“What do you mean, she’s missing?”
Ahsoka flinched, and Obi-Wan didn’t blame her — he’d nearly yelled the words. He forced himself to calm down, at least a little. He, Ahsoka, and Luminara sat around the table in the galley of the Golden Sea.
“She’s gone,” Bail said. His voice and image were staticky, barely there; he was on Alderaan, or maybe on a rebel base on a backwater planet, and the Sea was on the opposite side of the galaxy. “I talked to her, but she cut me off — of her own volition, I should add — and then a few hours later, she was reported as missing from her apartment. Vader is MIA as well.”
Oh, kriff. Obi-Wan pinched the bridge of his nose, a headache building in the back of his head. Force, he should have known, he should have protected her.
“Don’t,” said Luminara softly. She was sitting at the holotable with him and Ahsoka; she’d stayed the night on their ship, and Obi-Wan had been grateful. The not knowing had been eating him alive; Luminara’s presence and dry wit had been a welcome distraction.
“What are we going to do?” said Ahsoka. Bail shrugged, his image briefly dissolving into pure static before partially reforming.
“I can’t do anything right now. I have senate duties and Mon needs my help running the rebellion.”
“I understand,” said Obi-Wan. “Thank you for what you’ve done.”
Bail gave a half-salute, smiling — or frowning, it was hard to tell — and said, “It’s no problem. Tell Leia and Luke that I wish them well. I’ll call again s—” The call ended, dissolving into static completely and turning off, the room suddenly dim.
Obi-Wan folded his arms on the table and rested his head. A headache was building at his left temple — maybe the Force, maybe just stress and fear. Luminara touched his shoulder, and he raised his head, pressing two fingers to the throbbing pain and willing it to reduce. The pain became more manageable.
“So,” said Ahsoka, “now that Padmé’s been kidnapped, are we going to actually do something?” Her words were sharp, probably sharper than she had intended, and she looked a little ashamed.
“What can we do?” asked Obi-Wan. “I’m open to suggestions.”
Luminara twisted her lips together and glanced in the direction of the door. “I may know someone who can help.” Ahsoka’s expression shifted at her words, but only for a moment; Obi-Wan didn’t dwell on it.
“Then, by all means, contact them,” he said.
“I can’t. I’d have to go in person.”
Obi-Wan locked eyes with her. She stared back, not giving anything away. “Are they worth it?” he asked. Luminara nodded. “Then go.”
She nodded again, and stood. “Contact me when you know where we’re going to find her.” She left, R6 trailing behind her and chirping a goodbye at them. As the door slid shut behind her and the droid, Ahsoka turned to Obi-Wan.
“I also have some contacts who could help. A rebel cell.”
“Yeah.” Obi-Wan felt Luminara’s freighter detached from the Sea with a dull thud. “They could help us track Padmé down. But we’d have to go meet them in person — all of us.”
“Alright,” said Obi-Wan. “Can you go comm them now?”
She nodded and ducked out of the room, heading down to the room she stayed in whenever she lived on the Sea. Not a standard minute later, the door slid open and Luke stumbled in, a robe loosely wrapped around his sleep clothes, hair mussed. Obi-Wan felt a stab of guilt — it was nearly 0500 by the ship’s internal chrono, and none of them had slept, but the kids had gone to bed at the normal time.
“Did Luminara leave?” he asked, yawning. “Why?”
“Sorry,” said Obi-Wan, standing and going over to brew a pot of caf. No one would be sleeping again tonight, he figured; Leia, maybe, would get a full night, but no one else. Leia’s ability to sleep through nearly anything had been a running joke since she was a youngling. “It’s about your mom. We’re going to help her.”
“Are we going to find her?” he asked, bright blue eyes wide as he watched Obi-Wan set up the caf machine.
“I am, Ahsoka is, and apparently we’re getting help from a rebel cell. And Luminara might help with someone else. But you and Leia are not.” The caf machine was set to brew; he turned it on and the heavenly smell of fresh caf began to filter through the room.
“Why not?” Luke asked, sitting down at the table Obi-Wan had just abandoned, wrapping his robe tighter around himself and shivering. The ship’s night setting kept things cool, and after being on Yavin so recently, it had to feel more frigid than it usually did. Obi-Wan would have noticed, but he’d been up for hours, blocking out the cold.
