The Day After

July 3, 2014
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Tash flew around a corner and glanced at his watch. He was already late. The diner was just down the street; Dex might not even notice.

Tash reached the door of Dex’s Diner only five minutes late for work but when he tried to pull open the door it wouldn’t budge. He produced the key he had been given and entered. “Dex?” he called to an empty diner, “You in here?”

His boss was never late; this diner was practically his life. Tash headed to Dexter’s small office and knocked lightly on the door. The office was hardly ever used and just barely big enough for the large frame of his employer.
“Sir?” Tash knocked again and then opened the door. The office was bare except for the desk and chair. It didn’t look like it had even ever been used, “What’s going on?”
Tash walked out of the diner and watched the crowd of Coruscanti citizens. He wondered what could possibly have made Dex flee in such a hurry. He knew his boss didn’t have the cleanest history but he couldn’t imagine that Dex could have gotten himself into this much trouble.
“Hey Tash!” he turned to see his only friend Rat running toward him, “Have you heard the news?”
“No, what?”
Rat was standing next to him now and had his hands on his knees, trying to regain his breath, “They’re saying the Jedi have betrayed the Republic. Apparently last night the army seized the Jedi Temple.”
“What?” Tash was stunned, the world was spinning. None of it made sense. The Jedi wouldn’t betray the Republic, “That can’t be right.”
“That’s what the news says anyway,” Rat replied and then he dragged Tash into the street and pointed up into the sky, “Look, you can still see the smoke.”
Tash hadn’t even noticed it on his way to work. There was always so much smoke in the sky on any given day it was easy to miss but this was definitely wafting up from the Jedi Temple. He stared in disbelief and Rat just nodded in response.
“It isn’t true, it can’t be,” Tash looked at his friend, “They’re framing the Jedi.”
“Who is?” Rat raised an eyebrow.
“The Chancellor, the government,” Tash replied quickly and in a hushed voice, “I don’t know, but someone powerful.”
“Hey, what are you trying to do, get us arrested?” Rat punched him in the shoulder and looked around to be sure no one was coming for them, “You can’t say things like that. Especially not after last night. People like you and me go missing all the time, no one misses us.”
“Look at what they did!” Tash hissed, unconsciously attempting to keep his voice quiet, “They can’t get away with it.”
“Yes they can and they will,” Rat grabbed Tash’s shoulders and shook him roughly to make sure he was paying attention, “Drop it.”
Just then a HoloNet news station turned on and all eyes fell upon the screen. There was an emergency gathering of all the senators and Chancellor Palpatine stood to address the entire galaxy. He began to speak of an attempt on his life by the Jedi and Tash began to walk away in disgust.
“Where are you going?” Rat asked, grabbing Tash’s shoulder and yanking him back, “This is important.”
“I’m not listening to the propaganda he’s spitting out,” Tash replied and Rat didn’t seem to understand the word so he rephrased, “I’m not listening to his garbage.”
“What did I tell you about saying things like that?” Rat glanced at the faces beside them but if anyone noticed they didn’t seem to care. Then the argument stopped as the Chancellor’s voice began to rise in volume.
“The first Galactic Empire!” The words reverberated around the street and the whole of Coruscant, maybe even the whole of the galaxy. Tash and Rat looked at each other in worry and murmurs could be heard from the other observers. The HoloNet feed roared with a thunder of applause and Tash was finally starting to feel worried about his safety.
“He didn’t,” Rat began to say and blinked a few times, then he looked at Tash, “I mean, he couldn’t.”
Tash could see some of the people in the crowd were beginning to cheer with the senators. They had been afraid of war for so long that they were willing to hand over their freedom. “Apparently he can,” Tash replied, staring in the direction of the smoke cloud rising from the Jedi Temple, “Come on.”
Tash pushed through the crowd. “Where are we going?” Rat asked, trailing close behind.
“The temple, I want to see what’s really going on,” Tash answered as they walked in the direction of the smoke, “I want to know the truth.”
Tash started walking toward the box-like building with its five spires. “Look Tash, I get what you’re trying to do but let’s not get ourselves into trouble,” Rat chased after him, scurrying around like the animal he was named for, “We could end up in a serious situation.”
“That’s what we’re good at Rat,” Tash checked down an alley to see if they had a clear approach. He sped to the end of it and peered down the next one. There wasn’t anyone out in front of the Jedi Temple, “We can’t help but get in trouble.”
“Tash, I have a bad feeling about this,” Rat didn’t stop following his friend though, “What do you think you’re going to find in there anyway?”
“Hopefully the truth.”
The two teenagers checked for any clones and then made their way up the expansive staircase to the Jedi Temple. “So far so good,” Tash peered around the base of a statue.
“You sure you saw something?” Tash heard the unmistakable voice of a clone only a few feet away from him. He held his breath and Rat’s eyes grew three sizes. The two clones took a few steps closer to the boys.
“I thought I did, but it must have been nothing,” the other clone answered, “Come on let’s get back to work.”
Rat and Tash waited for about a minute before daring to move again. They weren’t at all prepared for what they saw.
Tash lost his breath and Rat gaped in horror. “You still think they weren’t framed?” Tash whispered.
There were bodies everywhere; some were even on top of others, like they had tried to shield the other person. There were children as well as adults and elderly Jedi. They hadn’t seen it coming, they had had no idea. It hadn’t been a battle it had been a massacre.
It was beyond belief. The Jedi were famous for their ability to sway the tide of battles in one direction or another and now most if not all of them had been killed.
Tash looked around for anything they could take as evidence, “I bet they have some kind of security system here that recorded everything.”
“Don’t you think the clones would have destroyed it?” Rat rationalized and Tash shrugged, it was their only chance, “And anyway neither of us knows where it is or how to get there.”
“Maybe there’s a map,” Tash tried and began to cautiously advance through the temple, “We have to try something Rat, we can’t let them get away with this.”

