There is the Force
There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony. There is no death, there is the Force.
For so many years I have heard these words, for so many years I have recited them. I have held them close; so close that I once thought they was no way I would ever lose them. That, of course, was before the Purge. It was before I saw the Temple in flames; before I saw my beloved padawan gunned down before my eyes. It was before the dark times, before the Empire.
It all started sometime ago, never mind how long exactly. I had recently returned from the Outer Rim sieges, too late to join that epic space battle in which the great Count Dooku was slain and the Emperor no doubt put the final plans on his masterpiece of a plan that would plunge the galaxy into darkness for so many years afterwards. Of course, I didn’t know that. I was still a brash twenty-five year-old Jedi Knight, impetuous and hot-headed even after ten years of training, two years of Knighthood, and three years of war.
Of course, those three years of war hadn’t left me completely untouched. The creases of war if not of age lined my face, and the scars of battle covered my heart. Three years before I had been nothing but a outgoing and carefree Jedi Ace, concerned only with flying and making sure my young padawan didn’t get into too much trouble. By this time though, I had moved from the free spirit to the squadron commander, and I now led one of the most skilled clone fighter units in the Republic Navy. I was a general; the peacekeeper had taken a backseat long before.
When I got back to Coruscant, I was upbeat and happy. The missions in the Outer Rim had been a blazing success, and I had not lost a single pilot. As the Republic began to take over more and more Separatist worlds, we had begun to face more and more living pilots rather than droids. The Jedi in me said that it was wrong, that I should be talking to these people, not killing them. However, the general in me saw it only as an advantage. The pilots were often barely trained, no match for my highly skilled clone pilots.
On that day, the day everything changed, my cruiser, the Ascendant, dropped out of hyperspace at Coruscant right on schedule. I was on the bridge, as usual, watching the familiar blue tunnel give way to the lines of stars. I still wore my Jedi flight gear, a standard robe with a chest plate, pelvis protector, gauntlets, and boots, but had removed the orange tinted HUD headband. The Ascendant was a Venator-class cruiser, and the crew was stationed in small pits on either side of a main walkway. My crew, mainly clones, spoke rapidly to each other as they began to put the ship on a course to land at the main Republic ship depot. The Ascendant had been on combat readiness for three years, and was long overdue for a refit.
Behind me, the captain, a human like myself named Carris Tryin, barked orders over the sounds of clone voices. Carris was the third captain to serve with the Ascendant. The other two I had personally removed from duty, one for dirty deals and the other for not treating my pilots and troops with respect. Carris had been the first pilot to last for more than a few months, and he had served his time with honor, distinction, and capability. He was one of my best friends. He wore a regular officers uniform, with a ceremonial patch from my squadron, the “Howlrunners”, placed reverently on his shoulder.
To my right stood the only non-JedI I trusted with my life; clone commander CC-1942, better known as Arc. He was my second in command, and had served with me since the Battle of Geonosis. Back then I had been mostly a solo pilot, with absolutely no experience leading pilots in combat. Arc had been a constant source of advice and feedback, and I often credit him for training me to be the sharp-as-a-knife squadron commander I was by the end of the war. Arc was wearing his regular clone pilot’s gear, with artwork depicting the head of a howlrunner emblazoned on his helmet. That artwork always gave me the willies.
The final person on the bridge worth mentioning deserves more credit than anyone on the bridge that day. She stood to my left, eagerly rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet, staring through the viewports toward our home. She was Alisha Tarkoan, my wingman, padawan, and confidante for four straight years. She had striking ebony hair, piercing blue eyes, and a personality somewhere between bubbly and downright icy. She also did not wear conventional robes, instead wearing a white and black flight suit. Every time I looked at her I was surprised by how much she had grown. When I had met her, she’d been nothing but a scrawny little fourteen year-old girl. Now she was seventeen, and had grown into a beautiful young woman. I could not have been prouder.
As the Ascendant began its final approach to Coruscant, I turned towards Arc and spoke.
“Commander, I believe this is where Alisha and I get off,” The words were clear, but there was a shakiness behind them, betraying my tiredness. Arc turned his featureless helmet towards me, and a chill went up my spine as I saw that artwork.
“You do not wish to oversee the landing and refit, general?” the clone officer replied.