“It has to do with — with Darth Vader,” he said, voice faltering. He opened a pantry. Blast it, they were almost out of bread. He pulled out the package — two pieces left — and put it back with a frustrated sigh. “And Padmé and I would both prefer it if you and Leia stayed safe.”
Luke grumbled in irritation, but didn’t say anything else — he’d never been as comfortable with confrontation as Leia. When the caf was ready, Obi-Wan grabbed a mug for him and Luke and sat down at the table next to his son.
“We’ll get her back, right?” Luke asked as he sipped the burning hot drink.
“Yes,” said Obi-Wan, with far more confidence than he felt. “We will.”
Once Ahsoka got to her room, she dug into the drawers to find her hood. She’d brought it with her when she’d come to stay on the Sea during Padmé’s absence, but she hadn’t expected to need to use the identity of Fulcrum during her stay, so it was shoved in the back of a drawer. When she finally pulled it out, it was a bit dusty; she brushed it off and pulled it over her head before turning on her holotransmitter and turning on the vocal adjustment settings.
She quickly checked the time difference mentally; it was midday on Lothal, and the Ghost. She called. After a few moments, Hera Syndulla picked up.
“Fulcrum? Why are you calling now?” she asked. “I thought you had business that required radio silence for a few weeks.”
“Things have changed,” said Ahsoka. “I need your help, and the help of your crew. Are you willing and available?”
After a long moment, Hera nodded. “What do you need?”
“Are you on Lothal?”
“Not at the moment, but we can be there in a few hours.”
“I’ll meet you there tomorrow.”
“In person?” Hera’s brows shot up. “I didn’t think we were at that point yet.”
“Things change, Hera. I’ll be bringing some others. Fulcrum out.” She ended the call and pulled off the hood, placing it on the side of the table. She knew she was taking a massive risk. She’d never told the Ghost about Obi-Wan, or the twins — and she hadn’t told Obi-wan and the others about the two Jedi in Hera’s crew, neither of whom she’d met. It was safer that way, but…
Ahsoka could tell that the galaxy was at a crossroads now. The Force was clear on that. Things would be changing soon, and rapidly. If there was ever a time for the few Jedi alive to meet up, it was now.
She knew she might regret it, but for now, it was a risk she’d have to take.
The next time Padmé woke, she did not immediately remember where she was. She opened her eyes to see Vader standing directly in front of her, the door behind him framing him perfectly. She was struck by the symmetry for a moment before she remembered where she was. Or, more accurately, she remembered how little she knew about where she was.
The sudden realization hit her like a slap in the face, and she struggled against her restraints, ignoring Vader as best she could. He let out a sigh and waved one hand, causing her restraints to fall off. She jumped away from the machine that had held her, rubbing at her wrists. She refused to look at him; she backed into a table and stood there, trying to pretend he wasn’t there. She could feel his eyes on the side of her face, and stubbornly ignored them, tracing the pattern of the floor tiles with her eyes.
If she let herself pay attention to him, she wasn’t sure what she’d do.
“No thank you?” he said after a moment. She didn’t look at him, didn’t respond, and he let out a low laugh. “No, I suppose not. You were always so stubborn.”
His voice held a wistful note that surprised her enough that she actually looked up at him. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t taken a step towards her. He still stood where he had when she’d woken: hands behind his back, standing with his legs slightly apart. For a moment, a long-ago memory swam to the surface; the Lake House, on Naboo, when he’d been her bodyguard. She’d woken and found him on the balcony, meditating and standing the same way. She thought it was a Jedi habit.
As if noticing her attention, he shifted slightly, and turned suddenly away, beginning to pace. “How did you survive?” he said after a long moment of silence.
Padmé folded her arms over her chest. She was shivering from the cold now, her ankles and wrists practically frozen. “You tried to kill me.”
“Exactly.” He didn’t break pace. “So how did you live?”
She didn’t speak for a moment, mentally weighing the the risks of telling him the truth. If possible, she wanted to avoid letting him know about the twins. “Obi-Wan came and got me medical help,” she said, measuring her words carefully.
One of Vader’s hands balled into a fist. “I choked you,” he said, voice nearly even but with a slight strain that showed the emotion under the surface. “I — I killed you.”
