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The Daughter

Chapter Text

Coruscant

“It is the Council’s opinion that padawan Ahsoka Tano has committed sedition against the Republic and thus, she will be expelled from the Jedi Order.”

Mace Windu’s words cut through Ahsoka like ice. How she remained standing on the narrow platform, she didn’t know. She felt so dizzy that the vertigo almost overtook her. Vaguely, she could hear Anakin speaking angrily, but the words sounded distorted and distant. Then Mace Windu was speaking again, but the words came in and out of focus, so that Ahsoka only caught snippets of it.

 “…forfeit all rank and privileges of the Grand Army of the Republic…Republic Courts to await your trial…whatever punishment they set… you are barred from the Jedi Order.” Mace’s final sentence reached her with devastating clarity. Barred from the Jedi Order. The phrase played over and over again in her mind, like some cruel echo. Behind her, one of the Council guards stepped forward and tore off her padawan beads.

Barred from the Jedi Order. It was those five little words that played yet again through her head a few days later as the Jedi Council apologized to her.

“You have our most humble apologies, little 'Soka. The Council was wrong to accuse you,” said Plo Koon. Ahsoka could not make eye contact with him. The lack of faith that all of the Council members had showed her stung, but none worse than Plo Koon and Obi-Wan.

“You have shown such great strength and resilience in your struggle to prove your innocence,” said Saesee Tiin. She knew him only a little, but vividly remembered the way he had glared down at her in the Chamber of Judgement.

“This is the true sign of a Jedi Knight,” said Ki-Adi Mundi. Two weeks ago such words would have made her swell with pride, but now she felt nothing but empty.

“This was actually your great trial. Now we see that. We understand that the Force works in mysterious ways, and because of this trial, you have become a greater Jedi than you would have otherwise,” said Mace.

“Back into the Order, you may come,” said Yoda.

Then Anakin looked at her with such hopefulness and said, “They're asking you back, Ahsoka. I'm asking you back.” He extended a hand, holding out her padawan beads to her.

Ahsoka reached her hand out, hesitating for a moment, before she closed Anakin’s hand over the beads.

“I’m sorry, Master, but I’m not coming back.” She turned and walked away.

He followed her, tried to convince her to stay, that leaving was a mistake, but Ahsoka was sure of her decision. There was something defeated and broken about the way that she stood, her shoulders slumped and her eyes cast downward.

“More than you realize, I understand wanting to walk away from the order,” he said.

She couldn’t meet his eyes.

“I know,” she said. She walked away down the stone steps of the temple, and left him standing there. She didn’t look back.

 

Somewhere in Hyperspace, Approaching the Outer Rim

Do you see what I’ve become, Ahsoka?

Ahsoka bolted upright, panting hard and with beads of sweat running down her face. She felt as if her chest had been compressed and she had to take deep gulping breaths of air to get oxygen. It took her a moment to calm herself from the nightmare and the voice she had heard in it. It had been chilling, horrifying, and also familiar, but Ahsoka could not remember why. Trying to recall the images of the dream was an even more futile task, as they faded away like wisps of smoke in the wind.

Once her breathing had slowed, Ahsoka was able to take in more of her surroundings again. The Mirialan and the Twi’lek women with whom she was sharing a cabin on the transport ship were both still sound asleep. Ahsoka closed her eyes, listening to them and reaching out to them with the Force, trying to take some of their tranquility into her own feelings. She leaned her back against the wall, looking out into the dark room and closed her eyes. This was not the first nightmare she had had, but it was the first since she had left the Order. As a padawan, whenever she felt scared or uneasy, she would hold her lightsabers. Just the solid weight and grip of them would provide some comfort to her, as would knowing that she could fight off whatever was coming.

Her lightsabers were back on Coruscant, probably put into storage in the underground levels of the Jedi Temple with all the other extra lightsabers. Or perhaps Anakin had kept them. That thought made her even more sad.

Though she was no longer under the panic of the nightmare, Ahsoka could tell that she was not going to sleep any time soon. She could meditate, she supposed, although she had had some trouble with that lately. Every time she tried, it was like she hit some block that she could not overcome. Without sleep or meditating, that just left sitting in the dark for four more hours, alone with her thoughts as she waited for the transport ship to reach its destination.

 

Sundari, Mandalore

There was little fanfare or fuss when the transport ship docked at the port on Sundari. Only two guards were on duty, one of whom was checking the papers of the visitors and another who was eating a sandwich and watching them with only mild interest. As a padawan, Ahsoka had not had to carry any papers or identification. The lightsabers were usually enough to get her into anywhere. She again regretted leaving them behind, wishing she had stopped by her room before leaving Coruscant. There had been no time, though. She couldn’t stand to be on that planet for one moment longer and so she had left quickly, taking what little credit she had and booking a one-way ticket to Mandalore, where hopefully she still had friends.

Leaving her lightsabers was not her only regret. She did not say goodbye or thank you Padmé, and especially after Padmé had defended her in the trial. Ahsoka would have to make up for that someday. There were others she wished she could have said goodbye to, as well: R2D2, the brave little droid. Tera Sinube, the old jedi who helped her recover her stolen lightsaber. Rex, Jesse, Kix, Fives, so many of the 501 st . And Riyo Chuchi, who had been her friend for so long.

Then again, she had thought Barriss was her friend, and look how that had turned out. Ahsoka didn’t know how Riyo had voted during the trial, if the senator had agreed with the guilty verdict. Ahsoka didn’t think that Riyo could have believed all the lies, but she couldn’t be sure. Maybe she would never know. Maybe it was better not to know.

She had come so close to being found guilty. The details of the trial still lingered in her mind, unwanted but persistent.

“Ahsoka Tano, by an overwhelming count of –“ Palpatine had begun to say, sitting above her, looming over her in his podium, but then Anakin had cut him off.

It was too much to think about.

“Move along.”

Ahsoka snapped back into the present, realizing that she had gotten lost in her thoughts and was holding up the line. She nodded politely to the guard, who handed her back her papers and waved her into Sundari. She didn’t have enough money for a hovercraft ride, but she remembered her way to the palace well enough, and it was not too far to walk. The city was bright and glittering under its dome, just as it had been the last time she had visited. She walked through what appeared to be a restaurant district, and the smells of cooking meat began to make her stomach rumble with hunger. She ignored it and pressed on toward the palace.

The royal guard stopped her at the front doors, holding their spears across each other to block her way. She introduced herself as a Jedi padawan and one of the guards went to inform the Duchess, though he eyed her lack of a lightsaber belt before he went. Still, a few minutes later he came back out and led Ahsoka into the building to the throne room, where Satine was sitting.

“Padawan Tano,” said Satine with a smile. She stood and moved gracefully down the steps of the dais to greet Ahsoka.

“Duchess Satine. It is good to see you again,” said Ahsoka.

“And you. Although, I must say I am a little surprised to see you. I was not informed that a Jedi was coming to visit us.”

“I-I am not a Jedi,” Ahsoka stuttered out.

“A padawan, I mean. You will be a full Jedi soon enough.” Satine gestured for them to go out onto the balcony and began to walk toward the door.

“No, I won’t. I, um, left the order.”

Satine froze, turning back to look at Ahsoka.

“It’s kind of a long story,” said Ahsoka.

“Let’s go outside,” said Satine. She nodded to her guards to tell them to wait in the throne room. The balcony had a small table and some chairs set up around it, all surrounded by potted plants. It would have made a perfect spot to sit and drink tea, thought Ahsoka glumly, wondering if Obi-Wan would have liked it.

Satine was a polite listener to Ahsoka’s story, not giving away much in the way of emotion, but frowning ever more deeply. Ahsoka told her everything – almost everything – about the Temple bombing, the botched investigation, her time on the run, her trial, and finally her decision to leave the Order after her name was cleared.

“You have faced a great deal since the last time we spoke, especially for one so young,” said Satine, choosing her words carefully.

“I’m sorry if I’ve put you in an awkward situation. I just...” Ahsoka paused before continuing, “I don’t know where else to go.”

Satine stood rather abruptly, and Ahsoka felt nervous for a moment, but then Satine came over to where she was sitting and hugged her. Ahsoka leaned into the hug, more grateful for it than she could tell.

“Mandalore will always shelter refugees, especially those who have been displaced by war. If I’m honest, I think you deserve a better life than that of a soldier, to fight and die for a corrupt Republic. Though, I’m a little biased. For what it’s worth, I think you made the right decision,” said Satine.

“Thank you,” said Ahsoka. She hadn’t mentioned every reason she had for leaving, however, but she thought that she had dumped enough of her problems on Satine for the time being.

“You can stay in the palace until you find your feet. You should probably be enrolled in school, maybe we can get you a spot in the Academy with Korkie. He and his friends will be so glad to see you again,” said Satine, though she seemed to be talking more to herself than to Ahsoka.

For her part, Ahsoka was not sure how long she would be staying, and she was certainly not keen on attending the Royal Academy of Government, but she was grateful just to have a bed to sleep in for awhile, until she figured out what to do next.

Chapter Text

The days passed rather uneventfully on Mandalore. Ahsoka should be enjoying the relaxation, but she could not help but to feel uneasy and restless. She supposed that, after spending almost three years on the front lines of a war, it made sense that she was uncomfortable with peace. She knew that several of the clone troopers suffered from the same feelings, that peace was nothing more than the calm before a greater storm.

It was nice to see Korkie again, and the other cadets she had met during her last trip to Mandalore. When they had free time at the academy, they all tried to take her out and show her Sundari. She enjoyed it as much as she could, going out to eat with Korkie and Soniee, listening to music with Lagos, and jogging around the city with Amis. When she had met them for the first time, there had been a slight distance between them, what with her being a Jedi and their teacher. Now, it seemed like they should be able to be closer – after all, they were all the same age – but she felt even more separate from them than before. Korkie seemed to pick up on this, though he never mentioned it out loud, and the others remained oblivious. She wondered at times if Korkie was slightly Force-sensitive, or perhaps just very perceptive. He actually reminded her of Master Obi-Wan at times, the way he could read people, and the thought of Korkie as a mini-Obi-Wan made her chuckle a bit.

Korkie also seemed to be the only person aware of how poorly Ahsoka was sleeping. The nightmares had not abated since she reached Mandalore. In fact, she thought that they were increasing in frequency, to the point that it was rare for her to go a night without one. As a Togruta, though, she did not show the same physical signs of exhaustion as a human. She didn’t get dark circles under her eyes, yawn, or mumble her words. Instead, her lekku paled a little and she felt antsy and twitchy. Satine mentioned something to her about battle fatigue, but otherwise didn’t pick up on Ahsoka’s insomnia. Satine was constantly trying to give Ahsoka warm tea and snacks, though, which Ahsoka assumed was her way of trying to help and ease her mind.

It wasn’t until one night when Ahsoka fell asleep in one of the parlor rooms of Satine’s house that the Duchess realized the extent of Ahsoka’s fitful sleep. Korkie and Soniee had come over for dinner, but after telling Satine about some of their upcoming assignments, she had shooed them back to the Academy to finish their homework. Satine and Ahsoka were having an after-dinner tea in the parlor, when Ahsoka found herself nodding off.

"Ahsoka. Ahsoka.”

The voice was deep and mechanical, like a droid almost, but too chilling for that. Ahsoka couldn’t see who was speaking. It was like trying to make out the details of someone through choppy water, a dark shape that wavered in front of her. It moved and then she could see one detail with clarity, a golden eye, burning with anger and sadness and something else that she couldn’t understand. Then another sound overwhelmed her, almost like a breathing machine. But why would a breathing machine make her freeze with fear?

Kkkhh-pprrrr.

Kkkhh-pprrrr.

“Ahsoka!”

Ahsoka gasped and jerked awake to see Satine standing over her with a hand on Ahsoka’s shoulder and a worried expression on her face. Ahsoka sat up slowly on the couch and Satine sat next to her, putting an arm around her.

“I’m sorry. I must have had a bad dream,” said Ahsoka.

“I think that is one of the finest understatements I have ever heard.”

Ahsoka noticed that some of the paintings had fallen off the walls and the tea set that had been sitting on the center table was now laying in shattered pieces on the floor.

“The whole room was shaking and you were screaming,” said Satine, squeezing Ahsoka a little tighter to comfort her. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I couldn’t see very much, but it scared me.”

“Korkie told me you haven’t been sleeping well.”

Ahsoka looked down at her lap. She wasn’t sure how she felt about Satine and Korkie talking about her sleep habits like that, and she definitely didn’t want to worry them.

“I’ve just been having some nightmares. I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m probably just a little conflicted about leaving the Order,” said Ahsoka, trying to sound casual.

“I wouldn’t write it off so easily. You may not be a Jedi any more, Ahsoka, but you are strongly connected to the Force. Even a dullard with the Force like me can see that. What would the Jedi tell you to do if they knew about your nightmares?”

“Master Anakin would probably tell me that I needed to get my mind off of it and give me a mission. Master Obi-Wan would make me some tea. Master Yoda would tell me to meditate.”

“Well, we’ve tried the tea and I don’t have any missions for you at the moment. But the meditation I think we can do. Come with me.”

Satine rose from the couch and led Ahsoka through the palace to the far east wing. There, after walking through the maze of brightly lit hallways, they reached a small door.

“Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon would use this room whenever we were at the palace, both when they were protecting me and in the years following. Qui-Gon said something about it having the proper alignment for Force convergence, or something like that. The servant droids clean it, but I asked them not to move anything,” said Satine, opening the door.

It was a simple and rather small room, sparsely decorated. The walls were blank and painted a light gray. On the floor were two red pillows and a few white candles. The only windows were on the slanted ceiling, so that the sky could be seen, but none of the buildings or people of Sundari. Ahsoka walked over to one of the pillows and sat down on it with her legs crossed and her hands together in her lap.

“Will it do?” Satine asked.

Ahsoka nodded and closed her eyes. She heard the door close quietly as Satine left her alone.

Like Anakin, Ahsoka had never been the best at meditation. She had trouble quieting her mind enough to reach the state of inner peace. The only thing that helped her was a chant she had learned from Master Plo during her first years at the Temple.

“I am with the Force. The Force is with me. I am with the Force. The Force is with me.”

She spoke the words in Togruti, a language she was not fluent in, having left Shili when she was only three, but she knew the words to this mantra and found the sound of her first language comforting. The trills and long notes flowed out melodically around her, filling the room.

“I am with the Force. The Force is with me.”

The candles began to drift upward, floating gently and unlit around Ahsoka’s head.

“I am with the Force. The Force is with me.”

Ahsoka’s breathing began to align with the mantra.

“I am with the Force,” breathing in.

“The Force is with me,” breathing out.

Ahsoka could no longer feel the room around her or hear any of the muffled sounds of the city outside.

“I am with the Force. The Force is with me.”

A great stillness descended upon Ahsoka. She felt outside of time, outside of her own body. She opened her eyes.

In front of her sat a woman with pale skin and flowing green hair. She glowed with an ethereal blue light, while her pose mirrored Ahsoka’s, with the legs crossed and the hands together in her lap.

“Hello, Ahsoka,” she said.

“Daughter,” said Ahsoka in wonder.

“You do not look well. Your mind is a tempest.”

“I don’t know what to do,” said Ahsoka.

“You resist the warnings I have sent you.”

“Warnings, you mean the nightmares? Why did you send them to me?”

“You are my only connection to the corporeal galaxy now. When the time comes to act, you must not hesitate. You must be decisive.”

The figure of the daughter dissolved in blue light and Ahsoka was about to shout for her to stay, when she realized that the figure was not disappearing, but changing. The woman shifted into a white winged creature with a green mane and a sharp beak, still glowing with the same blue light.

“Are you still the Daughter?” Ahsoka asked the creature.

“We all are.” It spoke with the same voice, although the beak did not move. “You seem lost in more ways than one. A great imbalance threatens the galaxy. The Duchess means well, but peace is not easy to achieve or to keep. And so I will give you this advice: only justice will bring peace.”

“Who do I have to bring to justice?” Ahsoka asked, but the creature had already dissolved. This time it reformed in the shape of a new woman. She still looking human, but much older than the original Daughter. Her dark skin was wrinkled and her eyes were as milky white as her long hair.

“The imbalance. You must bring the imbalance to justice. As we were, you must be a servant of the Force,” answered the elderly Daughter.

“I thought Master Anakin was supposed to bring balance to the Force. He’s the chosen one.”

“Anakin Skywalker is himself out of balance. Your connection to the Light, to the Dark, and to the physical world, makes you the servant to the Force.”

“To the Dark?” Ahsoka exclaimed.

“We live in you, but we are not the only ones.” The air rippled behind the Daughter and there was a flicker of red light where Ahsoka caught a glimpse of a pale face with red ember eyes. Her stomach clenched and the Daughter flickered and faded for a moment, before Ahsoka once again controlled her breathing, steadier both herself and the Daughter’s image.

“The balance between the Light and Dark. The attachment to the world around you. They all make you the one we need,” said the Daughter.

“But the Jedi forbid such attachments. They say the only way to achieve peace of mind and control of the Force is to separate from the physical world.”

“You are not a Jedi. The servant of the Force can never truly detach from the world. How can you hope to serve a world that you do not love? Your duty calls upon you to sacrifice your own spiritual needs in order to achieve balance in the galaxy. Besides, the Jedi are not right about everything.” The Daughter paused, giving her a wry smile. “You must do whatever it takes to protect the galaxy.” With that, the Daughter faded once again, this time shrinking down until only a little green convor bird sat in front of Ahsoka.

It hooted at her and Ahsoka trilled a greeting back in Togruti, not understanding the bird at all. It hopped forward a few steps and then flew up to Ahsoka’s shoulder. With a plunging sensation, she felt as if the floor of the meditation room dropped out from under her, causing her to fall through darkness until she landed in a dimly lit tent. A few people in Mandalorian armor stood around and Ahsoka tensed, recognizing the Death Watch. It took her a moment to realize that they could not see her. The convor hooted encouragingly on her shoulder.

The Death Watch were not the only ones in the tent, however. A Dathomirian Zabrak man with a bright red and black patterned face stood among them. Ahsoka had only seen the Zabrak in pictures before, but she would never forget those burning yellow eyes. He was Maul, who had killed Master Qui-Gon before being himself defeated by Obi-Wan so long ago. He had been assumed dead for many years until suddenly resurfacing on Raydonia and killing Master Gallia.

“Duchess Satine and her corrupt leadership are crushing our souls. Destroying our identity! That is our struggle,” said Pre Vizsla.

“If they are weak, why do you wait?” asked Maul, his voice as smooth as poison.

“The Duchess has powerful allies, including your Jedi friend, Kenobi.”

Maul’s face twitched into a silent snarl at the mention of Obi-Wan’s name. “It is the will of the Force. We can help you reclaim Mandalore,” he said.

The scene shifted again with a powerful lurch that nearly knocked Ahsoka off her feet. They were still in one of the Death Watch’s tents, but this time it was crowded with members of the Death Watch, with Maul and his brother, and with representatives of the most notorious crime families in the galaxy, all standing around a hologram map of Sundari.

“If we try to take Mandalore by force, our people will turn against us,” said Pre Vizsla.
“I will use my army of crime lords to attack different targets across Sundari and sow chaos to undermine the Duchess' rule. Our gangsters will make her look too weak to maintain control. Then you and your Death Watch will capture and arrest us, bringing order where Satine's weak government could not,” said Maul.
“We'll be saviors.” Pre Vizsla looked in awe of Maul’s plan.

