The streets to the Temple were lined with Storm Troopers going house-to-house. The people of Jedha City were strewn about around them; standing with their hands up, lying prone as their homes were searched, or laying dead in the gutters. All of them were facing the barrel of an E-11 standard-issue Imperial Blaster. The Empire descended like a hammer into the populace and laid waste to those who resisted. The armored transport rumbled through the middle of it, finally halting in front of the Temple steps where Darth Vader and Varon Seeda debarked to begin the second part of their mission. Captains Vario and Krest took up flanks beside them. A battalion of Storm Troopers formed ranks between them and the street rabble behind. Even so, Lieutenant Seeda was nervous.
“We should have taken a shuttle, my lord,” Seeda remarked as they went inside. “You are too exposed using ground transport. The city’s unrest could boil over any moment.”
“Again, you offer assessment of security protocols without prompting. A third assessment will ensure you are transferred to the ISB front lines.”
Seeda knew when it was best to stay silent. Vader did not need further reply from him, only compliance. He mounted his holo-pad to his wrist and the same map from Kyson’s office sprung up from his hand projector. “The tunnel entrance is behind the altar. This way.” They marched through the crumbling ruins of long-forgotten statues of ancient Jedi and columns carved in Aurebesh, and other languages Seeda could not begin to understand. He wanted to stop and study each one, but Darth Vader remained laser-focused on the tunnels below. As he said, on the floor behind the altar was a large hole into the ground. A stone-carved stair went down into darkness. “The excavation continues below. We need to be mindfu—”
“The Emperor’s prize awaits us, and he is not as patient as I. Lead me to the vault.” Vader commanded. He could still hear the crystals and their wails of agony. The closer they drew to the altar, the louder they were. Something beneath the Temple was making them scream out through the Force.
Seeda descended first. Darth Vader took one step down and suddenly, the wailing of the crystals ceased. Silence.
Vader could sense them all turning their attunement to him, reaching out to him, searching his mind to find out who now walks among them so powerful in the Force. He could tell the Force-sensitive guards noticed the quiet as well. He could hear a tiny voice echo through to him but could not discern what it said. With each step deeper into Jedha, the voice steadily grew. Then, he could hear it plainly.
Come to us, Chosen One, it said. We await your presence.
He did not reply, but pressed on behind Seeda, his hand at the ready over his lightsaber. He detected no danger in the voice, but something about it made Vader uneasy.
Beware, Chosen One, it said again. One among you is not what they appear. You are in danger.
As they descended further down, they passed Imperial workers continuing to mine their crystals, though they stopped at the spectacle of Darth Vader passing among them in the tunnels. Each stopped working and saluted smartly as the party passed, but Vader paid them little mind. The voice kept speaking to him with each step, warning him.
You are in danger, Chosen one. One below will betray you. Enter the kyber vault. We will protect you and your companions. The others shall perish.
They wove a path through the gaunt faces of miners. Most were prisoners or conscripts from the locals. Storm Troopers from the 43rd Salagori Lancers were stationed every few meters to keep them in line. Their eyes all fell to the ground when Vader passed. He could sense their fear as he traversed the tunnel lower and lower to the source of the voices. He could not determine if the Royal Guards heard them, too. If they did, they did not react.
The deeper into the cavern they went, the more workers were present.
We await you, Chosen One. Make haste.
“We’re almost there, my lord. The entrance should be just ahead.” Seeda adjusted his instruments and zoomed in on their location. “The energy emanating from these caverns is creating interference with—”
“It is not the crystals…” Lord Vader stopped. Turning to his left, he reached out his hand and a shriek of agony came from a group of prisoners huddled against the wall. The Royal Guards ran forward and pulled forward a man in rags, and in his hand was a transmitter beacon. Two Storm Troopers rushed forward and forced the man to the ground, but it was not necessary. Vader had already crushed his windpipe. He took his final gasp as the transmitter rolled from his dead hand to Seeda’s feet. He picked it up and turned it off. Suddenly, his instruments sparked back to life.
“He is here…” Vader said. He turned swiftly to the two Lancers and they snapped to attention. “Troopers, form ranks behind us and remove this rabble from our path! Seeda, get me to that chamber. We are not safe here for long.”
Hurry, Chosen One. It is urgent we speak.
As the troopers herded the miners back up the tunnel, blaster fire erupted behind them. Seeda jumped with a start.
“Keep going, Lieutenant.”
The sounds of battle erupted behind them as they quickened their pace down the tunnel. Vader could feel the walls tremble as they delved deeper down. The crystals reached out to him, driving him lower into the mine, drawing him closer to the source of the voices.
Make haste, Chosen One. Your enemy is upon you.
The cavern opened around a sharp bend and opened into a small chamber. The walls glittered with kyber fragments, drawing their eyes to the back of the chamber. Before them was a solid wall of opaque crystal, easily five times the height of a man. They could not see the top or bottom, and both sides were occluded by the rock walls. There was no way for certain to determine how big it actually was. On the floor before it, in a sunken and faded relief carving, was distinctly the Borzûm.
They are behind you.
“Welcome to Jedha, Darth Vader,” came a raspy voice from the cavern entrance. They all turned to see a large man in well-worn armor, flanked by four heavily armed miners. The Royal Guards took defensive positions in front of Vader and Seeda. Vader suddenly lit the small room red by igniting his lightsaber.
“This is indeed a joyous day, my brothers,” Saw said as he took a long pull of oxygen from a face mask in his armor. “Today, we remove a major piece from the galactic board. Today will be remembered as the day we buried Darth Vader beneath the Holy City.”
“And there is your mistake, rebel. Your arrogance has blinded you and your sycophants.” He pulled a communicator from his belt. “Moff Raythe, fire when ready. Vario, Krest, attend me.” A massive explosion shook the cavern, causing rubble to fall from the ceiling. The guards collapsed back to either side of Vader, pushing Seeda back against the crystal. Saw and the rebels looked around in confusion.
“You’ll kill us all!” Gerrera shouted.
“It is you who will be buried here, Gerrera. You will never make it out in time. This cavern will be your tomb!”
“And yours! My sacrifice will be small to yield the death of the dark lord of the Sith!” He reached to his belt and armed a thermal detonator, hurling it at them with all his might.
“As the Temple Masters used to say, all is as the Force wills it. Guards, touch the crystal!” They reached back and placed their hands on the smooth surface. Vader retracted his saber and grabbed Seeda’s arm with an iron grip. When he placed his other hand between the two guards’, a brilliant flash of light erupted as the detonator exploded at the same moment he touched the shimmering green crystal. The world suddenly became brilliant white light and total silence.