They ran and ran.
They ran until his lungs burned in his chest, until his legs buckled and faltered with each step, until each breath was like acid spreading through his chest, until his blood pounded against his temples and his vision swam with vertigo and the dark halls seemed to meld together until pipes, rusted modules and control panels were indiscernible among the inky black haze.
"Quickly, he's catching up." It was the voice of a woman, she was older than him, at least in her thirties. She dragged him along, holding his arm, posture slightly off as she needed to lean down to hold his forearm.
Too heavy to be carried already by the age of twelve the young boy needed to run, protests dying in his throat before they ever reached his lips, only the cognitive response of placing one foot in front of the other prevailed.
They marched up the stairs clanging footsteps ringing in his ears before they reached the top.
The woman stopped him, grinding him to an abrupt halt before her hand reached to the belt along her midsection, drawing a cylindrical hilt from its resting holster. Her thumb pressed down on a button, springing to life a blade of light, bright blue in color, it hummed with superheated ozone burning through oxygen particles in the air.
He heard a grunt, and a deep electrical hum before sparks showered over him, the hiss of the blade cutting through metal stinging his ears before electric sparks snapped across the stairwell in bright blue arcs from the now hanging wiring
With the reprieve, he spared a glance down the hall, past the boilers and generators, rust covered pipes and dripping ceilings. And there, beyond those he just barely caught sight of the black silhouette, a Monolith of pure darkness as he made his way around the corner. The creature's breathing, a ghastly wheeze, ghostly and resonating reached his ears, chilling the blood in his veins before the woman once again yanked him down the hall, her crushing grip on his arm once again firm as she pulled him along.
Time was lost to him, and this hallway, where he had passed countless times before seemed to be endless, stretching on and on for an eternity beyond him.
His foot was caught in a sharp, uneven metal grate, tripping with his speed, he soon fell onto his hands and knees, the air abandoning his lungs as he coughed and wheezed, gasping hungrily for air as though he were a starving man that had been offered a banquet.
Rust and metal bit into his palms, while his fingers grew slick with traces of moss and wet fungus.
The woman reached down, weapon back in its holster as she lifted him with a heave, grunting as the boy wrapped his arms around her neck, and rested his head against her shoulder, his hot breath moistening the side of her neck as he continued to gasp for air.
She carried him through the humid passageway, overhead lights dim, their orange glow barely even descending enough to illuminate the top of their heads.
She ran and ran, ignoring everything behind her as every sense, natural and focused continued to shower her with information that made her hackles rise and the fear seemingly choke up her throat.
Finally, the last flight of stairs came into her view, swallowed up in three long, powerful strides that propelled her three steps up at a time.
"Chanus!" She cried, startled as she ascended the stairs.
Her eyes met those of a Klatooinian, tiger like features twisted into a panicked frenzy, leathery skin showing crevices and wrinkles with his grimace. "Sasha! Jacob!" The humanoid said, voice rising a pitch or so with something akin to relief. "Thank goodness!" The Xenos cried, reaching forward and taking the boy from her faltering grasp, hefting him easily into a secure grip continuing his sentence before she could get a word in edgewise. "Its no use, the facility is completely surrounded. Stormtroopers have taken position in the hills around us...they shot Jamir."
Sasha gasped, openly, the sound of her voice carrying itself over and over again in a resonating echo. "Where are Aun-El and Eroth?" She questioned hurriedly. Breath now coming in haggard, worried pants as she looked into the amber yellow of the Klatooinian's eyes.
"We are here!" Came her answer before two people wrenched open a side passage, loose debris which they had previously used to barricade their escape route behind them now clattering noisily against the floor as they entered the facility once again.
A human, young, no more than twenty cradled a bleeding shoulder, white puss seeping from the cauterized, charred edges of the blaster strike in a sickly, nauseating display. His eyes were clouded in pain, and it was clear that he only remained upright now due to his Caamasi ally which currently allowed him to lean his weight over his shoulder.
"What happened?" Sasha yelled, brown hair sticking to her forehead due to a mixture of grime and sweat as she leaned down to inspect the injury.
"Stormtroopers. They were waiting for us. Guarding the escape route. Eroth and I tried to fight...there were too many. It was all I could do to weld the exit door shut behind us."
"How could they know of-"
"There is no escape for you, Jedi."
The voice was calm, cold, flat. A calculating drawl of apathy that sapped the strength from her bones and thinned her awareness with its overpowering demand for her full attention.
She sprang to her feet, hand once again seeking out her weapon, and igniting it with a hiss of ozone particles flaring to life. Courage returned to her as she heard three other sounds almost exactly alike and felt the soft glow of lime green, fluorescent purple and sun kissed yellow bathing her in their luminescence. Pushing away the darkness that seeped from the very walls of this last refuge they held.
Her eyes peered into the darkness beyond. Deep...deep into the hallway they had just come from, and even with her force enhanced senses and added awareness of her surroundings she could only just see the form that stood within that void.
And then came that glow.
His weapon flickered to life in his hand, a bright, blood red that seemed to only accentuate the darkness around him rather than repel it.