“I got lucky,” she said, bitterly remembering the feeling of relief when she’d realized the extremely unlikely outcome that she’d experienced. “No lasting damage.”
“I killed you,” he said, voice near anguish, and Padmé frowned at him. He’d paused in his pacing, one hand resting on a table. She realized, suddenly, that this was a conference room. A strange place to hold a prisoner, but she put it aside to examine later.
“I was alive when you left,” she said. “Why would you assume that I was dead?”
He glanced at her, his face too deep in shadow for her to see his expression. “The Emperor told me.”
She snorted with laughter despite herself. “You trusted him? After everything?”
He looked away. “And Obi-Wan?” he said, voice even again.
Padmé swallowed, mouth suddenly dry. “What about him?”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know.” The truth, if only technically.
Vader slammed a fist down on the table. The echo that followed made her assume that it was his metal hand, but she wasn’t sure from the angle and the shadows. “Where?”
She flinched back against the table. “I don’t know!” she half-shouted, near panic.
He turned around. “And the child?” he said, voice even again.
“What?” His immediate change of topic had thrown her. And the way he was moving between emotional extremes was more than frightening. He’d always been somewhat emotionally unstable all those years ago when they were married. She’d found it a little worrying at times, but this was downright terrifying.
“You were pregnant when I — when you escaped,” he said, voice flat. “What happened to the child?”
A cold feeling settled in her stomach, fear running through her veins. “They — they died.” She had to hope, to pray, that he hadn’t spoken to the emperor before he’d taken her away.
“Really.” She couldn’t see his face, but could tell, almost instinctively, that he was half-smiling. “And you can’t even say the gender.”
He stepped out of the shadows and raised one hand, almost casually. She felt the Force fit itself around her throat, but it didn’t tighten, didn’t lift her — the implicit threat was enough. “Where?”
She looked him in the eyes. “They died.”
Suddenly, her mind was under attack. She dropped to the ground gasping as her thoughts and memories flickered past her mind’s eye. A thousand splinters of a thousand moments, flying through her brain too fast to see for more than a few seconds. She collapsed on her side, trembling, as the assault continued.
Kissing Anakin on Geonosis for the first time. Their wedding. Aurra Sing’s near murder of her. Cad Bane holding a gun to her head. Rush Clovis falling to his death on Scipio. Telling Anakin of her pregnancy. Obi-Wan telling her that Anakin had turned to the dark side. Seeing Vader as he truly was for the first time as she choked nearly to death.
No, she thought, no, no—
But the memories continued.
The birth. Holding the twins for the first time. Her own voice saying, “Luke and Leia.” Obi-Wan telling her of Anakin’s fate. Sharing a bed with Obi-Wan on Umbara. Leaving Alderaan with pain and hope warring in her heart. The twin’s first birthday. The twins turning three. The first time she’d kissed Obi-Wan. The second time. The first time she’d slept with him. The twins building their lightsabers. The twins training with Obi-Wan, and Luminara, and Ahsoka. The first time she’d seen Bail’s rebellion. More and more and more and more and more memories until she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.
When he finally let her go, she realized she’d been screaming the whole time.
He stood over her now, face white with anger. “So,” he said. “You’ve been busy.”
They reached the Lothal system several hours later. Leia sat in the cockpit next to Ahsoka, who sat in the pilot’s chair and was guiding them down to the planet below. The fluffy clouds surrounded them as they entered the lower atmosphere. The Golden Sea touched down on a flat prairie of waving grass, and Leia could see another ship across from them, several meters away.
“So who are these rebels?” asked Obi-Wan as the ship powered down.
“I think I should let them introduce themselves,” said Ahsoka, standing. Leia followed her out of the ship, Obi-Wan and Luke close behind.
Outside, it was windy, the tall grass whipping against Leia’s legs. Ahsoka led them across the field to the ship. When they were a few feet away, the ramp lowered down and out came the crew — the rebels.
The first being Leia saw exit the ship was a human teenage girl in Mando armour, her hand just a little too close to the blaster strapped to her hip. Then a tall, furry-skinned purple alien of a species she didn’t recognize, and a teenage boy with — a lightsaber? Her mind ground to a halt for a moment, and then she looked closer. The boy looked about her age with hair so black it was almost blue. And there was a lightsaber hanging off his hip.