As they spoke, Ahsoka began to see their plot come to life. She saw Pre Vizsla standing on a balcony overlooking a cheering crowd. She saw the crime gangs attacking Sundari and the Death Watch stopping them, gaining popularity with the people. She saw Satine thrown in prison, Pre Vizsla killed by Maul, and Almec appointed to be the puppet ruler of Mandalore for Maul.

The vision shifted again Ahsoka found herself in Satine’s throne room.

“And now the perfect tool for my vengeance is in front of us. I never planned on killing you, but I will make you share my pain,” the voice of Maul hissed out. Obi-Wan was on his knees, flanked by Death Watch soldiers, while Satine hovered in the air, flailing and scratching at the invisible hands that squeezed her throat. Maul turned his golden eyes on Obi-Wan and added with a soft, growling voice, “Kenobi.”

Maul lit the darksaber in his hand, the black blade that Pre Vizsla had once carried. With a wave of his hand, Satine flew forward and he stabbed her through the back the darksaber. Obi-Wan ran to her as she fell to the floor, her wound smoking and her face twisted in pain.

“Satine,” Obi-Wan said as he lifted her into his arms.

Maul walked back to the throne and sat grandly upon it, grinning down on them. Ahsoka moved closer to Satine and Obi-Wan.

“Remember, my dear Obi-Wan,” said Satine softly, “I’ve loved you always. I always will.” She stroked his face gently as she said the words, then collapsed.

Ahsoka closed her eyes, unable to watch Obi-Wan’s grief, and she felt the convor bird fly off of her shoulder. Then she heard a clatter as the candles fell to the ground around her, pulling her out of her meditation. She could once again feel the pillow underneath her and hear the faint sound of cruisers and voices from Sundari, coming in through the windows. She opened her eyes onto the empty meditation room, seeing that the sun had finished setting and the sky was an inky black above her. She stood, feeling oddly empty of emotion, the sort of sensation she got after crying, a numbness that followed an overwhelming barrage of feeling. The visions that the convor bird had shown her stayed clear in her head, unlike the fading nightmares. She could remember every detail of the plots, the future that she would ensure never came.

Ahsoka walked out of the room and reached out with the Force to find Satine, who had returned to the parlor room. When Ahsoka entered, Satine was reading something on a data pad, with her feet tucked up underneath her on the couch. She looked up when Ahsoka came in and smiled hopefully at her.

“Did it help?” she asked.

Ahsoka walked over and kissed Satine on the forehead. When she pulled away, Satine was still smiling, but looked utterly perplexed.

“It helped,” said Ahsoka.

Chapter Text

Chaos was erupting over Sundari. Mandalore had always had a complicated relationship with the crime families, but now the Black Sun, the Pyke Syndicate, and the Hutts were all moving in, launching a series of attacks across the city. Originally, it had seemed that Death Watch was behind it all, but after a group of warriors in Death Watch began to stop the attacks and arrest the criminals, the rumors changed. Uneasy ideas began to spread through the city, softly at first, but they were gaining momentum.

Death Watch stopped those thugs.

Death Watch succeeded where the Duchess failed.

Death Watch can protect us.

Satine was growing more and more unsettled, throwing herself into her work and not emerging from her office for what seemed like days at a time. It could not be denied, however, that the Mandalorian police were badly outmatched and failing to stop the attacks.

It was time to act, then, before Death Watch gained too much popularity. Ahsoka walked out of the meditation room, where she had spent each evening for the past few weeks, ever since her meeting with the Daughter. It was well after sunset and Satine was spending a rare night asleep in her room, rather than on the couch in her office. There were two royal guards posted outside of her room, standing stiffly in their elaborate blue uniforms.

“You will give me your force staff,” said Ahsoka, waving her hand in front of one’s face.

“I-I will give you my staff,” he said, handing it over.

“Thanks,” said Ahsoka, weighing the staff in her hand to get a feel for the balance of the weapon.

Outside of the palace, the night was clear and still. The warm air hung stagnant around her without the slightest breath of wind. Ahsoka moved quickly to the docks, borrowing a cruiser from the palace and parking it out of sight behind a storage crate. She then climbed onto a storage unit and leapt from one unit to the other until she found the right vantage point overlooking an alleyway. She sat and waited.

It was just past one o’clock in the morning when they arrived. Two of the guards of the dock were making their routine security rounds when a small group from the crime syndicates, a Falleen man and two Pykes, descended upon them. The Falleen raised a blaster to shoot one of the guards, but before his finger even touched the trigger, Ahsoka leapt from her perch and landed in between the guards and the gang members. The Falleen seemed taken aback for only a moment. He recovered quickly and fired his blaster, which Ahsoka deflected easily. The force staff was no lightsaber, but it wasn’t bad. The Falleen fired again and this time Ahsoka hit the blaster bolt so that it ricocheted and hit one of the Pykes squarely in the stomach, causing him to crumple to the ground.

Ahsoka moved quickly then, leaping toward the Falleen and cracking him over the head with the staff. She sent out a stunning blast from the staff at the moment of impact and he went down heavily. She then whirled on the second Pyke, sweeping the staff under her feet and knocking her down. Ahsoka then stunned the Pyke woman with a downward hit to her face. The first Pyke was still alive, but groaning on the ground and clutching at his stomach wound. The dock guards were staring open-mouthed at Ahsoka.

Above their heads came a whooshing sound as two members of the Death Watch swooped down and hovered above them. They were both wearing helmets, which made it impossible to see their expressions, but Ahsoka was sure they were gaping at her as well.

“Don’t worry, Duchess Satine has the security of Mandalore covered,” Ahsoka said, grinning up at the Death Watch. They looked at each other for a moment and then flew away, surely to report to their leaders.

With a final nod to the guards, Ahsoka leapt back up to the rooftop and ran to the cruiser. This fight had not been difficult at all, but she expected that the next one would not be nearly so simple.

***

“How could you let this happen?” Pre Vizsla raged. A Falleen man with a nasty welt on his head was standing in front of him and taking the brunt of his rage, though a Pyke woman and two Mandalorians were also looking ashamedly at the ground. Behind them all, Maul and Savage were quietly watching the scene.

“It wasn’t our fault. This Togruta, she fought like…like I can’t even describe. She was faster than a greysor and strong, too, for such a shrimpy looking thing. She was like a Jedi, except she didn’t have a lightsaber,” said the Falleen man.

"A Jedi,” hissed out Maul.

“Satine does have connections to the Jedi, Lord Maul. Perhaps they have sent one to assist her,” said Vizsla, more calmly than when he spoke to the Falleen.

“But not Kenobi.”

“Not yet. This Togruta, though. What did she look like?” asked Vizsla.

“Small, orange face, blue horn things,” said one of the Death Watch.

"Bonteri’s brat of a girlfriend,” said Bo-Katan, Vizsla’s right-hand soldier. Most of the Death Watch remembered the Togruta Jedi who had come to Concord Dawn and killed four of their number with one blow.

“We must dispose of this Jedi. Brother, you will kill her at the next attack,” said Maul, addressing his much larger but subordinate sibling.

Ahsoka opened her eyes, pulling herself out of her meditation. She had seen enough of the conversation in order to prepare herself. Savage was huge and strong and could be a hurricane of force when he attacked, but he lacked finesse. With her lightsabers, she could easily beat him, but she didn’t have them. The Force staff was great for blaster bolts, but it would not hold up against a lightsaber.

Then again, the Daughter never carried a lightsaber, but fought using only the Force. It would have to do.

Ahsoka found the Duchess in her office, with her face propped up on one hand and her eyes half shut behind a pair of blue-framed glasses. Two datapads lay in front of her and she seemed to be trying to read both of them simultaneously. She glanced up only briefly when Ahsoka walked in.

“I have an interesting report from the docks here,” Satine said, gesturing to one of the datapads.

“Oh?” said Ahsoka.

“Yes, it says here that a young Togruta woman fought off a small group of black marketeers. Given that Mandalore doesn’t quite have the species diversity of some planets, it wasn’t too hard to figure out who this Togruta is.” Satine was staring seriously at Ahsoka.

“I suppose I do stand out a bit,” said Ahsoka. She tried a small smile, which Satine did not return.

“Ahsoka, I know things seem bad, but I don’t want you to go and get yourself hurt being a vigilante. Mandalore will deal with these attacks. You’re still so young. You should be focusing on your education.”

“Have you heard of Lord Maul?” Ahsoka asked, interrupting Satine from scolding her further. It worked well, as Satine went silent.

“Excuse me?” Satine asked after a long pause.

“Maul, the Dathomirian Zabrak. Do you know of him?”

“Yes, I’ve heard of him. He killed Master Qui-Gon.”

“He’s here on Mandalore. He’s organizing the attacks.”

“That’s impossible,” she said, her words trailing off in the end, as if unsure.

“I’m sure it’s him. He’s in league with Death Watch and he has a brother, too. Do you still think the Mandalorian police can handle it?”

Satine pursed her lips, but said nothing. She looked exhausted. Satine had always been so composed and collected, but now she was beginning to look ragged.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let Maul hurt y-, I mean, hurt Mandalore,” said Ahsoka.

“Ahsoka, you’re a strong young woman, but you were only a padawan when you left, and Maul has killed Masters before.”

“I’m not alone. Don’t worry.”

Ahsoka left the room with an extremely worried-looking Satine watching her go.

 

Coruscant

Obi-Wan Kenobi was asleep when his holoprojector beeped. After a long day of talking in endless circles with the Jedi Council, dealing with demanding senators, and trying to manage Anakin’s ongoing pent-up frustration following the loss of his padawan, it took Obi-Wan far longer to rise from sleep than usual. For some reason, his time on Coruscant wore him out more than any battle ever had. He almost longed to get back in the field.

The holoprojector beeped insistently again, and Obi-Wan pulled himself from the bed and put on his brown Jedi robe as he went to sit in the living room. He answered the call and a blue hologram of Satine Kryze popped up in front of him. He felt such surprise - and perhaps a few other emotions - to see her that he didn’t notice at first that she looked about as frazzled as he felt.

“Obi-Wan, it’s good to see you,” she said.

“Is everything alright?” he asked, seeing the bags under her eyes and her slightly disheveled outfit.

“I’m sorry if I called in the middle of the night there, but I need your help. I think Mandalore is in great danger and Ahsoka Tano, as well.”

“Ahsoka? Why would she-? She’s there, isn’t she?” he said.

“She’s been living with me for about two months now.”

Obi-Wan didn’t have the energy to be surprised by that news.

“Alright, what’s this danger?” he asked.

“There have been some random attacks around Mandalore by the crime families, Pykes and Black Suns mostly. I thought it was simply the black market trying to gain more control, but Ahsoka says differently. She has been acting a bit strange, if I’m honest. When she first arrived, she seemed lost and quite sad, and I worry that she is throwing herself into a mission to save Mandalore single-handedly in order to give herself a new purpose.”

“It’s true that Ahsoka can be reckless. She takes after Anakin in that regard,” said Obi-Wan, stroking his beard thoughtfully.

“There’s more,” said Satine. She seemed to struggle to find the right words for a moment. “Ahsoka says that Maul is here.”

Obi-Wan was speechless, a rare thing indeed.

“That’s not possible,” he said finally. He knew, of course, that it was very possible, but the thought of Maul so close to Satine was horrible to say the least.

“I said the same thing. But Ahsoka seems sure. She won’t tell me how she knows, only that there is no doubt. She says he is the one organizing the attacks, part of some larger plot to take over Mandalore.”

“Maul was last seen on Florrum, when he and his brother killed Adi Gallia. He was trying to recruit the pirates to work for him, but pirates don’t really like being told what to do. We shot down his ship, but he must have escaped and survived.”

They both fell into silence for a moment.

“Let me talk to the Council in the morning. I will see if I can investigate this matter,” said Obi-Wan. He was quite sure, however, that regardless of the Council’s decision he would travel to Mandalore. Satine nodded and gave him a small but grateful smile before disconnecting.

Obi-Wan rubbed his eyes, wondering what trouble Ahsoka had gotten herself into since leaving the Order. He debated for a moment whether or not he should tell Anakin where she was, but decided against it. Anakin might just take off to Mandalore himself to try to bring her back, and with Council’s already precarious faith in Anakin, a rogue trip and an obvious display of attachment would not be good.

***

The war’s strain on the Council was obvious at the meeting. Only five of the Masters were present in the flesh, Mace Windu, Yoda, Oppo Rancisis, Saesee Tiin, and of course Obi-Wan. Shaak Ti, Plo Koon, and Kit Fisto were there via hologram, but the remaining four seats sat completely empty. So many of their number were out in the field, stretched thin across the galaxy as they tried to end this terrible conflict.

“News have you, Master Kenobi,” said Yoda, crossing his hands and feet together in front of him.

“I have had a concerning report from Duchess Satine of Mandalore and former Padawan Tano,” said Obi-Wan. “Satine says that Mandalore is under attack from the crime families and the Death Watch.”

“As unfortunate as that is, Mandalore has declared neutrality. The Death Watch is no longer aligned with the Separatists and the crime syndicates are outside of both the Republic and the Separatists,” said Mace Windu.

“Ahsoka Tano also claims that the leader of these attacks is Darth Maul,” Obi-Wan continued.

Shaak Ti and Kit Fisto shared a look of surprise, and Saesee Tiin leaned forward in his seat.

“Concerning news, this is. Do you believe Ahsoka Tano?” Yoda asked.

“I’m not sure. I sense nothing of Maul’s presence through the Force, but he could be powerful enough to hide himself. I think it is very likely that Maul survived the events in Florrum, and the Mandalorian system is not far from there. I think it at least merits an investigation.”

“I agree. We should not take chances when it comes to the Sith,” said Shaak Ti.

“I am not so sure. Tano is no longer a Jedi, which means she could be under the influence of other forces,” said Saesee Tiin.

It was difficult to tell behind the goggles, but Obi-Wan was sure that Plo Koon was glaring at Tiin.

“Either way, we must find the truth,” said Yoda.

“I will leave immediately, then,” said Obi-Wan, before anyone else could object.

Chapter Text

Sundari, Mandalore

They came at night.

Savage lead the team of crime families, while Maul stayed behind with the Death Watch. This was an operation that required more finesse than brute strength and numbers - good practice for Savage. Maul had not intended for their plan to accelerate this quickly, but the young Jedi was proving to be a dangerous threat to their plans. She was not Kenobi, the Jedi that Maul truly wanted, but he still enjoyed the thought of her death. The new plan was simple enough and the Togruta was not hard to find. They would kill her while she slept in the Duchess’s palace, kidnap the Duchess, and then Death Watch would mount a daring rescue. Thus, Death Watch would play the valiant heroes of Mandalore and Satine would be revealed as incompetent.

“I need the Duchess alive, Brother. Everyone else in that Palace can die,” said Maul before they left.

Savage nodded, his yellow eyes glowing menacingly, like twin suns.

The palace was quiet as they crept up to it. There were four guards posted outside, who Savage dispatched quickly and silently with his lightsaber. They never even stood a chance. Savage wondered if he would even need the team of bounty hunters and crime family members. If all of the royal guard put up this much of a fight, then he could easily do it on his own. He had no worries about the little Jedi either. After all, he had dispatched the Tholothian one with little trouble.

They met no guards in the entrance hall of the palace. Savage searched out with the Force, but he was not refined with it at all, and was unable to distinguish the living Force of the people outside in the city and those in the palace.

“Split up,” he growled, and the crime family members spread out, some travelling upstairs and others heading toward the throne room and offices. Savage stayed still, listening and growing frustrated with his inability to sense the Jedi. He moved through the glass hallways of the palace, ready for a fight. He almost wished he could come across one of the guards, but he saw no one.

In the distance, he thought he heard a thump and a grunt, but the palace stayed still and quiet. He shook his head, thinking he was imagining things. Or maybe one of his men had found and disposed of a guard.

Then Savage felt it, a ripple in the Force almost like a beacon. She was in the throne room. He grinned and lit his lightsaber staff on both ends as he charged toward the Force signature of the Jedi. In his eagerness, he almost shattered the door on his way into the large room. It was empty, except for a small figure sitting on the steps in front of the throne. She watched him with large blue eyes, but otherwise did not react.

“Jedi,” he said, pointing his lightsaber at her.

She was not even armed that he could see. She must not be a real Jedi, or at least not a good one. It annoyed him that she wasn’t acting afraid of him, but Maul had told him all about the Jedi’s emotionless façade.

Savage advanced on her, crossing the room quickly and raising his lightsaber to bring it down on her. She closed her eyes and he grinned at her cowardice, as if she could hide from her death. He swung hard, planning to decapitate her, but then his lightsaber lurched to a stop. When he looked down, he saw the Jedi holding the handle, preventing the blade from touching her. Though she could be described as lean and wiry, her arm was nowhere near as muscular as Savage’s. She should not be able to do this. With a furious grunt, Savage pushed down harder on the lightsaber handle, using both his hands now, but it did not budge. Then with a hissing sound both blades retracted back into the handle.

“I am not a Jedi,” she said, opening her eyes. The blue of her eyes was now glowing so bright that her pupils could not be seen.

Savage tried to grab her throat with one hand, but he felt himself blasted backwards through the air and into a huge painting on the far wall. He fell with a heavy thud, but quickly got to his feet. He was no longer holding his lightsaber. There was something sticky and warm running down the side of his face and he reached up to find one of his horns cracked and a deep cut in his temple.

The Jedi was still standing calmly on the dais of the throne, holding his lightsaber staff. She undid the locking mechanism and separated the weapon into two single-bladed lightsabers, holding one in a forward grip and the other pointed backwards. She crouched, ready for him.

Savage charged at her, planning to grab her wrists before she could swing and drive his horns so deep into her chest that her ribcage would shatter.

The Jedi moved so fast that Savage’s head was on the ground before he even registered her attack.

***

As soon as they arrived at the palace, Obi-Wan could feel that something was wrong. He charged in more carelessly than was usual for him, but the 212th Battalion were familiar with the fact that their General acted a little differently when it came to the Mandalorian Duchess.

“Let’s go, men,” said Commander Cody, before following Obi-Wan inside. The clone troopers had their blasters ready, each man tensed for battle, but none of them were quite ready for the scene in front of the them as they entered the throne room.

Ahsoka Tano was standing there, holding a pair of red lightsabers, while at her feet lay the beheaded body of a Zabrak. Obi-Wan and the 212th all froze for a moment at the sight of those red lightsabers, not wanting to believe it. Could Saesee Tiin have been right? Had Ahsoka, who they had all trusted and served with, joined the Sith?

“Put down your weapon,” said Obi-Wan, grabbing his own lightsaber, but not yet lighting it.

In response, Ahsoka shut off the lightsabers and held their handles in the flat of her palms. They were lifted by the Force in front of her and then were pulled into pieces, so that an array of metal parts were floating in the air. She plucked the kyber crystals out of the air and held them in between her two hands, hidden from view. She bowed her head and closed her eyes for a moment, before releasing the crystals and reforming the lightsabers around them. She lit them again and this time the blades were white.

“They were his. Now they’re mine,” was all she said.

Obi-Wan didn’t know what to make of all this. The last time he had seen Ahsoka, she had been a talented young padawan, but still clumsy with the Force at times, and inexperienced. Now she was turning Sith lightsabers white?

“Where is Satine?” Obi-Wan asked.

“She’s upsta-,” Ahsoka froze, her eyes widening. Obi-Wan could sense it, too. The Duchess was definitely not in the palace. They ran together, leaving the clone troopers behind, as they raced to Satine’s rooms. On the way, they passed over several prone figures, some alive and some dead, Pykes, Falleen, and a few human guards. The bedroom was empty when they reached it, with the cool night air blowing in from the open window.

“No, no, no, no,” said Ahsoka, turning around in the empty room.

