~| Republic space, Seven hours ATC |~
“So,” Gar muttered to himself. “This is what they call peace these days…” clearly implying to the non-existing listeners that he did not truly agree. This so-called ‘peace treaty’ stank. The Sith could not be trusted, no matter how good terms they had negotiated for themselves. Not that surrendering all those star systems was a good thing in the first place. Still, he knew that they had had little choice. The Republic needed that reprieve. Sad, but true.
With that thought in mind, his ship dropped out of hyperspace above the just-liberated capital world of Coruscant. The disgustingly triangular Imperial ships had all left it behind, not a single Imperial was supposed to be left upon its surface. Not that he believed that for even a second. No doubt there were countless Imperial agents there. They’d be fools not to have put such in place, and while the Sith were many things, collectively they were not fools.
Now, of course, a significant portion of the Republic fleet were in orbit. Thousands of troopers were busy, doing their best to comb the surface, seeking to root out the Imperial agents he knew to be down there. But his duties did not lie there. He put his shuttle on the pre-programmed approach vector for the Jedi Temple. He did not know what would meet his eyes. He’d had reports from the recovery vanguard that it was in ruins, but had to see with his own eyes.
The sight was horrible. The towers, once pristine and tall, had fallen over. Turbolasers had cut deep gouges in the ziggurat itself. Massive explosions had torn it apart from the inside. The Sith had truly been meticulous in their destruction. As he got closer, he could see bodies, some of troopers, others distinctly Jedi riddling the temple grounds.
“Filthy Sith. Couldn’t even leave the temple gardens alone!” he spat out, disgust blatant in his voice, though he did not let any anger or hate affect his mind. He was better than to give in to such. Some of those trees had stood for centuries, now they were all dead.
He landed his shuttle at the center, then disembarked, ignoring the creaking of his bones as he got up. He did not hesitate in moving into what remained of the temple, an astromech following behind him as he did. He’d acquired that for downloading the temple security records, if they could be recovered. Something, a subconscious feeling, gave him the idea they were important. When he did get into one of the many security records rooms, he found that a Sith had clearly been through there, for the consoles had all been cut apart with a lightsaber.
Fortunately, he knew this room better than the Sith did. He knew that the room had what some considered ridiculous levels of redundancy. Ignoring the broken consoles, he moved to the wall directly opposite the door, punching it with his fist. “Ow!” he half-yelped when the wall did not give, when it did not reveal the concealed data port.
Then he moved to one side, repeating the punch. And then he yelped again, finding the wall just as stubborn. He moved further and repeated it all. After the seventh time, he decided he had had enough pain. This wall clearly had no intention of cooperating, and he knew the data port would be in there. It had to be. He pulled his lightsaber, igniting it. Then he reached out with the Force, trying to sense where it lay underneath the wall paneling. When he found it—on a completely different wall—he cut the hinges, revealing the data port to the astromech, which bleeped in indication that his method was highly irregular. He ignored its complaint and pulled it up with the Force, ignoring its immediate protests. It got the idea at that point and plugged itself into the port, downloading all available security recordings.
Exploring the rest of the temple ruins was hopeless. Rubble everywhere. Once he had the records, he’d had no choice but to go back out. The fact that he’d even gotten into the records room was almost surprising on its own. He’d withdrawn to his ship, using its systems to go through the recordings. They were full of holes, entire sections missing from where the temple’s destruction was most complete. But the image they painted was grim. He had found no evidence of any surviving Jedi within the temple. Numerous bodies of slain Jedi and Republic troopers could be seen—especially in the main hall—but there were no Sith bodies.
Unfortunately, someone—probably an enterprising Sith—had erased the records from the attack itself. But the more he watched, the more clear two things were. Firstly, the Sith had been thorough. Secondly, there were far too few bodies. Off-planet Jedi Order records had clear numbers on exactly how many Jedi were on Coruscant three days ago, and the numbers did not add up. They did not even come close.
Though he had a working theory, Gar needed to investigate this further. He took his ship back into orbit and onto one of the Republic cruisers there. From there he could access security recordings from the planet’s security grid. Hopefully the Sith had not been able to erase those as well.
