The Battle of Brentaal IV
The strangest thing about traversing a city at war was the silence. It was nothing like the holovids that were used to excite the adventurous, patriotic, and naive youth of the Republic to enlist at their local recruitment office. In those films there was constant blaster fire, great explosions, and suicidal yet brave charges against enemy lines; while those did exist in real life, it was far less common than the dead silence that accompany a broken town’s lonely streets. At any moment this ironic peace could erupt into pure chaos with a single shot from a sniper, a single blast from an artillery cannon, a single moment in time.
Aleksanterii moved with speed through the empty roads and ghostly businesses in the city of Oradin. Rubble and corpses littered the streets in equal measure and towers of smoke rose higher than the skyscrapers they originated from. The air stank of salt and sulfur, and the sun above was beginning to set, a blood red sky to match the hellish environment he was in; he could not wait to leave this planet. The sounds of battle could be heard for miles around, leaving the Jedi in a strange purgatory between the life of war and the peace of death.
Suddenly, Aleksanterii felt a premonition within the Force. Moving to the side of the road, he sensed that a patrol of Imperials was about to come down the street he was traveling upon. Almost as soon as he felt this, he could hear the steady rumble of an Imperial Battle Tank crawled along the road. Dipping into an alleyway, Aleksanterii hid behind some rubble from a previous battle. Peeking the corner, he could see a squad of Imperial soldiers accompanying the crawler; it wasn’t a challenge to the Jedi Master, but he had higher priorities at the moment than dealing with Imperial rank-and-file.
Minutes passed until Aleksanterii could no longer hear the familiar rumble of an Imperial tank, and he stood up to leave his concealed position. As he did so, he could see a small humanoid figure lying upon the ground further down the alleyway, motionless. He moved closer, slowly and cautiously, hoping that what the Force was telling him was false. He was five feet away when the details become more clear to him. The figure lying motionless was indeed a human, a young girl by the looks of it. The child’s hair was long and blonde, her dress was embroidered with flowers, and her arms were propped below her chest, seeming to clutch on to something. Aleksanterii’s face grew grim as he knelt down to the girl, knowing fully that the Force had not mislead him. Scorch marks adorned her back, and no one else was around her. She was gunned down mercilessly as she ran away, scared and alone.
With care, the Jedi turned the girl over, if only to put a face to the deceased. The girl’s youthful face was unblemished and unscarred by the horrors of war, and tears had clearly streamed from her delicate eyes moments before she died. Her mouth was open slightly, as if the shock had never left her even after she was killed. In her arms she clutched a doll; it had blonde hair, just like the girl, and it wore a pink dress. It had numerous flaws in its stitching, leading Alek to believe that the doll was homemade, rather than store bought, stitched by another person: the girl’s mother, father, or caretaker. It was made out of love for the girl, and in the last moments of her life she kept it close to her heart, a token of better days, a reminder of those who cared for her most. Whoever those people were, they were nowhere near this child when she was shot down in cold blood.
Aleksanterii picked up the doll from the girl’s arms slowly, as if he were taking it from the girl when she was still alive. He looked at it carefully, turning it over in his hands until he found a small tag on the doll’s dress. The writing was small, but closer inspection revealed a name: Emilia. Whether Emilia was the girl’s name, or that of the doll’s, Alek would never find out, though perhaps it was best that mystery would never be solved. Emilia. The name tossed and turned in the stoic Jedi’s mind, unsettled by its own presence. Aleksanterii placed the doll back into the girl’s arms before wiping away the dried tears on her cheeks and closing the girl’s eyes for her final rest.
It had felt like an eternity, though in truth it had only been a few minutes. Regardless, Aleksanterii could no longer afford a moment to stop; a senator’s life was at stake.
Aleksanterii crept gradually down the empty halls of the Grand Oradin Hotel, his arctic blue lightsaber illuminating the darkened hallways. He met no resistance on his journey to the tower, though he could sense the battle was making its way to his location, leaving him little time to dawdle. After a long trek up many flights of stairs, the Jedi Master found himself at the top floor. Pulling out his holocom, he sent a message to an unmarked receiver using three simple words: Avalanche Grek Rancor. As he finished his message, he stood silently at a single closed door, turning to watch for any intruders as he awaited a response. He could sense the anguish from the people within, and could hear the quickened footsteps of the hurried occupants. A moment later, the door he guarded opened and a tall human woman stood in front of a boy no older than fifteen and two girls that looked younger than ten each. The thought of Emilia raced back into his head, but was quickly swept away as the woman looked at the Jedi Master with fear in her eyes. “Senator Faullema?” he questioned, to which she replied with a terse nod in affirmation. “You’ve come to get us out of here?” she asked rapidly, each word barely finishing before Faullema moved to the next. “That’s correct,” he confirmed, “but keep your family close; we must move quickly.” The senator turned to her children and whispered some words of encouragement before following Aleksanterii as he moved back down the hall.