Obi-Wan went over the window, looking out on the city.

“How could I miss this?” said Ahsoka from behind him. She sat down with a huff and brought her hands together, trying to meditate. She began to make soft trilling sounds, speaking in Togruti. Obi-Wan was quiet, trying to patient, but inside his emotions were in turmoil. He felt a real sickening sort of fear inside of him. There was little he could do now, without knowing where Satine was, so he sat down across from Ahsoka and waited.

***

“I am with the Force. The Force is with me,” Ahsoka said. She was getting better at contacting the Daughter, but this time she was having trouble finding focus. Obi-Wan’s fear for Satine was so strong that she could feel it emanating from him. It didn’t help. Obi-Wan seemed to calm himself and came to sit across from her.

“I am with the Force. The Force is with me.”

Faintly she heard the soft hoot of the convor bird.

“Daughter?”

The hooting continued in the distance and Ahsoka followed it until she could see the convor. They were in darkness, a sort of void where the only clear forms were her and the convor. Her footsteps made no sound on whatever the ground was. Then with a flash of light, she was outside the palace, watching Lord Maul scale the side of the building. He climbed up spider-like, opening the window with the Force, and crawled inside. Inside the room, she could see Maul throw an unconscious Satine over his shoulder. He paused for a moment, looking over toward the door out of the room. A grimace of pain twisted over Maul’s face as he felt his brother die, and he grabbed Satine’s limp arm and squeezed so hard that Ahsoka could hear the bone snap. Ahsoka flinched, but Satine was - perhaps mercifully - still unconscious.

Maul climbed out of the window again, and Ahsoka and the convor followed him to a warehouse near the docks of Sundari. He unceremoniously dumped Satine on the concrete floor and chained her to one of the abandoned machines.

Ahsoka snapped out the vision with a violent jerk. Obi-Wan was up on his feet and helping her to her own in less than a second.

“I know where to find her,” Ahsoka said.

***   

Minutes later, as they stood outside the old warehouse, Obi-Wan asked if Ahsoka had a plan.

“Rescue Satine, kill Maul, stop Death Watch,” she said.

“That sounds like one of Anakin’s plan,” said Obi-Wan, with a sigh.

“We can take care of Death Watch. We’ll leave the Sith for you two,” said Cody. Obi-Wan patted him on the shoulder. He worried, though. Death Watch were skilled warriors, far more so than even the commando droids that the clone troopers were used to facing. Still, he would have to trust them. It would take him and Ahsoka together to defeat Maul.

“I can sense him in there. He knows we’re here,” said Obi-Wan.

“Let’s go,” said Ahsoka, standing and marching right up to the warehouse doors. She really was too much like Anakin. Obi-Wan nodded to the troopers and they followed her in.

They were not met with a rain of blaster bolts from the Death Watch, as Obi-Wan had been expecting, but rather the Death Watch warriors stood still in two rows, as if forming a gauntlet. At the end of the rows sat Maul in a throne made of ripped up pieces of old machine parts. Satine was kneeling at his feet with a bruise over one eye and cradling her left arm. Obi-Wan felt a storm of anger threatening to rise up, but he pushed it back down. Fighting angry was not the Jedi way and not the best way to help Satine right now.

“Kenobi,” said Maul in a slow drawl. He stood from the throne and placed a hand on Satine’s head, who flinched away from his touch.

“They say only the strongest may rule Mandalore, and this love of yours has proven herself weak,” said Maul.

Ahsoka made a scoffing sound, but Obi-Wan suspected he was the only one who had heard it.

“Weak? Just like your brother,” she said and Obi-Wan could have kicked her.

“How did a runt like you kill my brother?” Maul asked.

“Try me,” said Ahsoka, pulling out her new lightsabers, but not lighting them yet.

“You will be no match for me. Kenobi, I will kill this little girl and your Duchess, and then I will crush your men beneath my boot, and make you watch.”

“That was not the plan,” interrupted one of the Death Watch. She removed her helmet to reveal red hair and a pale face. She was Bo-Katan, the second-in-command to Vizsla. “Death Watch was going to rescue the Duchess from the crime families to win over public opinion,” she continued.

“Well, it turns out the monstrous crime families killed her before she could be rescued. Don’t worry, you will bring them to justice and still come out as the heroes of Mandalore,” said Maul.

The woman did not look satisfied with his answer at all. She looked to Pre Vizsla for a moment and then back at Satine.

“Now who will be first,” said Maul, lighting his red lightsaber and holding it over Satine.

Obi-Wan silently apologized to Satine and with the Force, he pushed her backwards away from Maul. She crashed into the far wall, but at least she was out of Maul’s reach for now. The Death Watch and the clone troopers began to fire on each other, filling the room with a chaos of blue and red blaster bolts. Ahsoka lit her lightsabers and charged toward Maul, cutting down two Death Watch warriors on her way. Obi-Wan ran around the outside of the Death Watch, so they could come at Maul from two sides.

Ahsoka reached Maul first and began swinging her lightsabers at him. They were much bigger than her old pair and she was awkward with them. Maul blocked her blows without much trouble and kicked her squarely in the stomach, knocking her down. Obi-Wan was on him before he could strike at Ahsoka. Obi-Wan’s attack was much more careful, feeling Maul out for any weaknesses or openings. Ahsoka jumped to her feet and and jabbed at Maul’s shoulder. He swung around so fast that he slashed one of the lightsabers out of Ahsoka’s hands and then cut the handle in two when it hit the ground.

It seemed the wake up call that Ahsoka needed to slow down and be more careful. She and Obi-Wan moved around Maul, pressing him from both sides. He was fast and strong but his rage made him careless. They just needed one opening. Obi-Wan tried to slash at Maul’s metal feet, but Maul blocked the blow and cut Obi-Wan across the shoulder. Obi-Wan backed away, feeling the sting and smelling burnt flesh. It wasn’t his dominant shoulder, but the pain was definitely distracting.

Ahsoka backed away, as well, going down onto one knee and turning off her remaining lightsaber, eyes closed. Maul advanced on her and Obi-Wan wanted to shout at her to get up. She opened her eyes suddenly, which glowed with an ethereal blue light. Before Maul could react, she lunged forward, lightsaber expanding as she moved, and cut through his lightsaber handle, taking half of his hand with it. His scream never made it past his lips as she buried her lightsaber in his chest. Maul looked stunned. Blood began to dribble out of his open mouth and when Ahsoka pulled out the lightsaber, he fell onto his knees and then flat onto the floor.

The Death Watch and the clones stopped shooting when Maul fell. Seeing themselves outnumbered, the Death Watch took off into the air and flew out of the warehouse. Only Pre Vizsla and Bo-Katan remained, and the former had his blaster aimed at Satine.

“Not so fast, Jed-,” he started to say, but them a red blaster bolt pierced through him and he, too, fell to the floor.

Bo-Katan lowered her smoking blaster and went over to Satine. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka ran over to them. Satine was in pretty bad shape. Up close they could how swollen her broken arm was. The rest of her looked pretty bruised and battered, as well, but she was still conscious, if a little dazed. Bo-Katan looked concerned, and bent over Satine.

“Why did you do that?” Obi-Wan asked, not complaining, but curious.

“As much as I disagree with my sister, I couldn’t let her die,” she said.

“Her sister?” said Ahsoka. The Daughter hadn’t shown her that part.

“Don’t expect my help again,” she hissed out, before flying out after the rest of Death Watch.

Obi-Wan scooped Satine up in his arms.

“We need to get her back to the ship,” he said to Cody and Ahsoka. The clone troopers gathered up their wounded and together they ran back to the cruisers.

 

The Vigilance Flagship

Satine awoke with the feeling that her left arm was being swallowed. She opened her eyes and could make out the stark white walls of a medical bay, though she could tell it was not in any part of Sundari Hospital. Now that she looked, she could see her left arm was submerged in bacta and there were more bacta bandages on her face and over her ribs. She didn’t feel any pain, just the oddly unsettling feeling of the bacta squeezing her skin.

It took Satine a few moments to realize that she was not alone in the room. A medical droid was entering something in a computer on the far side of the room, but right next to her, slumped in a chair in what looked like an uncomfortable position, was Obi-Wan. His face was propped up on one hand, but he was fast asleep. He looked so peaceful, a rarity these days, that she almost didn’t want to wake him, but she had to know what happened.

“Obi,” she said, surprised to hear her voice coming out as a hoarse whisper.

He was awake instantly, on his feet and leaning over her bed as he called the medical droid over. He took her right hand gently in his own.

“Are you alright?” he asked. Satine nodded.

“The bone is healing quickly now that it has been set. Her head wounds are all superficial and will cause no permanent problems,” said the medical droid.

“What happened?” she asked, unable to speak above a whisper.

“Everything is alright now. Maul is dead, in all certainty this time, and the Death Watch has fled back to Concordia.” He squeezed her hand as he said this.

“Where are we?”

“Onboard the Vigilance . We were worried about another attack from Death Watch at first, so we didn’t take you to Sundari Hospital. But we are still in Mandalore’s orbit.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“Thank Ahsoka. She was the one who killed him.” Obi-Wan let go of her hand and ran his fingers through his hair, a guilty expression coming across his face.

“Satine, I’m so sorry this happened,” he said.

She wanted to tell him that he had nothing to be sorry for and that he had rescued her, but her throat hurt, so she just reached for his hand again, hoping he would understand. He took it in both hands and kissed it. There was an unspoken question that hung between them, but neither wanted to address it right now, not in the middle of this moment.

What happens next? thought Satine. Her eyes were beginning to droop, however, and she soon drifted back into unconsciousness.

***

When she awoke, Obi-Wan was no longer there but Ahsoka sat in his place on the chair. It had only been a few short months since Ahsoka had first come to Mandalore, but for some reason Satine thought she looked older than she had when she had arrived.

“Obi-Wan is telling the Council about Maul’s death,” said Ahsoka.

Satine nodded. She felt a little more lucid than she had earlier, but there was also a stronger ache in her temple and throat. They must be taking her off the painkillers.

“I came to say goodbye and to thank you for taking me in. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I can’t tell you how much you helped me,” said Ahsoka.

“Where?” Satine asked.

“I’m going to Kamino,” she said. Satine frowned, confused, so Ahsoka continued, “I’m not sure exactly why yet, but there is something I have to do there. I also have to ask you for two things.”

“Anything,” said Satine.

“Can I borrow a ship? I’ll bring it back, if I can. Just something small and fast.”

Satine nodded. It was an easy request.

“And then there’s this,” said Ahsoka, pulling out the darksaber. Satine hated that weapon, and would be glad to see it off of Mandalore. It would be in better hands with Ahsoka than the Death Watch.

“It’s just I fight better with two and Pre Vizsla isn’t going to be using it anymore,” said Ahsoka, as if she thought Satine would refuse her.

“Take it,” said Satine.

Ahsoka put the darksaber back on her belt loop with her white lightsaber on the other side. She definitely looked older. She was only sixteen, but she stood square-shouldered and determined. Someone so young should not have to bear the things she did. The Jedi had taken her to war as a child soldier, raised her to negotiate with her weapon, and then cast her aside like a dog. Any balance that she had managed to find came from within herself and not from them. In spite of her love for Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, Satine felt a stab of anger toward the Jedi and their faulted dogma. And now Ahsoka was running off on her own to do Force knows what on Kamino.

“Come back to Mandalore, when you have finished your mission,” Satine said, the longest sentence she was able to utter.

Ahsoka only smiled and left the room.

 

Sundari, Mandalore, 19 BBY

Ahsoka slipped away quietly on the ship that Satine gave her. There was no fanfare or goodbyes. Only Satine and Obi-Wan knew she was leaving and even they were not quite sure why. Korkie and his friends would be upset that she had not said goodbye, but Ahsoka seemed like she needed to go as soon as she could. Satine and Obi-Wan watched her ship leave, flying up into the atmosphere, while the harsh red glow of sunset covered the landing platform. Obi-Wan reached out and took Satine’s hand, lacing their fingers together. The bones of her left arm had fully mended, leaving only a dull soreness that would fade in time.

“Can I still say the word?” she asked him, speakly quickly before she lost her courage.

“What?” he said, turning to face her.

“You told me that if I had said the word, you would have left the Jedi Order. Was that all in the past, or can I still say the word?” She couldn’t quite meet his eye as she asked it. There was a time when she would never have asked such a thing. The Jedi Order was his faith, his purpose, his entire life, and as much as she sometimes resented the Order, she respected his role in it. Now, she had nearly been killed by a monster and her priorities had changed.

“Say the word,” said Obi-Wan.

Chapter Text

Tipoca City, Kamino

Although Captain Rex and ARC Trooper Fives would not admit it aloud, they had come to despise the neverending rain on Kamino. It may have been the closest thing to a homeworld that they had, but there was little comforting about it. The entire planet had long ago been made inhospitable for most life, excepting perhaps the aquatic aiwhas. The domed cities of the Kaminoans, sterile and cut off from nature, were just another reminder that the clones themselves were unnatural and lacking in true homes.

Fives thought about this as they pushed their brother Tup on a stretcher down one of the many white hallways of Tipoca City. Tup was unconscious now, but Fives still thought about him saying, “Good soldiers follow orders,” repeating it over and over like some crazed mantra.

“You will have to say goodbye to your friend now,” said Nala Se, the Kaminoan doctor. Like all Kaminoans, her voice was calm and completely devoid of emotion, like a droid that had not been given personality programming.

“Yes, doctor,” said Fives, disappointed but resigned, as Nala Se left with Tup. He then straightened up as Master Shaak Ti came around the corner.

“Captain Rex,” she said with a slight bow. “Fives, am I correct?” she asked, turning to him.

“Yes, General,” said Fives. He had glimpsed her briefly at the Battle of Kamino two years before, but hadn’t spoken to her since the Domino Squad was sent out into active duty. He remembered how proud he had been to return to Kamino as an ARC Trooper, and he had to admit, there had been a part of him that wanted to show this off to Shaak Ti. It was only because of her that he and the rest of the Domino Squad had graduated from cadets, after all, and he had wanted to show her that she had been right to believe in them. Now, however, he was the only surviving member of the Domino Squad, his brother had snapped and murdered a Jedi general, and all he wanted was a break from the war.

Master Shaak Ti somewhat resembled the Kaminoans in her unwavering calm, but whereas the Kaminoans were cold and clinical about their lack of emotion, there was something warm, almost protective about Shaak Ti.

“Don’t be afraid. Your friend is in quite capable hands,” said Shaak Ti, telling them about all of Nala Se’s qualifications. Her reassurances were undercut, however, when she told them that Fives could have been exposed to the same virus that cause Tup’s breakdown. Rex was being sent back to the front, but Fives found himself ushered into an examination room. It was bleak and plain, with gray walls, but Fives was grateful that there was at least an observation window into the adjacent room where Tup was sent.

Fives couldn’t hear what was being said in the other room, but he could see a medical droid injecting Tup with something, while Shaak Ti and Nala Se watched. Seconds later, Tup began to seize and thrash violently on the table, pulling at the straps that held him down.

“What are they doing to Tup?” asked Fives, jumping up and pushing his own medical droid to the side. The droid tried to calm him, but Fives continued to shout, catching Shaak Ti’s attention.

“General, what’s going on?” Fives asked desperately, knowing that even if she couldn’t hear him, she would understand.

Shaak Ti raised a hand and the window turned black, hiding the room with Tup completely from his view.

***

“I need an answer now,” said Shaak Ti, momentarily letting her frustration get the better of her. The Jedi forbid all attachment, but she couldn’t help but to feel somewhat protective of the clones after guiding them through their training. She took a deep breath and then continued. “This isn’t just a physical manifestation of psychosis. You must have missed something.”

One of the medical droids piped up then, saying, “Might I suggest a second brain scan, an atomic-level brain scan?”

“This is unnecessary. The scans we did are sufficient. He is too weak for an atomic-level brain scan,” said Nala Se.

The little droid insisted that the scan would be worth the risk.

“The only way to discover what has happened to this clone is to terminate him and do a full-scale autopsy on the molecular level,” said Nala Se.

Shaak Ti did not want to waste the clone’s life if it could be helped. He seemed very broken certainly, but broken things could sometimes be fixed.

“I am in charge of this examination and I will decide what is best for my patient,” said Nala Se.

“Actually, since the Republic and the Jedi commissioned these clones, it is our responsibility to oversee their care,” said Shaak Ti, her tone growing icier.

“Every clone and their DNA is the property of the Kaminoan government. Now as a client of ours, I will respect your wishes, but as to the fate of this clone, I will speak to our Prime Minister, Lama Su.”

“And I will inform the Jedi Council of this and see how they wish to proceed.” Shaak Ti had to push down the anger she felt for the Kaminoan doctor. Anger was no help to her right now. She swept out of the room, passing the one that held Fives as she went and sensing the nervousness and irritation coming from him, even through the metal walls. For a moment, she thought about entering and consulting him, but then thought better of it and returned to her private chambers. There, she made a holocall to the Jedi Council, filling them in on Tup’s situation and the Kaminoan plan to terminate him.

“Bring Clone Trooper Tup back to the Jedi Temple,” said Mace Windu.

“Examine him with the Force, we shall, and unravel this mystery, we will,” said Master Yoda.

“I’ll bring him back immediately,” said Shaak Ti, ending the call.

***

Fives thought he could give Obi-Wan Kenobi a run for his money in the role of the Republic’s greatest negotiator. Somehow he had convinced a little medical droid called AZI-3 to break from his protocol and perform the atomic-level brain scan on Tup without permission. Together, they had snuck into Tup’s room and put him into the scanning tube, hoping they could finish the procedure before the Kaminoan doctors returned.

“Everything appears to be normal,” said AZI-3 as the results of the scan came in. Then, “Wait a second.”

“What? What is it?” asked Fives.

“It appears this clone has developed a tumor,” said AZI-3, though he admitted that he had never seen such a thing before in a clone. “We would need to perform a biopsy to know more.”

Fives was about to suggest that they go ahead and do it, but he accidentally knocked a tray of surgical instruments off of the counter, causing them to clatter to the floor. The sound attracted the attention of Nala Se in the hallway outside, and Fives just had time to duck out of sight when Nala Se entered the examination room. As it was, she was not pleased to find that AZI-3 had gone ahead with the atomic-level brain scan.

“You are like this clone. Defective. You will be put on report for deactivation,” she told AZI-3. She began working on one of the computers, her back to the room, so Fives started creeping toward the door.

“But the tumor seems to be blocking neuro-impulses from communicating with the brain,” insisted AZI-3.

“There is no tumor. Your scan is incorrect. This clone clearly has a virus that remains undetected, but I will find the cause once he's terminated. Now leave.” Nala Se had certainly become defensive and surprisingly angry when the AZI-3 suggested the tumor. The Kaminoans were hiding something and that was certain, Fives thought, as he slipped out of the room, soon followed by AZI-3.

“We’ll go to the General, to Shaak Ti. She helped me once as a cadet. I know she values the life of a clone,” said Fives to AZI-3, once they were back in his own exam room.

“But we will be disobeying direct orders,” said AZI-3.

“Yep, for the second time today. Can you hack into the medical center’s mainframe?”

“I do possess that ability,” said AZI-3. Fives grinned at the droid.

***

“It will be a painless death,” said Nala Se.

“You may proceed,” said Lama Su, nodding to the medical droid, who held a syringe full of the euthanizing agent. Just as the droid leaned over Tup, however, it suddenly lurched violently across the room and smashed into a wall. The door to the examination room opened with a quiet hiss and there stood Master Shaak Ti, her hand raised and a deep frown on her face.

“What are you doing?” she asked. “We did not agree to this.”

