The Clone Wars: Knightfall _ Volume 6.
The Jedi Temple stands alone.
High above the other buildings enveloping Coruscant in its entirety. Four bold towers surround the central temple, a monolith amidst the skyline. Always a beacon of hope and symbolism amidst the chaos of the hustle and bustle that is the metropolitan planet. The pinnacle of purpose for not only the core world, but the galaxy. Simple in structure and design, illuminated clearly in the waning eve. The glow seen from city blocks, even multiple hectares away, as far as the senatorial penthouse districts.
This night that glow of hope is different. Orange hues abound as the temple stands ablaze; silent, bold walls concealing the horror raging within…
Darth Vader’s defeat of Cin Drallig sent robust reverberations through the force. His death signified a turning of the tide. The older Jedi fought on buying time for the less experienced padawan’s to elude death’s final grasp. Their numbers on the upper decks dwindled.
The dark lord walked with purpose past his fallen saber instructor’s body; intentions fixed upon the corridor ahead of him. Troopers of the 501st flanking him by the dozens. Their armor more worn and tattered from this engagement than any other conquest including Christophsis, Rhen Var, even Felucia.
Boots continued their muddled cadence. Each impacting the debris covered marble floor. Vader paused, as did the clone troopers behind him. With a small snap his saber was secured against the leather belt around his waist. Fiery eyes looked at the door from beneath a dark vail as if already piercing the first of many bulking vault doors. Numerous sections on the door contained force keys. Points which only most talented force users were capable of unlocking. The dark acolyte raised his hand, closed his eyes. His instincts penetrated the mechanisms; beginning to slowly unwind their intricate maze of locks.
Clone troopers stood, not knowing what to expect next. Their journey through the temple had exposed them to more fighting styles than they were ever accustomed. Many, particularly those closest to Vader did their best to mask any emotion from their heavy breathing. The brief pause allowed the soldiers to begin contemplating what was happening now that there was a lull in their adrenaline rush filled struggle for survival.
This is not something Vader needed; reflection nor the time stealing locks. His anger was constant by this point, only giving way to a mix of rage and fury! Raising his other hand, Vader pressed his hands forward with a jab, the backs of his hands touching. As if to peel the door open, Vader’s flexed hands dragged apart the force. In conjunction with his hand gesture, the mechanisms could not repel power of such a vast scale. The door’s metal and stone torn asunder: rippling, splitting, peeling towards the opposite walls. Trooper Hotsh stood aghast at the sheer power of Vader’s will; pulling apart such refined materials. The weapons quickly clicked as the 501st raised their weapons to blast anything opposite them, but their sights only revealed an empty hall. Seeing the door with closer inspection, looked as though tremendous hands shredded a simple leaf.
Again, Vader was advancing with purpose down the corridor. Following, the clones noticed the floor was again clean, the dirty heels clicking, echoing off the pristine walls. The surface almost slick in texture as the angle increased steeply. Down and down they clattered towards the deep Sanctum of the Jedi temple…
Roused from his sleep in an instant, Vallen’s chest rose with a gasp. His body twisted of the bed in a contorted position. A fearful cold sensation swelled from within his heart, spreading across every limb. His left hand wretched over his pounding heart while he inhaled deeply. C3-77, his protocol droid, activated sensing Vallen’s traumatic rouse, “Sir, is everything alright?” Vallen leapt to his feet, “No!...Something has gone terribly wrong!” His body slammed into the duristeel case ahead of him. Clenched, his fist struck the activation sensor rolling the doors back unveiling his armor, “What pilots are on Duty at this hour?!” Pausing for an instant the droid’s eyes flickered twice, “Captain Valkier and Flak are the closest. Shall I summon Net or another gunship sir?”
Vallen latched his chest plate shut, pulled his left gauntlet into place, and then hurriedly reached down, lifting the belt with his sidearm. Bolting quickly into the hallway he was raising his arm to tap the comlink, “Valkier do you read me?!” The familiar clone pilot’s voice calmly replied, “Sir yes sir! How can I be of assistance Major?” Vallen’s clone boots resonated down the long stark hall. As he passed room after room he realized the 501st barracks were empty. Odd..since he had not been notified of any night drills. “Where could they be?” he wondered to himself.