Blinking, Leia looked at the other crew members — a tall human man with amber skin, green eyes, and dark brown hair tied back, and a green-skinned Twi’lek woman in a pilot’s uniform. Together, they were an odd group, but they seemed attuned to each other — a crew, a family.
“Fulcrum,” said the pilot — probably the captain, Leia realized — after a tense moment of silence. “Who — who is this?”
Ahsoka glanced back at Obi-Wan, who was staring, face carefully blank, at the human man. “This is Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Luke and Leia Naberrie,” Ahsoka said. “We’ve come to ask for your help.”
“Master Kenobi?” said the human man suddenly, stepping forward, staring Obi-Wan. Leia’s father blinked.
“Yes,” he said, hesitantly. “I was.” He glanced back at Ahsoka, but her expression betrayed nothing; Leia assumed he had decided to simply trust her.
“I’m—” The man swallowed visibly. “I was Caleb Dume. Depa Billaba’s—”
“Master Billaba’s padawan,” said Obi-Wan softly. “I can’t—you’re alive?”
He nodded, a short, jerky movement. “I—I go by Kanan now. Kanan Jarrus.”
“Well, Kanan,” said Obi-Wan, and he smiled — smiled, a full, happy smile. He didn’t smile like that often anymore. Leia found herself smiling too, caught up in his momentary joy. “I’m very glad to meet you.”
“Kanan?” said the teenage boy, voice inquisitive. “Who are they?”
“I’d like to know, too,” said the purple alien, in a low grumble of a voice.
Kanan turned back to his crew. “This is Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Legend of the Clone Wars. He taught me when I was a youngling.”
Some sort of recognition passed over the boy’s face, and he looked back at Obi-Wan.
“Should we go inside?” asked the pilot. “Make our introductions?”
“Yes,” said Ahsoka. “Let’s go.”
Once they got inside and all got settled in the galley, the Twi’lek woman — Captain Hera Syndulla — made the introductions. The boy was Ezra Bridger, Kanan’s padawan. The teenage Mando girl was Sabine Wren, and once she took off her helmet, Leia was struck by her brightly dyed, blue-and-amber hair. The furry purple alien — he was Lasat, she’d learned — was Garazeb Orrelios, or just Zeb. They were a rebel cell operating out of Lothal, a small Outer Rim planet that Leia had never heard of before.
After the introductions, Obi-Wan explained the situation. Leia, who was squished between him on her right and Luke on her left at the small table, listened silently until he finished recounting everything they knew about the situation.
When he was done, there was a short silence before Captain Syndulla spoke. “What do you think we can do, Master Kenobi?” Her eyes darted to Ahsoka. “And Fulcrum — Ahsoka, I’m not entirely sure why you thought it necessary for us to meet. I’m not sure the potential benefit outweighs the risk.”
“I understand your concern, Hera,” said Ahsoka. “But I believe that if we can locate Darth Vader, we will locate Padmé as well. And it might be a good idea for the few remaining Jedi to unite to save her — and possibly stop Darth Vader in the process.”
Obi-Wan flinched, but only barely; if Leia hadn’t been pressed up beside him, she wouldn’t have noticed. She mentally sent him soft, warm thoughts through the Force, and could feel his appreciation a moment later.
Hera nodded slowly as Kanan spoke. “If you think we can stop Darth Vader, that’s obviously a good idea, but how are we supposed to find him? He has the whole galaxy — he could be anywhere.”
“That’s why I thought you could help,” said Ahsoka. “Obi-Wan?”
He nodded. “Yes. I believe that if we can break into the Imperial holonet system, we’ll be able to find records of Vader’s personal ship. Wherever it stopped last is Padmé’s likely location.”
Captain Syndulla and Kanan both looked contemplative, but then Zeb spoke. “No offence, Master Jedi, but Senator Amidala’s disappearance is being reported all over the Core. Someone else must have thought of this already. And I don’t think Vader would leave records of where he took the Senator.”
Leia had thought of this, and she spoke up before anyone else did. “Vader’s not tied to her disappearance. Everyone in the Empire is scared of him, and while they may have reason to suspect his involvement, going after him would be suicide for an average Imperial. And he knows that — he knows what he can get away with. This isn’t even close to the worst thing he’s done under official Imperial jurisdiction.”
