Last time in our fan fiction Star Wars: Lifeboat…
Inda Krest, Meera Dyre and the rest of the surviving Imperials from the Death Star II arrive at Volusia to raid the Aloo Family star yacht, only to be ambushed by the opportunistic bounty hunter, Gekko!
Now, in Part V, we flash back a final time to join Darth Vader and Lieutenant Seeda at The Temple of the Kyber on the ancient moon of Jedha. The Emperor has ordered his apprentice to restart the stalled Kyber crystal excavation and retrieve two artifacts from the temple. While the crystal mining gets back underway, a rebel faction on Jedha, led by the outlaw Saw Gerrera, learns of Vader’s arrival at the temple and attempts to take him out. And now, Part V…
Temple of the Kyber, The Holy City, Moon of Jedha – 1BBY (5 years earlier)
Darth Vader never felt such a strong disturbance in the Force as he did the day his ship entered orbit over the ancient moon of Jedha. Many considered the moon to be the site of the first Jedi Temple. In reality, Jedha held the largest known deposits of natural Kyber crystals in the galaxy, and the Empire’s mining operation of those crystals had stalled. Completion of Project: Stardust depended on restarting the mine, despite the obstacles the operation faced. Kyber wasn’t the only thing plentiful on Jedha. The moon was crawling with troublesome rebels, known as The Partisans. Completion of his fortress on Mustafar would have to wait. The Emperor needed Vader on Jedha to ensure the crystals were harvested without further incident.
His master commanded. Vader obeyed.
He sat in his stateroom watching their approach from the video feed at the nose of the ship. The Holy City of Jedha sat atop a mesa in the middle of a vast desert. The smashed ruins of the Imperial ground base sat in the foothills before it. Rebels had sacked it a month prior, delaying Kyber harvesting and forcing the mining operation to move aboard the Star Destroyer Dauntless, which now hovered above the city. As he watched, the disturbance pulsated as the crystals cried out in agony. Something was disturbing them, sending shock waves through the Force unlike anything he had ever felt.
In the shadow of the Dauntless stood the ancient Temple of the Kyber, dominating the skyline of the bustling city formed around it. The two towering forked spires jutted into the sky as if to tune the very winds to the will of its masters. He noted the similarities the structure to Momin’s final design of Fortress Vader back on Mustafar. A simple coincidence? Perhaps the Force brought me here with purpose after all, he mused. He surmised the design must be significant in channeling the energies of the Force. He would consult with Momin’s depraved Sith spirit upon his return home. Fortress Vader on Mustafar must serve the same purpose as the temple here on Jedha, but to a greater degree. Still, the crystals wept.
Four TIE-Interceptors took up flanking positions on their final approach to the Dauntless. The comm speaker buzzed and a caption appeared on Vader’s screen showing the burly Commander Kyson, resplendent in the fineries of his formal Imperial uniform.
“Lord Vader, you honor us with your presence on Jedha. How may my forces and I be of service?”
“Commander Kyson,” Lord Vader growled back. “Your Kyber refinement production is behind schedule. I am here to update your process and reignite your passion for meeting The Emperor’s deadlines.”
“I assure you, my Lord, we are operating at full capacity,” came the timid reply. “We boast the highest efficiency rating from Imperial Industrial Command, and from Director Krennic.”
“The Emperor does not share your enthusiasm for that rating. What is the status of your progress?”
“In a word, my Lord, remarkable. We are excavating the largest crystal ever recorded in the Imperial archives. The size is well beyond what is needed for Stardust’s main weapon. It connects into a chamber under the temple we cannot explain, and we are studying it’s structure before proceeding. Removing it could collapse the whole temple. Surely this momentous discovery merits a merciful delay.”
“The Emperor is a great many things that I am not, Commander, and one of them is merciful. Prepare to receive my shuttle and appropriate escort to your excavation site. I’ll will see this progress-hindering crystal myself,” Vader replied in annoyance.
“Of course, my Lord. Our finest battalion will escort you at your leisure.”
“Tell me of the rebels that plague your operation,” Vader asked, abruptly changing the subject.
Kyson shifted uncomfortably. “Vermin and local scum, my lord. Nothing more than paltry annoyance, I assure you. My men are dealing with them swiftly.” He tried to sound confident, but Vader knew he was lying.
“That is your error, Commander. You do not deal with rebels; you crush them. Your lack of fortitude emboldens their attacks. I will assume command of your three attack battalions and see them destroyed. Have your battle plans prepared for my review.” Kyson kept his composure, but Vader could sense the insult spark an anger brimming over in the sluggard officer. For too long, Orson Krennic’s pet, Commander Kyson, has sat safely on his laurels. It was time for a change to his operations, whether Krennic wanted it or not. “The rebels have continuously embarrassed you and the Empire, Commander Kyson. I will no longer accept delay as an excuse for laziness.”
“At once, My lord. We await your arrival with great antici—”
“Your pleasantries are not required, only your compliance.” He ended the transmission.
