Title: Casualties of War
Author: Sajasma Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Distribution: FF.net, my own, any one else only needs to ask
Disclaimer: Everything that was created by George Lucas belongs to George Lucas. Everything that was created by me belongs to me.
Summary: An account from a woman who managed to kill four of the Jedi’s most esteemed apprentices.
Notes: There are short chapters purely for dramatic effect, not error.
Casualties of War
By Sajasma Lee
CORUSCANT SECURITY OFFICE
It will go down in all historic records, we killed the Jedi Four.
It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, nor something that brings me shame. It was war and in war, everyone loses something. People lose lives and I lost what small shred of innocence I had left.
My native planet, Kannadhar, was plunged into the throes of civil war. Two hundred years living under an oppressive government and people were finally tired of it all. The only problem is that Kannadhar is about as technologically advanced and galactically connected as Dagobah and we weren’t fond of outsiders interfering with our native pride. The rebel forces were really just a bunch or ragtag kids who had a lot of idealism and little else. I was one of those idealistic kids.
It’s funny when you think about civility. Many bigger planets, planets with bigger trade and better education, planets with better economies and high rise buildings, would look upon Kannadhar and turn their noses up at us, thinking us uncivil farmers. But if it were for the right price, those same civil people wouldn’t think twice about supplying a bunch of green kids with arms and weapons of mass destruction that could wipe out half the population of the Republic. My father had once told me that the only reason why the Republic was still a democracy was because no one person’s greed was greater than anyone else’s.
So, it all came about the midst of a bloody, bloody war that the Jedi, the Republic’s saviors in times like this, were called in to mediate, to end this war that had too much hatred on both sides to just end at the negotiation table. The longer a war goes on, the more the meaning, the reasons to fight, are lost as the bodies pile up. A stray bomb wiped out my whole family. One minute my house was there, the next it was nothing but a smoldering pile of black ruins. I had been out in the fields, planting.
Four Jedi teams came, four masters and four apprentices. Seems like a bit much for a small backwater planet, but I think the Senate was also interested in who was supplying us with such destructive weapons, a much greater concern than the fate of a million, million people.
The negotiations were bound to fail, mostly because there was only one party. As an opposition force, we were disorganized. Kannadhar had about a hundred different rebellious forces, all completely separate from each other, all with slightly different agendas as to how the planet should be run after the current government fell. In some ways, we were all fighting against each other as much as the government. It was impossible to find one party who represented the whole of us, though I have to admit the Republic’s efforts were valiant.
I can say I was on one of the stronger opposition teams. We had a lot of funds because before the war a lot of us came from families who were middle to upper class. More credits translated into more weapons and more supplies for our great fight. Though we were small, we struck hard and devastating, wiping out half units of the government’s soldiers in one fell swoop. A lot of other forces attacked civilians in the bigger cities and towns, but we kept to the more rural areas where we better knew the lay of the land. You could memorize a whole network of underground tunnels, come up to plant a bomb in the middle of enemy camp and escape again without no one the wiser.
Another thing about Kannadhar is that the government has little respect or patience for kids. Age equaled wisdom, so anyone under thirty would never be regarded seriously. That’s probably why a lot of the rebels were comprised of youths, because we were young, inexperienced, and, well, rebellious. So when the little Jedi padawans followed their masters to negotiations, they found themselves rudely shut out. Officials barred the Jedi apprentices from the negotiations and the masters agreed, not wanting to upset the shaky situation.
The four apprentices were sent packing, told to visit the beautiful countryside and relax, leaving all the hard work to their masters who were more experienced and wiser than they. The government told the Jedi that they had complete control over the Malihi pass. It was a beautiful area, they said, and wouldn’t your padawans find the area enjoyable? Of course, governments lie. The Kannadhar government had very little control over anything, but no one wants to admit weakness to Republic representatives. The truth was the Malihi pass had seen very little warring activity in the past few years, so they thought it was a reasonably safe place to stash the little Jedi brats for the time being. They didn’t know my stealthy little team had stationed our camp in the Malihi Mountains and that it was us who kept the area clear.
We watched as the four apprentices backpacked their way up the pass and took up residence in a small little abandoned house, high up on a green plateau, three human males and one fish-looking species who I thought was female. We overlooked their settling into the little cottage, bathing and swimming in the clear streams that ran nearby and gathering food from the dense surrounding forests.
