Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The Recluse veered away from the first barrage and dove sharply towards Herdessa.
“Dahn!” Klaos shouted. “Are you as natural a pilot as Skywalker says you are?”
“YES OR NO, DAHN!”
“Yes!” Robrus shouted. Klaos jumped up from his seat and ushered Robrus into it.
“We have a few moments before those fighters are close enough to cause trouble. Keep us out of their line of fire for as long as you can,” he said. He turned to Janara and Myell. “The two of you, with me. Now.”
They rushed to the back of the ship, near the docking ring of the ship’s scout shuttle. Crates of supplies were scattered near the door.
“Hurry,” Klaos said. “Load the shuttle with as much as it can hold. Leave room for the three of you.”
“What do you mean?” Janara asked.
“You’ll land on the planet below,” Klaos said. “You’ll find a place to hide. If I’ve taught you well you’ll keep yourselves alive.”
“You’re coming with us!” Janara insisted.
“I’ll be covering your escape.”
“No arguments, Vosenn. I told you back in the cave — you three are the Order’s priority. I’ll send out a coded signal to the other Jedi telling them how to rescue you. If…any of them are still alive.”
They shoved the crates into the shuttle’s hold, doing their best to maintain their balance while Robrus, in the cockpit, continued to swoop and roll through the increasing attacks. He was a talented pilot, no doubt, but the clone fighters had been engineered and trained to make a quick end of ships like the Recluse. Time was short. Klaos hit the internal comm.
“How many fighters incoming, Dahn?” he called through the speaker.
“A dozen,” Robrus answered. “Possibly more.”
“That’s too many,” Klaos said. “We’ll need to take some of them down to give you any sort of chance. Dahn, change of plans — we need an attack.”
“How should I approach?” Robrus asked.
“I trust you,” Klaos said. “Vosenn and I will take the aft and rear guns.” He turned off the comm. “Myell, finish loading and make sure the shuttle is ready to disembark. Vosenn, let’s move.” The ship shook as the first of the fighters scored a hit on the ship. The deflectors would only hold for so long, and if they were surrounded they’d be dead in seconds. Klaos and Janara ran for the guns.
As he engaged with the rear artillery, Klaos could see that the fighters were attacking in a tight formation, which seemed curious—it was an oddly mechanical maneuver, lacking in strategy considering their quarry was fighting back. It was as if the clones themselves had been overcome by a blind purpose instead of their usual level of adaptable insight. Whatever the reason, it was a mistake, and Klaos welcomed what little advantage it granted.
“Concentrate fire on the left group,” Klaos ordered. Janara complied with a series of shots that went wide. “Focus, youngling! Use the Force to guide your aim!” He fired at an incoming trio of fighters, taking out two of them. Janara’s next shots took out the third and clipped two others. “Good shooting, Vosenn! Don’t let up!” The two of them continued to fire, landing a few disabling hits and forcing them to break off their attack and regroup.
“Dahn!” Klaos called. “Give the controls to the droid and get down to the shuttle. We’ve bought our moment.” He jumped from the gunner’s seat and ran back to the hold. Janara and Robrus were already there, and Myell had just finished powering up the shuttle’s controls. Klaos stepped inside and hurriedly typed in a set of coordinates.
“Get in,” Klaos ordered them. “Dahn, take the controls. I’ve programmed the shuttle to land far from any Republic outposts, but if you run into patrols, you are not to let them know who you are. Do you understand me? Until it is safe, none of you are Jedi.” The younglings nodded. “Now go!”
The shuttle took off. Klaos ran back to the cockpit to see the regrouped fighters preparing to come in for another attack, and more fighters launching from the Tol Cressa. He pushed the droid aside and steeled himself for the suicide run. He hoped that he had given the younglings enough to survive their next ordeal, and that enough of the Order had survived that his actions here would not be in vain. The fighters descended upon the Recluse and began to fire.
One of them exploded, cut to pieces by a sudden burst of blaster fire off his starboard side. Klaos looked through the window and was horrified to see the shuttle mounting an attack. He opened a channel to the shuttle.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” he shouted. Janara’s voice answered.
“Covering your escape, Master.”
“I told you — “
“We know what you told us,” Janara said. A second fighter spun away, its wing on fire. The other fighters began to concentrate on the immediate threat of the shuttle.
“Vosenn, you are going to get the three of you killed. You are going to get Myell killed.” Myell’s voice cut in.
“Don’t blame Janara,” she said. “I convinced her. You’re wrong, Master Klaos. Robrus told us — the Jedi are under attack. Everywhere. All of them. We can save you. Go back to the temple and save them.”
“Dahn!” Klaos said, his voice betraying desperation. “Robrus, break off your attack and resume course to Herdessa. Now!”
“Master,” Robrus answered. “The Jedi Order is dying. It needs its masters now more than it needs its younglings. You can make it into hyperspace but you need to go now.”
“Stop this!” Klaos shouted. “Janara! Robrus! Myell! Break off!”
“Master,” Myell responded, gently. “Go. Be strong. May the Force be with you.” The channel closed. Klaos watched as Robrus spun into the heart of the fighters’ formation, taking on the squadron with the shuttle’s outmatched weaponry and drawing their fire away from the Recluse.
What had he done wrong, he asked himself. What had he failed to teach them? His mind revisited every word he had spoken during the past three days, everything he had said about strength and survival and the difficult choices a Jedi must be ready to make.
He realized that he had done nothing wrong. His charges had taken every lesson he had imparted, every word of wisdom he had passed down from his own masters, and every behavior he and every other master had modeled for them, and they were now putting them into practice.
They were behaving as Jedi.
As the younglings’ shuttle began to come apart under the bursts of blaster fire, Klaos had one final recollection of words he had spoken, and the thought jarred him from his state of shock.
You are rendering their sacrifice meaningless.
Klaos keyed in the coordinates for Coruscant and prepared to make the jump to hyperspace. A few fighters from the squadron, noticing the freighter’s surge in power, steered away from the attack on the wounded shuttle and began firing upon him. One scored a glancing shot off the hyperdrive as the ship began to jump.
The shuttle exploded as the stars began to blur, and through the Force Klaos felt the younglings die. In their last breaths there was courage, there was grim determination. There was no fear. The psychic shock of it ripped through Klaos like thunder, and for a moment the trauma of it laid him oblivious.
He was snapped back to reality by an insistent, angry beeping from the droid. He looked at the control panel and saw that the blast the hyperdrive had taken had not been inconsequential after all — it had damaged the engine’s halting mechanism. The Recluse no longer had the ability to drop itself out of hyperspace.
He was going to bypass Coruscant. The ship would keep going until the hyperdrive ran out of power…or, more likely, he ran into a solid object beyond the programmed coordinates. There was no way to repair the drive at this speed, nothing even the droid could do. So it ends after all, he thought, remembering the sounds of his brothers and sisters as they fell, the questions that would remain unanswered, the cruelty of fortune.
Klaos shut down the droid and knelt on the floor of the cockpit, eyes closed. He would find it within him to accept the death when it came, with the same bravery as the younglings who had saved him. There was nothing else now but to wait for it.
End of Part VII