“I think you can handle it commander,” I replied, “Alisha and I have been away from the Temple for several months. Its time we went home.” It was doubtful that Arc did not pick of the sense of finality in my voice. He knew that I meant to stay. I knew that I meant to stay. I had been at war for three years, and so had Alisha. We were both drained from constant missions and touch and go training sessions. I had taught her everything I knew about combat, about lightsaber techniques and fighter tactics, but there was so much more I wished to convey. The Force was infinite, and there were many non-combat related techniques Alisha needed to know. Plus, she had been fighting since she was fifteen. She needed some time to learn that there was more to the galaxy than war.
When I finished speaking, Arc nodded and turned back to the viewport as the surface of Coruscant began to rush up and meet us. The matter settled, I tapped Alisha on the shoulder and began walking to the turbolift. We rode it down to the hangar, and as it flew through its housing I sent a message to the clone crewmen to have our ships ready for launch. When we arrived, the pair of Delta-7 Aethersprites was ready and waiting. Many Jedi had transferred to the newer model star fighters by now, but Alisha and I had never seen a reason to trade-in our trusty Delta-7s for a ship we knew absolutely nothing about.
The clone crews stepped aside as we approached, offering salutes I did my best to return. I climbed into the cockpit and settled into the chair that had not changed in three years. I gripped the controls and sent a message to the hangar docking control to open the hangar doors. After a few minutes of waiting the doors slid open and Alisha and I soared into space.
That night, I lay in bed, getting the first complete sleep I had had in months. The feeling of my own bed beneath me was remarkable. Unfortunately, the Force did not wish me to complete my sleep. Many times before, the Force had given me visions of things to come. I had been told many times that my sense of foresight was highly attuned. It was one of the reasons I was such a good pilot. However, it was sometimes annoying when I received a vision that jolted me awake in the dead of night. Now, behind my closed eyes, my mind was in turmoil. I saw Jedi, dying at the hands of an unknown force. I saw the Temple in flames. Then I saw Alisha, the light gone from her eyes, and I shot awake.
I sat there in bed, in a cold sweat, bare chest heaving. I could not see my own face, but I am sure that if someone had come in to see me they would have seen a face of pure terror. Outside, the sun was just beginning to set. I had gone to bed as soon as I had gotten back to the Temple. Just then, there was a knock at my door. I pulled on a shirt and walked to open it. Alisha stood there, alive and well. She at first looked happy, but when she got a look at my face, her own face went from happy to concerned.
“Master, are you all right?” she asked. I wiped my face with both hands and sighed.
“I am fine Alisha,” I replied, “What is it?” Alisha still looked concerned, but she did not press the matter.
“We just received a communication from Master Kenobi,” she said. I sighed again. Leave it to Alisha to be in the comms center instead of in bed.
“What did old Obi say?” I said, trying to calm my nerves with some humor.
“He said that General Grievous is dead,” Alisha said. My spirits suddenly soared. Grievous dead? The war would be over in no time! Before I knew what I was doing I was crushing Alisha in a hug.
“Can’t…breathe…” she gasped. I laughed and released her, all thoughts of my vision forgotten.
“That is great news!” I said, “Is there anything else?”
“Not at the moment,” Alisha said between gasps, “I’ll keep you posted.”
“All right, my young padawan,” I said, “Remember to get some rest yourself.” Alisha just smiled and walked away down the hallway. I watched her go, then closed the door and stood in my room. Almost at once thoughts of my vision flooded back into my mind. Bed was out of the question. I tried meditating, but that was a bust as well.
The feeling of dread just would not leave me. I tried calling Master Windu to see if he could ease my mind, but when I tried his number there was no answer. I thought of calling Master Yoda, but I remembered that he was on Kashyyk. All the other council members were either out of range or out of touch as well. Finally, I turned to the one thing I knew that could soothe this storm.
As soon as my hands touched the controls I felt better. I zoomed my Delta-7 out of the JedI Temple hangar and soared over the surface of Coruscant. The feel of the engines thrumming behind me was almost hypnotic. As I flew, I turned to my vision and approached it with a clear mind. I tried to determine the urgency of this vision. Would it come soon, or was I seeing the distant future? Coruscant right now was the safest place in the Republic. With both Dooku and Grievous dead, the Separatists didn’t have a chance. It was unthinkable that they could do the things I saw.