For the most part, they seemed harmless. They often sparred with each other with their lightsabers or practiced intricate dances in the open meadows. They explored the surrounding areas and we were careful to stay shielded. There’s a lot of mysticism surrounding the Jedi, most probably untrue, but you can’t deny the chills that run through your body every time you watch one. Could they tell that there were others close by and were watching them? They didn’t give any indication. We watched as they lifted rocks and sticks up into the air without ever even touching them, as they levitated up sheer rock walls as if by magic.
I had heard a lot about the Jedi, about masters and padawans, about some of their beliefs, mostly rumors here and there, and I was a little scared of them myself. Watching them do those unnatural things fed that inherent fear and made us all a little uneasy about having some so nearby, even if they were only apprentices.
It was late one night, my team was all gathered around the fire to try to ward off the nighttime chill that had taken hold of the mountains. The fire gave off enough light to cast an orange glow on our war-weary faces and only made the dark around us that much more dense. We were far enough from the Jedi and upwind so they wouldn’t discover us. The topic of discussion was our little Jedi problem. Lex, probably my closest friend on the whole team, had spoken up, the instigator of the Jedi’s fates.
"Wanna give the Republic a good moral blow?" He had asked with a deadly seriousness in his black eyes. The crackling of the fire was the only thing that could be heard as we all remained silent while he stared at each and every one of us in turn.
"What are you thinking, Lex?" I asked. I knew that look and it made me feel cold despite the intense heat of the fire.
"Just think about it. If we kill the apprentices, it would affect the not only the Jedi, but the entire Republic. It’ll teach them that we shouldn’t be messed with and they might just leave the planet."
Our rebel leader, Marr Fugo, stared at Lex long and hard. Something passed between them, a silent communication that I tried hard to decipher.
"We’re going to kill the kids?" I asked. Truthfully, very few of us were any older than the padawans, but we all felt as if we lived a hundred years already.
Lex’s eyes focused on me. "It’ll send a message to the government and the Republic. People across the galaxy will lose trust in the Jedi, when they see that they aren’t invincible. Plus, it’ll get the brats out of our hair."
The idea of just blatantly murdering four innocent youths didn’t sit well with me. I was never all about indiscriminate killing, so I scoffed. "And just how do you propose offing the Jedi? They don’t exactly look too inept in battle and have you already forgot the weird powers they have? Who knows what else they can do."
As if picking up on my feelings, Marr said. "I think you have some reservations here, Vars. Since when did you go so soft? They’re Jedi. They’re here to back up the government, the same government that wiped out your entire village."
"Killing the padawans will only put more heat on us and this time it won’t just be the government on our asses, it’ll also be the entire Republic." My heart was pounding, but I kept my face inscrutable. I looked around at our groups and realized that everyone was with Marr and Lex on this one. Jenkins, Trini, Rax, Kit, all of them. Kill the Jedi apprentices. They were the enemy.
"No one knows this pass and these mountains better than we do. Not even the government wants to fight us here. We can lay low until the heat blows over, than come out and attack again. This may just be the thing to win us the war."
"The apprentices are harmless."
"You said so yourself, Vars," Trini replied. She was usually so stoically quiet. "You saw what they can do, how deadly they are. They could cut you in half with one swipe of their light swords before you could blink. They’re not harmless."
"Okay, Lex," I said, "If you think they shouldn’t be trifled with so lightly, how do you propose killing them?"
"We have more weapons than the Republic thinks we do. They could never know the extent of power that we have at our fingertips, just waiting for us to use," Lex explained. He was really scaring me and that took something. I’ve seen bodies with limbs torn off. I’ve seen eyeless faces still screaming in agony. I’ve seen children sobbing and screaming in pain as their skin melted off their bodies from bomb blasts. Lex’s eyes only reflected the dancing flames of the campfire and something else, something darker and malignant and it well and truly scared me.
"The Jedi may be impossible to attack head on, but after all, they are only human…well, most of them…susceptible to disease and pain like anyone else," Marr added.
"Will you cut the vague foreboding references and get to the point?" Though Marr was our leader, I could never keep a certain amount of respectful behavior towards anyone. Plus, I was freaked out and I didn’t know if I wanted to hear the rest of it.
"We have connections, Vars, connections to some real bigwigs in the Core. It’s all very hush-hush, but they’ve given us some supplies that will give us the upper hand."
Lex leaned forward and captured my gaze with his own. "Do you know what a biological weapon can do to the human body? It destroys from the inside out and no one, not even a Jedi, can stop it."
"Gods." I breathed out, more than a little horrified. "You’re going to use a biological weapon on four Jedi apprentices."
"It gets our point across most effectively. It solves our problems. There are always casualties of war, Vars." Marr sounded so businesslike, so reasonable. It was as if he were discussing the weather and not the destruction of four lives.