The only thing Vader expected to find in Kyson’s strategy was more excuses, delays and failures. In his mind, Vader already knew the battle plan he would follow, using himself as bait to lure out the rebels. No doubt the brazen extremist Saw Gerrera would seize the opportunity to strike such a large target as Darth Vader, and when he did, the trap would spring. He tapped a key at his console and the Empire’s last verified image of Gererra—in a flickering, blue-lined hologram—emerged upward from the projector.
The Emperor knew Vader would be tempted to prioritize hunting the rebels over recovering artifacts, especially considering the history Anakin Skywalker and Gerrera had during the Clone Wars. Darth Vader was no errand boy. Seeda and his two pet Royal Guards could excavate the entire moon if they wished. Vader was a warrior, and today he would strike down his old rebel opponent without mercy.
“All those years ago, you should have died on Onderon with your sister, yet here you are—still vexing my authority,” Vader said to himself, staring down into the image of this rebel from his past. He reached out with an open hand and his lightsaber flew to his side, pulled to him by the Force and ignited the room in a bright red glow. “It will be my pleasure to finally end you.”
At the rear of the shuttle, Lieutenant Seeda looked out the viewing window at the desolate landscape trailing behind them.
Ruins of ancient Jedi civilization crumbled to dust in their wake. Jedha was a historical treasure-trove of Jedi lore. Seeda was excited to be here, though he could not outwardly express it. He couldn’t wait to get down there to root out Jedha’s secrets, but enthusiasm for anything other than the Empire’s goals was frowned upon. The pilot announced their final approach as the shuttle passed underneath the great shadow of the destroyer. Seeda could see other large cargo shuttles taking off for the surface after unloading their Kyber hauls.
“Lieutenant Seeda,” came the booming electronic voice of Darth Vader behind him, startling Seeda and making him jump with surprise. How could he have not heard him approach? “Are you prepared for your mission?”
“Yes, my lord. My apologies, you startled me. I am completely prepared. I’ve uploaded the latest Imperial archives on Jedha and her histo—”
“Good. When we arrive, you will have access to all records of artifacts recovered from the temple. Report to me immediately if any discoveries contain ancient Sith references. When your analysis is complete, you will muster with the escort protection detail and proceed to the Temple.”
“Of course, my lord. Though, Jedha was the home of ancient Jedi, not the Sith. Do you expect we’ll find anything to the contrary?”
“Focus on your area of expertise, Lieutenant. Once you have something, report to me at once. Tell no one of your discoveries except me. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Lord Vader, perfectly clear.”
As the shuttle settled into the hangar, they gathered at the ramp to debark. Through the viewing window, they could see another shuttle being off-loaded with canisters of what Seeda assumed were Kyber crystals. The only sound among them was the intermittent electronic breath of Darth Vader. The sound made Seeda uncomfortable.
“If I may say, it does appear moving the mining operation aboard the Dauntless has guaranteed greater security,” Seeda said and instantly regretted it. The casual manner of their conversation lulled him into a false sense of familiarity with the Sith Lord. Darth Vader did not answer to anyone except the Emperor, especially not a lowly Imperial Navy lieutenant.
Seeda braced for reprisal for his insolence, but the response he received surprised him.
“Your observations on security protocol is not required,” Vader dismissed the notion with a wave of the hand. “However, your assumption is wrong. The loss of surface operations has doubled the resources needed to refine the crystals. Commander Kyson is a fool. He has more than enough troops to secure the city, yet he hesitates because he is weak. I will not tolerate interference from his ineptitude, nor the rebels, with this mission.”
Seeda looked up at the massive black-clad figure with a puzzled look. “Won’t you be joining our expedition force to the Temple site?”
“The Emperor’s pets will keep you safe,” Vader said, gesturing to the guards behind them. “I have a more important matter to attend. I will join you once my trap is set.”
“Trap, my lord? I don’t unders—” The hiss of the nose ramp lowering drowned out the rest of his statement. In a flourish of black robes, Vader turned down the ramp with Seeda in step. Immediately after him, the two guards filed behind. A throng of pristine, white-clad Storm Troopers in a robust display of Empirical might were assembled on deck. At their head, a hulking officer in his formal Imperial uniform turned to greet them.
“Lord Vader, this is a most unexpec—” were the only words he got out. Vader extended his hand, stopping his speech in mid-sentence. The large officer lifted from the ground, his shined boots flailing as he clutched his throat and gasped for air. With a slow twist of other his wrist, Vader plucked the struggling Commander’s code cylinders from his breast pocket. They hovered out before the wide eyes of Kyson as he gasped. The tiny cylinders flew to Vader’s outstretched hand.
“Commander Kyson, you are relieved.”
Vader flicked his wrist, and the officer soared across the hangar to the open cargo bay doors. His breath returned in time for Seeda to hear his final scream as he plummeted from the Dauntless into the sands of Jedha far below. Vader turned to Seeda and extended his hand, passing the cylinders to him.
“The records I require reside in Kyson’s office. You may begin.” Vader then turned to address the mass of Storm Troopers assembled before them. “You will stabilize a route to the Temple below. Clear the streets and lock down the city. Let none stand in your way!” His challenge was met with a stomp to attention and a thousand white-armored raised fists.
Residents of the Holy City below were about to understand what it meant to be ruled by the Empire.