~| Seventeen hours ATC |~
Several hours. That’s how long it took Gar to get access to the footage that proved his suspicions. With each additional source, the piling evidence built up a clearer and clearer image of just what the Sith had done to the Temple. More importantly, what they had done to the Jedi within. Scores had unfortunately been killed in the attack, particularly many of those in the opening minutes. But footage from outside the temple itself revealed something far more dangerous: Not all the Jedi had been killed.
Gar had seen in that footage how a significant number of incapacitated Jedi were instead carried onto an Imperial shuttle, some of them barely more than younglings, others large enough to be fully trained knights. He knew very well that even a blind rodian could figure out just what the Sith intended to do with these captives. Not that he could allow that to happen, of course. It was bad enough that the temple had been destroyed. The Sith could not be permitted to turn their own against them.
It really was a fortunate thing that the Empire had somehow disabled the Coruscanti defense grid rather than destroying it, for that meant that even though the defenses did not strike the Imperial ships, orbital tracking systems were all running. Getting access to that system was pesky, but he managed it. That revealed exactly where the shuttle moved. Pulling a few strings with his various contacts in the Republic navy, he got the ship identified as belonging to a Sith bearing the name ‘Darth Nyiss’. Not one he was familiar with.
The captives needed rescue, peace treaty or no peace treaty. No matter how necessary, he knew very well that the Sith had no intention of letting peace stand long. Everyone with some knowledge about their kind knew they don’t believe in peace. If he gave them time to finish up whatever plan they had, then the Republic would die. Thus, he knew, there was only on logical option. He needed to save them before it was too late. There was no telling what the captives could teach the Sith.
With that in mind, Gar called in a few of the favors he had outstanding with the SIS. It did not take long to figure out that not only did they know where Darth Nyiss’ base of operations was, but that they also had a mission in progress to take her out, no matter the cost. With a Jedi like Master Fa-Val-Kuul in charge, the mission should have high chances of success. He knew her, and while they weren’t close, he couldn’t not respect her. Unfortunately, he also knew that she was a very mission-oriented individual. One who would not go out of her way to rescue prisoners if it could in any way reduce the chance of success for her mission. Thus, he would have to get there himself. Preferably with a small team of his own.
Another called-in favor let him get access to the shuttle used to resupply the strike team, and he was almost ready to head out. All that remained was gathering his own team and a few spare lightsabers just in case some escaped or he couldn’t rescue them all in one go. Unfortunately, if there was any intel on the Sith’s compound, none of his contacts had access to it. Going in blind like that would be dangerous, but he had no choice. Hopefully Master Fa would have more information.
~| Feena, two days ATC, 13th hour |~
Recruiting Jedi for high-risk missions was a challenge by itself. Gar needed trustworthy Jedi, which made it harder. Doing it covertly enough not to threaten the treaty with the Empire? Much, much harder. Still, he had a few hopeful candidates, though only two of them had been able to come on such short notice. Hopefully others could come later.
Right now, he sat in the back of the Imperial shuttle utilized by the Strike Team, listening to the chatter of the other people on the shuttle, including a number of technicians for the Team’s base of operations. All around them, crates of supplies and equipment were stacked high, giving him a clear hint of the number of troops at Master Fa’s disposal.
He looked over at where one of his fellow rescuers, Jedi Knight Astera Nalin sat, meditating. A curious species, Zelosians were. Outwardly, so close to his own, yet hardly anything similar on the inside. Proof of just how wondrous the galaxy could be. He had no reason to break her concentration. She needed to be ready for anything now. Disturbing her would have no benefit.
At the far end of the shuttle, he could just barely make out the other Jedi on his team, the considerably younger knight, Dai Kholoz. In spite of barely being into his thirties, Dai had proven a reliable knight, or so Gar had heard from the fellow Jedi Master who recommended him. Time would tell if that would prove to be truth.
At this point, he felt the shuttle begin its descent. They had not been challenged by any Imperial vessels. Not this time. ‘Good.’
he thought silently. The world below was blooming with life, yet tinged with darkness. The Dark Side was strong down there. If he had had any doubts about this being a Sith world—which he had had none—they would have been expunged now.
It would be fun to see master Fa’s eyes when he came out of the shuttle. He could hardly wait.