"Something like a biological disease can get out hand. Especially if it’s contagious. We could be letting loose a real monster, Marr," Kit said. Finally a voice of reason other than my own.
"We have the Sarai virus at our disposal and it would give off a one and a half mile radius of hot zone. We’re well beyond that and upwind. Not to mention we’re all inoculated. We’re safe. The Jedi aren’t and once they’re infected, there’s no cure. The government will quarantine the place off once they find out the apprentices are infected and word will travel that we have biological weapons. The negotiations will go in our favor and the Republic will be afraid that our next target would be somewhere more populated. And if the infected apprentices go unnoticed and they all go back to Coruscant, they’ll just spread the disease to the whole Jedi Order. Either way, we win."
"Are you serious?" I asked disbelieving. "If this virus gets to Coruscant, do you realize how many people will die?"
"There are always casualties in war."
"Do you really want to spread our war to the entire galaxy?"
"If it helps our cause, then yes. We’ll project the virus tonight and if the brats are smart enough, they’ll contact their masters and tell them they’ve been exposed to something." Marr stood up to address each of us. "Now, I need full cooperation from all of you. We can’t have any dissent. We’re a team and the only way to win this war, to win our freedom, is to be uncompromising and hard. We need to hit where it hurts."
All of us had lost someone we loved over the course of this war or before it. All of us had so much hate, but really, could we do this thing that was somehow on a whole other plane of horror on its own?
Slowly around the circle, each member nodded solemnly, regardless of their moral horror, fueled by their grim determination. Finally, Marr looked at me.
"Are you with us, Vars? I need to know now."
I thought about my home and my family the day they all died. Their bodies had been completely obliterated in the heat from the blast. There are always casualties in war. I nodded. "I’m in." I would be killed if I wasn’t.
And thus, with that night, the fate of the four Jedi apprentices was sealed.
It was sometime early the next morning when I saw the fruits of our labors come to pass. I was sitting next to our radio equipment and I was keeping all the channels open. Reception was difficult to get up in the mountains, but we weren’t too deep into them. I didn’t want to think about the two runners we had go off in the caves to shoot off the bomb that would loose the virus. The two headed northeast to mask our location. They’d make their way around the Jedi cottage and release the bomb from there. Were any of the apprentices able to determine the source of the attack, it would be a false lead.
"…Master! Master, come in, Master…." The speakers had flared to life with an alarmed voice, slightly distorted by static and bad reception. I sat up and listened intently.
It was sometime before the concerned answer came. "Obi-Wan, what’s wrong?"
"We’ve been….cked…." I played around with the tuner. "…A small explosive device. Bant was closest to the explosion and she’s slightly injured."
"I can barely feel you, Padawan."
"It’s these mountains, they distort Force currents. Master, the explosion released some kind of powdery substance into the air…I don’t know what it is."
The other end was silent for a long time and I waited with sick dread. Finally the master spoke again. He spoke slowly and measurably, as if he needed to convince himself of his own words. "Obi-Wan, the officials told me that it may have been a biological attack…."
A release of breath. "Force…"
"I can’t—we can’t…we don’t know the precise nature of the disease, if that’s what it is. Obi-Wan, we can’t be sure of anything. You need to remain calm, how are the others?"
"I…they’re fine. They’re fine. Bant’s been dressed for some minor burn wounds. Master, what’s going to happen now? If we’ve been exposed to something…"
"You’re in a very isolated area, Obi-Wan, but we don’t know what is going to happen…." The master’s voice trailed off.
"…I’m sorry, Padawan, but the officials have told me that the only thing they can do is wait. You’ll be quarantined for a standard 21 days to see if any signs of disease show."
"And…and if it does?" Obi-Wan’s voice held as much as what I felt, only he had the fortune of being more ignorant than I.
"I don’t know, Obi-Wan. We can’t do anything until more Jedi teams and healers arrive to handle the situation."
"I wish I could feel you, Master. I don’t know what to do." The apprentice’s voice sounded lost, unable to comprehend the recent sequence of events. I don’t think the shock will wear off for some time.
"Trust in the Force, Padawan. There are reasons for everything," The master’s voice tried to comfort. His voice was steady and sure, but I could detect just a hint of fear.
"Will you…keep contact with me? I mean, will you be on this line?"
"Of course, Obi-Wan. I won’t leave you."
