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The One-Shot Saga

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"Maul? You ok?"

The former Sith Lord Maul barely registered the voice of his unlikely companion. Something was calling out to him, summoning him even, and whatever it was resided in the cave that Ahsoka Tano had just exited.

The force sang to Maul, swimming in the darkness, radiating upon him like a warm sun. He could feel his muscles clench in anticipation beneath his skin. Whatever was calling to him was clearly trying to get under his skin, and was more than likely some sort of crazy apparition of the force.

It was almost as if something was daring him to enter, daring him to take the test.

And Maul was not one to back away in the face of a trial of some kind.

Without turning, he made a waving gesture with his hand behind him, hoping that it was angled in the Togruta's direction.

"Yeah, I think I'm going to stay for a bit. I feel the need to enter the cave myself. I'll bring the Jedi along shortly."

Without waiting for a response, Maul found himself walking down the slope and into the cave, his cybernetic legs clunking aloud, causing echoes to bounce off of the walls of the cave he was now in.

The ground was no different from outside. It was still swamp like, and reeked of one of the foulest stenches he had ever smelled. But it was nowhere near as bad as the garbage dump he had found himself in back when he lost his original legs, but it was still bad.

Pressing forward, Maul found himself forced to duck under a series of vines that hugged the walls of the cave. As he proceeded deeper and deeper, light began to fade from his vision, becoming obscured by a dense grey smog of some kind. The same grey covering was present outside of the cave, but in here it was even thicker.

By now the force was calling out to him in droves, the darkside penetrating his mind.

Images began to flash in his head. People from his past.

Sidious, Talzin, Dooku, Grievous.

"Brother?"

The voice stopped Maul in his tracks, and his breath halted in an instant.

His voice was so familiar, so similar to the last time he had heard it.

Turning slowly on his heel in the direction of the voice, Maul gasped aloud.

Before him, stood a tall Zabrak, much larger than him, but with yellow and black skin, as opposed to Maul's red and black.

"Brother?" Maul questioned quietly, his voice far more timid than he realised it could get.

"Yes Brother, it is me. Have you gotten your revenge yet?"

Maul wasn't a being of love. He felt no compassion for anyone. No desire to do anything for anyone, aside from himself. And even those who offered to help him would usually meet their ends one day, usually by his own hands.

But then his brother, Savage had come into his life. His brother had saved him, after being betrayed himself by his own masters.

That had bonded the two together, even if they were different. Savage would help him, and in turn Maul would help Savage, but not for their own separate agenda. They had a shared one. A common goal.

And so they had become partners, albeit not entirely equal ones. But partners none the less.

And somehow, down the path they had fought, Maul had come to admire his brother. Love him even, as any brother should.

And then he had been taken away from him, on the night of his greatest victory.

And when that had happened, Maul had become reclusive again, swearing to never care for anyone ever again.

"No I have not brother, not that it matters. You are not really here." Maul replied, sadness in his tone, before he continued to push deeper into the cave, passing right through the image of Savage that had been before him.

Maul's mind was whirling in anger. How dare whatever was trying to test him use the image of his fallen brother. What sort of trickery was this?

"I am here though brother, and you have changed much." The image of Savage appeared again before him, blocking Maul's way through the cave network.

"No you are not! You are dead!" Maul began to snarl, his hand ghosting over the hilt of his lightsaber.

And then another voice chimed in, cackling with glee.

"Yes, he is dead isn't he? A shame you were not powerful enough to save him, just as you won't be powerful enough to save her!"

And then another sound flooded his senses, one of a lightsaber igniting.

Before him, a red blade pierced through the image of Savage, much like it had done in real life, and the vision before him faded.

"NO!" Maul screeched, igniting his own saber and swinging it in rage at the image that now stood before him.

But rather than make contact as the Zabrak hoped, his red blade merely passed right through the cackling form of Sidious, causing Maul to stumble slightly and topple over from the weight of the rage enhanced swing.

"Pathetic, even now!" The image of Sidious taunted, before turning away from Maul.

Maul rose to his feet, baring his teeth and charging at the phantom before him.

And once again, he passed right through, his saber connecting with the wall of the cave rather than the image of Sidious.

Spinning around on his heel, Maul found himself face to face with a new vision before him.

Sidious still stood centre stage, and around him lie the bodies of various individuals. Savage was among them, but the others were unrecognizable.

At least at first glance they were. Maul began to take a tentative step forward, towards the nearest of the unrecognizable bodies than now littered the damp floor of the cave.

Reaching his hand out, Maul found a laceration that ran the length of the person's spine, one that was clearly caused by a lightsaber.

Grasping hold of the figure, he spun the body over.

As the corpse came the right side up, Maul backed away in horror at the sight of the familiar face, now still.

"Bridger?" Maul whispered, surprising himself by how effected he was by the sight of the young boy dead. Shifting his eyes away from the boy's fallen form, Maul began to identify the other bodies around him. Jarrus lay not far away, his body next to another form, one that clearly belonged to Captain Syndulla. Their hands were interlocked. Clearly they had gone down together.

Glancing to the left, Maul saw a large heap of metal, one that possessed various shades of orange.

"The astromech as well?" Maul inquired aloud, horror seeping in his tone. Who could have done such a thing?

"You have chosen well, my new apprentice. Now, rise and take your place by my side." Sidious voice then filled his senses, forcing Maul to snap out of his inner thoughts and focus on the situation at hand.

The phantom of Sidious had his back turned to Maul, suggesting that he was talking to someone else, rather than the Zabrak. Blinking once, Maul narrowed his eyes, focusing all his gaze in Sidious' form.

Or rather through it. The phantom was somewhat transparent, as if it was a ghost from some sort of bedtime story.

And through the form of Sidious, Maul could make out another figured, this one bowed before the Sith Lord, or their knees.

"Thank you my master. I had long since waited for this moment." Another voice flooded the cave, this one feminine, and hauntingly familiar to Maul.

The former Sith Lord began to move, rounding the phantom of his old master to get a closer look at the kneeling figure.

The figure had their head down, bowed in submission, but that didn't stop Maul from identifying the familiar white and blue montrals.

"No," Maul whispered again, glancing around at the fallen forms that coated the cave floor, "You wouldn't do that. I don't believe you would do that!"

And then the image around him faded, leaving him once again alone in the cave. Darkness crept around him again now that the images had faded.

Lady Tano would never do such a thing, no matter how hard Sidious tried to corrupt her… would she?

Maul's head began to spin, his vision becoming blurry. A lance of pain shot through his head, resulting in a slow pulsating ache in his mind. Surely he had not just seen the future? That wasn't the purpose of the cave, right?

More importantly, what had Lady Tano seen?

"Troubled you are?"

Maul groaned aloud, partly at his aching head, but also partly at the voice of the small green Jedi Master Ahsoka had stumbled across.

"Don't you have more important things to do right now? Go bug Kenobi!" Maul responded, his tone impatient.

"Meditating Master Kenobi is. No one to talk to I have. Appreciate the company, I would."

Maul found himself rolling his eyes. Why of all people did the little green Jedi want to talk to him?

Then it occurred to him. Lady Tano had entered the cave, clearly experienced something, and then left it, with the Jedi in tow.

Was all this controlled by the Jedi, as some sort of test?

Was he being tested by a Jedi?!

It was then that he heard chuckling, one that was not vindictive like Sidious', but one that was clearly full of humour.

"Took you longer to figure it out than I expected it did. Slow are you, hmm?"

The green Jedi's voice was beginning to grate on his nerves, but rather than argue, he decided to humour it back.

"Fine, what did you wish to discuss, 'master Jedi'?"

Maul waited a few moments, half expecting some sort of hostile retort from the Jedi.

But instead, once again, the Jedi known as Yoda simply laughed.

"Loss you feel. Remorse for the fate of your brother. Not want Ahsoka to suffer a similar fate you do. Why?"

It was a loaded question. Years ago he would never have imagined himself trying to help a Jedi, let alone want to willingly work with one. His only true companion in his life had been pain and death, one that had followed him around and taken everything he dared to hold dear away from him.

But then, out of nowhere, the Togruta had come. She had barged into his life, offering support, offering help.

Offering him a different path when he thought he had already found his.

And for some reason, he had accepted.

And now, once again, the spectre of death that seemed to follow him around was targeting her.

And he would not let it anywhere near her!

"She helped me when I didn't know I needed it, when everyone else would have turned me away. I see something of myself in her, a warrior cast aside by those she diligently served. But unlike me, she found herself again, whilst I continued on a path of self-destruction. Maybe, just maybe, I thought she might be able to do the same for me."

The voice of the Jedi Master was silent for a few seconds, clearly analysing Maul's words. So the Zabrak waited.

Then, the Jedi spoke again.

"Not infallible Ahsoka Tano is. Failure, always a possibility it is. Guide you she can. Help you she will. But your path, your own to decide, not hers to direct. Not the same person as your past. Different you are now. Balance you have achieved, in your own way. Use that to guide you, you must."

Normally, Maul would have never listened to a Jedi. Their advice was often born of their own ego, laced with an edge of pontification.

But the green Jedi's word struck a chord with the Zabrak. He couldn't rely forever on Lady Tano to keep him balanced. One day, she would not be available to help him, and he would have to find his own path once again. All she could do was advise and support him in his decisions, as any friend would.

"I understand. We share a bond, Lady Tano and I, but not would of dependency. Rather one forged and fuelled by a common goal. She walks her path, just as I must walk mine. Only when our paths align will we rely on one other, whenever and wherever that may be." Maul spoke aloud, surprising himself with the scale of the confusing rhetoric he wasn't even sure he understood. He knew what I meant in his heart. He and Lady Tano would go their own separate ways, but would always find their way back together when the situation required.

Hearing the green Jedi chuckle again aloud, a pleased edge to it, maul began to retrace his footsteps back out of the cave, satisfied with what he had seen and learnt.

For now, he and Lady Tano would stand side by side, facing Darth Sidious together, only to part ways at the end. That was, until they were called upon once more by the force to stand together, against what, Maul was unsure.

But he was looking forward to finding out.

Because now, now he had a purpose. One he would aim to fulfil.

And one that he hoped would keep him occupied for a long time to come.

After all, it would only take one small push and Maul knew what would happen.

He would relapse, and fall back into his old self.

And he never wanted to be that person again.

Chapter Text

The report from the Fifth Brother caught his eye instantly. The Jedi of Phoenix Squadron had been encountered yet again, this time accompanied by Maul of all people. The three Inquisitor's present didn't stand a chance, he knew that.

But that wasn't he focus right now. Rather, another part of the report was.

She was on Malachor. His apprentice.

'She's not your apprentice, she is Skywalker's you fool!'

Darth Vader shook the line of thinking from his mind, expelling his darker tendency as he focused on the facts. Since he had encountered her aboard the rebel ships, Vader had been tracking her, using every resource he had to try and find her, to isolate her.

To bring her back to him, where she belonged.

'She betrayed you! She left you.'

Vader felt his own thoughts turn on him again, before her promptly reigned them back in.

"Shut up!" He spoke aloud, his now cybernetic hands coming to cradle his head in agony.

The very thought of Ahsoka Tano being alive confused him, yet at the same time filled him with a sense of longing, one that he should not have as a Lord of the Sith.

As Darth Vader, he should have wanted to destroy her, as he did the rest. Obi-Wan had betrayed him, mutilated him, and left him for dead. Padme too had betrayed him, siding with Kenobi.

But Ahsoka? What had she done that was so terrible to him? Sure, she had left him, but even now he understood why she had done so. He may have been upset at the time, but he understood, and in a way he admired her for it.

As far as he was concerned, she hadn't betrayed him like the rest. And now she was simply lost, looking for her own path.

Vader knew what she needed. She needed her old master by her side once more. She needed the comfort and the bond that would bring. Together, he would help her find herself, just as Sidious had helped him.

'She is a Jedi!'

"No she isn't!" Vader boomed in response to his own thoughts again. He fought an internal war, which was evident. One part of him wanted to destroy the Togruta, the other, bring her back to him.

And whilst he still had control of his body, Darth Vader would not let anybody some much as harm his apprentice.

His apprentice. That was what she was. His alone.

"Mine" He whispered once.

"Mine!" He said again, louder this time.

Standing from his seat, Vader moved to approach a desk he kept in his private quarters in his fortress on Mustafar.

Glancing down at the desk, his eyes were drawn to a small trophy like case, containing the lightsabers of various individuals he had killed.

But right now, those were not his concern. Shifting his gaze again, his eyes came to rest onto a podium, one that he had constructed himself to house a familiar set of cylindrical hilts.

He had found them of Mandalore, buried in a grave that bared the markings of his old clone captain. He had gone to see, gone to confirm what he hoped was untrue. Surely, she would have survived. The reports had to be wrong. She couldn't be dead!

And when he had found the grave, he knew. She had escaped, somehow. And no doubt she was in hiding.

He could have searched for her then, told Sidious of his assumption that she might still live.

Instead, he had kept it as a secret, swearing that when the day came that she re-emerged, as he knew she would, he would find her first, and bring her back to him.

"Mine!"

Reaching his hand out, Vader clasped the hilt of Ahsoka's lightsaber gently, lifting it up to inspect it.

It was strange touching it now. He had kept it for so long, hoping one day to reunite it with its owner.

Delving into the force, Vader sought out the signature of the kyber crystal within. It radiated dark energy now, as opposed to the song of the light it had sung before. When she had re-emerged from the shadows, he had taken it upon himself to corrupt the crystals within the hilts, bleeding them in preparation for her return to his side.

After all, he was only looking after his apprentice, helping her along, as he had done in the past.

"Mine!"

His hand continued to ghost along the hilt of the saber, before he gently pressed and held down the ignition switch, igniting the saber before him. A brilliant red beam of energy erupted from the tip, casting its glow around his private quarters.

Vader may not have been able to see anything in a shade other than red, courtesy of his helmet, but it was still a most beautiful sight to him. He imagined what his apprentice would look like, blade in her hand, the burning red contrasting against the scorching orange of her skin.

Swinging the blade gently from left to right, Vader allowed himself the enjoy the sounds the blade made as it moved through the air, the distortion of space around him being ionised by the swings, creating a low pitched whine.

Extinguishing the saber, he turned the hilt over in his hand once, before gently placing it back down on the stand he had built for it, next to her shoto.

Taking a step away from the trophies he had, Vader glanced down at the report once again.

She was on Malachor, and he was going to find her, and bring her back to him.

"Mine!"

'She is not yours, she is Skywalker's! You are not Skywalker!'

"MINE!" Vader repeated, bellowing it out aloud to no one but himself and his own mind.

His thoughts turned to an expedition he had once. It had merely been a matter of convenience that he had ended up on Shili hunting a traitor to the empire, but upon arrival, he had discovered a small village of Togruta in a valley surrounded by trees.

He had stood upon a hilltop, far enough away as to not be seen, but close enough that he was able to view everything. He had watched as the Togruta had interacted with one another, watched as the younglings had played with one another, enjoying the simplicity of their life.

Normally, he would never have been as compassionate as the watch such a simple event, but as he had he couldn't help but think of his Togruta. His Ahsoka.

His apprentice.

She had been taken from this life by the Jedi, and forced into servitude, much like he had been taken from his mother. Vader had wondered if she even remembered her parents. Maybe he could find them for her, reunite them.

"No, she is mine alone." Vader had reminded himself at that moment. "Only I can protect her now."

He had abandoned his observation shortly afterwards, heading off to deal with an imperial traitor.

But that hadn't stopped him thinking about her all the way.

And now, back in his private quarters, he couldn't help but think again. Was she taller now? Did she have longer lekku? How skilled was she with her lightsaber? Had she mastered the duel blade technique that he never could? Would she still call him 'Skyguy'? Would he still call her 'Snips'?

All the questions shot through his head. He should never have been so fixated on her. She was a remnant of her past that she should forget.

But she was also his apprentice. His alone.

Vader's comm link then sprung to life.

"My Lord, your fighter is prepped, as per your instructions."

The voice of one of his servants broke his train of thought, and Vader snapped back to reality.

It was time to go to Malachor.

"Excellent work, I will be there momentarily." Vader replied, before cutting the channel.

Glancing back over to where he stored her lightsabers on their own separate pedestal, Vader allowed himself to smile beneath his mask, a rare feat these days. To be honest, he couldn't remember the last time he had ever smiled. Probably when Padme was still alive.

"I coming Ahsoka. You won't be alone for much longer."

And with that, Vader pivoted on his heel and exited his quarters, bound for his ship.

Bound for Malachor.

Bound for his apprentice.

"Mine!"

Chapter Text

"Love, you got a minute?"

Kanan was brought out of his deep meditation by the sound of Hera's voice. To him, it was one of the most beautiful things he had ever heard. Capable of healing anything around it, whilst also destroying anything that opposed it. When angry, Hera Syndulla was a force to be reckoned with. He'd almost compare her to a Star Destroyer.

But in here, in his private quarters on the Ghost, there was no malice or damage intended. Only compassion and love.

"For you, always." Kanan replied, listening to the force around him as he heard Hera move to enter his room, the doors sliding shut behind her. How he longed to be able to see her again. To lock eyes with her own. To watch her pilot, and marvel at her skills.

But since Malachor he couldn't. He was blind, something that had deeply affected and traumatised him at first.

But now, now he was used to it, and he used it to his own advantage. Without his sight, he had been forced to fall back on his training, to relearn the basics.

And through that, he had learnt to see again, albeit in a much different way.

The force shimmered around him, indicating that Hera had sat down opposite him. He may no longer have been able to see her, but he would always be able to feel her.

"I've got something for you. Picked it up on the market when I had a minute." Hera spoke, her ever calm voice soothing him.

"Hmm, I do like presents. What is it? A new speeder bike? Or maybe a new blaster? Oh, I know, piloting lessons!"

Hera's laughter in response was music to Kanan's ears, one that brought a bright smile to his face.

"No love, it's for your scar."

Kanan's smile fell at the mention of his wound. It was an ugly mark, even if it had mostly healed by now. The dark black stripe that covered his eyes had burnt away skin at first, and it had taken months of bacta treatment to heal the skin.

Now, all that was left was an ugly scar, one that frequently chaffed.

Still, he wasn't about to let it get him down. So rather than show weakness, he opted for his fall-back.

Humour.

"Finally got fed up of seeing my ugly face huh? Brought me some makeup?"

Hera chuckled again, before her hands reached out to gently grasp the mask that covered Kanan's face.

Kanan felt the pressure being removed off of his eyes, before he heard Hera set aside the mask.

"No exactly love, but it will help. You trust me, right?" Hera replied, her voice compassionate.

"Always Hera, always." Kanan replied, his own voice showing nothing but affection for the Twi-lek in front of him.

"Then hold still."

Kanan had learnt long ago to follow the orders of Hera Syndulla in any situation. Those who disobeyed her often did not fare too well. Even in more private situations such as this, Kanan knew that Hera was the boss.

Frankly, he wouldn't have it any other way.

It was then that he felt the gentle touch of Hera's hands upon his face, gently caressing a line across his closed eyes, rubbing something cold into the scar tissue.

The sensation sent a shiver down his spine briefly, and the cold of whatever it was being rubbed into his face caused him to shiver further.

"Oh come on you big baby, it's just some cream for scar tissue. It's supposed to help ease any after damage, such as chaffing." Hera's voice was full of humour as her hands briefly left his face, only to return moments later with more of the cold stuff.

"Couldn't you have brought the warm version?" Kanan inquired as he underwent the treatment from Hera, who scoffed aloud and continued her work.

A few minutes later, Hera pulled her hands back again, and Kanan hear what sounded like the screwing up of a pot lid.

"There, put some of that on your eyes every day and it should make the injury less uncomfortable." Hera said, coming to embrace Kanan in a warm hug.

Upon feeling the embrace, Kanan reached out and hugged her back, his face already feeling better.

"Thanks Hera. Glad I've got you to watch my back."

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Ezra was busy, as he was most days. Running around a rebel base organizing supplies and inventory was not his idea of fun. Why he had been volunteered for this assignment he didn't know.

And it didn't help that he had to work with AP-5. That droid was a perfectionist. If something was out of place, he would no doubt submit an entire report on it to their superiors, and Ezra would be left taking the blame.

And then Zeb would no doubt mock him for it.

Still, he pushed forward, helping to move a crate of rations across the rebel base on Yavin Four. They were scheduled to be transported to another planet shortly, one that was under the oppression of a trade blockade thanks to the Empire.

As he shifted the crate, something bumped into his leg.

Glancing down, he spotted the familiar orange paint job of Chopper, who beeped up at him in concern.

"Not now Chop I'm busy." Ezra spoke, before continuing on with the crate he had, carefully carrying it to the location it was required in.

But Chopper apparently was not going to give in so easily, as the astromech followed the young Jedi, once again bumping into his legs from behind, causing Ezra to stumble.

"Hey! Watch it Chop!"

Chopper seemed to laugh for a moment, before he beeped up at Ezra again, saying something about him forgetting to do something.

"Look Chop, I've got stuff to do. Whatever it is can wait. Go bug Zeb or Kallus."

This time Chopper seemed to give up, as he released a series of offended sounds, before wheeling himself away.

Rolling his eyes, Ezra continued onwards with his crate, entering into the hanger bay of the temple on Yavin Four that acted as the rebel base.

Depositing the crate where AP-5 had told him to, Ezra turned around, intending on heading back to receive his next orders from the inventory droid.

Only to walk right into, and trip over, Chopper.

Crashing into the floor, Ezra heard the laughter of Chopper echo inside the temple. Clearly the droid had decided to cause mischief today.

Groaning at the brief amount of pain that shot through his body, Ezra rose back to his feet, gently kicking the astromech in annoyance.

"What is your problem today Chopper?!"

The orange astromech seemed to rear back in false shock for a moment, beeping something that sounded like 'who me?', before producing something he had evidently stored inside of him, and handing it out to Ezra.

The young Jedi was confused momentarily, before bending down to look closer at the object Chopper held.

It was a small plastic container, one that clearly contained something. On its side, a small picture of a human female applying something to her face was present.

"Chopper, why do you have some moisturiser?" Ezra inquired, recognizing the product. Chopper was into some bizarre things, but this was new and confusing.

But what was even more surprising was the droid's response.

[It's for you.]

'Ok, he's lost it. Better run a diagnostic.' Ezra thought briefly. Clearly something was wrong with Chopper. It would explain the droid's actions so far.

"Why are you giving me women's moisturiser? Where did you even get this from?" Ezra decided to humour the droid for now. It would make it easier to get him to shut down for a diagnostic.

[Bought it.]

"With what money?" Ezra replied, now beginning to grow suspicious.

[Stole it then. Same thing.]

Ezra couldn't help the sigh that escaped his body, or the face palming that followed. That sounded a lot more like Chopper. But it still didn't explain why he had stolen it in the first place. And why for Ezra?

So he asked the astromech again.

[For the scar on your face. Thought it might help. Make the skin smooth again, like my plating.]

Ezra could count on one hand the number of times that Chopper had done something nice for him, even if it was a bit out of nowhere. Usually, the droid only did so when he wanted something.

And whilst the 'gift' was a bit random and perhaps a few years too late, Ezra was not one to turn down a surprise. Maybe he could find a use for the moisturiser.

After all, it was not every day that Chopper was feeling generous.

Reaching out, Ezra extracted the pot of moisturiser from Chopper's clawed hand.

"Thanks buddy. I owe you one."

*************************************************************************************************************************************

She didn't know about it, at least as far as she was aware.

Every night, when the two of them retired to bed, Kaeden Larte would ensure she stayed awake longer than Ahsoka, waiting for the Togruta to fall asleep beside her. The woman had a tendency to sleep on her side, offering her back to Kaeden.

And that played perfectly into Kaeden's hands.

When she was absolutely certain that Ahsoka had drifted off into a deep sleep, usually evidenced by her light soothing snores that the Togruta was adamant she didn't do, then Kaeden would make her move.

Tonight was no exception. Reaching down beneath the bed they shared, she scooped up a small pot of cream that Maul had given her in one of his rarer kind moments, and unsealed the lid, before reaching her hand into the cream within, and taking a sizable amount out.

When that was done, she used her other hand to gently lift the back of Ahsoka's top up, exposing the orange skin of her back.

The orange skin that was now covering in lightning shaped marks, the only lasting damage of her fight with Sidious.

Ahsoka claimed that they didn't hurt, and that she cared little about what people would think about them, but then Kaeden had seen Ahsoka in her more private moments, reaching a hand back to scratch the scarring. Clearly they were disturbing her.

So one night, Kaeden have covertly began to apply skin irritation prevention cream to Ahsoka's back, gently rubbing it in when she was asleep.

Clearly the stuff was working, as Ahsoka stopped scratching her back, and seemed less in discomfort in her day to day life.

Repeating the process that she did every night, Kaeden gently massaged the cream into Ahsoka's back, careful not to wake the Togruta up. When she had covered the length of the scarring, Kaeden allowed herself to smile, before leaning forward and gently placing a kiss to Ahsoka's back, willing the injury to heal, before placing the lid back on the pot of cream, and returning it to the hiding spot under the bed.

Settling back down into bed, Kaeden gently pulled Ahsoka's top back down, covering the scarring, before nestling her own head against Ahsoka's back.

The last thing she heard before she drifted off to sleep was the gently snore of Ahsoka, who was none the wiser to Kaeden's nightly mission.

Chapter Text

From the office of Grand Admiral Mitth'raw'nurodo to the office of ISB Colonel Wullf Yularen and office of Emperor Sheev Palpatine.

The following is a target dossier on the individuals of the rebel cell Phoenix Squadron referred to as the 'Spectres'.

************************************************************************************************************************************************

Spectre One: Caleb Dume, alias Kanan Jarrus.

Despite holding the title of Spectre One, the Jedi once known as Caleb Dume, now Kanan Jarrus, does not appear to be the true leader of this rebel team. Whether this is an attempt of clever deception on their half, or an attempt to make Jarrus feel like he is in charge is unknown. Evidently this man was merely a padawan when clone order 66 was enacted, and from reports written by the now deceased Grand Inquisitor, survived only thanks to the sacrifice of his Jedi Master Depa Billaba. Due to this sacrifice at such a young age, it is possible that Jarrus suffers from considerable post-traumatic stress disorder, something that could possibly be used against him in future encounters.

However, whilst this may very well be a vulnerability we can exploit, it is also his greatest strength. Being witness to such a sacrifice has no doubt hardened Jarrus, willing him on to ensure no further sacrifices are made by those he cares for. Reports indicate that he will opt for unorthodox plans on frequent occasions, many which our imperial commanders are unprepared for, giving him a major advantage against us.

It should also be noted this whilst his training as a Jedi are limited, he is still one of considerable power. He is adept with a lightsaber, and reports from Inquisitors suggest that he is a notable practitioner of form three, known as Soresu. This offers Jarrus a strong defensive style of fighting, making it hard to break through his defences to actually wound or debilitate the Jedi.

Recent engagements with Jarrus have also revealed new information. Evidently he has sustained an injury that had rendered him blind. However, this does not mean that he is a threat, as his impairment appears to not only strengthened his resolve, but offered him a kind of stability that the legends of the Jedi speak of.

However, Jarrus is not without weaknesses, the prime one being his relationship with the pilot of the Ghost, Hera Syndulla. Whilst not overtly open about it, history suggests the two are engaged in a romantic relationship, and that Jarrus would come to her aid in danger at any time. This could possibly be used to bait him out.

In conclusion, Caleb Dume is a potential threat to the empire, but his power is overshadowed by larger threats at the moment. Inevitably, he will need to be eliminated. However, at the moment it is my opinion that we have far more pressing matters and individuals to deal with.

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Spectre Two: Captain Hera Syndulla

Despite holding the title of Spectre Two, all reports suggest that Hera Syndulla is the true leader of the crew of the Ghost. She is tactically minded, a trait she no doubt learnt from her father, and an outstanding pilot, one that rivals legends such as Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader. Her ability to fly a modified VCX-100 light freighter in combat situations as opposed to a fighter is proof of this. Imperial pilots have begun to enact their own protocols when encountering this vessel in combat. The troopers refer to it the 'Run Away' protocol. Examination and study, as well as reprimand may be needed for such pilots who enact this 'protocol'.

Syndulla is also known to be adept at diplomacy, and is one of the key members of this growing rebellion. Many appear to go to her for advice, and reports from Agent Alexsandr Kallus suggest that she is also proficient at discovering traitors in her midst, as shown by her actions involving the imperial senator Gall Trayvis.

However, when analysing Syndulla's character, as well as how she fights, it is important to note that she is willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. The destruction of her home on Ryloth is proof of this. However, much like Jarrus, it might very well be possible to bait her out via threats to her team. She evidently views them as her family, which is something that I have noted that Twi-leks take very seriously.

Ultimately, Hera Syndulla is a priority target, one that must be eliminated if we are to succeed. However, her skills as a pilot, and as a military strategist have made this task difficult. Time and time again she escapes, even from a well organised trap. In order to defeat her, we will need time and patience, as well as the best pilots in our navy. To counter this, I have accelerated plans on the new prototype TIE Defender program. Hopefully that will provide us an edge.

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Spectre Three: C1-10P, alias Chopper

Perhaps the most perplexing of the Spectres, the orange C1 series astromech has proven to be quite elusive. As a military strategist, I almost admire the astromech for its ingenuity. As a Grand Admiral of the Imperial Navy however, I cannot but be astonished at how time and again our troops have failed to identify and destroy this droid. Perhaps a change in protocol is required in regards to the verification process of such droids. If not, we could very well lose more to this renegade droid.

Digging deep into the archives I have discovered that this particular droid once participated in the battle of Ryloth during the clone wars. This would mean it was under the command of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, as well as Jedi Commander Ahsoka Tano (my Emperor, please see the attached file for my assembled dossier on Tano).

Evidently, at some point during the campaign the fighter he was in was shot down and he was extracted from the rubble, hence how he came into the possession of Hera Syndulla.

The droid itself has demonstrated a severe lack of concern for organic life. Audio files extracted from the remains of a destroyed TIE Interceptor suggest that the droid was willing to murder an infant on the prospect that it might be a 'Baby Inquisitor'. It is possible that damage sustained to the droid in the past has corrupted its systems internally, supporting a reason for this reckless attitude demonstrated.

In conclusion, while this ancient astromech may very well be technology of the past, time and time again it has played a paramount role in the success of the Spectre team. Therefore, when next sighted, this droid must either be incapacitated or destroyed to ensure any level of success for the empire. However, from what I have witnessed so far, nothing short of the Base Delta Zero initiative would be enough to terminate the droid.

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Spectre Four: Garazeb Orrelios, alias Zeb, Commander Meiloorun

A Lasat is a rare sight these days, no doubt thanks to the devastation that came to their home planet of Lasan, (My Emperor, my studies may suggest that Lasan was not the true homeworld of the Lasat species, but merely a colony. Their true homeworld may very well lie beyond know space. I suggest deploying long range research teams to investigate at once)

From details gathering during the siege of Lasan, as well as recent engagement, the Lasat known as Zeb is evidently one of the renowned Lasat Honor Guard. His strength in combat, as well as his surprisingly strategic mind have strongly benefited the rebel team again and again. Agent Kallus himself reports him to be a formidable adversary with a bow staff, a weapon that his held with high regard in Lasat society.

However, while the Lasat is indeed dangerous, from my research his talents appear to be wasted. It is almost as if he is forgotten more often enough by his superiors. While unlikely, this may very well sow some seeds of dissention. He may very well be possible to bribe, were it not for the devastation caused to Lasan.

Still, he is a formidable adversary, one not to be trifled with, and one that should be eliminated on sight.

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Spectre Five: Sabine Wren

Mandalorians are among the most predictable culture in the known galaxy, and Sabine is no different. She is proficient will all firearms and explosives, and an adept pilot both with ground based vehicle and space faring ones.

However, like all Mandalorians, she is zealous, despite running away from her culture. He continued use of one set of customized Mandalorian armour may very well be something we can exploit in the long run, if the rumours about the weapon she developed are true. It is likely that without access to such Mandalorian equipment, Wren would become an obsolete threat.

That being said, Wren does differ from other Mandalorians I have encounter with her passion of the artistic nature. She has displayed time and again that she has a strong grasp of colour and stoke, creating various images around the galaxy, most commonly on Lothal, that represent not only her but her rebel crew as well. He consistently changing appearing also suggests that she likes the variety of life. Perhaps in another life she could have become a great artist, one that I would have enjoyed viewing works of in a gallery.

That being said, her artistic side may very well be her undoing one day. As an expert in art and culture, I have already been able to learn much about both her and her rebel cell. One day she will slip up and create something that gives everything away, I am certain.

In conclusion, whilst normally I would advocate the elimination of such a threat to imperial infrastructure, it might be more prudent to leave her alive for now, allowing for continued study of her art, until it at very least reveals something vital.

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Spectre Six: Ezra Bridger, alias Jabba

The newest addition to the Spectre team, if reports from both Kallus and the Grand Inquisitor are to be believed, Ezra Bridger appears to be a Jedi in training, learning from Jarrus. Like most Master and Apprentice relationships, Bridger shows many of the same qualities as Jarrus, such as a reckless abandon when his friends are in trouble, and a strong passion to do what is right.

The demise of his parents seems to have hardened him, and it is clear that he struggles somewhat with his control over the force. With Jarrus himself not being a fully trained Jedi, it is unlikely that Bridger will live up to his full potential anytime soon. However, that does not mean he is to be underestimated. Much like the astromech, Bridger has shown a proficiency for infiltration, often moving through ventilation ducts or across rooftops to evade patrols of troopers.

Further study has revealed that in recent months, Bridger has been elevated to a more prestigious role within the growing rebellion, suggesting that he is being groomed for a leadership role in the future. This may be something we can exploit further down the line that is if Bridger manages to establish himself as a leader who does things in certain ways. If that is the case, then he could very well become predictable, and thus easy to counter.

Bridger's position as a Jedi in training also marks him both as a severe threat, but also an opportunity, one that your Grand Inquisitor entertained the idea of before his demise. If Bridger could be persuaded to join us, he would make a valuable ally, however unlikely this outcome is of course.

All in all, whilst Bridger has much to learn still, he is a viable threat, one that must be contained.

A shame then that all our resident Jedi experts have so far failed to defeat him and his master. No doubt the assistance of Ahsoka Tano has something to do with that.

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Overall Summary: Essentially, the crew of the Ghost is one of the more successful rebel cells we have encountered so far. Their small family like organization allows them to move quickly and with strong intent, and their reliance upon one another, while possibly a flaw in the long run, has earned them victory after victory. In addition to that, the Spectres have created quite the name for themselves amongst their fellow rebels, drawing in all forms of support from all sides.

In conclusion my Emperor, I would be more than willing to take on the task of removing this threat to the empire, as well as the task to apprehend the target we spoke of recently in private.

May you reign for many more years your excellency.

Grand Admiral Thrawn

[Message sent]

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(Details of report copied into second file and sent to an unauthorized address)

Eli,

Enclosed in this file is a document detailing the actions of a rebel cell I have recently begun tracking down. They are proving elusive, even for me.

Whilst the Emperor sees them as a threat, it is possible that they may be allies in the long run. Only time will tell. But something isn't right here. The Emperor has begun diverting resources to some sort of secret project, rather than quelling this insurgency. I get the feeling that we are being left in the dark about much.

I hope my people are treating you well. Your skills will be benefitting them greatly no doubt.

Till we next meet my friend.

Thrawn

[Message sent]

Chapter Text

Bleeding.

That was what the process was called. The art of corrupting a kyber crystal. Of filling it with all sorts of negative emotions that an individual had kept concealed from the world for so long.

All of the fear, the anger, the hatred, the animosity.

All of that twisted together and forced into one small crystal.

And from that, the creation of a single powerful entity, one that fuelled the person who used it.

The only issue was acquiring a kyber crystal in the first place. Lucky for him, he already had a pair from his previous life.

The Jedi were not all they were made up to be. Hearing stories about them when he was younger, before his abduction by them, he always saw them as paragons of justice, who swept in at the right moment to save the day and ensure the villains were defeated.

But up close, by being part of them, by being one of them, he had learned the truth.

It was all a lie. A façade. They were no better than the ones the stories said they opposed. They stole children from their families. Indoctrinated them with religious zealotry. Ensured they could not have what many would deem normal in life.

The Jedi forced people to withhold themselves, to become an empty shell that followed orders and rules.

A yes man.

Their strictness yielded results, that much was certain. Many individuals rose to prominence throughout the reign of the Jedi, and all from humble beginnings.

But those that were not so successful, those that were deemed by the Jedi teachers as beings of lower skill, especially in comparison to other Jedi in training, they were cast aside. Forced to work on agricultural projects, rather than continue to train and aim for success.

He could imagine nothing worse than working on a farm, especially when he had trained to fight his entire life.

The Jedi were flawed, there was no question about it. Even from the outside people would see it, but in a way it held a sort of charm. Made them seem more lifelike, and not some sort of deity like organization.

But from within, the flaws were much worse. They had begun to eat away at him, twisting his mind in ways the Jedi had 'encouraged' him not to think.

Someone had needed to say something. The war that waged around them only further demonstrated the flaws of the Jedi. Were they not supposed to simply be monks who upheld peace in the galaxy? Not military generals.

But he hadn't said anything, at risk of being labelled a traitor. No doubt they would have exterminated him if he had done.

So he had kept quiet, keeping all his concerns and opinions to himself. And as he had done that, they had further eaten away at him, changing him.

And then someone had spoken out, or rather, acted out.

Barriss Offee. She had spoken before the entire planet, labelling the Jedi as monsters and traitors, pointing out how they had lost their way.

And he had agreed with it. Every word she had said was true. Maybe now things would change.

But they didn't. As expected, the Jedi covered up Offee's statements with a 'fallen to the darkside' accusation, and had locked her away for interrogation.

But that didn't stop the words from resonating with him, and with various other individuals around the temple. Jedi began to covertly question their masters, and the will of the council seemed more and more corrupt by the day.

And then it had all gone to hell. The temple had been attacked, and the Jedi were slaughtered.

Except for a select few.

A select few that he was no privileged to be part of.

And so now he sat on the cold floor, the various pieces of his former lightsabers before him, and the kyber crystals that had once sung a bright tune.

And now he had to corrupt them.

Pulling on his hatred for the Jedi, his questioning of their beliefs, he focused. In his mind he pictured the crystals, glowing a soft green, and began to change them. He flooded them with his anger, flooded them with his hatred.

Flooded them with his ambition.

And slowly he felt them begin to change. Their presence in the force, once bright, began to darken as they were corrupted.

He felt the energy within them begin to buckle, as the bond between Jedi and crystal snapped harshly. He felt them twist to his new beliefs, felt them begin to radiate with dark energy.

Opening his eyes briefly, he spotted both crystals, now pulsating dark red.

Moving his hands slowly around him, he began to manipulate the force, moving the crystals through the air, suspending them before him.

Then, with another tug, he pulled the various components that made up his new weapon closer. The design had been gifted to him by his new master, and he fully intended to make good use of the brutal design.

Delving deeper into the force, he pulled the various components together, joining them together and locking the two now corrupted kyber crystals within his new weapon.

When an audible click reached his ears, and he felt a rush of power through the force, he pulled back, opening his eyes, and allowing the now fully constructed lightsaber to fall into his clawed palm.

The weapon was heavy. Heavier than his previous blades, but that made sense. This one was designed to overwhelm his opponents quickly, rather than get drawn into a long duel.

The perfect weapon to hunt Jedi with.

Standing from his seated position, he ran his hand along the hilt of his new weapon, finding the ignition switch for one of the blades, and thumbed it on.

A bright beam of red flared to life, illuminating the room he was in and flooding his sense.

He could feel the raw power of his new weapon, ready for the kill.

The door behind him opened suddenly, revealing another like him.

"Our Masters have summoned us brother."

And with that she turned and left the room, leaving him to his thoughts.

No longer was he a Jedi. That period of his life was over.

No he was something more. And he was ready to finally make his name known throughout the galaxy. Ready to make his mark on history.

His former name was dead. He was no Jedi anymore.

He was the Eighth Brother, and he was looking forward to completing his training for the first time in years.

Chapter Text

"Are you sure he's being kept here?"

Sabine very nearly sighed aloud. Ezra always seemed to ask questions in the thick of combat. Admittedly, it was a good question. The intel they had receive all pointed to her father being kept in the facility they were currently in.

The only issue was that the facility itself had a large quantity of troopers defending it, as well as what remained of the Imperial Supercommados.

The death of Tiber Saxon had clearly thrown Mandalore into further chaos, with various clans uniting together to oppose the Saxon loyalists.

Clan Wren was one such clan. The second they had heard the possible location of the Alrich Wren they had mobilized what forces they had.

The second Ezra had heard about the mission he had volunteered to assist, knowing how important Sabine's family was to her. Despite the fact they had just survived one suicide mission, Ezra didn't seem too bothered about joining what was likely to be another one.

And for that Sabine was grateful.

Unfortunately, the facility itself was too heavily guarded for a full frontal assault, and Clan Wren simply did not possess enough firepower to deal with the situation themselves.

So they had put out a call to possible allies to help them.

At the time, Sabine would have admitted that she doubted anyone coming, especially considering how tarnished the Wren name was, no doubt thanks to her own work.

So when a small detachment of Mandalorians claiming they were of Clan Kryze had agreed to help, Sabine had been incredibly grateful. Clan Kryze was legendary. Once they had ruled all of Mandalore, before Maul that was.

Sabine still didn't trust the Zabrak, even if Ahsoka did. His past was too clouded, and she would watch him every second she could see him.

But now Clan Kryze willing to throw their lot in with Clan Wren, and Sabine certainly wasn't going to question.

And so they had planned their assault. Clan Wren and Fenn Rau, supported by Bo-Katan Kryze would assault the front of the facility, drawing away as many guards as possible, creating an opening for Sabine and Ezra, who in turn would sneak into the facility mostly undetected.

And it had worked. Under the chaos of the raging battle outside, Sabine and Ezra had flown in with Jetpacks, landing atop the station and making their way inside.

Only to be immediately greeted by a squad of Stormtroopers.

The two had gone to work instantly, working in tandem to defeat them. In the time they had fought beside one another, Sabine and Ezra had created a style of fighting.

Ezra would deflect, and Sabine would assault.

The very image of Jedi and Mandalorian, side by side in battle was one that eons ago would have been unthinkable.

Now however, there was no one she trusted more with her life than Ezra Bridger.

"He's here Ezra, we just have to get past the welcoming committee." Sabine replied to Ezra's earlier comment, blasting a pair of troopers in the process. At the same time, Ezra sharply twisted his own wrist, pivoting his emerald saber in precise arcs, reflecting fire back at the troopers, and scoring a hit.

Mere moments, after the battle began, it ended, the smell of carbon scoring being the only thing filling Sabine's senses, even beneath her helmet.

The telltale sound of Ezra's blade extinguishing was then heard, and the young Jedi turned to throw a smirk in Sabine's direction.

"That was easy."

Sabine shook her own head in response to Ezra's statement, before replying.

"I wish you wouldn't say that."

Ezra chuckled in return, before his eyes began to dart around the room, scanning for any more threats.

"Think we got them all before they could sound an alarm?" Ezra inquired once his sweep was complete.

Sabine merely nodded in confirmation from where she was now. A nearby terminal held everything she needed. Prisoner details and locations.

Cycling through various pages of prisoners, many of whom had the word 'executed' next to them, Sabine found the one she was looking for.

"He's in cell block four, room three."

With that she set off down the hallway, Ezra right behind her.

Rounding a series of bends, and being forced to deal with another pair of guards in the process, the two young warriors found themselves in another long hallway, one labelled as cell block four.

Slowing her pace, Sabine began to make her way down the hallway, checking the doors to the cells as they passed by.

And then a voice called out.

"Face me traitor! Single combat!"

Sabine's head snapped forward in an instant, taking in the individual before her, one that was dressed armour that resembled Stormtrooper armour, but was clearly made from Beskar.

An Imperial Supercommando.

The commando held what appeared to be an electrostaff in his hands. How he had acquired it Sabine was unsure. All that mattered was that single combat had been challenged, and she possessed no melee weapon to counter the commando's electrostaff.

And then she felt Ezra nudge her from behind.

Glancing back at the young Jedi, Sabine nearly gasped at what he held out for her to take.

"Kick his ass."

It was rare for a Jedi to give their lightsaber for anyone else to use, let alone someone who wasn't able to manipulate the force as he could.

But right now, here Ezra stood, the hilt of his weapon held out for her to use.

Beneath her helmet, Sabine locked her eyes with Ezra's, making sure he knew what he was doing.

In response, Ezra nodded his head and further gestured for her to take his saber.

So she did.

The hilt was heavier than she had expected, much different from other swords she had held before. But then she supposed that was the point. The lightsaber was a legendary weapon, one that was no supposed to be easy to use.

Even if Kanan and Ezra made the blades look easy to use, Sabine knew just from testing the weight of the hilt that she was at a disadvantage.

And then she pushed the ignition switch.

Bright green light erupted from the emitter, producing the deadly emerald blade that Sabine had seen time and again covering her back.

Only this time it was in her hands, not Ezra's.

The hilt felt heavier now the blade was ignited. She twisted her wrist side to side briefly, testing the weight and movement of the blade as she did so. She would have to adapt fast to this unique weapon, even if she didn't quite understand how it worked.

"It feels like it is alive!" Sabine murmured to herself despite the situation, her voice full of awe. She may not have been able to touch the force as Ezra was, but even she could feel the power of the blade now in her hands.

"I know what you mean." Ezra replied, having overheard Sabine.

Gripping the hilt in her hands tightly, Sabine pivoted to face the Supercommando, and crouched into a ready position that felt comfortable to her.

Across from her, down the hallway, the commando did the same, the two ends of his electrostaff sizzling with lethal purple energy.

It would take more than one strike to take her down, but if a strike got through, no doubt the disorientation that followed would cause her to lose the duel.

And then the commando charged, rotating the staff in his hands into a vicious upwards arc.

Sabine was forced to evade backwards, bringing Ezra's lightsaber up to deflect one end of the staff, before attempting a counter attack of her own.

The commando responded in kind, pivoting his own body weight in a way that allowed him to shift the staff to block the lightsaber strike, before unleashing a flurry of his own against Sabine.

Backing off slightly again, Sabine altered her grip slightly on the lightsaber, taking a defensive posture, and began to deflect the series of fast paced strikes that were coming her way.

In the space of a few seconds, the commando span and twisted his staff in all directions, launching attack after attack against Sabine, forcing her back and into a corner. It was clear that the commando hoped to overwhelm Sabine, forcing her to weaken herself through defence before her finished her off.

And with no training with a lightsaber prior, it was looking grim for Sabine.

Her back to a wall, she ducked under a swing of the commando. Before forcing her own body forwards, colliding with the commando, who was sent sprawling to the floor.

Sabine too found herself careening forwards into a roll, shifting her own body weight to allow herself to stand back up and pivot to face the commando, who now was also on his feet.

Sabine seized her opportunity, swinging Ezra's saber in a horizontal movement, aiming for the chest of the commando.

Clearly anticipating this, the commando evaded out of range, before preparing to unleash his own series of strikes.

But Sabine got there first, pushing the offensive with the lightsaber, swinging in with vicious untrained arcs, favouring power over control.

If Kanan was present, she was sure he would be reprimanding her.

Perhaps she should ask Ezra for some lessons.

Assuming she survived that was.

The sound of energy crackling against itself flooded her hearing as the emerald blade connected and struggled against one end of the electrostaff.

Both combatants attempted to overpower one another, pushing their weapons against each other. The twin ends of the electrostaff offer the commando a speed advantage, but it would only take one blow from the lightsaber to down him.

The strain of the fight began to get to Sabine, as the commando pulled back and span the staff again, clashing it against the lightsaber and entering into another lock.

And then he played dirty.

Sabine had no time to react as the commando lifted his knee with rapid speed, colliding with Sabine's stomach and knocking the wind out of her.

As Sabine attempted to regain her footing, the guard lunged with his staff, the purple energy colliding with Sabine and sending bolts of electricity coursing through her armor, shocking her into submission.

Releasing a sudden cry of agony, Sabine felt the lightsaber slip from her grasp viciously, bouncing off a nearby wall and coming to rest out of reach of her hands.

And then another blow came, this one the staff itself smashing into her helmet, cracking the visor and sending her sprawling to the ground on her already bruised stomach.

Groaning to herself, Sabine attempted to push herself back up, only to have the boot of the supercommando come down on her back and pin her to the ground.

Glancing around, desperate for anything to use against the guard, Sabine spotted the hilt of Ezra's lightsaber, just out of reach.

She couldn't reach it. She was going to die.

Above her, she heard the supercommando recite some Mandalorian rhetoric about honour and loyalty, declaring her a traitor and not worthy of wearing the armour she sported.

She would have listened to him, were it not for the odd sight before her.

The hilt of Ezra's lightsaber began to shift ever so slightly, angling itself so that it could slide directly into Sabine's waiting hand.

And then, with a speed unmatched, it flew towards her free hand.

Despite the strange turn of events, Sabine seized the opportunity, her hand tightening around the hilt of the lightsaber as she pushed the ignition switch, before pivoting her arm and hand behind her.

The sound of the blade erupting into life, followed by the dying scream of the Imperial Supercommando was almost like music to her ears.

She heard the corpse slump behind her twice, indicating that she had evidently cleaved him into two pieces. Pushing herself onto her back, she sat up and saw she was correct. The blade had passed right through the waist of the commando, eviscerating him.

And then a hand came into her view.

Ezra's.

Reaching up, she grasped the offered hand and allowed her Jedi friend to pull her up.

Once she had regained her footing, she passed the saber back to Ezra, before removing her helmet to inspect the crack in the visor.

"Knew you could do it." Ezra spoke cheerfully, before slugging her arm gently, returning to the usual banter that made up the core of their relationship.

"Thanks for the help." Sabine replied, a smile on her face. It was part of their code that they would save each other when the time came. "I'm going to start owing you one soon."

Ezra laughed before moving off to search for the cell containing her father.

"I thought we were even by now Sabine."

This time Sabine chuckled.

"Not even close Bridger."

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After a few minutes of searching the level, they had found the cell.

Ezra had backed off, stating that he didn't want to intrude on a family reunion, and honestly, Sabine was grateful. She had no idea how this reunion was going to go, considering the way she had left in the first place.

Steeling herself, Sabine reached out and thumbed the control panel for the door, which slid open in response.

Stepping into the cell, Sabine spotted a single figure seated on a bench. He looked worn down and beaten, even malnourished. Clearly he had not been treated well by his captors.

And then the figure glanced up, his eyes locking onto Sabine's and widening in surprise.

"Sabine? Is that you?"

She very nearly choked up at the sound of her father's voice. She had missed him, more than she had ever imagined.

But she couldn't get emotional. She had no way of knowing how he would treat her.

Instead, she stepped further into the cell, coming to stand before him.

"Yes father, it's me."

Alrich Wren studied her for a moment, his eyes following the contours of her armor, admiring the pieces and the artwork upon it.

And then in one swift move he jumped to his feet and wrapped Sabine into a tight embrace.

"My daughter, how I have missed you."

Chapter Text

Very few people sat with him during his off hours, and Alexsandr Kallus knew why.

He was a defected imperial. That meant that people didn't trust him. His time in the ISB had been spent quelling rebellions such as these, and no doubt he had personally been responsible for the deaths of many rebels that once walked the base on Yavin Four.

So yes, he was fully aware that he was an outsider, one who was not welcomed by the masses. And he was ok with that.

However that didn't mean that he spent every lunch break alone. Zeb would commonly sit with him, as would Kanan. When she wasn't busy Ahsoka would also join, more often than not to discuss Fulcrum business, but the gesture was the same.

The large chamber that had been set aside as a mess hall for the base on Yavin Four could house many people. Tables and chairs lined the room, offering places of respite and relaxation for many, as well as somewhere for people to go to eat and work at the same time.

