Hologa Tharf should have been an easy target. Subtlety wasn’t a word with which she appeared familiar – she literally had a target tattooed on her face. At last that’s how the yellow mark on the Pantoran’s forehead looked to Ventress. No, Tharf wasn’t subtle, but she was smart enough, tough enough, and well enough prepared to thwart the average bounty hunter. That shouldn’t have been an issue for Ventress, who knew exactly where she was and exactly what she was doing. Collecting the bounty should have been a walk in the park.
Ventress scowled. The anger at herself was unproductive, and the anger at the Jedi traitor was pointless. The little brat had already been dealt with by her own. The lightsabers she’d stolen – Ventress’s lightsabers – were locked up in some vault in the Jedi temple, never to see the light of day again.
This was unfortunate for a great many reasons that Ventress had been trying not to dwell on. But looking at the thick blast doors that shielded Tharf’s hideaway… thick reinforced metal doors on a bomb-proof shelter that stood between her and an otherwise easy thousand credits… She could really use a lightsaber or two right about now.
She didn’t strictly need them. There would be another way in, if she kept searching. Tharf would have to come out eventually, or her guards would get slack enough that Ventress could force an opening through them. She had plenty of other tools in her arsenal, and she could find something else to cut her way in, if it came to that. It just felt especially galling at this juncture to face an obstacle that she could otherwise have surmounted without breaking a sweat.
It was distracting. They were hers. She’d made them; mastered them. Their distinctive curved handles were designed to accentuate her own personal fighting style. They’d been with her through so much – Dooku’s betrayal, the reunion with and eventual loss of her Sisters. She’d tried to tell herself that letting them go was the final step in letting go of her old life. That loss was her life and that she should be used to it by now. That a new future meant leaving the past behind. It wasn’t working. She missed the weight of them hanging from her hips. Her instincts kept guiding her to reach for something that wasn’t there, even in fights she could win easily without them.
Dwelling on the loss was breaking her concentration. Tharf’s goons were halfway through a shift change, and she’d missed out on noting the details of their routine. The most she could say at the moment was that they were using some kind of code. If she’d have been paying closer attention she could have read it off their lips, or caught it on the sonic scanner embedded in her mask. They still seemed to be on high alert, too, but it hadn’t been that long since Tharf had insulted the head of another local gang by stealing his wife – who also happened to be his second in command. The man’s business was in shambles, but if he was willing to shell out good credits for petty revenge, Ventress wasn’t going to stop him.
But she wasn’t going to help him, and get paid, at this rate. She’d let it go for the moment and try again on the next shift change, though she couldn’t decide between a walk to clear her thoughts or a drink or several to drown them out. She compromised, picking up a bottle of rotgut on the walk back to the rickety tower where she’d been renting a room.
She headed up in the lift, planning to drink in solitude, but stopped when she reached her door.
Something pushed briefly at her senses – something in the Force – and was gone. Ventress froze, listening at the door before trying it and finding it still sealed. She tapped in the entry code quickly, and pressed herself against the wall while the door slid open. There was no one there. She slipped through the entrance, poised to leap and strike should any threat reveal itself, but nothing did.
The window had been opened, and a breeze refreshed the stagnant air. It didn’t appear to have been forced, but unlatched from the inside. Hovertraffic passed by in lanes a dozen meters away; the ground was thirteen stories below. The window ledge was barely five centimeters wide. And someone had left a case on her table.
She approached it carefully, but the pull of the Force, of familiarity, was strong, and she used less caution than she might have otherwise. She lifted the top. Inside were her lightsabers.
This had to be a trick. They’d been taken by the Jedi, and the Order wouldn’t have released them willingly. Doubt and suspicion stayed her hand briefly, and instead of reaching for them directly, she examined the box more closely. Ahhh… there was a note. This she extracted carefully, eyeing it with caution and curiosity. Who wrote notes by hand when they could leave a holo message?
I never thought that I would work with you, that you would help me, but you did, and you kept your word. I’m sorry that I can’t do the same. And now I’ve learned how hard, and how important, it can be to walk away from what you’ve been taught, and to find a new path. Thank you for being part of that lesson.
These belong to you. I thought that you ought to have them back.
Ventress read it over twice. It wasn’t signed, but there was no need. She half expected to catch a glimpse of the Togrutan as she closed the window and resecured the latch, but Ahsoka would be long gone if she had any sense at all.
“More in common that we realized…. Ex-padawan.”
Ventress closed her eyes for a moment, thinking of the past and the hard lessons it held. But sentiment and a heavy heart wouldn’t put credits in the bank, and if she was meant to serve as some kind of model for starting a new life, it would be better to be successful one.
The lightsabers felt right in Ventress’s hands. She used them to burn the letter to ash, and then smiled thinly. She has a fortress to assail.