Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 29 - Abandoning All for Silence

The Jedi Master Lonna Vash had no more idea the true cause of the shock she felt through the Force two weeks ago than anyone else. Its timing in relation to the Jedi Conclave on Katarr, which neither she or her padawan could attend because of their duties to the Republic Fleet in the Quelii system, seemed too much to be coincidental. There were no coincidences in the Force. Word from the Jedi about the findings of the conclave never came. Her hails to the members of the Jedi Council went unanswered. Then she began to hear rumors about Katarr, terrible rumors that all life on the planet had been destroyed, down to the very last Miraluka. Though she held it in from her padawan, that knowledge cut her deeply. It devastated her. She could not believe that the Jedi Order could fall so easily, so spectacularly.

Lonna contacted the Jedi Temple on Coruscant as soon as she heard those rumors, hoping for some clarity to the news, but got no response there either. Surely the younglings and the Jedi who had been left behind to care for them were still alive, and simply not paying attention to the communications center.

Lonna's optimism faded as she landed her speeder in the Jedi Temple's western hangar. The Jedi Temple felt like a lifeless, empty shell. Even as she and her padawan Kaah Ohtok exited their speeder and lingered in the hangar, no one came to greet them.

“Where is everyone, Master?” Kaah asked, his orange lekku swaying apprehensively.

“I don't know, Kaah,” she answered, shaking her head. She closed her eyes and stretched out her senses in the Force. There, in the center of the temple was the taint of pain and death. This just confirmed her worst fears. With a sigh, she opened her eyes, asking her padawan, “What do you sense here, Kaah?”

“Nothing,” he replied, “Nothing like it usually feels. It's strange.”

“Probe deeper,” Lonna encouraged, wishing him to reach the same conclusion himself.

“And there's...” he searched for the right word, “pain, I think.” Kaah paused with a sudden realization, “They're all dead.” He looked stricken.

“I fear that as well,” Lonna replied, “And any that survived are not here anymore. We must be cautious, Kaah, as we explore the Temple. We need to find out what truly happened here, but be wary of any enemies that may be lurking here.”

“Enemies? Within the Jedi Temple?” Kaah seemed aghast at the idea.

“More possible than any of us would have liked to think,” Lonna replied with a sorrowful shake of her head, “Something killed these Jedi right here in this temple. The killers may still remain, hiding in the shadows of their deaths.”

Kaah nodded gravely and unclipped his lightsaber from his hilt, grasping it readily in his hand. “Let's go then,” he said.

“Let us go to the source of that feeling of pain you sensed and see what we can find there,” she suggested, then warned, “What you see may not be easy for you to bear.”

“I have seen dead bodies before,” Kaah replied defensively, “In the war.”

“But have you seen dead children or dead friends?” Lonna asked warningly. Kaah was still young and proud; proud to be chosen as a padawan at the young age of eleven when so many others were left without masters. That was two years ago, but he still remained convinced of his own superiority, no matter how much Lonna tried to iron it out of him.

The long halls of the temple remained as empty and lifeless as the hangar bay in which they landed. Lonna followed her senses at each turn, drawing closer to the center of darkness in the temple. It was not a darkness she feared, but she did not long to see it either. Kaah kept his thoughts to himself, though apprehension and eagerness rolled off of him in waves, crests and troughs. He wanted desperately to know what had happened, and yet feared the past as well.

Nothing moved in the temple but the shifting light and the wafting dust in their wake.

“Here,” Lonna said as they approached the large meeting hall from across a wide corridor. She knew that if they were to find anything still in the temple, it would be here. The feeling she followed in the Force grew stronger, accompanied by a sour, unpleasant smell. At that, she instantly knew to expect the worse.

“What's that smell?” Kaah exclaimed, pinching his nose shut.

Lonna raised her wide left sleeve to her face and cupped the cloth around her nose and mouth. “I fear it is the smell of death,” she replied, muffled by the fabric.

Kaah drew back with a sudden realization, stopping in his tracks. He quickly put his own sleeve to his face and stepped quickly to catch up with his master.

Taking as deep a breath as she dared, Lonna rounded the bend and entered the hall. The sight that greeted her caused even her to stop mid-step. There were dead everywhere. Some dismembered, some halved, some whole but caked with rivers of dried blood. Nearly all were Jedi. Yet, the Force had totally abandoned them. She had never encountered bodies, even as long dead as these, that felt so entirely cut off from the Force. It was as the Jedi Council said, these enemies drained the living Force right out of you.