That was why Kallus was here. Before him on the table was a report detailing locations of secret caches of supplies hidden by rebel sympathisers. The only problem was that some of them had been set up by the empire as a trap. No doubt Thrawn had thought of that.

So here Kallus was, stifling over the report drinking a lukewarm cup of caf, trying to uncover the secrets.

And he was alone at the table. Other rebels were indeed present, by they mostly avoided them.

Glancing up briefly, Kallus took in the vast array of individuals who all seemed to be crowding around a single table.

There were humans, as expected, and a fair few Twi-leks of various colours as well. Continuing his inspection he spotted a pair of Zeltrons joining the growing crowd of people, as well as a Togruta male. There was even a Gungan in the midst of them.

Suffice to say, the rebel base was a melting pot of cultures. A vast difference in comparison to the human dominated empire.

Remembering his report, Kallus' eyes glanced back down at the words on the datapad.

Nothing was making sense to his weary eyes. Perhaps he should take a break. A proper one at that.

And then something drew his attention away from his report. A voice boomed across the mess hall.

Glancing up, Kallus spotted his fellow Fulcrum agent, Cassian Andor, and his companion, K-2SO striding towards the assembled group of rebels, a scandalised look on Andor's face.

'What has he done now?' Kallus thought to himself in an instant. Cassian was known for his reckless behaviour, and more often enough he got into trouble.

If he had a look on his face, something big was about to happen.

Kallus found he was morbidly interested in whatever it was. Clearly it had attracted a fair amount of attention.

"Well everyone, the results of our latest vote are in. Gather round, gather round. K-2, would you do the honours?"

The assembled group of rebels parted to allow Cassian and K-2 past, who for some reason jumped up onto the table the crowd was gathered around.

'What on Coruscant is going on? What vote?' Kallus thought again.

K-2 then spoke aloud, his voice full of mirth that shouldn't exist in a droid.

"This is stupid Cassian. I don't understand, nor do I agree with the results."

"That's because you are a droid K-2. Now read them out."

As he replied, a huge smirk came to Cassian's face. From where he was watching Kallus could almost feel the smugness radiating off of him.

K-2 then appeared to sigh dramatically, before producing a datapad of his own. The assembled crowd of rebels had suddenly grown even larger, with a pair of cooks coming over to listen as well.

Then K-2 began to speak.

"Cassian recently asked all of you stupid fleshbags to vote on the top five most attractive male and female rebel agents. For some reason, you all did. And now we have our list. Cassian, must I do this?"

Kallus didn't hear what came next. Top five most attractive male and female rebels? What was going on?

Shaking the thought off, Kallus refocused on the assembled group, missing whatever reprimand Cassian had given to K-2.

The droid seemed to sigh again, louder this time, before he began to speak.

"Fine! Females first, as they say. Coming in at number five we have Miss Miara Larte. Apparently you all like a good pilot. I'm far better looking than she is!"

Cheers seemed to erupt from the crowd as Miara seemed to emerge from nowhere, bowing before the rebels assembled.

'They've lost their minds!' Kallus mulled. Is this what rebels did for fun?

Once the commotion had died down, K-2 continued.

"Coming in at number four, oh my. Senator Mon Mothma!"

Laughter erupted from the assembled rebels, but unlike with Miara it seemed Mothma was nowhere in sight.

Then again, Kallus was unsure Mothma would appreciate being included in the list.

"Coming in at number three is…"

"Hey Kallus."

Kallus was dragged out of his focus on the assembled rebels by the sound of Zeb's voice, who was carrying a tray coated with food. The purple Lasat didn't wait for an invitation, instead he sat down opposite Kallus and began to stuff his face.

"Hello Garazeb. How are you today?"

Kallus missed whoever number three was revealed to be, but by the looks of it it was one of the rebels he had spotted earlier.

"I'm good pal. What's going on over there?" Zeb replied, gesturing with one large hand whilst stuffing his face with another.

"Some silly game Cassian is playing with them. Apparently they have all voted for the best looking rebels."

Zeb chuckled lightly before swallowing his food.

"Oh this will be good."

Suddenly it seemed as if though Zeb was fully engrossed in what was going on. He didn't leave the table, but rather sat watching and listening.

Kallus found he had the urge to as well.

The two unlikely friends suddenly found themselves listening as K-2 continued his list.

"And now, number two. Oh now this isn't a surprise. Really people?"

"Get on with it K-2!" Someone called out from the crowd. In response, the droid shot what looked like a death stare, before continuing.

"Number two is Commander Ahsoka Tano."

Kallus found himself rolling his eyes again, even as Zeb chuckled lightly.

"I can see why." Zeb spoke aloud, causing Kallus to throw a scandalised look at the Lasat, who merely looked back unfazed.

"Garazeb?"

The purple Lasat shrugged his shoulders before replying.

"What? Just saying. Wonder who number one is?"

Ignoring Zeb's surprising comment, Kallus shifted back. This was getting ridiculous, but he couldn't help but continue to listen.

And then K-2 spoke again.

"And now, number one. And it would seem you all have a fetish for Lekku. The female rebel voted as most attractive by her peers is Captain Hera Syndulla."

Cheers erupted again from the assembled group, but that didn't cover up the sound of Zeb coughing in surprise. Kallus had to say he agreed.

When Zeb had finished his little coughing fit, he locked eyes with Kallus.

"Kanan's gonna kill them."

Grunting in agreement, Kallus began to shift his gaze back to the report he had before him. Now that the commotion was over, surely he could…

"And now we have the list for top five most attractive male rebels. Brace yourselves."

K-2's voice immediately broke any focus Kallus had. When would it end?

Zeb's eyes appeared to widen in surprise before he spoke.

"If Ezra is on that list I swear everyone has lost their minds."

Kallus tried to drown out the sound of the group of rebels, but it was no good, especially when K-2's 'enthusiastic' voice echoed across the mess hall.

"So, coming in at number five is Saw Gerrerra. Our rebel badboy has apparently gained a few admirers… seriously Cassian, who wrote this poodoo?"

Cassian slugged the droid on his arm before gesturing to continue.

"Fine fine. Coming in at number four, we have Senator Bail Organa? You do all realize he is married right?"

More cheers erupted from the assembled group, and Kallus very nearly yelled out at them to shut up.

Still, he wouldn't. If this was how they wanted to have fun, then so be it, as long as they left him out of it.

Zeb was clearly having great fun as he chuckled deeply at each name.

"This is going to be great."

Kallus chose not to respond the Zeb's statement.

K-2 then continued on.

"At number three, we have easily the most unattractive person in the galaxy, so unattractive he makes Emperor Palpatine look like a pin up model. Number three is Cassian Andor."

Laughter erupted at Cassian's mortified look. However the Fulcrum agent was quick to shake it off, before beginning to do what looked like a victory dance upon the table.

Kallus shook his head at Cassian's ridiculous behaviour. This was going too far.

"I swear if Ezra is next!" Zeb spoke again.

After the volume of the crowd had again dipped, K-2 proceeded.

"At number two, we have our resident blind Jedi, Kanan Jarrus."

Kallus' eyes widened in surprise at the mention of Kanan's name, and then proceeded to widen even more when said Jedi emerged from the crowd, offering high fives to everyone.

"What is Kanan doing?" Zeb spoke aloud, equally shocked by the behaviour of their friend.

Kallus had no clue. He only have one thing on his mind.

'Hera is going to kill them for placing Kanan at number two.'

"And now, number one."

Kallus shook his head. He couldn't bare anymore. Whoever number one was wasn't worth his time. He had a report to finish.

Zeb clearly didn't feel the same. His eyes were locked onto the group, waiting for the revelation with baited breath.

K-2 continued.

"Voted as the number one most attractive rebel male is…"

Zeb then spoke again. "I swear if Ezra is number one…"

Kallus rolled his eyes again, choosing to ignore Zeb and the situation around him. Part of him wanted it to be Ezra, just to see Zeb's reaction.

The rest of him didn't care.

And then K-2 revealed number one.

"…Alexsandr Kallus!"

Kallus found he couldn't move. Heat flared up in his body, and he was almost sure he was blushing.

What had just happened?

Maybe he could slink away before anyone saw him.

And then Zeb reacted.

The giant purple Lasat broke out into hysterics, his laughter booming across the mess hall, drawing the attention of the assembled group of rebels, who were now all looking at Kallus with wide smiles and smirks.

"They voted…they voted for you, pffhahaha!"

Kallus wanted to silence the Lasat. Maybe he could still make a quick getaway before…

Too late.

In the time that Kallus had contemplated leaving, the group of rebels had charged over to Kallus. Hands came from all directions to pat him on his back, offering words of encouragement and other friendly gestures.

And then suddenly, Kallus discovered something.

He wasn't alone. He had friends, even if he didn't realize it.

It seemed that people did in fact like him, and that they did want him around.

It may have been revealed to him in the most perplexed and frankly scandalous of ways, but he found that in the moment he didn't mind, not as he accepted offered handshakes and suddenly found himself the centre of attention.

Suffice to say, Kallus rarely ever sat alone in the mess hall after that.

Furthermore, he knew who he was going to vote for next time, considering their reaction to him being voted number one.

Chapter Text

Rebels have infiltrated the base.

That was the only warning he got. No description. No numbers. No anything.

Just rebels. In the base. Most likely after the information that was held on the central computer of this remote outpost.

And he and his squad were all that stood between the rebels and victory.

Well, that and a sealed metal bulkhead door that was used in emergencies.

However, from what he had heard, CC-2224 doubted that would even stop them.

So here he stood, the once fabled clone commander of the 212th Attack Battalion, now reduced to guard duty.

He tried not to think about his past. About the role he and his brothers had played in the downfall of the republic, and the extermination of the Jedi.

Of how he so willingly shot down his general, his friend.

All because of a stupid chip implanted in his skull. A chip that Rex had tried to warn him about. But at the time he hadn't listened. Instead he had accused Rex of spreading rumours, of trying to cause some sort of internal strife, just as Slick had once done.

Then again, considering who Rex's general and commander was, he shouldn't have been surprised when the captain showed similar reckless behaviour.

They hadn't spoken after that, at least not as friends. As officers sure, but not as friends.

He was a solider, one that followed orders. And that was how he justified it. How he justified shooting down the Jedi he served so loyally for three years.

And how he justified his continued service to the empire, even after everything that had happened.

"Everyone get into position. Defend the mainframe at all costs!" He called out to his assembled team. Five Stormtroopers, and himself, a relic of a long forgotten time.

In a way, he hoped the rebels won. At least that way he wouldn't have to suffer through his guilt.

Not that he felt any sympathy for the rebels as a whole. They were terrorists, or at least that was what high command made them out to be.

If he was honest with himself, CC-2224, Cody, wasn't sure what was true anymore.

But he wouldn't question. He was loyal to the empire, even if that led to his death.

And then suddenly, the sound of blaster fire, and the cries of troopers falling sounded from the other side of the bulkhead door.

The rebels had arrived.

Gripping his blaster rifle tightly in his hands, he crouched, waiting, his team following suite.

Outside the door, silence reigned. Any moment now it would open.

Taking a deep breath, and aiming towards the door, he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The door was not opening? Had the rebels left? Could they not hack the security to open it? Was he perhaps having a lucky day?

And then the unexpected happened. But to the fair, he should have expected it. He had heard the rumours about Jedi helping the rebels.

But he wasn't expecting one to be here.

And the sudden sight and sound of a white blade piercing through the metal bulkhead door, beginning to cut a circular opening was enough to send shivers of fear down his spine.

Now he was almost certain he was going to die. The Jedi had come for revenge.

Around him his team bristled, clearly equally surprised and intimidated by the sight of the lightsaber easily cutting through what was otherwise a hardened door.

"We are so screwed!" One trooper, a young man who had only recently gotten his commission spoke.

"Quiet!" CC-2224 snapped back, his gaze never leaving the blade of white light as it completed its circle in the door, forming a ring of molten metal.

Then, just was quickly as it had appeared, the blade vanished.

And CC-2224 was left waiting again.

Waiting for the door to collapse in from where it had been cut so easily.

Gripping his blaster tightly, another shiver of fear running through him, he took a deep breath.

He knew it was coming. He had seen such moves before.

And then it happened.

With such frightening speed that if he had blinked he would have missed it, the inside of the cut out circle flew into the room, crushing one trooper instantly.

Panic immediately set in amongst the other troopers, as two more tried to make a run for it, only to be cut down by a pair of white blades as they reached the threshold of the hole in the bulkhead door.

In the span of two seconds, three of his team was dead.

Now it was just him and the rookie, who stood vigilantly by his side, blaster raised.

And then the figure who yielded the lightsabers stepped through the hole, and a dark sense of both nostalgia and terror filled him.

She had grown up. She was tall now. She still used two blades.

And he was almost certain she had come for him, for what he had done to her Master's master.

And she had just ruthlessly cut down two troopers.

Beside him he heard the rookie gasp in fear at the sight of a Jedi, before a knee jerk reaction kicked in.

CC-2224 didn't have time to stop him from firing his blaster, and could only look on in horror as a red blaster bolt travelled towards the Togruta before him, only to be deflected seconds later, striking the rookie in the chest, killing him instantly.

Rage filled him. Was this the universe trying to get back at him? Perhaps the force was punishing him?

His vision blurred from his anger, and his finger travelled to the trigger on his rifle.

He felt himself beginning to pull the trigger, fully intending to shot the Togruta had had served with in the past.

Only to be struck by another blaster bolt, one that was not his. The bolt slammed into his leg, sending him sprawling to the floor in agony, his helmet slipping off his head in the process, and his blaster falling away from him.

He was no unarmed, wounded, and completely at the mercy of a Jedi.

He was certain he was about to die.

Groaning in pain, he lifted his head to lock eyes with the Togruta woman, who now stood above him, white blade pointed directly at his heart.

Her eyes were the same colour as they had always been, but within them he saw darkness. He saw hatred, and anger. All the things Jedi were warned against.

He remained still, waiting.

Slowly, she glanced her lightsaber lightly across his chest plate, scorching a thin line across the plastoid. It would not cause any damage to his body, but it was clear that it was a threat.

Her eyes stayed locked on his for what seemed like hours, before she huffed lightly and turned around heading towards the nearby mainframe the troopers had been tasked to protect.

As she departed he heard her speak to another figure who was standing behind her.

"He's yours to deal with. Do as you wish."

CC-2224's eyes stayed locked on her retreating form, before the second figure approached, crouching to be at eye level with him, a blaster pistol in his hand.

CC-2224 shifted his gaze to the person in front of him, and felt his eyes widen in recognition at the sight of the markings on the helmet.

Then the person spoke.

"Cody."

It was a simple greeting, one that clearly showed both contempt yet upset.

Rather than ignore, he chose to respond.

"Rex."

The man before him, the former friend before him nodded his head, before reaching his hands up to remove the helmet he wore, placing on the ground beside him.

Cody felt couldn't help the surprised gasp escape his body as he took in Rex's features, or maybe that was due to the injury that he had sustained from Rex himself.

His face was older now, much like his own, and he sported a large bushy white beard, one that reminded Cody of his old General. He was also bald, and possessed a small scar on the side of his head. It didn't take long for Cody to work out that was where the control chip had been housed.

But despite his change in appearance, there was one thing that hadn't changed. His eyes.

Rex's eyes, whilst genetically the same as his, were indeed different. They had always housed a level of severity, underlined by a far off look, one that was indicative of a person who was trying to do good in the world, but who often doubted themselves.

It was no wonder he had gotten along so well with Skywalker and Tano then.

And even now, despite the accelerated aging, his eyes were the same shade of hazel, and contained the same level of severity and understanding they had always done, even as he stared back at someone who was once a friend.

"Why Cody? Why did you do it?"

The question should have caught him off guard, but in truth it didn't.

"Didn't have a choice Rex. You were right about the control chip." Cody responded. He was not going to give an excuse for his actions, not when he didn't have one that wasn't 'I was mind-controlled to do it'.

But Rex shook his head, a slight look of annoyance coming to his face before he spoke again.

"I meant why did you stay loyal to the Emperor? Did General Kenobi mean nothing to you?"

'Oh!'

Now that was not what Cody had been expecting. And from the tone of voice in which Rex had asked, it was clear that the Captain was not happy with him.

But what choice had Cody had. Even without the chip in his mind that had influenced him, he was still a loyal subject to the republic, even if it was now an Empire.

If the Chancellor had given him an order, it was his job to obey.

"Good soldiers follow orders Rex. I thought you knew that."

Rex's face took on one of disgust. From the way his finger gently tapped the trigger on his blaster pistol, it was clear that he was running out of patience for his old comrade.

'Good!' Cody thought morbidly. If anyone was to take him down, he would be honoured if it was Rex.

"I follow orders that make sense Cody. Not ones that harm innocent people. By siding with the empire, you are enslaving millions."

Cody broke eye contact briefly, looking down in shame. It was true, and he knew it. But in the end, he had been given no choice. It was either serve, as he had been created to do, thus giving him purpose in life, or leave and been labelled as a reject, leading him to be lost.

So he had chosen his path, just as Rex had chosen his.

"I served those who I believe earned my loyalty CT-7567, just was you have."

It was harsh to refer to Rex by his number designation rather than his name, but that was all he was these days, just as Cody was. A number, created to wage war, and then thrown aside.

Perhaps Rex had chosen right, perhaps he had not, Cody couldn't tell. All that mattered was that he had chosen what he believed in most.

In the midst of his internal conflict, Rex rose back to his feet, a solemn look on his face.

"I'm sorry old friend."

And then Rex fired.

********************************************************************************************************************************

The information on the terminal in front of her was heavily encrypted, just as Ahsoka had suspected. She would have to take a copy of the data with her. Hopefully someone back at base would be able to help her decrypt it.

Reaching down to insert a data spike into the system, her montrals picked up the sudden sound of a blaster shot behind her.

Lowering her head briefly, she allowed herself to understand Rex's actions. It wasn't right for her to judge Cody. She was not close to him unlike she had been with Anakin.

Instead, she had left it up to her oldest friend, and whilst that was a somewhat harsh decision in itself, she trusted Rex's judgement, no matter what it was.

Glancing her fingers across the interface before her, she began to copy the files.

When it was halfway through she felt Rex's presence beside her. Out of the corner of her eyes she saw his face, one that was confident and unyielding, masking any internal strife he may have been suffering.

After a moment of silence, she spoke.

"You stunned him then?"

Rex merely nodded.

"I understand Rex. We'll take him back with us and see what we can do for him."

Again her oldest friend nodded.

He may not have been speaking, but Ahsoka knew how he was feeling. Reaching a hand over, she gently grasped his shoulder, squeezing it in support, before throwing a small smile at him.

Rex glanced over to her, locking his hazel eyes with her blue ones, before smiling back.

Ahsoka knew that Rex had just faced his own demons, and like he had done for her, she would help him in any way she could.

Chapter Text

More often than not, the so called 'lazy days', as Kaeden had come to call them were a breath of fresh air for her. Rather than spend possibly weeks on end worrying about Ahsoka, both she and the Togruta were in the same place at the same time.

This time round it was Ahsoka's apartment, one that had been gifted to her years ago by Bail Organa as a place of respite for her. Even with the falling out the two had seemed to have, it was clear that the property was still Ahsoka's, and the Senator of Alderaan had made no move to force her out yet.

So here she was, lounging around in her girlfriend's apartment, enjoying the small breakfast she had made for herself whilst she waited for Ahsoka to finish her morning mediation session. Kaeden didn't like to bother the Togruta too much when she was in 'Jedi mode', as Kaeden called it. Instead she was more than happy to wait around for her, eating breakfast, and planning whatever their day together was.

And much like every other one of these mornings, nothing especially strange was going on.

Yet.

It began with a sudden light tapping sound on glass, one that was clearly on a window. At first guess, Kaeden assumed it was some sort of insect of some kind, oblivious to the existence of a glass plane before it.

But the tapping sound continued, and rather than sound like some poor lost insect, it seemed to hold a rhythm to it. Almost as if someone was knocking on a door.

When the tapping continued, Kaeden placed her bowl of food aside, rising to her feet and began to search for the source of the tapping. Walking around the living room of the sizable apartment, Kaeden glanced towards the large patio doors. They were made entirely of glass, and normally housed nothing on the other side other than the rise and fall of the sun.

But now there was something there. A small creature sat staring through the glass, watching her. It was a bird of some kind, with a strange mirage of colours that Kaeden had never really seen before. It possessed a long wispy tail behind itself as well, and sharp claws common to most bird like creatures.

Clearly it was a predator of some kind. Kaeden hoped it wasn't here to eat her!

It was then that Kaeden discovered the source of the tapping. The small green bird like creature leaned towards the glass, tapping its beak three times, before returning to its original position staring at her.

"What the?" Kaeden muttered to herself as she walked over to the large glass doors. This was strange. Why was a random bird trying to get into Ahsoka's apartment?

The bird reached forward again, tapping three more times, before its small beady eyes locked with Kaeden's.

Up close, Kaeden had to admit it was kind of cute. But the farmer within her knew what these sort of creatures did. They were pests, and she had to get rid of it.

Reaching her hand for the handle that opened the door, Kaeden prepared to scare the bird away.

Pulling, she slid the door open and began to speak.

"Shoo!"

But the directive had no effect, instead it seemed to have the exact opposite effect instead. Rather than turn and flee at Kaeden's raised voice, the small bird took flight instead, sailing past Kaeden's head and into the apartment.

"What? Get out of here!" Kaeden shouted this time, no worried. The small green bird performed various circles of the living room, as if searching for something.

'Hopefully nothing to eat.' Kaeden thought again.

Glancing around the room, Kaeden found a nearby broom. Maybe she could use this?

Grasping the tool in her hand, she advanced on the bird and attempted to swat it away.

"Go away. I don't have anything for you!"

But rather than get the message, the bird continued to fly around, skilfully evading the swipes from the broom, all the while hooting aloud.

If Kaeden didn't know any better, she would say the creature was mocking her, or having fun.

"This isn't a game. Get out of here before you…"

SMASH!

'Too late.' Kaeden sighed mentally, allowing her arms to go lax, the broom falling from her hands. Looking down at the floor, she discovered her bowl, now in multiple pieces, food scattered across the floor. In her attempts to swat the bird, she had mistakenly clipped the bowl, sending it tumbling towards the floor.

And now it was broken.

Gritting her teeth, she glanced up at the bird as it flew circles around her head, still chirping at her.

"Laugh it up feathers!" Kaeden muttered, her grip on the broom tightening slightly. She was ready to try again, and this time to be more careful.

That was till she heard movement behind her, as well as the concerned voice of her favourite Togruta.

"What happened? Are you ok?"

It wasn't that Kaeden didn't appreciate Ahsoka's worry. After all, it was nice to know she cared. The two had been working hard to get Ahsoka to open up a bit more with her feelings, and so far it appeared to be working.

But right now she had bigger concerns, like this bloody bird!

Spinning around on her heel, Kaeden gestured wildly with her free hand at the bird circling the room.

"This thing just flew in and won't leave. I can't get it out. And it made me knock my bowl off!"

Ahsoka's face didn't change to one of concern or worry, but rather humour.

'Great, now she's mocking me too.' Kaeden thought. Was the world against her today?

It was then that Ahsoka made to move to help. Kaeden assumed she would use some sort of force trick to encourage the bird out. So she was surprised when instead, Ahsoka held her arm out and whistled up at the creature.

Within a second the bird descended onto the waiting arm, happily chirping as if it had found some sort of long lost friend.

Kaeden watched, partly confused, partly horrified as Ahsoka's free hand came up to pet the creature, stroking over the wings and teasing the beak of the bird lightly, to which the bird responded with playful bites.

Lowering the broom to the floor, Kaeden continued to watch open mouthed as Ahsoka began to mutter to the bird, to which said bird seemed to respond.

"Uh, what's going on Ahsoka?"

As if remembering she was present, Ahsoka's blue eyes shifted from the bird to Kaeden, a warm smile on her face.

"No need to worry Kaeden. She's an old friend."

Kaeden couldn't help but splutter in confusion. Since when was Ahsoka friends with a bird?!

Said Togruta made to move towards Kaeden, holding her arm out, offering the bird to her.

"Her name is Morai. She saved me once, and I owe her my life."

The small creature seemed less mischievous now that it was perched peacefully on Ahsoka's arm. It chirped again lightly, this time towards Kaeden, before leaning slightly towards the dark skinned human.

Unsure what to do, Kaeden stood still. After all, she had just tried to swat the bird Ahsoka called Morai with a broom. What if it held a grudge?

"It's ok. She won't hurt you. I promise."

Deciding to believe Ahsoka, Kaeden lifted her arm out, copying the same position as Ahsoka. Seeing this, Morai took the invitation, jumping from one arm to another.

Despite the sharp claws, the bird landed gently, gripping just enough to hold on, but not do any damage.

"Hey Morai, you are so cute, yes you are." Kaeden began to speak, warming up to the fluffy bird in moments. In response Morai chirped happily, accepting the petting from Kaeden that came.

'Maybe this bird isn't so bad.' Kaeden thought.

****************************************************************************************************************************************

Seeing Thrawn concerned was a rare sight. The Chiss was usually so calm and collected, even in the face of certain defeat, defeats that he often somehow turned into victories in a split second.

So when Governor Pryce entered his office on the Chimaera, she was shocked to find it turned upside down, as if it had been ransacked.

She was about to call for security, when she heard movement, and a familiar Chiss emerged from underneath an overturned table.

"Grand Admiral? Are you alright?"

Concerned Thrawn was rare. Flustered Thrawn even rare. In fact, Pryce would say that this was a first.

The Chiss rose to his feet, dusting off his uniform, before moving across to another part of his office, one that housed a large glass tank that was full of leaves and wood. Aside from that, it was empty.

"Thrawn? What's wrong?" Pryce asked again.

This time the Chiss chose to response, his red eyes locking onto hers.

"Eli has escaped."

'What?'

Pryce was now concerned. Now for what had escaped. But for Thrawn's mental condition.

"Who's Eli? You mean your former aide?"

Thrawn shook his head before moving past Pryce, entering into the hallway that led from his office to the side rooms.

Turning, the Chiss entered what appeared to be a storage room of some kind, full of various artefacts he had collected.

"No, my Ysalamir has escaped his tank. I need to find him." Thrawn replied, his voice surprising timid.

Pryce's mind went into overdrive. She knew that Thrawn had a pet of some kind, but she had never seen it herself.

Then something clicked in her mind.

"Hang on a minute. Are you telling me you named your pet lizard after your former aide?"

She expected some sort of embarrassed response. That would have been truly unique for Thrawn.

But rather than that, the Chiss surprised her once again as he ducked down behind a display podium.

"Yes."

That was his only response, before her seemed to make a happy noise.

Pryce watched as Thrawn stood back up, now having found his lost pet. The Chiss Grand Admiral lifted the small lizard creature up above him, placing it on his shoulders, before heading back to his office.

Governor Pryce stood dumbstruck for a few moments before she followed him.

Thrawn was now seated at his desk, and the lizard he affectionately referred to as Eli was still resting on his shoulder.

"Now Governor, did you have something you wished to discuss?"

Chapter Text

Every time Ezra flew an A-wing, he seemed to crash. Every single time he was either shot down, or suffered some kind of catastrophic engine failure of some kind, no doubt engineered by Chopper as a practical joke.

This time round it was the former. The sudden appearance of what appeared to be a modified TIE Defender was not something an A-wing could best, and in an attempt to outmanoeuvre it, Ezra had been shot down.

He had been on a simple relief mission. Apparently there was someone on the planet below that needed help, and wanted some in exchange for information about the empire.

But now, now it smelled like a trap.

The crash had been rougher than his previous one. Normally the only lasting damage was a knock to the head, as well as some bruising. Nothing that wouldn't clear up in a few days.

This time however had been different. Climbing out of the wreckage of the destroyed fighter, Ezra grimaced in pain. During the impact something had come loose in the cockpit. A shard of metal had broken free and imbedded itself into his shoulder. On instinct Ezra had pulled the shard out, before dressing the wound with the emergency supplies Hera forced him to carry as best he could.

It would hold for now, but he was in serious need of a healer of some kind.

The only problem was that he was now stuck in the middle of nowhere.

And Mirial was not exactly the most hospital place for someone who was unprepared.

The planet was cold even on its warmest of days. Not quite a tundra, but close enough that one had to wrap up warm to survive.

In his current state, it was unlikely that Ezra would survive the bitter wind that blew upon him.

Yet in all directions, all he could see was an open expanse. There was no sign of any settlement, or tracks to indicate a route to one.

So that left him both stranded and lost, that was until he felt something.

Through the force he could feel something, almost like a signature, but one that was hidden.

But one that was also indicative of life.

Grasping in his mind where the signature was coming from, Ezra set off on foot. Hopefully he could find someone.

********************************************************************************************************************************

It turned out that there was a settlement nearby, even if it was out of the way, hidden amongst a cliff edge.

A small town was before him, and whilst it wasn't teeming with life, there were a fair few individuals around. Scanning their faces he saw most of them were Mirialans, which made sense since he was on their homeworld.

Ezra had never really encounter many Mirialans before, with the exception of the Seventh Sister, and she was just plain creepy!

Still, from what he had read they were generally a welcoming species to outsiders.

He only hoped that today they would help him.

Walking around what appeared to be a market square, Ezra approached what appeared to be a stall, one occupied by an elder Mirialan male. When said male spotted his approach, he smiled warmly.

"Don't see many humans around here. Usually can't handle the wind. What can I do for you friend?"

Ezra was glad that the welcoming was friendly, even if it had an element of humour in it. He cleared his throat to speak, but found himself unable to. A sudden lance of pain ran through his shoulder, leading to him groaning aloud and removing his hand from the wound to inspect it briefly. The makeshift bandage was holding, but he needed help.

And he needed it now.

The stool owner clearly spotted the wound, as he gasped and moved around his stool to help the young traveller.

"By the gods, are you ok young man?"

Ezra groaned again, before regaining his composure, throwing a smile of gratitude towards the stool owner.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Does this town have a healer I can see in an emergency?"

The stool owner nodded his head, before pointing towards what appeared to be small building down a street.

"Absolutely. Salvia is the best around. She's a spiritual healer, one that can heal any wound no matter how grievous. You don't even need to pay her. She does everything for free. I went there last week for my hip."

"Spiritual healer?" Ezra enquired. How could that help him?

The elder Mirialan nodded again, a smile on his face.

"Our people are deeply spiritual. To an outsider it may seem like religious nonsense, but trust me. She can perform miracles. The gods herself have blessed her it seems."

In any other situation, Ezra would have continued to question the legitimacy of the person he was about to see. This 'Salvia' seemed to be some sort of divine individual. He wondered if everyone in the town felt the same.

But he was in no position to argue, not with the state of his shoulder.

Giving his thanks to the old man he began to move towards the building that supposedly contained this spiritual healer.

There was no door, rather an intricate covering made out fine fabric.

Shrugging his shoulders, and wincing from the pain, Ezra entered.

Stepping into the building, Ezra's senses were overwhelmed by various smells. Thick, fragment herbs seemed to float around the room, instantly welcoming him. Ezra found that the smell as pleasant, and already he felt soothed and somewhat healed.

And then a voice sounded from above him. It was gentle and kind, full of compassion and love.

Glancing up, Ezra found himself looking at an upper balcony like area, one that was clearly used as an office of some kind. Standing up there, peaking down over the railing was a Mirialan woman.

"Welcome young man. I've been expecting you."

Ezra wasn't usually suspicious of people, but there something about this woman. She was warm and welcoming, but he could tell she was hiding something.

The Mirialan woman began to descend the steps that led upstairs, coming to stand before him. She was not much taller than he was, and unlike many Mirialans he had seen outside, she seemed more lax. Her long black hair was not covered by a headdress of some kind, but rather flowed free, as if a symbol of her uniqueness. Her facial tattoos resembled diamonds, giving a sort of mystical look to her face. No wonder she was considered to be a spiritual healer. The look of her alone sold that image.

"My name is Salvia. How may I help you?"

Her voice continued to be serene and kind. Ezra found that he wanted to trust her, but deep inside he still felt that something was wrong.

Still, he had come this far, and he had to take a risk now.

"I was told you can help me." Ezra spoke, showing his wound to the woman.

Salvia began to inspect the wound, removing the makeshift bandage in the process, and gently running her hands along the wound.

"A nasty injury indeed. I can certainly help you though. Come, this way."

And then she turned around, gesturing towards what appeared to be a bed.

"Lay on your front and I shall heal the wound. You will need to remove your shirt however. Is that ok?"

Growing up a street rat, Ezra cared little about modesty, unless Sabine was around of course.

Not that he would ever admit that to anyone.

Nodding his confirmation, Ezra removed his top, exposing his back to Salvia, and proceed to lay on the table.

Numerous questions ran through his head. Salvia had said she was going to heal him. How?

"Excellent. Now, relax." Salvia's voice continued to be gentle, even as her cold hands suddenly made contact with his exposed back.

Ezra simply laid there, allowing the so called spiritual healer to work her so called magic. She began by simply massaging his back, a treatment he had not expected.

He also found he was not as yet impressed by whatever it was she was going to do.

And then he felt it. A sudden surge of power, one that was indicative of the force, flowed through his mind.

It was then that it struck him.

Salvia was force sensitive!

They were certainly a rare sight these days, and from the control that Ezra could feel she had through the force, she was most certainly training to some extent.

Had he somehow stumbled across another Jedi survivor? Or was she perhaps a Sith?

Clearly oblivious to Ezra's internal strife, Salvia continued her work. Ezra could feel the force being manipulated around his shoulder now. The ache and pain began to withdraw, and a few moments later ceased to exist altogether.

"There, you are healed my young friend."

Salvia's voice was still as calm and collected as it had been when he first entered. Shifting his body weight, Ezra moved to sit of the side of the bed, his blue eyes locking with Salvia's.

The Mirialan woman simply smiled back at him, no sense of hostility in them.

Perhaps she could be trusted. She had just healed him after all. Glancing at where the wound had previously been, Ezra saw that his skin was fixed, and all trace of the wound, minus the blood staining his skin, was gone.

Looking back at Salvia, Ezra spoke.

"You can use the force?"

Salvia's eyes lowered to the floor for a second, and her eyes became plagued by something. Ezra would almost call it guilt.

"I can. As can you it seems. I sensed you when you crashed on the planet, and I felt your pain."

Now it made sense. Salvia had been the signature he had detected through the force. She had led him to her to help him.

"Are you a Jedi?" Ezra asked, wonder in his voice.

Salvia seemed downtrodden at the mention of the Jedi, as she quickly took a seat on another nearby bed, burying her face in her hands.

"No, I'm not worthy of holding that title anymore."

Looking around, Ezra found his shirt not far away. Picking it back up and putting it on, he stood from his position and moved to stand before the Mirialan woman.

"Why do you say that? Are you a survivor from Order 66?"

Salvia looked up at Ezra, shame in her eyes before she spoke.

"In a way. I was in prison when it happened. Lucky for me a riot kicked off and I managed to escape before getting killed. I ran here, in hopes of redeeming myself for my past crimes, and all the while my friends, my family died. They died, and I lived."

"What happened? Why were you in prison?" Ezra inquired. He had never heard of a Jedi being sent to prison before. Whenever the empire tried to capture and hold either him or Kanan, it usually ended badly for them.

But from how Salvia was acting, it was clear she had been held.

The Mirialan stood from her position and began to move upstairs, clearly not interested in continuing the discussion. As she ascended the stairs, Ezra could have sworn he heard whimpers coming from her.

In that moment, he resolved to follow her.

After climbing the stairs, he found Salvia staring out of a window, up at the night sky. Darkness had come quickly it seemed. Ezra would no doubt have to find somewhere to stay the night.

But right now that wasn't his concern.

"Are you alright?" Ezra asked, his voice soft and compassionate, hoping to repay Salvia's kindness with his own.

The Mirialan seemed to sniffle lightly, before turning to face Ezra. Her eyes held traces of water, clear evidence that she had been crying.

"I betrayed her. My closest friend. I framed her for a crime and then tried to murder her. And then, rather than turn myself in, I let her take the blame for everything. I was prepared to let her be executed to prove a point, and to cover my own back. I'm a horrible person. I thought that by coming here, by helping people, I could redeem myself. But I was a fool to think so. There is no redemption for someone like me, not when everyone I loved is dead."

Ezra felt his heard go out to the woman, even if it sounded like she had committed some serious crimes. It was clear that she regretted it, and was suffering daily. That much warranted his compassion.

Then Salvia broke down again, curling up in a ball in the corner of her office, crying to herself.

Ezra began to move on instinct, coming to sit beside her, his arms trying his best to wrap around her in comfort.

His action helped to soothe the Mirialan somewhat, but the shivers present still showed she was crying, just not allowed.

And then something twigged in his memory. Something Kanan had told him years ago.

'"In the end, it was one of Ahsoka's closest friends that had framed her for the attack."'

Ezra's mind went into overdrive. Surely not? Surely this woman who had helped him, and was now collapsed on the floor in grief could not be the same person that was responsible for Ahsoka's decision to leave the Jedi order?

But everything Salvia had told her made sense, and all the facts lined up. She has framed someone she considered a friend and had been willing to let them take the fall. That was exactly what had happened to Ahsoka!

Pulling away from Salvia slightly, Ezra braced himself to ask the question.

"This friend you framed, do you know what happened to them?"

Salvia shook her head. Through the force Ezra could feel her regret.

"By any chance was she a Togruta?"

Salvia's head suddenly lifted up, her eyes locking onto Ezra's in shock.

"Yes, she was." Her voice was timid and frightened.

Ezra allowed a smile to come to his face. Even if she had betrayed Ahsoka in the past, it was clear she felt remorse. Maybe, just maybe, he could reunite some old friends, and repair both a broken heart, and a broken friendship in the process.

"Then it would appear the force brought me here for a reason. If the person you refer to is who I think it is, then she is very much alive and well." Ezra spoke. He didn't want to give direct answers. If there was thing he learned about being a Jedi, it was to be as cryptic as possible.

But clearly his words had the intended effect.

"Ahsoka's alive? She's really alive?" Salvia's voice was full of hope and merriment, one that Ezra was looking forward to seeing expand.

"She is. She may no longer be a Jedi, but she had been helping us. It's thanks to her that the empire has mostly crumbled."

Salvia broke down again into tears, this time tears of joy.

"Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. I thought that she… I didn't want to think about it. Is she ok? Is she happy?"

Ezra nodded in reply, eliciting further tears of joy from Salvia.

"I can take you to her if you want. I'm sure she'd love to see you."

And with that, Salvia seemed to freeze, dread coming to her face.

Ezra had to wait a few moments before she shook her head.

"No, I don't think that is a very good idea. I betrayed her. She should kill me for it. I'd welcome it in fact. I can't face her, not yet."

Ezra understood. Ahsoka's reaction to Anakin's betrayal hadn't been forgiveness of any kind. More of concealed anger and hatred, covered by acceptance and the willingness to do what must be done.

There was no telling how she would treat Salvia.

Ezra could only hope that it would be with mercy. Salvia clearly regretted what had happened.

"Ok, but I'll give you my comm details in case you change your mind. Ahsoka has lost an awful lot Salvia. I'm sure she'd accept you back in time."

The Mirialan nodded, before whipping her eyes clear of tears and standing back up. She moved across her office, extracting some spare bandages she had and offered them to Ezra.

"Here, take these in case you need them. I'll come see her one day, when I am ready."

Ezra smiled on return, graciously accepting the offered supplies.

"No problem Salvia. I won't even tell her I saw you."

The Mirialan nodded in gratitude, a warm smile returning to her face.

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The young man, young Jedi had left shortly afterwards, in search of somewhere to rest the night. Salvia had pointed him in the direction of a good inn, one that she knew from experience catered to everyone's needs.

But right now she had bigger issues on mind.

Ahsoka was alive. Ahsoka was happy.

She had long since thought about that day, the day that had changed everything.

Barriss Offee had only ever wanted to send out a message. To prove that the Jedi had fallen from their path. It was never her intent to frame Ahsoka, to let her take the blame for everything. It had just been a matter of both bad timing, and her friend being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everything has spiralled out of Barriss control, and she regretted it.

So when everything had gone to hell, she had ran, as far away as she could. She had renounced Barriss Offee, and become Salvia, a healer who dedicated her life to helping those in need for nothing in exchange.

She had hoped that both Ahsoka and Master Luminara would be proud of her, would forgive her, if they still lived.

And now she knew. Ahsoka was alive. Despite everything she had suffered, the Togruta girl that Barriss had admired had survived, and prospered.

And from what the young Jedi had told her, Ahsoka was happy for once in her life. If there was anyone who deserved happiness, it was Ahsoka Tano.

Perhaps one day she would work up the courage to visit her old friend. Maybe she would forgive her, maybe not.

And maybe, just maybe, Barriss would be able to forgive herself.

She didn't know. Only time would tell. So for now she would continue her own path, trying to seek the redemption she desperately sought.

She had always wanted to help people. To make them feel safe.

As Barriss Offee she had failed in that regard.

But as Salvia, she hoped she was succeeding.

One day, she would find out. Of that she was sure.

Chapter Text

The first time it happened, he learnt a valuable lesson, one he had only heard Yoda preach before.

Caleb Dume thought he was good with a lightsaber, or at least halfway decent. His clan in the Jedi temple, consisting of around fifteen other younglings often sparred together. They would train from each other, learn from each other, and develop the skills they would need to become Jedi Knights.

Sparring was one of Caleb's favourite aspects of learning to be a Jedi. The method and control required to effectively use a lightsaber gave him a sense of accomplishment, as well as stability. If he could learn to use a lightsaber, then he could be seen as a Jedi. If he could be seen as a Jedi, then he could help people.

And in the end, that was all he wanted to do. Help people.

Training lessons were often held for the younglings by various masters. More often than not it was Tera Sinube that led them, but every so often someone else would fill in, or they would have a guest to assist them.

Master Sinube himself has said that Caleb was a rising star with a lightsaber, and so when it was announced in class that he would need a volunteer to go up against a Padawan guest to see how far they had come in their initial training, Caleb had immediately volunteered.

And he'd been confident in himself. Surely by now, at ten years of age, he would be more than able to hold his own against a Padawan.

And that was how he met Ahsoka Tano. She wasn't especially tall, and didn't really fit the image of what a Jedi was. Rather than wear the tell-tale robes of most Jedi, she instead wore a simple outfit, one that showed plenty of skin and was clearly designed to allow her to move quickly.

Truth be told, she didn't look much like a threat.

Oh how he would learn to eat his words.

Confident with himself, he had stepped forward, bowing before the Togruta girl who was not much older than him, but already a Padawan.

Once the bowing was complete, the pair had dropped into their preferred stances, and ignited their blades.

Padawan Tano's form was unique. She seemed to use some amalgamation of form five, mixed with a reverse Shien grip. Unorthodox to be sure. Caleb hadn't trained for this!

Moments later, the duel started. Ahsoka's green blade pivoted towards Caleb, clashing against the blue blade, before heading off into a series of strikes, all which forced Caleb onto the defensive.

The lightsabers may have been set to training mode, but they still packed a nasty punch if a blow was landed.

Caleb was forced to alter his footwork to allow himself to backpedal away from the onslaught that was Ahsoka Tano. Her bright green blade seemingly came from multiple directions at once, further forcing Caleb to alter his strategy.

How was he supposed to counter this?

When it appeared that the Togruta was finally wearing herself down, Caleb moved to attempt an offense.

Only to have the Togruta girl drop to her knees, flicking her foot out in the process, and tripping Caleb up.

Caleb suddenly found himself face first on the floor, his lightsaber hilt rolling away from him, and Tano's boot on his spine.

Master Sinube had congratulated Ahsoka for the victory, before also passing compliments to Caleb for lasting as long as he did. Clearly he hadn't been expecting it.

But what had surprised Caleb was Ahsoka's reaction. Rather than get smug about the victory, she simply reached down a hand to her fallen opponent, a bright smile on her face.

"Nice job. You fight great!"

The compliment itself encouraged him to push forward, to become more like her.

And he had also learnt why Yoda often repeated a phrase to the younglings.

'Judge me by my size do you hmmm?'

Suffice to say, he never would again. Even the smallest of people could be dangerous.

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The second time it had happened he would later admit was a bit foolish of him.

Shortly after he had been rescued by his team from Tarkin's Star Destroyer, he had found himself wrapped up in some sort of organized rebellion.

And there she was. Ahsoka Tano, in the flesh.

And it was then that he had made a mistake, this time in front of the entire crew of the Ghost.

"I want a rematch!"

Everyone's head had turned in shock to look at Kanan, completely bedazzled at the sudden demand their friend had made.

But Ahsoka simply smiled, her serene and calming nature never breaking. She didn't show smugness from the past, even now.

Instead she nodded, and before Kanan knew it he was standing in a training room on Phoenix Home, lightsaber in hand. Opposite him stood Ahsoka, twin white beams ignited.

This time Kanan attacked first, covering the distance between them in a second.

Only to once again find himself face planting as Ahsoka vaulted over him, delivering a sharp kick to his back in the process.

Kanan tried to shake of the fall quicker this time, but he was still too slow. Once again he found himself under Ahsoka's boot, a familiar rogue smile on her face.

From the edge of the ring, he could hear Zeb's boisterous laughter, as well as Ezra's sounds of wonderment. His young apprentice was clearly awed by Ahsoka's performance, even if she had done next to nothing.

And to be honest, Kanan was too.

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The third time it happened, he had Ezra by his side helping him.

He thought that maybe together, a master and an apprentice, they could defeat Ahsoka.

And to begin with it had been going well. Both Kanan and Ezra forced Ahsoka onto the defensive, their blades coming from multiple directions, forcing Ahsoka to alter every swing of her own blades to counter theirs, whilst trying to find a gap in their defensives.

If they could keep this up, hopefully the strain on the Togruta would have been enough to wear her down after a while. However, that appeared to not be the case.

The duel lasted several minutes, and Ezra appeared to be beginning to buckle under the fight, his strikes becoming sloppy and unprecise.

Not that Kanan blamed him. It appeared that Ahsoka had the stamina of a rancor!

In the end, it was the teamwork aspect that led to their defeat. In their attempt to fight together, they had left themselves open.

Ahsoka had moved like water, forcing Ezra back and focusing her efforts on Kanan, yet leaving her back exposed for the young boy.

Clearly Ezra had spotted this, and had taken his opportunity.

Only for Ahsoka to once again vault over Kanan's head.

And rather than hit her in the back, Ezra's blade continued forward, striking Kanan in the chest, delivering a sharp electric shock throughout his body.

"Argh, dammit kid!" Kanan had called out, collapsing to the floor as he felt the current run through him.

Ezra's response was simple.

"Oh karabast!"

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The fourth time it happened he thought he had everything planned.

It wasn't an obsession of his at least that was what he had assured Hera. But once, just once, he wanted to be able to say 'I beat Ahsoka Tano in a lightsaber duel'.

But every time he tried in the past he had failed. And now he knew why.

She had been prepared for him. She had planned ahead. She knew what was about to happen.

And that gave her the advantage.

But if he could surprise her… then maybe he would gain a temporary advantage over her, even if it was brief.

So he had set things in motion. He had originally asked Rex to help him lure Ahsoka to a small section of Chopper Base so he could ambush her, but the clone had laughed at him, telling him he was doomed to lose again.

So Kanan had turned to Chopper, who had agreed to help, stating that he would enjoy watching Kanan lose again.

Kanan had kicked the droid then and there, before the orange astromech had left.

And now here he was, suspended on the underside of a crate that was hanging on a metal clamp, waiting for Chopper to lure Ahsoka towards him.

And then, from around the corner, they came.

He could just make out what Ahsoka was saying the Chopper, as well as the retorts the droid was giving back.

"Just a few more feet." Kanan whispered to himself as Chopper continued to lure Ahsoka so that she was directly underneath him.

When said Togruta was in position, Kanan sprung his trap.

Releasing his hold on the crate, he began to dive towards Ahsoka, manipulating the force so that he would land in a roll in front of her, before springing up with his lightsaber equipped, ready to attack when her defences were down.

Watching as he fell, Kanan noticed that Ahsoka had yet to figure out her was there. She was simply too engrossed in talking to Chopper.

Kanan was only a few feet from the ground now, and he began to shift his body so that he would land in a roll.

He had her!

And then Ahsoka raised her hand, palm facing out towards Kanan.

And suddenly Kanan found himself suspended in the air, completely at the mercy of Ahsoka's manipulation of the force.

Looking around, Kanan only have one thing to say.

"Not again!"

In the background, he could hear Chopper laughing.

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The fifth time he tried he was blind. Malachor had taken a lot from everyone. Ahsoka had lost her master. Ezra had been subject to the very heart of the darkside.

And Kanan had lost his eyes. He would never see again. All it had taken was one small mistake, and his vision was gone for good.

For a time he was broken, unsure what to do. What use was he without his sight?

At least, that was what he thought, until he met the Bendu. Through rigorous training and words of wisdom, Kanan had found himself. He may no longer be able to see the physical aspects of life, but he could still see it all.

Just differently now.

And so it was that he challenged Ahsoka Tano, the woman who had killed a Sith Lord, to another duel.

The two stood opposite one another, the crew of the Ghost standing around them in a circle, watching.

Taking a deep breath, Kanan ignited his saber and prepared, opting for a different form than he was used to. Placing one arm behind his back, he tightened his grip in his saber hilt, and waited.

Patience. That was what it would take.

Patience.

Through the force he could feel Ezra's excitement, as well as Ahsoka's surprise at the different form. Kanan would almost say she was impressed.

And the she moved, dashing towards Kanan, white blades ignited coming across in a sweeping motion.

Seconds before the blades made contact, he shifted his position, sliding under her swings and jumping back to his feet to attack her back.

The Togruta corrected her move quickly, spinning on her heels and locking blades with Kanan's, pushing against his single handed grip.

Breaking one blade off from the lock, Ahsoka tried to sweep it across his knees. But the force sang to Kanan, warning him. In his mind he saw the attack coming, and he allowed the force to guide his direction.

The force sang commands to him. Back. Forward. Left. Right. All directions he should move.

And he did. He listened to every single command, and in turn skilfully evaded each of Ahsoka's attacks.

Their duel turned into a dance, white and blue moving in swift graceful arcs around their bodies. Kanan had in the past been a more brutal fighter than most, favouring heavy strikes that debilitated.

But now he opted for a change. He let the force flow through him, and in turn he flowed through the force itself. The energy around him moved with ease, allowing him to match Ahsoka's speed.

Another clash of blades came, and another, each as graceful and quick as the last. There was no prolonged contact, only the blades clashing lightly, before pulling back out of reach.

Ahsoka evaded backwards out of reach of an attempted strike by Kanan. Clearly she had figured out what he was doing.

But rather than pursue, Kanan relaxed himself, centring his presence in the force, and returned to his ready position.

Kanan listened. He listened to everything around him. The sounds of the rebels that had gathered to watch. The various creatures that inhabited Atollon in the distance. The sound of machines and ships, of technology and equipment.

And of the song in the force. His song. One of peace and stability.

Kanan remained calm, his breathing never leaving it's steady pace that was healthy. He was not worn out. He was ready to go.

Across from him he could hear it. No one else could, but he knew what it was.

As discreetly as she could, Ahsoka was breathing hard, her breaths laboured from her display of prowess.

That was the problem with Ahsoka's style. It could wear her out quickly.

And that was what he had hoped to exploit.

He heard her move suddenly, the fast paced approach she made would be her downfall.

Bringing his blade across in front of him to deflect Ahsoka's attack, he began to redirect her white blades around in a circle.

In an instant, he poured all his reserve energy, all of his strength that he would have usually used at the start of the fight, and pulled.

In that moment Ahsoka's twin lightsaber hilts were yanked from her hands, falling to the floor at Kanan's feet.

