Author's Note: Special thanks to skywalker05 for editing this. Now if only she could figure out a way to keep the plot bunnies from attacking me...
Remember, all flames will be sent back to Mustafar at the expense of the sender.
United We Stand
by Argenteus Draco
The darkness was growing on Coruscant. It reminded Ky-Lin very much of the city slum he'd grown up in. Even the Jedi Temple was starting to feel it's effects, and that scared him.
He pushed this thought to the back of his mind, however, and went about his daily chores. Although he was not in training to be a Jedi, he had picked up a few of their tricks about clearing the mind. Sometimes he would linger outside the classrooms, just listening and trying to feel the calm that the Masters all seemed to emanate. Then he would remind himself that he was not a Padawan, and he was too old to become one, and that was the only time he would feel any malice toward the Jedi.
For the most part, they ignored him. Ky-Lin changed the sheets, checked that the lamps were functioning, and made sure there was always clean water in the pitchers beside the beds, all without so much as a second glance in his direction. The general opinion seemed to be that he didn't belong there. Except for Anakin. Maybe it was from his own days spent in servitude, but Anakin had always had a kind word for him when they happened to cross paths.
Where was he, anyway? Come to think of it, where was everyone? The Temple was too quiet for any of the normal proceedings to be taking place. Not that anything normal ever happened in the Jedi Temple.
He wandered the halls without any clear direction or purpose. Something was definitely wrong. The Masters hurried past him, all wearing tight-lipped, nervous expressions. Outside, the sky was growing darker, and he thought he could smell smoke. What was going on out there?
Cin Drallig's voice cut through his thoughts like a whip. He turned around to face the training master.
"Help me carry these." And he thrust an armful of lightsabers into Ky-Lin's arms.
"There is no time for questions. Follow me."
Ky-Lin had to take two steps for every one of Cin's, and his slightly awkward load was not helping matters. As they ran through the maze of hallways, he had more than a little fear that one of the lightsabers in his hands might activate, and he'd be forced to either drop them all or loose a limb. Neither option sounded like much fun.
They stopped at the entrance to the training arena. "Take those inside," Cin told him as he keyed in the access code. "Do not leave unless I or one of the other masters comes to collect you."
And then he left, leaving a very confused Ky-Lin standing in the doorway, facing a group of equally frightened Padawans.
Ky-Lin blinked as the door shut behind him, and then stared down at the lightsabers he was still holding. Why had Cin brought him here? And what was he supposed to do with these?
He dropped them suddenly, as though in disgust. No one ever told him anything!
"Take them," he muttered, somewhat contemptuously. "These are your weapons, right? So take them."
One by one, the students crept forward to pick a blade, and finally only one was left lying at Ky-Lin's feet. They looked at him expectantly, and that was when he realized that Cin had not brought him there simply to deliver weapons. He was arming the students to defend themselves.
And, apparently, Ky-Lin with them.
They waited. Outside, the noise of battle grew steadily louder. At least the training room had no windows. Ky-Lin feared what he might see though them.
Once again, war had come to his home.
He didn't remember a lot of the war on Naboo. Mostly, he just remembered noise and crowds, and that when everything had finally calmed, he hadn't been able to find his parents. He'd followed the crowds to the refugee camps – he could remember them more clearly – and found himself a bedroll, a hot meal, and a sympathetic Jedi.
Bultar Swan was the one who brought him from Naboo to Coruscant. He was never sure what she'd meant to do with him once they reached the Temple (though at the time, he'd dreamed about becoming a Jedi). Once there, his case seemed to fall through the cracks. His dreams of using the Force were proved impossible by the tests they ran on his blood. But he stayed because he had nowhere else to go, and he did what small things he could for them in return. Over time, everyone seemed to become used to his presence. He was the errand boy; he performed all of the menial tasks that made living easier. He did not train with them, he was just there. Which was part of the reason he felt so disconnected now.
There were eight of them in the room, including Ky-Lin. The two youngest – Ky-Lin would place their age at six or so – stared helplessly at the blank walls. A few were trying to meditate. Ky-Lin was wondering if he aught to start praying when the oldest of the group approached him.
"Do you know what's happening out there?" His voice cracked slightly, the only hint of fear he could show.
Ky-Lin shook his head. Then, for no explainable reason, he found himself telling the boy, "Don't worry. I survived one war, and I plan on making it through this one."
They kept waiting. One of them showed Ky-Lin how to activate his lightsaber, though he hoped desperately that he wouldn't have to use it.
Those hopes were quickly dashed when the sounds of heavy fighting passed by right outside their door. They could hear blaster fire, and the faint humming of lightsabers, and one bone-chilling scream before the battle moved on.
The room was deathly silent for a moment.
"I think they're killing all the Jedi," a small voice in the corner murmured.
This was met with more silence. The Padawans looked at their feet, at the walls, at the lightsabers they held; anywhere but at each other. Then, one by one, their eyes settled on Ky-Lin.
"You should probably leave, Ky-Lin."
So, they knew his name after all.
"I think it's too late for that now."
Training forgotten, the youngest boy started to cry. Another Padawan ran across the room to comfort him.