The group had reached the ground floor when Aleksanterii felt a disturbance in the Force. There were others waiting for them. “Wait,” he said, bringing up his hand for those following him to stop. “Stay here. I sense something ahead,” cautioned the seasoned Jedi as he walked forward into the grand lobby where luggage and rubble was strewn about. He stepped forward in solitude, his lightsaber ignited and clutched close to his body within his two armored hands, his eyes peeling the room for what was undoubtedly a presence he had felt before, a presence he was all too familiar with. As if they were synchronized, multiple red lightsabers ignited around him, two Sith to his left, two Sith to his right, each dressed in black robes and dark armor. They slowly approached the Jedi Master, before a pink-skinned, tattooed Twi’lek holding two lightsabers interjected. “Look at this one’s face, dear companions. It seems we’ve found ourselves a Jedi Master!” hissed the Twi’lek as she raised her two sabers in an attack stance. Aleksanterii kept his eyes steady as he looked at the Sith as they were closing in, before a masked Sith holding a single lightsaber to his side spoke with a deep, menacing voice. “Are you sure? He may look experienced, but many Jedi filth never realize the potential the dark side can bring them, and instead wallow in their own mediocrity,” growled the masked one, before another Sith, a human heavily augmented by cybernetics that held a double-bladed saber, cut in with his mechanical, lifeless voice. “Negative. His face has a match within our database: Jedi Master Aleksanterii Brandt. Confirmed sightings on Alderaan and Nar Shaddaa, unconfirmed sightings on countless others. Target considered a very high priority, with orders to capture or kill, issued by an extremely prominent Darth,” added the cyborg before continuing his approach. Aleksanterii did not move backwards, knowing full well it would lead the Sith one step closer to the people he was sent to protect, and kept his saber close to his heavy plasteel armor. “I will only tell you this once,” the Jedi Master stated, “so listen closely: you will allow myself and those that follow me to leave this place unharmed, and in return I will not pursue any of you after we leave this planet.” To Alek’s right, a scarred Zabrak choked out a laugh before returning to his stance, his single lightsaber in a reverse grip. “Are you going deaf, Jedi? We take you down, and we become noticed by Darths! By the Empress, the glory of it all!” cackled the Zabrak before the Twi’lek cut in once more. “So typical of Jedi scum to beg for their life when presented with true power,” she said with mock pity. Aleksanterii tightened his grip; combat was about to begin. “I wasn’t begging for my life - I was begging for yours.”
In a fluid motion, Aleksanterii extends his left arm from his lightsaber to the Twi’lek, blasting her with a targeted and powerful Force push, sending the Sith Warrior spiralling towards a stone pillar. Alek turned to his right to see the Zabrak charging him, screaming a fierce war cry with rage in his eyes. The Zabrak swung his right arm towards Alek’s head, looking to decapitate the Jedi Master in a single strike. Rather than dodging, Aleksanterii swung his lightsaber with strength towards the red saber rapidly approaching his neck. The impact of the parry redirected the Zabrak’s slash away from the Jedi Master and left the Sith off balance, to which Alek brought his saber down in a swift strike at the Warrior’s undefended back. The Zabrak shrieked in pain, and fell to the ground in front of Aleksanterii. He had only a moment to react when he sensed the unmistakable sound of Force Lightning arcing towards him, and bringing his saber back into a defensive position, Aleksanterii pivoted his left foot to face his attacker; the masked Sith slowly approached as lightning stemmed from his fingertips. Aleksanterii was holding his own, already used to the immense hatred that empowered a Sith’s Force abilities, but saw the cyborg closing in on him. An opportunistic one, he thought. As the cyborg jumped into the air for a downward strike, Alek redirected the Sorcerer’s Force Lightning towards the would-be assassin, shocking him and sending him to the floor with a thud. Seizing the opportunity, Aleksanterii used the Force to propel himself towards the masked Sith, bringing his blade down in a powerful overhead strike. The Sorcerer could barely block his strike and was put on the defensive as Aleksanterii delivered an onslaught of blows. With a quick strike to his opponent’s saber hand, Aleksanterii knocked the masked Sith’s lightsaber away from him before slicing across his chest, ending his life.