Through the force he felt everyone's shocked response, as well as heard some of the gasps of disbelief.

But from Ahsoka, there was no sense of shame, no sense of loss, or anger or anything that would be present in a sore loser.

Rather, all he felt from her was pride.

He only hoped that Master Billaba would feel the same.

Chapter Text

First things first, this is NOT a one shot chapter, but rather my overall opinions of Star Wars Rebels as a series. You don't have to read this if you don't want to, I just thought it might be interesting to look at the series overall and give my opinions on it, as well as hear your opinions.

Furthermore, as this is a review of rebels as a whole, you should expect SPOILERS! If you haven't seen the finale yet and don't want things spoiled, cease reading now and come back later.

Seriously, I mean it!

Don't say I didn't warn you!

Right, now that is settled, on with the show.

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Why I Prefer Rebels (yes I just said that)

Unlike Clone Wars, rebels focuses on a small cast of characters, with other supporting ones being weaved in and out throughout episodes. This is, in my eyes, the greatest success of rebels. Say what you will about the characters, at the very least they each get a chance to shine and develop, far more than their Clone Wars counterparts.

Part of this is due to the fact that they were all new characters. With people like Obi-Wan and Anakin, you have to keep to a strict outline of what will happen to them. However with the cast of rebels anything could happen at any time, making the show both intense and enjoyable.

Rebels also fleshes out character interaction a lot better than Clone Wars. Ezra and Kanan get far more screentime together training than Ahsoka and Anakin, and I feel that we really get to see Ezra's development and growth as a Jedi, unlike with Ahsoka which is almost entirely offscreen and thus implied that she and Anakin have trained together.

Another strength of rebels is that it is in chronological order from the start and that it feels like a continual storyline that has effects of previous episodes last onto the next one, rather than forgotten about. An example of this would be the episode "The Call" featuring the Purrgil. How many of us expected that one to come back into play in the finale huh? Another example would be the episode "Iron Squadron" (shudders). Despite being a rubbish episode, it sets up not only the conflict between Sato and Thrawn, but also brings into the fold the character of Mart Mattin, who goes on to play an important side role in the finale.

Essentially, what I am saying is that Rebels does a much better job at creating a consistent storyline in comparison to Clone Wars, which at time felt like it was all over the place in terms of plot. Rebels feels like it has the concept of cause and consequence. By the end of the show, everything comes together to create a cohesive full circle.

Of course, I don't doubt the same would have been for Clone Wars if it hadn't been cancelled, but it is what it is I'm afraid.

That all being said, rebels is off course not without its flaws. At times there are a dull episodes (Blood Sisters/Iron Squadron), but even they prove to introduce something.

Another flaw is that it can take some time to warm up to these new characters, especially if they don't get a good character driven episode until season three. (Yes, I'm taking about Sabine) This at times made me not want to watch, as I didn't really like the character, and the thought of an episode with them as the main character bored me. However, I can now happily report that I do like Sabine, so yay.

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How it all ended, and why it was always going to end the way it did

Since the start of Rebels, so many people expected a bloodbath ending, using that overly asinine Yoda quote about Luke being "Last of the Jedi" as reasoning for why Kanan and Ezra had to die. Yoda's not an omnipotent know it all! Clone Wars proved that!

Similarly, most people expected the rebels to lose at the end, again using that stupid quote from the opening crawl of 'A New Hope' as evidence why they couldn't win. (Am I the only person who doesn't like the opening crawls of the movies? I think they are cheesy. Rogue One worked better without one… …waits to get shot)

However, in my opinion, rebels was always going to have a victorious ending with few casualties, simply because it made sense. Many fans constantly criticise rebels for not having enough death and violence. When it comes down to it, Clone Wars is quite a morbid show, especially in comparison to rebels, but that makes sense simply because of when it is set.

The Clone Wars is set in the prequel era, an era that is defined by its ending being a complete bloodbath and disaster. Thus, by being similar to that, Clone Wars is simply following the atmosphere and overall story of the prequel trilogy. It can get away with constant death and destruction, because that is the theme of the prequel era.

Rebels however is set in the original trilogy era, and era that is defined by hope and success against impossible odds. By the end of ROTJ, everything is happy. The only real good guy deaths are Yoda and Kenobi, who even then go all force ghost and cheat death altogether. Thus, rebels did not need to be dark and gritty like the Clone Wars as it was set in a different time period that was directed by a hopeful ending. ROTJ ends happy, and thus it would make perfect sense for an original trilogy era story to end in similar fashion.

As for the stupid opening crawl line, remember that they are not the rebel alliance, but rather the Lothal resistance, and that they had no help from the rebellion altogether in the end.

As for Yoda's comment… just how many Jedi survived Order 66 in Legends again? Oh right, loads!

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The Theories

Ah yes, theories, one of the main ways the fans interact with the show, aside from watching it. There have been many theories throughout the shows run, too many for me to keep track of, so I will give my stances of a few of them.

Ahsoka Lives?: Damn straight she does. She always did. You'd have to be blinder than Kanan Jarrus to have not seen her enter the doorway at the end or 'Twilight of the Apprentice'.

The Convor is the Daughter/Ahsoka is the Daughter: The convor is most likely some sort of guardian that keeps watch over Ahsoka, rather than the Daughter herself. As for Ahsoka being the new daughter… no! Ahsoka is a Togruta… not a demigod! That would make her too overpowered. Imagine the backlash. Ahsoka is fine the way she is. (That being said, if they made her immortal, I wouldn't mind. Do it Captain Jack Harkness style.. he he)

Ezra is Snoke: No. Ezra Bridger is Ezra Bridger. Snoke is Snoke… or was Snoke I guess.

Everyone has to Die!: I've already explained why this one is stupid in my eyes.

These are just some theories. There are many I have missed. Let me know if you want my opinion on one I missed.

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The Common Complaints

Complaints are understandable. People have certain expectations, and when they don't line up they get upset. That being said, in the end of the day it is the creative team's story to tell, not the fans to dictate. We may not always like what they do, but it is not our work to create, merely to watch. Besides, that is what fanfiction is for, right?

Thrawn was badly used: To be fair, this one is somewhat understandable at times. However, most of the time it is not Thrawn that fails, but his underlings (looking at you Konstantine). When Thrawn is actively involved, he does achieve success. Just look at 'Through Imperial Eyes' as an example. Likewise, when he is defeated it is never due to being outsmarted by the rebels, but rather being outmanoeuvred by something he can't possibly comprehend, and thus plan for. (Bendu and the Purrgils)

Stormtroopers can't hit anything: When could they ever? How many main character kills have they achieve in canon again?

The Inquisitor's post season one were useless: I completely and utterly agree. Wasted potential. As was Rukh.

Ezra is a brat: Yeah… so what. It allows him to have character development.

Airs on Disney XD: This complaint baffles me. Apparently, because Disney owns the rights to Star Wars now it must be tame with no violence. Disney only publishes the show, they don't write for it, and whilst certain guidelines are in place, it never effected the story or how dark it could get. (case in point, the deaths of Aresko and Grint) Furthermore, other Disney properties kill off characters to create tragic backstories. Just because it is not Game of Thrones or Walking Dead level of violence doesn't mean it can't be a good show.

Filler episodes: Oh boy, time to get shot again! There is no such thing in a good show. Rather, they are what I call character development episodes, ones that don't have any real impact on the story, but rather build up the characters for the story in the future.

Bring back the Clone Wars/Clone Wars was so much better: I feel that it is unfair to compare the two shows really, even if I did a few moments ago. Oops! Anyway they are both different animals in a way, aiming to tell a different sort of story. Rebels opts for a small scale character driven format, whilst Clone Wars is more grand scale with minimal development of character. Both shows do things better than the other one does, and that's a good thing. That being said, as much as I love Clone Wars, it had its time, and there isn't really anything else it needs to show. The concluding season 5 arc with Ahsoka, along with the Order 66 stuff in season 6 pretty much raps up everything we need to see. From what we have been told was left, the only real stories that need to be told in some format are the one with the Sith Shrine under the Jedi Temple, and of course, The Siege of Mandalore. Aside from that, the other plot lines are rather pointless.

I'm sure there are more complaints as well, and if you want me to address them let me know. For now though, these will do.

And now, let us look at the crew of the Ghost.

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The Ghost- A Crew like no other

The crew of the Ghost is a family, there is no question about that. Each member bounces off the others in different ways, creating a variety of different relationships throughout the shows run. This is a good thing as it helps to make the characters seem real, and thus easier to connect to.

Ezra is our protagonist, and honestly, I'm surprised at how many people don't like him. Sure, he can be annoying and bratty, and more often than not gets things wrong, but then again, so did Ahsoka. Ezra is young, and unlike other Jedi he had come from a different background and had a rather unorthodox training route. Looking back at the start of the series, it is easy to see how much he has matured, both as a person and as a Jedi. This shows us his character development clearly, which shows that the writers have certainly done their job right. And whilst he may still have a few arrogant or bratty tendencies, he has changed a lot, and those aspects are what make Ezra Bridger who he is. Suffice to say, I like Ezra, and I hope we get to see more of him in the future. (#EzraLives!)

There's no question that Kanan was dumed (he he, get it?) from the word go. I may not like the whole "last of the Jedi you will be" quote, but the fact that Kanan got the empires attention at the start of the show should have given it away really. Plus, he was in the lead Jedi mentor role. How often do they survive? That being said, Kanan was perhaps the most well rounded character in the show. You saw his journey from reluctant master to full blown wise knight, and when he (spoilers) died, I think we were all really upset. I know I was. :'(

Hera honestly surprised me. At the start of the show, I would have called her the most expendable member of the Ghost crew. (sorry Hera) But as the series went on, her importance seemed to grow, especially around season 3 and the introduction of Thrawn. Suffice to say, if Kanan's arch nemesis was the Grand Inquisitor, and Ezra's was his inner darkness/Maul, then Hera's is absolutely Thrawn. Hera showed herself to be a brilliant leader in dire situations, foiling the empires plan time and time again with only a small crew and a freighter to do it with. So whilst I may have ignored her largely in season 1 and 2, by the end of the show I personally think she mad one of the most important roles in the show. (and I'm going to say it again, and most likely be shot… Hera Syndulla is a better pilot than Han Solo, and the Ghost is better than the Falcon… come at me upset people!)

I've said time and again that I wasn't a fan of Sabine until Trials of the Darksaber. She seemed to essentially be the token explosive expert teammate, rather than an actual character. Even her early episodes that explored her past and trust issues are hardly brought up again, with the exception of in Trials of the Darksaber. However, by the end of the show, I have come around to her character more. She is still my least favourite of the bunch, but I want to see more of her.

Zeb is the most underused of the team, which is a damn shame. He is far from being simply the comedic muscle of the team, as shown by his character centric episodes, which are the strongest ones of the series in my eyes. At least the finale did him justice. But perhaps his biggest impact on the series is the fact that out of everyone on the team, Zeb was the one who got an imperial to defect and switch sides. That's right… the muscle of the team was the one that got someone to change their mind. Not the brains (Hera) or the Jedi, but Zeb!

Chopper is a narcissistic arsehole… and we all love him for it. Sorry R2, you are cute and all, but Chopper has far more personality than you. I don't think anything else needs to be said right?

Of course, I could go on and on about the other characters, such as Kallus and Rex, or Ahsoka and Thrawn, but in the end, this is not their show. I liked seeing all of them, but for this I just wanted to look at the crew of the Ghost, my new Star Wars family.

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The Nature Aspect

One aspect of this show that caught me completely by surprise and offered a new and welcome look at the force in general was the idea of connecting to other animals. It stared back in season 1 with the Loth-cats and then the Fyrnock's, and from that moment you knew that Ezra had some sort of natural affinity to connecting with animals, something I don't believe we have seen in a Jedi before. Over time, this sort of became Ezra's defining trait as a Jedi. In season 2 he connects with the Purrgil, and then by season 4 he is in tune with the Loth-wolves. This running trend of animals being connected to the force is what makes rebels interesting in the long run, and helps to create an overarching plotline that we perhaps do not realize existed until the end. In turn, this makes Thrawn's defeat make more sense, especially when you take the Bendu's warning into regards.

What I am saying is that the use of nature and native life in the show, even those that weren't able to be tamed such as the Convor's, Morai and even the spiders on Atollon, all play a role in developing not only the Star Wars mythos as a whole, but help to establish Ezra Bridger as a unique character in his own right.

Suffice to say, well played Filoni and crew. I never expected this from rebels, but it became one of my favourite parts of it as a whole.

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A Family Reunion, and a Farewell

Every good show comes to an end at some point, and they should always come to an end when they are on a high note. If people are saying that the show is becoming really good now… it's time to wrap it up, otherwise it becomes stale due to overly high expectations of the fans.

Rebels is no different, and while I would have liked either a few more episodes in season 4, or a whole season 5 as well, I understand and am happy with how and when they ended it.

The finale, 'Family Reunion and Farewell' did pretty much everything right about a finale. It brought back the majority of the supporting cast for one final battle, and put all the elements the show had cultivated into one large episode, rounding off the series on an incredible high.

Rebels was ultimately Ezra's tale, as Clone Wars was Ahsoka's. Thus, the series was always going to end with Ezra showing how much he had matured. I personally loved every aspect of the finale, (with the exception of the death of Rukh. Wasted character really)

I've already pretty much summed up the episode itself, but I will talk about the epilogue scene.

Zeb and Kallus going off together was awesome. Nice to see how much Kallus has changed. Looking forward to seeing what they get up to next.

Hera had a child? When did she and Kanan… nevermind… don't really wanna know. Still, nice that some part of Kanan lives on. Though I question why they called the kid Jacen. I know it's an EU reference, but surely something like Caleb would have made more sense?

Rex finally became a commander… nice work buddy, only took you two galactic wars!

Sabine staying on Lothal was nice to see, especially since it paralleled the very first episode of the series as a whole. Sabine getting to do the monologue at the end was a nice touch. Would never have expected it to be her getting to do the wrap up at the end when the show started.

And of course… I can't not mention Ahsoka the White. Knowing Filoni's inspiration from LOTR… this made a lot of sense, and I loved every second of it. I'm so glad she of all people survived up to post ROTJ. Now I just need her to learn how to punch force ghost's in the face for when Anakin inevitably shows up to try to apologize to her.

Though, if I was to offer her one piece of advice, it would be this. There is this kid running around called Luke Skywalker. Stay the hell away from him! Bad things happen to people called Skywalker, and I'd rather not have to deal with her stuck in more Skywalker BS. She's her own character, not an extension of the Skywalker story.

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So… what's next?

Good question. We already know that Filoni is more than likely doing something new. What, we don't know. Yet at least.

That being said, the most logical choice would be a show between ROTJ and TFA, covering Luke's new order, and how bloody doomed it was from the start.

Though… if it's not that… I imagine it will be something with Sabine and Ahsoka hunting for Ezra. Or Thrawn and Ezra doing stuff together to survive. Either appeals to me.

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Conclusion

All in all, I love rebels. Personally, it is the piece of Star Wars that I have most enjoyed watching. Unlike the movies, it has had the time to create and develop interesting characters and plotlines, as well as introduce new aspects to the universe that fit in well. When people who like Star Wars tell me they haven't seen Clone Wars or Rebels, I am both shocked and surprised. Of course, I will then recommend them to them, and they won't listen to me cause I'm wrong it their eyes. Still, I love the series and am sorry to see it go, but at the same time glad I came along for the ride.

So thank you Dave Filoni and the cast and crew of rebels. You have made something truly special here, and I wish you all the best for whatever you do in the future. Suffice to say, I will be there watching with great interest.

Also, everything above is my opinion, and it is neither right nor wrong, just mine. If you have a different one to me, that's fine, and I'd love to hear what you think. Also, if I have inadvertently offended you in some way, I apologize. That was not my intention. Please forgive me.

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And now for something you can all join in on

So I realize the past 3000 words were just me talking, so now it's time for me to ask your opinions and such. Below are a series of questions relating to the series as a whole. If you want to answer them, do so in a review for me. I'd love to know what your choices are. Also, you don't have to answer them all if you don't want to. They will be numbered, so just answer what you want like that. My answers will be in brackets next to the question itself. Have fun.

1. Favourite Season (Season Four)

2. Favourite 20 minute episode (A World Between Worlds)

3. Favourite 40 minute episode (Twilight of the Apprentice)

4. Guilty Pleasure episode, the one you like but everyone else hates (The Wynkahthu Job)

5. Favourite crew of the Ghost member (Kanan Jarrus)

6. Favourite non crew of the Ghost member, heroes only (Ahsoka Tano… as if it wasn't going to be her)

7. Favourite Villain (Grand Admiral Thrawn)

8. Favourite creature (Loth-Wolves)

9. Favourite Ezra moment (His talk with Thrawn and Sidious in the finale)

10. Favourite Kanan moment (Learning to 'see' again with the Bendu)

11. Favourite Hera moment (Her taking out Vult Skerris)

12. Favourite Sabine moment (The whole Darksaber stuff)

13. Favourite Zeb moment (His Wookiee impression in the premiere episode)

14. Favourite Chopper moment (When he murders those Stormtroopers with the big drill thing in A World Between Worlds)

15. Favourite line of dialogue ("I expected Governor Pryce to fail, but not so completely")

16. Favourite location in the show (You know what… Lothal. I liked that place)

17. Favourite movie character that appeared (The Emperor of course)

18. Favourite soundtrack piece (Thrawn's Orbital Bombardment)

19. Favourite lightsaber duel (Ahsoka vs. Vader)

20. Clone Wars or Rebels (Rebels)

Hope you liked those questions. Like I said, I'd love to hear your answers to them.

The one shot series will return at some point soon, after a brief break to let my hand heal properly. I will answer any responses when I upload next.

I'll get back to you all when I can. In between real life and stuff, I find myself with less and less time.

So yeah, the one shots will return soon, once I have written some more. Kinda hard to do that and work on a super secret special project at the same time. Oh Karabast! I shouldn't have said that last part! Forget I said anything!

Till next time.

SirLoozElite

Chapter Text

Bail Organa stood by the head of the table. He had so much he wanted to say, so many opinions he wanted to voice.

But instead, he stood silent, hoping that his closest friend would see his silence and understand exactly what it meant.

Leia was refusing to speak to him now, not that he blamed her. After all he had stood at this very table not long ago and said nothing whilst his allies and friends around him condemned his most prized agent to death because she shared a different opinion.

It was a betrayal he realized, on the scale of the one she had suffered as a mere teenager. Back then he hadn't known Ahsoka Tano too well, and thus he had that excuse to use.

But now, after over fifteen years of working together to build the rebellion from the ground up, he knew he well enough to know that she would never do the things she was accused of.

And still, despite that he had said nothing, simply because at the time he had been so dumbfounded by the decision Mon Mothma had taken. It was to be expected by General Draven, but Mothma ordering the death of one of their best?

Something was wrong. Draven could be a manipulative bastard on the best of days. What did he have against Ahsoka?

Suffice to say, Bail did not agree with the decision that had been made. An attempted assassination of their best agent was downright stupid. For starters, Bail had seen Ahsoka in action. There was no way any rebel agent had a chance against her.

Secondly was that Ahsoka's plan, whilst brash and overt, was a sound strategy. If the mission was a success, then the head of the empire would be crippled, and in theory the empire would begin to fall.

And if anyone could do it, Bail believed it was Ahsoka and her friends.

Shaking out of his internal strife, Bail scoured the rim of the holotable, taking in the faces of those present. Mon Mothma stood next to him, a grim look on her face. Beside her was Draven, his face full of rage and what appeared to be embarrassment.

Across from him was Dodonna, who like Bail had an emotionless look on his face. However, from his lifelong career as a politician, Bail could tell he was hiding something.

Beside Dodonna was a hologram of Commander Sato, who looked somewhat pleased with himself. It was rare that Sato ever showed anything other than steadfastness and professionalism, so his current expression clearly showed his role in what had happened.

But perhaps the most perplexing expression present was the one belonging to Admiral Raddus. The Mon Calamari had what could only be described as a smug expression on his face as he watched Draven fidget. Clearly whatever Raddus had done pleased himself to no end.

As Bail contemplated the faces, Mon Mothma spoke.

"Explain it to me again Admiral Raddus?"

The large blue Mon Calamari chuckled before answering.

"Draven attempted to use my ship to capture the Ghost with the intent on executing Commander Tano. I decided his plan was stupid and stunned him instead, allowing Tano and her team to escape."

The fact that Raddus had outright admitted to what he had done almost made Bail laugh. The admiral was nothing if not reckless, even with protocol.

Beside him he felt Mon Mothma bristle slightly, her head turning to look at Draven briefly, before turning back to Raddus.

"And how exactly did the Ghost escape the tractor beam that General Draven had locked on?"

A cough from the other side of the table drew the attention, as the hologram of Sato raised his hand.

"I ordered the members of Phoenix Squadron to destroy the emitter, allowing the Ghost to go free."

Mon Mothma sighed aloud, lowering her head briefly for a moment.

Then the former Senator spoke.

"Admiral Raddus you were under orders to eliminate Ahsoka Tano. Why did you disobey?"

Silence flooded the control room of the rebel base. No one dared speak, and all eyes were on Raddus, Draven's especially.

To Bail's surprise, Raddus did not hesitate.

"Because frankly Senator Mothma, that order was pure poodoo. Tano has been nothing but a loyal agent for years. Hell, she's been serving longer than I have, and time and time again she had brought us nothing but success. Without her our intelligence network would be non-existent, and our entire rebellion would be nothing but a few scattered cells working independently. You may not be able to see it, but this whole rebel base here on Yavin Four, all the people that have come together, all of that is because of people like Ahsoka Tano. You may be our figurehead, the one who voices and represents us, but people like Tano and Syndulla, even Gerrerra, they are the ones who are out there day to day, fighting the empire for us. Without them, we are nothing but a few politicians that disagree with Palpatine's regime. So no Senator Mothma, I will not be following your assassination orders. Find another puppet to do it for you."

No one replied. Silence flooded the room. Even the various technicians that worked the consoles on the periphery had turned in their seats to listen to Raddus' speech, one that he had clearly been thinking about for a long while.

And then Sato spoke.

"Here here."

And Dodonna too.

"Agreed."

All heads then began to turn to Mothma, who stood completely still, her eyes on Raddus'.

The two stared at each other, the Senator trying to read the Admiral, and the admiral merely staring beck in defiance.

And then Bail seized his moment and spoke, leaning down to speak gently to Mon Mothma.

"He's right old friend. Whether or not you think Ahsoka's plan is foolish you can't deny that she has been instrumental in our success. When everything is all said and done she will most likely outlive us all anyway thanks to her force sensitivity. Her past is her past, and I can promise you that she would never allow herself to become corrupted as her master was. We can trust her."

Mon turned slightly to Bail, looking her eyes with his before she replied.

"Padme once said the same about Anakin Skywalker. Why should I trust your opinion on this?"

Bail smiled gently, having already anticipated the line of questioning.

"Do you really think I would trust Ahsoka with Leia if I didn't believe it?"

Bail didn't miss the way Mon Mothma's eyes widened in understanding. Leia was a remnant of Padme, one of the people both her and Mon had trusted and valued. The memory of their oldest friend, as well as who was trusted to guard her was all the evidence that would ever be needed in a question of trust.

Sighing gently, Mon Mothma nodded before continuing.

"Perhaps the decision was a bit rash and made without properly understanding every outcome."

Smiles came to the faces of the other members of the rebel council present as they heard the response. They wouldn't hold grudges against one another. Everyone was prone the making mistakes. It took a bigger better person to admit to them.

Then a loud huff of anger was heard from the table.

Draven was not smiling, but rather looking angry. The human rolled his eyes dramatically before speaking, acid on his tongue.

"Then I guess we can only hope that Tano and her goons are slaughtered by the Emperor in this suicidal plan of hers."

Bail very rarely wanted to punch someone, but right now he was sorely considering marching across the room to deck the General.

That was until an unexpected yet familiar voice echoed across the room.

"Sorry to disappoint you General."

Every head at the table turned to look on in shock at the new arrivals. There were four of them, three easily recognizable ones.

"Captain Syndulla, Captain Rex, Knight Jarrus, what are you doing back so soon?" Sato spoke first, joy in his voice. Bail too was keeping his excitement contained. If they were back then surely that meant everything went well.

Hera Syndulla chose to speak first, coming to stand beside the hologram of Sato.

"We succeeded in destroying the Emperor's battle station, and have eliminated the Emperor in the process. Our mission was a success, but we had a few losses."

Heads bowed around the table in mourning before Sato enquired.

"Who?"

The question was simple, and Bail had to admit he dreaded the answer.

It was Kanan that responded this time, his tone simple yet clearly full of inner loss.

"Master Yoda gave his life on the mission, as did Commander Wolffe of the Wolfpack. Ryder Azadi also did not make it. And Saw Gerrerra sacrificed himself to save Ahsoka."

Heads turned to each other in surprise at the mention of Saw Gerrerra. The fact that a man that was pretty much universally despised by the rebel leaders present had not only fallen, but had fallen protecting one of their own was a shock. Perhaps, Bail thought, he had been too harsh on Gerrerra in the past.

But that brought up another point. Of the four people who had come, Ahsoka was no among them. The fourth person who Bail had yet to identify was draped in brown robes with a white beard covering much of his face. He was familiar, yet not.

Bail could have sworn he knew the man.

Pushing his line of thinking aside, Bail asked the question on the lips of everyone.

"And Commander Tano? Is she…"

Bail hoped not. He really did. He valued Ahsoka, and he knew how close Leia was to her. How the kriff would he explain it to her if…

Rex was the one to answer, his voice gruff and full of distrust.

"She's fine, though it should come as no surprise that she wants nothing to do with you lot after that attempt on her life! In fact I almost considered lying to you lot about where she was, but decided against it. After all, it appears she has at least a few friends here."

Rex's statement was backed up by a side glance and a sharp nod to Commander Sato, who nodded back.

It was quite clear that Rex had not yet forgiven the rebel council for their actions, not that Bail had forgiven himself yet either. That would take time. After all, he knew that Rex was on the verge of being fanatically loyal to Ahsoka by choice.

"We were wrong to make such a rash decision Captain, and I apologize for what happened. But right now we have bigger issues to discuss. Do you have anything else to report from your mission?" Mon Mothma spoke, her voice steady and back to being that of the leader they had all come to admire.

Hera took that opportunity to begin, mentioning something about a backup plan the Emperor had called Operation Cinder, and how it needed to be stopped immediately. The rebel council suddenly found themselves staring at what appeared to be schematics on the holotable of said project, with the only information of their origin point being from within the empire itself.

But try as he may, Bail could not focus. Instead, he found his eyes being drawn to the mysterious figure who had arrived with Captain Syndulla and the other rebels.

Glancing at the figure, Bail spotted blue eyes staring out from under a hood, before the figure lifted their hands up to gesture Bail to come to him.

Bail did, moving discreetly away from the holotable where the rebel leaders were discussing their next move, and joined the cloaked figure.

Once he was right before him, the figure removed his hood and spoke.

"Hello there my old friend."

Bail couldn't help the gasp that escaped him as he recognized the voice, even if it had aged in the years since he had last heard it.

"General Kenobi?"

Chapter Text

General Hera Syndulla stood in the command centre of Home One, the flagship of the rebel fleet, and the location of what was about to be an incredibly important mission, one that could very well determine the fate of an entire planet.

Hera was no stranger to such meetings though. Her participation in what had been called the 'most suicidal mission in the galaxy' was proof of that. By the time she and the remaining crew of the Ghost had returned to Yavin Four with news about the assault on the Emperor's battle station, she had already become a legend. She and her crew.

And whilst at the time she had fully expected to be reprimanded for abandoning her post on what seemed like a foolhardy mission, instead she had found herself promoted.

General. No longer a Captain, but a General.

Suffice to say, her father had been proud.

And now here she stood, among the upper echelons of rebel command, ready for what seemed to be another suicidal mission.

It had taken some time to decrypt the information they had brought back from the battle station. Whatever 'Operation Cinder' was, it was clearly meant to be top secret. Luckily for them, they had an expert in decrypting imperial codes.

K-2 may have complained the entire time, but he had come through, revealed information detailing the Operation the rebels now sought to stop.

The basis of it was both simple, yet obscene to Hera. A series of orbital satellites equipped with weapons that were not intended to directly harm, but rather somehow disrupt and alter the atmosphere for the worst. From what Hera could figure out, it was essentially a weather machine.

How the empire possessed weather altering technology was a mystery, but its purpose was clear. Incite fear into the galaxy in hopes of maintaining control. It was a classic arms race.

And they had to stop it.

Glancing around the meeting room, Hera watched as several figures, some holograms and other not, assembled. Hera herself moved towards the central table.

As she approached the table, one figure turned to nod at her.

"General Syndulla, glad you could make it."

Hera allowed herself to smile at the hologram of Commander Sato. Without him, it was very possible that their mission would have failed. They all owed him.

But Sato did not seem to mind, nor did he want any thanks. As far as he was concerned, he was only doing the right thing.

Across from Sato was Admiral Ackbar, and next to him another of his kin, Admiral Raddus. Both Mon Calamari were spearheading this mission with their formidable capital ships. Hopefully that would be enough for whatever the empire had in store.

Glancing around the table further, Hera spotted the hologram of General Dodonna, who had also volunteered several ships to the mission. His experience would be welcome.

It occurred to her then that the only major rebel commander not present was General Draven, but then that didn't surprise her. Even after the whole fiasco that had been his attempted assassination of Ahsoka, Draven had continued to play a role in leading the rebellion. That was until one day he had mysteriously disappeared. Hera could only imagine what had happened to him, and so far all investigations had turned up nothing to trace the General.

Not that Hera minded all that much. Draven was in her opinion, one of the meanest Nerf-Herders she had ever encountered. She certainly wouldn't miss him.

It was then that Hera's eyes locked onto perhaps the most perplexing leader assembled for the mission. When they had been organising and assembling ships at the rendezvous point, Captain Rex had taken it upon himself to bring in more reinforcements.

However, the identity of said reinforcements was one that came at a complete surprise to everyone. After all, the appearance of a Providence class carrier was one that years ago sowed fear into the hearts of many.

As was the identity of it's general.

But now, here he stood, amongst the rebels, willing to help with this mission, one that would need all the firepower they could muster.

Suffice to say, Hera didn't care that General Kalani was a droid. All she cared about was that he was willing to help.

Yet even with the combined might of a Seperatist Capital Ship, two Mon Calamari Cruisers, one captured imperial carrier, and an assortment of other ships from General Dodonna, the rebel fleet was severely underpowered.

That was where Hera assumed she came in. The capital ships would be able to hold off any imperial forces for a time, but it would be the fighter squadrons that would win the rebels the day.

And it was Hera's job to command them it seemed.

It was then that the meeting began, and Hera's thoughts were dragged away from her analysis of her allies.

"Reports indicate an increased imperial presence around Naboo. We've obtained information that the Star Destroyer Eviscerator is in orbit above the planet, accompanied by its own personal escort, as well as several satellite's the imperials appear to be positioning above the capital." Ackbar spoke first, his hands traversing a holomap that appeared in the centre of the table, bringing up an image of Naboo, as well as approximate readouts of the positions of the Imperial's fleet positions.

"Do we know who is commanding Eviscerator?" Dodonna inquired, his own hand gesturing towards the image of the lead Star Destroyer.

"Reports from Captain Kallus suggest that Admiral Garrick Versio is in command of the destroyer. It should be of no coincidence that he be present to oversee his own project." Ackbar replied, his voice somewhat grim.

Hera understood why. Garrick Versio had escaped from the battle station before it had been destroyed, and he and his imperial remnant faction had been causing chaos and havoc for several months.

And now he had appeared above Naboo, with what Hera could only assume was Operation Cinder. If it was as dangerous as the files stated it was…

"So we have a chance to eliminate Versio, as well as shut down Operation Cinder? This is too good to be true!" Sato commented from beside Hera, his face full of trepidation.

Kalani then spoke up, his monotone voice surprisingly full of what appeared to be concern.

"I agree with the Commander. However, our primary target is heavily protected by multiple Imperial Class Star Destroyers. We cannot stand up to the combined might of them for long."

Hera then chose her moment to intervene. After all, this was why she was present at the meeting.

"I know this plan is risky, but all we need to do is destroy the satellites that control Operation Cinder. Without them the empire has no reason to stay, and will more than likely be pushed into retreat. As tempting as it might be to remove Versio from the situation, we cannot commit resources to his flagship, not yet. We must focus all our attention on the satellites."

Murmurs of agreement went round the table, the various leaders looking to one another in acceptance and understanding. Now was not the time to deal with Versio. They had a planet to save.

"Very well General Syndulla. You shall command the fighter wings to destroy the satellites whilst the rest of us fend off the capital ships as long as we can. You'll only have a short window of time, so make it count." Raddus gave his own input for the first time, his usual rogue tone of voice present, one that usually indicated mischief.

Hera allowed herself to smile before snapping into a salute.

"Consider it done Admirals."

Turning on her heel, Hera began to move towards the exit of the bridge, before beginning to make her way down to the hanger bay where her ship was waiting for her.

As she crossed the threshold of the doorway she heard one final comment from Kalani.

"I calculate a 24.6 percent chance of success on this mission."

As she left, Hera smirked.

That was more than enough for her.

**************************************************************************************************************************

Garrick Versio stood on the bridge of his ship, the Eviscerator. If all went to plan, and it would, today would be a glorious day for the empire.

The Emperor may have been dead, but his will lived on. And it was a will that Versio was more than willing to be the director of.

Even if it meant following the orders of someone like Gallius Rax.

'For now at least.' Versio thought to himself. In time he would take command for himself.

But today, he had his own victory in mind.

Looking out of the window of the bridge, Garrick stared down at the planet below.

Naboo. Homeworld of the Emperor, and now the first planet to be lucky enough to understand why the empire was supreme. The satellites were in place. It was just a matter of giving the order.

He had delayed however. Not for any real tactical or strategic reason, but rather a personal one. He wanted to share this victory.

"Admiral? You wanted to see me?" A feminine voice came from behind him, one that brought a smile to his face.

Turning around, Garrick greeted the new arrival, beckoning them towards him.

"Iden my dear, I'm glad you could make it. Today, you and I shall witness the fruits of my labour. Come come, watch with me."

The woman, his daughter, Iden Versio, nodded, before moving to stand beside her father, looking down at the planet below.

"Thank you for this opportunity Admiral. I would be honoured to join you."

Garrick smiled again. His daughter had learnt well. She followed every command, respected every superior, and in doing so she became one of the best. Her piloting skills were nearly unmatched.

He tried not to be biased, but even now he knew that his daughter was well on her way to yet another promotion.

And he couldn't be more proud of her.

Garrick turned his attention back to the planet below. The sky was clear over Naboo. No doubt it was a sunny day for the residents of the capital.

A shame then that he was about to ruin it, all in the name of control.

Not that he cared in the slightest.

Turning his head, Admiral Versio spoke to a nearby officer.

"Initiate Operation Cinder."

The officer nodded in reply, before moving his hand over a nearby terminal, keying in the activation code.

Shifting his gaze back out the window, Garrick spotted one of the orbital satellites powering up.

Moments later it reached fully charged, and a bright beam of light erupted from the tip of the mounted weapon, casting downwards towards the planet below.

Seconds later, a second beam was unleashed, and then a third, and a fourth.

In the span of several seconds, ten orange beams had emerged from the orbital satellites, and were now descending down upon the capital of Naboo. The skies began to change, dark clouds forming and blocking out the light. Lightning storms began to ravage the atmosphere.

Beside him, Garrick saw his daughter stiffen in surprise.

Yet that didn't stop the dark smile that came to his face.

Everything was going according to plan.

"Admiral, we are detecting several hyperspace signatures on approach."

*****************************************************************************************************************

The blue vortex of hyperspace would usually give Hera some peace. It was her chance to relax usually, to take in the marvels of space travel.

But now, now it was the calm before the storm.

It was times like these she was glad she was piloting the Ghost. The freighter had served her well, and she fully intended it to serve her and her family for many more moons.

After all, it was not just a ship. It was their home.

She was seated in the pilot seat as usual, Zeb of all people beside her, acting as co-pilot. The rest of her family was off on other missions, leaving her with the lumbering Lasat.

Not that she minded. Zeb was like an uncle to her, and she welcomed his assistance.

In the back of the cockpit, Chopper beeped aloud from his position plugged into a terminal, indicating that they were about to drop out of hyperspace.

Gripping the controls of her ship tightly in her hands, Hera braced as the blue of hyperspace evaporated just as quickly as it had appeared.

And in a blink of an eye, she found herself back in real space. Before her was Naboo, its atmosphere clearly in unrest. Storms ravaged across the planet, no doubt causing large scale damage on the surface.

But right now Naboo was not her true concern, but rather the imperial fleet above it, or rather what said fleet protected.

Hera spotted the satellites with ease. Ten orange beams of light descending onto the surface of Naboo gave away the position of her targets.

It was just a matter of getting through the Star Destroyer blockade.

Beside her, Zeb gasped in surprise.

"Karabast! Am I seeing seven Star Destroyers?"

Hera made a quick count, confirming what Zeb was seeing. One Destroyer was bad enough, but seven?

Kalani had been right. They stood no chance in a conventional fight against those Star Destroyers.

She and her squadron would have to move fast.

Reaching her hand across to her comm link, Hera keyed it on and spoke.

"Alright Phoenix Squadron, let's make this count. Form up and follow my lead."

"So the rebels come. At last." Garrick spoke aloud, ordering his crew into positions. He knew what they were here for, but it mattered little. He would stop them.

Approaching the holomap he had on the bridge, Garrick began to observe the situation. The rebels had come, and had a sizable force. Multiple cruisers and carriers, and even what looked like an old Separatist flag ship. Where had they gotten that from?

Still, it wouldn't be enough, Garrick knew that. The question was, did the rebels?

"Launch all fighters. Defend the satellites, no matter the cost."

Hera flew the Ghost straight towards the Star Destroyers. It was a bold move, one that might fail. But she had to lure Versio into a false sense of security.

Two more ships appeared by the side of the Ghost, visible out of the window of the cockpit. Rebel command had finally begun mass producing their latest design, the X-wing. Hopefully today, it would prove to be an advantage.

"Squadron leaders report in." Hera commanded into her comm link.

"Antilles here, Rogue squadron is following your lead General."

"Mattin here, Iron squadron ready and able."

"Vos here. Bomber squadron ready, just clear us a path."

"Vulture T-17-12 active. Commencing diversion tactics."

Hera allowed herself to take a deep breath, preparing herself for what lie ahead. Before her, she could make out the tell-tale shapes of imperial TIE Fighters preparing for combat.

Releasing the breath she was holding, Hera spoke once more.

"May the Force be with us."

And then she gave the command to attack.

********************************************************************************************************************

"Admiral, we are detecting several wings of enemy fighters heading towards us. Interceptors are being deployed to stop them."

So that was their plan. Keep their capital ships back and allow the fighters to do the dirty work.

'Cowards!' Garrick thought.

"Order the Dauntless and Stalwart forward. Mobilize bomber squadrons to attack the rebel fleet." Garrick ordered allowed to his bridge officers, who in turn relayed the commands to the respective officers aboard the other Star Destroyers. Two of the empire's mighty capital ships would be sufficient.

Glancing out the window of the bridge, Garrick watched as the Dauntless and Stalwart began to advance towards the rebel fleet.

Two Destroyers would certainly be enough alone, but he knew what else he could do.

"Order all remaining Star Destroyers to commence long range bombardment. Force the rebel fleet closer to us."

Hera watched as two of the mighty behemoths that were Imperial Star Destroyers began to shift towards them. Ships of that size were almost indestructible.

Luckily, she had just the tool to deal with them.

"Phoenix Squadron, form up on me. Iron Squadron, clear a path for the bombers. All other wings, engage the fighters."

Affirmatives came through on the comm in quick succession, and beside her Zeb reported each wing moving into formation.

Turning her head behind her seat, Hera addressed Chopper.

"Chop, power up the heavy weapons. Let's clear out those Destroyers."

The ever loyal orange astromech seemed to chuckle in glee as he got to work, and seconds later Hera's consoles beeped in confirmation.

Tugging lightly on the piloting controls of the Ghost, Hera lined up towards one of the approaching Star Destroyers.

It was then that the destroyers in back opened fire. Blasts of green energy consumed the space around them, no doubt attempting to target the rebel ships in back.

Hera only hoped they could hold off long enough, as right now she had bigger concerns.

Powering up the integrated Defender and B-wing weapons, Hera opened fire.

A lance of bright red energy speared towards one of the Destroyers, scorching a long mark along the top of its hull. Small explosions followed in unison as areas of the ship decompressed and buckled, sending the Destroyer into disarray.

"Bomber squadron, make your attack run!" Hera called out.

"We're on our way General." The voice of Quinlan Vos replied. The Jedi Master had demanded to come along, bringing with him his old Jedi Starfighter. With his reputation, Hera knew that Vos would be more than a match for any imperial pilot.

It was then that a squadron of TIE fighters joined the fray, opening fire up the Ghost and its wing of fighters.

"Break off and engage." Hera called out, pulling the Ghost upwards in a sharp incline, firing at a pair of TIE fighters in the process.

A dogfight emerged briefly between the pilots, as red and green flashed covered space, a clear indication of the battle raging.

As she pulled the Ghost around, destroying one of the TIE's with a well-placed shot in the process, Hera witnessed her Y-wing bomber squadron make their move.

The Y-wings, led by Vos, flew directly towards the smoking holes she had created in the Star Destroyer, unleashing their payloads of proton warhead before pulling up to escape the blast radius.

Hera counted to three before the warheads hit their mark.

Large explosions raked the hull of the destroyer, causing further damage and ruptures. Yet that was not the true extent of the damage.

Several of the warheads impacted differently. Rather than hit the outer hull, they struck the inner hull, along the carefully cut line Hera had created with the mounted B-wing laser.

The Star Destroyer seemed to shake momentarily, before several large explosions began to travel the length of the ship.

Moments later, the entire destroyer seemed to stop moving, before a bright white light erupted from within.

In an instant, the Destroyer shattered into two separate pieces, both aflame, and now both useless.

Cheers erupted through the comm as one of the Destroyers went down.

Hopefully soon the others would follow suit.

*************************************************************************************************************************************

"Admiral, the Dauntless has been destroyed!"

Now that was a surprise! Garrick had watched as a freighter, one that he had only ever heard of approached the Dauntless, only to scuttle it in seconds with some sort of weapon he had never seen before.

If the rumours were true, the same thing had happened to the Chimaera at the battle station months ago.

And there had been no word from Thrawn since.

Garrick really wished the Grand Admiral was present right now. He could use his tactical genius.

Still, it was no use dwelling of what Garrick assumed was the dead. The freighter posed a serious threat to his plans. It had to be destroyed.

"Order the Stalwart to hold position. All batteries, target the 'Ghost'!"

Hera's eyes widened in alarm as the full force of the lead Star Destroyer opened fire upon her. She was an expert pilot that much was certain. But even she couldn't escape such a maelstrom of fire without taking damage.

The Ghost shuddered dramatically as several shots landed their mark, the shields absorbing most of the damage from the turbolaser fire, but not enough.

"Hera, the B-Wing laser is offline!" Zeb called out in alarm, his face contorting in anger as he tried desperately to power it back up.

Grunting to herself Hera continued to evade the fire from the Eviscerator, pulling the Ghost through several different manoeuvres in the process.

"Just keep working on it Zeb!" Hera called back out, her focus primarily on the raging battle around her. Through the window of the cockpit, Hera could see her fighter wing engaging the mass of imperial TIEs. All the while the Star Destroyers continued their long range assault on the rebel fleet.

And as expected, the comm came alive with sporadic voices.

"Those Star Destroyers outrange us, we need to move closer."

"I calculate an 89.7 percent chance of complete destruction if we do not advance upon those Star Destroyers."

"How can our chance to survive be higher the closer we are?!"

"At least we'd be able to shoot back!"

"General Syndulla, we've got bombers on route to the rebel fleet!"

That caught Hera's attention. Bombers would be serious trouble, no matter the distance. It seemed that Versio had the same idea as she did.

"Iron Squadron, break off your attack and defend the capital ships. Those bombers are your primary target. Rogue Squadron, form up behind me." Hera ordered over the comm, listening and watching for her orders to be received.

Moments later, Hera witnessed her comrade's follow through with the order, breaking off into their various positions.

Hopefully Mart and his wing would be sufficient in defence.

"We still need to get past those Star Destroyers!" Zeb called out at the moment, addressing the blockade before them.

'Karabast!' Hera thought. The plan had been to use the B-wing laser, supplemented with the Y-wing bombers to break through the Star Destroyers. But now, without the laser active, they would need a new plan. The Y-wings wouldn't be enough.

Pulling the Ghost into a sharp turn, Hera angled the freighter for a gap between the closest Destroyer and another behind it.

And then the Ghost shuddered again, indicating another direct hit from the Eviscerator.

"General, we can't break through. Their firepower is too intense!" Wedge Antilles voice came through the comm link this time, steady yet concerned.

"Pull back, let's see if we can find another gap!" Hera replied, pulling her ship to one side and away from her original plan.

Around her, fire raged, green and red.

X-wings duelled TIE interceptors. A-wings danced with TIE fighters.

And the longer the battle went on, the worse the odds seemed to be for the rebels.

And greater for the empire.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

Garrick smirked as he watched out the bridge window. The freighter known as the Ghost had pulled a sharp turn, leading what appeared to either be a retreat, or a repositioning.

Gesturing to a member of his bridge crew, Garrick ordered his own fighter wings to pursue. Defence was the goal here, not offense. Even the bombers were designed to be a distraction, to buy him more time and thin both the rebels' ranks and morale.

And so far it appeared to be working.

And then a voice spoke aloud to him, one that he was very familiar with.

"This is monstrous!"

Garrick turned, confusion on his face as his daughter eyeballed him, fury in her eyes.

"They are rebel scum. I thought you had experience in dealing with such threats Iden?"

Iden's face contorted some more, her arms gesturing not towards the ongoing space battle, but instead towards the planet below.

"Not this battle, the planet. This weapon is insane. There are loyal subjects of the empire down on Naboo, and you and torturing them! All in the name of control."

Garrick remained still, his features betraying no hint of emotion before replying.

"We must ensure loyalty to our Emperor, even with his passing. Fear will keep the galaxy in line. We must demonstrate our power and show the galaxy that this rebel threat are nothing but terrorists, and that we are the protectors of the galaxy."

Garrick hoped that she would understand. She was his daughter after all. His own flesh and blood. And he was proud of her and her accomplishments.

However, it appeared that on this, father and daughter were not going to reach an agreement.

"Ensure loyalty? By destroying peaceful cities? By murdering innocents? This is not us! This is not what the empire that I have fought so hard for represents! Not to me!"

Garrick had lost patience by now, and was barely able to stop himself from snapping and shouting. Instead, he took a deep breath and spoke, slowly and clearly.

"Get off my bridge."

Iden didn't even salute, rather she stormed off, anger left in her wake. Garrick would deal with her insubordination later. Right now, he had a battle to win.

And that was when some unexpected, yet welcome news reached him.

"Admiral, we are detecting incoming hyperspace signals. Their trackers identity them as Imperial Star Destroyers, three to be precise."

Garrick smiled in response. It seemed Rax had sent reinforcements.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

"General Syndulla, Home One just took a direct hit from those Star Destroyers. I calculate you have mere moments before a decisive imperial victory. We must retreat." General Kalani's voice was the one to address Hera over the comm link this time, and frankly it looked as if the droid was right. The imperials were too well entrenched, the satellites too well protected.

The rebels simply didn't have enough strength to overpower them, nor enough time to break through.

And then things got worse. This time it was Zeb that cried out, his voice full of dread.

"Karabast! We've got incoming hyperspace signals. Three Star Destroyers!"

Hera's eyes widened in alarm. It had been a trap. Versio had lured them all in, and now it looked like he was ready to finish them off.

Glancing out of the cockpit window, explosions and laser fire flashing all around her, Hera held her breath.

Moments later, the Star Destroyers arrived.

The three gargantum ships dropped out of hyperspace, unmoving, yet within weapon range of the rebel fleet.

But what surprised Hera was not the ships themselves, but rather the direction they were facing.

They weren't facing towards the rebel fleet.

But rather Versio's blockade.

And then Hera spotted something that sent chills down her spine.

The lead Destroyer, the one that was now position right before her eyes had a very familiar marking on it.

The underside of the ship possessed what appeared to be a stylized depiction of a mythical creature, two serpents coiled around one another.

"No!" Hera whispered to herself. "It can't be, not now!"

But deny as she may, it didn't stop the truth from being reality.

That Star Destroyer had a name, one that was infamous amongst the rebels, and one that Hera presumed destroyed.

The Chimaera.

And it's Admiral was just as infamous as the ship itself.

Chapter Text

Grand Admiral Thrawn stood on the bridge of the Chimaera, overlooking the vast emptiness of space.

This was supposed to be the rendezvous point. The place of which he had organized a meeting of those who might stand with him.

He wasn't expecting much help to be honest, not when his quest was downright treason.

But Operation Cinder had to be stopped, and he couldn't do it alone. He needed help.

This would be his first stop in obtaining it. If he could gain access to more Imperials who thought the same way as him, he might just be able to rival Versio and Rax.

And from what Yularen had told him, Thrawn would need to best of the best in order to achieve victory.

So he had sent out 'invitations' to a select few. People either he or Yularen trusted to stand with them.

So far, only one had arrived, dropping out of hyperspace in a small imperial shuttle.

"Grand Admiral, you wanted to see me?"

The voice of his loyal agent came behind him, and Thrawn turned with a rare smile on his face to greet the diminutive, yet dangerous alien who served him.

"Rukh my friend, thank you for coming. I will require your expertise on a mission shortly, if you are willing?"

The Noghri nodded in acceptance, waiting for Thrawn to continue.

"Very soon we will require ships for a battle, one that could determine the fate of the galaxy and its people. However, our current supply of fighters is inadequate for what I have planned."

Thrawn had thought long and hard about how he would outmanoeuvre Versio and Rax when the time came. Imperial on Imperial violence was rare, and despite the sheer number of fighters that his foe would have at their disposal would be a problem.

Luckily for Thrawn, he had just the solution.

"You wish me to acquire more fighters for you Grand Admiral?" Rukh inquired, his voice croaky yet confused.

"No Rukh, but rather components. Our enemies outnumber us a hundred to one. We need to tip the balance in our favour, but not with numbers, but rather superior technology."

Rukh seemed to shuffle from side to side as Thrawn spoke. Clearly he was unsure exactly what the Grand Admiral was asking of him.

"What did you have in mind Grand Admiral?" Rukh inquired again.

Thrawn turned away from Rukh briefly, gazing back out the window on the bridge of the Chimaera, clearly deep in thought. Then he turned back around, fire in his already bright red eyes.

"I am authorizing the production of a new line of experimental fighters, one that, until now have only had prototype models. We will mass produce these fighters from the materials you acquire for us, and in doing so level the playing field. Rax and Versio may have the numbers, but we will have the technological advantage."

***********************************************************************************************************************************************

Shortly after his discussion with Rukh, the Noghri had departed in his shuttle with a small crew of technicians loyal to Thrawn. Their task was to recover as many useful components as they could for Thrawn's project, and tag them for later pickup. The Chimaera, and any loyal vessels would prove paramount in acquiring the components at a later date.

For now, Thrawn had other issues to deal with.

"Sir, we are detecting two signals in hyperspace. IFF confirms them to be the Devastator and the Relentless." A nearby bridge officer called out to his superior, gesturing out the window as he spoke.

Turning to look in the direction he was pointed, Thrawn smirked.

His reinforcements had arrived.

Seconds later, two Imperial Star Destroyers emerged from hyperspace before the Chimaera, both hopefully commanded by someone Thrawn could trust.