Quiet reigned after than, interrupted only by the occasional crackle of static. I stared outside through the thin opening of the tent. The contrast of the rich green grass against the snow-capped mountains in the horizon was beautiful and crisp. The sky was overcast, but sometimes a ray of sun would break through the clouds and illuminate some patch of grass. A slight, chilly breeze ruffled the grass and most everyone was out of camp, either hunting or collecting more wood. I was in charge of recording the communication between the apprentices and their masters, to observe the effects of our attack. I sat back and waited for the lines to open up again.
"How are things, Obi-Wan?" The master, who I learned was named Qui-Gon, asked after coming on the line. He sounded tired. Probably had been getting very little sleep since this whole ordeal started.
"I think Bant’s becoming sick, Master. She’s…her skin color is becoming slightly abnormal and the burns aren’t healing. There’s something wrong. Gods, I wish I knew what this was." Obi-Wan’s voice was slightly broken, but he remained steady beneath it all, trusting in whatever the hell the Force was and the reassuring voice of his master.
"Me too, Padawan. The people here are working overtime to try to find out what you’ve been exposed to. Negotiations have been postponed."
"It’s so beautiful up here, Master. So beautiful, you almost forget that there’s anything wrong at all. There is this small waterfall about half a mile east of us. The water’s freezing, but it’s still nice to swim in and you get used to the water after awhile, until it becomes rather warm. Tannith, Garen and I have taken to carrying Bant there and letting her sit on one of the big rocks. We achieve some measure of peace. There’s something soothing about falling water and no one talks. Only listens. The place is like a paradise, Master. A waking dream. There isn’t a more beautiful place to die in, really…"
"Don’t think of such things, Obi-Wan. Don’t." A desperate plea disguised as a harsh command.
"There is one spot, high up. You can practically see the whole world from up there. Just this vast stretch of land and lakes and rivers and mountains, sprawling to the horizon…"
"Bant’s gone into a coma, Master," came the listless voice, "Garen has started coughing up blood. Not much, just a little."
"The healers are on their way, Obi-Wan. They’ll be here in 2 weeks. You must hold on." Please…
Obi-Wan seemed to digest this, but still spoke in the same tired voice. "Tanith and I are okay. We hunt and gather wood. We discovered some Thera root for tea and that seems to soothe Garen’s throat."
"You’re tired, Obi-Wan. You need some rest."
Obi-Wan sighed. "So are you. I need to take care of Bant. And now Garen. Besides, being busy helps."
"They may have narrowed down the list of possible diseases, Obi-Wan. It’s only a matter of time."
"Whatever," came the irreverent reply. "Time is one thing we don’t have…Bant’s wheezing, Master, I have to go."
It was in the middle of night and I was dozing on and off at my station.
I jolted awake.
"Master!" Again came the near hysterical voice. That one word pierced my heart and twisted, as sharp and lethal as a knife. A world of pain and misery reverberated around the tent.
The voice on the other end sobbed. Qui-Gon wasn’t coming on. The reception was probably too bad to pick up with the harsh winds of late.
"Master! Where are you?"
"…Oh gods….oh gods…."
The desperate voice of Obi-Wan broke off and was replaced with soft sounds of crying.
Two tears had somehow slipped down my cheeks without me even realizing it and the darkness outside held no answers.
"Bant’s dead. Garen’s dead. Tannith just impaled himself on his own lightsaber. He found himself coughing up blood yesterday. He witnessed everything the others went through before they died and didn’t want to go through it. I’m all that’s left."
The cultured voice spoke with a certain alarming calm. Obi-Wan sounded absolutely hopeless, a dead thing that was still breathing. Qui-Gon hadn’t answered his apprentice in four days. As it was, I could barely pick up Obi-Wan’s transmissions. Despite accepting the fact that his Master and him were no longer in touch, Obi-Wan still spoke over the comm often, probably just to keep himself sane.
"I don’t think anyone can hear me right now. And that’s okay. I’ve already buried Bant and Garen but Tannith just lies here next to me, as still and serene as the crystal blue sky.
"I’m too tired to bury Tannith, so I just covered him up with my robe."
Hysterical laughter broke through and chilled me. He sounded so fragile.
"I awoke in the middle of the night and saw Tannith lying there. He was so damn cold, and I thought, ‘He’s so cold, he needs to be warmed up or he’ll die.’ So I spent almost 30 minutes trying to warm up this corpse before I realized what I was doing.
"…You see…I had forgotten…"
"I coughed up blood today.
"Just buckets of it, I’m sure. I didn’t know I had so much blood in me. I suspect I’m bleeding from the inside. My organs are liquidating. I’ve lost my connection with the Force."
He paused. His voice had lost all emotion, all the inflections of life, long ago.
"I suspect that’s because my midichlorians have died."