Lonna spotted two dark-clad bodies on the floor not far from here. Gingerly, she approached, her curiosity demanding that she investigate. Just what kind of sentient would murder defenseless children? Destroy the entire future of the Jedi Order? She suddenly realized that there may still be attackers lurking around the time. Casting a glance over her shoulder, she ordered, “Stay close, Kaah.”

He nodded at her, looking stiff and stricken. Kaah was only able to take two steps into the room before he turned and retched against the wall. It was all too much for him.

Lonna knelt down next to one of the mangled bodies of the attackers and pulled back his gray mask with her free hand. Underneath the duraplast was the face of a man. He looked so much like any other man that it repulsed her. She quickly placed the mask back over his face, stood up, and backed away a few paces.

“They're all dead,” Kaah mewed weekly from behind his sleeve. He seemed to be doing his best not to look at any of it.

“It falls to us to make sure the truth of that statement,” Lonna said, “We must identify all of the younglings here. If any are missing, then there is a chance that some are still alive somewhere.”

Kaah nodded, not looking at her or any of the bodies.

Just then, a feeling pricked at Lonna's senses. Someone was coming. “Kaah, get behind me,” she ordered with quiet urgency.

“What?” he asked listlessly.

“Get behind me,” she repeated more forcefully, “Now.” She moved to cover her padawan while he stepped into the shadows of her robes.

The sound of a single set of footsteps echoing down empty corridors now accompanied the feeling of someone drawing closer. Lonna reached out, probing the approaching mind for intentions, but the thoughts were too well guarded. She braced herself, unlit lightsaber ready in her right hand.

Finally, deliberately, a figure stepped into the doorway. At the sight of the familiar brown robes, blond hair, and chiseled features, Lonna immediately relaxed. “Master Kavar,” she breathed.

“Lonna Vash,” Kavar observed, looking relieved himself, “And your padawan as well. I am relieved to see you survived the tragedies of late.”

“And you, Master Kavar,” Lonna stepped towards him. “We thought we were the only ones back in the Temple.”

“I only just returned myself, yesterday,” Kavar answered, “Long enough to know that there is nothing to be found here but the faces of the children we failed.”

Lonna bowed her head mournfully.

Kaah could not find his voice, even in the comforting presence of another Jedi Master. He teetered unsteadily over towards them as well, presenting Master Kavar with an uneven bow.

“Let us get away from here,” he urged, “There is much to discuss.”

“Lead on, Kavar,” Lonna agreed. She reached out her arm and steadied Kaah around the shoulders. He immediately leaned into her as they began to walk.


Master Kavar took them to the Jedi Archive where the gentle glow of consoles gave some comfort.

“Interestingly, there are a number of things missing from the archives,” he assessed, “And even many of our most precious holocrons from the vault. I cannot explain it myself, where they have all gone.”

“Scavengers, most likely,” Lonna suggested, “Looking to sell our unprotected treasures to the highest bidder.”

“But only members of the Jedi Council can enter the holocron vault,” Kavar pointed out, “And the entrance shows no signs of struggle or tampering.”

“Then perhaps we are not the first to return home,” Lonna suggested.

“As it seems, we were not,” Kavar nodded in agreement. “But, whatever course we take from this point, we must make protecting the Jedi's history and knowledge a priority.”

“How many others do you think may have survived this?” Lonna asked. As a member of the Jedi council, she hoped he would be privy to more useful information that she herself had. Her tenure on the council was years ago.

“If all the Jedi who went to Katarr and all the younglings who remained here are dead,” Kavar began, “Then very few, I am afraid. We called back nearly all of the Jedi from the field when this threat became gravely dangerous to us. You and Kaah were among the very few in important enough positions that could not be recalled.”

“How many others were there?” Lonna repeated. This was not a time for beating around the bush.

“Other than yourselves and me,” Kavar took a long breath before he finished, “Master Zez-Kai Ell was called to advise the Chancellor at the last minute at a meeting on Corellia. Master Vima Sunrider was investigating the disappearance of agricorps. Master Vrook was last heard from at the Perkkik Mining Station in the outer rim. Kaden Thuvell was last stationed on Sigil, which was in a delicate post-war position, politically, so he could not be spared. Oss Willum and his padawan were to be on their way back in time for the Conclave on Katarr, but either they were delayed or they too fell to the assassins somewhere on the outer rim.”

Lonna waited for another, but that was the end of Kavar's list.

“Is that all?” Kaah blurted. Until then he had sat by and listened in shocked silence.