Only time would tell.

"Open a communications channel with both the ships officer. I wish to speak to their commanders immediately.

"Yes Grand Admiral." The officer replied, before his hands began to move on his terminal connecting the comm links.

Moments later, two holograms flashed into existence beside Thrawn, to which the Chiss turned to greet.

The first one Thrawn recognized. He was a tallish man with greying hair and eyes that looked as though he had seen many harrowing things. It made sense, since this man had served in the Clone War, and had since then been tasked with patrolling the outer rim worlds for terrorists and other plots.

"Captain Pellaeon, it is good to see you. Thank you for responding so quickly." Thrawn greeted the man who he was accustomed with. Thrawn had only served with the man once, but in that time he had proven to be a formidable and competent officer, one of the best in the Chiss' opinion.

So it only made sense that he should participate in what Thrawn was planning. Pellaeon wanted to do good, to ensure peace in the galaxy. Hopefully that meant he would support Thrawn in the coming months.

"The honour is mine Grand Admiral. I look forward to working with you again." Pellaeon replied, his tone full of respect for the Chiss who had elevated so far up the ranks despite the prejudice against him.

Thrawn nodded in reply before turning his attention to the other hologram, this one of a tall slender female, one who he had never met before, but had heard about.

"Commander Sloane, a pleasure at long last. I only wish our first encounter was under better circumstances."

Rae Sloane appeared to accept the compliment with ease, bowing her head in a form of respect to the Chiss Admiral before responding.

"I feel the same Grand Admiral, but I can't help but wonder exactly why you have called us into the borders to wild space. Your message was not very detailed."

There had been a reason for that. Thrawn hadn't known who could have been listening in, so he had kept things brief.

"I understand your concern Commander, and I apologise. In these dark times we need to trust one another. I therefore invite both of you over to the Chimaera where we can discuss everything I have discovered in person."

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

An hour later, Thrawn found himself in her personal office, seated at his desk with his pet Ysalamir resting gently on his shoulders. Across from him sat Pellaeon and Sloane, the former sitting upright in his chair, loyally awaiting orders, and the later glancing around the room at the various artefacts that Thrawn had gathered throughout the years.

"An impressive collection Grand Admiral. I never knew you had a penchant for art." Sloane spoke, her gaze currently looked on a large piece of retaining wall that had been recovered from Lothal, one that bore graffiti designed by Sabine Wren.

"We all have our hobbies Commander. I look forward to learning yours."

Just then the door to Thrawn's office opened, and the fourth and final member of the meeting entered, heading straight for the seat that had been set aside for him.

"Ah Colonel Yularen, glad you could make it. Has there been any improvement with Governor Pryce's condition?" Thrawn inquired, offering the Colonel a glass of water as he sat down.

"Unfortunately no. The medics are unable to do anything more at the moment. They say she needs proper medical attention soon, or she may never wake up." Yularen responded, sounding somewhat downtrodden.

Thrawn understood. He didn't like the fact that Pryce was so badly wounded, but there was little he could do at the moment, not until he had more help.

"I already have a destination in mind Colonel, but for now we must discuss matters of galactic security. So, to business. Firstly, tell me Commander Sloane, how did you come to possess and command the Devastator? I had assumed the vessel was destroyed at the battle station." Thrawn spoke, his red eyes locked on Sloane's face. He wanted to gauge her reaction, see if she was all her dossier made her out to be.

Sloane merely shrugged her shoulders, taking a sip of water from her own glass, before replying.

"Truth be told Grand Admiral the ship was under Moff Tarkin's command, but no one heard from him and I was aboard the ship when the chaos erupted. I gave the order to flee from the system, and no one tried to stop me. Self-preservation kicks in when your life is threatened."

It was a decent answer, and one that made sense, but truth be told it was not what Thrawn was looking for, and he was somewhat disappointed. For what he was planning to do he needed people who would remain loyal, not those who fled at the first sign of danger.

Still, he wasn't about to give up on Sloane yet.

"You must have also received instructions from Rax and Versio to rendezvous above Jakku as the rest of the imperial fleet did? Tell me, why did you come to me instead?" Thrawn inquired, leaning forward slightly in his chair. As he did this, his pet Ysalamir stirred, moving down across his shoulder and onto his arm, before jumping and landing softly on Thrawn's desk, before curling into a ball and dozing off.

Again, Sloane shrugged her shoulders, a rogue smile coming to her face before she replied.

"Eh, hadn't met you before. Thought it'd be fun. Besides, Rax and Versio are too uptight for me. Give me someone with personality any day."

She was flippant, Thrawn would give her that. And whilst he would have preferred a more professional ally, he could see the worth on having Sloane on his side.

"Then I am grateful for your support, 'Admiral' Sloane. You and 'Admiral' Pellaeon will be vital to our success." Thrawn spoke, his voice clear and full on intent. He only briefly caught the surprised look on the faces of Sloane and Pellaeon at the sudden and unexpected promotions. Admittedly it was one part an attempt to sweeten them up for the upcoming bombshell, and another part a way of legitimizing their command of the destroyers they now had in their possession.

"If I may Grand Admiral, exactly why have you called myself and Admiral Sloane here rather than Jakku?" Pellaeon inquired, his tone ever steadfast and loyal.

Thrawn paused a moment, gathering his own thoughts.

And then he spoke.

"Sedition Admiral. Sedition in the name of preservation."

***************************************************************************************************************************************

It had taken some convincing, mainly towards Pellaeon, but in the end, both Sloane and he had agreed with Thrawn's assessment of the situation. They understood the need for stopping Rax and Versio, and for ensuring the safety of the galaxy, rather than it's destruction at the hands of man men and their superweapons.

The only problem that had been brought up was the limited number of allies they had, and the current state of the ships they possessed. Chimaera may have been operational, but it had sustained heavy damage from the Ghost. The repairs that had been made would only hold temporarily. And if they hoped to have any success against the forces of Rax and Versio they would need two more things.

Allies and upgrades.

And Thrawn knew where to find them.

And so after his two new found allies had headed back to their respective Star Destroyers and gone in search of other allies and equipment, Thrawn had given the order to jump to an unknown region of space.

Unknown to many that was, but not him.

After all, he had grown up here.

Thrawn waited with baited breath, a breath he didn't even realize he was holding, as the blue vortex of hyperspace that he could see out of the window of Chimaera's bridge faded away.

And then there, before him was a familiar sight, one that he had not seen in years, but one that he had missed dearly.

Csilla. His home planet. The planet from which his species had originated. He thought back to his childhood, of the days spent traversing the frigid wastes of the planet. As a child, he had been the adventurous type, always craving the need to explore. He had spent hours on end climbing glaciers, exploring caves and finding all of the little secrets that his people knew nothing about. He supposed that it all started there. His desire to explore, to discover, that was what had fuelled him, what made him gather the various trinkets in his travels.

And it was exactly why his people had chosen him for the mission he had.

"So, that's your home planet? I expected something a bit different." Yularen chose that moment to appear beside him, his own gaze locked on Thrawn's planet.

Thrawn said nothing in reply, lost in his own memories of a distant past.

A past he was now about to revisit.

"Grand Admiral, we have detected several large ships approaching our position." An officer called from his workstation, a slight edge of fear in her voice. Thrawn understood. After all, this was the definition of wild space.

"Hail the lead ship and broadcast my message on an open frequency." Thrawn ordered in response. It would only be a matter of time before what he assumed was the Chiss fleet opened fire on the Chimaera.

The officer nodded in reply, her fingers crossing over several switches on her terminal before she gestured for the Grand Admiral to speak.

Bracing himself, Thrawn spoke in a language foreign to all of the Chimaera's bridge, but not to him, nor his people.

"This is Grand Admiral Mitth'raw'nuruodo of the Imperial Navy. I am returning from special assignment and have vital intelligence that could threaten the Chiss Ascendancy, as well as the galaxy as a whole. I request immediate access to the Chiss high council."

No response came at first, and that honestly scared Thrawn. This could all go horribly wrong. If the people in charge were not the same as when he had left? If they didn't like him or believe in his story, then it could be the end.

And then, something changed.

"Grand Admiral, the unidentified ships have ceased approaching, and we are receiving a communication from the lead one. I can't decipher the language however." The same officer as before spoke, her voice still a bit wobbly, but otherwise now possessing a strain of hope, hope that Thrawn shared.

Moving over to the terminal, Thrawn read the message before smiling.

"The high council wishes to see us immediately."

*******************************************************************************************************************************************

Thrawn stood, his posture tall and his imperial uniform pristine. The bright white contrasted greatly against his blue skin and red eyes, a sharp contrast to the dark colours worn by the various Chiss guards that were present to act as security, as well as escort the imperial duo through the palace the council resided in.

Beside him, Yularen stood, his own uniform equally as white and pristine, ever confident.

Hopefully together they would be able to convince the Chiss high council to help.

And then the doors before them opened, and a single figure stepped through, making an immediate beeline for Thrawn.

But this one was not Chiss, but rather human.

Thrawn had to stop himself from breaking into a wide smile.

"Eli Vanto, my old friend."

****************************************************************************************************************************************

The meeting with the council had gone unexpectedly well. The Chiss councillors, alongside the members of the upper class had all convened for the return of their chosen champion, and had all agreed with Thrawn's assessment of the situation. Thrawn had told them in detail of his adventures, of his rise and ruse through the ranks of the Empire, and of the battle station that had been designed as the ultimate planet killer.

And with little to no hesitation, his own people had pledged their immediate support for his next plan. Stopping Operation Cinder was a priority.

And so now here he stood, overlooking a sight he had never expected to see in his life.

The Chimaera, his personal Star Destroyer was now grounded, held within a Chiss foundry awaiting repairs and upgrades. Upon closer inspection it had appeared the damage to the hull was beyond conventional repair, so he had opted for a different solution.

Thrawn now watched as his ship was torn apart, scrap by scrap. Its interior was rebuilt from the ground up, various new components being put in place to ensure the best result.

The material the hull was made from also changed. The Chiss did not have access to the quantities of resources needed for normal Star Destroyer hulls, but they did possess their own solution, one that comprised of a much thinner material, but one that offered greater manoeuvrability, even in capital ships.

Thrawn watched as new hull panels were welded into place, the glorious sheen of silver/grey that had been the previous colour of the hull was now a dull blue, one that was partly indicative of the Chiss as a people, and partly of the ingenuity of his species as a whole.

They did not have access to Imperial levels of equipment, but that didn't matter.

"No matter how many times I see this process I remain amazed. The Chiss are truly extraordinary."

Thrawn smiled as the voice beside him hit his eyes. It had been too long since he had spoken to Eli in person. Sure, they had sent messages and intelligence, but they had never been able to speak as friends.

"My people have always prided themselves in our ability to adapt to any situation. It is why we have thrived in these dangerous regions of space." Thrawn replied, his red eyes watching as another hull plate was welded onto place on the Chimaera.

"Tell me about it. Time and again the council surprises me with some new development that I would never have seen in a million years. Turns out it's not just you that is so attentive. Must be a Chiss thing." Eli replied, a smirk on his face.

In response, Thrawn released a rare chuckle.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

Roughly a month after Chimaera's arrival at Csilla, Rukh showed up.

And with him was a crew of loyal engineers, as well as several imperial cargo ships worth of material for Thrawn's latest idea.

The Chimaera was still undergoing upgrades, a process that was taking longer than anticipated. But that was of little concern right now.

Thrawn stood before a crowd of Imperials who had come with Rukh, who now stood by the Chiss Grand Admiral's side. The engineers before them apparently had all sworn loyalty to Thrawn, rather than Rax and Versio.

It was flattering in a way that so many humans were willing to trust a Chiss, especially over renowned leaders such as Rax and Versio.

But it all played directly into Thrawn's hands.

And so now here he stood, ready to unveil his newest creation.

Or rather, his newest improvement.

"I have previously headed up an experimental fighter division for the Emperor know by the codename 'Defender'. However, I was unable to get the vessel out of an experimental stage. This changes today. Together, with help from the Chiss ascendancy, I have redesigned this experimental fighter into one that can easily be mass produced without sacrificing any of the advantages it has over the rest of the fighter divisions. Just one Defender will be more than equivalent of an entire wing of TIE fighters. Thus, I request one task from you, loyal Imperials. Help me make this fighter a reality."

Suffice to say, the crowd of assembled loyalists broke into cheers.

And the work began.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Four months after arriving at Csilla, Thrawn got an incredibly unexpected surprise from Admiral Sloane.

"Well? What do you think?"

Thrawn was lost for words, something that was incredibly rare. The Grand Admiral stood in the hanger bay of the Devastator, which now held high orbit over Csilla.

And there before him was yet another secret weapon, one that originated from Mandalore.

"How did you acquire this Admiral Sloane?" Thrawn asked, inspecting the power core before him. He had only read about this weapon, but from what Tiber Saxon had said, it possessed the power to neutralise entire armies.

Exactly the sort of weapon that would be both useful to him, and detrimental in the wrong hands.

"Mandalore is in utter chaos right now. Civil war in the wake of Saxon's death. I snuck a team in and stole it. Figured it might come in handy." Sloane replied with a shrug of her shoulders.

Thrawn had to give the woman credit. He knew she was good, Yularen and her dossier had said as much.

But to acquire such a piece of hardware, one that could hopefully be turned again Rax and Versio was a major victory.

"Excellent work Admiral Sloane. I was right to trust you."

Sloane bowed her head in reply.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

Five months after arriving at Csilla, and word reached Thrawn that the Chimaera was complete.

In the time between Sloane's arrival and this monumental even, much had happened.

The new and improved TIE Defender program had been a roaring success, with over fifty fighters being produced, and many more on the Chiss assembly lines. In time, Thrawn would have a fleet of fighters that would break any blockade of Star Destroyers.

Privately, he wondered what Hera Syndulla would think of such a task force. Fortunately for her, she was not his target any more.

There had also been developments regarding the health of Governor Pryce. She was still in a coma, but was stable. Hopefully in time he would be able to wake her safely, without risking brain damage or worse.

But right now he only concern was seeing Chimaera space worthy again, and it was quite the sight to behold.

The shape was the same as other Star Destroyers, but the new blue like metal that made up the outer hull gave it a much more majestic sight. It was unique, and had many more improvements added internally as it did externally.

He couldn't wait to try it out.

Still, it was missing something.

Turning his head to his side, Thrawn addressed Eli, who had come out to watch Chimaera's first flight with Thrawn.

"Do you know anyone who can paint star ship hulls for me?"

Eli groaned in response, and Thrawn released another chuckle.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Six months after his arrival at Csilla, news reached Thrawn. News he had been waiting for.

Admiral Pellaeon had arrived, and immediately demanded to see Thrawn.

The news as grim, but exactly what he wanted to here.

Versio had been spotted above Naboo, and he had a fleet of Destroyers with him, as well as what looked like some sort of orbital satellite.

That meant only one thing.

Operation Cinder had begun.

And Thrawn was prepared.

Chimaera was fully upgraded now, and with his five entire wings of fifteen TIE Defenders built and ready for combat, Thrawn prepared to strike.

His fleet was small and would no doubt be outnumbered, but he had counted on that.

If innocents were threatened after all, then no doubt the rebellion would also be there.

And hopefully that meant Hera Syndulla. Maybe together, they had a chance.

And so he had given the order. Pellaeon and Sloane had agreed, taking command of their own Star Destroyers in the process.

And now before him, Thrawn looked out of the window on the bridge of the Chimaera. The blue vortex of hyperspace was beautiful to him, even now.

Even if it was the calm before the storm.

The storm that he fully intended on being the end of Garrick Versio.

Chapter Text

General Hera Syndulla couldn't breathe. The sight before her was a terrifying one, even if by now it was a fairly common one.

It wasn't the fact that Star Destroyers scared her. She had faced countless in the past and she knew how to deal with or evade them.

But rather, it was a case of the identity of the Star Destroyer before her.

Or rather, the person who commanded it. That was what scared her the most.

Chimaera looked different from when she had last seen it. Its hull plating was a dark blue, rather than the dull grey it had been before, suggesting it was repaired with different materials. Its shape was the same, as was what appeared to be the artwork on the underside of the capital ship.

All in all, it looked very operational, and very ready for the kill.

But so far it had done nothing, as had its two escort destroyers. The capital ships merely sat there, pointed at Versio's blockade, but making no move to attack her.

Just what was Thrawn up to?

And then she got her answer, one that she never expected.

********************************************************************************************************************************************

Garrick Versio smiled as the Chimaera appeared before him. So Thrawn was alive. That was good news.

And he had come to help. That was even better news.

Maybe together they could not only deal with this rebel threat, but also with Rax. That would be peace of mind for Versio.

"Admiral, Chimaera is hailing us." An officer spoke from a nearby terminal. Versio nodded in response, authorizing the connection of the channel.

Moments later, Thrawn's hologram appeared before him.

"Admiral Versio, a pleasure. I see you are in a bit of a predicament?"

The Chiss was as calm as ever, even if the face of danger. Garrick respected that.

"Nothing we cannot handle together Grand Admiral. I am glad to see you have survived. Rax and I feared you lost."

Thrawn's face left no real trace of outward emotion, not that Versio minded. This was not the time to be sentimental.

"Yes, how unfortunate for my enemies that I have survived. Tell me Admiral, what would you do in their position?" Thrawn spoke, his voice still calm and collected.

The question was a bizarre one, and Garrick couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at it. Still, he knew Thrawn worked in mysterious ways. Perhaps this was some sort of plan he had to deal with the rebels.

"The tactical option would be to retreat Grand Admiral, but we have come too far to abandon such a plan now. It seems that we must fight to the death." Versio replied, his hand gesturing towards the raging space battle around him.

This time Thrawn's eyes narrowed in a way that terrified Versio. Something wasn't right.

"So it would appear, Admiral Versio."

And then the connection vanished, seemingly disconnected by the Grand Admiral himself.

Seconds later the officer on the bridge confirmed it.

'What was that about?' Garrick thought to himself. Thrawn was acting strange. What was he…

"Admiral! We have a serious problem! Chimaera has just locked its weapons targeting network onto us!"

******************************************************************************************************************************************

Thrawn stood on the bridge of the Chimaera, his blood red eyes staring out of the window at the fleet of Versio.

It was now or never.

Keying the comm, he linked up to Admirals Sloane and Pellaeon and spoke.

"Open fire."

********************************************************************************************************************************************

Hera could only watch open mouthed as the Chimaera finally opened fire, but not on the rebel fleet.

But rather, on Versio's fleet.

In a matter of moments two Imperial Star Destroyers erupted into flames, before shattering completely in two at the combined firepower of Chimaera and its two escorts.

And then more movement appeared in Hera's periphery. Several wings of large fighters emerged from the hanger bays of the Chimaera and its escorts, the design of which was clearly a modified Defender. Thrawn had evidently managed to mass produce them.

The Defenders soared towards another Star Destroyer, opening fire with a mix of cannon and missile fire.

And just like that, another Star Destroyer went down.

Beside her, Zeb voiced what everyone was thinking.

"Is… is Thrawn helping us?"

"I don't know Zeb. I really don't know." Hera replied, her senses coming back to the battle at hand. Pulling the Ghost upwards she found a pair of TIE interceptors coming towards her.

And then just like that they were gone, and one of the Defender moved into position beside the Ghost.

"Hera, that Defender is contacting us?" Zeb spoke, his voice both full of suspicion and dread.

"Put it through." Hera replied. This day was turning strange.

It was then that a deep croaky and downright creepy voice came through the comms.

"Hera Syndulla? I am Rukh, personal agent of Grand Admiral Thrawn. He sends his greetings and asks that I provide you escort in your mission to take down the satellites. I will follow your lead."

'Yeah, ok, definitely a weird day!' Hera thought again.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************

Thrawn had betrayed them! He had betrayed the empire!

He was going to kill them!

Garrick broke out into a series of curses. This was not how this was supposed to happen. Out of the window of the bridge he watched as another Star Destroyer went down, and another.

And then it was just him. Just the Eviscerator.

And then the ship shuddered. Consoles exploded into showers of sparks and flames erupted into life on the bridge.

And Versio fell to the floor, hitting his head, disorientating him.

Groaning, he began to shake of the dizziness. As his vision returned to normal, he found another sight before him, one that terrified him more than Thrawn.

His daughter stood before him, a blaster in her hand.

And it was pointed at him!

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

Pulling the joystick to the side harshly, Hera swiftly manoeuvred the Ghost out of range of an approaching piece of debris. The large chunk on metal that had once been an Imperial Star Destroyer soared past her, catching a pursuing TIE fighter in the process.

War raged around her, that was the only word for it. Pure unrestrained war, similar to the conflict that had raged over two decades ago.

It was chaos. Explosion after explosion. Blaster fire after blaster fire. It was almost whimsical in a way, if it weren't a symbol of the sheer amount of death that occurred at the same time. Fighting in a rebellion was different from a war. They were small, and relied on guerrilla strikes to weaken their opponent. They didn't have the firepower or the personal to fight an all-out war like the empire did.

And yet here they were, in the middle of one of the most intense and insane battle's Hera had ever seen.

And it was only the fate of an entire planet that rested on it.

"No pressure Hera." She muttered under her breath as she swerved the Ghost again, taking out another fighter that got within her sights.

Out of the window she witnessed the Defender piloted by this 'Rukh' person swerve as well, intercepting and destroying a trio of fighters with ease.

Thrawn showing up was unexpected. Him offering his support even more so.

But Hera was pragmatic enough to understand the need to put old grudges aside. If Thrawn really did want to help, she welcomed his expertise.

If not, then she would be ready for him.

And she was fairly certain he knew it.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Grand Admiral Thrawn watched as the battle raged around him.

Pure uncontrollable war. This was what he sought to understand, sought to conquer.

If he could, then he could protect his people from anything.

Another bright flash caught his eyes as the last of the Imperial Star Destroyers belonging to Versio exploded. Now all that was left was the heavily crippled and burning Eviscerator, and several wings of fighters.

Easy prey.

Right now however, Versio's flagship was not a concern.

What was was the safety of the rebel fleet.

'Oh the irony.' Thrawn quipped mentally. 'How quickly the situation changes.'

"Grand Admiral, we have picked up the location of the Imperial bomber squadron. They are currently causing significant damage to the rebel fleet." The voice of Commander Eli Vanto echoed across the bridge in the midst of the chaos. It was nice to have him back on board. When Thrawn had revealed everything to his old friend, Eli had jumped at the opportunity to assist him.

And frankly Thrawn was grateful. On the outside he always tried to maintain a cool and collected image of an individual who was always in control.

But on the inside he had his doubts, especially when he had first started his training with the empire. The ever reassuring presence of Eli Vanto had gotten him through much in his career, so his addition to Thrawn's current mission was a welcome one indeed.

Moving over to the comm station, Thrawn ordered his officer to contact his fellow Admirals.

Seconds later their holograms appeared.

"The Imperial fleet is in tatters yet the rebel fleet is still under considerable strain and risks being destroyed. Sloane? Pellaeon? Defend that fleet no matter the cost!" Thrawn spoke slowly and clearly, ensuring the point was made.

Thankfully, neither of his two allies refused, both giving their acknowledgements before their holograms faded.

Turning back to the battle around him, Thrawn waited.

It was only a matter of time until the next step began.

************************************************************************************************************************************************

Commander Jun Sato expected to die on this mission. His ship, Phoenix Home, was not one that was designed for an all-out battle such as this. It was a carrier, designed for housing fighters and bombers, not a capital ship.

It had barely held off the combined firepower of the Imperial long range bombardment, and now he had an entire platoon of TIE bombers to deal with.

The ship shuddered again as another bombing run occurred, alarms blaring as sections of the ship's hull were twisted and ruptured, not enough to destroy the ship, but no doubt enough to kill some crewmembers.

Sato silently mourned the losses. After all, he wasn't alone in his experience.

Home One was on fire as well, as was Raddus' flagship. Their size made it hard to target individual fighters. Even with the added support that Mart Mattin and his wing were providing against the bombers, far too many warhead had gotten through.

Oddly enough, the only rebel capital ship that was more or less unscathed was the Separatist capital ship commanded by General Kalani. The droid general had pulled some crazy moves to evade the warheads, and was at current the only thing holding the rebel fleet together.

Sato would have to thank him later, assuming he survived this battle first.

"Commander! We've got a problem! The two Destroyers that appeared with Chimaera just changed course. They are on route to us with several wings of Defender class fighters!" An officer called from up front, startling Sato out of his thoughts.

Sato visibly gulped. Thrawn showing up was seriously bad news. He had demolished Sato's entire rebel cell at Atollon, and now it looked like he was here to finish the job.

Except that moments after arriving, his fleet had virtually destroyed Versio's instead. That had confused Sato. There had been numerous reports of imperial infighting in the months after the destruction of the battle station and the Emperor's death. Many imperial admirals claiming to be the heir to the throne took up arms, forming their own remnant factions hell-bent of taking control. Versio and Rax were merely the most prominent.

Therefore it was quite possible that Thrawn was another ambitious admiral attempting to take control and destroy all sides that were not his.

The problem was that Thrawn could very easily do such a thing. There was a reason he was so feared by the rebellion.

So the fact that he was here now and that his allies were bearing down on the rebel fleet was of upmost concern to Sato.

Sighing in resignation, Sato accepted his fate.

That was until the unexpected happened.

"Sir? The Defenders are destroying the TIE bombers. What should we do?"

"Commander Sato, we are receiving a communication from approaching destroyer on an open channel. Should I put it through?"

"Iron Squadron reports all clear sir."

It was almost an information overload, almost. So much happened in the space of a split second that Sato wondered if he was stuck in some sort of dream world.

And then he snapped back to reality. A communication from the Star Destroyer? This would be interesting.

Giving the command to accept the call, Sato held his breath.

Seconds later a holographic image of a human woman dressed in imperial attire appeared. Her face possessed serious features, and her eyes bored into Sato's.

"Commander Jun Sato? I am Admiral Rae Sloane of the Imperial-Chiss alliance. We are here to offer protection and assistance to your plight. Please do not open fire!"

Sato said nothing, but he felt his eyes bulge in shock.

This day was getting stranger by the second!

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************

"Rogue Squadron, destroy the remaining enemy ships. Bomber squadron, form up on my six. Mr Rukh, help me break through the fighter lines." Hera called out various commands into her console, the voices of her allies responding as they went about their tasks.

"Just Rukh will be fine General Syndulla. And I will follow your lead." The voice of Thrawn's agent croaked through the line. Hera had no idea how to address him, and so she attempted to be polite at very least, especially considering he had offered to help.

Refocusing on the battle at hand, Hera shifted the Ghost around another large chunk of debris, evading fire from enemy TIE's in the process. Beside her Rukh moved into formation, his own Defender spinning and dodging the blaster fire, whilst returning his own in the process.

After a few moments of tense flying, Hera and her squadron successfully slipped past the debris of the once imposing Star Destroyer, and now possessed a straight shot at the orbital satellites that Versio had positioned.

The weapons continued to bombard the surface of Naboo with their experimental technology, changing and corrupting the atmosphere in order to enforce loyalty through terror.

Lining the Ghost up with the first satellite, Hera pulled the trigger on her joystick.

Cannon fire erupted from the Ghost, with Rukh in his Defender joining in seconds later.

Behind her, a pair of Y-wing bombers unleashed their warheads at the satellite, the missiles connecting and erupting into flames.

And then with a bright discharge of orange energy, the satellite exploded.

Breathing a temporary sigh of relief, Hera moved onto the next target, her allies' right behind her.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

Garrick Versio stood, his bridge in flames and several of his officers either dead or knocked out. Around him the war raged, and his defeat edged ever closer.

But that was not his concern right now. What was was his daughter.

"Iden? What are you doing!?" Garrick snarled, not believing the sight before him. His daughter would not betray him in such a way… would she?

"Vardos is next?! You and Rax were going to do the same to our home?! Why, they are loyal innocent people. We don't kill innocent people!" Iden all but shouted, her voice seething with hate.

"A necessary measure to ensure loyalty Iden, but that is clearly something you don't understand!" Garrick spoke back, his parent voice taking dominance. She may have been his subordinate, but she was still his daughter.

"But Vardos? You would burn our home for the empire!" Iden shouted this time, her grip on her blaster tightening.

"The Empire is our home now Iden, and we are loyal to it!" Garrick responded the same, his voice raised. Around them, fire raged, the heat building intensely. It would only be a matter of time before the Eviscerator exploded.

"If this is what the empire had become, then I no longer want any part of it, 'Admiral'!" Iden spat in return, her face contorting in rage.

Now Garrick openly snarled. His daughter was speaking treasonous words. She had betrayed him.

Slowly reaching his hand down, Garrick grasped the handle of his own blaster pistol. He didn't want it to come to this, and he wouldn't unless she did.

"It's treason then Iden? "Really? From you?" Garrick spoke, openly challenging his daughter.

He watched as a myriad of expressions flew across her face. Pain, anger, betrayal, disbelief.

And then finally, resolve.

"Yes, it is!"

Garrick felt the blaster bolt slam into his stomach before her heard it fire, the impact of the bolt knocking him to the floor as he drew his own pistol, letting loose a single bolt in the process.

As he collapsed to the floor he heard the yell of pain from his daughter as she too was hit in her arm. His bolt had gone wide, but is had still hit his intended target.

His vision began to cloud as pain overtook him. Garrick was aware of the fire raging around him, as well as the battle outside.

Briefly he caught a glimpse of a human male supporting his wounded daughter, helping her to her feet before carrying her off what remained of the Eviscerator's bridge.

Snarling to himself, Garrick took a deep breath, one that was agonizing due to the burning sensation in his stomach.

Groaning, he spoke quietly to himself.

"Damn you Rax!"

And then everything faded.

****************************************************************************************************************************************

In the end it had been surprisingly easy for Hera and her wing to destroy the satellites. The combined force of the rebel fighter wings, as well as the unexpected intervention of Thrawn had scattered any sembalance of unity for the imperial forces. The devastation of their fleet only further crippled them.

Beside her, Zeb erupted into cheers as the last satellite that controlled Operation Cinder exploded.

Naboo would be safe. Whatever damage that had been done would no doubt repair itself in time. At least Hera hoped so.

Now however she had other matter to attend to.

Said other matter involved a certain Chiss.

"Don't celebrate yet Zeb. I need you to hail the Chimaera for me."

Zeb seemed to freeze in fear for a second before he replied.

"Are you sure about that Hera?"

Hera only nodded in response, going through the various things she wanted to say to the Grand Admiral in her head.

Zeb visibly gulped at her reaction before his hands began to move across the console before him.

"Karabast Hera, sometimes I don't know who's crazier on this ship. You or Kanan?"

Hera chuckled lightly in response.

"Oh it's definitely me Zeb."

***********************************************************************************************************************************************

Thrawn watched as the last satellite exploded, ensuring the safety of Naboo and an end to Operation Cinder.

But it was still only the beginning. Rax was still out there, and he fully intented to finish him as well.

But right now he had other concerns.

He knew it was coming, and sure enough, the call did.

"Um, Grand Admiral? We are receiving an open communications from the rebel freighter that led the attack. Should I put it through?" Eli spoke from beside him, confusion in his voice.

Thrawn nodded before speaking.

"Yes Commander, I have much to discuss with the pilot."

Eli only bowed his head once in confirmation, before connecting the transmission.

Moments later, a hologram of a Twi-lek female appeared before him sitting in a chair.

Thrawn very nearly smiled at the appearance of who he considered his only true equal.

"General Syndulla, it is good to see you despite our past transgression against one another. Have you succeeded in your mission this day?"

Hera's face seemed to contort in suspicion, not that Thrawn blamed her.

"Why are you here Thrawn?" She spoke, her voice icy and straight to the point.

Thrawn had long thought about this meeting, about what he would say. He had served the empire for so long that he had become akin to a monster. He had no issue using aggressive tactics, but the safety of the galaxy and its people was his upmost concern. And he knew that Hera Syndulla was the same.

And thus there was only really one thing he could say, and should say. One thing that would help to build bridges that most would assume destroyed.

"I am here to help you against our mutual enemy General. Simply put, I propose an alliance."

Chapter Text

Davits Draven's head hurt… a lot!

It ached and throbbed and pulsated in agony, as if he had been hit by some blunt object over the head, not enough to kill him, but rather simply to stun him.

Perhaps that was because that was exactly what had happened to him.

He had been out of base on an assignment. Someone had contacted him offering some information, something that would be detrimental to what remained of the empire. Draven didn't know who it was, but he didn't care. He needed this. His career was on the verge of collapse.

If he could bring information back, then he would be seen as valuable again.

So he had gone to meet this 'Savage' person on an outer rim planet.

Upon arrival, there had been no one at the coordinates.

And then he had heard movement behind him, before everything went black.

And now he had awoken. How long had passed he didn't know. Where he was also was a mystery.

Glancing around, Draven swallowed a nervous gulp. His surroundings quite clearly a cave of some kind, but not one that looked at all natural. Instead, the cave, no, the room was full of various items and constructs, many of which resembled tall stone statues.

Around the perimeter of the room was what appeared to be a lake of iridescent water, or at least what looked like water?

Draven suspected that was not the case.

Shifting his shaky gaze around further, Draven identified several light sources. Tall green torches that radiated light that he had never seen before were present, assembled around the edge of the water like substance.

Groaning again at the pain in his head, Draven then looked down, and realized his predicament.

He was tied up, suspended on some sort of metal device, one that looked imperial in design.

He had been captured by imperials!

And then he noticed something else. His attire.

Rather than being clothed in his usual rebel gear, Draven found himself bare to the world, which explained the chill he was feeling. The only part of his body that was covered was his lower body, for which Draven was secretly grateful. Being captured was one thing. Being exposed completely was another.

Pulling his arms tightly, Draven tried desperately to free himself, to no avail.

Huffing in frustration, Draven ceased his attempt to escape, his eyes moving back to surveying the cave around him. Clearly it had been excavated by someone, and had evidently been lived in.

The question was, by who?

And then a voice echoed across the cave, one that sent his blood cold.

"Your escape attempts are pitiful General, and are ultimately futile. You are my plaything now!"

Draven's eyes locked onto the figure that was now moving towards him, a vicious smile present on his face, teeth barred to him.

"You?!" Draven spoke, shock and horror in his voice as the golden eyed monster stepped towards him.

"Me!" The monster snarled back, coming to stand directly before Draven's suspended form. The General tried again to pull himself free, to escape this monster's grasp.

But again, he had no luck, something which the monster clearly enjoyed as he chuckled deeply.

"I'm going to enjoy this!" The monster snarled again, his eyes full of wild fury and rage, as well as what looked like anticipation.

"What do you want with me?!" Draven cried out, fear overtaking him. He had been captured before, and had shown no terror in a way he knew he was doing so now.

But the situation was different. This was not captured by a Stormtrooper patrol and their lousy officer. This was being stuck in the literal arms of the devil.

The monster chuckled again, before a dark look appeared on his face.

"Why General Draven I thought that would be obvious. I want revenge!"

Draven could not for the life of him grasp what was going on. Revenge? Revenge for what?

"What did I ever do to you?!" Draven asked, hissing in pain as his head pulsated again from the blow, one that he now assumed had been delivered by the monster now before him.

"Nothing to me General, nothing at all. But to my sister!"

Every statement that came from the monster's mouth only further confused Draven. From his recollection he had done nothing to anyone's sister before, much less one that looked like the monster before him.

"I don't know what you mean! Let me go!"

The monster growled sharply this time, a hand coming towards his chest at incredible speed, administering a sharp punch to Draven's gut, one that would clearly bruise.

"Oh but you did General. You did. And this will continue until you figure it out."

Another sharp blow came to his gut again, followed by three more, each more painful than the last. Each punch added bruising on top of bruising, and if it continued, Draven was almost certain he'd end up with a few cracked ribs.

After the seventh punch, this one causing Draven to yell out in agony, the monster stepped back, a satisfied look on his face.

Draven hoped briefly for a second that his ordeal was over.

Seconds later, it got worse.

"Don't think this is over yet General, I fully intend for you to suffer for what you did to her! Or at least, tried to do to her!"

The monster then turned his back briefly, bending down to pick up what appeared to be a portal power cell, before moving it behind the stand that Draven found himself attached to.

Draven could not see behind himself, and all he could hear was the sound of the monster connecting various wires and components together, before the hum of the power cell coming online echoed across the cave, and the monster stepped back around in front of him.

"A remarkable piece of technology this, one I acquire a long time ago and haven't had to chance to test yet. I had fully intended for it to be used on another of my greatest foes, until circumstances changed. However, I now have the perfect test subject before me!"

Panic flooded Draven as he attempted to marshal what strength he had left to pull himself free.

But still, the straps that held his arms down did not budge.

"Tell me General, on a scale of one to ten, how badly does this hurt?" The monster spoke, the dark malicious look returning to his face as he thumbed what appeared to be a remote trigger in his hand.

Draven began to speak in response before volts of electricity surged through his body, sending his body into a violent spasm. Draven screamed in agony as the torture continued for a few seconds more, before mercifully it stopped.

"Well General? How badly?"

Draven took several large breathes, oxygen returning to his lungs after it had been forced out by the shock treatment.

"One to ten General, answer me?"

Draven still said nothing, partly due to lack of breath, partly due to his desire not to buckle any further.

"Hm, perhaps you need another demonstration?"

Draven barely lifted his head before the monster thumbed the trigger again, sending more volts of electricity coursing through his body. This burst lasted longer and was infinitely more painful. Draven felt the world around him begin to fade.

And then he lost consciousness.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

Draven awoke with a sharp gasp. He had no idea how long had passed, but his situation had not improved.

The monster now sat on the floor before him, his legs crossed and his eyes closed, as if he was in some sort of deep meditation.

Draven tried to make no noise, as to not draw any attention to himself. The last thing he wanted was a repeat performance of earlier.

Unfortunately, it didn't work.

"Well General, ready to answer my question now?" The monster spoke, his golden eyes opening as he stood up, the trigger still in his hand and poised at the ready.

Rather than risk a repeat, Draven answered timidly, the pain still aching throughout his body.

"Ten."

The monster only laughed darkly in response.

"Excellent, then this machine works wonders. I acquired it from the Imperial Inquisitorius. They use such frames for interrogation and torture. Normally the individual on the receiving end is a Jedi, but I figured I would allow you the honour of testing it first!"

Draven groaned in response, lifting his head to look at his surroundings despite the strain in placed on him.

"Why don't you just get it over with!?" Draven attempted to snarl at the monster, the comment coming out instead almost like a whimper.

The monster moved towards him with speed, standing before him, face to face.

"Oh don't tempt me General. Besides, you still haven't figured it out. I had you pegged as a smarter man than this. How… disappointing really."

Draven raised his head again, eyes locking onto the golden ones of the monster before him. What was he going on about?

It was then that the monster raised a single hand. Draven braced himself, expecting another punch to the gut or worse.

But instead, the monster before him did no such thing. Instead, he simply moved his hand in front of Draven's face, lightly resting on it, his spindly fingers touching all sections of his face.

Moments later, Draven wished the monster had hit him instead.

Images flashed through his mind, as well as what felt like deep lacerations of pain and agony. The monster before him was inside his head!

Draven was forced to watch as various images shot through his mind. In them he saw a young human boy playing with some toys, and realised with horror that it was him.

The monster was not only inside his head, but inside his memories.

"Arrgg! Get. Out. Of. My. Head!" Draven spoke slowly, gasping in pain and agony as the monster continued to push through, not at all disturbed by what he was doing to Draven.

The image changed again, this time to one with Draven as a grown man, witnessing a pair of Imperial Stormtroopers beat an innocent man to death for simply voicing his opinion, and all the while the image of Draven remained still, not interfering.

Draven remembered this moment. The individual had in fact been a rebel informant who had given up information to the empire in exchange for his life. When he had discovered the betrayal, Draven had acted, setting it all up to look like the innocent man had been behind everything, and that he was still in league with the rebels, which of course he was not.

In the end, the man had been beaten to a pulp, and Draven had left satisfied that no more information would be leaked.

"Hmm, and they call me a monster!" Draven heard the voice of the monster speak in his own memories, before the image began to fade. "But this is not what I seek this day."

Draven would be lying if said he didn't feel remorse for what he had done that day, but it had been in the name of the rebellion. In the end, that was what was important. If he had to sacrifice one life to save the many, he would without a doubt.

A new image began to appear, this one of a meeting inside the command centre of Yavin Four's rebel base. Draven could see himself, standing side by side with Mon Mothma as they debated something.

And then he heard voices from the discussion itself, and Draven knew what was about to happen.

He remembered this!

"Therefore Admiral Raddus, you are under orders to terminate Commander Ahsoka Tano on sight!"

Draven winced at the voice of Mon Mothma in the image, and even more so at the smug look on his past self's face as the room had erupted into chaos and arguments.

And then he heard the monster snarl, and felt himself yanked out of his own memories and back to looking directly into the golden eyes of the monster before him.

"GOT YOU!" The monster snarled, his eyes burning much brighter now, full of rage and hatred, and his teeth snarling and gnashing at him.

"You ordered her execution! My sister in the force! And now you will pay!"

Draven attempted to explain himself before him felt volts of lightning once again course through his entire body as the monster reactivated the device Draven was suspended on.

This time the torture went on for much longer, and just when Draven felt himself losing consciousness, the agony ceased.

"Why did you do it General!? She was no threat to you! Not like I am! But still, you attempted to kill her! And even now, you can't admit that she was right, and that you were wrong! She killed the Emperor! She was never his puppet! She never would be, unlike me!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please, just let me go. I'll fix this, I promise!" Draven attempted to plead through heavy breathes, wild terror flooding through his body.

"NO!" The monster all but screamed, his eyes full of a desire for revenge.

And then Draven heard another sound, and suddenly the monster before him was bathed in bright red light.

The tell-tale hum of an ignited lightsaber blade forced all the air out of Draven as his eyes caught a glimpse of the ominous red blade that emerged from the hilt grasped in the monster's hand.

Another sound hit Draven's ears in that second, one that was not the hum of the lightsaber, or the heavy crazed breathing on the monster in front of him. Instead, it was quiet, yet high pitched, and sounded almost like some animal calling out for his mother.

It was then that he realized that it was him, whimpering uncontrollably.

A dark smirk came to the monster's face as he titled the blade, pointing it directly at Draven's chest.

"I should kill you for what you tried to do to her! I want to kill you!"

Draven braced himself, closing his eyes and accepting his fate. To be taken out in the field, serving as a loyal rebel agent would have been perfect.

But instead, here he was, tied up and about to be murdered by a crazed monster.

In a way, he supposed he deserved it.

So Draven waited, eyes closed for the end.

What felt like hours passed, and still the end did not come. The monster hadn't left, that was clear, and the lightsaber could still be heard humming menacingly.

And then he heard the monster release a roar of rage, and heard the blade swing, distorting the air as it did so.

Draven took a deep breath, expecting the end.

But instead, all he suddenly felt was a burning sensation on his hand, one that caused him to yell out in agony.

Opening his eyes, Draven witnessed the monster step back to admire his handiwork, the blade being extinguished in the process.

Glancing over at his right hand, Draven gasped at the sight of his three central fingers, now missing from where the blade had severed them clean off.

Knowing there was nothing he could do, Draven accepted the loss of the fingers, looking back at the monster before him, who, for the first time seemed to be relaxed and at ease.

"However, she would want me to let you go, so that is what I will do, for her." The monster spoke, his voice clear and stable.

"What? What do you mean?" Draven struggled to say as he suddenly found himself dropped to the stone floor beneath him, his intact hand coming to cradle his severed finger stumps in pain.

A dark look appeared on the monster's face again, before he gestured towards the exit of the cave with his own hand.

"I said you can go free. I have business to attend elsewhere anyway, and you are just a waste of my time." The monster spoke in response, gesturing towards the cave's exit for a second time,

Draven looked up at the exit. In the distance he could see what appeared to be a thick red fog, one that covered the surface outside the cave.

"But, how will I get off this planet?" Draven questioned, confusion in his voice at the sudden change of events. One moment he was seconds away from death, now he was not?

The monster chuckled again, the sound sending chills down Draven's spine.

"Get off this planet? Oh General Draven, you misunderstand. There is no way off of Dathomir! I am not going to kill you myself. Lady Tano would not want that. But that doesn't mean I'm going to help you. You are on your own from now on. But make no mistake. If I see you anywhere on this planet again for any reason…" The monster finished his speech with a gentle gesture of his lightsaber hilt towards Draven's chest.

Draven gulped in response before speaking.

"But how will I survive?"

The monster shrugged his shoulders, clearly not caring at the predicament that Draven now found himself in. He wasn't being tortured anymore, but he was stranded.

Stranded on a hostile planet he knew nothing about. In all likelihood, Draven doubted he would last the night.

And clearly the monster knew that too.

"Go on then General, RUN!" The monster bellowed again, taking a menacing step towards Draven as he did so.

Draven didn't wait around, summoning what energy he had left despite the agony his body was in and sprinted for the cave exit, entering into the wilderness of Dathomir beyond.

As he left the cave, the last thing Draven heard was the fading cackling of the monster who had exacted his revenge.

Chapter Text

Bail Organa sat at his desk in his office on Alderaan. Being the senator of on entire planet in such dire times was not easy work. Day by day he would have to file reports, listen to concerned citizens and decide what to do about the issues raised, and plan for his next trip to the imperial centre of the next senate meeting.

All in all, it was an incredibly stressful, yet rewarding lifestyle. The comfort of his wife and child were all the reward he needed in the end.

Yet whilst he was a devout imperial senator on the outside, the truth about his allegiances were kept secret from all but a select through.

He couldn't actively support the rebellion of course. Doing so would bring the might of the empire down upon him and his family, and he doubted the Emperor would be merciful. Bail was already certain that he was under suspicion anyway, the Emperor only lacked the solid proof he needed to out Bail as a rebel agent.

So for now, Bail had to play it safe and trust his allies. The various rebel cells acting independently would be fine, for now.

Stifling through another document on his desk, Bail was surprised when his personal intercom flared to life with a message from his secretary. He had asked to not be disturbed today, under the pretence of working on an important speech for the senate.

The truth was that he was collaborating with Fulcrum on something, reading a report about a discovery of a possible base location.

Sighing to himself, Bail reached across and activated the intercom.

"Yes?" Bail asked, patience in his voice. He wasn't going to snap. For all he knew this was something important.

The voice of his secretary responded moments later with what sounded like fear in his voice. That disturbed Bail.

"Apologies for the disturbance Senator, but a high ranking member of the Imperial military is here to see you. I told him you were busy, but he won't take no for an answer."

Bail raised the ridge of his eye at the explanation. What was an Imperial military officer doing coming to see him? Had something happened?

Had he been found out?

Whatever it was, Bail clearly could not say no.

"I see. Let him in then. I have time to talk." Bail replied, shifting the report from Fulcrum into a draw on his desk and locking in with a simple touch of his hand.

The secretary acknowledged the request, ordering Bail's visitor through to him.

Sitting upright in his chair, Bail waited for the door to his office to open. He had to maintain an image of a loyal imperial senator after all. And first impressions were everything.

A few tense seconds passed by with Bail wondering exactly who his visitor was.

And then the door opened, and Bail had to refrain from flinching in horror.

His visitor was perhaps the last person he expected, and one that acted these days as a harbinger of death.

Taking a deep breath, Bail prepared, watching as the monolithic half cyborg half man entered the room, moving over to Bail's desk and surprisingly taking a seat on the other side before he spoke, his modulated voice booming around Bail's office.

"Senator Organa."

"Lord Vader, this is an unexpected privilege. What can I do for you?"

Darth Vader sat before him, his long billowing black cape flowing over the back of the chair. Bail was honestly surprised the chair could hold his weight. He imagined the force had something to do with that.

Internally, Bail began to panic, careful not to let it show. Why was Vader here? Had he come for Leia as Bail feared he would one day?

"I am here of my own accord Senator. The Emperor knows nothing of my presence, and it shall remain so, do I make myself clear?" Vader boomed again, his voice coming off with evident dark intent present. Bail was inclined to believe him. He was a Sith Lord after all.

"Of course Lord Vader, I understand completely." Bail replied, keeping his tone both neutral yet welcoming. He had frequently had nightmares about the Sith before him, coming to take away his family, to take away his daughter.

He realised then with horror that Leia was currently in the same building as him, just off on an errand.

He hoped to whatever gods existed that she wouldn't come back anytime soon.

"Excellent Senator, I'm glad you understand. Now, I have a simple question for you. Can you handle that Senator?" Vader continued on with what seemed like sarcasm in his voice.

Bail chose to reply non-verbally this time, simply nodding his head instead. The less he spoke, the less he risked giving away, at least he assumed. Bail was fully aware that Vader could probe his mind for information if he really wanted to.

Vader seemed to contemplate for a second, his masked visage looking around the room briefly before coming to rest on Bail's face.

Bail waited with baited breath, fully expecting some statement that would doom him. Perhaps Vader was simply luring him into a false sense of security.

And then Vader spoke.

"Where is Ahsoka Tano?"

Bail had to work hard to keep his face from betraying any emotion. He felt somewhat relived that Vader was not after his daughter, and Bail knew that Ahsoka could more than handle her own.

But he couldn't reveal that either, or else Vader would know of Bail's rebel connections, and would no doubt confirm the Emperor's suspicions.

For now, Bail had to play it cool and pretend.

"I know nothing about the whereabouts of Ahsoka Tano." Bail responded, his voice steady and in control.

What happened next surprised Bail. Never in a millions years did he think he would hear Darth Vader chuckle. The sound was bizarre, heavily distorted by the voice modulator Vader possessed, yet recognizable nonetheless.

"Spoken like a true politician Senator." Vader replied, leaning forward slightly in his chair, his skull like helmet adding to the foreboding atmosphere that resonated around Vader.

"I'm sorry?" Bail enquired in reply, confused about Vader's reaction.

Inwardly he struggled to keep his composure. Surely Vader would probe his mind soon to find out the truth. There was only so long he could keep it a secret.

"You lie, a skill that is mandatory for all politicians it seems. No matter, I will locate the whereabouts of my appren… of Skywalker's apprentice without your cooperation."

Bail didn't miss the comment made by Vader, but questioned nothing. He couldn't let on that he knew the truth. No doubt Vader would take it very badly.

Seemingly done with the discussion, Vader abruptly rose from his chair and turned to leave the officer, his cape billowing dramatically as he did so.

Bail allowed himself to breathe a quiet sigh of relief as he watched Vader move towards the door.

That was until the door opened suddenly, before Vader had reached it.

"Father, I have that report about the agricultural unit you requested." The young voice of Leia Organa came into the room as she entered, only to barrel straight into the chest piece of Darth Vader, who in turn reached out his hands to steady her.

Bail found himself unable to breathe. This was exactly what he hoped to avoid. Vader face to face with the daughter of Padme Amidala. Surely this was it! This was when the carefully conceived plan fell apart.

He was going to lose his daughter!

Drastic action was the only thing he could think of. As slowly and quietly as he could, Bail began to reach underneath his desk, grasping the handle of a small concealed blaster he kept hidden in case of emergencies.

He would only get one chance, and it was a slim one at that.

But right now Bail didn't care for common sense. Not when his daughter was right before a child murdering monster!

As he reached for the blaster however, something happened.

Darth Vader rebalanced his daughter, steadying her, before taking a step to the side to allow her entry.

"Princess Leia."

Leia looked up at the helmet of Vader, seemingly seeing right through it. It was clear that she was not at all intimidated by it, as so many, including Bail, were.

"Lord Vader."

And with that, Darth Vader moved passed the princess of Alderaan, leaving a content Leia and a thankful Bail in his wake.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

Kanan Jarrus sat in the lounge of the Ghost, unable to see, but fawning over what lay in his arms.

His son. His own flesh and blood.

He wished he could see him, look into little Jacen's eyes. Hera had told him that his son shared some features with his father, specifically facial ones.