The bodies scared Rat, the wide open eyes and the unnatural positions were too much for him. He’d seen a lot on the streets but nothing like this. He just wanted to leave and pretend like he hadn’t seen any of this but he couldn’t let Tash attempt this on his own.

“Look,” Tash said kneeling down and picking something up. He held out the metal cylinder that he had found, “They just left the lightsabers.”

“Put it back,” Rat wasn’t sure why he felt so strongly about it but it seemed wrong to take a fallen Jedi’s blade.

“We’re going to need something to defend ourselves with if we get into trouble,” Tash replied, hooking the lightsaber hilt to his belt, “You should get one too.”

Rat didn’t like it but he finally conceded and knelt down and picked up one of the fallen peacekeeper’s weapons. When he looked up Tash was already much farther ahead of him.

The two walked in silence through the ornate halls of the Jedi Temple. Their hearts were beating quickly and they didn’t want to get caught but the silence was mostly in deference. With all the bodies strewn across the floors it felt more like a mausoleum than a temple.

Eventually they entered into a large room that extended like a long hallway for what seemed like a mile. There were shelves filled with archives and journals that lined the sides of the hall. It was the largest library that Tash or Rat had ever seen, though it was also the only library they had ever seen.

“This must be the archive room,” Tash said in awe and Rat didn’t seem as impressed, “I heard the Jedi that visited Dex talk about it but I never imagined it would be like this.”

“Yeah, it’s very impressive,” Rat responded hurriedly, “Now let’s go find that map and get out of here.”

Rat and Tash headed through the first hall and into the central chamber. The chamber was a large rotunda with a huge circular database in the middle. From here, Tash was sure, they could find whatever they wanted.

“So, do you know how to use this thing?” Rat asked as they both looked incongruous in front of the large machine.

“Uh, let’s try to push buttons until something happens,” Tash tried and soon learned that it wasn’t too difficult to navigate, every Jedi had to be able to use it after all, “I think I found what we’re looking for.”

He pulled up a blueprint of the Jedi Temple and the two stared at the sheer size of the building. “So where are we?” Rat asked, not entirely sure what he was looking at. Then he pointed to something, “Is that the archives?”

Tash followed Rat’s finger and sure enough he had found where they were. Now all they had to do was find where they needed to go. “I knew I’d seen something,” the voice of a clone entered their ears, “Blast them!”

Tash and Rat didn’t even look to see where their attackers were before they made a break for it. They hurdled the desk surrounding the database and headed down one of the halls. “Do you even know where you’re going?” Rat shouted at his friend, sure they were both about to be killed. A blaster bolt whizzed past his head and he was even more certain.

“I have a rough estimate,” Tash called back and Rat was even more certain that they were dead, “We just need to get to the bottom of the main tower.”

Tash slid around a corner and saw a group of clones at the end of the hall. The two young boys jumped behind cover and Tash looked at his companion. “Listen, Rat, I can’t ask you to do this but I need your help,” Tash’s voice got very serious and Rat decided he didn’t like it, “I’m going to turn on my lightsaber and distract the clones down there. Once they’re gone I need you to go into the security room and take anything that could be evidence. If I don’t make it back you need to get that out to anyone who will listen.”

Before Rat could argue Tash had broken from cover. It took him a minute to figure out how to turn on the lightsaber but eventually the green blade shot out from the end of the tube. The clones heard the distinctive hiss and turned in his direction. “Get him!”

A large group of soldiers in their white and blue armor stormed past Rat’s hiding place and after Tash. “You’re such an idiot,” Rat said but he wasn’t sure whether he was talking about himself or Tash.

Rat stepped from his hiding spot and walked cautiously down the hallway.

His heart was in his throat when he stood at the door. He unhooked the lightsaber from his belt and pushed a button to open the door. It slid away to reveal an empty room. Rat sighed and entered the room lined with monitors on either side. Most of them were beyond repair but a section had been left untouched.

The working monitors were ominous to the teen but he had to do this for his friend. Following the advice of the slightly older boy, Rat began to press as many buttons as he could find in the hopes that something might happen. Suddenly the recording began to play back and he saw a hooded man with a lightsaber start killing little kids, he had to look away.

Rat began looking around for anything that he could put the recording on. There were a few datachips sitting on one of the desks. He quickly grabbed one and inserted it into the machine. As it rewrote the security video the doors opened again and the two clone troopers entered the room. When they saw him they leveled their blasters on his head.

Rat’s arms flew up in the air, “Don’t shoot, it was Tash!”

Just then the three heard blaster fire from down the hall. “You sell out!” Tash shouted as he flew into the room. Rat only just had time to grab the datachip before he was pulled out of the room by his friend. As the doors closed behind them they could hear blaster bolts sizzling the metal.

The two flew out of the main entrance to the temple and down the stairs as quickly as possible. They could hear the steps of the clones as their boots clicked against the pavement but they didn’t turn back. The soldiers started firing at them but they were out of their range by then.

“I can’t believe we got away with that!” Tash was exuberant and his face was lit with a smile.

“We haven’t gotten away with it yet,” Rat was always the one to bring his mood down.

As soon as they entered a crowded area they stopped running and tried to blend in with the other civilians. “You take the chip,” Rat tried to hand it to Tash but he shook his head, “It was your plan.”

“Hold on to it,” Tash whispered, trying not to attract any more attention, “We’ll meet up later and decide what we should do with it.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Rat looked around guiltily.

“Not at all but we have to try to stop them,” Tash said but Rat didn’t look convinced, “You know we do, this is for the good of the galaxy.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing Tash.”

“Come on, when have I ever let you down?”

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