"Shh," he murmured, though the sound was not as comforting coming from the Trandoshan's mouth. "I'm sure it'll all be over soon."
As if on cue, the next sound they heard was the bolt in the door sliding open, and they all looked up to see Anakin Skywalker framed in the doorway. But when he met their expectant gazes with his own twisted one, they knew this was not the rescue they'd been hoping for.
Then he drew his lightsaber, and Ky-Lin didn't need Jedi powers to know that he would, indeed, need to fight.
Ky-Lin would not remember much of this battle either; only clumsily deflected blaster bolts, smoke, and screams as they flew through the Temple. He stepped over broken machinery, ran past fallen doors, and nearly tripped over the body of the man who had armed him.
It was impossible, in the confusion, to tell who was still beside him and who had already been killed. Five of them had made it out of the room, only to find themselves surrounded by clone troopers. By pure chance, they'd caught them by surprise, just enough to get a running start.
Ky-Lin took the lead, trying to pick pathways that would take them to an exit. More than once he had to pause to get his bearings, since unlike the others, he did not have Force intuition to guide him.
He counted the lightsabers flashing on either side of him to know which of his companions were still there. Four… three… He drew his own blade when the third blinked out of existence. It was awkward and unbalanced in his hands, and he wondered briefly how the others could swing it without injuring themselves.
"Trust it!" Someone yelled from his left, as though they'd heard his thought.
Trust it? What was that supposed to mean?
He tried to bring to mind all the bits of teachings he'd heard over the years. He focused on the blade, on its hum, on the faint scent it gave off… He asked, as nicely as he could given the circumstances, for something to guide them in a safe direction, and followed the vaguely magnetic pull…
…To a dead end.
The clones announced their arrival with another round of laser blasts. He did his best to defend against them, but despite the combined efforts, when the smoke cleared, Ky-Lin could see the Trandoshan Padawan lying on the floor.
The way Ky-Lin saw it, they now had two options: stand and fight, or try to run again. Either way probably meant death, but at least if they fought they might take a few of the clones with them. He and his remaining companion shared a meaningful glance before raising their weapons into a ready stance, although Ky-Lin didn't feel nearly as confidant as the Padawans looked.
Beams of blaster fire fell like rain as the hallway filled with smoke again. Unable to see, Ky-Lin focused on the feel of the hilt in his hands and his companion's presence at his back. He smiled to himself. Maybe he wasn't a Jedi, but it certainly looked like he was going to die with them.
One of the lasers grazed his leg. Another hit him solidly in the shoulder, but the clone who shot it quickly found himself missing an arm as Ky-Lin lost the limited control he had of his lightsaber.
"One down!" he cried, euphoria momentarily blocking out pain.
No response. He looked down and saw a severed arm where his friend had been.
His first thought was: "Oh no." Then he thought: "I didn't know blasters could do that."
Well, that certainly made a difference in his plan.
"Don't shoot!" he cried, hoping to give himself a few extra moments. He needed a new strategy now. "I'm not a Jedi."
They hesitated. "You carry a lightsaber," one of them said.
Ky-Lin dropped the offending weapon immediately. The clones appeared confused for a moment, and he took the opportunity to try to slip his small body past them. But one of them got a hold on his injured shoulder, and he had no choice but to let them lead him away.
Ky-Lin was trying very hard not to think of Anakin Skywalker as he had been. After the display in the training room, he didn't think he'd be shown any more mercy than the other Padawans had received.
"It's true, he's no Jedi. Obviously, he lacks a Jedi's sense of honor, or he would have let you kill him along with the others."
He wasn't sure why, but Ky-Lin took a certain amount of offense to that. He drew himself up proudly and stared Anakin straight in the eye.
"I want you to understand something, Ky-Lin. I didn't want to kill you. I remember when they brought you here, nothing more than a servant to the great. Until tonight. I suppose you think it was a noble choice to stand and fight with those who were already doomed. Let me clear this up for you. All you chose tonight was your own fate."
The Jedi Temple was burning. Four hours later, and still no one had come to put out the small fires scattered throughout the building. A cloaked figure in the shadows considered that at least the Jedi inside were afforded some semblance of a proper pyre.
Bultar Swan watched as Anakin Skywalker marched out of the Temple, proud, strong, and very definitely alone. She watched Yoda and Obi-Wan return to light the beacon. But although the signal said to turn back, she did not leave her hiding place.
When night finally fell on Coruscant, she crept forward and approached the partially ruined Temple. For a long moment, she just stood there, lost in her own memories. Then she bent down, and picked a twisted fragment of durasteel from out of the rubble.
"Not as big as I would have liked," she murmured, turning it over in her fingers, "but it'll do."
The years have changed the Temple on Coruscant. The building is over-run, the stonework worn and cracked. Most people aren't even aware of what it once was.
But if you care to push past the vines and creepers, you'll stumble up something curious; a relic of another generation. Welded to the ferrocrete is a piece of twisted durasteel engraved in Aaurebesh. It reads:
For the Jedi who fought and died here
And those who stood beside them in their last hours.