But Kanan knew that he would never see them, not directly at least.

Still, that didn't mean he couldn't show his son the love he deserved.

Kanan was pulled out of his inner thoughts by the sudden sound of a loud sneeze, followed by a groan.

Reaching into the force, Kanan felt and heard the approaching figure.

"Urggh, hey Kanan. How's the kid doing?" The evidently sick voice of Zeb hit Kanan's ears as he stepped ever closer, clearly intending on sitting next to Kanan and his son.

Alarms began to flare inside of Kanan. Zeb was sick! Zeb was ill!

And Zeb was going to sit down right next to his new-born son!

What if Jacen caught something? What if Jacen became ill because Kanan hadn't protected him?

Ignoring the voices of common sense, most of which sounded like Hera, Kanan shot up from his seat, throwing a distressed look out at Zeb and holding one hand out to him whilst he cradled Jacen closer to his chest with the other for protection.

"Stay back Zeb. I don't want Jacen catching whatever it is you've got!"

Kanan tried not to act too surprised by the level of panic in his voice. He knew this was ridiculous. Zeb had suffered with the same illness before, and none of the other crew members had ever been affected by it.

But that still didn't stop him. He had to protect his son!

Zeb too seemed surprised by Kanan's reaction, before breaking off into another coughing fit, which in turn caused Kanan to flinch and tighten his grip on Jacen.

"Seriously Kanan, I'm fine, just a cold. Jacen won't get anything from me." Zeb spoke, attempting to radiate confidence and trust despite his illness.

Clearly though, Kanan was not willing to listen.

"Uh huh? And how do you know that? We've never had a hybrid species aboard the Ghost before when you've been ill. Jacen's immune system might be weaker than normal children of a single species. He might be more susceptible to your illness!"

Again, Kanan's inner self tried to calm him down, to stop his semi-crazed ranting.

"Lasat flu doesn't affect either Humans or Twi-lek Kanan, and Jacen is a bit of both. He'll be fine. Here, let me hold him for a bit and show you." Zeb replied, throwing a friendly smile at his friend despite Kanan not being able to see it.

However, Zeb's attempt at calming Kanan down clearly did not work.

"No! Stay back Zeb!"

Zeb had been approaching with his arms out, fully intending on taking Jacen for a bit of uncle Zeb time.

That was until he suddenly found himself slammed into a nearby wall.

Groaning from the sudden impact courtesy of the force, Zeb sneezed again before standing back up, rubbing his now sore back.

"Karabast Kanan, fine, I'll leave you alone."

But Kanan didn't hear Zeb's response. He was already out the door down the hallway, little Jacen wrapped up in his arms.

Kanan had barely made it into the hallway of the Ghost that housed the private quarters of each crew member before one of the doors opened. A thick smell instantly hit his nostrils, one that he had become familiar with over the years.

Instinctively, he tightened his grip on Jacen again as the person who had exited the room spoke.

"Hey Kanan, hey there little Jacen." The voice of Sabine Wren came out, clearly in a good mood.

The smell that Kanan had picked up on was one of fresh paint. Clearly Sabine had once again repainted her armour. Yet another new style.

And once again, despite his inner self trying to calm him down, Kanan felt a rush of panic.

"Oh uh, hey Sabine, um, please don't come any closer!" Kanan spoke, his voice fluctuating to various levels as he spoke.

Sabine was clearly concerned as she halted from where she was intending on gently touching the nose of Kanan's son.

"What's wrong Kanan? Is Jacen ok?" Sabine asked, concern in her voice.

Instinctively Kanan took another step back, before turning slightly away from Sabine, as if trying to block something off.

"Yes. No. Just stay there Sabine. I don't know how he'll handle the fumes."

"I don't follow?" Sabine replied, confusion in her voice. Kanan was acting odd.

"The paint! What if Jacen is allergic to it or something? I don't want him getting ill. I've just had Zeb trying to spread his germs all over Jacen. I don't need paint fumes as well!"

And with that, Kanan pushed past Sabine, careful to not expose Jacen to any of the paint fumes that resided on Sabine from her artwork.

Proceeding down the hallway further he sensed Ezra coming from the other end, a smile on his face at seeing his master with his son.

"Nope!" Was all Kanan said as he immediately turned and entered into his own quarters, avoiding any contact with his Padawan.

And then he was alone in the safety of his private quarters with his son. There was no ill Lasats to infect him. No paint fumes to poison him.

And no Jedi Padawan to 'look after him'.

Settling down on the bed, Kanan allowed himself to lie backwards, his son wrapped up in his arms.

"You know little man," Kanan mumbled quietly to his sleeping son, "this fatherhood thing isn't so hard after all."

All he got in reply was a light snore from Jacen, and that was more than enough for Kanan.

Closing his own eyes, Kanan allowed himself to doze off to sleep alongside his son, dreaming of the adventures they would have together.

Roughly an hour later, he was awoken by a fierce looking Twi-lek woman, one who did not look pleased with him.

"Kanan Jarrus! We need to have a little talk about your overprotectiveness!"

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The roof gave way unexpectedly, which was not good news. She had heard the creak of the building the second she and her companions had entered, but had largely ignored it.

After all, she most certainly hadn't been expecting this.

Around her, her companions erupted into action, evading in all directions to avoid any falling pieces of debris.

Ahsoka acted too, diving to one side in hopes of avoiding being crushed.

Unfortunately for her, she wasn't so lucky.

Ahsoka yelped in pain as a large piece of stone the roof had been made up of crashed down upon her leg, crushing it beneath its weight.

Ahsoka was not stupid. She knew her leg would be broken. Hell it felt broken, not that she had ever really experienced a broken leg before.

Whimpering in pain, the dust around her began to clear and the figures of her companions became clear.

And then she heard his voice, full of what seemed to be panic and worry.

"Snips?! Oh kriff, you're gonna be fine!"

Attempting to ignore the lances of pain that travelled along her now trapped leg, Ahsoka managed to produce a small smile as her master crouched down beside her, gripping hold of the piece of stone that had pinned her and attempted to move it.

She had only been his apprentice for a few weeks now, and she was still unsure whether or not he actually wanted to teach her, much less cared about her welfare.

Truth be told this was the first real time Ahsoka had been badly hurt. Bruises and scrapes and the occasional burn were normal in a war, but a broken leg was different.

Ahsoka chose not to speak back to Anakin, mainly due to the pain that filled her body now. Instead she watched, partly bemused as Anakin tried to lift the stone pinning her down with brute force.

Didn't he realize that he could just use the force?

It was then that her other companions moved into support. Ahsoka witnessed the familiar helmet of Captain Rex, alongside Kix and Fives begin the lift alongside their general, all desperate to free their wayward commander and padawan.

With their combined might, the Jedi and clones shifted the stone, freeing Ahsoka. The release of the pressure on her leg was good, she didn't question that, but it did cause another sharp stab of pain, one of which caused her to cry out.

What happened next honestly both surprised and terrified her. Anakin's arms were around her in seconds, lifting her up gently, supporting her so that he wouldn't cause any more damage to her leg.

"It's ok Ahsoka, it's ok. I'm gonna get you out of here alright my padawan! Kix, I need you to come with me!" Anakin seemed to bellow that last instruction as the clone medic nodded and moved beside Anakin, a small medical device in his hand as he scanned Ahsoka's leg.

"Her leg's broken sir. I need to get her back to camp now!" Kix spoke as he powered off the scanning device her held.

Ahsoka shifted her head slightly to look at her master's face. His expression was one that could only be described as deep worry.

"Right, I'll carry her then. Rex, can you and Fives finish up here without us?" Her master spoke, strong resolve in his tone.

The clone captain saluted in response before speaking.

"Consider it done General Skywalker. You get the kid back to camp."

It was then that Ahsoka tried to speak. She didn't need to be fussed over like some child. She was a Jedi after all.

But as she tried to speak, Anakin once again interrupted her.

"Shhh, just keep calm Ahsoka. Kix and I'll get you back to camp and fix you up."

And with that, and with no way of stopping him, Anakin all but broke out into a sprint, Kix behind him, as he began to carry Ahsoka back to camp.

As he did, Ahsoka heard him speak once again.

"I promise, no one will ever hurt you as long as I live Snips. No one."

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************

Ahsoka Tano woke from the dream, finding herself back in her bed in her small apartment. The sky outside was dark, indicating it was still night time.

The dream had been more of a memory, of a time when she and the master she looked up to so much had been together.

His words that day meant everything to her.

And then she remembered.

Malachor. She had just returned from Malachor.

And Anakin had been there.

And they had fought.

Blinking the tears she didn't know she had produced out of her eyes, Ahsoka laid back in her bed again, pulling her limbs into a tight ball, wrapping herself up tight.

As she dozed off to sleep, one thought came to her mind about the words her master had said to her so long ago.

'You lied!'

Chapter Text

General Hera Syndulla, was not a general tonight, at least that was what Kanan had ordered of her.

Initially, Hera had been sceptical. What was Kanan up to? What did he mean by 'not a general tonight'?

She had asked him, naturally, what he meant, and his response had been simple yet odd, especially coming from someone like him.

"Tonight Hera, you're just a normal woman heading out for a night of fun with yours truly."

Hera had rolled her eyes dramatically at Kanan's statement. What was supposed to be something complimentary directed at her ended up being another flounce of his ego, not that she minded. Kanan didn't particularly have a large ego, and it was also fun to watch him get a chance to show off.

That it was with words was different this time. He had become someone withdraw in recent years, especially after Malachor. His spirit to do the right thing wasn't gone, nor was his determination.

But instead, he seemed more like the Jedi of old. Reserved, yet wise.

It was no wonder then that he had been offered a place as a council member in the formation of a new and different Jedi Order.

Hera suspected that Ahsoka had something to do with that.

And so now here she was, walking arm in arm with Kanan down a luscious street in Aldera, the capital of Alderaan. Glancing at the Jedi she walked with, Hera couldn't help but admire the smart suit like outfit he had on tonight.

'He cleans up good!' Hera thought.

Mind you, she had thought similar things before.

Hera herself was also in an unusual style of dress, one that she wouldn't normally ever wear. A long wispy dress, not too provocative, but one that showed dignity and respect, as well as appeal.

Kanan had said that he loved how she looked in it when they had gotten off the Ghost for wherever they were going. When she had questioned how he knew due to his lack of eyesight, his response had made her stomach flutter in joy.

"I can always see you Hera Syndulla."

And so they walked, Hera admiring the view, taking in the various neon signs of the posh and regal shops and restaurants.

Kanan had still not told her what was going on. She figured it was a date of some kind. Their lifestyle had never allowed them to have a real date before, and Hera was honestly unsure what to do.

Did they just randomly pick out a place to eat? Were they supposed to book a table in advance?

"Where exactly are we going Kanan, and what are we doing dressed up like this?" Hera spoke softly, clinging to Kanan in affection.

"I've booked us a table at a nice little place that Senator Organa recommended. He said it would suit us all well."

"But Kanan we've never been on a date before, at least not like this.

"You mean Gorse wasn't a date?"

"When we first met? No, of course not. Why? Did you think it was?"

"Maybe. No."

Hera rolled her eyes again at the banter. She and Kanan had always shared such a relationship, and it was one she thoroughly enjoyed.

They continued to walk down the street, passing by other people of various species and gender as they too enjoyed their evenings. It was calm and serene, a far cry from their normal lifestyle.

And then something clicked in Hera's mind.

"What do you mean by the way by 'all of us'? Who else is coming?"

For a moment Hera dreaded that Kanan was referring to the rest of the crew of the Ghost.

She loved them all dearly, she really did. But this was her and Kanan's time, right?

A small smile came to Kanan's face as he pulled Hera in another direction, down another brightly neon lighted street.

"Cause it won't be just us. Turns out we know some other people who have never been on a date together before, so I figured I'd invite them along for fun."

Hera was surprised at how organized Kanan was. Going to this length to organize now what sounded like a double date was not easy.

"So, who else is coming then?" Hera questioned, thinking through the various possibilities in her head.

For a moment, a humorous image of Ezra and Sabine popped into her head sitting next to one another awkwardly, before it promptly vanished.

Kanan didn't verbally respond, but rather pointed with his free arm towards an exquisite looking restaurant, and in particular two people who stood outside of it equally well dressed.

"Hey Kanan, glad you and Hera could make it." Kaeden Larte's cheerful voice greeted the human and twi-lek as they approached.

'Ah, this makes sense.' Hera thought was she was released by Kanan and quickly brought into an embrace by Kaeden.

Beside the dark skinned human, Ahsoka Tano stood, an equally confused look on her face as was on Hera's.

"If it makes you feel any better, Ahsoka didn't know anything about this either. Kaeden and I worked on it together." Kanan spoke from behind Hera, his voice full of cheek and humour, to which Hera snorted in return.

Hera wasn't angry. She might have originally preferred a night out alone with Kanan, but a night out with friends was just as good. It would be nice to catch up with the other pair, having not seen either of them since the mission to take down the Emperor.

Stepping back from the embrace with Kaeden, Hera's eyes briefly went over the attire of her friends.

Kaeden was dressed in a dress much like hers, one that showed her confidence in who she was. Hera had to admire that.

Ahsoka was another case. Her dress was long, yet revealed more skin than Hera would have expected from the Togruta woman. But she looked uncomfortable.

Hera understood. Ahsoka was a warrior through and through, not use to wearing clothing such as what she currently wore. Hera herself had been uncomfortable at first, but she had adapted, and she was no doubt sure that Ahsoka would too.

"It's good to see you Ahsoka. That dress suits you." Hera remarked, offering a friendly smile to her friend, to which the Togruta grimaced back slightly.

"I feel ridiculous." Ahsoka muttered in return, one of her hands playing with an edge of the dress in discomfort.

"Nonsense, you look great. Now come on, let's go get our table." Kaeden spoke from beside Ahsoka, pulling her along and into the restaurant.

Beside her, Kanan appeared, once more offering his arm to her.

"My Lady?" He spoke, his voice calm and respectful.

Hera only smiled as she took it in response, following their friends inside the restaurant.

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A few moments later, the group of four had been seated at one of the best tables in the restaurant, where they were both isolated enough they could freely talk, and watch the food being prepared at the same time.

The only mishap that had occurred so far had been when the waiter had arrived with four menus in his hand, offering one to each on the table.

Kanan had looked straight up at the man, a serious look on his face that Hera could tell was one of jest and spoke.

"Really, you're gonna give me a menu? I'm blind!"

The waiter had broken down into a series of desperate apologies, offering a meal on the house in response as well as other solutions to appease his apparently offended guest.

In the end, Kanan had simply dropped the act, laughing and smiling at the man and calming him down.

"Don't worry about it buddy, stuff like this happens. How were you supposed to know?"

And just like that the situation had been resolved, the waiter leaving the table with an order of food and drinks at his disposal.

Hera allowed herself to get comfortable, listening to the soft sound of music and discussion that emanated from the other guests around them.

"This was a good idea Kanan. Can't believe it was yours though?" Hera spoke, gentle teasing in her voice.

"What is this, pick on Kanan day?" Kanan replied, another look of fake annoyance on his face.

"So, how's things going with the rebellion? I heard they promoted you to General?" Ahsoka's voice flowed from the other side of the table towards Hera. The Togruta looked more at ease now that she was settled and waiting.

"Good, we took out Admiral Versio recently. Thrawn showed up out of nowhere and offered to help us of all things." Hera replied, her 'general' voice on in a second.

The unexpected actions of the Chiss had been a cause of great concern for a while, but he had upheld his end of the bargain offering support and supplies to the rebellion in exchange for a place to rest on occasion.

They weren't friends, not really. More like acquaintances.

"That's good then, with Versio down Rax is the only real threat left. Have the rebellion been able to find him yet?" Ahsoka continued as their drinks arrived.

"Thrawn thinks he's above Jakku, but we don't have the firepower to attack him yet. Apparently the Emperor's flagship, the Eclipse is there. We can't conventionally beat that thing." Hera replied, reaching across to her drink to take a small sip. Its taste was fruity, with a small pinch of alcohol in it. Not enough to get her drunk, but enough for there to be a pleasant bite to it.

"You'll get him soon Hera, I believe in you." Ahsoka replied, a smile on her face as she reached for her own drink somewhat apprehensively.

"It's not going to poison you Ahsoka." Kaeden spoke from beside her, her own drink in her hand.

Ahsoka seemed to debate for a few seconds, before taking a small sip of her drink. Her face briefly contorted in surprise at the taste, before she placed the drink back down on the table.

"First time drinking?" Kanan's voice came across the table. Hera had expected there to be traces of humour in it directed at the Togruta, but there was none. Instead, his tone was reserved and almost cautious.

It hadn't escaped her attention either that Kanan had ordered a glass of water, rather than an alcoholic drink.

Ahsoka seemed to contemplate the question of a moment, almost as if she was sensing too that Kanan was unsure about something.

"Yeah. Tastes like death though." Ahsoka replied, clearly not impressed.

"You get used to it, the taste I mean, Just don't go overboard. It's easy to get addicted to the stuff. Even harder to stop." Kana replied with confidence.

Hera would never say it allowed, but she was proud of him.

Reaching down beneath the table, she lightly squeezed his hand in understanding.

Kanan squeezed back.

"So, what's it like being a Jedi councillor? Everything they said it was back in the temple crèche?" Ahsoka shifted the conversation again, earning an odd look from Kaeden beside her.

"I knew you had something to do with that!" Kanan all but burst out, his face turning into one of mock aggression, earning a chuckle from Ahsoka.

"Sorry. They asked me first, but I thought you'd be better suited for the job with a padawan and all." Ahsoka replied, experimentally testing out her drink again.

Kanan seemed content. It had surprised her when Kanan had mentioned he was going to be a councillor on the new Jedi council. He had apparently been asked to bring his unique outlook and experiences to the fold.

And under Kanan's guidance both Obi-Wan and Vos had seen that attachment, and the use of emotion was not a bad thing. It both held the Jedi back, and had been their doom in the past.

"Don't worry about it Ahsoka. I was surprised at first, and it's a lot of hard work, especially when some new kid comes along asking to be trained. But it's rewarding, that's the important part. Hopefully Master Billiba is proud of me." Kanan responded, his voice taking on what Hera called his Jedi Master tone, one that was respectful and wise, especially for one as young as him.

"I'm sure she is Kanan." Ahsoka responded, a gentle smile on her face.

"Still wish you'd join us though. We could sure use you, especially for lightsaber practise." Kanan quipped afterwards, a smile on his face.

Ahsoka chose not to reply, instead shifting her head to Hera again.

"So, how's Kallus and Cassian doing with the Fulcrum network? Has it all fallen apart yet?"

Hera was about to reply when the annoyed voice of Kaeden interrupted them, a sad look on her face.

"Come on guys! We came out for a night of fun, not a business meeting. Can't we just forget about it all for one night and just be ourselves?"

The other three members of the group seemed despondent at first. Truth be told that was who they were. Rebels, not civilians. They lived their lives this way.

Hera was about to point out that fact when Ahsoka spoke first, her hand resting on Kaeden's arm be squeezing it.

"Yeah, your right."

***********************************************************************************************************************************************

Small talk shifted away from business to pleasure. Kaeden enquired about the Ghost crew in general, as well as asking after her sister.

In return, Hera questioned Ahsoka about her own journeys, acquiring artefacts of both Jedi and Sith culture.

Roughly twenty minutes later, food arrived.

Hera looked across the table at the large slab of meat that Ahsoka had ordered. It was cooked, there was no question about that, but it still looked raw.

When she questioned it, Ahsoka smirked, but it was Kaeden that replied.

"Togruta are carnivores."

'Well,' Hera thought, 'you learn something new every day.'

The four ate in relative silence, only pausing to trade the traditional inquiries about the state of each other's food.

When all was eaten, and a dessert ordered by Kanan of all people, the conversation shifted to more bizarre talk.

"So? What's the most dangerous mission you lot have ever been on?" Kaeden inquired, her voice full of both mischief and mirth.

"Malachor." Kanan answered first, gesturing to his eyes in the process. That caused a stab of pain inside of Hera. The memory of the day he came back without his sight haunted her dreams.

"Atollon." Hera selected, remembering the sheer force of power that Thrawn had brought down around them. She had been sure back then that that was the end for her and her team.

Luckily it had not been.

And then Ahsoka spoke.

"Mortis, I actually died there after all."

All three heads at the table turned to Ahsoka with a range of emotions. Kanan looked surprised but in awe at the statement, to which Hera understood.

But Kaeden's face was worse. It had a look of deep terror and concern, as well as dread on it.

Ahsoka meanwhile looked nonchalant about her words, taking a rather sizable gulp of her second glass of wine.

When she noticed everyone staring at her with shocked expressions, her eyes widened in realization.

"Oh, right, yeah. Boy is that a story."

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"Ok, first crush?" Hera questioned, earning a splutter from Kanan as he choked on his dessert, as well as a brief flash of red in his cheeks.

Hera would admit that her senses and restraint were somewhat dulled by the alcohol she had consumed, as were both Ahsoka and Kaeden, the latter of which giggled slightly and the former swayed from side to side.

"Can't say I really had one." Kaeden answered first, clearly lying. Hera had anticipated this.

"Lux Bonteri." Ahsoka had replied. Out of the four of them, she was currently the most heavily affected by the alcohol she had consumed, which was evident by the brazen way she had answered the question.

"What about you Hera?" Kaeden enquired after a moment.

Hera thought back to her childhood. She had been raised during wartime, watching as her father and her people had fought for freedom. She had never really had time to take notice.

"No one really, what about you Kanan?"

Kanan's response was suspicious. He immediately turned his head away from her, seemingly sinking down in his seat as if he was trying to be invisible.

That meant that the answer was something scandalous.

"Ohhhh, Kanan's hiding something. Come on Kanan, who was it?" Hera teased, bumping her shoulder to his affectionately.

"I'm not gonna say it." Kanan replied, trying and failing to keep his tone level. Whatever the answer, it was embarrassing to him.

And Hera was determined to find out.

"Tell us. Was it someone at the temple? Don't tell me it was a master or something?" It was Ahsoka of all people who teased this time, her words coming out slightly slurred as she spoke.

Kanan then mumbled something under his breath. Neither Ahsoka nor Kaeden could make anything out of it, but Hera managed to. After years of knowing Kanan, she knew his quirks.

"What do you mean she's sitting at this table?!"

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The evening continued to pass with ease, as each of the four friends enjoyed one another's company.

And then it happened.

"I don't feel so great."

Kaeden was by Ahsoka's side in an instant, ensuring that the heavily drunk Togruta was ok.

Shortly afterwards, when it looked like Ahsoka was done with her queasy stage, an unexpected sound came from her.

'HIC'

Kanan chuckled under his breath, and Hera was forced to contain a smirk as she listened to Ahsoka break out into a rhythm of hiccups, each louder than the last.

And then the drunk talk began.

"Have I ever told you I love the colour of your hair Hera? Green really suits you."

"I don't have any hair Ahsoka."

"Oh, really? What are those long things on your head then?"

"Lekku Ahsoka. You have them too."

"Do I? Oh, look at that I do. Wow they are so many pretty colours."

It was Kanan that reached across the table and picked up Ahsoka's now empty wine glass before she could request a fifth refill.

"I think you've had enough now Ahsoka." Kanan spoke, his voice calm and in teacher mode.

Ahsoka merely turned her now drunk gaze to Kanan, her eyes widening dramatically.

"Caleb? Why do you have lekku on your face?"

At that, Hera burst out laughing.

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As expected, Ahsoka's descent into drunkenness marked the end of the night out for the friends. Kaeden had helped Ahsoka leave, promising to look after her.

Hera knew that Ahsoka would not be feeling great in the morning, and that she would need all the help she could get.

Not that she envied her.

Waving their friends off, Kanan once again offered his arm to Hera, which the Twi-lek immediately accepted.

"So, where to now Master Jedi?" Hera quipped, both pride and humour in her voice. She was half expecting to be taken back to the Ghost for the remainder of the night.

So it was a pleasant surprise when Kanan instead pulled her into an expensive hotel, revealing that they had a room booked for the night.

Suffice to say, Hera did not complain.

After checking in at reception, the duo headed to their room. Opening the door, Hera gasped at how luxurious the room was. A large balcony was present, overlooking the lakes of Alderaan's capital.

"This is beautiful!" Hera commented at the view as she felt Kanan join her.

"Yeah. If only I could see it."

Kanan's self-depreciation aside, Hera knew what he meant. Kanan may not have been able to physically see it, but no doubt the force was showing him something equally as beautiful.

"I had fun tonight Kanan. It was a good idea. We should do it again." Hera spoke quietly, leaning into Kanan slightly.

The Jedi knight chuckled lightly in response. "Good, cause I agree. I think Ahsoka had a pretty good night as well huh?"

Hera laughed in response as an image of their Togrutan friend completely wasted came to her head.

"Yeah, it was good to see them again." She replied.

"Hey, back in a sec. I need to get something." Kanan then said suddenly, disappearing back inside the room to fetch whatever it was he wanted.

That left Hera by herself on the balcony.

Aldera was beautiful. Hera had often dreamed about having a life like this. Glamour. Friends. Fun.

But despite that, she would never trade the life, and the family she had currently for this.

Behind her, Hera heard Kanan reappear.

"Hey, got a question for you. You mind?" Kanan voiced from behind her, not moving to take his place by her side again.

Hera paid it no mind. He would join her when he was ready.

"I always have time for you Kanan."

Kanan didn't say anything to begin with, but Hera did hear slightly shuffling from behind her.

When he still did not speak, nor more to join her, Hera turned, expecting to be face to face with her Jedi.

Except that she wasn't. Rather than standing before her, Kanan was crouched before her, his weight resting on one knee.

It was a perplexing position, one that almost looked like…

'No. Way.'

"I don't really know what the Twi-lek tradition for this is, and your father wouldn't tell me, so I figured I do it the human way for now and make it up to you later."

Hera could only stare opened mouthed at Kanan. He wasn't seriously about to…

"So, simple question. Hera Syndulla, will you marry me?"

Chapter Text

Luke Skywalker was confused to say the least. It was not rare for both his and his sister's Jedi Masters to arrange a field trip for the day. Usually it would involve visiting some ancient ruin, like the one on Tython, or an exclusion to some desolate region of space in order to practise something in regards to the force.

And then there were the meditation breaks they seemed to get. Luke enjoyed those. His sister did not.

Not that that was a surprise really. Leia was restless at the best of times. It made sense that she wouldn't be able to sit still for too long.

So when Master Kenobi had taken both he and Leia aside, informing them of a special trip somewhere, Luke had been excited about the prospect. He had asked at the time where he was going, and if anyone else, such as Ezra, was coming along.

Obi-Wan had denied, refusing to tell them anything.

"This isn't my idea, but I personally think it's something you both need to do. She will guide you through it."

Luke had been confused by Obi-Wan's words to begin with. The elder Jedi Master was cryptic at the best of times. But the fact that neither he nor Master Vos were coming was a cause of concern.

Who was this 'she' that would be leading them through it?

Leia had been more accepting of the cryptic nature of the order, heading off to prepare a small two person shuttle for their trip to the rendezvous point, which just so happened to be at Theed, the capital of Naboo.

Upon arrival, Luke has stepped out of the shuttle, Leia by his side. The streets were busy as normal, bristling with activity. It was a few months after the attack by the Imperial Remnant, and whilst the atmosphere above was still prone to unexpected and freak weather shifts, the planet itself was still stable.

Glancing around, Luke hoped he would spot someone, anyone he recognized. Surely their contact, whoever it was, would reveal themselves soon.

And then he felt it, a presence in the force, lightly brushing up against both his and his sister's signature. It was light, yet shrouded in a thin veil of darkness.

He had sensed it before. It was a welcoming, one that only offered support and guidance.

And whilst he didn't really know the person it belonged to too well, having only met her briefly, he knew instantly that she could be trusted.

Clearly Leia, who had had more exposure to the person, felt the same.

Leia broke into a sprint, a bright smile on her face and her signature radiating happiness. Luke, with a light chuckle at his sister's sudden shift in demeanour, raced after her.

A few moments later they were running in sync, turning a corner and vaulting over a crate or two in the process.

And then, entering into a small clearing, they spotted a pair of figures talking quietly to one another.

Slowing both the pace of himself and his sister, Luke watched from a distance as the woman he knew as his father's apprentice embraced a dark skinned woman briefly, before turning and spotting them, a small smile coming onto her face.

Leia wasted no time, abandoning all pretences of being a Jedi apprentice and rushing forward to meet the Togruta, immediately pulling her honorary aunt into an embrace, one that the Togruta happily returned.

"Glad you both could make it." Ahsoka spoke as the embrace ended, bowing her head at Luke in a sign of respect, one that Luke returned. He wasn't as close to her as Leia was, but she was still family.

"Why didn't you tell us you wanted to see us?" Leia spoke, her voice full of joy yet what seemed like disappointment at the same time.

Ahsoka seemed to glance around for a moment, a brief look of something unrecognizable on her face before she replied.

"I'm sorry princess. I've been working on getting us visiting rights for somewhere. I've always wanted to visit, and figured you two would need to come along as well. It's only right after all."

Luke was unsure exactly what Ahsoka was speaking about. Getting visiting rights often meant that an intended destination was off limits to the general public. Clearly Ahsoka had had to go through a lot of loopholes to access wherever it was they were going to.

Suddenly, he got the feeling that this wasn't anything to do with Jedi training. Through the force he could feel a brief wave of guilt and sadness come across Ahsoka as she surveyed a large building not far away.

It was then that the dark-skinned woman from before approached, laying a comforting hand on Ahsoka's shoulder.

"Hey? You going to be ok?" She spoke, her voice warm.

Ahsoka reached a free hand back to the hand on her shoulder, squeezing it briefly before nodding.

Then, with a flick of her hand Ahsoka raised a hood over her head, covering her montrals in the process, and walked towards the large building she had been staring at, gesturing for the twins to follow.

Both Luke and Leia followed in silence as the Togruta led them towards the building. From the way she was acting, Luke could tell that wherever they were going was affecting the woman hard. Luke could only begin to imagine why.

Stepping up a series of marble steps, Luke watched as Ahsoka approached what appeared to be a reception of some kind, quietly speaking to a well-dressed man before being directed into a large central hallway.

As they followed the Togruta, neither twin spoke. The atmosphere around the three was not tense in an uncomfortable way, but rather foreboding in an emotional way.

Ahsoka turned and led them down a long hallway, stopping outside a large wooden door, her hands gently resting on the handle.

Ahsoka didn't move for a few moments, and Luke could tell she was trying to collect herself in the force. The emotions that radiated off her signature fluctuated rapidly, a vast array flooding his senses.

Eventually, the Togruta seemed to work up the courage, if Luke could call it that, and pushed to door open.

What was on the other side elicited gasps from both Luke and his sister.

A large room stood before them, a large stone structure in the centre of the room, one that resembled a sarcophagus. Beyond that there was a painting, one that was heavily decorated in the image of a regal looking woman.

Clearly, this was someone's tomb.

It occurred to Luke then that the place they were in was a mausoleum of some kind.

But why had Ahsoka brought them here?

The room wasn't especially well lit. A row of torches resided in holders along the walls, bathing the room in a dull orange glow, one that emanated a feeling of calm and peace.

Ahsoka seemed to hesitate at first, before stepping further into the tomb, approaching the structure in the centre of the room.

Luke watched as the Togruta gently laid a hand on the stone structure, before closing her eyes and bowing her head in what could only be described as grief.

Beside him, Luke could see that Leia was restraining herself from approaching Ahsoka's side to offer support.

Whilst Ahsoka evidently mourned, both Luke and Leia stepped into the room, approaching the detailed painting of the woman who Luke only assumed now rested eternally in this room.

There were no words that did the image of the woman justice. She was beautiful, and something about her radiated nothing but purity. Her long brown hair was not too dissimilar to Leia's, and her brown eyes were easy to get lost in, even if she was nothing but a motionless painting.

For someone to have such a resting place, they must have been of great importance to the people of Naboo.

And then he heard Ahsoka, quietly speaking to the sarcophagus behind them.

"I'm sorry Padme, I'm sorry I left him. If I hadn't, then maybe, just maybe…"

The Togruta didn't get any further before she broke down into sobs, surprising both Skywalker twins. Her head all but collapsed onto the sarcophagus, her legs giving way underneath her as she fell to the floor, her entire frame shaking.

Leia was by her side in an instant, face full of concern and worry for the Togruta.

But Luke remained motionless.

It wasn't that he didn't care about the state Ahsoka was in. He did!

But the name she had said. He had heard it before, from her of all people.

Looking back at the regal painting of the woman, Luke realised who exactly this person was, and why Ahsoka had brought both he and his sister here.

"This is our mother, isn't it?" Luke inquired quietly, his eyes raking over the painting in much more detail. Now that he knew, he could see the similarities between her and his sister.

"What?" Leia then spoke, confusion in her voice at the unexpected revelation.

Despite the tears and sobs that were escaping her body, Ahsoka reached into the force, composing herself before answering.

"Yes." That was her only reply before she stood back up, brushing the tears away from her face and turning to look at the painting with Luke.

"I figured I owed it to you. To show you both your mother's final resting place. It's only right after all, since I took your father away from you." Ahsoka's voice was quiet as she reached the end of her explanation, her arms wrapping around herself as she spoke.

Luke's gaze never left the painting of the woman he now knew as his mother. After all these years, finally, he had something of his parents before him. Growing up on Tatooine, with his aunt and uncle, he had longed for something, anything that was connected to his parents.

But they were both dead, and under different circumstances.

One had died during childbirth.

The other at the hands of one of his closest friends.

And it was very clear that Ahsoka still felt guilty about her choice to end Vader.

Neither Luke nor Leia blamed her for it though, and they had both told her in the past.

But still, this woman, this role model of his sister's, still she could not forgive herself.

Part of him wondered if either Anakin Skywalker or Padme Amidala would have been able to convince her otherwise. It wasn't her fault. Ahsoka Tano had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Were it not for the manipulations of Emperor Palpatine, then none of this would have happened.

Turning to face the Togruta woman, who looked like she was struggling with herself, Luke began to reach out to comfort her.

But Leia beat him to it.

"Bail Organa is my father Ahsoka, not Darth Vader. You did nothing wrong."

Luke didn't miss the wince that came from the Togruta at the mention of his father's Sith name. Leia had had a much harder time accepting who Anakin Skywalker had become, refusing to actively learn anything about him in the process.

Luke didn't hold that against her though. His father had turned into a monster, even if he had been a nice person to begin with, the person that Ahsoka clearly remembered very fondly.

But he still wanted to know more, to know what made his father make the decisions he did. That was how Luke dealt with his grief. Acceptance and understanding, not dismissal and anger as Leia did.

"But if I hadn't left him…" Ahsoka muttered, her voice full of self-despair.

"Then he would have turned on you just like he did Master Kenobi, and just like he did our mother." Leia continued, gesturing to the painting before her. "He was no longer the man who trained you."

Luke took the opportunity to speak in that moment, hoping to support his sister's statement.

"Leia is right Ahsoka. Anakin was dead long before you fought him. You did him a favour, and neither of our parents would ever hold that against you. It's time for you to forgive yourself."

Ahsoka did not make any eye contact with either twin. Rather she stood, looking into the brown eyes of the painting of Padme Amidala. Both Luke and Leia could only watch as a myriad of emotions covered the Togruta's face. Loss, Anger. Guilt. Remorse.

And then, acceptance.

Their father's apprentice closed her eyes again, her hands coming up to her neck, gently taking grasp of the kyber crystal necklace she wore, before she squeezed it gently in her hands.

And then, through the force both twin felt a change from the Togruta woman.

Ahsoka reopened her eyes, letting go of the necklace, before stepping back from the painting and heading towards the door.

"I'll leave you two alone in here for a bit. She's your mother after all, not mine."

"Stay. You're family too." Luke didn't even hesitate. She might not have felt like she was, but through the force both he and Leia agreed. Ahsoka was more than welcome in the tomb of their mother.

Ahsoka's eyes widen at the request, the blue in her eyes only getting bolder by the statement.

In the end, she didn't refuse. If the children of her master and her friend and confidant wanted her here, she would stay.

She would always stay for them.

Smiling as Ahsoka moved to re-join him and Leia, Luke moved over to the sarcophagus, resting his own palm on it gently before speaking.

"Hello mother, I've always wanted to meet you."

Chapter Text

It happened on what appeared to be a normal day. Nothing was out of the ordinary for anyone. No remnant imperial upstarts had showed. No internal conflict raged.

It was almost as if the galaxy was at peace.

And it was here, on Alderaan of all places that CT-7567, Captain Rex, currently worked.

To be fair, 'worked' was stretching it. Instead, he was simply on guard duty, along with his brother Gregor.

The formation of the New Republic had gone well under Bail Organa's lead, but that didn't stop some people from attempting to ruin everything. Mon Mothma herself had recently been the target of an assassination attempt, and if rumours were true, was saved thanks only to the sudden intervention of a mysterious Togruta with lightsabers.

Rex would never tell it to her face, but he was proud of his old commander.

So now here he was on Alderaan, acting as security detail for an upcoming meeting between Bail Organa and the representative from the Imperial-Chiss alliance, a man named Eli Vanto.

Apparently Vanto was some sort of confidant of Thrawn's. Why the Chiss Grand Admiral was not available for this meeting Rex was unsure. He had shown up for the vast majority in the past. This time however he had simply left a message apologising for his absence, but insisting that his replacement would be worthy.

"Funny, isn't it? He we are waiting for some personal aide of Thrawn's. Five years ago we were trying to kill each other!" Gregor spoke from beside him as the two old clones stared up at the sky of Alderaan, waiting for Vanto's shuttle to come in. The sun was blazing hot today, with no clouds in the sky.

It was a nice day for such a meeting, one that sung peace and prosperity.

Reaching a hand up to his head to wipe the building sweat away, Rex closed his eyes, a sudden wave of dizziness coming to him.

"Yeah, it would help if it wasn't so kriffing hot though!" Rex spoke in return, feeling a cold sweat cover his body unexpectedly.

Gregor merely chuckled in return before his focus was back on the sky. Feeling that the brief conversation was over, Rex too shifted his gaze back upwards.

The heat wasn't unbearable, not like the deserts of Tatooine.

But Rex did find that it made it a lot harder to breath.

"Hey Rex, you ok buddy? You're breathing awful heavy." Gregor's concerned voice hit his ears seconds later.

"I'mmmm fffinne." Rex replied, throwing a smile over at Gregor.

But Gregor's response was not one he expected. The old clone commando's face suddenly dropped with dread, the concern that was present now seemingly turning into deep worry.

"Rex?"

Rex began to speak again, when a sharp pain lanced through his chest causing him to grasp it tightly. In seconds Gregor was by his side.

"Rex? What's wrong?!"

Rex attempted to brush off the concern. There was nothing wrong with him. It was just a funny spell because of the heat.

And then he felt tired, his joints aching and pulsating, his chest throbbing in agony, and his stomach feeling like it was jumping side to side. Beneath him, he felt his legs begin to wobble, as if they were suddenly made of liquid.

And then, everything went black.

***************************************************************************************************************************************

BEEP.

BEEP.

BEEP.

Those were the first sounds Rex heard when he finally regained consciousness. He didn't open his eyes at first, instead opting to both listen and smell.

If he was where he thought he was…

BEEP.

BEEP.

BEEP.

That sound was familiar, one he had heard many times before. The tell-tale monotonous sounds produced by what Rex could only assume was a heard rate monitor suggested that something bad had happened to him.

The smell in the air only confirmed his hypothesis. The room he presumed he was in reeked of antiseptic and other chemicals that were often associated with doctors and medics.

And then he opened his eyes.

His vision was blurry to begin with, the bright light of the room taking a while to adjust to. Clearly he had been out a while.

And when his vision did clear, Rex saw he was without question cooped up in a hospital bed.

"Ah kriff!" Rex muttered to himself, gently moving his arms and hands in an attempt to sit himself up in his bed.

"Whoa there Captain, take it easy." The familiar and comforting voice of Gregor hit Rex's ears next as the clone commando sprung from the chair he had been seated in beside Rex's bed to help him. "The doc said you need to relax and take it easy for a bit."

Groaning, Rex took a gently breath before continuing in his quest to be seated up, Gregor helping him all the way.

When he was sat up, back against the head board of his hospital bed, Rex glanced around.

He was in a ward of some kind, and various other patients of varying species all seemed to be present.

Surveying the room further, Rex could see that the vast majority of the other patients were still out of it. In fact, he seemed to be the only one awake.

Turning his eyes back to Gregor, he asked the most obvious question.

"What happened to me?"

Gregor seemed hesitant at first, his face contorting briefly in despair before he answered.

"You had a heart attack Captain. Chancellor Organa and I brought you here. You've had to have a bypass operation in order to save your life. In fact, you were clinically dead for about twenty seconds."

That was a lot of take in, but Rex took it with stride. He had been through worse before after all.

"Right, well then, let's get out of here." Rex answered, beginning to lift his legs out of the bed, fully intending on returning to duty.

But Gregor stopped him, laying a hand on his chest and pushing him back.

"There's more Rex. The docs know why this happened, and it's very likely that it will happen to me soon as well."

Rex felt his eyes widen in shock. What was Gregor going on about?

"What do you mean Gregor? Some sort of bioweapon?" Rex inquired, fear in his voice. Out of all of his brothers, he only had Gregor left, and he was damned if he was going to let anything happen to them.

But Gregor didn't seem fazed at all by whatever news he had to deliver. Rather, he seemed to have already accepted whatever bombshell was coming.

"It's about us Rex, specifically our biology. We were created to fight and die in a war, not survive two. We weren't built to last this long Captain, and our time is running out it seems. Accelerated ageing is catching up to us it seems."

At that, Rex couldn't stop himself from slinking back in his bed in despair.

He had known that eventually his clone biology would catch up to him. It was as inevitable as the shift between day and night.

But he honestly thought he had more time.

"How long?" Rex asked, already fearing the answer.

Gregor shrugged his shoulders lightly in response before speaking.

"Don't know really. Docs say that if you take it easy you might have another decade in you. But if you don't, it could be less than a year."

Rex nodded in understanding. It was a simple choice. Continue working and living his normal life, and die sooner.

Or retire and live peacefully, something he had no idea how to do, and live longer.

In his now fragile heart, Rex wanted nothing more but to push on, continue working and prove the doctor's wrong. He would be fine, wouldn't he?

But then he remembered Gregor's tone as he delivered the news. It wasn't a maybe… it was a definite. There was nothing he could do about it.

And that terrified Rex far more than anything he had ever faced in his life.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************

Shortly after his discussion with Gregor, the chief doctor who had performed the surgery on him had come to speak.

The talk had been brief, going over the various problem that had occurred in regards to Rex's health, as well as what could and could not be done to help him.

It was nothing that Gregor hadn't already told him.

And then another piece of news hit him. The doctor had outright said that he couldn't leave, not for several weeks. Apparently the doctor's wanted to keep an eye on him for a bit due to any unexpected complications that might emerge from the surgery.

So Rex was stuck in a ward in a hospital, confined to a bed and a refresher.

The food was horrible, and the constant smell of antiseptic grated on his nerves.

Gregor visited whenever he could, but the old commando was currently undergoing his own tests to see if anything could be done to help him.

Aside from his brother, Rex received very few visitors, not that he minded. They had their own lives to live.

Bail Organa had come by once, offering support for Rex's condition and promising to fund a research program into the effects of accelerated ageing and how to slow it down. Whilst it was a token gesture, Rex appreciated the sentiment.

When Rex didn't have visitors however, he honestly did not know what to do.

He had tried to watch some sort of sitcom on a holopad, but had found it incredibly boring. Even a war documentary about the 'Clone War' did nothing for him, mostly because the vast majority of the 'facts' presented were false.

When he had had enough of the holopad, Rex had attempted to solve various puzzles in a pair of books that Bail had brought him to pass the time.

Those too began to bore him however, especially after the fifth one he couldn't do.

The only other activity that Rex could really do, and the one that was heavily recommended by the doctors, was to sleep.

So Rex did. He slept for hours, hoping to regain his strength. And as he did, he began to feel better. Gone was the ache in his bones, as his vision remained sound and steady.

But that still did nothing to stop the ounce of loneliness he felt from time to time, wishing someone would come by to see him.

And then one day, as he awoke from his nightly slumber, half expecting to find himself either alone or having tests run on him by a doctor, Rex was greeted with a welcome surprise.

"Hey there Rex, what have you got yourself into this time?"

Rex couldn't help the smile that came to his face as he pushed himself up, embracing the Togruta was she leaned in towards him.

"I've missed you old friend." He muttered gently into her lekku as he held tightly onto the woman he had known since she was a child. He hadn't seen her for months, let alone heard from her. No one had it seemed except for Kaeden, and the only information she had given Rex was that Ahsoka was off doing something history related with Maul of all people.

But right now Rex did not care, his friend was here, and he was going to make the most of the time with her that he had.

Ahsoka had stayed with him for a while, catching up on lost time and sharing tales of her adventures with Maul. Apparently the Zabrak had shown up at her apartment one day with a question to ask her. Said question had, in Ahsoka's own words, 'exploded into a massive quest to discover which came first, the Jedi or the Sith?'

Rex had listened intently as Ahsoka described what she and Maul had discovered so far, much of which surprised even the old clone. The history of the force and its respective orders was far more ancient than he realised.

Eventually he had to tell her about his current condition. Suffice to say it had not gone down well with the Togruta, who had all but ordered him to live forever, swearing that she would find a cure.

It had taken a while to calm her down, and even when he had done so it was clear that she was still upset.

So Rex had promptly changed to the subject, opting to enquire about how Ahsoka was doing personally.

Luckily, it worked, and as Rex began to doze off, Ahsoka had left happy and content, promising to visit him again soon, even offering him the spare room at her apartment for when he was better.

Closing his eyes with the intent on sleeping, Rex decided that he might just take his oldest friend up on that offer.

He only hoped he wouldn't get in the way of her and Kaeden.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The next few days seemed to drag, and Rex was honestly more bored than he had ever been in his life. He had nothing to watch. Nothing to read. No one to talk to.

Even the automated Dejarik set that Gregor had recently brought him had begun to tire after Rex's twentieth victory against the computer.

And so he was stuck, sitting in the hospital bed waiting to be discharged, with nothing to do, a solemn expression on his face.

And then a youthful energetic voice echoed across the room, and Rex's solemn expression vanished instantly, a bright smile replacing it.

"UNCLE REX!"

Rex couldn't help the burst of laughter that erupted from him as a young green haired children bounded across the room towards him, jumping onto his bed and wrapping his arms around the old clones neck in a tight embrace, one that Rex returned without hesitation.

"Hey there little Jacen, it's good to see you." Rex replied, his voice full of joy and wonder as he hugged the young child closer to him, who giggled in response.

"Oh he's fine, crazy, but fine." Another voice followed Rex's question, this one coming from the approaching figure of Kanan Jarrus, who held in his hands what appeared to be a blanket of some kind.

"Kanan!" Hera's voice followed afterwards, the Twi-lek woman beside the Jedi in an instant, lightly swatting him on the arm in response, to which Kanan feigned injury.

Rex was more than glad to see the small family. After everything that had gone wrong, and despite Kanan's previous misgivings about Rex, the two had formed a strong bond, one that Rex hoped would last the rest of his life.

"Ok Jacen, let's not hurt grandpa anymore yeah?" Kanan continued, coming to sit in the chair beside Rex's bed.

"Ok daddy." Jacen replied, carefully extracting himself from Rex's arms and jumping off the bed onto the floor on the other side of the bed, where Hera now stood.

Rex couldn't help but smile at the family dynamic that was around him. Out of everyone, Kanan and Hera deserved their happy ending.

Small talk emerged moments later, with both Kanan and Hera inquiring into what happened to him, Rex explaining in what detail he could, and later him asking about how their life was going.

"Jacen honey, why don't we go get something to eat?" Hera interrupted in the middle on a conversation, her face never changing from the serene calm and nurturing nature she was renowned for.

"Yum yum, yes please mum."

And with that Hera and Jacen left in search of something to eat, leaving Rex with Kanan, who was currently preoccupied by the small blanket he still held.

Smiling gently, Rex leaned over in his bed to spy what was cuddled up within the blanket.

"She's beautiful Kanan." Rex said softly, admiring the small child in Kanan's arms. Depa Jarrus, second child of Kanan and Hera. When the two had announced they were expecting their second child, Rex had been overjoyed, as had everyone. Unlike Jacen however, the young girl that had been born shared more similarities with her mother and her father. Her biology was clearly Twi-lek dominant, unlike Jacen who took after his father.

"I know she is." Kanan replied, his gaze never leaving his daughter's face.

Out of everyone he had ever met, Rex had to say that Kanan made a wonderful father. He was kind and compassionate, always looking out for his family and trying to teach them the right path in life, all qualities of a perfect father in Rex's opinion, not that he had any real point of comparison.

"Do you know what she looks like?" Rex had to ask. Hopefully Kanan wouldn't find it too insensitive.

"Course I do. You gave me your eyes remember?" Kanan replied, gesturing with a free hand to the faceplate he wore, the one painted with white Jaig eye markings.

Rex chuckled in response at the memory of the gesture. After Kanan had been blinded on Malachor, he had lost his way for a while. It had been Rex of all people that had first approached him, telling about the markings on his helmet and what they meant. It hadn't been long after that that Rex had asked Sabine to create the mask for Kanan that he now frequently wore.

"So tell me Rex, truthfully. How bad is it?" Kanan's tone shifted suddenly. It was not full of overt concern, like Ahsoka's had been, but instead full of what Rex could only describe as steadfastness. Rex appreciated that someone wasn't treating him like he was useless, even if he was sure that wasn't what Ahsoka and the others had intended.

"Depends really. If I keep up this lifestyle of fighting in wars, I probably won't make the year. But if I stop now then I've got a while left." Rex spoke, his voice grim. He didn't want to stop, that was the problem. It wasn't him. Rex needed to be active, not sitting around. His time in hospital had proven that.

Kanan nodded his head in understanding. "Have you spoken to Ahsoka about it?"

Rex nodded in reply, informing Kanan about the offer Ahsoka had given him about living with her.

"But you don't want to take it?" Kanan asked, confusion in his voice.

"The last thing I want to do is get in her way, especially since she had Kaeden now. I can take care of myself." Rex replied, lowering his head briefly, before lifting it again.

"You know she wouldn't think that Rex, and no offense, but this whole situation proves that you might be needing help soon." Kanan continued, his face serious.

Rex knew Kanan was right. Sooner or later he would need help. Not on an every second of every day basis, but enough to support him, both physically and mentally.

"I just don't know what to do Kanan." Rex answered honestly, one of his hands coming up to scratch at his beard lightly.

"Well then, let me offer you another option to take." Kanan did not hesitate a wide smile coming to his face as he spoke.

Rex's face shifted to one of confusion. What was Kanan going on about?

Seconds later, Kanan continued.

"Hera and I had a spare room in the Ghost since Sabine went to live back home. It's overly decorated I'll admit, but I'm sure Sabine wouldn't mind you taking it. Besides, the kids love you."

Rex's eyes widened at the generous offer from the Jedi. First Ahsoka, now Kanan.

Was he really that popular?

"Besides, it would mean someone other than Zeb or Ezra can look after Jacen for a bit. Those two are bad influences on him." Kanan leaned in to whisper, humour in his voice.

"I imagine Chopper is worse?" Rex couldn't help but quip, knowing exactly what the droid was like.

"Surprisingly that astromech is ok with the kids. Probably because they are fifty percent Hera after all huh?" Kanan responded, his tone light.

Rex laughed in response to the comment. The very thought of the Ghost crew looking after the children of Kanan and Hera was humorous, especially considering their vastly different personalities.

