Disclaimer: Star Wars is the property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm. I mean no infringement and make no profit.
A/N: I wrote my first draft of this after I first read the spoiler about the fate of the younglings in Episode III. After the fifth time I saw the movie, I overhauled it and wrote it better. The image, the idea for this story struck me very strongly and stayed with me. I guess this is sort of my way of dealing with the scene, and I'm really rather proud of how it turned out. I'm posting it to celebrate winning NaNoWriMo and surviving fall semester. Thanks to Jonah and Evie, who read and reviewedit first.
The Death of Innocence
Master Bear had woken them up in the middle of the night. The Jedi Temple lay shrouded in darkness and silence... and fear. Young as they were, and untrained, even the smallest of them could sense the fear.
"Is the war here again?" one of them asked, remembering a similar exercise only days before, when the Battle of Coruscant had blazed overhead, setting the city alight, and they'd been taken from their classes into emergency shelters.
"Yes," Master Bear answered grimly. "Only this time we're going up instead of down. As far up as we can. Follow me. Stay close."
But the Battle of Coruscant had been bright and loud, full of flashing lights and explosions, debris colliding with skyscrapers. Tonight all they could hear was their own running feet, and silence.
Silence because they were not on the lower levels. Below them, the Temple echoed with the measured tread of thousands upon thousands of armored boots. Below them, blasters had begun to fire. Bodies had begun to fall. The Sith had breached the Temple.
This was the last stand of the Jedi.
Knights, Masters, and Padawans streaked past them, igniting their lightsabers as they ran. Master Bear shepherded his charges through the vast corridors to the highest point of the Temple ziggurat, the Chamber of the Jedi Council itself. The room was deserted, the only light coming from the countless points of brightness that illuminated a Coruscant night.
"Look!" They pointed out the view walls, seeing for the first time the troops gathered down below. Master Bear saw them, too. They were still coming in.
"Wait here," he told the younglings, the students who had been placed in his care for the first years of their training. "I'll come back for you soon."
"No!" a dozen small voices cried out. "Don't go!"
"They need me downstairs. Only for a little while." He looked at them, huddled in the center of the Council Chamber, all between six and eight years old, not even Padawans yet. They looked back at him, absolute trust in their eyes. "I'll be back soon. Wait right here. Don't be afraid. Remember that you are all Jedi."
He thought he saw some of them stand a little straighter, and with that he left the chamber, ready to do his best to see that the troops and their dark leader never reached it.
The younglings, alone, stared at one another with wide eyes. Some started crying. Others tried to comfort them.
All at once, the silence was broken. They rushed back to the view walls to see the troops below opening fire on Jedi who were trying to escape. They heard the Jedi shouting. Smoke was rising from windows in the Temple below.
"Don't worry," said J.K. Burtola, who was seven. "Master Kenobi and Master Skywalker will be here soon."
"Yeah, they'll rescue us," said Liam.
"I've got my training saber," another of the boys added.
A small six-year-old named Crissa whimpered, "I wish Master Yoda was here," as Cendra, an older girl, put her arms around her.
"Master Yoda would tell us to remember what it is to be a Jedi," Ashla said softly.
"He'd tell us to remember the Code," Mari Amithest agreed. "Come on, let's recite the Code."
And so they did, quickly at first, rushing through it in rote recital.
"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."
"Again?" somebody asked, and they started over, slower this time.
"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."
The noises were getting closer. They could hear the armored boots on the level below them now, and the blasters. They could hear voices shouting, No... Too many... Keep them back... Fire burst from the other Temple spires. A few of the children, curled up behind the Council seats, began to cry again. The rest, with shaky voices, continued to recite.
"There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity." Running feet. A loud explosion. Screaming, abruptly cut off. Lightsabers. "There is no chaos, there is harmony." They were in the hall. Just outside. Blaster bolts were striking the door. "There is no death," the children whispered from the shadows behind chairs where ancient Jedi Masters had once sought peace and justice. "There is the Force."
Then they were upon them.
The door slid open, and the darkness came in.