Long shadows stretched over what little she could see of his face, obscuring as they were revealing of the inhuman features.
"Darth Vader." Came Aun-El's strangled gasp, clicking his beak.
The fear was a twisted thing, sneaking up on them and crawling up their spine before they had ever realized it was there, blossoming like a fungal bloom in their minds and hearts as the whispered name slithered into their ears and the full weight of just who they now faced came crashing down around them.
They faced the Sith that had singlehandedly destroyed the Jedi Order.
He stepped forward, silently, the outline of his body becoming more and more defined, as he made his way closer.
His steps were silent, slow, languid, he took his time, marching through the shadows like a wraith of Dark space the glow of his light saber swallowed by blackness
From his place in Chanus's arm Jacob's pupils became thin, his heartbeat racing within his chest, as fear overtook him. Sheer terror gripping tight as the monster continued to come closer and closer, the sound of its wheezing breath screeching across his senses with its methodical steady pace.
Adrenalin coursed through him, and suddenly he could not stay still any longer. He struggled out of Chanus's grip tears unknowingly leaking from his eyes now. He ran, energy flowing into his limbs, born of desperation and sheer panic as he rushed into the room the others had told him was safe. That they had told him would protect him from the bad people if they were ever found.
"Back...Back into the safe room!" Aun-El yelled to the others, firmly holding the limping Eroth over his shoulder, one hand gripping his lightsaber, eyes fixed on approaching death as he shepherded the others into the room.
Never once did Vader move faster. Never once did he falter in his gait. Even as they moved backwards, even as they rushed past a thick door his optic sensors recognized as pure durasteel, even as the door began to shut, and eventually clanged completely shut, blocking him from their view.
Within the room, Sasha felt she could breathe again, gaze seeking out, and finding young Jacob, huddled in a corner, sobbing into his knees with hysterical sobs that shook his small frame.
She marched over to him, lifting him up before she used the force to open up a small, almost invisible compartment in the wall.
She placed him in there, running a hand through his hair before she spoke softly, whispering comforting nothings into his ear to calm him before finally deciding to call his attention to her. "Jacob...look at me."
The boy sniffled, eyes shut tight before he pried them open, bring teal green pupils to stare into soft brown.
Sasha did her best to smile, though, given the situation, she did not know how well she could manage, already she could smell burning metal in the air, and feel the apprehension of the others as they too sensed Vader's efforts beyond that door and knew what would most likely become of them should he succeed.
"Listen." She kept her voice calm, comforting. "You're gonna hide in here. We need you to stay in there for a long time and be as quiet as possible do you understand?"
Jacob nodded, sniffling some more. He looked as though he were about to say something more when the door began to glow with heat from its center, smoke rising from the superheated metal. Intoxicating the air with its overpowering smell. The boy shut his eyes tightly again, curling in on himself, and whimpering as he covered his ears to drown out the curses Eroth was giving out from where he leaned against the wall.
Sasha could say no more without risk of the boy being detected by Vader. She leaned forward, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "Be safe" was her whisper to him before she used the force to once again push the tile back into place along the wall.
She looked up, a thin ventilation shaft standing out amongst its opaque surroundings. She loudly wrenched it open, letting its metal grate clatter noisily to the floor before she turned to the others. With Chanus and Eroth leaning against the wall on either side of the door Aun-El stood off to the side, hand resting over a button.
He looked to her then, and she gave a single nod. The Birdlike Xeno's pressed down on the button soon thereafter.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then...the earth rumbled beneath their feet, the surface of the ground swooshing down and leaving them airborne for a split second before it rushed back up to meet the bottom of their boots. They stumbled and lurched, tools and pieces of machinery falling from the tables and desks in the room in clutters. The overhead neon lights sparking and flickering.
The shaking ceased, the harsh vibrations mellowing to a gentle rumble. Jacom whimpered in his hiding place, eyes peering out of a small hairline crack in the edge of the tile that concealed him.
The center of the door was still glowing red hot, a dim, orange light peeking in from the bottom of the door, flickering sporadically.
"Did we get him?" Eroth gasped out from his place on the floor, the arm of his injured shoulder held tightly to his chest as he pushed himself up with his one good arm, reaching for a nearby pipe to pull himself to his feet, staggering as he did.
Sasha stumbled to her feet, one hand pressed against her ringing ears, the other against the wall to steady her as she regained her senses.
The signature crackle of fire was muffled by the door, now heavily dented inward from the kinetic force behind the blast that had rocked the entire facility.
There was a shift to her right and her attention turned to Chanus, watching as the Klatooinian slowly approached the doorway, hand reaching for his green lightsaber; igniting the weapon as she, Aun-El and Eroth did the same, bathing the room in a rainbow of colors.
Chanus reached forward, hand hovering inches over the lock panel to open it. Hesitating as he held it there. Trembling with trepidation and unease, the leather skin of his face crinkling with a grimace of fear as his fangs chewed painfully on his lower lip as he was wracked by indecision, hesitation.