"I wouldn't want to be in the way Kanan." Rex shifted the conversation back to the offer at hand, concern in his voice. The last thing he wanted to do was impose himself on a happy family, especially in his condition.

But Kanan seemed resolute, shaking his head once before standing from his chair, a devious smirk on his face.

"Well perhaps this will convince you then." Kanan finished, bending down and laying the blanket that contained little Depa Jarrus into Rex's arms. The old clone didn't have much of a choice to accept, positioning and balancing the new-born baby gently into a comfortable position.

Looking down at the child in his arms, Rex couldn't help but smile at her face and tiny lekku that were forming. It would be years before they grew to full length. But for now they suited the girl perfectly.

And then the girl awoke from her slumber, opening her eye lids to reveal bright green eyes, ones that were clearly inherited from her mother, much like many other features.

Rex couldn't help but smile in response as the small girl in his arms began to babble lightly, a hand being reached up to touch Rex's beard in the process.

"Careful, she bites." Kanan joked from the chair where he had sat back down.

But Rex found that he didn't care whether or not she did bite. Depa was adorable.

'Maybe I should take up Kanan's offer?' Rex thought in his head.

He was, after all, a clone trooper. Bred to fight and succeed.

But his fight had ended now, all due to the way he was created.

If he was going to survive, if he was going to get to witness the happiness of his friends, no, his family around him, the he needed to find another way to fight, another way to be who he was.

And perhaps, just perhaps, he could get used to this kind of fighting.

He had fought to protect people for so long.

And he fully intended to continue doing so.

Just in a very different way from now on.

Chapter Text

'Agent Fulcrum we have a new mission for you.

We have recently received reports from an unknown source on the planet Coruscant of an underground slave market specialising in child labour. As of this moment, we cannot confirm nor deny if there is any truth behind this statement.

Thus, your mission is simple. Head to Coruscant and meet with an agent we have stationed there. He will be able to point you in the right direction. The meeting spot is a small cantina owned by a Besalisk named Dex. You are due to meet this contact tomorrow.

Due to the nature of this mission, as well as the secrecy of it, you will not receive any assistance from rebel command. Equipment will be what you can acquire on sight.

Furthermore, should the situation arise, you are authorized to use lethal force.

To review, your objectives are simple.

Meet with the contact, and determine whether or not these rumours are true or false.

Good luck Agent Fulcrum.

(This message will self-destruct in five seconds.)'

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

"Um, Kallus! I think this thing is gonna blow up on us!"

Captain Alexsandr Kallus groaned aloud at the panic that was evident in the voice of his unlikely friend. When he had revealed he had been given a new top secret mission, Garazeb had been insistent on coming along for the ride, wanting to see the sort of work Kallus got up to as a Fulcrum Agent.

Kallus hadn't stopped him, even if protocol normally didn't allow him to have any support. For once, company on a mission such as this would be a nice change of pace.

He'd have someone to talk to at least.

"Don't worry about it Zeb, it's just Cassian trying to be funny again. I think he's been watching too many spy flicks again."

"Oh. Fair enough." Zeb responded, the trepidation fading from his voice at the reassurance that he wasn't about to be blown up by a top secret message.

Kallus allowed a rare smile to come to his face as he surveyed the planet below them. It had been a long time since he had been to Coruscant, since before he had begun tracking the Ghost crew.

Being back was odd, especially with the recent changes to the galaxy.

The Emperor was dead, and the rebellion was working together with Thrawn of all people to set up an all new republic, one that would be chaired by the Senator from Alderaan.

Kallus had to say that he was impressed. As a former ISB agent, it was necessary to understand politics and the ever changing world around him. The unexpected appearance of both Thrawn and other members of his species had changed the galaxy. The Chiss had made claims for the need of cooperation in order to stop any would be power hungry monsters from rising again. The need for defence and protection of the people was one of the key talking points of the new alliance. Under the empire many had suffered, regardless of species.

Kallus only hoped that in time that would change.

But, despite the improving nature of life all around the galaxy, there were still criminal undertones that were causing trouble, and it was up to people like Kallus to keep the peace.

So that was what he was doing. Keeping the peace.

And if he could take down a child slavery organization, then he would.

Directing the U-wing he had towards the planet below, Kallus listened as Zeb passed on the authorization codes to spaceport control, granting them access to land. As far as the officials were concerned, they were simply a civilian ship transporting supplies.

Pushing the ship down through the atmosphere, Kallus spotted one of the landing pads that had been designated for him.

Carefully directing the ship into landing, Kallus allowed an audible sound of happiness to escape him as he smoothly landed the ship.

"Nice landing. So, what's the plan then?" Zeb spoke from beside him, his green eyes watching and ready.

Zeb was not exactly discreet. Someone of his size and species was easily noticeable in a crowd. For this mission, stealth would be vital.

But that didn't mean he was going to leave Zeb behind. He wouldn't have brought him along if he was just going to abandon the Lasat.

So instead, Kallus had gone to incredible lengths to acquire more civilian outfit for Zeb, one that did not scream warrior or rebel, but one that simply allowed him to blend in.

Kallus too would have to adopt a new look. After years of uniform from the empire, it had taken some time to get used to his new rebel look.

But he had, and found it liberating in a way.

Zeb still mocked him about it, but it was worth it.

"Now, we get changed. Meet me outside the ship when you're done Zeb." Kallus replied, heading into the back of the U-wing to get changed whilst Zeb remained in the cockpit.

********************************************************************************************************************************************

A few moments later Kallus found himself waiting outside of the U-wing for Zeb, having finished changing into a civilian disguise. It wasn't much, merely a sleeveless shirt and a pair of comfortable trousers. Simple enough that he would fit in amongst the general public.

"Kallus! Why am I wearing a clown outfit?!" Zeb's voice boomed aloud in that instant as the Lasat exited the U-wing, wearing what Kallus would only describe as a ridiculous civilian outfit. A large hat rested on Zeb's head, covering over his ears in the process. Gone was any indication of Zeb being a formidable honour guard of Lasan, instead replaced by what Kallus hoped would be an effective disguise.

"You look fine Garazeb, no hurry up. We need to meet this contact at the cantina within the hour. He should be able to point us in the right direction."

The purple Lasat all but growled aloud at Kallus' decision to ignore the disguise he wore, before following along beside the Fulcrum agent.

The two walked in relative silence, moving between the crowds of people that littered the streets of Coruscant and they made their way to the cantina.

"I always pictured Coruscant as some sort of imperial super compound. It's odd seeing it just as a city. Normal people doing normal things." Zeb commented as he walked, his eyes flicking around in awe.

"Even the most corrupt and villainous regimes have normal people in them Zeb. It's people like the Emperor and Tarkin that stop you from seeing that." Kallus replied, his own gaze drawn to a couple who were embracing nearby.

"Yeah, it's good to see that despite everything that happened, people still live here and are happy."

Kallus found himself agreeing with his friend in that instant. The empire had been led by a monster, one who enslaved and murdered for fun. But not even he, a Sith Lord, had been able to take away the most basic tenants of the people as a whole.

"Hey, what's that building?" Zeb's voice was full of curiosity for a moment, and Kallus turned to see that the Lasat had stopped walking, and was pointing to a large building off in the distance.

It was a tall building, one that was unique in design. It was shaped similar to a pyramid structure, with several tall spires high above the structure and the city around it.

Kallus knew exactly what it was. He had never been in there himself, but he had heard the rumours.

"Depends on who you ask Zeb. To the empire, that was the Emperor's palace itself. He used it as a throne during his reign, as a trophy." Kallus began to explain, remembering both his history lessons during his ISB training, and what he had discovered since.

"A trophy? What do you mean?" Zeb pushed onward, his tone confused.

"Like I said, it depends on who you ask. If you asked either Kanan or Ahsoka what that place was, they'd have a very different answer for you." Kallus concluded, his eyes locking onto Zeb's green ones in a serious expression.

Zeb's face remained confused for a moment, before a sudden look of shock and clarity came to his face as he put the puzzle pieces together. His mouth gaping open, his eyes shifting from Kallus' face and back to the building he had seen in the distance.

A few seconds passed by before the Lasat bowed his head in respect, mumbling something in his native language that Kallus recognized as a prayer for the deceased, before turning away and continuing down the street.

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Roughly twenty minutes later, Kallus and Zeb found themselves outside the cantina they were supposed to meet the contact within. The streets around them were still bustling with people, and the cantina itself proved to be equally popular. Clearly this 'Dex' was worth visiting.

Taking the lead, Kallus stepped through the door into the small cantina within, Zeb behind him. Glancing around Kallus made note of several individuals of varying species and gender, all of whom seemed too preoccupied with their own food to pay attention to the two new arrivals.

And that's when something caught Kallus' attention. Sitting in a booth in the back of the room was a figure swathed in a dark coat with a hood over their head and a pair of goggles covering their eyes. Kallus could not determine the gender of the figure, but he could make out the blue of the skin.

'No doubt a Pantoran'. Kallus thought as he noticed the figure gesture with his hand to Kallus, summoning him forward.

"Guess we found the contact then?" Zeb commented from beside Kallus as the two moved to join the mysterious cloaked individual.

Sliding into the booth on the bench opposite, Kallus briefly glanced around the cantina to ensure no one else was listening in, before leaning toward the cloaked figure, who Kallus could now tell was male.

"Do you have the information?"

The mysterious individual moved his head side to side, his eyes obstructed by the goggles, but clearly analysing the human and his Lasat companion.

And then he spoke, and Kallus nearly had a heart attack as he recognized the ever eerie voice.

"Indeed I do Agent Kallus. Indeed I do."

As he spoke, the figure reached up above his head, pulling the hood down to reveal black-blue hair on his head, as well as remove the goggles obstructing his eyes, revealing a familiarly haunting pair of glowing red eyes.

It was Zeb that exclaimed in horror first.

"Karabast! Thrawn?"

Kallus didn't miss the small smile that came to the Chiss' face as he was recognized. Even with the alliance they held, the Chiss was still dangerous, and still as smug as always it seemed.

Kallus had to resist reaching across the table and strangling the blue skinned alien for all that he had done.

And then the Chiss continued.

"Correct Captain Orrelios. I am your contact, and I bring you grave news."

If the circumstances were any different, Kallus would have assumed that this was some sort of sick joke. What was Thrawn, of all people, doing gathering top secret information and acting as a contact for him? Was it some scheme by the Chiss to get revenge? Was he actually on their side after all, or just playing them?

But right now, Kallus could not afford such thoughts. It was possible that the lives of innocent children were on the line. And he had sworn to protect them no matter the cost, even if that meant working with Thrawn.

"Well I can't say I'm pleased to see you again Thrawn, but right now all I care about is the information you have gathered." Kallus spoke, adopting a business like tone that he had perfected in his ISB days.

Clearly the Chiss appreciated that lack of small talk.

"My agent, Rukh, recently discovered rumours about an imperial cell loyal to the Emperor. Apparently they have begun abducting children of various species for as of yet an unknown reason. Unfortunately, we have little information about who or where the cell operates from." Thrawn spoke, offering a data pad across the table for Kallus to take, which he did in response.

"So why call us out here then if you have found nothing?" Kallus replied, suspicion evident in his tone. Something wasn't right here.

Thrawn allowed a small smirk to come to his face in response before he continued.

"Oh but I have Agent Kallus, I have. A loyal imperial Senator is hosting a party tonight at the Imperial Palace. I have acquired three tickets for this event, two of which are yours. Once inside you should make contact with an individual known only as 'The Red Lady'. If my discoveries are accurate, she will be able to point you in the correct direction to find this cell. Of course, you will have to attract her attention somehow, but I am sure someone of your skill is more than capable of such a thing."

Kallus had to narrow his eyes at the tone of Thrawn's voice. It was a mix between mocking and outright challenging, as if he was referring to something. What Kallus didn't know, and he didn't have time to figure it out.

"So who's the third ticket for then?" Zeb asked to obvious, clearly not happy about this meeting. Kallus could tell from the way Zeb's fur was bristling that he was restraining himself from punching the Chiss opposite him.

They may be allies, but that didn't mean they had to like each other.

Thrawn was clearly more than aware of Zeb's mental state as well, but still he sat, trying to appear as non-threatening as possible.

"The third ticket is for me. I will also be attending the event in disguise." Thrawn replied, rolling his eyes at the mention of a disguise. If Thrawn himself was going, it was likely he had his own goals and target.

If he didn't get in Kallus' way, Kallus wouldn't get in his.

"Fine. Thank you for the information." Kallus replied, reaching across the table to take a pair of tickets out of Thrawn's hand, before promptly standing from the table and moving to leave the cantina.

However, the duo on managed to make it three steps before Thrawn called out to them.

"Oh, one more thing agent?"

Kallus refraining from sighing in annoyance. Couldn't the Chiss just leave them alone?

Turning on his heel, Kallus threw an impatient look at Thrawn, one that Thrawn acknowledged with yet another smirk.

"I think you will find that the party is black tie required. You should find something more prestigious to wear."

Beside him, Kallus heard Zeb groan aloud before cursing.

"Karabast! Another disguise!"

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

It was several hours later, when the sun had begun to set over the city that Kallus and Zeb meet up at the base of the steps leading towards what was once the Jedi temple. Now, even after the death of the Emperor, it had fallen into the hands of an Imperial Senator, one who was loyal to the Emperor, but at the same time willing to work with the rebellion leaders to bring about a new order.

The whole situation was confusing at the best of times to Kallus, and he had numerous times pointed out that the Senator was more than likely using the rebel leadership.

But still, they hadn't listened, and nothing had changed. For now, the Imperial Palace was an off limits area of Coruscant.

That was until tonight.

Glancing to his side, Kallus refrained from laughing at the sight of Zeb in what appeared to be some sort of aristocratic outfit designed especially for Lasat. The two had had to call in some favours to get it made for him quickly.

Kallus had had a much easier time finding a suitable outfit, one that screamed dignity and respect, but not one that made it obvious he was trying to blend in. It was unique enough to gain the attention of someone, but not so bland that everyone knew exactly where you were at all times.

"I hate disguises!" Zeb snarled from beside him, tugging at a long cape he had attached to the back. Apparently it was a symbol of Lasat aristocracy.

"Think of it like camouflage Zeb. You don't want to scare the prey." Kallus replied, leading the way up the steps of the Palace.

"Then we need bigger prey Kallus!"

Chuckling lightly to himself, Kallus continued upwards.

When he and Zeb reached the top of the stairs, they were surprised to see a squad of Stormtroopers standing guard by the entrance hall, an imperial deathtrooper leading them.

Taking a breath, Kallus approached the troopers.

The deathtrooper caught sight of the approaching human and Lasat, stepping forward to meet them and thrusting his hand out.

"Only citizens with tickets may enter." The deathtrooper spoke, his voice hard and gruff. Clearly he really didn't want to be on guard duty.

Reaching into a pocket in his jacket, Kallus extracted his ticket, offering it to the trooper who looked down and checked it.

"Mr Alexsandr Orrelios, welcome. Please head inside."

Kallus very nearly snatched the ticket at the false name on it. What was Thrawn up to now?

And then Zeb approached, offering his ticket.

"And Senator Orrelios from Lasan, welcome. I hope you and your adopted son have a good night."

Kallus could see the mischief in Zeb's eyes as he bowed to the troopers and moved past them, joining Kallus and they entered the large hallway that Kallus assumed led to a central chamber.

"I guess even Thrawn had a sense of humour huh son?" Zeb quipped a moment later, a small chuckle coming from him afterwards.

Kallus chose not to reply, shrugging his shoulders in an attempt to pretend the conversation never happened.

Continuing down the hallway, the duo emerged into the central chamber.

Large banners adorned with various symbols hung above them, each one clearly representing a planet or people that were invited to the party. Soft music played in the background, overshadowed by the mumblings of the various guests as they mingled amongst themselves. In the back lie what appeared to be a bar, a barkeep behind it offering drinks to a well-dressed group, whilst simultaneously sorting out a group of waiters who patrolled the floor around the room, plates of drinks and small bites of food available for the masses.

And beyond that a large open space, a scattering of people present on it dancing to the background music.

"Quite the spectacle." Kallus commented to Zeb, who nodded in agreement as he surveyed the other guests.

"Yeah. Have you seen Thrawn anywhere yet?" Zeb replied, his large eyes watching for wherever the Chiss was.

Surveying the crowd himself, Kallus took note of the varying species. Humans, Zeltrons, Ithorians, even a Besalisk or two, all grouped together chatting, and more.

Despite being in the heart of what was once a tyrannical human led empire, the current party acted as a melting pot of cultures.

But there was no sign of the Chiss Grand Admiral anywhere.

"Haven't seen him yet, but he did say he'd be in disguise somewhere." Kallus commented, eyes flickering over to the bar as the group that had been present left to re-join the masses.

"True. Haven't seen our 'Red Lady' yet either, have you?" Zeb continued, face concerned.

"No, but if Thrawn's intel is accurate, which it usually always is, then she will show up when one of us attracts her attention."

Zeb seemed to bristle lightly, turning his head in various directions looking at various groups of people.

"And how are we supposed to do that then?"

Kallus had an idea.

"We split up and mingle with the crowd a bit. See what we can learn."

This time Zeb openly groaned under his breath before nodding, separating from Kallus and walking off towards the groups of people.

Shaking his head, Kallus opted for another approach. He turned on his heel and made his way towards the bar.

Upon arrival at the bar, Kallus immediately flagged down the barkeep, who approached with a smile on his face.

"What can I do for you?"

"I'm not really a cocktail fan I'm afraid." Kallus spoke, gesturing to the trays of alcohol the various waiters were walking round with. "You got anything else I can have?"

It was an odd gambit, Kallus was sure. By approaching the bar he was singled out, and by ordering a completely different drink to the masses he hoped he would attract the attention of the person he was looking for.

That was assuming Zeb didn't manage to succeed first.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Garazeb Orrelios really didn't know what he was doing. Mingling with the crowd? How could he possibly do that?

He was a Lasat! A giant purple hairy being from a destroyed planet! He stood out more than an ignited lightsaber!

Pacing back and forth in the room, Zeb attempted to work up the courage to mingle. Surely it wasn't that hard? All he had to do was approach some people and introduce himself.

And then try to convince them to give up any classified information they might have, and maybe even attract the attention of this 'Red Lady' who they were searching for.

Sighing, Zeb continued to pace…

Before he walked headlong into a black figure.

Stumbling backwards slightly, Zeb froze as he identified the figure before him.

An Imperial Deathtrooper.

"Oh, he he, sorry trooper. Didn't see you there." Zeb spoke, trying in vain to place humour into the situation. He knew first hand that Deathtroopers were dangerous. The last thing he wanted to do was piss one off or break his and Kallus' cover.

But the trooper did not seem to mind, instead looking up at the Lasat and nodding in return.

"No problem Senator Orrelios. These things happen."

Zeb was honestly shocked by how polite a response he got from the trooper. Usually imperials in armour were big mean tough guys out to kill him.

"Hey wait a minute? Weren't you the guy on the door? How come you are in here now?" Zeb continued, hoping he was making the small talk that classified as mingling.

The Deathtrooper nodded once before replying.

"I was, but my shift just changed. I was on my way to my quarters for the night. Have you tried to drinks yet Senator?"

The sudden change in subject was jarring to say the least. Even more so when the Deathtrooper picked up a glass from a nearby waiter's tray and handed it to Zeb when he shook his head in a negative.

Taking the offered drink with trepidation, Zeb brought it up to his lips to take a sip, before lowering it down again.

"Enjoy your night Senator Orrelios." The Deathtrooper spoke again, his voice still calm, before turning and leaving, disappearing into the crowd beyond.

When the trooper was out of sight, Zeb shrugged his shoulders and spoke.

"That was weird."

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Taking the offered drink from the barkeep, Kallus took a sizable gulp from it before nodding his compliments at the maker, who in turned smiled before moving to assist another customer.

Turning around, drink in his hand, Kallus observed the crowd.

Everyone here was wealthy, there was no doubt about that. But how they got wealthy would be an entirely different question. No doubt someone here was a criminal mastermind who murdered their way to success.

Or perhaps a bounty hunter of some kind, using their 'hard earned' credits on a night out… possibly to assassinate another target.

Or maybe even a child kidnapping monster who was doing god knows what to them for god knows what reason.

"Now that's a determined look if I've ever seen one."

A soft feminine voice brought Kallus out of his inner thoughts, immediately redirecting his attention as he felt someone brush up against him beside the bar.

Turning his head slightly to the side to acknowledge the arrival, Kallus was surprised to find himself face to face with a dark red Zeltron woman, one who was exquisitely dressed in a long form fitting dress that didn't leave much to the imagination. She also possessed an impressive length of dark black hair, one that reached below her waistline.

The woman's features were equally as soft as her voice, showing nothing but sophistication as well as appeal. Kallus couldn't help but admire her slightly.

"I am a determined man." Kallus suddenly found himself saying, turning back to the bar.

The Zeltron laughed, knocking Kallus' arm with her hand before speaking.

"You have a name?"

Nodding once, Kallus waited for a response.

"You gonna share it with me?"

Taking a breath, Kallus prepared. This woman had come to talk to him. It was possible that she was the contact. It would have made sense, considering her skin tone.

But still, he would play it cautious, just in case.

"My name is Alex, and yours?"

The Zeltron woman smiled brightly, her blue eyes boring into Kallus' skull.

"Notandum Levium, don't ask why my parents gave me such a stupid name. Everyone just calls me Nota instead. Fits better." She replied, a scowl on her face at the mention of her full name. Kallus couldn't help but smirk at her obvious dislike of it.

"It's a good name. Unique. Does it mean anything?"

Nota shrugged in response. "Not that I'm aware of at least. My parents always were weird though."

With that Nota reached across, grasping Kallus' glass in his hand and stealing his drink away, before taking a sizable gulp out of it and returning it half empty.

"Stang that tastes like a hutt!" Nota choked at the taste of the drink, earning another smirk from Kallus.

Nota quickly pushed the drink back towards Kallus, forcing it away from her before gagging slightly at the taste. Once she had finished, she looked back up at Kallus, a small smile coming to his face.

"So, how'd you get into such a 'prestigious' event? Murder someone like pretty much everyone else here?"

Kallus felt his eyes widen at the sudden statement, feeling the need to quiet Nota down before she drew attention to herself with such remarks.

The last thing he needed was his new friend drawing too much attention to herself.

"Nothing of the sort. I'm sort of the plus one of a friend of mine. He's a Senator for his people." Kallus replied, falling back on his false identity that Thrawn had assembled for both him and Zeb.

Nota adopted a warm, if not slightly alluring smile in response to Kallus' answer.

"And where's your friend now? Did he leave you all alone with a bunch of stuffy politicians so he could mingle?"

Kallus chuckled lightly in response. "Something like that."

The warm smile did not fade from Nota's face, even as she took another swig of Kallus' drink without asking. Setting the now empty glass down, Kallus was shocked when she grabbed his hand, pulling him towards the dance floor.

"Well then, allow me to keep you company."

In a matter of moments Kallus found himself on the dance floor, Nota clinging to him as they moved. Kallus had never really been much of a dancer himself, but he knew enough.

Enough to avoid stepping on the Zeltron's toes that was.

As the two moved gracefully, Nota leaned closer, her lips next to his ear.

"I know why you are really here Alexsandr Kallus. You're after the people who have been kidnapping the kids aren't you?"

Kallus couldn't say he was surprised. He had assumed that Nota was the contact Thrawn had told him about.

"And I assume you are the 'Red Lady' then?" Kallus replied, spinning the woman around once in a graceful twist. The dance was clearly a charade, one that allowed the two to speak up close and personal without attracting unwanted attention.

"Hmff, I hate that codename. So stupidly obvious who I am!" Nota whispered, her voice full of annoyance.

Chuckling lightly to himself, Kallus continued to lead the dance before speaking again.

"Do you know who is behind it? Or where they are?"

Nota span again, leaving Kallus' embrace before returning to it, a coy smile on her face.

"Oh I certainly do. No one would suspect poor naïve Nota. Stormtroopers will tell you anything if you are charming enough. Predictable really."

Kallus had to say he agreed. Zeltrons had a bit of a public image for being naïve at the best of times, as well as incredibly guillible. Whilst he was not one to believe in such rumours, he did understand their benefits in some situations.

And if such perception had allowed Nota to gather vital intelligence, then he wouldn't complain.

"So, what can you tell me?"

Nota smiled again before speaking.

"After the Emperor's demise, Mas Amedda himself appears to be directing a mission to abduct children all across of Coruscant, for what I can't say. However, it also appears that Amedda is merely a puppet for someone else. Rumours suggest that a member of Palpatine's Royal Guard is the true mastermind behind this scheme, and is working in cooperation for an organisation known as the 'Acolytes of the Beyond.'"

"Who are they?" Kallus inquired. The name didn't ring a bell.

Nota grimaced slightly, clearly unsure about something.

"From what I overheard they are some sort of radical religious sect that worshiped the Emperor and his servant Vader. It seems they are trying to continue on their legacy."

Kallus nearly sighed. It wasn't public knowledge that both the Emperor and Vader had been Sith Lords. He only knew thanks to his status as a Fulcrum Agent.

But he had seen first-hand what the Sith could do. If there was some radical sect trying to resurrect their ways, they had to be stopped.

"Do you know where they are hiding?" Kallus asked, spinning Nota around again before giving her time to reply.

"Not sure, but if I was to guess I'd say right here under the Palace. It belonged to the Emperor after all. Maybe there is some sort of hidden chamber underneath it?"

It was a possibility of course, but Kallus didn't know for sure. He had never been to the Palace before tonight, and had only ever heard rumours about it.

If the Emperor or his minions wanted to hide something, then no doubt it would be a very well hidden place.

What he needed was an expert. Someone who could possibly point him in the right direction. If there was a secret room buried beneath the former Jedi temple, then he knew who would be most likely to know about its existence.

He needed to speak to Ahsoka.

Chapter Text

Garazeb Orrelios had finally worked up the courage to mingle, as it were. He only problem was he now wished he hadn't in the first place. If he had to listen to the boring rhetoric of politicians any longer…

"So I wasn't aware that Lasan had a Senator, especially after what happened there and all." A boring monotone voice sounded out. The question had already been asked several times now by various people, and whilst at first Zeb had problems creating a convincing cover story, by the fifth time it had been asked he had one solidly created in his mind.

"It's a bit different for my people, especially compared to the imperial senate itself. I don't officially hold any power in the senate itself, but I act as an arbiter for my people. Different culture I suppose." Zeb repeated, keeping a smile on his face as he addressed the human that had spoken, an elderly man who could quite clearly only see out of one eye.

"How did you survive the destruction of your planet then? And where have you been?" The man continued, his one good eye narrowing in what Zeb assumed was suspicion.

Not dropping the smile from his face Zeb replied, keeping his tone light and convincing.

"Been all over really. Helped solved a few disputes among other cultures. People in my position don't usually limit themselves to Lasat. We accept and help all in need."

The elderly man, who Zeb assumed was a senator of some kind, or an aide to one seemed to accept his answer. In response, he lifted his glass out towards Zeb, offering it in a sign of toast.

"Well then Senator Orrelios, let us drink to a new and prosperous future for both of us."

"Sounds good." Zeb replied, lightly tapping his glass to the man's in a manner that seemed appropriate.

As both individuals drank lightly, something caught Zeb's eye.

On what appeared to be the dance floor was Kallus. And in his arms was a beautiful Zeltron woman.

Zeb could only sigh in despair at the sight of his friend so obviously distracted.

"Oh for the love of…"

************************************************************************************************************************************************

The music had since changed around them, and thus the energetic dance Kallus had been enjoying with Nota had shifted to a slower paced waltz, both dancers slowly moving in time.

"Is there anything else you can tell me? Any hints?" Kallus inquired quietly, trying to enjoy the quiet moment whilst doing his job. It was rare that he got to relax, even more so in the company of someone like Nota.

Perhaps Zeb was right. Maybe he did work too hard.

"Only that you shouldn't trust your eyes when it comes to dealing with a darkside cult. Not everything will be as it seems, at least I'd assume anyway." Nota replied, her voice soft yet full of concern for the man she had just met.

Nodding, Kallus continued the eloquent dance, lowering Nota slightly to allow her back to bend.

As much as he was enjoying it, it had to end. He had a job to do.

Once the music had stopped again, and evident break between songs emerging, Kallus seized his opportunity to break away from the dance.

"I better get going. Can't spend all my night with you now can I?" Kallus spoke honestly, regret in his voice at leaving her embrace.

But from her response it was clear that Nota understood.

"No problem. Good luck with your mission. Maybe I'll see you around?"

Her voice was full of hope, something that brought a rare smile to Kallus' face.

"Maybe you will."

Nota laughed lightly, lightly touching his hand with hers.

"Oh I know you will."

And with that she sauntered off, her dress billowing in her wake. Kallus couldn't help but watch her go, admiring her figure as she disappeared amongst the crowd.

And then a gruff, yet familiar voice hit his ears.

"Seriously pal? I leave you for five minutes and you've gone and got yourself a girlfriend!"

Kallus rolled his eyes at the evident teasing tone of Zeb's voice, before turning to greet the Lasat.

"She pulled me onto the dance floor! Besides, she was our contact that Thrawn told us about."

Zeb seemed to accept the excuse, even if the look of mischief didn't leave his eyes. Kallus knew it would come back to bite him eventually.

"So, what did you find out?"

Kallus glanced around the scenery. If Nota was right, then somewhere deep beneath the Imperial Palace there was a hidden room where whatever it was Mas Amedda and the Royal Guard were up to happened, assuming that there was a secret room there in the first place. Nota's intel could very well be false.

"I've got a lead, but we need to speak to Ahsoka about something." Kallus replied, gesturing Zeb to follow him.

"Ahsoka? Why do we need to speak to her?" Zeb replied confused.

Kallus simply pointed to the temple around him in response, clearly demonstrating that it had something to do with the building itself. Zeb's face didn't change, but it was clear he was not going to push it yet. After all, this was not the place for such a discussion.

"What about you? Did you find out anything interesting? Did you find Thrawn?" Kallus inquired as the two stepped outside of the palace, beginning the long trek back down the stairs. As they left they both noticed that the squad of Stormtroopers who had been on the door had vanished into thin air, leaving a single official to mind the door in response.

"No I didn't see him anywhere. But something weird did happen." Zeb replied, shaking his head in confusion about something.

"Oh? What was that?" Kallus inquired. Could this be important?

"The Deathtrooper who was on the door came and spoke to me, offered me a drink even. Since when do troopers do that?"

Kallus had to admit that that was weird. Never in his career as an ISB agent had Stormtroopers, let alone Deathtroopers, tried to mingle with a crowd.

Something strange was going on.

And the presence of both an imperial deathtrooper and a squad of Stormtroopers obviously suggested that there was something to hide.

Maybe, just maybe, Nota's intel was right.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************

It was late at night when Kallus and Zeb made it back to their U-wing, and after Zeb had made a big deal about getting changing back into his normal outfit, the two sat down in the cockpit of the ship.

Kallus ran his fingers along the dashboard, powering up the communications device on board before entering a code that very few knew.

Ever since the mission to eliminate the Emperor's battle station, Ahsoka had all but retreated into seclusion with very few people knowing where she actually lived, or even how to contact her. Kallus was one of the lucky few who did possess the comm link frequency for her, in case of emergencies or needing assistance with Fulcrum work. The Togruta may have officially separated all ties with the rebellion and its leadership, but she still offered support in times of need.

And now was one of those times.

Typing in the frequency code, Kallus pushed several more buttons on the dashboard and began to connect to call.

He only hoped that it wasn't the middle of the night wherever Ahsoka was.

Moments later, the call connected, and a small hologram of Ahsoka dressed in what appeared to be sleepwear appeared on the dashboard.

"Kallus? What's up?" The Togruta spoke, her voice light and happy as it usually was.

"Sorry for disturbing you Commander but I need to ask you something in regards to my mission?" Kallus spoke, keeping the discussion simply. It was obvious by the way Ahsoka yawned suddenly that she was getting ready for some sleep, and the last thing he wanted to do was keep her from going to bed.

"I'll help anyway I can Kallus. What's the problem?"

"Have you ever heard of an organisation called the Acolytes of the Beyond?" Kallus inquired, earning a confused look from both Zeb and Ahsoka.

"Can't say I have, but with a name like that they can't be up to anything good now can they?" Ahsoka replied, her hand coming to rest on her chin, a sign she was in deep thought.

Kallus agreed. The whole name screamed cryptic and dangerous, and sent shivers down his spine.

Whoever they were, they Acolytes were not nice people, of that Kallus was sure.

"From what Nota seemed to think they are apparently some sort of darkside cult that worships both the Emperor and Vader. If they are intending on carrying on their legacy…" Kallus detailed, recalling what Nota had told him.

"Then we could very well have another conflict on our hands. Not what we need right now." Ahsoka replied, sighing deeply in annoyance, clearly unhappy with the news.

"We've just barely managed to keep Rax under control at the moment. We really don't need any darksider upstarts running around the galaxy." Kallus replied, feeling as equally as stressed as Ahsoka as evidently feeling. No matter what they seemed to do, which villains they ridded the galaxy of, there always seemed to be another far worse threat waiting round the corner for them.

It was times like these that Kallus wished he was just a normal civilian going about his day without a care in the world. At least things would be simple.

"Who's this 'Nota' person then? A contact of some kind?" Ahsoka spoke, her voice returning to its normal tone clear of any exasperation. She was evidently tired, and Kallus didn't want to keep her awake for too much longer.

Opening his mouth to confirm Nota's role, Kallus was surprised when Zeb spoke first, the teasing tone from earlier returning.

"Kallus' new girlfriend. She was our contact according to Thrawn."

Kallus brought his hand up to rest on his face at Zeb's teasing. Nota was not his 'girlfriend'. Hell she wasn't even a friend. Merely an acquaintance.

"Hang on a minute, what does Thrawn have to do with any of this?" Ahsoka interrupted, confusion returning to her voice as her eyes widened in alarm.

"He's looking into this as well apparently. No idea how he knew but he did." Zeb continued, shuffling in his seat, evidence that he was growing restless.

Kallus was too, but he still needed to ask one more question.

And clearly Ahsoka could sense it.

"Fair enough. Now, I gather there was something else you wanted to ask me?"

Kallus nodded before inquiring.

"Nota seemed to think that these Acolytes are running their operation in some sort of secret chamber beneath the Imperial Palace. Since it used to be a Jedi temple I figured you might know."

Ahsoka's face shifted suddenly to one of complete and utter terror, as if remembering something from the past she desperately wanted to forget.

"Oh kriff Kallus! There is a secret chamber beneath the Jedi temple! It's a Sith shrine! It would make perfect sense for a darkside worshipping cult to operate in such a location, especially ones loyal to Sidious! What was your mission again?" Ahsoka spoke, deep concern radiating through her voice.

"Children have gone missing. Reports suggest that they have been kidnapped. I'm guessing the cult did this, but why I cannot say." Kallus replied, hand going through his hair in frustration.

Beside him, Zeb suddenly sat upright, as if something triggered in his mind.

"Ahsoka, you don't think they are planning on doing the same thing the Inquisitors had planned to those kids do you?" Zeb spoke, leaning forward in his chair, worry in his tone.

"It's possible Zeb. If they have kidnapped younglings then they may very well be attempting to create a new army of darkside soldiers. It wouldn't be the first time the Sith and their allies have tried such a thing. Kallus, you have to stop them!" Ahsoka replied, fire in her eyes at the thought of children coming to harm.

"I agree. How do we access the shrine?" Kallus replied, determination setting in. He wouldn't let innocent children be corrupted by such vile monsters.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Ahsoka had pulled out all the stops to get Kallus and Zeb the intel they needed. And as morning broke across Coruscant, the duo sat in the back of the U-wing analysing a holographic map of the Imperial Palace, one that Ahsoka had apparently managed to get her hands on during her time as Fulcrum.

The layout was enormous, much larger than Kallus had anticipated. The hallways were a maze, twisting corridors in which one could easily get lost in.

It didn't help that those corridors would more than likely be patrolled by Stormtroopers.

But that hadn't stopped Kallus before, and it wouldn't now.

Looking over the map, Kallus' used his hand to highlight and zoom in on a specific section, one that Ahsoka had told them was key.

The old holocron vault.

According to Ahsoka, there was a secret tunnel buried somewhere in the room, one that would lead down into the Sith shrine that Ahsoka had spoken of. Kallus was convinced that was where he would find his target. It made sense after all.

The only question was how the kriff were they supposed to break into the holocron vault itself. All reports suggested that it could only be accessed by force sensitives.

Unless of course it was no longer locked. Who knew what the Emperor had done to it since he had taken control of the temple.

"If we infiltrate at this window we will be able to access the archives quickly. From there it is just a case of slipping past any guards and getting into the vault." Kallus spoke as he ran his finger along the route he had suggested, pointing at the window in mind.

"Easier said than done. No doubt security will be more than just troopers. What if there is a silent alarm or something?" Zeb questioned, voicing his concern.

Kallus had thought about this, and knew that there would almost certainly be a alarm system of some kind.

"I'm not sure. We may have to risk tripping it unfortunately." Kallus replied, sceptical about his own plan. It was dangerous, that was certain. But if it was the only way, they Kallus wasn't pulling out anytime soon.

Clearly Zeb agreed, despite his trepidation.

"Well we've had worse odds Kallus. I'm sure everything will go to plan."

Zeb's voice was full of sarcasm, one that intended on lightning the mood slightly.

Internally Kallus was grateful.

Opening his mouth to further discuss the plan, Kallus was forced to halt as a feminine voice interrupted him.

"Seriously? I thought the great Agent Kallus would have a more fool proof plan?"

Both Zeb and Kallus span in surprise at the sudden appearance of Nota, who was peaking her head into the U-wing.

"What the… how did you find us?" Zeb stuttered, completely confused about what was going on.

Kallus too was concerned. How had she tracked him back to his U-wing, and why was she here now.

"Followed you back silly. Wasn't hard. Besides, a U-wing sitting in the middle of a Coruscant spaceport isn't at all suspicious is it now?" Nota replied, stepping into the U-wing and looking down at the holographic map of the temple.

"Why are you here?" Kallus inquired standing from his seat to move in front of Nota, blocking her vision of the map. The dark red Zeltron locked eyes with Kallus, a smirk coming to her face in response.

"I've got something more for you. Fancy lunch?"

It was an odd offer, and one that would usually arose suspicion. But Nota had proven to be a reliable source of intel, so he accepted.

"Yeah no thanks, I'll leave you too to fawn over each other. No sneaking away anywhere yeah?" Zeb refused however, heading back into the cockpit of the U-wing in the process.

Shaking his head in exasperation, Kallus gestured for Nota to exit the U-wing, before following suit.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************

The place Nota had led him too was a small discreet café, one owned by a an Ithorian of all species. Ordering himself a simple drink, Kallus at down at the table designated for the two of them, Nota opposite him.

She looked vastly different from the night before. No longer was she dressed in a long wispy dress, but rather simple casual clothing, one that didn't draw any real attention to her.

Kallus supposed that in her line of work, it made perfect sense. She was alluring in a way, captivating.

And that allowed her to gain the information she needed.

"So, I take it you had fun last night then huh?" She opened the conversation with a tease, her voice light and somewhere between flirtatious and meaningful.

"I did, but you said you had something for me?" Kallus replied, taking a small sip of his hot drink in the process. Now was not the time for such light-hearted discussion.

Kallus didn't miss the small roll of Nota's eyes as she processed Kallus response, before she too sipped her drink.

"Straight to business, I can respect that. I'll tell you what I've got for you, but firstly I want to know something?"

Kallus raised his eyebrows in suspicion. What was she up to?

But Nota simply smiled back, her face non-threatening and completely peaceful.

"Ask away." Kallus found himself replying with any further hesitance. There was no harm in a simple question after all.

"Why did you defect? You had everything. A promising career, the loyalty of your troops. But instead you swapped sides, selling out the empire to join the rebellion. So, just out of interest, why?"

That was a deep question, one that Kallus had thought about long and hard for many moons. At first he had been unsure of his reasoning. His actions had been the right thing to do, he didn't refute that.

But over time things changed. The empire had soured, and the leadership had only become more corrupt.

And, if he was truthful with himself, Kallus found that all of the hope and all of the prosperity of the empire had vanished overnight, and that he was betraying his on principles. He wanted to protect people, and he could no longer do that as an ISB agent.

So he had adopted the title of Fulcrum, serving the people of the galaxy in a new way.

And what had surprised him the most was how readily he had been accepted by the others, even if they were suspicious at first.

For that, he owed them everything.

So in the end, there was only one possible answer to such a question, no matter how personal it was. He was not ashamed of who he was, of what he had done.

Not anymore.

"Because it was the right thing to do." Kallus replied, shrugging his shoulders in response. Hopefully that would be enough.

Across from him Nota seemingly huffed, not quite in understanding, but in what Kallus would call acceptance.

He was glad she approved.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Zeb sat in his co-pilot chair of the U-wing… bored.

He had looked over the map several more times, trying to find a crack in the defences to make their plan easier.

When he had begun to develop a headache from staring at the hologram for so long he had turned it off and shifted his attention to preparation for the mission. He had unfolded and examined his bow staff, checking that all its functions were working at peak efficiency, before folding it back up again.

So far he had done this six times.

Zeb had stopped himself going for seven, instead opting to take his seat in the cockpit, finding something else to do in the process.

As he ran his hands over the consoles, checking over the power regulators and hyperdrive readings a sound distracted him. A high pitched beep sounded out, and for a brief moment Zeb was confused as to what it was.

Seconds later his wristcom lit up, a flashing red light indicating that someone had left him a message.

Zeb sighed in despair. Very few people ever left him written messages. Usually it was Chopper sending him some stupid message about being smelly or something equally stupid. One time the chaos inducing astromech had even send him several dozen files of explicit images in hologram form.

Suffice to say Hera had not been pleased when Zeb had opened the message mid meeting. Chopper had found it hilarious.

Tentatively reaching his free hand to his comm link Zeb pushed a series of buttons on it, before bringing the message up.

The first thing Zeb noticed was that it had come from an unknown address, but one that was no Chopper. Instead, it appeared that someone had gained access to his personal frequency, and used it to send a transmission.

Glancing down the message in concern, Zeb began to read.

'Captain Orrelios,

"A name is many things. A title. An identity. An individual. A meaning.

But it can also be a deception.

One can have the nicest name, the strongest identity, a powerful title.

But more often than not, a name is merely a cover.

The darkest secrets are hidden behind such meaningful names.

The darkest secrets are often hidden in plain sight behind such names.

Never trust a name, for it is almost always a front.

Instead, only trust the truth hidden behind such fronts.

And if such fronts cannot be seen behind,

Do not trust them ever, for they are hiding something dark."

'Ancient Chiss Proverb'

-T

"What on Malachor does that mean?!" Zeb yelled aloud, powering off his personal comm and sinking into his chair in frustration. It was bad enough when Chopper did things like this, but now it seemed like Thrawn was joining in too!

The message made no sense to Zeb whatsoever. He was no expert in deducing riddles, only that there was something that Zeb shouldn't be trusting.

Or maybe it was just a message for the sake of it, but then why would Thrawn do such a thing? Thrawn didn't act without reason.

Bringing his hand up to his head, Zeb felt his headache begin to return.

Instead, Zeb simply sat there for a minute, enjoying the silence. Despite being a warrior, one who had fought time and time again, Zeb enjoyed these brief moments of respite more than he cared to admit. It was times like these that he envied Kanan and Ezra's ability to meditate within the force, to find a peaceful place to escape to if only briefly.

BEEP.

"Oh come on! What now?!" Zeb yelled aloud, flailing his arms around dramatically in anger for his disrupted peace as he glanced down at his comm link again, expecting to see a pulsating light indicating another message had been left for him.

But when he did he found that no such light was flashing. Whatever had beeped had not been his comm link.

BEEP. BEEP.

Glancing around the cockpit in confusion, Zeb began to examine the various consoles, looking for the source of the noise.

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

The sound was beginning to pick up momentum now, and Zeb began to grow even more concerned. What was going on?

When he had determined that the sound was not coming from the cockpit, Zeb stood from his seat and entered the back of the ship.

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

"What the kriff is that?" Zeb muttered to himself in confusion, glancing around.

And then something caught his eye. On the roof of the interior of the ship was a small half spherical shape, one that had a pulsating red light on. Said pulsating light was flashing at an increasingly rapid speed.

Confusion on his face, Zeb cautiously approached leaning in to take a closer look.

Upon closer inspection, Zeb recognized what it was, and felt his blood run cold.

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!

"Oh Karabast!" Zeb yelled as he turned and sprinted out of the U-wing.

Chapter Text

"So what about you? What's your story?" Alexsandr Kallus inquired to the Zeltron woman sitting opposite him. Nota was an enigma, that much he was sure. She had shown up out of nowhere at the party, and seemingly had been able to gain access to every piece of intel he needed.

And now it appeared she had more to offer him.

But first he wanted to know her, to know her story. After all, she had just asked him something personal. It was only right that she return the favour by answering a question from him.

"Not much of a story really. Lost my parents at a young age. Spent some time travelling doing small jobs for people. I've always been good at getting intel out of people, especially when they least suspect it. No one seems to suspect me, hence the spy work." Nota replied, swirling her drink around in circles, a contemplative look on her face. It was almost as if she was debating something on the inside.

"Are you ok?" Kallus couldn't help but ask, surprising himself at his own tenderness.

Clearly unfazed by her sudden relapse of memories, Nota locked eyes with Kallus again before smirking.

"I'm not nearly as interesting as you Kallus, though if there is one thing to know about me it's that I value loyalty above all else."

Kallus agreed with that sentiment. Loyalty was important, even if he himself was an imperial defector.

After all, one reason he had defected was due to the empire's lack of loyalty towards him. They hadn't even bothered to look for him when he had been stranded on that Geonosian moon with Zeb. It had taken a passing freighter picking him up to escape, and even then it had been pure chance.

So yes, Kallus valued loyalty as well.

"Glad we have that in common then." He replied, taking another sip of his drink, enjoying the warmth of it as it passed down his throat and into his stomach. He always enjoyed hot drinks. It was one of his few vices in life.

"Says the defector." Nota chuckled in response to Kallus' statement, before glancing around the café to seemingly ensure no one was listening in to them.

When she seemed content, Nota reached into her coat pocket, extracting a small holodisk and placing it on the table between them. To any passer-by's it would simply look like a small recording being shown between friends.

But Kallus knew that was not the case. Nota wanted to show him something after all, and whatever it was resided on this disk.

Once the disk was settled between them, Nota reached out and thumbed it on.

A small hologram faded into existence displaying two figures facing one another, evidently in the middle of an important conversation.

The first figure, despite being coloured blue due to the nature of the hologram, was evidently the Imperial Royal Guard that Nota had spoken about. The figure was not particularly tall, but was dressed in the standard armoured garment of a Royal Guard, and held in their hand a force pike.

The figure opposite of the royal guard was more recognizable. Mas Amedda.

"I do not understand the need for such secrecy my friend. Our late emperor has many loyal followers. If we make it known that we are here…" The hologram of Amedda spoke, his voice full of what seemed to be smugness.

The royal guard however clearly wasn't too happy.

"Firstly, we are not friends. We have a common goal, and that is the end of it. Secondly, if we make our presence public we will bring down the wrath of not only the rebellion, but the Jedi as well. The acolytes are not ready for open war against them, not yet."

The helmet that the royal guard wore not only obstructed the figures face, but also their voice. It was monotone, with a robotic edge to it, clearly meant to disguise the individual within the armour.

"Your acolytes put too much faith in the force. The Emperor himself was a force user, and it did him no good in the end. Military might and prowess are the key here." Amedda responded, clenching his fist in what appeared to either be a threat, or wild rampancy.

This did not go unnoticed by the guard.

"Careful now Amedda. The Emperor may have valued your worth but I do not. You will do well to remember that."

Amedda's hologram seemed to lurch back in surprise at something behind the hologram of the royal guard, and Kallus could have sworn he heard the sound of a blaster being charged up.

"Fine, you've made your point. So, what is the plan?" Amedda cleared his throat as he spoke, his ambitious tone gone and replaced with one of both fear and compliancy.

"I'm glad to see you are willing to cooperate. I'd hate to have to kill you!" The guard then taunted, gesturing behind themselves before continuing. "The acolytes seek to create a new breed of warriors. Ones who unlike both the Jedi or Sith lack any weakness. They will be the progeny of our Emperor, continuing to serve and spread his glorious might even in death."

Amedda seemed to huff to the monologue, as if he knew something conspicuous.

"I am surprised that someone of your… creed, is willing to support the Emperor."

The hologram seemed to freeze for a second, and despite it being a recording Kallus could have sworn he felt the room around him grow cold. Across from him Nota continued to watch, her face unmoving.

Then the royal guard spoke.

"I could say the same to you, Amedda. Now come, we have much to prepare for."

With that the hologram faded away, and Kallus found himself back in reality, the eyes of Nota staring directly at him, as if studying him and his reaction.

Trying to process everything in his head at once wasn't working. The recording hadn't revealed much more than he had already known, but it was confirmation at least.

"This was recorded last night at the palace after you left. Both Amedda and the Royal Guard were there, we just couldn't see them." Nota detailed, sipping her drink whilst Kallus listened.

"Do we know anything about this Royal Guard?" Kallus inquired. If he could find out the identity of the individual, it would be much easier to deal with them in person rather than going in blind.

However, his hopes were soon crushed as Nota shook her head, her shoulders sagging in disappointment. Kallus imagined his were too.

"Unfortunetly no, however, it that recording Amedda made reference to the creed of the guard." Nota answered, her voice full of speculation.

It could mean many things. Gender. Class.

But then something else clicked. The guard had responded to Amedda in kind, pointing out his creed in turn.

"Is it possible that this royal guard is non-human?" Kallus suggested, ideas springing in his head. The empire had been predominantly human, with human officials running pretty much all aspects of the empire.

But there had been non humans in their ranks too. Thrawn for one. And then there had been the various Inquisitors.

"Very possible I suppose, and it would make sense regarding the creed comment. But why would a non-human willing serve a racist tyrant like Palpatine?" Nota continued Kallus' line of thought, clearly both suspicious but willing to believe.

"Maybe they have some sense of loyalty to him. Or maybe they are just stupid, like I used to be." Kallus replied. "There have been non-humans serving him before. Just look at Amedda or Thrawn."

"True. Still doesn't make much sense." Nota replied, nursing her drink while looking away briefly.

"No one who serves the empire makes sense Nota." Kallus replied, voice full of disdain for those who willingly and loyally served Palpatine, even in death.

Nota made no comment in return, merely hummed beneath her breath before reaching into her pocket again and extracted a small device.

"Right, if you are going to break into the palace without setting off any alarms you will need this. It is a short range jamming device designed to disable security systems with a specialised EMP. Use this before entering and you should have a small window of time to do your job." Nota replied, handing the device to Kallus, who accepted it, turning it over in his hand. It was no larger than his hand, and resembled a comm link with modifications to it. A small antenna protruded from the top of it, clearly designed to send the signal that would shut off the alarms.

It was an unorthodox piece of kit, one that was clearly homemade. Kallus had to wonder where she got it from.

"Stole it from a bounty hunter named Cad Bane. Stupid Duros. Even he wasn't able to resist my charms." Nota answered, humour in her voice as she clearly remembered a fond memory.

The name wasn't familiar to Kallus, but he expected that whoever this 'Cad Bane' was was a notorious bounty hunter, so for Nota to steal from him was impressive.

Not that he was all that surprised to be honest. Nota was formidable, that much he knew.

"I'll be sure to put it to good use." Kallus replied, pocketing the device before finishing off his drink.

"I'm sure you will, though if all goes to plan I won't even hear about it." Nota replied, standing from her chair with a rogue smile on her face. "See you around sometime Kallus."