The Twi’lek had recovered from being thrown across the room, and along with the cyborg, was charging Aleksanterii with an insatiable thirst for blood. She screeched as she met the Guardian with a flurry of attacks that left him entirely on the defense. The cyborg soon joined the Twi’lek in her assault, stabbing in and making smooth, calculated attacks that forced Alek to make quick, timely dodges. Aleksanterii was being pushed back steadily as he continued his defense, but he knew he would have to make his move soon as in the corner of his eye he could see the Zabrak begin to stand up, his seething anger felt from across the room. The Twi’lek had begun to twirl with her sabers, her form turning into that of a dancer’s, allowing her arms to spin vertically and downwards as the momentum carried her blows onto Alek’s lightsaber. Aleksanterii used his strength to swing his lightsaber upwards towards the Twi’lek’s falling blade, knocking her back from the impact, before the Jedi Master sliced at her supporting leg, crippling her as she fell to the floor with a sharp cry of pain. The cyborg backed into a defensive posture as his ally fell, but Aleksanterii instead renewed his assault with Falling Avalanche attacks, his blade falling upon the cyborg’s again and again as the Sith struggled to defend against the seasoned Jedi. With a quick strike down the middle of the double-bladed saber, the cyborg was left defenseless as Aleksanterii’s blade stabbed through the Sith’s robotic chest, sparks flying as the cyborg assassin fell to the floor, dead. The Twi’lek, whom Alek had thought to be incapacitated, leaped through the air with her sabers pointing down like a nexu’s fangs, a last ditch effort to kill the Jedi Master. Reactively, Aleksanterii charged towards the Twi’lek and slashed his saber at her waist. The Twi’lek’s blades sliced at the Jedi’s robes even as she fell to the floor, the Force leaving her body.
The Zabrak pierced the momentary calm with a pained shout, and cursed in his native tongue. “The Darths will know about this! I will tell them, and they will find you, and they shall make you suffer!” choked the remaining Sith Warrior as he began to make his way to the doors of the building. “They will know! They will know!” he repeated continuously, even long after he left Aleksanterii’s sight. The Jedi Master surveyed the scene: three dead Sith, one heavily wounded, and the Senator and her family emerged from the shadows, unharmed. It was a good start, but there was still much to go.
Aleksanterii’s fears had come to fruition; despite how fast they moved, the Empire was practically on their heels, and worse, a vanguard force was blocking their path to the rendezvous point. There was little choice for the Jedi Guardian but to press forward and deal with the Imperial soldiers quickly and efficiently. Motioning for the senator and her family to stay hidden behind some cover, Aleksanterii moved to deal with the Imperials.
Having the element of surprise on his side, Alek jumped into the center of the squad of troopers and entered a state of tranquility as battle began. Throwing them around with the Force, reflecting their blaster back at them, and using his prowess as a swordsman, Aleksanterii made quick work of the soldiers, until only one remained. He held his blaster rifle close to his body, aiming directly at the Jedi’s head, but could not pull the trigger. Alek could sense a great amount of turmoil in the soldier- no, the boy, as they stared at each other as a strange moment of peace had taken place. Perhaps realizing the inevitability of his fate, he fell to his two knees, ready to be slain by the sworn enemy of his Empire. Aleksanterii was confused; Imperial soldiers were known for fighting to their last, for having an unquestionable loyalty to their cause. “So what makes you different?” he thought, getting closer to get a better look at the man.
Suddenly, a great wave of emotion - of guilt - was cast towards him through the Force, and fragments of the soldier’s memories seemed to become the Jedi’s own. He could see a patrol, feel the pride of a conquering soldier, smell the sweet scent of victory mixed with the grim iron of blood and sweat. He could hear the faint footfall of unfamiliar boots, and the truth came to him: a rioter, a rebel, an infiltrator! “Take aim!” his superior commanded, and as if his arms were that of a droids, he spotted his target and locked on with automatic precision. It was a single moment in time that he looked down the sights of his rifle and hesitated for the briefest of seconds; was that the enemy? It was too small, but it clutched something in its arms, and though they said it could have been a blaster, it certainly wasn’t a blaster. The trigger was pulled, and chaos erupted.
A shrill scream pierced the silence of war as blaster fire connected to its target. She fell, alone, cold, scared, young, and dead.
Aleksanterii looked down at the soldier below him, not waiting for death because he knew he faced an unstoppable foe, but waiting for death because he yearned for it. The Jedi Master felt pity for the boy, and considered granting his request; mercy comes in many forms, he reasoned. But he thought about Emilia, thought about her needless death, and looked down not at a soldier, but at a boy. He too was alone, cold, scared, young, but he still lived. To condemn one to death, or oneself to death, for the mistakes of the past was no mercy to anyone, it was a failure upon us all. If the Republic and the Empire had learned that lesson by now, there would not be a Third Galactic War. It would be simpler to end the soldier’s life right then and there, but he was more than just a soldier now; he was someone that needed help. And the best kind of help is not seen from the barrel of a blaster or at the tip of a saber, it is from the people who care for you most.
Aleksanterii gave a swift strike to the soldier’s head with the pommel of his saber; he would live, but he could not be found conscious, for the Empire does not look kindly on “cowardice”. The way was clear, and Senator Faullema lead her children behind her like ducklings as the group continued their path to escape.
Senator Faullema stood at the ramp of a Republic shuttle, looking back at Aleksanterii. “You’re not coming with us?” she shouted, confused as to why the Jedi Master was staying behind. “My job is not done here, Senator, but yours lies elsewhere; get back to Coruscant and tell the Republic what you’ve seen here - we need each other in equal measure, and your words can cement unity between us. May the Force be with you, Senator Faullema.” Aleksanterii turned back to the streets of Oradin once more. There were many more to save this day.