“What about the Emperor?” asked Sabine. “From what I’ve heard, Vader is his personal attack dog when he’s not slaughtering younglings—” Obi-Wan and Ahsoka both flinched at that, far more obviously than Obi-Wan had before, and Sabine faltered before continuing, “—or whatever he does with his free time.”
“He’s probably going to see how this plays out,” said Obi-Wan after a moment. “He has no reason to stop Vader, at least not immediately.”
There was silence for a moment, and Leia could tell that the gears were turning in the rebels’ heads — that they were considering that this might be possible after all.
“So what do we need to do?” asked Captain Syndulla after a long moment. Leia could feel Obi-Wan’s smile in the Force, lighting up like a bright sunrise.
The adults had dispersed, off to make plans, with their attack on the local Imperial centre hesitantly planned for the next evening. Ezra was left alone with the Naberrie twins — and Sabine, but she was painting something in the corner and didn’t seem interested in conversation.
He leaned back against the table, studying them. “So, you’re Jedi?”
Leia shrugged. Luke spoke hesitantly. “Yeah,” He said, glancing at his sister with an expression Ezra couldn’t read before looking back to him and continuing. “Jedi padawans. Apprentices, I mean. We’re - well, we’re still in training.”
“Cool.” Ezra looked down and studying his shoes. “I’m, uh, Kanan’s padawan. I guess. I didn’t know that it was called that.”
“Are you trained?” asked Leia with genuine interest, and Ezra looked back up.
“Uh, not really.” He felt his gaze slide back to Luke before he quickly looked away. “Kanan teaches me what he can, but he was only an apprentice when his master was killed, so he doesn’t know much.” That seemed harsh, and maybe too much to tell a stranger, so he tried to rectify it. “I mean, he’s a good teacher. He does know a fair amount.”
“Maybe you could get our dad to teach you,” said Luke, and Ezra couldn’t help but glance again hesitantly at the other boy. “Or Ahsoka,” Luke continued.
There was something about Luke’s face that was distracting. “That’s probably a good idea,” Ezra said, though he was too distracted to decide whether or not it really was. He was trying hard not to stare at Luke’s lips.
“Or Luminara,” added Leia. “She’s a great teacher.”
“Master Unduli,” Luke said helpfully. “She’s another Jedi, and our dad’s friend.”
“Why isn’t she here?” asked Ezra.
“She’s getting more help for - for the mission,” Luke said. He seemed nervous. Why would he be? It couldn’t be that it was Ezra who was making him nervous. He was probably just a nervous person in general.
“Huh.” Ezra said, leaning back against the wall. He fought the blush that he felt creeping across his face, trying to look casual. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Leia half-grin and turn to Sabine.
“You’re an artist?” Leia asked her.
Sabine looked up from her art — a painting on the back of someone’s datapad. Probably Zeb’s. It was upside down from where Ezra was, but he thought it looked like a stylized Rebellion symbol. “What? Oh — yes, I am.” She lifted the painting in her hands as if to show the evidence of her statement.
“Can I see some of your work, while we’re waiting?” Leia asked, practically batting her eyelashes, and Ezra suddenly realized what she was doing. His stomach dropped.
Sabine glanced back at him and then at Luke, and she grinned, an almost manic and possibly evil look in her eyes. Kriff. He’d never wanted a sister as a kid, and now that he had one, he knew his young self had been completely correct in his apprehension.
“Sure.” Sabine said. She left, Leia trailing behind, and Luke and Ezra were alone.
Luke watched them go with an odd expression. “Why did they—”
“Do you want to spar?” asked Ezra before he could lose his nerve. Luke blinked at him, eyes wide and a bright blue enough to drown in. Oh, kriff, this was really bad. He was already regretting asking.
“If you want a real competitor, Leia’s better than I am—”
“I’m not that good,” Ezra said, quickly. “Come on, just for fun.”
Luke glanced at the door where Leia and Sabine had exited, and then back at Ezra. He shrugged. “Sure.”
“Which of them is more oblivious, you think?” asked Leia under her breath as she peered down into the cargo hold that had been converted to a training room. Ezra and Luke slashed their sabers through the air, an artful dance that she would have barely been able to see if not for her Force sensitivity.