"I look forward to it." Kallus replied, standing from his own chair as the two headed back outside into the streets of Coruscant. Before she turned and left Kallus heard Nota speak one more time.

"Oh I'm sure you will Kallus."

And with that she was gone, once again disappearing into the crowds that meandered around the streets of Coruscant. Kallus had to admire her ability to disappear like that. He had a feeling that anyone who got on her bad side would probably end up disappearing as well, though a bit more permanently than Nota herself did.

Chuckling to himself, Kallus jumped when his comm link suddenly flared to life, Zeb's panicked voice coming through in what could only be described as gibberish.

"Whoa Zeb slow down. What's wrong?" Kallus almost had to shout down the line to get Zeb to calm down. When he did he heard his Lasat comrade take several deep breathes before he spoke slowly and clearly.

"Someone's kriffing blown up our U-wing!"

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Kallus had abandoned any pretence of stealth with the news of the explosion, instead opting to sprint back to the landing site as fast as he could.

Hopefully Zeb was unhurt. That was all that mattered.

He arrived moments later, finding the large purple Lasat speaking to a pair of what looked like police droids, doing his best to give a convincing statement that didn't jeopardise their true mission. The edge of his fur was singed slightly, suggesting he had been caught in the blast somewhat.

Aside from that he appeared unhurt, allowing Kallus to breathe a sigh of relief. The last thing he needed was Zeb getting himself killed.

As Kallus approached his comrade the two police droids turned to leave, clearly having collected the report they were after.

"What happened?" Kallus called out after they were gone, his eyes going to the now smoking wreckage of their U-wing.

Zeb barely shifted his gaze from the smouldering wreck, his face full of disdain and anger.

"Someone planted an explosive device in the back of our ship when we weren't paying attention. No doubt they were trying to catch us by surprise."

Kallus knew what that meant. The people they were tracking knew they were coming for them, and had thus attempted to halt their progress, maybe even kill them.

That meant they were scared. And if they were scared that meant they could be beaten.

"Glad you got out of there in one piece Zeb." Kallus spoke, giving his friend a pat on the back, to which Zeb smiled in appreciation of the gesture.

"So, what now?" Zeb inquired, brushing off a small amount of ash from the fur on his arm.

It was a good question. They had lost their ship, and all of their resources save the weapons they carried and the clothes on their backs. Clearly the attempt on their life had had been to slow them down as Kallus had thought.

But if Amedda and the Royal Guard thought it would stop him, they were in for a terrible surprise.

Kallus already knew where to go, and how to get in. He and Zeb could also bypass the security now thanks to Nota.

"We're going to break into the Imperial Palace." Kallus replied, pivoting on the spot and beginning to walk away from the destroyed ship. Behind him he heard Zeb splutter and mutter curses under his breath for following.

As the Lasat fell into position beside him, Kallus glanced up at the monolithic palace in the distance.

Thanks to Nota, getting in would be easy.

It was getting out, that would be the problem.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Upon arrival, Kallus had retracted his early thoughts. Sure, he may have been able to fool the security system for a time, but he still had to climb up to one of the many windows of the palace.

Luckily for him he had a Lasat with him.

"Gah, how much do you weigh Kallus?" Zeb all but snarled as he hauled Kallus up the wall on his back, carefully using his hands and feet to climb upwards. Lasat's excelled at climbing due to their biology. The shape of their hands and feet allowed them to grip onto surfaces that other species could not.

It was because of that that Zeb was now climbing what was practically a vertical wall towards a window high above.

And all the while he had an ex-ISB agent on his back, gripping on for dear life.

"Is now really the time for this line of questioning Zeb?" Kallus called out in reply, his voice reaching high levels that indicated fear. Kallus would never admit it aloud, but he suffered from slight vertigo.

"When will this question ever be relevant again?!" Zeb called in reply, vaulting up another few steps on the wall, grunting in the process at the strain.

"Fair point." Kallus muttered under his breath as he held on for dear life. A few minutes later, and a few more shared jibes towards one another, Zeb vaulted up onto a ledge next to the window they had aimed for, releasing Kallus from his back.

"That was the easy part?!" The Lasat spoke as he panted, regaining his breath. Kallus only nodded in reply.

Turning his attention to the window, Kallus glanced inside and spotted what he was after. The window led to a large room, one that was inhabited with what looked like several holographic bookcases. And there, in the back of the room was a small passageway, one that was open.

The holocron vault.

"I'm amazed all this survived Order 66. Kanan always said the temple burned." Zeb said with awe as he joined Kallus in staring down at what remained of the old Jedi order.

Kallus had to agree. It was likely that the lost history of the Jedi was present in its entirety in those archives. Perhaps one day they would be able to properly gain access to it for those he called his friends.

But right now that was not his concern. They had a vault to get into. Still, he offered up a reply to Zeb.

"The Emperor had many secrets. It's not really a surprise that he would keep the Jedi archives intact for his own personal use, even if he was a Sith Lord."

Zeb seemed to accept the answer as his green eyes began looking around the window for a release. It was odd really. Much of the old temple used energy fields to block access to the interior from place such as this. According to the layout that Ahsoka had sent them however this was the only part of the temple that was both not shielded, and possess actual glass windows. Kallus had to wonder if that meant anything to the Jedi of all. Glass windows in a library rather than shields.

Reaching into his pocket, Kallus extracted the small disruption device he had been given by Nota, and turned it over in his hand, finding the activation switch.

Glancing up at Zeb, who was now braced after discovering the hatch that opened the window, he nodded once, and pushed the button.

The device beeped once, and then flashed once, and then went dead. Whatever it was designed to do was over.

Kallus had to say he was disappointed. He expected something more.

"Well that was underwhelming." Zeb voiced what Kallus was thinking, a dry look on his face.

"I'll take underwhelming if it worked Zeb. Open the window."

The Lasat nodded, tugging hard on the hatch to release it. A few pulls later and it snapped open, offering a large enough gap for both Kallus and Zeb to sneak through.

It was a short climb down, and once again Zeb was forced to carry Kallus on his back.

But once down both Kallus and Zeb moved swiftly, ducking behind a nearby shelf where they could see the open entrance to the holocron vault.

It struck Kallus was strange that there was no security on the door. Were the imperial loyalists that sure of their safety.

Gesturing with his hand towards Zeb, the two began to move up, dancing between various pieces of cover, heading ever closer to their target.

When they were only two bookshelves away, the sound of footsteps caught their ears, forcing them to hide.

Ducking down beneath a shelf, Kallus poked his head round the corner just enough to observe the owners of the footsteps.

Seconds later, three figures came into view.

The first was a deathtrooper, clad in their telltale black armour, looking as imposing as ever. The second was Mas Amedda, whose eyes were moving between various shadows in paranoia, as if expecting a ghost to jump out on them.

The third figure was the one that concerned Kallus most of all. The Imperial Royal Guard, dressed in their gleaming red armour, was an imposing sight, and one that he knew form experience posed a deadly threat to both him and Zeb. It would not be easy to take them down.

Kallus watched as the three figures moved towards the door to the holocron vault, entering into it and disappearing into the darkness of the vault itself.

When he was certain that there was no one else around, Kallus glanced up at Zeb, who had climbed to the top of a bookshelf to avoid detection, and pointed towards the vault.

Zeb nodded in understanding, jumping down from his hiding spot and making a beeline for the doorway, joining Kallus in the process.

"Well at least we know we are in the right spot." Zeb whispered to Kallus as the two both drew their weapons, slowly heading into the vault.

It was dark inside, with only the light from a torch Zeb had brought to guide them through. The vault itself seemed to comprise of two sections. One, a long corridor that in the past was covered in traps. Now they all seemed disabled, whether that was due to the device Nota had given him or something the Emperor had done in the past was unknown.

The hallway was not that long, and before long Kallus and Zeb found themselves entering into a large open space, one full of familiar objects.

"Karabast! Are those…?" Zeb spoke as he surveyed the numerous cubed shaped items that lay scattered around. Some were in slots on a nearby structure. Others lay haphazardly on the floor, clearly discarded with little thought.

"Jedi holocrons. I guess the Emperor kept them for some reason rather than destroy them." Kallus replied, inching forward into the room more. His eyes continued to dark around the room, taking in the numerous holocrons that were present, each giving off an iridescent blue glow that contrasted with their golden shell. Kallus had to admit that it awed him to be in the presence of such powerful relics.

However, Kallus' fixation on the holocrons then proved to be a problem. Emerging from behind the structure that housed the holocrons, a tall red armoured figure emerged, force pike in their hands and at the ready.

"Agent Alexsandr Kallus and Captain Garazeb Orrelios, you come at last, just as I predicted." The Royal Guard's voice was disguised, clearly thanks to the helmet they wore. Their armour betrayed no telling features of species or gender either, leaving Kallus with no real means of identifying his opponent.

Beside him Kallus heard Zeb twist and turn his bow staff, igniting the twin ends and dropping into a combat stance that he was comfortable with.

Kallus too prepared himself, pivoting towards the figure and training his blaster on the guard, finger braced on the trigger.

"Sorry we took so long, but we are here to stop you now." Kallus couldn't help quip in reply, eyes surveying the shadows for other signs of enemy contacts.

Yet he could see none. The guard had come alone.

"Oh my dear Agent Kallus, you are so easy to deceive. You shan't be stopping me or my friends today, but since you've come this far I feel as though I should give you a guided tour." The guard spoke in response, their voice full of evident sarcasm and taunting. But under it was something familiar, and from the way the guard had addressed Kallus, it was almost as if they had met before?

Whilst Kallus mulled over the guard's words, Zeb chose his moment to speak, his voice gruff and hostile.

"You expect us to come with you? Yeah right pal! I guess you'd expect us to tell you all of our secrets as well?!"

The Royal Guard's head shifted from Kallus to Zeb, clearly amused if Kallus was reading the shift in body movement right. He may not have been able to see the guard's face, but he could imagine them smirking underneath the helmet, whoever they were that was.

"I'm afraid I fully expected you to not come willing Mr Orrelios. However, I think you will find you will have no choice in the matter!"

The response was harrowing, and the tone of the voice took on a dark ominous nature.

Seconds later, Kallus found out why.

A subtle hissing sound could be heard in the room, and Kallus suddenly found himself feeling wheezy and disorientated. His vision blurred and he felt his legs begin to give out underneath him.

Beside him he heard Zeb begin to stumble, clearly also being heavily affected by what Kallus assumed was sleeping gas that was currently being flooded into the room.

As Zeb slumped to the floor, out cold, Kallus managed to squeeze off one shot from his blaster. However his distorted vision caused the shot to go wide, striking the wall behind the Royal Guard, who merely laughed at Kallus' feeble attempt on their life.

It was then that Kallus realized that the guard was not affected by the gas, no doubt thanks to the helmet.

And as Kallus felt himself falling into a state of unconsciousness, he heard the guard speak again, followed by another laugh.

"Even the most attentive of spies miss the obvious."

Whether or not the comment was directed at Kallus or not he did not know. The voice behind the helmet was heavily distorted, but there was something in it.

Something he recognized.

And then he slipped into a forced state of sleep, courtesy of the gas.

Chapter Text

Kallus groaned as his vision began to return, his body awakening itself from the unexpected sleep it had been forced into. Whatever had been in the gas was clearly high grade in nature, as it had rendered both him and Zeb unconscious in a matter of seconds.

Glancing around the room he was now in, Kallus couldn't help but gasp lightly. The walls were a dark ominous grey, with pulsating red sections of light that screamed Sith.

It didn't take a genius to figure out where he had been taken, and it turned out all the intel he had gathered was correct.

He was in a Sith shrine.

"Karabast!" Kallus muttered under his breath, continuing to survey the room around him. It wasn't a jail cell, but his wrists were restrained by a pair of cuffs, limiting his movement.

Not that he could escape if he wanted to. A squad of Stormtroopers were also present in the room, led by the Deathtrooper they had seen earlier, who was currently glaring directly at Kallus. In said Deathtrooper's hands was Zeb's bow rifle, something that Kallus knew would make the Lasat angry.

Moving his gaze away from the troopers, Kallus spotted another pair of individuals in the room.

Mas Amedda and the Royal Guard stood with their backs to him, surveying something on what appeared to be a holotable, quietly discussing what Kallus assumed was their master plan. He couldn't pick the voices up completely, partly because of the distance between them, and partly because of the effect of the gas upon him. It would take a while for his senses to return to normal. In the meantime he would have to make do.

Another groan came from beside him in that moment, and Kallus turned his head to spot Zeb regaining consciousness, pushing himself up off the floor and onto his knees in the process. His hands too were cuffed, something which the Lasat obviously did not take too well, as he released a series of growls as he tried to force the cuffs off.

Kallus gritted his teeth in anticipation. No doubt the noise Zeb was making would attract the attention of their captors.

"Zeb! Be quiet!" Kallus tried to whisper over to the angry Lasat, who ignored him.

"Well well, it appears our most honoured guests are awake." The modulated voice of the Royal Guard sounded out, full of both mirth and sarcasm, if Kallus was reading it right.

Zeb seemed to relent in that moment, realizing the predicament they were in, and turned to surveying the room just as Kallus had done earlier.

But right now Kallus' focus was not on Zeb, but rather on the Roya Guard who was marching up towards them. It didn't escape Kallus' notice that Amedda instead remained in back staring down at the holotable, clearly not interested in what was about to happen.

The Royal Guard however was now directly before him, crouching down so they were eye level, before the guard's gauntlet armoured hand came up to harshly grasp Kallus' face.

"Hey, get off of him you sleemo!" Zeb called out in anger, again trying to force his way out of the cuffs he had on.

The response from the Royal Guard was a simple yet vicious laugh, one that chilled Kallus directly to the bones.

But again, there was something familiar in it, he just couldn't place what it was.

"So, you got me. What now?" Kallus couldn't help but quip, trying to get a rise out of the guard. If he could cause a slip up in their interrogation tactics, then maybe he and Zeb could do something that would help them.

The guard continued to harshly turn Kallus' face from side to side, as if inspecting something.

Then they responded.

"I can't stand a man who has the most ridiculous looking sideburns in existence. What are you trying to prove Alexsandr?"

The tone of the voice was somewhat light, as if the person were familiar with him.

As if they had already met and were friends.

"Who are you?" Kallus responded, curiosity getting the better of him.

The guard moved back from Kallus, returning to their full height before turning around, facing away from the human and Lasat.

"Who indeed? I'm honestly surprised you haven't figured it all out yet Kallus. After all, it is all there in the name." The guard' voice turned into one of dark humour, as if they were about to reveal some humungous secret that would change everything.

And what did they mean by 'it was all there in the name'? Kallus' mind went into overdrive trying to figure it out. What was he missing?

"What are you talking about?" It was Zeb that demanded answers this time, his voice gruff and full of what Kallus could only describe as hatred.

The guard's helmeted face shifted between Kallus and Zeb several times, as if enjoying the tense moment between them before answering.

"I did tell you the codename was stupidly obvious, and yet neither of you caught it. The 'Red Lady' ring any bells?"

A wash of dread and horror flooded over Kallus. He did know someone who went by that codename! But it couldn't be? She was their ally… wasn't she?

"No!" Kallus gasped in surprise, watching as the guard lifted their hands up to grasp their helmet, before giving it a sharp pull, removing it and exposing their face.

Kallus felt himself sag slightly where he was sitting in despair at the face he recognized.

Now that she was unmasked, and quite obviously the enemy, Kallus didn't think that Nota looked like a particularly nice person anymore. Gone was the gentle nature of her when they had met, and the young go-hung attitude she had was instantly replaced by one of a dark grim nature. Her face had a sharp harsh curvature to it, one that would incite fear into the hearts of even the bravest of people.

She had been right. She was a master of disguise, and he had fallen for it.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me! See Kallus, this is what happens when you try and get yourself a girlfriend!" Zeb's outburst was one of anger, not directly at Kallus but rather Nota, who smirked down at Zeb maliciously.

It was an incredibly discomforting look on her face. It made Kallus feel sick.

"You know I have to agree with your friend there Kallus. How gullible do you need to be to fall for my ways?" Nota replied, her voice taunting, as if she had rehearsed this part.

It occurred to Kallus that this was probably not the first time she had done something like this.

"Why Nota? Why are you serving the Emperor?" Kallus called out, pulling once on his cuffs in a futile attempt to escape. Right now he wanted nothing more than to wrap his hands around her neck.

Kallus couldn't help but wonder briefly if exposure to the Sith shrine was having some sort of detrimental effect on him, even if he wasn't force sensitive.

"It's as I said Kallus, I value loyalty. The Emperor took me in, offered me a place within his elite and asked for nothing more than my service to him. And unlike you, even in death I will loyally serve him!" Nota spat, aggression in her tone as she neared Kallus again, a dark fire in her eyes, one that reminded Kallus of the various Inquisitor's he had encountered in the past.

"But why? The Emperor was a deplorable man. He enslaved people. Ordered the murder of children. And yet you work for him!" Kallus shouted out, attracting the attention of both Amedda and the Stormtroopers in the room in the process.

Nota's facial expression did not change, her face betraying no remorse or repent.

"All true, but he did what he did for the safety of the many. Under his rule the galaxy has prospered, coming into a new age of technological and sociological advancement. Advancement that your little rebellion would seek to undo, all to restore a broken republic that was dying long before Palpatine came to power!"

The statement, whilst clearly one spoken with zeal and loyalty, did hold some truths, Kallus had to admit. The old republic had been doomed, and Palpatine had done great things for the galaxy during his time. That was part of why he had loyally served the empire had first.

But then, as time had passed by, Kallus had begun to see the truth. Inquisitors kidnapping children, torturing people and breaking them for information!

Infighting amongst the imperial leadership!

Enslavement and persecution of non-humans!

Building a planet destroying doomsday weapon!

All of those screamed tyrant.

So yes, Palpatine had done some good for the galaxy, repairing the damage done by the Clone War.

But all of that had been a front for his more malicious schemes, one that involved his plans for galactic domination, regardless of the consequences. The galaxy might not have known it at first, but in the end they had all been the Emperor's slave, whether they knew it or not.

"The Empire murdered millions, all for the sake of control! And you stand with them! You're disgusting!" Zeb snidely boomed out, jumping to his feet in an attempt to rush Nota, who launched her first out to counter. The blow connected with the Lasat's face, sending him sprawling to the floor.

Nota seemed to almost growl in response to Zeb's attempted assault, before turning to the Deathtrooper and his men.

"Captain, would you kindly take Captain Orrelios out back for a minute. I wish to speak to Kallus in private, without his smelly friend interfering."

The Deathtrooper nodded his head in response, gesturing to three of his men who scooped up Zeb and begun to march him out.

All Kallus could do was watch in despair as his friend was led away.

And then it got worse.

"On second thoughts Captain, I figure we don't need the Lasat. Dispose of him out back!"

"NO! ZEB!" Kallus couldn't help himself, jumping to his feet and attempting to rush over to where Zeb was, looking horrified at the situation.

Once again Nota stepped in however, delivering a sharp kick to Kallus' stomach, sending the Fulcrum agent sprawling to the floor in agony.

When he managed to subdue the pain long enough to look up, Kallus could not see Zeb anywhere in sight.

Instead, his vision became obstructed by the gleaming red armour of the Royal Guard he now knew the identity of, a sinister smirk on her face.

"Now Agent Kallus, you and I are going to have a little talk!"

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

So this was it. This was how he went out. Not fighting for the rebellion. Not saving someone's life. Not doing his duty.

Instead, it would be by blaster squad.

"This sucks!" Zeb couldn't help but quip sarcastically as he was led down a hallway of the Sith shrine, towards what he assumed would be his death. Around him, three Stormtroopers escorted him, ensuring he wasn't about to break free.

And there, in front of him leading the way was the Deathtrooper, who currently held Zeb's bow rifle in his hands.

Having such a weapon was one of the highest honour in Lasat society. Rumours had been spoken by his people in the past of them being based off of ancient weapons from eons past. Zeb never paid that rumour too much mind. Sure, he understood and respected what it meant to have a bow rifle these days, but in the end it was a tool for him to use.

A tool that now looked like was going to be his own executioner.

"This is the last time I help Kallus on one of his stupid spy missions!" Zeb snarled again, speaking to himself. He doubted the troopers were listening to him. Besides, if he was about to die, he would do so being an annoyance on their eardrums.

"I suspect that is a lie Captain Orrelios." The modulated voice of the Deathtrooper called out from in front, surprising not only Zeb but his trooper escort as well.

And then, with an unexpected and shocking grace, the Deathtrooper span on his heels, bow rifle aimed directly at Zeb.

Sighing to himself, the Lasat closed his eyes and accepted his fate.

And then three shots echoed through the hallway.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Kallus found himself knocked to the floor from the impact of another punch to his face. Nota was not letting up, and she was clearly enjoying it.

"Kallus, come now my friend, it is easy. Tell me where the rebel base is located and I'll spare you. You can retake your place in the empire. Just tell me what I want to know!" Nota's voice was harsh and dark, and her plea for him to tell the truth so she could spare him was obviously a lie. If he did tell her, she would kill him anyway.

All he could do was stall until an opportunity arose.

"Fine fine. I'll tell you." Kallus replied, coughing up particles of blood from his mouth.

Nota seemed to rear back in glee, as if about to be told some great secret. Gesturing with her clenched fist to Kallus, the ex ISB agent replied.

"It's on Atollon ok."

PUNCH!

"LIAR! We know the rebel base on that planet was destroyed! Just tell me the truth Kallus!" Nota's voice picked up, an almost inhuman scream coming out of it as she unleashed another sharp punch to Kallus' gut, sending him sprawling backwards some more. Kallus knew that if she kept this up, either he would have several broken bones, or he could very well be dead.

Either was a better alternative to telling the truth in his eyes. He was not about to sell out his friends anytime soon.

"Oh, right, oops. Guess I forgot about that huh?" Kallus replied when he had recovered, smirking up at Nota through bloodied teeth.

The Zeltron's face turned into a dark sneer as she reared a fist back again, evidently planning on punching him in the face once again.

That was until Mas Amedda intervened.

"I don't think your technique is working my lady. Perhaps a different method."

Amedda's voice was sarcastic, and clearly held no love for Nota, and judging from the way Nota rolled her eyes dramatically, the feeling was mutual.

Nonetheless, the Zeltron woman did relent, stepping back from Kallus' beaten form and moving to join Amedda, who had now approached, datapad in his hand.

When it was clear that Nota had finished her interrogation, Amedda stepped in.

"If you won't give up the location of the rebel base then we will have to force it out of you. The Acolytes of the Beyond are very interested in capturing a certain Togruta woman that you know well. If you tell us where she is, we will spare you."

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Zeb had fully expected to die. He had expected to feel the slam of three hot blaster bolts burn his body, fired by his own rifle.

However, despite hearing the shots that would have been his last being fired, he did not feel their impact.

So the question was, what had happened?

Slowly opening one eye, and then another, Zeb spotted the forms of the three Stormtroopers on the floor unmoving, with blaster bolt shots having gone clean through their helmets.

The only one left standing was the Deathtrooper, who had lowered Zeb's bow rifle to his side and was inspecting the kills.

"Um, thanks I guess." Zeb spoke, completely and uttered confused. Why had the Deathtrooper helped him? Come to think of it he had had a lot of weird encounters with Deathtroopers as of late.

"You are welcome Captain Orrelios." The Deathtrooper responded moving over to the Lasat and undoing the handcuffs in the process.

When said handcuffs dropped to the floor, Zeb allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief as he rotated his wrists, getting the numb feeling that had been coursing through them out out, allowing his blood to circulate once more.

"I did warn you not to trust someone you didn't know." The Deathtrooper spoke again, his voice clearly frustrated, despite the modulation.

Zeb raised an eye ridge at that comment. No Deathtrooper had ever said such a thing to him, even if it obviously clear that he and Kallus shouldn't have trusted Nota at all.

"I don't understand? Who are you?" Zeb inquired, glancing back down at the corpses of the Stormtroopers. Clearly whoever this Deathtrooper was was no friend of the empire.

It was then that the Deathtrooper seemingly sighed, before reaching up to take off his helmet.

Zeb expected to come face to face with either the pale white or dark black of human skin as the trooper took off his helmet, so when the first colour he spotted was blue Zeb was even more confused.

And then the figure opened his eyes, the bright red pupils shining brightly in the dim light of the Sith shrine's hallways.

"I did say I was in disguise Captain Orrelios."

Zeb couldn't help it as his jaw dropped open, surprise flooding his system.

"Thrawn?!"

"Yes." Was all the Grand Admiral said in reply, his voice as calm as ever.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************

It shouldn't have really been a surprise that the Acolytes were searching for Ahsoka. If the rumours were true that they worshipped both Vader and the Emperor as gods, then they would no doubt view Ahsoka as the one that killed their deities.

And thus would no doubt be out for revenge against her.

Assuming he survived today, Kallus would make sure she was warned about what could be coming her way. She deserved some peace after all, not being chased around the galaxy by some power crazy cultists.

"I don't know what you are talking about." Kallus chose to response, keeping his voice steady, trying not to betray any emotions.

Amedda seemed convinced, noting something down on his datapad before glancing towards Nota, who had calmed down now.

"Unfortunate then." Amedda spoke before returning to his position next to the holotable, leaving Kallus alone again with Nota.

The Zeltron woman leaned in close, surveying Kallus' damaged facial features from her assault, before speaking.

"The hypocrisy is not lost on me you know. Kidnapping children is not the nicest thing in the universe, but it is a necessity."

Her statement was odd, and her voice calm and gentle again, similar to how it had been when they had first met.

It occurred to him that she was probably trying to make him let his guard down again, as she had in the past.

Hopefully he could use that to his advantage. No one fooled him more than once.

"Why is it a necessity?" Kallus inquired, his own voice soft, as if he was under her sway. Truthfully it was a façade, but hopefully she didn't know that.

"The children. We're not exactly kidnapping them, but rather rescuing them. If we don't, the Jedi will take them from their families and enslave them. But with us they have a chance. A chance to be who they are destined to be." Nota's voice seemed convinced at her own statement. As if she believed that what was happening to the children was for their own good.

And to some extent, Kallus understood. The Jedi of old had taken children away, be on their own freedom of choice. But they had also stripped them of everything that made up their past. They had essentially become drones for a high council.

When Kallus had asked Kanan about the Jedi of old, even he had admitted that there were issues with how they behaved. The blind Jedi seemed most devout in changing that.

It was honestly a funny day when the blind Jedi was the one who could see the clearest.

"Rescuing them? You're corrupting them!" Kallus spat in reply, allowing his anger to come across. It was bad enough targeting innocents. Targeting children however… that was beyond unacceptable.

"Corrupting them? Maybe we are. The acolytes have no force sensitives among their ranks, and they will need them to combat the Jedi. Their leader sees an army of loyal force sensitives by their side. A new Inquisitorius, completely loyal to the Emperor and Vader, even in death." Nota continued, stepping back from Kallus and gesturing around the room, as if giving a sermon to a group of loyal followers.

"That doesn't explain why you helped me infiltrate this place though. What are you really up to Nota?" Kallus inquired, his mind doing leaps and jumps to try and figure out the truth. Nota had been in league with his targets all along. Hell she had been his target.

And yet she had helped him. Why was that?

In response, Nota cackled, a terrifying sound coming from her.

"Don't flatter yourself Kallus. As I said, I'm all about loyalty, and you are one of the biggest traitors to the empire there is. When the opportunity to destroy you came along, I took it. Besides, I like to play with my food before eating it!"

The mental image that came to Kallus' mind caused him to shudder. There was no questioning Nota's ability to worm her way into people's mind, to make them think she was on their side.

That alone made her incredibly dangerous. Just how many had fallen victim to the same techniques in the past?

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

"I managed to acquire this disguise relatively easily. With it I was able to infiltrate this secret base and learn the majority of the plans of Amedda and the one you call 'Nota'. I tried to warn you not to trust her. Clearly it did not work." Thrawn spoke as he handed the bow rifle over to Zeb, before bending down to pick up a blaster from the troopers he had just shot.

"Yeah I got your message, not that it could have been anymore cryptic. You give the Jedi a run for their credits!" Zeb replied, venting his frustration at the situation. Here he was, rescued by Thrawn of all people. Meanwhile, who knew what was happening to Kallus?

Returning to his full height, which was still slightly shorter than Zeb, Thrawn's facial expression took on what looked like despair.

"Yes I should have guessed you would not have been able to decipher my clue. Perhaps you should study art in your spare time. I could recommend a very good art gallery on Pantora for you?"

Zeb had to refrain from snarling at the Chiss for his comment. They may now be allies, reluctant allies that was, but the animosity that lingered between them was still present, and would no doubt be present for a long time.

Truth be told the only person in the entirety of the rebellion that Thrawn seemed to get along with and want to work with was Hera, not that that was too much of a surprise to Zeb. The two seemed to have a mutual respect for one another. Leaders in a time of great conflict, even if they had been on opposite sides.

"Maybe later Thrawn. Do you know where these guys are keeping the kids they have kidnapped?" Zeb brushed off his discomfort, gripping his bow rifle tightly in his hands. He was prepped and ready for a fight. He needed something to punch at very least.

"Unfortunately not. From what I have seen the children have been moved to covert facilities across the galaxy. The locations of which are contained on a data drive that is currently in possession of the Royal Guard." Thrawn replied, his voice grim yet full of the cold calculation that he was known for.

"Karabast. That complicates things then." Zeb replied, trying to formulate a plan in his head. Sure, he could just rush on in, bow staff engaged and attempt to muscle his way to victory. But he had seen what Royal Guards could do. They were formidable foes, akin to Inquisitors in a way. He doubted he would honestly stand much of a chance against Nota himself.

That meant he would need another solution.

"Indeed it does Captain, so we will have to work in tandem if we are to not only save Agent Kallus, but acquire the data we need." Thrawn replied, his glowing red eyes locking onto Zeb's green ones. There was no hidden motive in them. Thrawn was being genuine.

"So what's the plan then?"

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

"So what, all of this, luring me here and allowing me access is part of some kriffed up revenge plan, all because I chose to help the rebellion?!" Kallus couldn't help the anger in his voice. He had honestly thought that Nota was a friend, not some imperial lunatic.

Clearly she didn't take the abrasive way he spoke too kindly.

"You'd never understand Kallus! I'm better than you in every respect. At least I know where my loyalties lie. Tell me, how long will it be before you abandon the rebels?" The Zeltron spat, her teeth bared in an obvious threat.

"I'm loyal to my friends. To Zeb, to Hera, to Ahsoka, to everyone who had lived under the oppressive tyranny of the man you and your friends hold up on some pedestal. You disgust me Nota!" Kallus sneered, watching her reaction carefully. Sure, it may get him another beating, but it may also create an opening for him. There were only two other Stormtroopers in the room, and Kallus was certain that Amedda would not put up much of a fight.

The jibe at Nota clearly worked as anticipated as Kallus saw her fist clench. The woman reared her arm back, aiming a punch for Kallus' face.

And then the door opened, and in walked the Deathtrooper from before, helmet on his face.

Spotting this, Nota took a deep breath before turning to the trooper, a dark smirk on her face.

"Have you disposed of the Lasat?"

The Deathtrooper glanced at Nota first, then over at Amedda, before shifting his gaze to Kallus.

And then the Deathtrooper removed his helmet, and Kallus couldn't help but gasp at the familiar sight of blue skin and red eyes.

Clearly both Nota and Amedda were equally shocked.

And then Thrawn spoke, his voice full of smugness.

"I'm afraid there has been a change of plans my lady."

A savage yet familiar roar echoed down the hallway behind Thrawn, and within seconds Zeb came barrelling into the room, his bow staff ignited, ends sparking with fluorescent electrical energy.

Out of the corner of his eye Kallus spotted the two Stormtroopers raise their blasters, clearly intent on gunning down the Lasat approaching with terrifying speed before he could cause any damage.

Kallus was about to shout out in alarm and warn Zeb when a second unexpected event occurred. The sound of a blaster discharging twice echoed through the room, and the two troopers dropped to the floor dead. Glancing in the direction the shots had originated from, Kallus' eye widened at the sight of Thrawn, blaster in his hand.

Kallus' attention was then shifted away from the Chiss, who himself was now moving towards Mas Amedda, calling for him to put his hands up, and instead shifted to focus on the duel that had erupted in the room between Zeb and Nota. The Lasat's bow staff clashed with the force pike Nota was wielding, energy crackling against itself from both weapons.

Both combatants entered into a dance of sorts, trying to both evade their opponent, whilst trying to land a detrimental blow in the process. Zeb's face was one of determination, mixed with rage and anger. His fur bristled as he fought, another sign of the growing hatred inside of him.

Nota's expression couldn't have been more different. Even now she had a smug look on her face, a dark twisted smile that indicated that she was actually enjoying this fight. An expression that looked both enthralled, and yet at the same time bored.

It was clear to Kallus in that moment that Nota was leagues ahead of Zeb in terms of combat. Yes, he had all the training of a Lasat Honour Guard, and he was about as formidable and durable as a wookiee.

But Nota was a royal guard, armed with a weapon nearly as rare as a lightsaber. And she was trained to use it proficiently.

Kallus watched as he struggled to push himself up as Zeb continued to swing his staff, attempting to catch Nota's legs and trip her. The Zeltron woman merely laughed at his attempt, twisting her own force pike in her hands to counter, jabbing forward with it to catch Zeb's side, resulting in a burst of energy shocking the Lasat.

The breach in his defences only seemed to anger Zeb more, a theory supported by the deep growl the Lasat gave out, before barging forward with his shoulder blade. The Lasat crashed into Nota's armoured figure, forcing her to stumble backwards from the impact and out of the duel for a moment.

But the Zeltron woman was quick to counter, evading back another step out of reach of a swing from Zeb, before lifting one end of the force pike she used into the air.

Moments later, Kallus watched as Zeb was suddenly suspended in mid-air, the same yellow energy that permeated from Nota's force pike flashing around Zeb's body, causing the Lasat to groan in pain as he was immobilised.

Despite his current state, Kallus reacted swiftly, reaching down to pick up a discarded blaster from one of the fallen troopers, before letting off a shot towards Nota.

The Zeltron was too preoccupied with her duel with Zeb that by the time she heard the blaster fire there was no chance of evasion. The bolt slammed into her midsection, scorching the armour she wore and burning the skin underneath. It was not a lethal blow, but one that would force her to back off.

And back off she did, not even sparing a glance towards Kallus or even the now captured Mas Amedda. Instead, she simply took off, disappearing down another hallway into the darkness of the Sith shrine.

It was obvious that she was attempting to make a break for it!

And Kallus had no intention of letting her get away.

"Kallus!" The voice of Zeb called out from beside him. The Lasat was now free of his immobilisation, though clearly strained from it. Instead, the former honour guard held out his bow staff, gesturing for Kallus to take it.

The Fulcrum agent did without hesitation, before taking off in pursuit of Nota.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************

As Kallus went in pursuit of the Royal Guard, Zeb's attention was drawn to the discussion that was going on behind him.

Or more like the interrogation.

"Mas Amedda, you have evaded us for far too long. Tell me, where can I find it?" Thrawn all but spat, gesturing with his blaster towards Amedda, who seemed to back away in fear.

"I'll never tell you turncoat. Palpatine should never have trusted an outsider such as yourself. You are a traitor!" Amedda spat in return, attempting to make a break for it, only to be intercepted by Zeb, who now wore a gruff smirk on his face.

The Lasat grasped hold of Amedda roughly, spinning him and forcing him to face Thrawn, who looked livid, whilst restraining his hands behind his back.

"Get your hands off me you hairy beast!" Amedda yelled, his face becoming one that showed disgust. Zeb didn't take it personally. After all, in Lasat culture, fur was a symbol of respect and honour.

"I won't ask you again Amedda! Where is the Emperor's lab?" Thrawn actually yelled, something that honestly shocked Zeb. The Chiss Grand Admiral had always been an eerily calm individual, who it felt like always had complete control of every situation no matter how dire. The fact that he was clearly quite outraged by something, clearly whatever this lab was, suggested that it was very bad.

"I'd answer the question if I were you. A pissed Chiss is not easy to beat." Zeb quipped sarcastically, enjoying the way Mas Amedda squirmed in his arms.

Amedda seemed to contemplate his situation, and if Zeb didn't know any better he'd swear he was about to reveal all.

Across from him Thrawn waited on edge, blaster barrel pointed at Amedda's chest.

"I know next to nothing. The Acolytes of the Beyond only ever spoke of a salvation, one were they return their gods to the living world from the depths of the beyond. They did speak of a plot however, to capture those that vanquished their gods. They believe that through ritualistic sacrifice, they will restore the gods to flesh form. But that is all I know I swear!"

Mas Amedda's tone was chaotic at best, one that revealed fear and horror at his predicament, but also what seemed to be disgust. Not for Zeb or Thrawn, but for whatever this plan he spoke of was.

What Zeb was certain about was that Amedda was telling the truth. It was there in his stance, in his fear, in his voice. The way he seemed panicked and looking for a way out.

And whilst Zeb would never say it aloud, it was there in his scent.

Lasat had very good noses.

Clearly Thrawn also believed him.

"Then I thank you for your cooperation Grand Vizier, and have no further questions for you."

Zeb was about to release Amedda when Thrawn's next action caught them both by surprise. As the Chiss finished speaking he fired his blaster once, the shot burning a hole directly into Amedda's chest, who slumped to the ground dead.

Zeb could only stare down at the corpse for a few moments, his mouth open in shock.

He wasn't mad that Amedda was dead. He would have killed him if Thrawn didn't.

What did matter was that Thrawn had taken the shot in the first place.

"Karabast! You could have hit me as well!"

"Do not worry Captain Orrelios. I have perfected such shots before. You were in no danger at any point."

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

As Kallus rounded another corner in the maze that was the Sith shrine, a single blaster bolt sailed past his head, forcing him to cover behind a pair of crates. He was now in a large open area, one strewn with various boxes and containers.

And there, hidden behind a crate not too dissimilar from his was Nota, her gleaming red armour a dead giveaway of her location.

"You could have had everything Kallus! We could have worked together if only we'd met sooner. Imagine, us taking down the rebellion together. They'd never knew what hit them. But instead, you chose to side with those terrorists! You became everything you once swore you'd protect the galaxy from."

Nota's anger was clear, both from her speech and from the barrage of blaster bolts that came Kallus' way after she was finished.

Gripping Zeb's bow rifle in his hands, Kallus darted between a pair of containers, firing a volley of his own shots over at Nota, who skilfully avoided them.

"I swore to destroy those who threatened innocent lives. But it turned out that it was the empire that was doing that, not the rebellion!" Kallus yelled in return, peaking his head round the container slightly in hopes of gaining a line of sight on Nota.

"And what about people like Saw Gerrera? The ones who advocate radicalism in the name of victory. The ones who willingly sacrifice some for the many?" How can you say the rebellion protects the masses when you have people like him around?!" Nota spat from somewhere, her voice carrying in the large room. It was becoming clear that this would not be a traditional standoff.

Kallus would have to be on guard.

"Saw was an extremist, but he sacrificed himself for the entire galaxy. His intentions were pure, but his actions were extreme. Even he admitted that towards the end." Kallus yelled back, hoping to draw Nota towards him. She was wounded, as was he. If he could get close to her, he may be able to overpower her.

After all, she was the one that was shot.

"So that makes it all ok does it? He meant well! Well so do I Kallus, it's just a shame you won't be around to see it!"

With speed unmatched, Kallus heard movement from behind a pair of nearby crates, followed by the form of Nota vaulting over the top, force pike in hand, energy crackling from its end, barrelling towards him.

As Nota swung her staff, Kallus ducked, allowing the end to pass right over him. As it did, he engaged the bow staff's own melee function, before twisting the weapon in a horizontal manoeuvre, one end smashing into the burn mark on Nota's armour.

The blow to the already wounded part of her, followed by the brief jolt of electrical energy that ran through her body knocked her down and out of the fight, her pike falling out of arms reach.

And so she lay, on her back looking up into the eyes of Kallus, who stared down with remorse.

Her eyes showed no fear, only resignation on her part. She knew she had failed, and she was prepared to accept the consequences.

"So now what Agent?" Was all she said, as if taunting him to attack again.

Kallus considered it. Part of him wanted to kill her. To remove such a threat to him and his friends for good. After all that was part of the mission.

He chose again it however. That would have been the old Kallus. The one who commanded his troops to exterminate the Lasat on Lasan.

He was a different person now. He knew what mercy was, thanks to his friends.

And he was certain that Nota would have much more to tell him.

Closing up the bow staff back into rifle form, Kallus bent down to Nota's level, looking her in the eyes, before extracting a pair of cuffs he had for emergencies, and placing them on her wrists.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Several hours passed, and Thrawn had predictably disappeared without a trace. He had spoken briefly about some sort of plan of the Emperor's he had been looking into, and that he would be in contact when he found out more.

Kallus was fine with that. The less he had to deal with the Chiss the better.

Still, he made for a formidable ally in the direst of times. Were it not for his intervention through disguise, both Kallus and Zeb would have been left to the 'tender' mercy of Nota and Amedda.

And now Amedda was dead, and Nota…

Nota was currently being escorted towards a U-wing, flanked on either side by a pair of rebel troopers.

Apparently, shortly after his call with Ahsoka, said Togruta had informed Cassian of what was going on, who had then in turn taken it upon himself to rush to the rescue with a small band of rebels.

He had arrived late of course, but just in time to see Kallus' victory.

"We'll lock her up and interrogate her. Hopefully she will be more cooperative than that damn Terrelian we have back at base." Cassian spoke, his face grim as Nota passed by him and Kallus.

The Zeltron stopped for a moment, seemingly unfazed by the guards around her, and turned to Kallus.

The former ISB agent was surprised by her expression. Gone was the malicious smirk that had coated her face during their confrontation. Instead it was replaced by one that was more familiar. The warm comforting look she had when they had first met.

The look that had lured him in, and allowed her to deceive him.

She really was a master of disguise.

Just when he thought she would look and leave. Nota spoke, her words coming across not as a threat, but more of warning.

"The Acolytes already know where she is."

And with that the red Zeltron turned and left, willingly heading towards what was certain to be a life in a cell.

Kallus had to admit that he pitied her a bit. She had great potential.

Potential that had been taken and corrupted by the Emperor.

He only hoped that in time she would realize that, and become a better person for it.

"What about that data drive I got from her?" Kallus inquired. When he had cuffed Nota, he had discovered a heavily encrypted data drive on her body, one he had promptly confiscated. If what Thrawn had told Zeb was true, the drive had the locations of facilities holding the children that had been captured.

"K-2's already decrypting it. I'll forward whatever he finds to you Kallus. Good work today buddy."

And then it was Cassian's turn to depart, turning from where he had been standing with Kallus and lightly jogging towards his U-wing.

Kallus watched as the ship ascended into the skies above Coruscant, before it disappeared into orbit.

He may not have succeeded in his mission today, but he had made progress.

That was what mattered.

"So… what do we do in the meantime huh? Hit the nightclubs for some fun? Oh wait, you'd probably somehow end up flirting with an imperial spy again huh?" Zeb's voice came from behind, causing Kallus to turn, a broad smile on his face from the teasing of his friend.

"I think I've learned my lesson Zeb. Perhaps some food. I hear there's some good grub around here." Kallus replied, gesturing outwards towards the city around him.

Coruscant really was a marvel of a place. A city spanning an entire planet, not to the mention the areas deep below the surface.

It was, culturally, a melting pot.

"Ah why not. Who knows, maybe the 'rebellion's hottest man' can find us something fun to do for once?" Zeb replied, chuckling deeply as he spoke, causing Kallus to groan at the comment.

"You're never going to let me forget about that are you?" Kallus continued, leading the way down the steps of the former Jedi temple.

"Never my friend. Never."

 

The End

Alexsandr Kallus will return in: "The Inquisitor who tried to kill me!"

Chapter Text

They had caught her completely off guard, and with no way of defending herself. Ahsoka had been alone at her home, mulling through a book she had bought herself, simply relaxing. Kaeden had been out, spending the day with her sister for once, no doubt exchanging all sorts of crazy gossip about their friends and loved ones.

Morai too was not around. The convor had taken to the skies in the morning, no doubt in search of food, and had yet to return. Not that Ahsoka was concerned about her bird friend. Morai had a tendency to disappear for a few hours sometimes. There were even instances of her vanishing for a few weeks.

So that had left her completely alone when the first intruder had busted through her doorway, a lightwhip in their hands ignited. Ahsoka had barely been able to summon her lightsaber to her side in time to deflect the attack obviously intended for her.

Her first instinct was that it was an assassin sent by someone. Possibly someone loyal to the Emperor, or maybe even a goon of some renegade rebel who didn't like her.

It wouldn't surprise her if that was the case, even if Draven had mysteriously disappeared a while back.

Ahsoka was still not convinced that Maul didn't have something to do with it, but she didn't ask questions.

In truth, she didn't really want to know what the Zabrak got up to.

The lightwhip of the intruder had clashed against the white blade of her lightsaber, locking onto it with a fierce grip and attempting to wrench it from her hand. Ahsoka had held steady as she too pulled with all her strength, attempting to unbalance the intruder. The figure was dressed in a dark black cloak, one that concealed their identity, but screamed darksider to her.

The tug of war lasted for a few moments before the intruder unravelled the whip from her lightsaber, before swinging it around it sharp flicks in an attempt to overwhelm her.

Ducking beneath a stray swing, Ahsoka pivoted on her heels, bringing her blade around her body in defensive motions, deflecting the whip and stopping it from making contact with her body.

It was then that a second intruder entered the room from behind her, smashing their way through a window, also armed with a lightwhip of their own.

Delving into the force, Ahsoka unleashed a sharp push on the intruder in front of her, knocking them back, and allowing her to shift her focus to the new intruder, who came at her in a similar fashion to the first hostile.

Rotating her lightsaber in her hand, Ahsoka deflected another volley of lightwhip attacks, before being forced to turn around and deflect an attack from the intruder she had knocked to the floor.

Said figure was back up on their feet now, and more worryingly was flanked by another two figures, also armed with whips of their own.

Try as she may, Ahsoka could not deflect all of the whips at once, and before long one made it past the threshold of her saber defence, wrapping around her midsection and delivering a sharp jolt of electricity all through her body.

Ahsoka cried out in pain before slumping down onto the floor, saber rolling away from her hands, and electricity rolling through her body still, causing her to squirm in pain. It was not nearly as bad as Sidious' force lightning, which had left her scarred for life, but it was still enough to render her immobilized.

In the back of her mind, she felt something twitch in anger. What she was unsure, but right now she had bigger issues to contend with.

As the electrocution began to take its toll on her body, she began to feel herself falling into a state of unconsciousness. Before she blacked out however, she caught a glimpse of a single figure standing before her, looking down with what appeared to be disdain for her. Unlike the others he was not armed, and was quite obviously their leader.

As her head slumped to the ground, she heard the man speak.

"We have her. Place the restraints on her and load her into my ship. We must hasten to the fortress immediately."

And with that, Ahsoka blacked out.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

Ahsoka was unsure how much time had passed when she awoke. Her body ached from the damage done by the lightwhip, and her head span, her vision distorted, a side effect from her loss of consciousness.

But she was alive. That itself was a success.

Except that once again, she found herself in some sort of situation.

'Kaeden's gonna kill me!' Ahsoka thought humorously to herself as she surveyed the area around her. It was dark, and she was clearly inside some sort of secret stronghold belonging to someone. She could still feel the force, which was a surprise. Had those who had captured her not realized that she could willingly escape if she wanted to?

It was then that she felt something else. Sure, she could feel the force, but she almost wished she couldn't. Rather than the comforting light she was used to, the force around her was different. It was dark and foreboding, with a sense of both horror and hatred beyond anything she could imagine. It ate away at her, threatening to awaken her inner desires, as if it was trying to control her.

And it felt familiar, like she had encountered it before.

Glancing around the room she was in in alarm, Ahsoka spotted something. Before her was a large window, one that overlooked a barren landscape. Barren that was, all except for the river of lava flowing in all directions.

"Mustafar?" Ahsoka questioned to herself quietly, staring out in horror at the planet that had become a symbol of fear for so many. Why had she been taken her?

She wasn't expecting a reply to her question, so when she received one she was genuinely both surprised and horrified.

"Correct Ms Tano, you are on Mustafar."

Ahsoka span in alarm from where she was sitting on the cold floor, away from the window overlooking the lava of Mustafar and towards a figure that was standing before her. He was the same one as before. The one who had spoken at her home after she had been captured.

Behind him, lurking in the shadows she spotted several other figures, each dressed in flowing black cloaks. The intruders who had attacked her earlier.

Ahsoka's eyes darted around the room, as if looking for a way out. There was always a way out after all, even in the most dire of circumstances. Anakin had taught her that.

When she found no immediate escape route, she shifted her eyes back to the figure before her, who was now taking a seat in a chair that rested before her.

"So, you broke into my home and took me hostage. Do I have the pleasure of knowing exactly who you all are?" Ahsoka snipped to the assembled individuals, all of which she identified as humans. Something was clearly up with that.

The figure in the chair, who Ahsoka assumed was the leader, had a face that screamed distrustful. Nothing about the man made her want to ever socialise with him, let alone talk to him. Normally, Ahsoka was willing to talk to anyone, regardless of gender, species or even looks.

But something about that man unnerved her.

And then he replied.

"I am Yupe Tashu, and we are the Acolytes of the Beyond."

Dread consumed Ahsoka. Kallus had told her about these people. Some sort of darkside worshipping cult, ones that worshipped both Sidious and Vader.

No doubt they were out for revenge.

Still, she couldn't let anything on. After all, her supposed ignorance to who they were was her only weapon at this point.

"Never heard of you."

Her response was harsh, and was not taken well by the black cloaked figures around her. A pair of them made to move forward, the handles of lightwhips in their hands ready.

That was until this man who named himself Yupe held out his hand, ordering them back.

"Oh I don't doubt that Ms Tano, after all, we work from the shadows, much like you have done. To put it simply, we are an organisation that looks to study and benefit from the darker aspects of the force, despite not being sensitive to it ourselves."

His explanation gave credit to Kallus' guess about who theses Acolytes were. Clearly they had some connection to the darkside, considering where they were currently.

"And you've captured me why? I'm not really in the business of teaching a cult how to use the force, much less the darkside of it." Ahsoka replied, a smirk coming to her face. If she could just keep up the charade of confidence, she might find a way out.

After all, she still had access to the force.

"Oh we do not need you to teach us Ms Tano, but you are important to us. Through you we will restore what you destroyed, and our masters will return."

Yupe's eyes seemed to expand in fanaticism as he spoke of his 'masters'. Ahsoka could only assume he meant Sidious and Vader.

"Tell me, do you know where on Mustafar you are? Do you know who this place belonged to?" Yupe continued, gesturing around the large room they were in.

Ahsoka assumed it was some sort of fortress of some kind, most likely built by the empire in order to…

'Oh no!' Was all Ahsoka could think. Now she knew why the darkness around her felt familiar. She had sensed it before, on Malachor.

And it appeared that even in death, the presence that was Darth Vader still emanated from his own fortress.

The look of horror in her eyes did not go unmissed by Yupe Tashu, who adopted a sinister looking smirk on his face, one that was not too dissimilar to Sidious'.

"Welcome to the abode of Lord Vader, one of the two true Lords of the Sith, and of the god that you killed!"

It was odd to hear Vader being called a god. To many he was more of a demon, an individual that only ever spelled doom for people when he appeared.

But then these Acolytes clearly worshipped both Vader and Sidious. It was no surprise that they would view them as gods.

And she was the one who had slain their gods.

"So what? I take it you are out for revenge then. Going to kill me or something?" Ahsoka inquired, trying to remain confident in the face of certain death.

Yupe laughed, something that unnerved Ahsoka even more. This man was clearly dangerous. That he found some sort of humour in her situation clearly meant that he was hiding something.

