The wind rushed past his face, providing some small relief to the badly burned skin. Strangely, regardless of the almost sentient energy of Coruscant, the night air was quiet. The only thing Mace could hear was the slow beating of his heart as he fell into the endless starlight of the city world. How could this have happened? He had been so close, just inches, from ending this entire debacle. Finally, after three long years of ripping apart the galaxy, it would have been over. The Sith would have sunk back into the darkness of myth, where they belonged. The Order would have finally been safe, the darkness and confusion of the dark side eliminated. The war would have been over.
But for the boy. All these years, all this effort, and all…wasted. How could he have done this? How? Why? The edges of Mace's vision began to blur, and he knew the end was nearing. He had failed Yoda, the Order…himself. He knew that the impact would not come for some time, so he closed his eyes and counted his breaths as they came. It was strangely soothing, something so simple after all the intrigue and lies. He thought of Depa, of the trust they had formed over the long years of her training. He remembered Yoda, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Kit, and Ki-Adi. He thought of the younglings he had taught, the infants in the crèche, the wizened Jocasta Nu in the library. He had failed them. He had failed them all. As the wind jostled his wounded body, Mace Windu pondered this fact. Surprisingly, the end came much sooner than he had expected. As darkness claimed his vision, Mace Windu found himself confused. Never before had duracrete felt so soft…
Alema Passik looked out over the Coruscant skyline and sighed. She folded her legs underneath her, closed her eyes, and reached out in the Force. She needed to feel the throbbing surge of life that only Coruscant could provide. Considering the day's events, she felt it was not a selfish indulgence. After all, how often was one forced to bury a younger brother?
Tears pricked her eyes at the thought. Tol had always lived up to his name, his spirit ever fierce, his temper always hot. And that fire had consumed him, literally today as well as in his relations with the Passik clan. After he had left Dantooine, Alema had been the only member of their immediate family to keep in touch with him. Alema had journeyed to Coruscant recently for a business opportunity and had had every intention of visiting her brother once she was relatively settled. Four days ago, she had received a frantic comm from Tol's current lover, indicating that her brother was unresponsive. Alema had rushed to their apartment, but it had been too late. Her brother's heart had stopped.
As they had been waiting for the mortuary workers, Alema had rifled through her brother's bag. Her heart had sunk when she found the large supply of death sticks, not to mention all the other illegal medicines under them. Alema had felt her lekkus begin twitching uncontrollably, and she had been seized by a dark urge to strangle the woman weeping in the corner of the room. He had sworn he was clean, that he would never again…Alema had turned and glared at the sobbing girl. Tol had always been a fool for women, especially women with underworld connections. Luckily, the mortuary workers had arrived at that moment, and Alema had been faced with different concerns.
The mortuary had been quick to determine the cause of death: overdose of several powerful stimulants. Her brother's heart had been unable to handle the strain. Her own heart racing, Alema had solemnly contacted their older sister, Dia, and relayed the news. Within two days, Dia and their parents had been by her side, weeping as Tol's body was consumed by flames. Tol would have loved the sheer irony of that fact. Only in death would he ever truly be united with his family, once it was too late. Alema sighed and shook her head, trying to rid herself of the unpleasant thoughts.
Instead, she focused on the flow of the Force. The eddies here on Coruscant reminded her of rapids, beautiful in their energy but also overwhelming in their power. If one were not careful, the eddies would plunge him under, never to be seen again. Much like Tol. Alema opened her eyes and felt tears flowing down her face. She heard the door behind her open and felt Dia's presence in the Force. Her sister was cold, numb, strong…stable. For now. Alema knew her well enough to know that once they returned to Dantooine, once their parents had grieved and were healing, Dia would allow herself to mourn. But not until then.
Dia knelt beside her sister and gently put an arm around her shoulders. "Cry," she instructed, stroking one of Alema's lekkus. Pressing her face into her sister's lap, Alema sobbed violently, one hand convulsively kneading into her sister's leg.
"He's gone, Dia. I failed him," Alema wailed, remembering her brother as he had been before the drugs. The little boy who had watched in awe as she practiced Shii-Cho and Ataru. He had grabbed a stick and began trying to imitate her movements. She remembered his green lekkus twitching in annoyance when her Master had interrupted their practice session. She remembered the joy in his eyes when she had decided to come home, to give in to what felt natural.
"Alema, you could not protect him from himself. Tol chose who he wanted to be. And we were forced to watch as it destroyed…" Dia murmured, her voice cracking at the end. Alema flinched as her sister's presence in the Force changed, suddenly becoming an overwhelming chasm filled with sorrow. Alema looked up as Dia's eyes filled with tears. Her sister's jaw clenched stubbornly, and she looked down. "We must be strong," she said, voice quavering. "For our parents. They will need our strength."
Alema lifted her sister's chin and smiled weakly. "We will be strong…together."
The darkness was invading. All around her, innocents screamed. Some screamed out of fear; others screamed for mercy. Children ran from their pursuers. Those that tripped never rose again. Some ran to their Masters, others for the safety of their beds. Somewhere from the shadows, mocking laughter filled the Temple. A hideous, deformed ghost floated in the air, his words judging those who defended his power, condemning them to death. And beneath him, a dark flame raced in whatever direction he pointed, murdering the innocent. The sound of labored breathing, of screams and groans filled the air. Alema raced down the hall, trying to find some way to help, but it was too late. The dark flame engulfed her. The sound of her own screams and the smell of charred flesh filled her dreams; then everything went dark…
Alema sat up, sweat pouring down her face and back. Surely it was just a dream. Yet why did it feel so real? Why was her stomach revolting and her head aching? Why was she filled with a sudden sense of emptiness as her heart pounded into her chest. Why could she still hear the screams? Why did she feel death so strongly? Alema rose quietly, careful not to awake Dia. Grabbing her nightrobe, she strode to the window overlooking Coruscant and froze. A cold chill filled her soul. It had been no dream…the Jedi Temple was burning.