“With all due respect, Master Jedi, he is Kaminoan property, and we must do what we think is best,” said Nala Se.

“Correction. Technically, he is ‘property’ of the Republic. He will be brought to the Jedi Council for a full examination,” said Shaak Ti.

“He is dangerous,” began Nala Se, but Lama Su held up a hand to stop her.

“The Jedi must do what they think is right. We will leave you,” said Lama Su. He bowed to Shaak Ti and ushered Nala Se out of the room with him. The medical droid that Shaak Ti had sent across the room was still crumpled on the floor, a few stray sparks flying out of it now and then.

Shaak Ti left Tup’s room to go next door to the one where Fives and AZI-3 were sitting.

“I received your message,” said Shaak Ti. “They were going to terminate him against the Council’s wishes. I stopped them.”

“Thank you for believing in me, General,” said Fives.

“It is not a matter of belief, Fives. It was simply the right thing to do. Now, droid, tell me more about this tumor.”

Once AZI-3 had informed Shaak Ti of all he knew of the tumor, they agreed that the best course of action was to remove it from Tup. AZI-3 did the procedure delicately, but Tup was so weak. Her mumbled something about being free and about an endless dream, and then with a final shutter, he died. Fives stood there as if in shock, his mouth slightly open.

“I thought we could save him,” he said.

Shaak Ti bowed her head and placed a hand over her heart in respect for the dead clone. She then reached out and took the tumor from AZI-3.

“I am sorry for your friend. But we must find out as much as we can about this tumor as we can,” said Shaak.

“We can compare the tissue of the tumor to the DNA of the original donor, Jango Fett,” said AZI-3. Shaak Ti nodded and AZI-3 reached out, saying, “The tumor, please.”

She stared hard at it for a moment before handing it back to AZI-3, who flew over to one of the many complicated machines in the examination room and inserted the tumor sample. The machine whirred and beeped for a few seconds.

“The sample does not seem to match anything in the Jango Fett genotype. Furthermore, it is not even completely organic. An implant,” said AZI-3 as he interpreted the results of the test.

“An implant?” said both Fives and Shaak Ti, though his tone was far angrier and hers more surprised.

“Do I have one?” asked Fives after a moment.

“I could perform a scan,” said AZI-3.

“Do it,” said Fives. Shaak Ti gently lifted Tup’s body and set him on one of the counters, so that Fives take his place on the operating table. AZI-3 pushed him into the scanning machine and activated it.

“You are positive for a tumor,” AZI-3 said.

“Remove it,” said Fives.

“I’m not sure that is the right decision,” said Shaak Ti. “After what happened to Tup-“

“Remove it,” said Fives, more forcefully.

AZI-3 looked at Shaak Ti for permission, and Shaak Ti nodded, her lips pursed with concern.

It didn’t take long to remove, but Shaak Ti’s hand was clenched tightly the entire time. When it was finally out she looked down at her palm to see crescent-shaped imprints from where her nails had bit into her skin. Fives seemed to be breathing regularly and he certainly wasn’t muttering anything about dreams.

“How do you feel?” she asked while helping him sit up.

“I don’t feel any different,” he said slowly.

“General,” said AZI-3, handing her Fives’ tumor. Even without equipment, it was easy to see that there was a difference between the two tumors. While Tup’s had been shrivelled and full of holes, Fives’ was plump and bright pink in color, healthier looking by far.

“This one seems to have degraded, perhaps causing a malfunction,” said AZI-3, holding up Tup’s tumor.

“I think we should go to Coruscant in all haste. There is something very wrong here,” said Shaak Ti. “Can you walk?” she asked Fives.

He was a little woozy on his feet, and he had to lean on Shaak Ti for a moment until his dizziness faded away. Shaak Ti then led the way to the door and opened it to find six Kaminoan clone guards standing with Lama Su behind them. The usually bustling hallway seemed to be completely deserted.

“What’s going on?” Shaak Ti asked.

“I’m afraid your rebellious actions have come to an end,” drawled Lama Su, sounding about as interested as if he were discussing the rain outside. Fives could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, his whole body tense.

“Execute Order 66,” said Lama Su.

In perfect sync, the six clones raised their blasters to fire into the examination room. Shaak Ti raised her hand and sent two of them flying back into the far wall. Then her lightsaber was out and blocking the blaster bolts from the other four. Fives had heard before that Master Shaak Ti was considered to be one of the most skilled Jedi with a lightsaber and he had seen her spar with the clones for training. He realized now, however, how much she had been holding back with the cadets. She moved so quickly it was hard to tell what exactly had happened, but with a flash of blue light, the four standing clones fell in pieces to the floor, as did Prime Minister Lama Su. Shaak Ti didn’t hesitate, then, but grabbed Fives by the wrist and bolted down the hallway with AZI-3 quick behind them.

They saw only a few clones on their way to the hangar and the ones they did encounter seemed more confused than violent. Sirens began to go off, ordering that no aircraft be allowed to leave the city. One clone trooper held up a hand to stop them from entering the hangar, but Shaak Ti pushed him roughly to the side. They raced to the closest Kaminoan flight pod, where another clone tried to stop them. Fives hit him squarely over the head, saying, “Sorry, brother,” as the unconscious man dropped to the floor. He then followed Shaak Ti and AZI-3 onto the craft.

“Can you fly this?” she asked him.

“Yep,” he said, sitting in the control seat.

Over the hangar loudspeakers they could hear a Kaminoan voice saying, “Execute Order 66.”

Their flight pod lifted off the ground and moved out over the water. For a brief moment, Fives felt a hint of relief that they had escaped. Then the left side of the pod exploded open and all three of them were sucked out of the craft to fall into the raging sea below.

Chapter Text

“The incompetence of Lama Su has been unacceptable,” growled a voice through the holocall.

Nala Se and Taun We, Lama Su’s assistant, stood facing the holoprojection of the hooded Lord Tyranus.

“The actions of our Prime Minister were indeed rash, but the clones proved admirably how effective Order 66 is against rogue Jedi,” said Taun We.

“So I take it Master Shaak Ti is dead.”

“Along with both of the defective clone troopers and all evidence of the control chips.”

“Well, at least that has gone right. What is the official story?”

“That both troopers CT-5385 and ARC-5555 were infected by a Separatist virus, which drove them to turn on their Jedi generals. Fives escaped from the medical facility, where he detonated a bomb in the main hangar of Tipoca City. Sadly, Master Shaak Ti and Prime Minister Lama Su died in the explosion, along with ARC-5555.”

“Good, good. What about the clones who were activated.”

“All have been terminated.”

“Then our business is done for now,” said Tyranus.

Nala Se and Taun We both bowed deeply as the holocall ended.

***

“As you can see, I am buoyant and have several survival modes,” said AZI-3 cheerfully, as Shaak Ti and Fives clung to him like a life raft. The waves buffeted them up and down as the rain pelted down on them.

“We have to get to a ship,” said Shaak Ti, yelling over the sound of the rain.

“I wish you were as good with animals as Master Kenobi,” muttered Fives, thinking that an aiwha would come in very handy at the moment. The entire right side of his face was covered in a rather spectacular bruise and his arm throbbed from hitting the water, but he was otherwise unharmed. Shaak Ti seemed a little better off, though her robes were weighing her down more heavily than Fives’ uniform.

“How far are we from Tipoca City?” Fives asked AZI-3.

“We can’t go back there,” said Shaak Ti. “They just shot us out of the sky.”

“What other option do we have? There are no other cities even remotely close,” said Fives.

“So, we can die by drowning or get killed by the Kaminoans,” said Shaak Ti, her calm demeanor faltering in the face of her frustration and worry.

“Fantastic.”

They were interrupted from debating the further merits of either deaths, as they were able to see the lights of an approaching ship through the thick fog.

“I suppose it no longer matters. They have found us,” said Shaak Ti, resigned. She didn’t have the energy to dive down into the cold waters to hide.

The ship that emerged from the fog, however, was not a Kaminoan vessel of any kind, but a somewhat triangular shaped ship painted dark blue and white. Shaak Ti recognized it as a Aka’jor class shuttle, from Mandalore of all places. The clone template, Jango Fett, may have been Mandalorian, but the Mandalorians had shown little interest in either Kamino or the clones, other than to object that they had been created in the first place. The ramp of the ship was lowered and a rope ladder fell down to them.

Shaak Ti grabbed the bottom rung and began to pull herself up. She only realized how cold she was when she left the ocean and the powerful wind began to blow through her cloak. She looked back to make sure Fives was following her up the ladder with AZI-3 hovering next to him. They made it onto the ramp, which closed behind them, cutting off any chance of leaving. The sound of the storm was immediately dampened and they found themselves uncomfortable in the silence. No one was there to greet them or explain and Shaak Ti could only sense one living presence in the entire ship, in the cockpit. She gestured for Fives and AZI-3 to follow her.

The cockpit door hissed open and they could see a pair of blue and white montrals sticking over the top of the chair.

 “Padawan Tano?” said Shaak Ti, forgetting momentarily that Ahsoka had left the order.

Ahsoka stood and walked toward them with a serious expression on her face. She was a bit taller since Shaak Ti had last seen her and her lekku had grown longer.

“It is good to see you again, Master Ti,” she said somewhat stiffly, with a formal bow. She smiled at Fives, who, forgetting all decorum, hugged Ahsoka.

“You can’t imagine how glad I am to see you, Commander,” he said.

“But how did you know we were out there?” asked Shaak Ti.

“We have a lot to talk about,” said Ahsoka. “But first I think we’d better get off this planet.”

 

Somewhere in Hyperspace

Ahsoka’s height and lekku were not the only things to have changed, Shaak Ti noted once they had left Kamino’s atmosphere and made the jump into hyperspace. There was something about her demeanor, her posture, her very Force signature that had changed since she was a padawan, which now that Shaak Ti thought about it, had only been a few months ago. What could have possibly happened to make Ahsoka change so much in so short a time?

Then there was the matter of her lightsabers, which were definitely not the ones that Ahsoka had had as a padawan. Shaak Ti could vividly remember watching young Ahsoka with a green lightsaber in one hand and a yellow one held backwards in the other, sparring in the training yard while Anakin criticized her grip.

“You’ll lose a hand holding it like that,” he had said.

“Just because you did, Master, doesn’t mean I will,” had been her retort. Shaak Ti had almost laughed at that. After the years of dealing with Anakin as a padawan and young knight, it was refreshing to see him getting the same treatment. She was sure that Obi-Wan Kenobi was equally amused by it all.

Now, however, Ahsoka, wore two new lightsabers strapped to her belt. New to Ahsoka, that was, as Shaak Ti suspected there was a history to each of them. One of them had a round, silver handle, pretty standard for a Jedi lightsaber, although there appeared to be something Dathomirian inscribed on it. Shaak Ti didn’t think that Ahsoka had ever been to Dathomir. It was the second lightsaber, however, that was the most interesting. This one’s handle was black, square, and blunt, and looked very old fashioned, more like a relic than a real tool.

“How did you know where to find us?” Shaak Ti asked again.

“A little birdie told me,” said Ahsoka with a smirk.

Shaak Ti looked to Fives to see if he understood, but he clearly had no idea what Ahsoka was talking about either.

“So tell me about Order 66,” said Ahsoka casually.

“How could you possibly know about that?” asked Shaak Ti. Fives almost chuckled. The Jedi were accustomed to being well informed, so any lack of knowledge was frustrating to them. Fives, on the other hand, was used to the generals only telling him partial truths and expecting him to go along with it. Perhaps he should be more annoyed by it. It was hard to be any sort of mad at Ahsoka, though, especially after she had rescued them.

“We don’t know much, to be honest. Tup didn’t make it. He and I both had these chips in our heads, which I think can be used to control us. We must have been onto something, because the Kaminoan Prime Minister himself came to kill us. He said, ‘Execute Order 66,’ and the brothers started firing on us. I know they wouldn’t have done that of their own free will. Anyway, they underestimated Master Shaak Ti, so we escaped, sort of. We got shot down and then you found us.” Fives had gotten efficient in his debriefs, relaying the information quickly and without thinking back too much on the emotions of the events.

“Do you have the chips?” asked Ahsoka.

“They were lost in the sea,” said Fives.

“Well, I suppose we’ll have to get more, then. All clones probably have them, right?”

“Probably, we just tested Tup and me,” said Fives.

“Stop!”

Fives and Ahsoka froze, looking over at Shaak Ti. Neither had heard her shout before, nor did they much care for it.

“Just stop. Ahsoka, what is going on? You just show up here with an impossible rescue and you already know about Order 66. How do you know these things? Where have you been?” asked Shaak Ti in a tone that could only be described as frantic. Fives hesitantly went over and put a hand on her shoulder. Shaak Ti took a deep breath, which seemed to calm herself.

“Alright, alright, one question at a time,” said Ahsoka, holding up her hands.

“How did you know where we were?” asked Shaak Ti.

“I saw it in a vision. I’ve been having them a lot lately.”

“And how did you know about Order 66?”

“Same answer. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I have an idea.”

“What have you been doing? The last I heard you were on Mandalore saying that Darth Maul was trying to conquer it.”

“Well, he isn’t trying to anymore, conquer it, I mean. Maul’s dead. For real,” said Ahsoka.

“Kenobi said he was still investigating Darth Maul’s presence. He mentioned nothing about the Sith dying.”

“Ha, I think maybe Master Obi-Wan wanted to stay on Mandalore for awhile,” Ahsoka said, looking slightly sheepish.

Shaak Ti had heard the rumors of Obi-Wan growing an attachment for the Duchess of Mandalore when he was a padawan. It wasn’t as uncommon as the Jedi liked to pretend it was. It was hard to deny such feelings, especially when one was young. Soon enough, however, they had to learn how to push down these feelings, ignore them and focus on their duty. Obi-Wan had done the honorable thing in the end and left the Duchess, but now he could be falling back into it. Shaak Ti supposed that in the grand scheme of things it mattered little. They had bigger things to worry about than Obi-Wan Kenobi’s love life, with the threat of Order 66 and the chipped clones looming over them. Shaak Ti noticed that Fives’ hand was still on her shoulder and she stepped away from him, so that it slid off, trying not to be harsh about it. She just needed to concentrate.

“So we need to find more clones, so that we can get to the bottom of this matter,” said Shaak Ti.

“The 212th are still on Mandalore,” said Ahsoka. “Unless you want to go back to Kamino.”

Shaak Ti and Fives both shook their heads.

“I’ll go tell AZI-3 to set our course for the Mandalorian system,” said Fives.

***

Fives sat up in the cockpit with AZI-3, while Ahsoka and Shaak Ti took the small room with two bunks to try and get some sleep. AZI-3 was chattering on about something, but Fives was too tired and had too much on his mind to really listen. There was something hypnotic about watching the streaks of starlight through the window of the shuttle. Maybe after the war was over Fives could become a pilot and see that view everyday. He liked the thought of that, but then he frowned. He didn’t really think about the end of the war very much, or at least, he didn’t used to. As a young cadet his only dream had been to become an ARC Trooper.

What was he going to do after the war? What was the plan for the clones?

Fives had the sick feeling that they would not be allowed to go off and find freedom even after the war. He supposed they would be kept on as guards and soldiers, still serving the Republic. Perhaps, serving wasn’t the right word. They weren’t servants, after all. There was another word for people who were forced to work and not allowed to leave their profession, a word that the Republic didn’t like to use.

He was more confused than he had ever been, that was for sure.

The tumors in their brains must have done more than hold Jedi-murdering triggers, because he did not feel the same. In fact, he was feeling more than ever more. With nothing to compare it to, he had thought that his emotions were on par with other humans, but now he realized how muted they had been. After his tumor was removed it wasn’t like an emotional dam breaking and flooding him, but rather it was a gradual rising tide of the strength of his feelings. And he was now feeling such a strange mix of anger, betrayal, joy, hope, worry, and yearning. He didn’t understand how the naturally-born people could feel so much at once and still function. It was exhausting.

The sound of screaming pulled him from his deep thoughts and he charged back to the bunk room of the small shuttle. He whirled around the corner and through the open door to find Shaak Ti standing next to Ahsoka’s bed, one hand on Ahsoka’s back. For her part, Ahsoka was sitting up in bed, panting hard and covered in beads of sweat. Fives walked over to stand by Shaak Ti.

“Did you have another vision?” asked Shaak Ti.

“No, it was a just a nightmare,” said Ahsoka, unconvincingly.

Shaak Ti stood and looked up at Fives. She seemed so tall, because of her montrals, but not including them she was actually quite a bit shorter than Fives. He had never seen her out of her loose fitting Jedi robes before either. To sleep, she was only wearing an undertunic and a pair of tights, much more revealing of her actual shape. Fives snapped his attention away from her, choosing instead to stare at a spot on the wall behind Ahsoka. He was angry at Shaak Ti and grateful to her and now there was this new feeling. It was too confusing.

“Glad you’re alright, Commander. I’ll leave you to get back to sleep,” he said, gently bumping Ahsoka on the shoulder with his fist and awkwardly leaving the room. Before he could get back to the cockpit, he heard Shaak Ti following him into the hallway.

“Fives,” she said, catching up to him.

“Yes, General,” he said formally, looking determinedly at her montrals to prevent himself from glancing lower.

Shaak Ti hesitated, finding the right words, and then said, “These new developments are strange and worrying, but I wanted to thank you.”

“For what?”

“If you had not stood by your brother, Tup, and prevented the Kaminoans from terminating him, we might not have ever found the tumors. I don’t know what will come of all this, but I sense we are heading for some changes. So, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, General.”

Shaak Ti turned to return to the room, but Fives called her back, saying, “General, may I ask you something?”

She nodded.

“What will happen to the clones after the war is over?” he asked. Captain Rex had asked him a similar question once on Umbara, but neither of them had been bold enough to ask a Jedi.

“Were you worried about being terminated? That will not happen. When the war ends, there will still be a great deal of reconstruction and conflict to deal with, so the clones will stay as peacekeepers.”

“So, we’ll never be free?” he looked her in the eye as he said it, and she faltered.

“We all have a duty to do, Fives,” she said, slowly.

“But you could leave your duty if you wanted to,” Fives took a step forward, and Shaak Ti a step back and into the wall. “What would happen if I didn’t want to be a soldier anymore? I would be executed.” Fives’ voice was growing louder, to the point where Ahsoka could probably hear him, too.

“But you do want to be a soldier. I remember training you. All you and the Domino Squad wanted was to join the ARC Troopers.”

“The Dominos are dead. Maybe I want something more for my life than just dying for the Republic.”

Shaak Ti reached out a hand and placed it Fives chest, around where his heart was. Fives wasn’t sure if she was going to push him away from her or do some sort of Jedi trick to calm him down. He backed out of her reach.

“Do you see me as a person or a clone?” he asked.

“Are you not both?” asked Shaak Ti.

Fives didn’t answer, but marched back to the cockpit, frustrated. AZI-3 was not good at reading human emotions and seemed oblivious to Fives’ mood. He immediately began saying something about the structure of the ship, until Fives shushed him. Fives wanted to be alone with his thoughts.

Chapter Text

Sundari, Mandalore

The arrival on Mandalore could only be described as tense. Fives and Shaak Ti were not speaking to each other, but stayed sullenly quiet. Ahsoka was pretending she had not overheard their fight and AZI-3 was blissfully unaware that anything had happened.

“I’ve never been on a planet other than Kamino before. If I had more emotional programming, I think I might enjoy it,” said the droid as he touched down the ship on the dock.