Sabine shrugged. “Your brother? Ezra is an idiot, sometimes, but I think he knows what he feels. Even if he represses it.”
“Fair enough.” Leia turned away and leaned against the railing, the cold metal pressing into her lower back. The air was punctuated by the hisses and sparking noises of Ezra and Luke’s lightsabers. She and Sabine were fairly close to them, but she was almost certain that the noises of fighting — and the trance-like state often brought about by a difficult spar and excessive use of the Force — was enough that their conversation would go unheard. “D’ya think anything will happen between them?”
“Hmm.” Sabine caught her bottom lip between her teeth, and glanced back at the sparring match before turning around and resting against the railing next to Leia. “I’d bet you five credits that it won’t… before the end of this mission, whatever it is. After that, I really don’t know.”
Leia grinned. “Deal.” She glanced back down at them again. Luke wasn’t as good with a lightsaber as she was, but Ezra clearly knew hardly anything about duelling; Luke had pinned him in the corner. Her grin widened. “I just hope we’re in the room where it happens.”
“It’s a pretty simple plan,” said Hera once the whole team had gathered back in the galley a little while later. Ahsoka noticed that Luke and Ezra both seemed tired, a bit sweaty, and — bruised? She made a mental note to ask Luke about it later. “We’re going to break into the Lothal control tower.”
“Simple.” Sabine raised a brow. “Right.”
Hera pressed a few keys in the holotable and a map sprung into the air as the lights dimmed. “We’ll split into three teams. The first team — Master Kenobi, Kanan, Luke, and Leia — will break into the tower. The second team — Ezra, Ahsoka, Sabine, and Zeb — will cause a distraction outside and keep the stormtroopers busy. Chopper and I will be the third team, and we’ll be waiting to retrieve the other teams when the time comes.”
“Who will break into the Imperial system?” asked Leia. Chopper warbled a response and rolled towards her.
“Like Chopper said, you’ll use this spike to get inside the system and download all information related to Darth Vader onto a datacube. It should take about five minutes.”
“What if we don’t have five minutes?” asked Leia.
Hera closed the map, and the room darkened substantially as the holotable powered down. “You will. Sabine is good at distractions.”
“Can I use an explosion?” Sabine asked, grinning.
“More than one?”
“Don’t take that as permission to blow up the building, Sabine. All right, everyone.” Hera stood. “We should all get some sleep. Tomorrow we’ll learn the details of our parts of the plan.”
The group dispersed, and Obi-Wan gathered Luke and Leia to head back to the Sea. Ahsoka trailed behind, but was stopped by Hera’s hand on her shoulder before she could leave the galley.
“I know why we’re doing this,” said Hera quietly when the others were out of earshot. “It’s noble. I understand. But we’re almost out of fuel, and we need some credits to put food on the table.”
“I understand,” said Ahsoka. “But this is important.”
“It is. But we’ll need some credits, and soon.”
“Don’t worry about that,” said Ahsoka. “I have an idea.”
Hera moved her hand off Ahsoka’s shoulder and looked at her in surprise. “Really?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll tell you once I’m sure it’ll work” said Ahsoka, and she left the galley to follow Obi-Wan and the twins.
Back in the Sea, Obi-Wan began brewing tea as Ahsoka sat down next to the twins. She nudged Luke with her arm. “What were you doing with Ezra?”
Luke jumped, and glanced up at her, wide-eyed. “Uh — nothing. Sparring.”
“Right,” Ahsoka said. She saw Leia grinning out of the corner of her eye, and fought to hide a smile. “Was he any good?”
“He was — he was okay.” Luke cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Of course,” said Leia. “I’m sure he’s more than okay.”
Luke’s face burned. “It’s not — kriff off, Leia.”
“Language,” said Obi-Wan from the kitchen with no real threat or energy in his voice.
Leia snickered. “Sure.” She stood. “I’m going to bed.” She left, and Ahsoka hid her smile as Obi-Wan carried three mugs of tea to the table with the Force. She grabbed her cup out of the air and took a long drink.
Obi-Wan sat down next to Luke and took a drink of his own tea. “So,” he said. “What’s Ezra like?”
Luke’s face got even redder, if that was possible, and Ahsoka laughed.