indicated for his last three troopers to join them. Suddenly, a group of droid starfighters roared over him. Selu would have been content to leave them alone, except that they were headed for a group of gunships supporting a few troops and apparently some civilians on the ground.

“Blast.”

Selu jumped up onto one of the fighters and began disabling them with quick slashes as he focused on using the Force to move him from one fast moving craft to another. Vaulting onto his fourth droid, he slashed its photoreceptors when the craft detonated, blowing him off, screaming from the shock and flames racing alongside his cloak. Throwing it off in mid-air, he attempted to control his descent, but failed miserably, resulting in him in tumbling ungracefully towards the ground. Luckily, he didn’t land on his head, which was good, Selu reflected, because that would have meant instant death. On the other hand, he landed feet first, and two explosions of agony set off as both his ankles shattered, and fragments from one of his tibias pierced the skin, sending bright red blood spurting from severed arteries. Landing on the hard duracrete ground, he lay there in agony, close to unconsciousness. Selu heard a woman’s scream, and with the last vestiges of motor control, reached out and switched off his lightsaber to avoid giving the droids an easy target. Then he passed out.

Padmé Amidala, hunkered behind a duracrete pillar in what had once been a public plaza, cradled a blaster in one hand as one of her Senatorial colleagues, Bail Organa, similarly huddled next to her. Her rational mind could not believe what had happened. How could Coruscant fall under attack now? The Republic was supposed to have been winning the war, pushing the Confederacy back into the Outer Rim. Padmé was worried, too. Heavily with child, she had been rushed into a speeder to seek shelter by Bail Organa only to have the vehicle crash-land, pursued by the menacing droids of the Confederacy. Without any other options, the senators had come to the aid of the few clone troopers making a stand at the plaza, seizing fallen blasters in an attempt to buy time for others. Padmé gasped for breath. She was exhausted already, sweat matting her brown hair. She was running on pure adrenaline, heedless of the danger or the dirt and grime covering the area, or of just how close she stood to death. Glancing at Bail, she saw that he was looked similarly worn out, but still determined. Gritting her teeth, she willed herself to continue, to keep on living, both for herself and for the new life in her womb.

She and Bail had been luring droid starfighters out with a few well placed blaster shots, only to let Republic gunships lurking nearby blast them apart. The tactic had worked well the first time, after all. This was their second such experience today; the first had been near a skybridge several dozen kilometers away. Now, they still had yet to reach shelter and had been pinned down by more droids, although these models were airborne instead of being in ground-patrol mode, as the first group had been. Padmé’s heart was racing—she hadn’t been this scared even on Geonosis. At least then Anakin had been there, running over the Geonosians’ nexu monster with a freshly bridled reek, and she hadn’t been several months pregnant then. She missed his strong comforting presence now, even as she used her politician’s tradecraft to display a steely exterior to Bail and the few troopers around here. As the next formation of droids approached, she slid further back to avoid their fire. Ducking to avoid the droids and the fire from the gunship ambush that awaited them, she pressed her back against the pillar, breathing heavily from the adrenaline and effort. Bail looked at her with concern in his eyes.

“Senator Amidala, are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Bail. Just need to catch my breath.”

Bail looked dubiously at her response, his gaze flicking from her brown eyes down to her swollen middle and back to her eyes again.

“If you say so. Be careful.”

“Of course.”

Suddenly, a chill ran down Padmé’s spine and she screamed as she heard a bloodcurdling yell and what sounded like seventy kilos of meat thrown against a permacrete wall and the sound of bones snapping. There was also another sound she recognized—the humming of a Jedi lightsaber. Peering out from behind the pillar, she saw a battered young Jedi Knight lying prone on the ground a few meters away from her, looking up with a tortured expression on his face and blood spurting from a pair of shattered legs. He managed to reach out and deactivate his saber, retracting the green blade into the hilt. Then his eyes rolled up and back into the back of his head and he slumped over.

Acting on impulse, Padmé ran out from behind cover and began trying to drag the Jedi back with her, oblivious to the danger as blaster bolts flew around her, both from Confederacy droids and from the clones trying to cover her rash actions. She reached down and grabbed and tugged on the Jedi, but could barely budge him. She threw herself into the effort, ignoring the spasm of pain in her back, and he moved half a meter, but he was just so heavy. Then the weight lessened, and Bail was there helping her bring the unconscious man back to the relative safety of their cover. As the moved him, his bleeding legs left a crimson smear on the ground. Darting from behind an adjacent pillar, Chandrilan senator Mon Mothma joined them. Though unarmed, Mon Mothma, accompanied by a blaster-toting clone trooper, moved over to where Padmé and Bail were, just before their pillar succumbed to a barrage of laser fire and collapsed in a cloud of dust and rubble. Padmé reached for the Jedi’s throat, feeling for a pulse, and was relieved to find one. Despite obvious physical differences from Anakin, the young Jedi reminded her of him somehow—she figured they probably even knew each other.

“Help me,” she called.

Seeing the injuries, Mon Mothma tore a strip of cloth off of her garment and fashioned it into a crude bandage while the clone improvised a splint out of an almost empty medpac and administered the last of his painkillers.

His mind reeling in the realms of unconsciousness, Selu suddenly felt new pressure and cool hands on his arms. Then his legs felt like someone was scraping them along a bed of hot magma, and a cold chill set in. Then there was a different feeling and the scraping stopped. Mysteriously, the pain began to disappear. He heard voices, one of them female and cultured, and the other the distinctive voice of the clone troopers.

“Do you have any way to call for transport?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ve already called for transport for all of us. It’s en route, but it might be awhile.”

“How is he, trooper?” asked a different female voice.

“He’s pretty banged up, though I’ve numbed most of the pain.”

Selu’s eyes fluttered open and he realized that he was sitting against a wall, being propped up by a distinguished-looking red-haired woman and being checked over by a clone trooper while another man and woman held blasters ready. The second woman, younger and in the prime of her beauty, though her voluminous robes made her appear more heavyset than she probably was, turned and smiled at him encouragingly.

“You’ll be all right, Master Jedi. Help is on the way.”

Selu attempted to say “Thank you”, though it mostly came out as “Thhhaaakkuuu.” Then he felt a sense of coldness drift over him and the world started to go black again. Seeing his lightsaber hilt within arm’s reach on the ground, he stretched his arm for it, but passed out just before his finger grasped the hilt.

Mon Mothma, seeing his actions, reached out and placed the weapon into his hand and laid his arm back over him. Looking up at the blackened sky, she continued to scan the skies, partially for the sight of ships coming to evacuate, and partially for hope for the war torn planet.


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