The Mandalorian police who watched the docks knew Ahsoka by then, both as the Duchess’ houseguest and as the hero who chased the crime syndicates away from Mandalore. They nodded politely to her as she exited the ship with the others.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Satine were both waiting outside the palace when the rented cruiser pulled up. The dock guards must have called and tipped them off that Ahsoka had returned.

“Well, that was quick,” said Obi-Wan with a chuckle. Ahsoka had to do a double take when she saw him. She had never seen him without a beard before and she couldn’t help but to stare at his clean-shaven face. Usually, she would have had some clever response to Obi-Wan, but she couldn’t remember it. Luckily, Satine pulled Ahsoka into a hug, so that it no longer mattered what she said.

“I thought you were going to be gone for ages. I’m so glad you came back,” Satine said.

Fives walked over to greet Obi-Wan and said, “You look good without the beard, sir.”

“Yes, I’m still getting used to it,” Obi-Wan said, rubbing his bare cheek.

“I think you look wonderful,” said Satine, flashing a brilliant smile at him. She certainly seemed happier than when Ahsoka left her.

“Satine, I don’t think you’ve met ARC Trooper Fives and Master Shaak Ti before,” said Obi-Wan.

“I have not. Welcome to Mandalore, Master Jedi, Fives,” said Satine. Shaak Ti looked slightly disapprovingly at her, but she bowed all the same.

“And I am AZ-345211896246498721347,” said the droid.

“We usually just call him AZI-3,” said Fives.

“Now, I would love to hear what you have been up to, Ahsoka, and how you all have come to join us,” said Obi-Wan.

“Let’s go inside,” said Ahsoka. “And we’ll need the 212th.”

***

Obi-Wan no longer had his beard to stroke when he was deep in thought, so he made due tapping his fingers against his chin. The news of the chips in the brains of at least some of the clones was concerning at best and horrifying at worst. The men of the 212th were in stunned into silence at the news. Most were looking at him to see how he would react.

“We need to study more of these chips and we have an entire battalion here to be subjects,” said AZI-3. The 212th looked less than thrilled at this news.

“How do we know if they have the chips?” asked Obi-Wan.

“We need to perform a brain scan to locate them and then a biopsy to remove the tumors. It is a fairly simple procedure. I have a 50% survival rate so far.”

Fives grimaced at that and told the 212 th what had happened to Tup.

“The hospital has the scanning equipment you would need,” said Satine. “We can, at least, see if the tumors are present.”

“If there is something in my head, I want to know about it,” said Cody, and the rest of the 212 th agreed.

***

One of the perks of being the Duchess of a planet was being able to reserve one of the brain scanning rooms of the hospital with no forward notice. Satine had her personal guard inform the hospital, had them make it sound as if she was the one who was ill. That way the doctors and nurses would be encouraged to keep the information secret, but even if it did leak, it wouldn’t be the true story of the clones. Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, and AZI-3 accompanied her, along with Cody, Fives, and four other clones. They decided to keep it small so that they didn’t attract too much attention. For that reason, too, Shaak Ti stayed behind at the palace. She was just too recognizable, especially since the galactic news was now saying that she had been killed in a bombing on Kamino.

The doctors looked worriedly at Satine as she passed them in the hospital hallways, probably thinking that there was something seriously wrong with their Duchess. It was a relief when they reached the scanning room and were able to lock the door, shutting themselves off from the prying and curious eyes of the staff. When they got inside, Obi-Wan activated a holopad, so that Shaak Ti and the rest of the 212 th could see what was happening.

“Who would like to be first?” asked AZI-3 as he set up the equipment.

“I’ll go,” said Cody. He lay down on the table and AZI-3 pushed him into the scanner.

“Positive,” said AZI-3 when the scan was complete. “Who’s next?”

Boil took Cody’s place on the table and AZI-3 ran the scan again.

“Positive.”

Crys was next, then Trapper and Wooley. All were positive.

“Do you suppose we all have them?” asked Cody.

“It is looking that way,” said Obi-Wan.

The blue hologram of Shaak Ti spoke up then, “I oversaw the clones development starting after gestation was completed. I had little to do with their embryonic stage, but left that to the Kaminoans. That must have been when the chips were inserted.”

“To know more, I will need a tissue sample,” said AZI-3.

“Alright, men. I want you to know that this isn’t mandatory. But if there are any volunteers to have this tumor removed, let us know now,” said Obi-Wan. All of the 212 th clones raised their hands.

“Allow me to go first, sir,” said Cody, stepping forward. One of the many reasons he made such a good commander was that he never asked his men to do something he, himself, was not willing to do.

“Besides, it will balance out my scars,” Cody added, gesturing the deep scar beside his left eye. He lay back down on the table and AZI-3 bent over him, with his metal arms extended and holding various sinister-looking tools. The rest of them in the room were collectively holding their breaths. Only Fives and Shaak Ti had been present at Tup’s death, but the others knew what a possibility it was. Fives hoped that Tup had only died because his brain had been damaged by the defective tumor. That would mean that all his brothers with healthy tumors would be fine, just like he had been.

“And, done,” said AZI-3, holding out the collected tumor with a flourish.

“How do you feel, sir?” asked Wooley, going over to Cody.

“I feel fine. My head feels a bit numb where he operated, but just like any other anaesthetic I’ve had.”

Wooley and Boil helped Cody sit up and then stand from the table. He was a little wobbly at first, but he recovered his balance quickly. Obi-Wan clapped Cody warmly on the back, only just realizing how nervous he had been through the procedure.

“Let’s have a look at this tumor, then,” said Obi-Wan.

“We already know that the DNA does not match that of Jango Fett. Instead, it appeared to be a synthetic sequence. You know, humans are not so different from us droids. This shows just how programmable you are,” said AZI-3. He inserted the tumor sample into a DNA sequencer, the screen of which began to show a coded series of letters that looked random enough to them, but which AZI-3 seemed to understand.

“This will take some time,” said the droid.

The sun set as they waited and the sky grew dark behind the curtained windows. Ahsoka and Shaak Ti both sat down to meditate as they waited, and Obi-Wan put his arm around Satine, ostensibly to comfort her, but in reality because he needed comfort, too. The clones were patient, but even they were growing antsy, desperate to know exactly what these chips in their heads meant.

“My translation of the sequence has completed,” said AZI-3 after about four hours. At once, everyone had their full attention on the little droid.

“The chips have the ability to inhibit the frontal lobe of the brain, the part responsible for decision-making and self-control. They therefore have the ability to turn the clones into what I would call ‘living droids,’ unable to control their own actions. There are over 100 order protocols programmed into the chips. They range from establishing a chain of command should anything happen to the Supreme Chancellor to how to conduct a manhunt for a wanted individual,” said AZI-3.

“And Order 66?” asked Shaak Ti.

“Order 66 states ‘In the event of Jedi officers acting against the interests of the Republic, and after receiving specific orders, GAR commanders will remove those officers by lethal force, and command of the GAR will revert to the Supreme Chancellor until a new command structure is established.”

They were silent after that. The Supreme Chancellor had the power to turn their very armies against them, which could only mean…

“He’s been under our noses the entire time,” said Obi-Wan.

Ahsoka head swam. Her vision began to grow blurry and she saw stars, throwing her off balance.

“Are you alright, Commander?” one of the clones asked. She couldn’t tell which one. She nodded, but then collapsed onto the floor.

The world went black on Ahsoka, and she found herself once again in the void space, unable to see anything except her own body. This time, she didn’t hear the soft and comforting hooting of the convor, but just silence and nothing but her own breathing to break it.

“You are alone again,” said a voice and Ahsoka felt a sharp pain lancing through her right forearm. She knew that voice. Through the darkness, she could make out a pair of glowing red eyes, and then from the shadows emerged a small purple creature with large ears, a long snout, and sharp teeth. She could still feel the pain of those teeth biting into her.

“I am not yours,” she growled to the Son.

" No, but I am forever a part of you now,” he said. “Come, let me show you that which my sister has hidden.” He waved a clawed hand, gesturing for her to follow him. She thought about sitting down where she was and refusing, but he would probably just pull her along anyway. She followed, keeping a wide berth from him.

The void melted into the familiar sight of the Jedi temple. It was nighttime on Coruscant, but instead of the usual sounds of cruisers and ships, she heard marching footsteps, hundreds of them. Up the steps of the temple they came, what looked like a whole battalion of clones, and all being led by a hooded figure. Ahsoka could not make out the figure’s face at all, and could only see a black hole under the hood. Nor could she see the colors of the clones’ armor. They all seemed to be wrapped in a hazy white smoke. There were a few padawans and younglings milling about, some listening to a story by the temple librarian, Jocasta Nu. They all froze when they heard the footsteps.

The hooded figure lit a lightsaber, a blue one, and cut down the padawan in front of him. The other padawans and Master Nu reacted quickly, admirably so, drawing their lightsabers, but they had no chance. The hooded figure was definitely a Master and one of great skill. He cut through the padawans easily. Master Nu was a formidable Jedi, but she was growing old. The figure grabbed her by the throat and ran her through with his lightsaber. Then he turned on the younglings. They didn’t even have lightsabers yet and Ahsoka could not watch their slaughter, covering her eyes.

“But from the ashes, there will be peace,” declared Son beside her. He was no longer the purple creature, but stood to his full height, pale-faced and horrible.

The scene shifted, showing her not peace at all but oppression, people forced into subjugation by the marching troops of the ‘living droid’ clones.

“And you will have power that you have never known!” said the Son.

They were now on a massive ship. In the command chair sat Chancellor Palpatine, or at least a more horrid version of him with sickly sallow skin and sunken eyes. Behind him stood a man all in black and wearing a black mask.

Kkkhh-pprrrr.

His breathing was the sound from her nightmares. She could not dwell on the masked man, because next to him, on Palpatine’s other side, was her own self. She was older, taller, and had long montrals and lekku. She looked right at Ahsoka, her eyes glowing yellow, and she grinned.

“No!” Ahsoka screamed. She lit her lightsaber and slashed at the vision, cutting it into smoke. The Son had vanished, but the sound of his echoing laughter filled the void.

“No!” she yelled again. The sound of a hooting convor silenced the Son and soon the bird followed its voice and flew up to her, landing on her shoulder.

“Have courage, Ahsoka. You are not the Dark or the Light. You are balance,” said the voice of the Daughter from somewhere deep in the void. “Now wake up.”

Ahsoka’s eyes snapped open and she found Satine and Obi-Wan kneeling beside her, with the clones looking very concerned behind them.

“Palpatine is the Sith,” she said weakly.

“Yes, we had come to that conclusion, as well.”

No one really knew what to say after that. The implications of it were too sinister for words. With the exception of Satine, they had all spent the past three years fighting and killing for Palpatine’s Republic, for a democracy which might not even exist. They all needed the strongest drink that Mandalore had to offer, that was for certain.

Chapter Text

Soniee’s aunt was a doctor at Sundari Hospital, and as such, it did not take long for the rumors of Satine’s illness to reach Korkie. Soon enough, he and Soniee came charging to the scanning room, where two of the clone troopers blocked their way in, telling them to come back at a different time, and that the Duchess could not have visitors at the moment.

“I need to see if my aunt is alright,” came the muffled voice of Korkie through the doorway.

“Let him in,” said Satine with a sigh. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka had returned to the palace, but she had had to stay behind to keep up the guise of her illness. The clones were coming in shifts of about six at a time to have their tumors removed and then returning to the palace when they finished, hiding their surgery scars under their helmets. It was not the most subtle of deceptions, but they could only hope the doctors were too busy to notice the constantly changing clones.

“Auntie,” said Korkie, running to her side. “You, um, you look fine.” Soniee followed him into the room, looking around at all the clone troopers with bandages on their temples.

“I am fine,” said Satine.

“What’s going on?”

“Oh, the Republic is a sham, their Chancellor is the Sith Lord, and all the clones have a chip in their head that can make them kill Jedi.”

“What?” Korkie was looking at her as if he really did believe she had a brain injury.

“Go to the palace. Obi-Wan and Ahsoka will explain everything,” she said.

“Ahsoka’s back?” asked Soniee, sounding happy, but bewildered.

“Yes, and I’m sure she could use your support. I know I can trust you two to keep this under wraps,” and with that Satine shooed them out of the room.

***

Ahsoka could see that Obi-Wan was mildly annoyed at Satine for bringing Korkie and Soniee into it all, but Ahsoka was too happy to see them again to be cross about it. Besides, Korkie and Soniee had become her closest friends. Then again, her former closest friend had framed her for treason and her other former closest friend may have voted her guilty of treason, so perhaps she did need to more suspicious. But she couldn’t help her joy at seeing them and not having to lie to them.

“Well, I suppose you’re part of the team, now,” said Obi-Wan, still looking cross. Shaak Ti also had a look of displeasure on her face, but she quickly returned to her usual passive expression.

“Should we have a team name, then?” asked Korkie. He stroked his chin in way that reminded Ahsoka of someone. Actually, without the beard hiding his face, she realized that Obi-Wan and Korkie did look a bit alike. Strange. She wondered if Obi-Wan had any Mandalorian heritage, despite being born so far away on Stewjon.

“A team name?” asked Shaak Ti.

“Yeah, like some of the clone squads have, like Plo Koon’s wolfpack.”

“Convor,” said Ahsoka. “We’re Team Convor.”

“Aren’t convorees those plump little birds? They don’t exactly strike fear in the heart, but alright, alright.” Upon seeing Ahsoka’s expression, Fives halted his objection to the name.

“So what is the plan of Team Convor?” asked Shaak Ti.

They all looked to Ahsoka, who did her best not to gulp.

“We can start by removing the chips from as many clones as we can, but really we need to destroy Palpatine before he can activate Order 66. Then, we have to prove he was the Sith so we don’t get killed by the Jedi. The Republic will be in chaos, so we’ll need to get in touch with the senators to help stabilize the government, Padmé, Bail Organa, Riy- and you know, some others. And make peace with the Separatists.”

“Is that all?” asked Cody, dryly.

“I never said it would be easy.”

“What about the clones?” asked Fives.

“I have spoken with Satine about that,” Shaak Ti told him. It was the first words they’d spoken directly to each other all day. “Seeing as Jango Fett was once a Mandalorian, the Duchess would like to offer you all a home here. Not as soldiers, of course, but completely free to choose your own paths. The ‘lost sons of Mandalore,’ I think is what she called you. I don’t know what the Republic will decide when all this is done, but you will at least have a home on the planets in the Mandalorian system.”

Ahsoka watched Fives’ reaction carefully, as his determined frown slipped into a soft and surprised expression. The other clones looked thoughtful and hopeful, but there was definitely more there on Fives’ face.

“Do you think you’ll stay on Mandalore after the war, sir?” asked Cody rather boldly to Obi-Wan.

“Yes, Cody, I imagine I will,” said Obi-Wan.

“We are getting ahead of ourselves, I think,” said Shaak Ti, bringing their focus back to the matter at hand.

“Right, so phase one: chip removal,” said Ahsoka.

It was going to be a long night, indeed.

***

Satine flopped into bed around two in the morning. It had taken several hours to remove all the tumors from the 212 th , even with AZI-3 gaining speed and efficiency the more he did the operations. All the clones survived it, giving them a huge sense of relief. Tup’s death really must have been due to the defect in his tumor, which meant they could remove the tumors from all healthy clones without much worry.

“Feeling better, my love?” asked Obi-Wan, rolling over in the bed.

“Pardon?” she asked.

“Well, you have been in the hospital all day with a terrible illness.”

She laughed and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek, before positioning herself to lie on his chest. It had been a long day, and there would probably be longer days to come. She wanted to take advantage of this quiet moment, listening to Obi-Wan’s heartbeat, before their attack on the Sith began.

***

Fives raised his hand and then lowered it. He raised it again and this time forced himself to knock. After a few seconds, the door hissed open to reveal Shaak Ti, again in her undertunic and tights and looking utterly exhausted.

“Fives, is everything alright?” she asked.

“I, um, owe you an apology. For last night. I accused you of a lot of things in my frustration. And my point is, thank you, for what you said today.”

Shaak Ti stood to the side, letting him into the room. It was simple, but far more decorated than a Jedi’s room typically would be, with a vase of white calla lilies on a stand and a few paintings in the strange Mandalorian style of abstraction on the wall. Shaak Ti sat down on one of the padded seats near the foot of the bed and waited for Fives to sit, too.

“You were right,” she said softly. “Although I always saw you as living beings and not objects, I have also not considered what you deserve as sapient beings. You were slaves. And I did nothing to stop it, because like the other Jedi, I thought you were necessary to win this war. Now, it seems this war is a sham. Master Nu, in her history lessons, would always tell us of how the mighty Sith Empires were built on the backs of slaves. We should have known.” She was quiet for a moment before continuing, “I can only offer you my deepest apologies and ask you to forgive my ignorance. From now on, I promise that I will fight for you and your brothers to have the full rights afforded to all other sapient peoples.” The whole time she talked, she faced straight forward, not looking at him.

Fives reached out and touched her hand, only for a second.

“I forgive you.”

Shaak Ti smiled, but still didn’t look at him.

“We all looked up to you so much during our training. I remember the day you arrived to oversee the clone army, when I was equivalent 20. I think all the younger ones saw you as some sort of surrogate parent, in a way, and all of us adult clones had crushes on you.” Fives stopped talking, feeling his face grow hot with embarrassment. Why was he telling her this?

“I mean, I just mean, well, you were the only non-clone we knew, at first, other than the Kaminoans. And they were, you know. There were Bric and El-Les, too, but Bric was a dick. Although, I suppose El-Les did have lovely eyes.” In the name of the Force, why could he not stop talking? Shaak Ti was looking at him with amusement. Her room was on the eastern side of the palace, so the moonlight illuminated the room well enough that they didn’t need any artificial light. She looked good in the moonlight. Her eyes shone pale purple and her lips-

“I’ll let you get to sleep,” said Fives, standing quickly and bowing to Shaak Ti as he practically fled the room. He ran into Boil as he returned to his own room.

“Why are you so red?” Boil asked him bluntly.

“Nothing,” he muttered, but Boil smirked at him as he retreated to the room he shared with Wooley.

 

The Moon of Oba Diah

Plo Koon lit the strange lightsaber he had found within the T-6 shuttle, illuminating the small metal chamber with blue light. He did not recognized it by sight. He wished briefly that he had Quinlan Vos’ power of detecting the memory of objects, because all he could say for certain was that it was a Jedi lightsaber. Whether it was Sifo-Dyas’ was another issue entirely. He would have to contact the Council when they returned to their ship.

“Sir, we’re getting a message from the ship,” said Commander Wolffe, holding out a beeping holopad to Plo Koon.

Plo Koon activated the holopad and the hologram of Sergeant Sinker popped up and filled the room with a similar blue light to that of the lightsaber. The image was not as clear as Plo Koon would have liked. The constant sandstorms of Oba Diah interfered with a strong connection, and so Sinker’s image was blurry and flickering.

“Sir, we have received a call from General Kenobi. He says it is very urgent. Would you like me to transmit it over to you or ask him to wait for you to return to the ship?”

“Send it through. If it is urgent, we had better hear it right away.”

“Right away,” said Sinker. A moment later his image was replaced by Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Plo Koon sometimes had trouble recognizing the changes that humans made to their appearance, but even he noticed Obi-Wan’s clean-shaven face. It almost made him look like a padawan again. He was still dressed in the same simple Jedi robes that he always wore, but Plo Koon sensed that there was more that had changed in Obi-Wan than his hairstyle.

“Master Kenobi, is there a problem on Mandalore?” asked Plo Koon. Ever since Obi-Wan had left to investigate the potential presence of Darth Maul, the Council had received only vague and brief updates from him. His reports stated that there was much conflict on Mandalore, rumors of Maul’s presence, but not concrete proof. Perhaps that had changed.