His voice rang out toward his comlink, “I need you to touch down by the AT-TE port!” Flak, Valkier’s co-pilot unwittingly chimed in, “Sir…isn’t it a little late for a..” “SCRAP IT FLAK!” the major barked to his wrist.
A white light activated sliding the exterior blast door of the Republic garrison open. Vallen continued his sprint passing a stationary Turbo tank. He gave pause, looking down column after column of towering behemoth AT-TE’s. The low whirring of the familiar LAAT increased in audibility! Approaching the ground, the doors heaved open. Inside only red light greeted him, no squad of clones. “Sir, where’s your helmet and kama?” Flak inquired. Vallen had forgotten them in his haste. Running out of time, not knowing why!
“Kark..” he exclaimed under his breath. The clone pilot turned to look back into the boarding galley of the larty, “No worries sir; we keep extra buckets on deck! Where to Major?” Gunship engines pulsed lifting the gunship up diligently into the air.
“…the Jedi Temple.” The clone focused on his new mission, “Right away sir!”
Minutes passed slowly as did the ride. The gunship drew near; the temple came in sight! Vallen’s eyes grew with concern…fire bellowed from stone! Clone troopers continued hustling about. Both clone and Jedi lay strewn across the campus; each decorated with blast point or lightsaber strike. The Major now knew why his heart sank, but now so many more questions unveiled themselves.
Flak unclipped his safety harness, climbing down into the trooper bay of the gunship. “Sir you may need one of these. Only 501st is permitted here.. that does not include attachés.” The co-pilots normally cheery face was different than ever before. It seemed to hold a weight, one of weight which the soul never truly frees itself. Flak pulled down a trooper bonnet from a netted compartment.
Vallen raised the helmet, lowering it over his head. The doors swung open as the gunship touched down on the temple deck. 501st troopers instantly reached the bay doors, raising their weapons in threatening posture. The sergeant of the squad sharply shouted, “Halt! This site is off limits to all personnel!” Valkier stepped from the cockpit, “Stand Down Sergeant: I’m Captain Valkier of the 501st Thunder Wing! Fresh trooper as requested!” “On whose authority captain?!” the sergeant’s voice pierced the humming gunship engines. A brief pause ensued as Valkier stepped off his ship into the sergeants face, “I don’t need to explain my orders to you…request filed by Commander Appo for special assignment. Also here for any wounded, bring them aboard!”
Calmly with a dark demeanor the sergeant took a step closer to the Pilot in reply, “There are no wounded…Captain” A long pause followed.
Before listening to more of the conversation, Vallen had begun running towards the temple carrying a rifle lifted from the Gunship’s weapon internal rack. Damage to the sanctuary’s walls were substantial! He entered the temple of death…
The slanted ramp seemed to never end! The clones blindly following Vader to an end they did not know. Boots clamoring, armor clinking, breathing in unison, but not a pair of lips moved. The hallway began to brighten, hues of gold and blue abounded wall to wall. Vader’s hand rose, stopping the troopers before their presence became known.
Elsewhere in the temple Vallen ducked and dodged through debris until he tripped. His body tumbled across the crackled floor then slid into a soft object. The non-clone officer pressed his hand atop of his knee. Vallen looked back at what softened his impact to the wall. To his horror, a Rodian child lay before him…shot dozens….countless times. That was enough to propel the Major to his feet! More Jedi were strewn about the ground. He leaned to look over a gap in the railing, immolated by a clone rocket; the temple was mostly quiet. Patrols of clone troopers paced the halls; Jedi littering every surface. Never had the heart of the temple been so cold.