“There are other Jedi that we lost contact with during this purge,” Kavar added, “They could be still alive and simply out of contact, but I dare not put too much hope on that.”

“Then the Jedi Order is reduced to no more than ten Jedi, at best,” Lonna assessed quietly, “I had no idea it was that bad.”

“We're as good as dead,” Kaah moaned.

“Don't say that, Kaah,” Lonna admonished sharply, “There is hope for the Order as long as we still live, and live we will. More is at stake than our lives now. Remember that.”

“Yes master,” Kaah acquiesced and bowed his head, ashamed.

“There may yet be other Jedi we have forgotten about,” Lonna pointed out, “Deserters we lost during the wars who are simply in hiding. We should put out a call for them.”

“No, that would be too dangerous for them while our enemy is still at large,” Kavar countered, “And I doubt little would motivate any deserters to rejoin a Jedi order under attack as we are.”

“Then what do you suggest now?” Lonna asked.

“I feel that we must discern our assets and work from there. The more we know, the better we can plan,” Kavar replied.

Lonna nodded, “I agree. We must try to contact any Jedi who might still be alive. We should also take stock of the dead. Perhaps some may have escaped or survived.”

“What about the security feeds?” Kaah asked. “Maybe they can tell us something about what happened here.” Suddenly growing shier with both masters' eyes on him, he added hesitantly, “You did say the more we know about what happened, the better.”

“Yes, you are right,” Kavar nodded, “Very good idea, Kaah Ohtok. We will leave that to you. Go to the communications tower and look over the security feeds and any communications that went in or out of the temple immediately before, during, and since the attack.”

“Right,” Kaah nodded, “I'll do it.”

“Lonna, you should go with him and see if you can contact the other Jedi. I will give you access to the top-level files that give a report of all Jedi's last known positions,” Kavar said and pulled a small code cylinder off his belt and placed it on the table before her. With a meaningful glance at Kaah, he continued, “I think it would best if it went to me to look over the dead. If you can contact any of the other Jedi, schedule a council meeting for the earliest possible time. This evening, if we can. All the remaining Jedi are on the Jedi Council now, and that includes you Lonna.”

She nodded gravely. No need to defer to Kavar any more then. She took the code cylinder and stowed it in her belt pouch. “Then we will go to the communications tower,” she said, standing up, “When our work is finished, we will return here and wait for you. Come Kaah.”

Kavar rose slowly. Lonna could sense that it was not from the stiffness of age but the heavy burden of a survivor in these dark times. “I will see you back here when it is finished,” Kavar nodded to her.


The High Council Chamber was emptier than Lonna could ever remember it being, even in the heat of the Mandalorian Wars when Jedi Masters were sent far and wide to discern the true weight of the conflict. She and Kavar each took a chair in the circle. Kaah seated himself awkwardly in one of the seats nearest to the door. He was not part of the temporary council, but it was important that he be present and hear all that was discussed. He may even have insight that others did not. In such a situation, Lonna would never dream of shutting her young padawan out of the meeting.

Fuzzy projections of Vrook Lamar, Vima Sunrider, and Zez-Kai Ell hovered in their seats. It was a council of five.

“We could not reach many of the Jedi that we hoped survived, though there still may be others out there,” Lonna reported.

Vima sighed and shook her head, “I would have thought Kaden Thuvell more resilient than that. His position with the Sigil government would have made him a very public and obvious target, however.”

“Many great Jedi have already fallen. He is another among their number,” Zez-Kai Ell replied darkly.

“There is the mystery of Bastila Shan and her padawan,” Kavar put in, “Their bodies were not found among the dead here, and scattered security feeds show them fleeing together. Although we cannot know for certain because the security feeds from the hangar are corrupted, one of our domestic speeders is missing. They could have fled successfully on that,” Kavar explained, “But we do not know where they went to contact them.”

“That is good news in the midst of all this death,” Vima said.

“The security feeds were corrupted?” Zez-Kai Ell asked, “How is that possible?”

Lonna glanced at Kaah and nodded, prompting him to speak.

“It looks like a day or so after the attack, someone came in and hacked our systems,” he explained, “They corrupted a number of the security feeds so that we lost all previous data and they are not taking any new data. Other than the hangar bays, we lost the whole archives are and several main corridors.”

“I should note that we are missing a number of important documents, including holocrons, from the archive and the vault,” Kavar added.

“A thief and a slicer,” Vrook rumbled, “we must protect the legacy of the Jedi.”