“I’m afraid there is a problem all across the galaxy,” said Obi-Wan.

“Quite so, but what is the particular reason you are calling today? Have you located Darth Maul?”

“Oh, yes, ages ago. Maul is dead. But I actually need to speak to you about the clones.” Obi-Wan was so cavalier in telling of Maul’s death and so quick to dismiss the subject, causing Plo Koon and Wolffe to look at each, unsure if they were hearing correctly.

“The clones, sir?” asked Wolffe.

“You have heard about Master Ti’s death on Kamino?”

“Yes,” said Plo Koon, bowing his head. “Such a tragic event. But she is one with the Force now.”

“Not yet,” said a familiar voice, and then Shaak Ti appeared in the hologram next to Obi-Wan.

Plo Koon fell into silence, shocked, as Obi-Wan and Shaak Ti proceed to tell Wolffe and him about the conspiracy of the clones. It was too unbelievable, and yet it made sense in a horrible sort of way. The story of Sifo-Dyas was just too strange and inconsistent. Jocasta Nu’s records stated he died on Felucia, and yet here was his ship and his lightsaber on the moon of Oba Diah. The Kaminoans had claimed that Sifo-Dyas had commissioned the clone army, but Jango Fett had said that a man named Tyranus was responsible. It seemed that the more obvious solution had been right in front of them, quite literally on several occasions. Palpatine was the Sith and the Clone War was just a means for him to achieve more power. Beside Plo Koon, Wolffe was completely rigid as Shaak Ti told them of Order 66, and Plo Koon realized that Wolffe was nervous of his reaction.

“How do we remove these chips?” asked Plo Koon.

“It is a fairly simple procedure. Ours was performed by an AZ unit medical droid, but I’m sure other medical droids would be competent at it as well. We’ll send you the procedure to give to your droids. I would encourage you to be prompt,” said Obi-Wan.

“And, of course, Master Plo. This information needs to stay quiet,” added Shaak Ti. With a bow, she exited the hologram.

“We will be on Mandalore if you need to join us,” said Obi-Wan, closing the call.

Commander Wolffe looked at Plo Koon again, silently asking him what to do. It no longer mattered who commissioned the clones. Until he could get the chips out of their heads, they were the Sith’s army.

“Let’s get back to the ship,” said Plo Koon, dropping Sifo-Dyas’ lightsaber on his way out.

 

Mandalore

They started with the easy ones first. Plo Koon had always been sympathetic to the plight of the clones, seeing them as more than just replaceable parts of a war machine. Luminara Unduli, Aayla Secura, and Kit Fisto had also been shown to care for their men, and so were informed of the control chips and shown how to remove them. Then, it started to get trickier. Tiplee had not fully trusted the clones since her sister’s death. As for certain members of the Jedi Council, they were so stuck in their strict dogma and loyalty to the Republic that they could react very poorly to the news, or do something incredibly foolish like bringing the matter to the Senate.

Team Convor spent many long hours debating which Jedi to tell, which they should avoid, and ultimately what to do about the Jedi Council. And then there was the matter of Anakin, which had to be done delicately, to say the least.

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Anakin could feel himself growing more pent up the longer he spent on Coruscant. As nice as it was to spend some real time with Padmé, he was itching to get out in the field and get back to fighting the Separatists. He felt useless here, with nothing to do while Padmé attended Senate meetings, except for meditating and training young ones at the temple. He didn’t understand why the Council had grounded him on Coruscant after the events of Ringo Vinda and Kamino. It wasn’t his fault that Tup and Fives had caught a Separatist virus and killed Jedi. He didn’t infect them with it, so why was he being punished for it? Overall, the morale of the 501 st was at an all time low, perhaps even worse than it had been on Umbara. Tiplar’s death had been one thing, but hearing that Fives had blown up a hanger full of their brothers and Master Shaak Ti had hit them all hard. And Coruscant, with all its bars and other more sinister diversions, could be a dangerous place for those who were bored and grieving.

Anakin was lazing around Padmé’s apartment, waiting for her to return home from some budget meeting, when he received a message on his comlink. It was from Obi-Wan. Anakin sat up on the couch he had been reclining on. Obi-Wan had been gone on Mandalore for ages and Anakin had hardly heard a word from him. Anakin had asked the Council several times to send him to Mandalore, as well, to help Obi-Wan track down Maul, but they had not relented.

Are you alone? said the message.

Yes, what’s going on? Anakin replied.

The comlink beeped again, this time with a holocall request. He opened it and the hologram popped up in front of him, showing him not Obi-Wan at all, but Ahsoka. Anakin gaped at her for a long moment. She had grown, even in the short time since she had left the order.

“Ahsoka,” he said, because he could think of nothing else to say.

“Hello, my old master,” she said, with a bow of her head.

“What, I mean, where- what happened to you?”

“So much. I suppose I should start at the beginning.” She took a deep breath and began. Anakin was not exactly a quiet listener to her story. He was worried about her nightmares, miffed that she and Obi-Wan were together on Mandalore without him, and a mix of horrified and proud that she had killed Darth Maul once and for all. When she got to the part about the clones, however, he went silent, and when she told him about the true identity of the Sith, his expression grew dark.

“You’re lying,” he muttered.

“Why would I be lying?” Ahsoka asked. She had expected that. Chancellor Palpatine had always been somewhat of a mentor to Anakin. Now, Anakin regarded Ahsoka carefully, searching for that guilty expression that she wore whenever she was lying. It wasn’t there.

  “Then you’re mistaken.”

  “Master- Anakin, something happened to me on Mortis. You were there. The Son infected me with a part of himself and the Daughter saved me with a part of herself. I wouldn’t trust these visions if they came from the Son alone, but the Daughter has confirmed them. Palpatine is the Sith. He has fooled all of us.”

“But me more than anyone,” said Anakin, his voice coming out in an angry growling tone.

“I don’t think so.”

“He’ll pay for this.”

“Be patient.”

“Why should I? Are you going to tell me that revenge is not the Jedi way. Then I will stop him to save the galaxy. Besides you aren’t even a Jedi anymore.” Anakin stood as he spoke, pacing the room.

“I’m not sure you can defeat him alone,” said Ahsoka.

“I don’t see the point in waiting.” Anakin crossed the living and threw open the apartment door.

“I know what you mean,” said Ahsoka. It was not the hologram image, although that one said the same words, but this was the living, breathing Ahsoka standing before him just outside of Padmé’s apartment. Anakin pulled her into a hug. She had certainly grown taller and he had to be careful hugging her to make sure her montrals didn’t hit him in the face. Eventually, Anakin stepped aside to let her into the apartment.

“But there are things we need to do first, before we can face him,” Ahsoka continued, when she was inside and sitting down. “We need to remove the tumors from the 501 st . And then, we are going to take Kamino. There may be a secret way to prevent or reverse Order 66 that we can find. Even if there isn’t, we need to take the clones from the Kaminoans and remove their chips.”

He watched her for a moment, and she tried to read his expression.

“Alright, I’m in, Snips. Except I have orders to stay here on Coruscant. It might seem suspicious if I disappear along with my entire legion.”

“I’ve got it covered, Skyguy. As we speak, Masters Plo, Fisto, Allie, and Obi-Wan are suggesting to the Council that you replace Shaak Ti as the trainer of the clone cadets on Kamino. It is a very prestigious position.”

“And one I would hate, if we weren’t going there to steal information and kick Kaminoan ass.”

 

Tipoca City, Kamino

“What an honor to have you, Master Jedi. Senator Burtoni sent us word of your arrival,” said Taun We, smoothly as always. She was serving as interim Prime Minister following Lama Su’s death, until Kamino was able to hold an election for a new Prime Minister. Several other Kaminoans were lined up in the hallway to welcome him, as were many of the clones.

“The honor is mine, Prime Minister,” said Anakin with a polite bow. It was impossible to read the Kaminoans. He couldn’t tell if Taun We and the others were actually glad to have him as the new Jedi overseer of clone development or not. Nor was he sure which reaction he would prefer. After all, Shaak Ti had nearly been killed for knowing too much and opposing the Kaminoans and their plots. They would probably prefer a Jedi who was easily manipulated and overall a complete dunce. He supposed that was the role he should play.

“I will show you to your new quarters and then I am sure you would like to see our facilities,” said Taun We.

“That sounds good to me,” said Anakin.

Taun We led him through the sterile halls of Tipoca City, each one looking exactly like the others. He had a pretty good head for directions luckily, or else he would be completely lost in this maze of identical white hallways. Anakin had been to Kamino only once before, but he had been focused on the attempted invasion of the Separatists, and had not fully noticed the cold blankness of the place. It was almost as bad a place to grow up as Tatooine.

“I was a little surprised that they assigned you to us, Master Skywalker. After all, your accomplishments in the field are rather legendary. The clones speak of you often. Many of them wish to be assigned to the 501 st ,” said Taun We as they walked.

“Well, some of the Jedi Council view my actions as reckless. They must believe that I can do more for the war effort here.”

“Do you have much experience training new troops?”

“I have enough,” said Anakin, a little sharply.

The rooms that Taun We showed him were similarly plain and drab. There was a red meditation pillow on the floor next to the bed that he supposed used to belong to Shaak Ti. Even knowing that she was really alive, he thought it was a rather grim thing for the Kaminoans to give him her old room and her belongings. Anakin set his small rucksack on the bed and looked at Taun We, indicating that he was ready to see the clone production and training areas.

Taun We started with the beginning of the clone life cycle, in a giant room filled with embryos, each in a small glass chamber, like a bell jar. The chambers where arranged around circular disks that could be moved around to get a closer look at certain embryos. They all seemed to be in different stages of development, with some smaller than Anakin’s hand, hardly even resembling a human shape, and others that looked ready to be born, or whatever you called it when a clone baby left his glass chamber. Team Convor was not certain exactly when the control chips were inserted, but they knew it happened sometime during this stage of development.

“Due to the accelerated aging, the gestation takes only four months. Then the embryos are decanted and sent to the nursery.” Taun We led Anakin into a new, but just as large room. This one contained high shelves with clear drawers, every one with a baby lying face up inside. The babies each had a tube in their mouths, as well as two thick wires attached to their temples.

“Jango Fett is not the first human template that we have used. With the early explorations into human cloning, we ran into an obstacle during the infancy stage. We found that, although they were given all the nutrients their bodies should need, the clone infants would often die. It seems your species requires contact and emotional security at this stage to survive,” said Taun We giving Anakin a look that seemed to be pity. She continued, “Now we simply stimulate those portions of the brain with electrical impulses. We find it to be much more efficient.”

Anakin thought back to the vague memories that he had of his mother holding him as a very young child. The idea of trading her for a series of wire shocks made him furious.

“Once they reach two years, what would be a four-year-old regular human child, they begin their training,” Taun We led him past large rooms and auditoriums of identical children studying computer simulations and sparring with each other. A few of them looked up curiously at him, before turning back to their work.

“And here we have the adult cadets.”

This room was filled with stacked bunk beds which could extend out of the wall and then go back in once the clones were inside. Many of the clones were down in the training areas, but a few were sitting on their bunks, looking through holo-pads. They rose to attention and saluted when Anakin walked past them.

“Shall I show you the training areas?” asked Taun We.

“Thank you, Prime Minister, but I’m sure you are very busy. Perhaps one of the cadets could show me and let you return to your duties.”

Taun We nodded and gestured for one of the cadets to approach.

“2164 will show you,” she said, and left them alone in the barracks.

“If you’ll follow me, sir,” said the clone.

“2164. So what do the other clones call you?” asked Anakin.

“Night, sir,” he said.

“Lead the way, Night.”

Chapter Text

Coruscant

Padmé made her way through the hallways of the Senate building, flanked by Rex and Jesse, who had been acting as her personal guards following Anakin’s departure for Kamino. They were leaving the recent Senate meeting, where Supreme Chancellor Palpatine had announced his plans to secure the banking planet of Scipio. Padmé had felt a chill run through her veins as she watched Palpatine speak and be met with cheers from the Senate. She was angry with herself for not seeing it sooner and for the role she had played in helping Palpatine to more power. He had just seemed like any other politician to her, somewhat corrupt, but not truly evil. He was a Sith, though, and she had been the one to help him become the Chancellor in the first place.

Padmé couldn’t think about that now, couldn’t think about the past. The future was far too dangerous and uncertain and it demanded all of her attention. Palpatine had gained tremendous political influence, and now he was seeking out economic power. Senator Nee Alavar had been dispatched on a diplomatic mission to Scipio, but had been captured by the Separatists. Palpatine and many members of the Senate had called for an invasion of Scipio, which would place the banks there directly into their control. It was devious and, all the more concerning, it was effective. The Senate had voted almost overwhelmingly for the invasion.

Not everyone was on Palpatine’s side, however. Padmé had to remind herself that she still had allies. With Anakin gone to Kamino, Obi-Wan on Mandalore, and Ahsoka forced to stay hidden, Padmé had taken on the role of recruiting Senators for "Operation Convor," as they called it. It was dangerous work, even with the 501st there to guard her. They were brave and capable soldiers, but they would be no match for Palpatine and his forces. So Padmé had to be careful.

She started with the Senators who she trusted and who she knew had doubts about the Supreme Chancellor. Bail Organa had been the first she had told, and if he was surprised about the true identity of the Sith, he did not show it. Mon Mothma had also been quick to join them. Then the word had begun to spread, not the entire story, but just a growing concern for Palpatine’s influence. Only a select group knew who Palpatine really was.

Padmé, Rex, and Jesse had reached the entry hall for the Galactic Senate when one of the Chancellor’s aides stopped them.

“Excuse me, Senator,” said the aide, “But the Supreme Chancellor asked to see you before you left.”

Jesse looked to Rex, shifting his weight a little, but Rex stayed still and calm.

“Is it urgent? It has been a long day,” said Padmé.

“The Supreme Chancellor did not say, but I must insist you see him.”

Padmé looked to Rex and Jesse and nodded, and followed the aide back upstairs to the office of the Chancellor. 

“Ah, Senator Amidala, glad we caught you,” said Palpatine, when she arrived. His smile was no different than usual, though it seemed far more sinister than it had ever been before.

“Your guards may wait outside. I would like to speak privately, if we may,” he said.

Padmé nodded to them again. She could tell they did not want to leave her, but at the look she gave them, they left the room. The door hissed closed behind them, leaving her alone in the room with Palpatine.

“How can I be of service, Supreme Chancellor?” she asked, with a formal bow.

“Come, come, there is no need for such decorum. We have known each other for too long. I wanted to ask you about Rush Clovis, actually.”

“Clovis?” asked Padmé surprised.

“You were quite close once, were you not?”

“A long time ago,” said Padmé carefully. She knew that Clovis was involved with the banking clan on Scipio, but she had not talked to him since Cato Neimoidia.

“He continues to raise the rates on loans to the Republic and now seems to be in support of this Separatist attack and the unfortunate capture of our Senator Alavar. Now that we have the Senate’s support, we will invade Scipio very soon and claim the banks. But I wonder if you have any insights in Clovis that could help us minimize the violence of the conflict.”

Padmé could not tell what information Palpatine was really searching for, so she told him the truth.

“Clovis is a very intelligent man, but self-serving and cowardly. He will surrender quickly if he thinks his life is truly in danger,” she said.

Palpatine grinned again, walking around his desk and placing a hand on Padmé’s shoulder.

“Thank you, Senator. That will surely be helpful to us.”

“Anything for the Republic,” she said, standing and bowing, before she turned to leave the office.

“I can see why you chose to break off your...attachment to him. He seems far inferior to young Skywalker,” said Palpatine. Padmé froze in front of the door to his office and took a deep breath to steady herself.

“Anakin?” she asked, her voice sounding more meek than she intended.

“Such a shame he had to leave Coruscant so soon. And to be sent all the way out to Kamino. Surely the Jedi realize that he has far greater value than the training of common soldiers.”

Padmé turned back to face him, forcing her expression to stay calm.

“I’m sure the Jedi Council did what they felt was the right decision. Anakin will be a fine teacher,” she said.

“Yes, I have no doubt. The ways of the Jedi can seem a little outdated to us, though, I suppose. Who knows? Perhaps someday they will change. But, I have kept you for too long. I’m sure you have many important matters to attend to.” Palpatine held his hand out toward the door, and Padmé gave one last bow before exiting the room. She didn’t speak to Rex and Jesse as they quickly made their way out of the Senate building, too afraid of being overheard. It wasn’t until she they got back to her apartment, where Ahsoka and several of the other clone troopers were waiting, that she filled them in on her meeting with Palpatine.

“So he knows about you and Anakin,” said Ahsoka, looking pensive, but not nearly as afraid as Padmé felt.

“Yes, it seems so- wait, how do you know about me and Anakin?” asked Padmé.

Ahsoka and Rex shared a look, and then Ahsoka said, “You aren’t always as subtle as you think you are.”

“We’ve known for ages,” said Rex.

***

The dissention against Palpatine was growing steadily through the Senate, as Padmé, Bail, and Mon Mothma slowly and carefully contacted their allies. Many had already had their concerns, but had been too nervous to voice them until now. They had reached Pa Dua of Rodia, Orn Free Taa of Ryloth, Bana Breemu, and many others, though they still remained outnumbered by Palpatine’s supporters.

Ahsoka was forced to stay in hiding, mostly in Padmé’s apartment, and only venturing out at night and in disguise. She was beginning to grow restless. She knew that Operation Convor required patience, but she found herself itching for something to do, some mission beyond waiting for the Senators to do their work.

Luckily, a vision from the convor bird soon gave her just such a mission.

Her meditation started as it often did, with her chanting her mantra until the convor bird showed up. For the past few weeks, they had simply sat together in silence, but this time the convor bird took her to the Jedi Temple. She had not returned since she had left the Order, and seeing it again, even if only in a vision, left her with a mix of guilt and relief. She started in the Council Chamber, where Master Yoda was meditating alone. He opened his eyes and frowned, almost as if he sensed something, but he could not see her and soon went back to his meditation. Ahsoka left, with the convor on her shoulder and made her way down from the tower. She passed Mace Windu speaking to a holograph image of Depa Billaba, Saesee Tiin sparing with some guards in the practice rooms, and various droids and younglings that wandered through the hallways. She made her way down to the library where Jocasta Nu was carefully organizing the records. The convor hooted softly and Ahsoka felt something like a cold mist creeping up from the floor. There was something below the temple, something she had never felt before.

She opened her eyes, ripping herself out of the vision and back into Padmé’s room. She didn’t know why the feeling frightened her so much, but she knew that she had to face it. She wished the convor bird could accompany her in real life, but she would have to do this alone.

Ahsoka waited until night and then pulled a heavy cloak over herself. She didn’t tell Padmé or the clones where she was going, but they didn’t ask. They were used to her going out by herself at night. 

Ahsoka hadn’t been to the lower levels of Coruscant since she had been on the run the year before, but she found herself once again descending on the elevator to the 1300 levels. The air was thicker there and smelled far worse than the upper levels. Poverty existed in every person she passed, from the homeless begging for credits on the street corners to the hustlers and black marketeers who sold everything you could think of and many things you couldn’t. Some of them called out to her as she walked through the smoky streets, but she kept her head down and her hood up. She had a vague sense where she was going, toward the rubble and ruins that existed beneath the Jedi Temple in the depths of the lowest levels. She needed to go farther down. Ahsoka knew that the very deepest levels had become completely uninhabitable with toxic air, but people still lived as far down as 389, though they became fewer and farther between the deeper she went. She took another elevator, this one older and creaking, and this time she stopped at level 717.