The holotable in Kyson’s office was already lit when Seeda arrived. The guards took flanking positions outside the door as it hissed shut, leaving him to work undisturbed. Before him, projecting up six feet into the room, was a holographic maze of green lines outlining the tunnels explored thus far beneath the Temple of the Kyber. Blinking red dots showed at the end of each tunnel with active excavation, and dots of blue marked tunnels already mined and abandoned. At the base of the map was a large, flashing yellow arrow. A few taps at the keyboard told Seeda this is where excavation has halted because of a massive crystal blocking the path forward. He zoomed in the projection to the highest resolution on the yellow area and could see why this brought production to a stand-still.
The crystal truly was a one-of-a-kind discovery. A quick scan of his Imperial archive records showed no other of this size or arrangement ever recorded. Even more unique was the crystal, itself. It was hollow, creating a chamber within, but the energy signature of the structure blocked whatever was inside it. It was also directly beneath the split towers, making the massive crystal an integral part of the foundation.
So that’s why you delayed all this, Kyson, he thought while intently studying the holographic data. One wrong move and the whole temple comes crashing down.
Seeda sneered. He hadn’t properly set foot on Jedha yet, and her secrets were already spilling into his hands.
Based on his records, a Kyber crystal of this size and properly harnessed could power half of Coruscant for decades. He understood Kyson’s desire to harvest it whole. That feat would certainly have gained favor with the Emperor, but patience was not a virtue encouraged by the Empire, as Kyson probably realized when he fell three-thousand feet to his death moments before. He was about to close his data-pad and compile his report for Lord Vader when a filename blip on the screen caught his eye:
The title said Whills and followed by an ancient Sith symbol; Borzûm, the Black Sun. “Well, hello there little symbol, what are you doing here?” Seeda again tapped again at the keys bringing up the file.
The symbol was a small black circle with black rays emanating forth, very similar to the symbol adopted by the Empire but not encircled. To the untrained eye, it could easily be mistaken for a sloppy rendition of the latter, but Seeda recognized it immediately. He plugged Kyson’s code cylinder into the console and the file opened. Seeda drank in every word and image within, reading as fast as he could. Kyson had made an incredible discovery and didn’t even know it! He ran to the door, knocking over his chair in his excitement. He burst into the hallway, where Captains Vario and Krest were startled by his sudden appearance. They dropped their Force pikes into defensive positions, ready to attack before realizing it was just their charge in an excited state.
“Quickly, Captain!” he shouted at Vario. “Contact Lord Vader immediately. I’ve made a momentous discovery!”
Within minutes, the office door hissed open to a mass of black robes sweeping through the opening. “What have you discovered?” There was never fanfare with Darth Vader. He spoke, and others obeyed.
“My lord, I’ve made tremendous progress!” Seeda could no longer contain his excitement, even in front of the terrifying dark lord. “Commander Kyson was on the verge of the most incredible find in galactic history and didn’t know what he was doing!”
“Unless you wish to share his fate, explain yourself,” Vader commanded. “Speak plainly, Lieutenant.”
“It’s not simply just a large Kyber Crystal, per say—,” he replied.
“I grow tired of your enigmatic mutterings. What have you found, Seeda?”
“My lord, it’s a vault… A vault of the Whills.”
Vader was silent for a moment as he mulled over Seeda’s claim. He knew of midichlorians and the Whills, however, he long ago dismissed their existence as Jedi dogma; a way for the Republic’s Jedi Masters to arbitrarily judge the worthiness and strength of a Jedi Knight. Just another myth perpetuated for control. For now, he would entertain Seeda’s notion until he could discover the true nature of this revelation. “And what is in this vault?”
“What’s inside it is what’s inside you, Lord Vader… inside is what you desire most!” Seeda replied in excitement. “You see, the Whills ar—”
Vader was intrigued, but not convinced yet. “And what of this Borzûm? This Black Sun?”
“A mystery I cannot yet explain, my lord,” Seeda turned back to the keyboard and brought up the symbol on the holotable. The glyph spun in a slow circle, casting long shadows throughout the room. “The Borzûm is an ancient Sith philosophical symbol, a Memento Mori of sorts, used by Sith Lords of old as a reminder of mortality; a glorification of the idea we are all dead men walking under a black sun. For the most ambitious of them, the Borzûm was taken as a challenge to achieve immortality and defeat death before it defeated them. But why a Sith symbol is prominently carved into the wall of a Jedi holy site eludes me. It shouldn’t be here.”
Suddenly, all the pieces of this mystery began to fall into place in Darth Vader’s mind.
Could this truly be what he has sought after all this time? Is this how he can return Padme to the world of the living? The works of Darth Plagueis were here, finally, a mere parsec of where he stood. So many questions with so few answers. He must find out more. “You believe the vault contains the arcane Sith knowledge to cheat death?” he asked Seeda.
He shuffled a moment in uncomfortable silence. Not having an answer for Lord Vader could be a death sentence at times. This could be one of those times, as Seeda had no idea what was inside the vault. “I cannot answer that for certain, but all I have seen on the subject suggests that yes, it may be so.” He braced for the reply.