“I agree,” Kavar nodded, “Lonna, Kaah, and I were discussing that before this meeting. Kaah is skilled enough with computers that he can lock down the temple so that only recognized Jedi in our database can enter. There are always ways to slice past such defenses, both technological and physical, but it will deter casual thefts.”

“Then please do whatever you can, Padawan Kaah,” Vrook encouraged.

“I will,” he promised, nodding so vigorously that his orange lekku wagged like two tails of a friendly feathered dog on the back of his head.

“Which brings us to the real questions posed to this council: what really happened two weeks ago when we all felt that shock through the Force,” Kavar said, “And what should we do now?”

“The military reports I have seen confirm it,” Zez-Kai Ell said, “Katarr was devastated. Nothing is left alive there, though there are no signs of struggle.”

“Just like Felucia and the Perkkik Station,” Vrook commented. “But there was a wound left in the Force from their deaths. The Force was utterly gone.”

“The children here suffered the same fate, though most of them were killed by conventional means,” Lonna added.

“Our enemies have powers we have never seen before,” Vrook said, “They drain the very Force from us. I am sure they drained every last drop of the Force from Katarr.”

“Where Jedi gather, the enemy strikes,” Vima observed quietly, “Katarr, the Jedi temple, agricorps, Dorin, I am sure there are others.”

“One thing is very clear to me now,” Vrook began after a moment of thoughtfulness, “We cannot gather again. Even though there are few of us left, we would ring out like a beacon in the Force to our enemies. Where we gather, we are risk to all other life. It is our duty to protect all life in the galaxy, not endanger it.”

“I fear you may be right, Vrook,” Zez-Kai Ell acknowledged, “Gathering together again is too great a risk, after what has happened.”

“Although we know more about our enemies than ever before, we still do not know enough to face them directly, especially weakened as we are,” Vrook pointed out, “I suggest we retreat into hiding. If we let them believe that we are all dead and that they have won, perhaps it will lull them into a false sense of security in their victory and they will step out of the shadows. Only then can we face them, our strength renewed.”

“I hate to concede victory to an enemy that would punish an entire planet for the gathering of Jedi on it,” Vima said cautiously, “But I think you are right, Master Vrook. Our silence may be the best way to draw them out. Only when they have revealed themselves can we gather again to bring the battle to them.”

“We should choose our hiding places carefully, places where an abundance of life or an old wound in the Force will mask our presences,” Kavar suggested.

“But we should leave Coruscant behind at all costs,” Lonna added suddenly, “If a gathering of Jedi can lead to the destruction of a remote Miraluka colony, think what would happen of our presence here tempts our attackers enough to destroy Coruscant. The fall of the Republic should not be on our hands.”

“You are right,” Kavar nodded.

“I will return to Dantooine,” Vrook volunteered, “There is much there to protect and rebuild, and much darkness to hide in after the attacks on our enclave.”

“I will go to Ossus,” Vima said, “The attacks of the Great Sith War still leave their scars there, and I am sure there is still plenty to be learned in the ruins of our ancient great library.”

“I will head to Nar Shadaa,” Zez-Kai Ell decided, “It is not far from here and it is the last place anyone would look for a Jedi in hiding. Perhaps in a seedy place like that, I can learn something of our enemies’ motives.”

“I will go to Onderon, where some of the earliest attacks of this kind occurred,” Kavar offered, “Maybe there is something to learn of our enemy even there.”

“I do not want to give up hope on the other Jedi who may still be out there, out of the range of our contacts,” Lonna said, “I will search the galaxy for any sign of them. Oss Willum, Bastila Shan, Deesra Lur Jada, Kaden Thuvell, even his sister, and others may still be out there.”

“Kaden's sister, the exile?” Vrook asked, “Even if she is still out there, why do you think she would help us?”

“She always had a good heart and pure intentions, no matter what terrible actions her beliefs let her to take,” Lonna replied.

“She has been away for so long,” Kavar said wistfully, “You are right, she may yet be alive. I hope you find her, and the others, Lonna.”

“Before we leave this place, we must leave messages for any other Jedi who might try to return or try to contact us,” Lonna suggested.

“You and your padawan should see to that,” Vrook suggested, “when you lock down the temple. Suggest that they too should go into hiding until the time is right for us to face our adversaries in an open fight.”

The thought of inaction, of giving up even if it was only for the time being, in the face of grave danger to the galaxy stirred conflicting feelings within Lonna. She hated to disappear just when each Jedi was needed most, and yet, Vrook's suggestion really did seem like the only option.

“But until then, let the galaxy think that the Jedi are dead and gone,” Kavar concluded heavily.

- Next Part -


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