A pair of tooka-cats were fighting over a pile of garbage, hissing and scratching at each other until Ahsoka waved them away. The metal beams supporting the upper levels were still standing strong, but the rest of the buildings had mostly crumbled into mounds of broken glass, metal, and stone. Ahsoka walked carefully through it, catching the occasional glimpse of someone watching her from their ramshackle homes, but no one was out on the street, except for her.

She made her way through the rubble, getting closer to the place directly below the Jedi temple. There had been something at least resembling a road that she had been walking on, but as she went farther, she found herself having to scramble over the broken ruins, more like a mountain climb than a stroll down a street. The air had been stuffy and warm when she had first arrived on level 717, but it was growing colder the further she walked.

She reached out with the Force, and sensed when she was right beneath the library of the Jedi temple, thousands of levels above her. There was nothing there except piles of broken stone and a great deal of dust. Ahsoka could feel the cold pulling at her, but she didn’t know where to go. She wondered if she should try to ask the convor bird for more help. She took a step forward and the ground collapsed beneath her.

Ahsoka tumbled downward and landed in a painful heap on some smooth stone. She had to quickly push the falling rocks and debris away from her with the Force to keep them from crashing down upon her. There was dust floating all around her, so thick she couldn’t see where she was. She coughed a bit and then forced herself to her feet, and waited for the dust to settle.

When at last it was clear enough to see, she was able to make out the vast cavern around her. She was standing on a black floor that seemed to be made of something like obsidian. It was covered in dust and dirt now, but it was shiny underneath when she cleared off an area with her boot. She could see the edge of the floor slope downward, as if she were standing at on a hilltop. There was a small hole high above her, in the ceiling of the cavern where she had fallen through. In front of here, on the highest point of the hill was a massive black pyramid, made out of the same material as the floor. A dull light emanated from the pyramid, staining to whole cavern with a red glow. It was freezing cold and Ahsoka’s breath came out in puffs of steam. She felt like her feet were made of lead, but she forced herself to put one in front of the other and approach the pyramid. As she got close, a tall figure stood up and blocked her way into the door of the pyramid. She looked up into the pale face of the Son.

“You’re not real,” she told him.

He smiled at her, his eyes burning red. He looked as if he was made of smoke, incorporeal, but radiating energy.

“I am wherever you are, remember? And real or not, you need me to enter the temple. There must be two, no more, no less,” he said.

“This is a Sith temple,” said Ahsoka, looking up at its peak.

“It is,” said the Son. “Your Jedi temple was built over the ruins of an ancient Sith monastery. Father would have loved that.”

He walked over to stand next to her and together they held their hands out in front of them. The heavy stone door slid slowly upward and Ahsoka ducked through the doorway. There was another doorway after that and another, each heavier than the one before. At last, though, they reach what appeared to be the central room in the temple. It was tall and narrow and empty except for a towering obelisk. Ahsoka approached and looked closely at the markings carved into the black stone of the obelisk. It was written in the old language, so old its name and most of its meaning had been lost. Ahsoka could recognize a few of the glyphs, a few scattered words, but that was it.

“The library above and the library below,” said the Son.

Ahsoka placed the palm of her hand against the stone and it glowed red beneath her touch. 

“It full of holocrons, hundreds of them,” she said.

“The secrets of the Sith. You could become so powerful with the information hidden here.”

“I don’t need to become that powerful, just enough that I can kill the Sith.”

“And take his place?”

“No,” said Ahsoka. She shut her eyes and concentrated on the feel of the stone beneath her fingers. A warmth flooded into her and she felt the familiar weight of the convor bird on her shoulder. She opened her eyes. There was a hissing sound and a small chamber, like a little drawer, opened out of the obelisk. Inside was a holocron, shaped like a miniature pyramid and glowing brightly. Ahsoka took it out carefully, surprised by how fragile it felt in her hand.

“What an interesting choice,” said the Son, chuckling a little.

The convor bird hooted angrily at the Son, who flinched away from it. He recovered quickly, though, straightening up and adopting a look of bored indifference.

“I should go,” said Ahsoka. She attached the holocron carefully to her belt next to her lightsaber.

She turned back to the Son, only to find that he had gone. Well, she supposed that he had never been there in the first place, other than in her head. The convor was still there, though, chirping softly in the echoing cavern. It had never appeared to her outside of the visions before, but she supposed the Force worked a little differently around the Sith monastery. Ahsoka was glad for the company as she turned to the door. She reached out to lift it open, when a wave of cold hit her, turning her blood nearly to ice in her veins.

She felt the urge to flee, to run back to the obelisk and hide, but instead she stepped forward and touched the door with her hands. On the other side, she could feel his presence, empty, angry, and very cold. It was the Sith Lord. It was Palpatine.

She felt a tug at the door as the Sith tried to open it. The stone raised a few inches. She closed her eyes and pushed the door back down, holding it in place. She could feel the anger of the Sith as he tried again to open the door. 

Still holding the door shut with one hand, Ahsoka turned back to the obelisk and drew her lightsaber. It was tall and looming, but not very wide at the base. She slashed at the bottom of the obelisk, making a few precise cuts and then pushed with the Force. It rocked for a moment and then crashed to the ground, landing against the doorway and causing the entire monastery to shake. Ahsoka could feel the other holocrons shatter inside.

“I need another way out,” she told the convor. It chirped and then flew off to the other side of the room. Nothing looked like a doorway, but Ahsoka trusted the bird and pushed with the Force until a hidden door slid to the side. She ran down a dark hallway, only able to see the light green feathers of the convor in front of her. She went through another doorway and another, and another hallway. She felt lost in the maze of the temple, until at last the stone gave way and she found herself back in the cavern. The convor bird disappeared as soon as she stepped out of the temple.

Ahsoka ran down the sloped floor of the cavern, which became steeper as she went. She slipped and fell and slid downward into the blackness. She no longer had even the red glow from the monastery to light her way, so she had to feel out with the Force and with her hands, until she found what appeared to be a tunnel. She climbed through it, crouched at first, then on her hands and knees, and eventually on her belly as the tunnel grew narrower. She was worried it would soon become too tight to fit through, but then she saw a greenish light ahead of her. She shimmied forward and pushed herself out, falling in a heap on some broken glass. She got up, examining the cuts on her hands and knees. A figure wearing a gas mask with glowing green eyes was picking through the rubble around her.

“Hey! What level is this?” she called to the figure.

They turned their lantern-like eyes on her and said something in a clicking and clattering language that she didn’t understand.

“What?” she said.

This time, the figure held up their fingers.

“704,” said Ahsoka. “Thanks. How do I get up?”

The figure pointed and Ahsoka thanked them again and ran in that direction, ran until she found a ladder to the upper levels. She didn’t stop until she had run all the way back to the upper levels, until she could find an elevator to take her back up to the 5000s, to Padmé’s apartment, where at last she stopped, panting hard and sweating.

Padmé was already asleep, but Rex and Jesse and some of the other clones were still awake, playing sabacc at the table, while C-3PO watched with interest.

“Are you alright, Master Tano?” asked Threepio when he saw her.

“What happened?” asked Rex, jumping to his feet.

“Sith,” Ahsoka managed to get out, still breathing hard. “I’m fine,” she added.

“You fought the Sith?” Rex asked, looking pale.

Ahsoka shook her head.

“I just stole this from him. He almost caught me,” she said, showing them the holocron.

“What’s in it?” Jesse asked.

“I don’t know yet.”

She didn’t even really know how to open it. It was said that only a Sith had the power to do so, and she couldn’t exactly ask for Palpatine’s help. She set it down on the table and watched it glow, wondering whether it had been the Son or the Daughter who had selected this particular holocron for her.

***

If Palpatine was angry over losing the holocron, his mood was soon improved by the Republic’s victory at Scipio. The Separatists had been defeated, the Muun and Rush Clovis were replaced by Republic bankers, and Senator Alavar was recovered safely. And, of course, Scipio’s banks, the majority of wealth in the galaxy, were now under Palpatine’s control.

“I don’t think we can wait any longer. We need to move on Kamino,” said Ahsoka. She was speaking in Padmé’s living room, addressing the small group of clones and allied senators.

“What is your plan?” asked Senator Organa.

“Anakin has been there for a few weeks and Shaak Ti for years before that. We have intel on the layout of Tipoca City, the security protocols, and the patterns of the clone troopers there. A small group of us will infiltrate, cut off communication, and take control of the city. The rest is confidential until the mission is over, I’m afraid,” said Ahsoka.

“And if they do manage to enact Order 66? Every clone in the city will be turned against you,” said Mon Mothma.

“Then let’s hope we get in there before they can.”

Mothma did not look convinced, but she didn’t object either.

“Rex and a few select troopers will be leaving with me. The rest of the 501st will stay here under Jesse’s command,” said Ahsoka. The clones who were staying on Coruscant all nodded. She had already briefed them on what to do if the mission on Kamino went badly. They were to get Padmé and as many as the other allied senators off of Coruscant as quickly as possible and retreat to Mandalore.

The meeting ended and the clones escorted Mothma, Organa, and Pa Dua back to their own quarters. Riyo Chuchi, who had been sitting quietly through the meeting, stayed back.

“You will be careful,” said Padmé, taking Ahsoka’s hands. It was more of an order than a request, but Ahsoka could see the worry in Padmé’s eyes.

“I will. And I’ll make sure Anakin is, too,” she said, squeezing Padmé’s hands.

“Thank you.”

The living room emptied out, until only Ahsoka, Riyo, and Kix, remained, although Kix soon left after Ahsoka gave him look and nodded to the door. 

“This is going to be very dangerous, isn’t it?” asked Riyo.

“Kamino is well fortified, but I’ve seen worse. Besides, you’re the one who has to stay here with the Sith Lord,” said Ahsoka, trying to joke, but not really succeeding.

“I can’t believe how blind we have all been. I’ve been a senator for a few years now, and I never even suspected.”

“The Jedi Council didn’t even suspect. You couldn’t have known,” said Ahsoka.

“Still…”

Ahsoka watched the frown on Riyo’s face as she thought about it. Riyo was a few years older than her, and had once been the same height as her, but Ahsoka had grown quite a bit since the trial, and now stood a little above the young senator. She reached out and took Riyo’s hand.

“None of us could have known. But we do now.”

“And we will stop him,” said Riyo.

Ahsoka nodded. There was a question nagging at her, one that she wasn’t sure she should ask, but also one that she didn’t think she could avoid asking either.

“Riyo, wh-when I was put on trial for treason, did you, um, think that I had done it?”

Riyo looked up, her yellow eyes unreadable.

“The court found you guilty by a vote of forty seven to three. The three that believed in your innocence were Bail Organa, Mon Mothma...and me.” Riyo smiled a little and Ahsoka looked down, rubbing her lek a little and wishing she had never doubted her friend.

“Be careful, please,” said Riyo. She lifted up onto her toes and kissed Ahsoka softly on the cheek, before leaving the apartment to where Jesse was waiting to take her home.

Ahsoka reached up and touched the spot on her cheek, glad that Togruta did not blush in the same way humans did. The tips of her lekku had turned slightly pink, though.

“Better get some sleep, Commander. We leave before dawn tomorrow,” said Rex, breaking Ahsoka out of her thoughts. She hadn’t even heard him come him. She nodded to him and began to set up her palate on the floor to sleep. The only thing she could think about was that she had better survive the attack on Kamino, because if that was the only kiss she ever had with Riyo Chuchi, then she was going to be very disappointed indeed.

Chapter Text

Tipoca City, Kamino

Anakin could have nearly jumped for joy when he received Rex’s message. They had been keeping their communication to a minimum to avoid arousing any suspicions of the Kaminoans. Cut off from both the war and Operation Convor, and with only the training of the troops to occupy him, Anakin was ready for a fight. He had gathered some valuable intel, but he had to admit, that he was a much better warrior than a spy.

There was a knock at the door of Anakin’s room. Anakin waved his hand to open the door, revealing one of the Kaminoan clone trooper guards.

“General Skywalker, a Jedi master has arrived to see you,” he said.

“Who is it?”

“Master Luminara Unduli and the 41st Elite Corps are waiting with the Prime Minister.”

“What? Why are they here? I couldn’t get more of a head’s up about this?” Anakin said, falling easily into his role as the annoyed and irritated young Jedi.

“Sorry, Sir. She arrived somewhat unexpectedly,” said the guard.

“Alright, lead the way,” said Anakin.

They found Taun We and Luminara in one of the greeting rooms. There were several members of the 41st Corps there, wearing white and green armor, including Commander Gree and clone captain with a gray pauldron, all standing at attention around the room. Behind them sat R2-D2, sporting a new green and white paint job, but nonetheless recognizable.

“Welcome, Master Jedi,” said Taun We, when Anakin entered.

“Thank you, Prime Minister. Master Unduli, your visit is...unexpected,” said Anakin, being sure to grit his teeth a little. It was pretty easy to act irritated with Luminara, actually. Anakin had still not fully forgiven her for her failure with Barriss. He had to restrain his anger to prevent himself from growing too confrontational with her.

“The Council is sending us to Utapau, not too far from here. They asked me to report on your progress,” said Luminara. She played the role of stern overseer very well.  “You understand, after the tragedy with Master Shaak Ti, we just want to be sure the virus has not spread and that everything is running smoothly here,” she continued, turning to Taun We.

“We understand, of course. Perhaps General Skywalker could personally show you our fine clone troopers. I think you will be very pleased with their progress.”

“I agree,” said Luminara.

Anakin frowned and sighed, but agreed.

“I will leave you to your Jedi business, then,” said Taun We, bowing and then gracefully leaving the room.

Luminara frowned a little at Taun We’s back as she left and then turned to Anakin.

“How are you, Skywalker?” she asked.

“I’m just glad we’re going forward with this. I’ve been going out of my mind being stuck here.” Anakin forced himself to be civil as he spoke.

The clone captain removed his helmet, revealing himself to be Rex.

“Good to see you, General,” he said.

“You, too, Captain. Are the others in position?” Anakin asked.

Rex spoke into his commlink for a moment and then nodded, “We have the go-ahead.”

“Alright,” said Anakin, pulling out a holograph map and activating it to show the 41st. He pointed out the communication center, the power units, and the speaker systems to them.

“We’ll have to disable all of them pretty simultaneously in order to shut down all internal communication. Luminara and I will head to the barracks and hopefully get the cadets on our side. Artoo, you’ll need to go to the main communication center to turn off the primary speakers. Rex and two others will go with you. The rest of you need to take out the back up speakers and auxiliary power units. Stay in pairs and if any guards try to stop you from getting to your location, tell them that you have the Jedi Council’s and the Prime Minister’s permission to inspect. Once you’re in position, wait for my signal,” said Anakin.

The troopers all nodded and R2-D2 whistled his agreement.

***

The shallow domes of the Tipoca City buildings were covered in transmission and communication towers. Kamino was a remote planet, but it managed to stay connected to the rest of the galaxy. Skywalker and Unduli were taking care of the internal communication systems, but the external ones needed to be taken out, as well. It would not be good at all if the Kaminoans managed to send out a distress signal to Palpatine or Count Dooku.

The wolfpack was dropped down in the quietest shuttle that they had. They landed on the rooftops, grateful that the Kaminoans were not too fond of skylights, so they didn’t have to worry about being seen. The clone troopers had an advantage here, invading the very place where they grew up. They knew the landscape well, even the tops of the buildings.

Plo Koon climbed up to the top of the central transmission tower, while Wolffe and the other troopers spread out across the rooftop, until every communication system was covered.

Now, they just had to wait for the signal.

***

Two venator-class star destroyers waited in the orbit around Kamino, just out of range and masked to fool the Kaminoan sensors. They were the Vigilance , under the command of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the Raptor , under Aayla Secura, both huge vessels, and hopefully big enough to hold the tens of thousands of clones that were below on Kamino, though Obi-Wan suspected they may have to make two trips. He was getting ahead of himself, though. They had to knock out Tipoca City’s communication, defeat the Kaminoans, and start removing the tumors before they even thought about evacuating the clone troopers.

Luminara Unduli and Plo Koon were already moving into position in and on top of the city, which meant they needed to be ready to be invade. They met in the control room of the Vigilance to go over the plan of attack one last time. Ahsoka led the meeting, and Obi-Wan couldn’t help but feel some pride as he watched her. There had been a time when Ahsoka was just a nervous padawan, when speaking in front of Masters like Shaak Ti and Aayla Secura would have terrified her, but now she had the composure of a master herself. 

Aayla Secura and the 327th would lead the initial attack, drawing the fire of the Kaminoans. Shaak Ti, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan would follow, leading the 212th and remaining members of Luminara’s and Plo Koon’s troopers. They would secure the southern and eastern landing pads and then move through the city until they had it secure.

The troops moved into their shuttles, first Secura and her men, and then the others, punching through the atmosphere of Kamino and hurtling down toward Tipoca City.

***

From the rooftops of the city, the wolfpack heard their comms crackle to life as Ahsoka Tano’s voice said, “I hear Kamino is lovely in the springtime.”

Plo Koon smiled and drew his lightsaber, and then stabbed it into the metal of the central transmission tower and cutting all away around. He pushed it over with the Force, sending it tumbling down into the sea. The wolfpack blasted all the other broadcast systems until nothing remained but broken shards of metal.

“Quickly, move to the landing pad,” said Plo Koon, and the wolfpack began to run to meet up with Shaak Ti.

***

“I hear Kamino is lovely in the springtime,” said Ahsoka’s voice through the comm.

“Alright, Artoo, you heard the commander,” said Rex.

The droid beeped and wheeled up to the communication hub and extended his utility arms to begin hacking the system.

“Captain, we’re under attack. We need you and your men to report to the command center immediately,” said one of the Kaminoan guards, running into the room. He paused when he saw R2-D2.

“What are you doing?” he asked, drawing his blaster.

Rex was faster, though, and shot the guard with a stun blast, causing him to collapse to the ground.

“Hop-light, Cluster, watch the door,” he said to Luminara’s troopers. They may be his brothers, but they were no 501st troopers, that was for sure.

***

The central communication was shut down before any message about Order 66 could be transmitted. The Kaminoans did manage to get out one transmission that they were under attack, which led to a chaos of cadets and troopers running around the city and preparing to fight. Anakin and Luminara had managed to inform only a small number of the troopers about the liberation, so the majority were completely ignorant about who exactly was attacking them.

The 41st Corps troopers had all reported success in knocking out the secondary speaker systems, except for the ones in the eastern wings of the city.

“Sergeant Trigger, report back,” said Luminara into her comm, but she was met with only silence.

“We’d better go. We’re not far,” said Anakin. He turned to the clone cadet, Night, that he had met on his first day in Tipoca City.

“I need you to inform as many cadets as you can. The Kaminoans have betrayed us. The Jedi have come to liberate the clones, not to invade,” he said. Night nodded and ran toward the barracks.

Anakin and Luminara made their way through the scrambling cadets and guards toward the eastern wings. Before they could reach the secondary communication system, however, they heard the voice of Taun We through the still functioning speakers.

“Execute Order 66,” she said.

“Well, that’s not great,” said Anakin.

The troopers and cadets froze around them. Luckily, most of them were still on their way to the armory and did not have their blasters yet. They ran at Anakin and Luminara with only their bare fists, trying to pummel the Jedi, who sent them flying backwards with the Force. A few did manage to shoot, but Anakin blocked with his lightsaber while Luminara slashed at their blasters.

“Is there any cure for the activated clones?” asked Luminara as they fought back to back.

“I don’t think so. Tup didn’t make it,” said Anakin.