He swallowed thickly, resolve visibly flowing into him before he pressed down on the release panel.
There was no hiss of hydraulics, neither was there a grating roll of electro wheels pushing along their tracks to push the door open, or even the moan of straining metal as damaged equipment could no longer accomplish their task.
Instead, the door was pushed forward in an explosion of motion, moving at speeds none of the Jedi could hope to truly catch and only managed to find their gaze on the plate of black Durasteel when it came to a stop, dug in almost an entire foot into the opposite wall.
Sasha's eyes were wide with disbelief and only faintly did she hear Chanu's scream of pain.
She turned slowly, eyes cast downward, the Huttese curses escaping the mouths of her three companions filtering through one ear and out the other.
She saw Eroth, his back hugging the wall, golden lightsaber held close, Aun-El, scrambling off the floor where he had thrown himself to get out of the way of the two metric ton projectile, over Chanus...
Who lay on the ground...unmoving...purple blood seeping from his mouth and head, spreading to the metal floors.
He'd been dead before he hit the ground.
The orange glow of the flames drew her eyes then, like a moth-
And she saw him...
He stood within the inferno, tongues of red flame licking the edges of his cloak, slithering over his shoulder pauldrons and cape like death serpents. The heat billowed his cape outwards in ripples.
She looked to that visor, and despair seemed to claw up her throat, choking her as she stared deep into the blackened, hollowed eye-pits of his mask, stifling the very air she breathed as she stared at the devil spawn made flesh.
Her fear slithered within her stomach like a worm, paralyzing her muscles, coiling between them and pulling them taut.
"Damn you!" Was the sudden yell that startled her out of her reverie, as Eroth lifted a table and its, sharp, contents, and hurled them towards the black monolith.
The rush of oxygen as the metal slab rushed through the air pushed the flames away, billowing flickers of orange that obscured their vision, a blinding flash of white sparks as the improvised projectile was cut in two.
Metal pipes bent and groaned in protest as the two pieces smashed into them, the sounds of their fall echoing through-a now empty-outer hallway.
"Wha-where did he go?" Eroth shouted golden blade held closely across his chest, in the standard defensive position of the Schi-cho lightsaber form. Bleeding arm hanging limply along his side. He swiveled his head to look out of the door way, shifting eyes seeking any obscured shadow or dark corner the light of the fires didn't reach for the Sith Lord.
"He-He couldn't have just vanished." Aun-El clicked from his beak, forked tongue flicking out to taste the ozone layered air. "He's seven kials tall for Force sa-"
A fist smashed in from the metal grating, a screech of twisted metal, strained wiring and buckling bolts, deafening in their intensity within the enclosed space. The gloved hand lashed out, digits clamping around Aun-El's throat like a vice, crushing his larynx in less time than it took the Caamasi to squawk in fright, the sound emerging fragmented and wheezing before the xeno was pulled through the wall, his scream lost amidst the bending metal and the rush of flame that swallowed up the new opening.
"Aun-El! Aun-El!" Eroth yelled limping forward towards the opening, hoping to catch sight of their fellow Jedi Knight, only for a spike of obsidian metal to spear him through the chest. It ran him through, its tip driving itself through cloth and flesh and metal once again, hanging him from the wall in a macabre display that turned Sasha's stomach as the young Jedi suddenly found herself very very alone.
She backed away from the doorway, eyes wild and panicked as the certainty of death dug itself more firmly into her mind. The knowledge of her own impending demise washing over her like a cold wave of Ice water.
She held her lightsaber close, but knew that it was a feeble defense. They both knew it.
She backed away further, closer and closer to the wall panel that held Jacob's trembling formm taking some twisted comfort in the closest live presence near her.
Her back struck an unyielding wall, three steps before it should have. Her breath quickening and her pulse racing. Adrenalin surging through her system as the animal instinct of fight or flight took over her senses. She threw all caution to the wind, swiveling around on her ankle, blade lighting the room with its bright blue hue.
Only for her wrist to find itself in a bone crushing grip, weapon falling to the floor as her hand was forcefully opened as the bones of her wrist and forearm were crushed, grinding and scraping against one another.
She never registered the pain, never registered the lightsaber being pressed against her chest, nor the superheated blade piercing her heart, singing and melting the organ to cinders within her chest cavity.
Her eyes never left the ghoulish mask that peered down on her. The mechanized breathing was a hellish melody, delving her into the blackness of oblivion.
She fell, down down until she felt her back slam against the ground, the edges of her vision going black, faded. And the final image that would ever reach her mind, would be that of Vader's back. His blood red blade raised and rushing towards Jacob's secret compartment.
Well this is a oneshot, obviously, of one of Vader's hunts for lingering Jedi after Operation Knightfall. Instead of the usual climactic lightsaber fights I decided to show just how trully terrifying Vader can be to the people he's hunting by using something other than brute force, since its a well known fact that his mechanized suit carried with it several limitations. I immagine he'd need to adapt to his situation and use his head more than a fully functional Jedi that has no such limitations.
Anyway I hope you all enjoyed it read and review please