Slowly Vallen began his way down the walkway. Before long he found himself in front of a series of lifts. A quiet calm fell over him, cooling his body from continuing to burn in emotion. Gloved hands reached up, removing the helmet…inside, drenched in sweat. Taking a large breath the essence culminated. A deep voice echoing from within his mind’s eye. “Haide…you are in great danger here… take the lift…a padawan you will find…his mother planet of wind and ice…” A small, hopeful grin grew on the officer’s face when he spoke in a hushed tone, “Shakkra! You’re alive.. where are you?”
“Be strong – aid his survival…” Kien’s meditative voice continued. Vallen attempted to interrupt the communion of thoughts, “Can’t you hear me!? Where are you?” Ignoring the officer’s plea, the Guardian’s voice faded away until it was gone, “Now go….the force be with you…always..”
The central lift leading toward the high council chamber opened, the force locks undone from elsewhere.
Shakkra Kien was kneeling amidst the greatest pillars of the inner temple sanctum; coming out of his state of meditation. Ahead of him the largest of the temples atriums, a rare sight for even the most elite of the Order’s Jedi Masters. This was a place more sacred than the holocron vault. Behind the horned Chagrian were tunnels for the Guardian barracks and numerous, priceless ancient artifacts of the order.
It was said that when Jedi Masters needed clarity, this is the place of inner most peace. Shakkra Kien knew everything that had unfolded within the walls of the temple above. He sent no guardians to their aid, nor was the request made. Guardians hold a sacred duty above simply protecting the temple. They provide sanctuary for the balance of these ancient artifacts, often meditating on the present, past, even future. Objective observers to the passing of time…
Shakkra waits for the tunnel charges to erupt, isolating the guardians far beneath the clutches of the encroaching enemy, but mines remain silent. A darkness nears…but so too does a familiar presence. Closer and closer the entity approaches. Ahead, from the large tunnel a cloaked figure emerges. In that instant he realizes the darkness and familiar presence are converged within the figure before him, Anakin Skywalker.
“Take heed of your next step Sith-spawn!” Shakkra’s heavy voice carried through the hall. The two apparently alone in the forum separated by a vast space. Vader’s voice hardened and edgy hoarsely shouted back, “Jedi will NO longer hinder me!!” The guardian’s eyebrows raised in gross curiosity, “Hinder you?! The Order has done no such thing in all its time. Masters Qui Gon and Kenobi liberated you! No longer recall the life in the sand? Again, you are enslaved to a master! What is the cost of the Chancellor’s bidding?”
“He only seeks to push.. to grow my power! My NEW master’s influence is superior against ANY Jedi!” Anakin’s blood began boiling. A vein surged through his neck, pulsing harder with each beat. His forehead glistened with beads of labored sweat. The night forged within that sweat and blood.
Calmly, Shakkra Kien stood from his knees. Calm blue eyelids opened, raising his head to observe the adversary, “Nothing is more powerful than the light of the force. Have you fallen so far..SO far THE ONE has become a misguided puppet for the Sith?...Anakin Skywalker.” Vader incensed at the mention of his former name pulled the lightsaber from his belt!
Vader’s blue blade hissed when activated! Instantly his fist clenched tightly around the silver hilt, grinding his jaw, “..Do NOT call me by THAT name!”
A slight smile emits from Shakkra Kien’s countenance. Master Guardian Kien hands point outward to his sides. Fingers extending from the palm. Two clinks echoed off the walls when from beneath his many robes, Kien’s saber hilts crossed before him, spiraling into his hands, activating upon impact! His right hand seized a standard, gold, dual bladed saber whilst the other held the original blue Kyber crystal that had chosen him as a youngling.
“So be it Sith…Continue your crucible…your conception…your rebirth, Anakin Skywalker – BETRAYER.” Vader’s hands were trembling while the words echoed in his ears. He had remained silent during the raid for a reason. The fallen one’s robes rippled when he took a slow step forward; looking directly into Shakkra Kien, eyes not blinking. He continued scanning the periphery for other guardians: where were they? The Master Guardian sensed the blind anger he had encouraged.
Shakkra’s robe jolted with his lunge forward, “This is your legacy!!”