I have to admit I became obsessed with hearing Obi-Wan’s voice. I rarely left the comm tent. I held my breath just to hear his almost lyrical voice speak over the waves and distances. His transmissions came fewer and further between, leaving me in some kind of desperate frenzy to hear more.
"I think…I remember talking about how beautiful it was up here. Here at the top of the world. Maybe it’s the thin air that slows this virus down, not giving it enough oxygen to consume, consume, consume. You see, when I could feel the Force, I felt the disease. It ate and ate and ate. It didn’t have any intelligence and was only hungry. All I could hear in its little mind was, ‘replicate, replicate…’
"I admire such single-minded determination. Can you believe it? Can you conceive of it? Something so small, so…miniscule…and it has the power to destroy empires. Because it only wants to replicate."
The mad voice broke off into mad giggles and I shuddered. Obi-Wan’s messages were becoming increasingly scattered and illogical. Many times he broke off to cough and the fits were terrible. I could hear the blood in his throat, rattling in his chest.
"Force…I’m still here…" The voice was only a weak whisper, nothing but a wisp of air, insubstantial. He was resigned to his fate, for there was nothing that would change it now and no one to comfort him except for the anonymous listeners over the comm.
"And I think…that this is it," Obi-Wan sucked in air and it came out as coughing. "I just wanted to tell someone…anyone…that I love you, Master. I have no regrets about my life. Being a Jedi was the greatest thing to happen to me. Master, you were the greatest thing to happen to me…"
The voice faded away and terror paralyzed me for a full second before I could hear it. Obi-Wan was singing and it was so faint over the comm, I couldn’t make out the words, but I could hear the little melody. His voice was raw and breathless, but each note was haunting and drawn out, each sound as eerie and nebulous as a ghost wrapping itself around my soul.
There were no more transmissions.
I could try to convince myself that Obi-Wan was simply too tired to talk anymore, but it would change nothing. I had thought I had become so jaded and cynical with war, and that nothing anymore could get to me. So why does this one Jedi apprentice, with such a soft and sweet voice, make me want to rage and cry at the universe for the injustice of it all? Why did it feel like I had lost my entire family all over again?
I was now a dead thing. I hurt so much, I thought I could shatter and break, pieces of me flying out everywhere to scatter with the wind. The jagged shards would cut down trees and pierce skin, drawing blood.
We watched as men and women in full bio-suits approached the small cottage from a hidden distance. Too little, too late. One particularly tall blue-clad suit pushed past all the others to break down the door and enter the house. I knew this to be Obi-Wan’s master.
Obi-Wan must’ve kept the comm on the entire time. I could hear Qui-Gon’s sobbing denials before the batteries finally gave out and died.
Marr patted everyone on the back for a job well done. The Republic would surely listen to us now, he said. It was a heartless thing to do, but it had to be done.
It had to be done.
That night, when everyone was long into sleep, I crept from member to member, silent as a shadow. I soundlessly slit each throat and clamped a hand over each mouth, staring each of them in the eye and watching them, one by one, die. I thought it a somewhat poetic justice. They could each feel the blood in their throats, feel it choking them and leaving their bodies. I felt nothing.
I set all of our weapons to self-destruct, a handy feature on these newer weapons, and gathered the two other biological bombs hidden in Marr’s tent. I had already packed up all our credits in the single pack I would take with me.
I used the caves to make my journey to the edge of the Malihi Mountains. I then traveled by foot to Kandhi, Kannadhar’s only port city. My travels were only met with quiet days and lonely nights. No attacks, no battles. It was all strangely quiet. Perhaps everyone had heard of the Jedi apprentices’ deaths. When I reached Kandhi, I paid a captain of some small, nondescript ship to give me passage to Coruscant. The captain seemed eager to get off-planet with the new threat of plague. I didn’t tell him I was carrying his gravest fears in my backpack. Kannadhar and all the idealism and all the war and all the death was no longer my home.
The biological bombs were ejected and released into space with the rest of the trash. The virus quickly died in the airless vacuum.
And that’s the end of my sorrowful tale. I don’t know what the lesson was in it, only that all of it is truth and I offer myself up to the Republic’s fullest extent of the law. I am responsible for killing four Jedi apprentices and countless others on the planet of Kannadhar. I am responsible for numerous acts of terrorism. I am responsible for obtaining illegal weapons, yet I don’t know who provided them. But I wrote down their make, models and serial numbers for identification. I’m sure you can trace the transactions from those.
So, arrest me and I will suffer any punishment without objection.
Because I can’t get that damn song out of my head.