I was at about the midway point of my regular circle around Coruscant airspace when suddenly I felt a twinge in the Force. Something was wrong; very, very wrong, and the twinge was just the beginning. Suddenly, so suddenly I nearly lost consciousness, I was hit by a wave of pain and loss in the Force. I had always been attuned to the living Force, and death affected me much more than other Jedi. The wave of unbalance struck me like an avalanche. I nearly lost control of my fighter. When I finally got it going smoothly again, I could still feel that twinge of danger, and it was coming directly from the Temple. Then, I heard Alisha’s voice in my head.
I wrenched the controls so hard they nearly broke off, putting me on a direct course back to the Temple. I pushed the throttle wide open and blazed through the sky. As I approached, the feeling of danger grew. I could sense death, so much death. The radiating pain threatened to incapacitate me. I barely managed to land my ship in the hangar. Finally, I popped the cockpit and pulled myself out. I looked up, drawing on all my strength to keep me upright. Alisha was running towards me, fear covering her face like a mask.
“Alisha, what the heck is going on?” I asked. Behind her, three clone troopers with the blue markings of the 501st were running towards us. Suddenly they stopped and aimed.
“Master, get out of here!” Alisha yelled. I stood still, frozen with fear and confusion. Alisha was ten feet from me when the lead clone fired. The bolt screamed through the air and stuck Alisha square in her lower back. Her eyes widened even more than I thought humanly possible, and she cried out as she fell to the ground. Suddenly, the world began to move in slow motion. Alisha’s pain struck me like a sucker punch to the stomach. I was vaguely aware of the clones firing, vaguely aware of my arm raising my saber, which I did not know I had even drawn. The blue blade intercepted the clone’s shots, redirecting them to strike their origin. The three clones fell.
I dropped my saber and fell to my knees. I practically crawled to my fallen padawan. I rolled her over and the sight of the black hole in her stomach nearly made me throw up. She was still alive, barely, but blood was streaming from her mouth and her eyes were glazed.
“Oh Alisha,” I said, choking on the tears streaming from my eyes, “My young padawan.” Alisha looked up at me, and I could practically see her eyes trying to focus.
“Master…” she said before coughs racked her body. I hushed her.
“Take it easy,” I said, “I have to get you out of here.”
“No…time…” Alisha said. As if on cue, I heard the sound of running booted feet. I saw a flash of white.
“There he is!” a clone voice yelled. Alisha strained and handed me her saber. The hilt felt awkward in my hand.
“Master,” Alisha said as the light drained from her eyes, “Run.” Then the light disappeared.
At that point, I lost all connection to the waking world. Blaster bolts whizzed past me, but I heard nothing. I felt myself screaming, but I again heard nothing. Two blue blades ignited in my hands and blocked the shots, but I was fighting with only reflexes. My only protection was years of training and experience. All I could think of was my padawan, her eyes dark and cold. Her last words rang in my ears: Run.
As if I had suddenly turned up the volume, the sounds of battle again filled my ears. I blocked shots from the clones, but more kept coming. Then, I saw a hooded figure come from behind the clones and sensed a familiar presence.
“Skywalker?” I heard myself say. Anger suddenly filled me. I had always known that stuck-up, arrogant flyboy was bad news. This was all his fault. I wanted to rush and kill him right there, but then the voice of my padawan echoed again in my mind.
“Run, master,” her voice said, “Run.”
Instead of leaping into the fight, I concentrated all my pent-up rage and pain into a single blast of force energy. Skywalker leaped towards me, but before he got more than half-way I launched the blast. It caught him in mid-air, and sent both him and his clones blasting back into the walls of the hangar. I back flipped into my cockpit, and before the clones or Skywalker could recover, I was zooming out of the hangar. I raced for space, weary that I may not be able to find a hyperspace ring. Then, I remembered that some time ago, Master Saesee Tiin had developed a hyperdrive that could fit to a Delta-7. I had begged and begged and finally he had allowed me to fit a second one to my own Delta-7. I imput a series of random coordinates, knowing nothing except that the destination was not a star, and began the launch procedure.
As the stars elongated, I caught out of the corner of my eye a pair of ARC-170’s, decorated with howlrunner markings. Then the blue tunnel of hyperspace closed and I shot away. The images of my vision filled my mind, and I was sure that back on Coruscant, the Jedi Temple was in flames.
As I flew, I repeated the Jedi Code to myself over and over, trying to convince myself that it still rang true. It soon boiled down into me repeating the same line over and over again. To this day, I still repeat it, hoping to never lose it. It is a struggle, but it is one I am determined to win, for Alisha’s sake, for it is the one line that still keeps her close:
There is no death, there is the Force
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