"That was the original plan, but then I had an idea. You see the Acolytes are currently divided with what to do with you. Some see you as a god slayer, such as myself. Others see you as the heir to the power of both Sidious and Vader, and wish to worship you. That I cannot allow. But I am a pragmatic man Ms Tano. If you can somehow convince me to 'worship' you, then I will let you live."

Now Ahsoka was especially creeped out. People being out to kill her was normal, and she expected it in her day to day life, thus she held no real feelings about it.

But the fact that there were some members of this darkside cult that wanted to worship her as a god… that just felt wrong.

"Hate to tell you this but I'm not god, and I'm most certainly not the heir to the throne of the Sith or whatever." Ahsoka replied, disgust in her tone. Glancing around the room, she looked for a way out.

Still none presented itself, thus she would be forced to deal with these Acolytes a bit longer.

"That is not what Lord Vader seemed to think."

Yupe's response drew her attention immediately. In his hands he held a datapad, one that clearly had something on it that was of interest to him. And if his prior words were anything to go by, Ahsoka was certain she would not like what was on it.

"You see, Lord Vader kept a journal of sorts. One full of reports he made to imperial officials, as well as what appeared to be his personal thoughts on certain matters. Mostly they make sense. That is up until the events that occurred during the Siege of Lothal. Shortly after his return to his fortress, his entries begin to become, somewhat obsessed. His focus appears to be solely on an individual he only ever refers to as 'The Apprentice'."

Ahsoka was right. She did not like the contents of the datapad one bit. She had known at the time that Vader had wanted to capture her, most likely to either kill or corrupt her. He had said as much on Malachor.

But the thought that in the last few months of his life, Vader had become obsessed with finding her gave her no comfort. The thought that the kind loving person that had been Anakin Skywalker had become something equivalent to a stalker made her shudder.

Yupe ran his hands across the datapad, as if flicking through various different entries, before settling on one to read.

"The Apprentice was spotted today on Takobo. Reports from the Seventh Sister and Fifht Brother suggest that she is still a prominent user of both Jar'Kai and a reverse Shien grip. She still possess much potential in the force, potential that only I can unlock."

Yupe them began to scroll again, moving to what Ahsoka assumed was another entry.

"The Apprentice has not reappeared since Takobo, but her influence in the growing rebellion is obvious. The use of her forehead markings to represent the 'Fulcrum' network suggests that she is the rebel spymaster. Colonel Yularen seemed surprised by this revelation. Clearly he does not think as highly of the apprentice as I do. That is his mistake. If she has managed to outmanoeuvre even him, then it is quite possible that she should assume command of ISB when she returns to my side."

Ahsoka could only feel despair as Yupe read out what was obviously Vader's private thoughts. They were private for a reason, and only now was it clear to her just how fixated he had become on her since finding out she was alive.

Yupe didn't stop there, flicking through to find another entry.

"I am now almost certain that the Apprentice was single-handled responsible for the death of the Sixth Brother on Raada only a year after the formation of the empire. Whilst reports are unclear about what transpired there, evidence suggests that the Jedi in question was armed with white lightsabers not too dissimilar to the ones the Apprentice reportedly uses to this day. Such weapons are unique, but unbefitting of my new apprentice. I will see to it that she has more acceptable weapons when she comes to me."

Ahsoka sighed. She had worked hard to cover her tracks after Raada. If anyone knew who she truly was, she would have been hunted and her alias as Fulcrum would have been exposed.

And in truth she had succeeded. For over fifteen years no one had discovered her true identity, not until Vader.

So the fact that he had purposefully attempted to track everything that she had done, even back then, only furthered her despair. Vader had really wanted her to join him.

An image of Vader flashed in her mind, on his knees, a gash on his helmet exposing his eye, handless and at her mercy, begging her to help him.

And she had killed him, rather than show mercy.

Yupe flicked the datapad again several times, clearly advancing towards what Ahsoka assumed was the end of the journal.

The man shook his head before turning to datapad around in his hand for Ahsoka to see. With little else to do, she read the entry, one that was far shorter than the previous ones.

"She is on Malachor."

And that was it. That was the last entry. There appeared to be no more, and if the date was right, it had been written only hours before their confrontation on Malachor.

Their final confrontation.

Lowering her head in shame, Ahsoka barely witnessed the smug satisfied look on Yupe's face as he powered off the datapad, passing it to a cloaked guard behind him.

"It took me a while to deduce that the apprentice was you. For some reason Lord Vader was determined to get you to join him. Many in our cause have taken that as reason to worship you. They see you as his successor. But I am not so easily swayed. So tell me Ms Tano, why was Darth Vader so obsessed with you?" Yupe snarled, leaning forward in his chair, an aura of disgust about him.

Ahsoka had no answer, not even an obvious one. Part of her wondered if it was some small part of Anakin within Vader that wanted to protect her, another wondered if it was some sort of dark sense of accomplishment if he managed to turn her.

In the end, it didn't matter. He was dead, she was not.

When Ahsoka gave no response, Yupe sighed aloud, before bending down to pick something up off of the floor.

When the Togruta looked up, her eyes widened in surprise at what was in his hands. A long cylindrical hilt of a lightsaber. Her lightsaber, from her time as a Jedi.

She had left it on Mandalore, in a grave marked with Rex'x name. What was it doing here? Had Vader recovered it?

And what exactly was Yupe planning on doing with it?

The human gently moved the hilt around in his hand, giving it a few experimental twists and turns in the process. He had yet to ignite the blade though. It was clear that he was savouring the moment somewhat.

"And amongst all of his possessions, of which were few, the one he seemed most proud of was this. At first it confused me. Why would Vader keep a lightsaber of a Jedi on a plinth in his quarters? Was it perhaps a trophy? Or maybe a shrine?" Yupe spoke, his voice full of what seemed like both awe and wonderment.

And then his eyes shifted away from the hilt in his hand, locking onto Ahsoka's eyes.

"But now, now I understand why he had it so close to him, especially knowing who it belonged to, and who he planned on returning it too."

Which a flick of his wrist, Yupe fingered the ignition button on the lightsaber, the blade flaring to life.

However, the sight of the blade only sent deep feelings of horror down her spine. Seeing the blade as it was made her feel sick.

No longer was it the bright emerald that it had been during her day, but instead, the blade was a deep red, the light from the weapon cascading over both Yupe and Ahsoka, bathing them in crimson light.

Ahsoka knew instantly what had happened. Vader had taken her lightsaber and defiled it. Twisted and corrupted the crystal within it, destroying everything in it that had belonged to Ahsoka Tano, and turning it entirely over to his darkness.

And from both the journal entries of Vader, and Yupe's own words, the reason behind it was obvious.

Vader had intended to return the saber to Ahsoka, as a symbol of not only his power, but of the destruction of his past.

He had taken his own steps to destroy parts of Ahsoka Tano, just as he had Anakin Skywalker. All in the name of her returning to his side.

Ahsoka had to stop herself from retching at the sight. Never in a million years did she ever anticipate something like this!

Yupe chose that moment to continue onwards. "Lord Vader put so much faith in you. He was certain of your loyalty to him. But in the end you betrayed him, like everyone else he once claimed he held dear. For that, you are no heir to our master's power, but his enemy. And for that, you must die!"

Ahsoka did not flinch at the dark tone of voice used by Yupe. She was used to death threats on a daily basis. Growing up a child soldier had removed all fear of death for her.

Still, that didn't mean she had any intention of dying today, much less by the lightsaber that Yupe Tashu currently held.

It was then that she felt something. A pinprick at the back of her mind. Something was coming. A being of the force. It was dark, not unlike the fortress's aura around her, but different, as if it was in control, rather than spiralling around in chaos.

And it was recognizable.

Ahsoka had to resist the urge to smirk, less she give the game away.

That being said, she did decide to have some fun considering who was coming for her.

"Quick question Mr Tashu? If Vader is your god, and I am viewed as some sort of heir to his power by your followers, wouldn't killing me bring about the wrath of your own god upon you for your heresy?"

The silence that followed was golden to Ahsoka, even as she kept a dumb look upon in her face as a form of mockery. Behind Yupe, the various black cloaked figures began to look to each other, as if contemplating Ahsoka's words.

Yupe meanwhile simply stared down at Ahsoka, distaste in his eyes for her, clearly not threatened at all.

"Lord Vader is dead Ms Tano, and we are the instruments of his will." He replied, taking one step forward and raising the crimson blade above his head.

"I thought gods were immortal? Do you really want to risk it? After all, you know what a Sith Lord is capable of, don't you?" Ahsoka continued, smiling sweetly up at the man who was soon to be her executioner.

The black cloaked figures continued to look around, some clearly worried, others not.

But Yupe's face remained unchanged.

"We are the faithful Ms Tano. Lord Vader would never harm us, in life or death."

"We shall see Mr Tashu. We shall see." Ahsoka replied, the pinprick in her head now much stronger, indicating it was closer.

No one moved for a moment, the only sound in the room being the ominous hum of the lightsaber in Yupe's hand.

Ahsoka could see he was preparing to swing.

If only he knew.

And then another sound flooded into the room, as well as a terrifying sight over by a doorway that clearly led into the room.

A crimson lightsaber burst through the metal door, beginning to slowly cut a circular hole in it, a hole large enough for someone to come through.

The Acolytes burst into various actions, some dropping to their knees in horror, others readying their lightwhips for a fight.

Amongst the commotion, Ahsoka couldn't help but visibly smirk at the cries of voices around her.

"It is Lord Vader! He had come for us!"

"We have blasphemed! Have mercy Lord Vader!"

"She IS the heir to his power! All hail Lady Tano!"

"What Jedi nonsense is this!?"

The last voice was Yupe's, who had now turned away from Ahsoka and was approaching the door, lightsaber at the ready. From the way he held it it was clear he had no training with such a weapon.

Not that it would matter for long if he did.

"It would appear that your god is most displeased with you." Ahsoka couldn't help but call out in mockery as the Acolytes entered various stages of panic. She might not agree fully with what was about to happen, but she wouldn't stop it.

After all, they had been about to kill her.

Yupe seemingly snarled at her for a moment, before his attention was drawn back to the crimson blade that was protruding through the door into the room. Said blade had now completed a complete circle, melting away the metal and causing it to slowly fall forward, exposing the room beyond it.

Nothing came through it at first, the room around Ahsoka eerily quiet. She knew what was on the other side. She could feel it.

Movement then occurred. A small entity came barrelling through the cut open doorway, flying high into the air above the occupants of the room, hooting all the while, causing the attention of the Acolytes to shift to the strange bird like animal that had appeared from nowhere unexplained.

It was clear to Ahsoka that it was merely a distraction from the main threat, one that entered the room seconds later.

A terrifying roar of rage pierced the air, coupled with the sound of air being distorted by a fast spinning lightsaber blade.

Ahsoka watched as a rotating red blade came spinning through the doorway, controlled by a familiar Zabrak, who pivoted on his heels as he entered and cleaved a pair of the Acolytes in two.

By the time the Acolytes had realised what was going on, only three of them remained, the rest having been cut down by Maul's wrath. Ahsoka had to admit that it was good to see the Zabrak, even if he was slaughtering a group of people.

Not that she blamed him mind you. They were worshipping not only Vader, but Sidious too. Maul would always have his internal hatred of anyone loyal to his former master.

Ahsoka watched as one of the remaining Acolytes attempted to attack with his lightwhip, wrapping it round one end of Maul's crimson double bladed lightsaber. The Zabrak snarled in response pulling with all his might and forcing the Acolyte to lose his balance. The loss of balance proved to be lethal, as the cloaked figure fell forward onto one end of Maul's saber, impaling himself and killing him instantly.

The second remaining Acolyte then attempted to attack, only to suddenly be held aloft by Maul through the force. Ahsoka could hear the poor man chocking as Maul squeezed his throat, only to sudden be released to the floor dead.

That just left Yupe Tashu, who stood still with horror on his face at the massacre of his followers. The lightsaber in his hand fell from his grip, his entire body giving out underneath him as he slumped to his knees, as if preying.

Not that it mattered to Maul. The Zabrak clearly had no time for worshippers, let alone ones that had captured his friend. Instead, the Zabrak simply moved past Yupe, swinging his blade lightly in the process and decapitating the man, before heading over to Ahsoka to release her wrist restraints.

Rubbing her wrists gently to sooth the cramp that had formed, Ahsoka accepted Maul's gesture of help to stand before she spoke.

"How did you know where I was?" She inquired to the Zabrak, who still seemed to be calming down from what Ahsoka could only call a blood rage.

"Your avian friend told me. I don't think she likes me very much Lady Tano." Maul replied, gesturing to the creature that was now flying towards Ahsoka, before perching itself on the top of her montrals.

"Don't take it the wrong way Maul. Morai is a bit picky with her friends." Ahsoka replied, lifting one hand to the convor to lightly stroke her beak. The convor hooted again in appreciation, clearly happy for the safety of her friend.

"Tell me about it. The bird compared me to her brother to begin with, whoever the kriff that is. Still, are you unharmed my friend." Maul replied, his golden eyes showing a small if not brief look of concern.

Stretching her arms above her head, Ahsoka nodded. If worst had come to pass, she was almost certain she would have found a way out of such a dire situation. She hoped at least.

However, either out of the 'kindness' of his heart, or because he wanted something, Maul had rescued her.

The Acolytes had openly attacked her today, and whilst their leader may now very well be dead thanks to Maul, Ahsoka was no fool. There would be others, each as dedicated to continuing Darth Sidious' legacy.

And if she was one of their targets, that was fine with her. She would be ready for a fight.

And if they dared come after anyone she cared about, then they would need all the power of their so-called 'gods' to save them.

Looking out of the window again, Ahsoka's eyes were drawn to the flowing rivers of lava. Dangerous, yet surprisingly calm. In control.

That was she hoped she was these days. In control.

Closing her eyes briefly, Ahsoka centred herself in the force, before she began to head for the door, Maul following beside her, and Morai above her.

Before she left however, something caught her eyes. A single silver cylindrical hilt of a lightsaber.

Her lightsaber. The one Vader had corrupted.

Part of her wanted to take it and keep it. To ensure that no one would ever use it again.

But another part of her wanted to leave it. It was no longer hers. And even if it was, someone else had corrupted it. All in the name of returning it to her.

Not for the first time, Ahsoka found herself disgusted at the actions of the man who used to be her master.

Instead, she took a deep breath and bent down, scooping the hilt into her hand and bringing it close to her chest, as if it was some sort of prized possession.

She knew what she wanted to do with it.

**************************************************************************************************************************************************

Minutes later, she found herself standing outside of Vader's fortress on Mustafar, overlooking a lake of lava, the hilt of her old lightsaber in her hand.

It was her past. Of a time when she had been a Jedi, not whatever she was now.

Both Obi-Wan and Anakin had always told her that 'her lightsaber was her life'.

But she had a new life now. One full of rest and general happiness. Her old life was gone. Dead thanks to the actions of the empire.

And thus, she no longer needed to keep any real aspect of it alive, much less her old saber.

Gripping the hilt tightly in her hands, she reared her arm back, and threw the hilt down towards the pool of lava, where it was instantly consumed by the raging fires of Mustafar.

Her old lightsaber was a symbol of the past, one that Vader had tried to control.

Now she had new sabers, and if a lightsaber was truly her life, then she wanted the one that came with them.

Chapter Text

Darth Sidious awakened to find himself in unfamiliar territory. Why he had been lying on his back in the middle of what looked to be a dying forest was unknown to him, but clearly it had happened for some reason. Sitting up from his position, Sidious began to glance around at the trees around him. The forest was not exactly dense, but rather sparse, with plenty of space between the trees for movement.

However, what truly caught his golden eyes was not the number of trees, but rather their colour.

There was no sign of the usual mixture of greens and browns that were almost universal for plants and trees, but rather the various almost monolithic trees around him were an oily black in hue, and almost appeared to be shimmering, as if not truly there.

Rising to his feet slowly, Sidious scowled slightly, his nose picking up some rank stench nearby. If he didn't know any better, he would say it quite literally smelled like death.

Shifting his focus, Sidious began to walk into the trees, his long cloak brushing along the ground beneath him. It was only now that he realized that he was barefooted. What was going on?

Closing his eyes, Sidious attempted to delve into the force, to try and figure out exactly what had happened.

So it came as both a great and horrifying surprise when he realized he could not sense anything around him through the force. He was, to the best of his knowledge, cut off from it.

Him! Darth Sidious! Ruler of a galactic empire, master of the Sith, cut off from the force altogether!

Was this some sort of Jedi trick?! Or some prank by the Inquisitors? Thrawn's pet maybe?!

Ideas flooded into Sidious' head, each making him angrier and angrier as the time passed by.

It was then that he remembered!

Colours and faces flashed in his memories. Orange and red, blue and white.

Togruta and Zabrak.

Tano and Maul!

He fought them, and he had lost!

Or had he? He was not dead! He was here, instead, amongst a sparse forest of oily trees, alive, and in one piece.

Sidious began to cackle aloud. Of course he survived. He would always survive.

The force may have left him temporarily, but it was still with him. And it would still be his servant.

"Master." A voice echoed across the forest around him, Sidious freezing in his movement as he recognized it. One didn't forget the cybernetic sound of it, nor the telltale hiss of the respirator that kept his former apprentice alive.

Turning to the source of the voice, Sidious smiled at the tall imposing black figure before him.

"Lord Vader, my friend. This is a surprise, I had assumed you died on Malachor."

Vader said nothing in return, and made no gesture to suggest that he had heard Sidious' statement.

That didn't bother Sidious in the slightest. He was used to Vader's silent brooding.

"Tell me Lord Vader, do you know where we are currently?" Sidious enquired, genuinely confused about his surroundings. Never had he heard of a place such as this before!

Once again, Vader did not reply, the only sound emanating from him being the sound of his mechanical breathing.

This time round Sidious turned to face him, a grim look on his face. Usually Vader would have had some sort of response to a question. He was only the apprentice after all, and his master had asked him something.

"Lord Vader, did you hear me?" Sidious snarled, clenching his fist tightly in anger.

"You abandoned me to die master! You tried to replace me!" Vader boomed out, his voice loud and terrifying. Sidious had never been scared of Vader before, but this unerved even him.

"It is the way of the Sith my apprentice. I assumed you had fallen, and thus sought your slayer as a worthy replacement. Though it seems I was mistaken. Perhaps now you can reclaim your place by my side as it should be." Sidious replied, keeping his tone steady. In the end, it didn't matter who his apprentice was. They were simply tools to be cast aside when the time was right, and Vader was no different.

But he didn't need to know that!

Vader did not respond as expected. Rather than bow his head in submission as he had many times before, the man who had once been Anakin Skywalker now took a different approach.

Sidious had to force himself not to flinch at the snap hiss of a lightsaber igniting, the bright crimsons blade casting its colour over Vader's black armour, making him even more imposing than he already was.

"Lord Vader! What is the meaning of this!?" Sidious snarled in response as Vader began to advance slowly, the heavy clunking of his boots echoing throughout the oily forest.

"As you said my master, it is the way of the Sith to betray one another. Now, you will die!"

Vader's tone was one of clear evident hatred, fueled entirely by a desire to see Sidious dead.

And that was something Sidious could not allow.

"How unfortunate." Sidious muttered in reply, before reaching into his cloak. He may not be connected to the force, but he still could use a lightsaber.

However, it was then that Sidious made another shocking discovery.

His hands were gone!

And in their place was a pair of stumps where his hands had clearly been sliced off, the telltale scorch marks of a lightsaber as proof on the edge of the stumps.

A flare of terror flooded through Sidious. He had no hands, and no means of defending himself from Vader's wrath.

Falling backwards, Sidious once again found himself on his back as he began to scuttle away from the approaching cyborg.

"Lord Vader! Don't!" Sidious all but pleaded one last time.

But it did not work.

"Die!"

And with that Vader swung his crimson blade downwards towards Sidious' terrified form, the Sith master screaming in terror as it happened.

********************************************************************************************************************************

Darth Sidious awakened to find himself in unfamiliar territory. Why he had been lying on his back in the middle of what looked to be a dying forest was unknown to him, but clearly it had happened for some reason. Sitting up from his position, Sidious began to glance around at the trees around him. The forest was not exactly dense, but rather sparse, with plenty of space between the trees for movement.

And he could have sworn he had already experienced this exact feeling, not moments ago.

Rising to his feet, Sidious began to glance in every direction. He was still cut off from the force, and from the brief glance down at his hands he could still see that he had none.

But right now his concern was elsewhere.

"Where are you Vader you traitor! Come out and face me!" Sidious boomed aloud, his golden eyes surveying each and every tree, waiting to see if there was any indication of the black cyborgs presence.

A few minutes of desperate and frantic searching later, Sidious began to believe that his former apprentice was no longer around.

Suffice to say the Sith master was no more than confused. Whatever this place was was something he had never even heard of before. Was it perhaps some sort of nexus of the force. Or perhaps a meeting spot for those deemed worthy by the darkside.

Or perhaps it was an afterlife of some kind, considering Vader's presence and all.

But he hadn't died, had he? He had escaped, as he always did? Maul and Tano certainly had not been able to kill him!

It was then that Sidious heard movement, coming from behind him. Spinning on his heel, Sidious glanced out at the thick array of oily trees before him, half expecting something, or someone to walk out.

If it was Vader again, he'd be ready this time.

Not that he could truly do much without his connection to the force, or without hands in general.

Truth be told, he was defenceless, and dare he say, weak.

Not that he would ever admit that aloud.

Nothing emerged from the trees before him at first, but the sound of rustling trees continued. He'd assume it was the wind, if he could have felt any blowing against him that was. The air was oddly stale, and that only unnerved Sidious more.

The rustling began to grow closer, and closer, and closer, and beneath his thick cloak Sidious could feel his skin begin to sweat in aprehension.

And then a figure emerged from the shadows of the trees, and Sidious eyes widened in both horror and surprise.

"You?!" Sidious whispered as the tall man dressed in regal clothes approached him, a venomous look on his face, his pointed beard only further adding to the sharp lines that made up his wrinkled face.

"Me!" The man snarled back, his eyes blazing gold in hatred.

"Impossible! You died Lord Tyranus, on the Invisible Hand. Skywalker decapitated you!" Sidious exclaimed as the man who had been his apprentice before Vader approached him slowly, much as Vader had previously.

"Indeed I was Lord Sidious, by your own orders if I recall. Now it is time for my revenge." The figure of Count Dooku spoke, his ever pompous voice reeking of self importance. Sidious had always despised the man.

As Sidious began to cautiously back away, he found himself suddenly suspended in the air with what felt like a rope being tightened around his neck.

Sidious eyes bulged as he realised what was happening, all the while the grip around his neck growing tighter and tighter. Before him, Dooku had one hand out, gesturing brutally with a clawed hand towards his former master, a dark satisfied smirk on his face.

"Tell me master, how does it feel to be on the receiving end for a change? Speaking from experience, I know it is quite painful." Dooku boasted, the smark never leaving his face, even as Sidious vision began to darken due to lack of oxygen.

It was then that Sidious began to feel the grip around his neck loosen, and oxygen flood back into his body.

And then Dooku spoke again, still suspending Sidious above the ground.

"Choking someone with the force, while effective, is not as satisfying as this though!"

In an instant the shape of Dooku's hand changed from a claw into an outward position, fingertips pointing directly towards Sidious' form. The Sith master yelled out in shock at the realization of what was about to happen.

Lightning erupted from Count Dooku's hand, crashing into Sidious' body and sending volt after volt of deadly energy through him. Sidious began to scream in agony as he felt his skin begin to burn and cook, much as it had years ago at the hands of his own lightning. Back then it had disfigured him badly.

But now there was no way to stop it. He was not the one in control. Dooku was.

And from the elder man's face Sidious could tell he had no intention of ceasing anytime soon.

The lightning continued to burn into his body, his breathing beginning to grow heavily out of sync, his heart rapidly beating out of control.

But still Dooku continued, shifting his hand in various motions to direct the energy in vicious arcs, scorching each part of his former master's form.

Sidious screamed and howled in agony, until everything went dark.

************************************************************************************************************

Darth Sidious awakened to find himself in unfamiliar territory. Why he had been lying on his back in the middle of what looked to be a dying forest was unknown to him, but clearly it had happened for some reason. Sitting up from his position, Sidious began to glance around at the trees around him. The forest was not exactly dense, but rather sparse, with plenty of space between the trees for movement.

No! Wait!

He had done this before! And Vader had come to kill him!

No, it had been Dooku that was out to kill him, not Vader!

But he remembered Vader, and his lightsaber!

And Dooku, and the lightning!

What was going on?

"Master?" A chorus of voices echoed from behind Sidious as he vaulted to his feet in terror, causing the Sith Lord to pivot sharply, taking in the assembled group before him.

A large collection of individuals all stood before him, each a different species, but each dressed in armour adorned with the imperial cog.

Glancing between each face, Sidious identified each species.

There was a Mirialan, and a Miraluka. A Dowutin also stood among them, as well as several other species that even Sidious could not identify.

And there, at the front of the assembled group stood a Pau'an male, a fierce look on his face.

It was then that Sidious realized exactly who stood before him.

Sidious watched as each figure gripped hold of a hilt of a lightsaber, igniting the blades with what appeared to be fury. The group before him was now bathed in red light, and grew ever closer, some of their blades beginning to rotate viciously, whilst others remained still and poised to strike.

As Sidious continued to survey the group coming towards him, clearly intent on killing him, he noticed the specific lack of a certain Terrelian Jango Jumper.

However, Sidious had no time to dwell on such thoughts, not as the first murderous individual barred down upon him, a chorus of dark laughter from his siblings echoing throughout the oily trees.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Darth Sidious awakened...

Chapter Text

Ezra Bridger sat in the pilot seat of the Phantom II, hands steady on the joystick as he piloted the transport through the clouds around him. He was no expert in piloting himself, even with Hera's training, but he knew enough to be able to do this solo.

It also helped that the weather seemed to be stable today. There was no harsh wind storm, or thunderous shower. Just calm air for him to fly to. That was one thing off his mind at least, for he was almost sure that today would either end with happiness and joy, or anger and rage.

Ezra wouldn't be too surprised if it was the latter, considering what he was about to.

It had been late on night on Yavin Four. The majority of the crew had either been asleep, or completing menial tasks around the rebel base, most likely paperwork. The only person who seemed to be actively awake was Kallus of all people. Then again, Ezra wasn't sure if Kallus ever really slept. The man was a workaholic!

Ezra himself had just been climbing into his bunk when his personal comm link had flashed at him. At first guess he assumed it was another mission of some kind, or some report he needed to give to someone.

It hadn't been either of them, and it had been sent to his personal account, as opposed to his more heavily encrypted officer account he used as a Lieutenant Commander of the rebellion.

His interest gained, Ezra had opened the message, his eyes widening at it's contents. It was a short simple message from an individual he had met unexpectedly on his travels, one who harbored a dark past filled with regret and remorse. He had suspected that this day would come, when the woman he had met would build up enough confidence to approach him to help her.

And he was more than willing to help reunite two old friends, even if their friendship had ended badly.

And so it was that he had in the thick of night borrowed the Phantom, with authorization from Hera, and began his journey.

The trip through hyperspace to Mirial had been short and uneventful, a vast difference to his last trip to the planet. This time round there had been no TIE Defender to shoot him down, for which Ezra was grateful. He hate to have to tell Hera that he had wrecked yet another Phantom.

Sabine would probably kill him too to be fair. After all, the Mandalorian woman had spent a lot of time and effort on painting the damn shuttle.

Landing on the planet had been easy too, and the woman who had called for him was already waiting upon his arrival. She looked nervous on first glance, terrified even. Ezra understood why. Frankly, in her position, there was no way in a million years he would ever try to do what she wanted to do.

She may not have realized it, but she was being very brave today. Ezra could see why she had been a Jedi in the past.

The Mirialan woman had boarded the Phantom in silence, taking her position in the co-pilot seat, her eyes darting around in what Ezra assumed was apprehension.

It occurred to Ezra that this could very well be the first time she had been off the planet for years, considering her past. Her time spent as a spiritual healer had kept her busy.

When it had appeared she was settled and comfortable, Ezra had thrown a warm smile her way and taken control of the ship again, lifting it into orbit and preparing the hyperdrive for the second time today.

The second trip was just as uneventful as the first trip, but had left time for discussion between the two.

"So how exactly do you know Ahsoka? Is she your teacher?" The Mirialan woman that Ezra knew as Salvia asked, her voice light and gentle, but clearly hiding her inner doubts and worry about the impending reunion.

"She's more of a second master in a way, offering me advice when Kanan's falls through, which is rare as it is." Ezra replied, as he watched the vortex of blue light through the cockpit window.

"I don't recall anyone named Kanan in the temple when I was there. Did he change his name?" Salvia responded, clearly confused.

Ezra nodded in reply. Surely there was no harm in telling Salvia these things. After all, she was trying to, in her own words, find redemption.

And from what he had learnt as a Jedi, they believed strongly in second chances.

Ahsoka's alliance with Maul was evidence enough for that!

"Yeah he did. Back then he was called Caleb Dume, but changed it to hide after the Jedi purge."

From the corner of his eye Ezra saw Salvia's eyes widen slightly in what he assumed was recognition. It appeared that, despite Kanan's statements refuting it, young Caleb Dume was a well known name around the old order.

Ezra could only begin to fathom why his master was so notorious.

"Well he's taught a strong young padawan. You should be proud of yourself. I know I would be if you were my padawan." Salvia replied, her voice sounding happy and enthusiastic for the first time coming aboard the Phantom.

Ezra had nodded his thanks, before turning his attention back to monitoring the various readouts around the cockpit. The two sat in comfortable silence for several minutes, both either watching the vortex of hyperspace, or checking the various readouts.

Then Salvia spoke again, her voice timid and unsure.

"Do you think she will forgive me. I know I wouldn't."

Ezra had thought long and hard about this, even if it wasn't his to think about. Yes, Salvia had betrayed Ahsoka, and practically destroyed her life for a time being.

But the Togrutan woman had had changed since then. Her life had not been ruined, but merely altered.

And now she was happy, by her own admission, something that had not happened since the Clone Wars.

Salvia on the other hand was another story. She had paid the price, done her time, and was still evidently racked by everlasting guilt over what she had done. It was clear from when Ezra had met her before that Salvia regretted her actions, and that she wanted either to make amends, or at the very least have the opportunity to apologize, even if it wasn't accepted.

In the end, that was what mattered most. That she tried at the very least.

That was the response he gave to Salvia, who seemed despondent at it, but understanding at the same time.

The rest of the trip through hyperspace had been silent, as had the approach to the moon that Ahsoka Tano now called home. He had only ever been to her personal apartment once before, shortly after the mission to eliminate the Emperor. He and Kanan had traveled there with Obi-Wan for a simple personal visit. It was a rather spacious place for one person, holding all the necessities that one would need to live comfortably in the middle of nowhere.

It was, in Ezra's mind, the perfect place for Ahsoka to retire to after so many years of fighting. Plus Ezra was certain that it wasn't just her home after all now.

As the Phantom cleared the clouds in the sky, the ride became even smoother. Gently tilting the joystick that controlled the angle of the transport, Ezra angled the ship downwards for a comfortable landing.

When he felt the ship touch the floor, he powered off it's systems, glancing out at the small house in the distance. Both he and Salvia would have to walk the rest of the way.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The walk barely took them five minutes, not that Ezra was truly expecting it to take long in the first place. After all his training, both physical and mental, the walk had barely been more than a simple stroll.

Salvia appeared to be the same. She seemed composed and steadfast, as if determined to do what she had come here to do. Ezra wasn't sure if it was a brave face she was putting on, but he wasn't going to risk pointing it out and destabilizing her mentally. He knew firsthand what regret could do to a person.

Instead, he reached into the force, trying to find her presence within it. Her signature was there, just barely. It was as if she was purposefully trying to conceal it, almost out of shame.

Still, he sent what reassuring energy he could to it, hoping it would keep her calm.

And then, before he knew it, they had arrived at the front door.

Turning around, he locked eyes with Salvia one last time.

"You ready for this?"

Salvia hesitated, her eyes giving away the turmoil within. She was about to face her entire past, all contained within one person. It was only natural that she was scared.

But still, despite this, the Mirialan seemed resolute. She closed her eyes briefly, taking several slow steady breaths, before nodding to Ezra.

In response, the young Jedi nodded back, before turning around and knocking on the door thrice.

From the other side of the door, Ezra managed to pick up the sound of movement, as well as a light voice stating they were coming. It was early morning on the moon, meaning that the occupants most likely had only just gotten up. Hopefully they wouldn't mind the early morning disruption.

A few seconds later, the door opened, and a figure stood before them, one that was not Ahsoka.

"Hey, Ezra, it's good to see you. What's up?" Kaeden Larte spoke, her voice as chipper as ever. As long as Ezra had known the woman she was cheerful, never letting any darker more upsetting emotions take hold, which was remarkable, considering what she had endured years before at the hands of an Inquisitor.

Ezra liked Kaeden. In a strange way, she reminded him of his own mother. Always kind and compassionate, and willing to help anyone who needed it. She was good match for the usually hectic Togruta that she now lived with. She kept her balanced and in control.

A fulcrum in a way.

"Hey Kaeden, is Ahsoka in? I've got someone with me who needs to speak to her." Ezra replied as he was pulled into an embrace by Kaeden. That was another thing about the dark skinned woman. She was a very loving individual.

Behind him, he felt Salvia shift on her heels, clearly confused by the sudden appearance of a woman who was not Ahsoka in what was supposedly Ahsoka's house.

"Yeah she's in Ezra. Doing her morning meditation. She'll be down in a minute." Kaeden replied, gesturing for Ezra to enter into the house before glancing over at Salvia, "Who's this with you then?"

"This is Salvia. She's a friend of Ahsoka's from before the fall of the republic. She wants to talk to Ahsoka about something."

Kaeden's face went through a myriad of emotions in several seconds. There was doubt, and then concern, and then suspicion, before acceptance.

"Ok then, come on in Salvia. Can I get you anything while we wait for our favorite Togruta?" Kaeden replied, stepping aside in the process to welcome Salvia into the home.

For the first time since the door opened Salvia spoke, her voice soft and gentle, with a hint of trepidation. Ezra suspected he knew why. Ahsoka's force signature was very strong when in close proximity to it, especially after being away from it for a while.

"No thank you, I'm ok."

Before anymore discussion could be had, the sound of feet slowly walking down padded stairs hit Ezra's ears. Glancing at Salvia, Ezra noticed that she had frozen, her entire body going tense in dread. Kaeden's expression was the exact opposite. A bright smile was plastered on her face.

Seconds later, a familiar Togruta rounded the corner from the bottom of the stairs, dressed in unexpectedly casual clothing devoid of any armour. It was a far cry from the usual attire the former Jedi wore.

Ahsoka spotted Ezra first, a surprised smile coming to her face first as she moved to great the young Jedi.

"Ezra! This is a welcome surprise. Is everything ok?"

Before Ezra could even get out a response, Kaeden interrupted.

"Ezra's brought someone to see you. Apparently she's an old friend of yours."

The look of confusion on Ahsoka's face was brief, before her eyes shifted across the hallway they were in, looking onto the figure of Salvia, who still stood still.

Ezra watched Ahsoka for reaction. For a moment, there was none, and then confusion.

And then her eyes sharpened suddenly in what appeared to be recognition.

Ahsoka's face contorted suddenly, in what Ezra could only describe as feral rage. He knew Togruta were a naturally carnivorous species of hunter gatherers, but he had never expected to see Ahsoka in such a way. The former Jedi was all but snarling, her sharp canine teeth suddenly being bared to the world.

And then one word escaped Ahsoka's mouth, in a tone Ezra had never heard before.

"You!" It was said with utter contempt and hatred, as if she was spitting acid out of her gums. Had he not known that Ahsoka was a genuinely nice person, he'd almost mistake her for some monster out for blood. He knew that Ahsoka and Salvia's relationship had ended badly. But he had never expected this reaction.

What happened next however scared him even more. Ahsoka's normally bright blue eyes flashed golden briefly, and Ezra's senses were overcome with a rush of the darkside of the force.

And then, just like that the feeling was gone, and Ahsoka's eyes were bright blue again.

And with that she promptly stormed off back up the stairs, leaving a despondent Salvia, a horrified Ezra, and a confused Kaeden in her wake.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Barriss Offee had expected this reaction. She knew that Ahsoka would hate her. Did hate her. She hated herself for what she had done to her old friend. Yes, the Jedi had been corrupt, and the republic had been failing in everything it stood for.

But Ahsoka hadn't. She had been a shining example of everything that was good, at least in Barriss' eyes. Barriss had been a good padawan, always following orders and keeping to tradition. Ahsoka had been the exact opposite. Outgoing and confident, yet incredibly skilled and successful. The bond she shared with her master had been incredibly close, giving rise to all sorts of rumours back in the day, not that there had been any truth behind them. It was quite the contrast in the end of the day to herself and Master Luminara.

Her and Ahsoka had been an odd friendship, especially to any outsider. The rebel and the studious one.

But Barriss had treasured that. It was nice for once to have someone who saw her as Barriss the friend, rather than Barriss the Jedi.

And then she had betrayed her, framed her.

Left her to die.

And everything had fallen apart. Yes, Barriss had gotten the message across that she wanted to, but it had cost her everything. Her place as a Jedi, her name…

And her best friend.

And then, when everything had fallen apart even further, she had taken the opportunity to run, start afresh, and hopefully find some sort of redemption, even if she deserved none. She had always been good at healing people, and that she figured would be the best way to honour the memory of all who had fallen, as well as the memory of her friend.

Except that her friend had been alive all this time, and here she was now in her house, facing her for the first time in two decades. She had grown considerably, her height towering over everyone else in the room. Barriss could imagine her standing next to her former Master, gloating about who was taller.

She had looked well, healthy with little wear upon her.

And then Ahsoka had seen her, and her entire demeanor had shifted into one of anger. The bright golden eyes that had flashed would haunt her, Barriss knew. What had happened to Ahsoka that had pushed her to what appeared to be the edge of the darkside?

Blinking her eyes to escape her inner thoughts, Barriss suddenly found herself seated on a comfortable sofa in what appeared to be the living room of the house. It was spacious, and full of various comforts that any normal person would relish. Looking up she spied a large glass pane door that led to a well looked after garden. Barriss couldn't imagine for a second that Ahsoka was responsible for its maintenance. The girl hadn't exactly had a greenthumb when she was younger.

Movement out of the corner of her eye shifted Barriss attention. Sitting down in a separate equally looking comfy chair across from her was the dark skinned woman who had greeted them at the door. Barriss seemed to recall her name being Kaeden. The question was who was she?

"So… you knew Ahsoka then?" The woman, Kaeden asked, her voice tentative. In her hand she held two cups of what appeared to be caf, one of which she passed over to Barriss, the Mirialan accepting it in the process.

The liquid was relatively strong, not what Barriss prefered, but it would do. "I did, when we were younger. I was a Jedi back then alongside her."

Kaeden's eyebrow raised slightly at the mention of 'was a Jedi', her interest clearly gained.

Or her concern, Barriss was unsure which it was.

"Aside from Ahsoka all the former Jedi I've ever met or heard of were either Sith Lords or Inquisitors. What are you exactly?" Kaeden questioned further, taking a gentle sip of her caf in the process. The line of questioning was not entirely unexpected, but Barriss had expected it to come from Ahsoka herself, not this mysterious woman.

"I'm not anything anymore. I won't ever hold the right to the title of Jedi again, and the Sith certainly never desired my services. I am but a healer looking to right the wrongs I did in the past." Barriss answered, struggling to keep her voice steady. Images of the trial, of Ahsoka's trial came to her mind, and how she had been so willing to leave her friend to be torn apart by the political machinations of Palpatine and Tarkin.

Kaeden seemed to mull over Barriss' statement for a bit, the inquisitive look in her eye never leaving, even as she again sipped on her caf.

The silence that echoed around them was broken seconds later by Kaeden.

"I've rarely seen Ahsoka that angry before. Scared? Sure. Happy? Definitely. Determined? You bet! But never have I ever seen what I would call pure animalistic rage from her. Now I may not be an expert in deducing such things, but I've known Ahsoka long enough to know that there is only one thing that would cause her to display such emotion. Betrayal!"

Barriss felt her entire spirit sink as she listened to this woman's words. It was evident that they were close, how close Barriss was unsure, but close enough to share personal things. And right now all Kaeden was doing was pointing out everything that Barriss had ever thought herself. She had betrayed Ahsoka, and she had no right to be here to ask for her forgiveness.

Across from her Kaeden continued to speak. "Now as it stands I only know of two people who have ever betrayed Ahsoka in a manner worse enough to instill that sought of response. One is dead by her hand, so you must be the other one, the one who bombed the Jedi temple and framed her for terrorism!"

Barriss barely recognized Kaeden's revelation at her identity. Truth be told she had stopped listened when she had heard that someone else had betrayed Ahsoka in a manner similar to her. Whoever it was should be glad they were dead, or Barriss would have paid them a visit herself!

"Who was it, the other one? I need to know." Barriss couldn't help up ask. She had to know.

"Why should I tell you?" Kaeden replied in a steady voice. It wasn't harsh or hostile, but calm, as if willing to listen.

"Not a day has gone by that I don't think about what I did to Ahsoka. I'll live with that memory for years. All I want to do is help people, like she does. And yes, I hurt her, badly, but I still care about her and would protect her with my dying breath!" Barriss replied, raising her voice slightly as she spoke, surprising herself at the force of the comment.

Kaeden seemed to understand, a small smile coming to her face. Barriss hoped that meant she approved.

"I get that. Being responsible for the feeding and well being of Ahsoka Tano is no easy feat. And despite your past grievances, you seem genuinely distraught. As for who the other one who betrayed her is, that's for her to tell you, not me."

Barriss couldn't help but chuckle at Kaeden's statement about Ahsoka. It seemed that age hadn't tempered her excitable side much.

"That is assuming she wants to talk to me at all?" Barriss replied, trying not to sound too disappointed. It wasn't her choice at the end of the day. It was Ahsoka's and she would respect it regardless.

"I'm sure she will in time. Ahsoka may be a bit too impulsive at times, but she always comes around. I've lost count of how many petty squabbles we've had." Kaeden replied, sipping her caf again with a smile on her face, as if she was lost in a memory. "We always make up in the end, in one way or another."

Barriss nodded, her interest on who this woman was to Ahsoka piqued even further. Clearly they were very close judging by the way Kaeden spoke about her.

"You seem very close to Ahsoka. I'm glad she's got a good friend like you." Barriss commented, trying to get on the woman's good side, drinking another sip of her own cadf in the process.

Across from her Kaeden's smile got wider, an almost mischievous look appearing in her eyes.

"Oh Ahsoka's more than my friend. She's my girlfriend, and thus her care is kinda my business more than most."

Barriss couldn't help her eyes bulging in their sockets at the mention of the bond between Ahsoka and Kaeden.

Kaeden meanwhile only laughed at Barriss' expression.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

What Ezra assumed was the bedroom door was locked, with no way of opening it.

That of course wasn't entirely true. He could easily open the door with the force and walk into the room. Nothing was stopping him, much less a single door.

He wouldn't however. The last thing he wanted to do was forcefully disturb his friends privacy. Ahsoka was clearly very upset, or angry, or something.

But that didn't mean he wasn't going to talk to her.

Leaning closer to the door, Ezra lifted a single hand ready to knock on the door when sound from the other side halted him. Through the door he could hear what he would of called as a gentle bird call, followed by Ahsoka's soft voice speaking. Leaning his head against the door, Ezra began to listen in.

"Morai I don't want to see her. She betrayed me."

'Hoot?'

"She left me for dead Morai! She's no friend of mine."

'Hoot hoot?'

"Why should I? She never bothered to come to talk to me about her problems back then. Instead she blew up the kriffing temple!"

'Hoot.'

"But she could always talk to me Morai, she knew that!"

'Hoot! Hoot hoot!'

"Hey! Watch your language!"

'HOOT!'

The dialogue on the other side of the door was impossible to unravel. Even Thrawn would struggle to make anything from it. And it was clear that it was going nowhere fast. Seizing his opportunity in the brief period of silence, Ezra knocked on the door gently.

"Ahsoka? It's Ezra. can I come in please?"

There was no response for a few moments, for which Ezra took as a no. Turning on his heel and preparing to head back downstairs, Ezra's attention was drawn back to the bedroom door when it creaked open slightly. Ezra guessed that meant he was allowed entry.

Stepping into what he assumed was Ahsoka's bedroom, Ezra began to take the room in. The bed looked incredibly comfortable, a shot of jealousy shooting through him as he thought back to his simple bunk back on the Ghost. The room was painted with various shades of light green, and odd colour to be sure, but a welcome one at that.

And there, perched on the end of the bed, Convor resting on one arm was Ahsoka. She didn't look like she had been crying or anything, but she was clearly distraught.

"Hey Ezra, sorry about that down there. You shouldn't have had to see that sort of reaction from me." Ahsoka spoke, her voice as warm and welcoming as it had always been. There was no sign of the darkness that had been there earlier, not that Ezra expected there to be any. Despite her struggles, Ezra knew that Ahsoka was inherently a force of good.

"Don't worry about it Ahsoka. How are you doing?" Ezra replied, coming to sit next to Ahsoka on the end of the bed. As he did so, the convor, Morai, made several happy sounds, before jumping off of Ahsoka's arm and coming to rest in Ezra's lap, nuzzling him in the process. Ezra wasn't sure why Ahsoka's pet bird liked him so much, but he didn't mind. After all, he was good with animals.

In response to his question, Ahsoka simply shrugged. Her face shifted between unsure, to worry, to what he thought was guilt. Why would she have any reason to feel guilty?

Taking her silence as a sign that he could speak, Ezra began to chose his words carefully.

"I know I should have told you about her, but she asked that I didn't, not until she was ready to talk to you. I don't fully understand what happened between the two of you, but I get the feeling that she really regrets what she did to you and wants to at very least just talk to you again. You don't have to be friends, just talk at least once."

Ahsoka seemed to contemplate Ezra's words for a few moments, and from the way Morai was fidgeting in his lap and hooting he assumed that meant the convor agreed with him.

"Where did you even find her?" Ahsoka inquired, hand coming up to gently rub her shoulders. She was clearly apprehensive about everything that was going on.

"Crash landed on Mirial. Got hurt pretty bad. She healed me up with the force. She's been living there since the fall of the republic, helping people, healing them. The villagers I spoke to saw her as some sort of spiritual healer. But from what she told me it's almost as if she is searching for some kind of redemption, whilst not believing she deserves it in the first place." Ezra replied, recalling his adventure. He wasn't going to lie to Ahsoka. She deserved the truth, no matter what her decision would be regarding it.

"Barriss always was a gifted healer, and being a war general never really suited her." Ahsoka seemed to speak gently, almost wistfully, as if remembering a long forgotten past. The likelihood was that she was.

Ezra noted the use of a different name from the one Salvia had told him. No doubt it was an alternate name, much like Kanan was not Kanan's real name.

"Look Ahsoka, I know she hurt you badly. In your place I would more than likely be apologetically angry. But you're not me, and this isn't you, sulking in a bedroom because you don't want to talk to someone." Ezra continued, trying to hopefully get her to understand. He didn't like seeing Ahsoka, who he personally viewed as an immovable object, this unbalanced. It unnerved him.

"I just… I wouldn't even know where to begin Ezra. What do I say to someone who betrayed me and left me for dead over twenty years ago?" Ahsoka replied, her voice quickening in what appeared to be stress at the situation. She had begun rubbing her arms faster now, a telltale sign of an impending breakdown.

It was an odd question, especially aimed at someone like him. Usually she was the one giving advice to him, not the other way around. Suffice to say Ezra didn't like it, but he would help how he could.

"Let me ask you this then Ahsoka: If Anakin Skywalker appeared right now in this very room, what would you say to him?"

Ezra knew that Ahsoka's master was a sore subject at the best of times, but he hoped that either she wouldn't mind, or that it would have the intended effect.

"I'd punch him in his smug looking face!" Ahsoka's answer was fast and blunt, causing both of them to chuckle at the image. The statement wasn't said with any anger or hatred, but what appeared to be fondness.

"And then?" Ezra asked.

Ahsoka was silent for a moment, staring off into space as if reliving another memory.

"And then he's say 'Is that the best you've got Snips, let me show you how a true Jedi fights!'" Ahsoka continued, her voice dropping a few octaves as she impersonated her former master, earning another chuckle from Ezra.

"And from there," Ahsoka continued before Ezra could, " I'd tell him that I'm sorry that I left him, and that his teachings mean the universe to me, and that I wish I could have him back by my side, just for a day."

As she spoke, her tone grew more and more upset. She still didn't cry, but Ezra didn't miss the way her shoulders drooped in despair. Neither did Morai, who upon noticing her upset owner, jumped up from Ezra's lap and darted into Ahsoka's, the Togruta bringing a hand onto the Convor's head to stroke it in return.

Ezra contemplated Ahsoka's words. It was clear that she missed her master, even after everything he had done as Vader. She would never be able to get him back, to rekindle that relationship they once had.

But that didn't mean she couldn't do the same with Barriss.

"Anakin may be gone Ahsoka, but Barriss isn't. She's downstairs waiting to talk to you. Despite his past you miss Anakin don't you? Well what about Barriss? Do you miss her as well?"

Ahsoka replied to Ezra's question with a simple nod of her head.

"Well then, now's your chance to rekindle that friendship. Your a different person now Ahsoka, as is Barriss. If you can't go back to where you once were, then start afresh." Ezra finished up, hoping he was having some sort of comforting effect on the Togruta.

"Besides, she did pretty much save the life of your favourite blue haired padawan!" Ezra quipped on the end of his speech, adding much needed humor to the situation, one that Ahsoka laughed at in response.

The Togruta was silent for a few moments, before she took a deep breath and turned her head to face Ezra, a gentle smile on her face.

"When did you become so wise Ezra Bridger?"

Ezra merely shrugged in response, a smirk on his face.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you and Ahsoka were…" Barriss tried to formulate the words. Despite no longer being a Jedi, Barriss had never found anyone herself. She had adhered to her solidarity in life, choosing to remain alone. It was easier for her that way, no one to tie her down or be disappointed in her, aside from herself of course.

Clearly Ahsoka was different, not that Barriss should have been too surprised, given the rumors that had circulated about Ahsoka's master back in the day.

"In a relationship, that fine. We're not exactly outgoing about it. We prefer our privacy, what with Ahsoka's Jedi hangups and everything." Kaeden replied, her voice happy and bouncy, as if she couldn't believe what she was saying herself.

It was then that Barriss felt something shift in the force. She rarely connected to it deeply these days, aside from when she was healing someone. That being said she was always connected to it on some level subconsciously, and so could feel the slight shift in it when Ahsoka Tano entered the room.

Barriss could see that Ahsoka was still uncomfortable in her presence, not that she blamed her. She had wronged her in the worst possible way. Whoever this other person that had betrayed her was most likely had nothing on her betrayal.

Barriss watched as Ahsoka moved over to sit on the arm of the chair Kaeden was resting on, shooting a grateful smile to the dark skinned woman in the process.

"Yeah well at least I didn't get captured three separate times to get me to come rescue you Kaeden." Ahsoka quipped, clearly enjoying the slight look of mortification that crossed Kaeden's face in the process.

It was then that Ahsoka shifted to face Barriss, a reluctant smile coming to her face. Her eyes were solid blue, Barriss noted, and she felt entrenched in the lightside of the force. Whatever the earlier descent into darkness had been was not usual, Barriss could tell, but merely an accident.

Neither spoke for a few seconds, both simply just taking in the visage of their former friend, waiting to see who would speak first. Mercifully, Kaeden also kept quite.

And then Ahsoka spoke.

"Hello again Barriss, we have a lot to talk about don't we."

'Yes.' Barriss thought. 'Yes we most certainly do.'