“Then, I am sorry,” said Luminara, though not to Anakin. She cut two nearby troopers down with her lightsaber, and then lunged at some others.

Anakin didn’t want to kill clone troopers that weren’t even in control of their own actions, but he didn’t see much choice otherwise. They were outnumbered. He raised his lightsaber and brought it down on a young cadet.

***

Shaak Ti and her troopers touched down on the southern landing pad without losing any of the shuttles, though they were met with blaster fire soon after.

“Take cover,” she shouted, and they all dove behind the shuttles and shipping crates.

“Are they activated, or do they just think we’re invading?” Fives asked from where he was ducked down behind a crate next to Shaak Ti.

“Let’s find out,” she said. She stood up, revealing herself and using her lightsaber to block the blaster bolts.

“Hold your fire,” called out one of the clone guards. He ran over to her, looking stunned and then even more stunned as he saw that clones were the ones invading.

“Master Shaak Ti, you’re alive,” he said, sounding dumbfounded.

“I am,” she nodded with a smile. Then louder, she said, “The Kaminoans have been lying to you, to all of us. The Jedi have come to stop them. Will you join us?”

Shaak Ti’s troopers all stood up carefully from where they had taken cover, but no more blaster bolts were sent their way. They walked over to meet with the Kaminoan clone guards and cadets.

“We’re with you, General,” said one of the guards.

“Good, then go in, and secure the Kaminoans. Try not to kill them. We don’t know which of them are behind this plot. We must find Taun We and Nala Se, at all costs.”

“After me, then, boys,” said the guard, who seemed to be in charge.

Fives gave Shaak Ti a little half smile as they followed the guards into the city.

***

Things were not going so smoothly on the eastern landing pad. 

“Anakin says they’ve all been activated on this side of the city,” said Ahsoka. She had to shout to Obi-Wan to be heard above all the blaster fire and the occasional yells of “Good soldiers follow orders,” from the activated Kaminoan clones.

“Damn it. This is going to get bloody,” said Obi-Wan. They had already lost one shuttle when they tried to land and they were taking heavy fire.

Ahsoka closed her eyes for a moment, hoping that by some miracle she would learn a way to de-activate the clones. No such revelation came to her.

“I think we have to punch through,” she said.

“I think you’re right,” said Obi-Wan. He turned to where Cody was crouched down and yelled, “Cody, grenades and then cover us.”

Cody nodded and signalled to his men. They pulled their grenades and hurled them at the guards in front of the eastern door. The explosions hit and Obi-Wan and Ahsoka leapt up and charged toward the opening, deflecting blaster bolts as they went. They could hear the 212th battalion following them as they cut their way through the guards and into the city. 

Inside the building was even more chaotic than the landing platform. Clone guards and cadets ran for Obi-Wan and Ahsoka with a cold rage. Some were not even armed, but they still ran like missiles for the Jedi. There were a few Kaminoans who had gotten stuck in the midst of the fighting, as well. They were not much for battles, and looked uncharacteristically frazzled by the violence raging around them. One was hit by a stray blaster bolt and crumpled to the floor. Ahsoka ran to one of the others and pushed him down and out of the firefight.

Everything around her was smoke and fire and screaming. She had been in battles before, many of them, and had seen many clone troopers die, but cutting through them herself, as if they were nothing but droid soldiers, that was something she had never had to experience and never wanted to experience again.

***

Anakin and Luminara had managed to flee from the eastern wings and run into the northern part of the city. There was no fighting there, only the mad scramble to get to the fighting.

“The eastern landing platform has been taken. We’re needed there,” shouted one clone guard.

“No!” said Anakin, his voice booming out through the hallway.

“Stay away from the eastern wings,” he added.

“We need to find Taun We. We have disabled the communication systems, but she may still be able to activate the ones around her,” said Luminara. 

The Kaminoan Prime Minister lived in the central structure of the city, so Luminara and Anakin ran to seek her out there. They took the western pathway to avoid the majority of the activated clones, though they still encountered a few. They tried to use non lethal force when they could, as they didn’t want the unactivated clones to think the Jedi were killing them, but it was hard to maintain control of order and logic in the middle of a battle.

They didn’t find Taun We, but they did find another Kaminoan, the doctor Nala Se, running toward a group of clones.

“Activate Order-” she began to say, but Anakin struck her head off with his lightsaber before she could finish the command. The nearby clones looked like they didn’t know whether to shoot him, join him, or run from him, but Anakin didn’t have time for that. He needed to find the Prime Minister.

***

After their initial easy victory on the southern landing platform, things got more hectic for Shaak Ti and her troops. Taun We had a battalion of clone cadets that she had personally activated and sent down to meet the invaders. Shaak Ti’s troops had all been briefed on the possibility of fighting activated clones and they were prepared, but the clone guards who had joined them were left confused as to why their brothers were suddenly shooting at them.

“They’re infected!” shouted Fives to the clone guards. It was easier to go with the virus story than to sit down and fully explain the chips in their heads. The clone guards recovered quickly and began to fire back on the activated clones.

“I have an idea, but I will need you to cover me,” said Shaak Ti.

“What’s the plan, General?” asked Fives.

“I need to get to Taun We while she is still alive. I think I can reach her if you take out that cluster in the middle.”

Fives nodded and shouted some orders to a few members of the 104th Battalion. They launched one of their remaining grenades, which sent rubble and clones flying. The hallway was filled with dust, but Shaak Ti didn’t need to see well to find Taun We. She leapt forward, followed closely by Fives and some of the wolfpack. The activated clones were beginning to recover, but Shaak Ti jumped, farther than a human would have been able to and cleared a group of clones. Once past them, she darted into the room where Taun We had taken refuge.

There were a group of about ten clones there to protect the prime minister, but Shaak Ti cut through half of them and the wolfpack shot down the other half. She held her lightsaber up, so that the tip hovered just under Taun We’s chin.

“Undo Order 66,” said Shaak Ti.

Taun We raised her hands in surrender and leaned back away from the glowing blade.

“I cannot,” she said.

“Then you are useless to me.” Shaak Ti raised her lightsaber as if to strike.

“Wait, wait! There is something I can do,” she said.

Shaak Ti smiled and lowered her lightsaber. Taun We went to the doorway and cautiously looked out into the hallway where there was still an intense firefight raging between clones.

“Activate Order 14,” she said. Every clone trooper with a chip still in his head and within earshot of Taun We fell to floor. 

“Did you kill them?” asked Fives, brandishing his blaster at Taun We.

“They are not dead, merely put into a comatose state.”

“Come, there are more activated clones to find,” said Shaak Ti, pushing Taun We through the halls.

Chapter Text

Ahsoka walked through Tipoca City, having to step over the bodies of clones and a few Kaminoans as she went. The walls were marred with blaster bolt scars and blood and the floors covered with broken glass and metal. It smelled horrible, like smoke and other things that she didn’t want to think about. She went into the command center that they had set up, where the Jedi and the clone captains were waiting for her. After the battle, the Kaminoans had all been moved into the northern wing of the city and all the chipped clones evacuated out of that area. They didn’t know if all Kaminoans had the ability to activate the clones, or just the ones in positions of power, so it was best to keep the two groups separate for now. The wolfpack was keeping an eye on the Kaminoans.

R2-D2 whirred happily when Ahsoka entered the command room and she went to stand next to him and placed her hand on his metal dome. Obi-Wan and Shaak Ti were debriefing the others on the post-battle plans and Ahsoka was happy to just let them talk. She didn’t want to be the one in charge anymore.

“The activated clones should be our first priority. We need to see if it is possible for them to survive their chip removal or if the procedure will be fatal for them as it was for Tup,” said Shaak Ti.

“And if none of them can survive the procedure?” asked Rex.

“Then termination may be our only option,” said Obi-Wan gravely. Rex and the other clones looked down at the floor for a moment.

“I have improved my technique since operating on CT-5385. I estimate at least a 30% survival rate for the activated soldiers,” said AZI-3, who had been brought in after the battle had ended.

“We should get started, then,” said Obi-Wan.

He and Shaak Ti left to gather the medical droids, and Plo Koon and Aayla Secura went to see to the Kaminoans. Luminara was already in the medical bay, having received a nasty wound on her shoulder. Soon it was only Ahsoka, Anakin, Rex, and R2-D2 left in the command room.

“You did well today, Snips,” said Anakin.

Ahsoka looked at the floor.

“A lot of clones died,” she said. 

Rex put his hand on her shoulder.

“The thought of becoming a slave in my own body, forced to do things I would never imagine doing, is far worse than death will ever be. Because of what happened here, thousands of clones will lose their chips and get to be free men.”

Ahsoka nodded and tried to feel better, but she didn’t.

“I’m still proud of you,” said Anakin, looking a little sheepish.

R2-D2 beeped and nudged her. He was right. It wasn’t the time to dwell in sadness. They needed to get the chips out of the clones and plan for the next phase of Operation Convor.

***

It turned out that AZI-3 was a pretty accurate estimator of the clone survival rate. About a third of the activated clones survived the procedure and the rest went the way of Tup. At least in their comatose state, they didn’t seem to feel any pain. Once the activated clones had all gone through the operation, they moved on to the unactivated ones. There were tens of thousand of adult clones in Tipoca, not even counting those who had not reached maturity yet, and only a few dozen medical droids to cover them all. They had delegated several of the droids to care for those who had been injured in the battle and the others were assigned to chip-removing duty. Even working nonstop, it would take days to get to all the clones.

Shaak Ti escorted Prime Minister Taun We up to the Vigilance to send out a message to Count Dooku. They didn’t want him growing suspicious of the lack of communication.

“Remember, save your own life,” said Shaak Ti, tapping her lightsaber handle as a warning. Taun We nodded and turned out her hologram communicator.

The robed figure of Dooku appeared before her.

“Lord Tyranus,” she said with a slight bow.

“Prime Minister, it has been awhile since your last communication.”

“The storms have damaged some of our communication structures, but we are fixing them with all haste.”

“Good. And how is your new Jedi?” he asked.

“Master Skywalker has proven to be an effective teacher,” said Taun We.

Shaak Ti had to admit that the emotionless façade of the Kaminoans did make it easier for them to lie. She was a little impressed by Taun We’s calm.

“He suspects nothing after Shaak Ti’s death?” asked Dooku.

“Nothing. He is even more foolish than she was,” said Taun We, with almost a hint of a smile. Shaak Ti needed to stay out of sight, so all she could do was glare at Taun We from behind the hologram.

“Yes, and yet my master sees some value in him. He wants Skywalker to return to Coruscant. You will inform the Jedi Council that Skywalker is ill-suited in the role he has been given and request a different Jedi to take over the training of the clones.”

“As you say, Lord Tyranus,” said Taun We. She bowed again and shut off the communication.

“Well done,” said Shaak Ti, somewhat stiffly, still thinking about Taun We’s comment about her foolishness.

“I do not wish to share Lama Su’s fate, Master Jedi,” said Taun We.

***

Ahsoka didn’t think she would be able sleep after the battle, but the exhaustion of the day caught up with her and she found herself lying down on one of the long beds of the Kaminoans. She soon drifted into a deep and oddly peaceful slumber, one filled with pleasant dreams.

She dreamed of the tall grasses of Shili, which painted the landscape a kaleidoscope of blues, reds, and purples. The Togruta stood around her, applauding her as their returning hero.

She dreamed of a bright festival, full of fireworks and laughter. There was a giant poster hanging on the wall of a building next to her, but she didn’t look at it. Instead she looked at Riyo Chuchi, dressed in a long evening gown and smiling up at Ahsoka.

She dreamed of fighting an enemy, of easily conquering them without fear or hesitation. She felt powerful. She pulled out the handle of her white lightsaber and turned it on, but the blade that extended was glowing red again.

Kkkhh-pprrrr.

There it was again. The awful sound of a breathing machine that made her clench and tremble with such terrible fear.

But why?

What could possibly be so frightening about a breathing machine?

Ahsoka turned in her dream, finding herself inside the hull of a vast starship. She wandered through it, following the sound of the breathing. She reached a room filled by a round structure made of black metal, like a giant egg. There was a hissing sound and the top of the structure detached and lifted up, revealing a man sitting inside. He wore a black cloak and a black mask with shiny, reflective eyes.

Kkkhh-pprrrr.

Ahsoka stepped up so that she stood in front of him.

“Take off your mask,” she said.

Kkkhh-pprrrr.

He lifted his gloved hands and pulled the helmet and mask off his head.

Ahsoka woke and jumped to her feet on the bed, drawing both her lightsaber and darksaber and holding them protectively in front of her. Slowly her breathing returned to normal, but she didn’t lower her weapons right away. She took a moment to study the lightsaber, glowing with bright white light. She was not a Sith and Anakin was not a Sith. It was only the Son, trying to trick her through her dreams, or at least that is what she told herself.

She sat back down on the bed, trying to calm her breathing. She wished the Daughter would appear and give her some words of comfort, but Ahsoka was far too unsettled to meditate. She reached into her pack and pulled out the Sith holocron. She hadn’t told anyone else about it, other than a few of the 501st, not even Anakin. Or perhaps especially Anakin.

It glowed red in her palm and she traced the patterns of its metal frame with her finger. As she held it, she thought she saw the apex shift a little. She reached up and twisted at it, but it didn’t move again. She quickly put it back into her bag and shoved the bag under the bed.

 

Coruscant

Padmé looked out of the window of her apartment, watching the busy movement of lights and flashes from the city below her. Jesse and some of the other clones were standing guard outside, but without Ahsoka or Anakin, her apartment felt dull and empty. Coruscant seemed the same as ever: the same mix of politicians, thieves, and soldiers, the same Senate and Jedi Council. But she knew that nothing was the same and it might never be so again. 

The attack on Coruscant was coming soon, but they were not ready yet. They would have to be swift and decisive when they acted to catch Palpatine off guard, if there were such a thing as catching a Sith master off guard.

There were still so many clones who still had their implanted chips, still so many Jedi who were unaware of the problem. 

“My lady, Senator Chuchi is here to see you,” said Threepio. Padmé nodded and told him to let her in.

Riyo came in and joined Padmé at the window.

“I spoke with Garm Bel Iblis, the Corellian senator, today. He’s concerned about the banking takeover and I think he will be sympathetic to our cause. He’s close friends with Ivor Drake and Shea Sadashassa, and I think they will follow his lead,” said Riyo. She had thrown herself into the job of recruiting senators against Palpatine wholeheartedly, which made Padmé a little nervous. She didn’t want Palpatine to catch on too quickly that Riyo was stirring up dissent against him. Still, the Pantoran senator was clever and Padmé knew she was being careful.

“Our numbers are growing rapidly now,” said Padmé

“Bail thinks we can have 2,000 by the end of the month.”

Padmé thought about this. It was a great number, but still not even close to a majority. The Galactic Senate was vast.

“Are you worried about Anakin?” asked Riyo, after Padmé was silent for a few moments.

“How does everybody know about that?” asked Padmé. Riyo laughed a little and shrugged.

“I always worry about him,” Padmé said.

“They had success in Kamino.”

“But will they have success on Coruscant? I don’t think there is a way for this to end peacefully.”

Padmé turned back to the window, crossing her arms across her chest for comfort. Riyo leaned over and put an arm around Padmé, trying to be reassuring when she had no real reassurances to give.

 

Tipoca City, Kamino

Ahsoka Tano sat on the long bed with the Sith holocron on the sheets in front of her. She didn’t touch it, only stared at it, annoyed with it and curious about it at the same time. She should probably tell Obi-Wan or Plo Koon about it, but she didn’t.

She closed her eyes and began her mantra, chanting until the air stilled around her. She opened them and saw two figures sitting on the bed in front of her, one on either side of the holocron. There was the Daughter in her bright green robes and the Son with his burning red eyes.

“Why did you lead me to this?” she asked them, gesturing to the holocron.

“I wanted you to have it,” said the Son.

“I wanted the Sith not to have it,” said the Daughter.

Ahsoka picked it up and held it in between them, moving it around in her fingers to look at every face of it.

“I can show you how to open it. All you need is your anger,” said Son.

Ahsoka looked to the Daughter, who said nothing.

“How do I get rid of it?” she asked the Daughter, who smiled a little.

“Don’t be foolish. This could be the key to your victory. The secrets in the holocron could give you absolute power,” said the Son, his words coming out in an angry hiss. Ahsoka wasn’t listening to him, though. She was watching the Daughter, who leaned forward until her forehead was pressed up against Ahsoka’s. Ahsoka saw a map of the stars in her head, leading her far from Kamino to a planet in the Lothal sector of the Outer Rim. When her vision cleared, the Son and the Daughter were both gone.

Ahsoka found the Jedi and several of the clones in one of the many dining rooms in the city. They were about halfway through the de-chipping of the clones and busy strategizing their strike against Palpatine.

“Masters,” said Ahsoka with a bow. They looked a little surprised at her formality.

“There is something I need to find in the Lothal sector. I will have to leave you for a few days,” she said.

“Leave us?” said Anakin, startled.

“Ahsoka, the Lothal sector is ages from here. It will take you days to get there and back. The attack on Coruscant is happening soon and we will need you,” said Obi-Wan.

“I’ll be back in time, I promise,” she said. 

“Be careful, Little ‘Soka,” said Plo Koon. 

The other Jedi looked like they didn’t quite know what to make of all this, but they didn’t try to stop her either. She started to leave, but Anakin followed her out of the room.

“Wait, wait, Ahsoka. You can’t just take off right now,” he said, catching her arm. His eyes looked a little desperate and it took Ahsoka a moment to realize how afraid he was.

“It’s very important. I’ll take the fastest ship we have and be back in a few days.” She gently pulled her arm out of his hand and started to walk away again.

“I’ll come with you,” he said, catching up to her.

Ahsoka was about to object, but she thought about it for a long moment.

“Alright,” she said.

Chapter Text

Somewhere in the Lothal Sector

The planet came rushing into view as they pulled out of hyperspace. It was on the small side and bright red in color. There were a few bodies of water, but it seemed to be primarily a desert planet. Anakin was going to love that.

“Atollon,” said Anakin, as R2-D2 pulled up the information on the planet. “It is inhabited, but no known sapient life. So spill, Snips. Why are we here?”

Ahsoka reached down into her bag and pulled out the holocron, then held it out for Anakin. He took it and examined it for a moment.

“This isn’t a Jedi holocron. It’s- Ahsoka, where did you get this?” His eyes opened wide as he realized he was holding a Sith holocron.

“I found it in the Sith monastery beneath the Jedi temple.”

“What Jedi temple?”

“Our Jedi temple. On Coruscant.”

Anakin’s eyes looked like they were about to bug out of his head. It was quite comical, actually. Ahsoka would have to remember to tease him about it later.

“There’s a Sith monastery underneath the Jedi temple?” he said, shaking his head. He paused and then added, “Do you think Obi-Wan knows?”

“I doubt it.”

They steered the starship through the planet’s atmosphere, bringing them toward a spot on the planet’s northern hemisphere.

“Have you opened it?” he asked, looking closely at the holocron. Ahsoka took it back out of his hands.

“No, I’m getting rid of it. This will be a safe place for it.”

Anakin frowned a little, but he didn’t argue. The starship touched down gently on the red sand of the planet’s surface. Anakin instructed Artoo to guard the ship and Ahsoka led the way onto the surface, holding the holocron tightly in her hand as she went.

Atollon was just about as bare up close as it had been from a distance. There were some little creatures with domed shells that scuttled around their feet and some tall spiky plants, but otherwise it looked like endless sand.

“Perfect,” Anakin muttered, kicking his feet a little.

“This way,” said Ahsoka, leading him out into the desert.

They walked across the unchanging landscape, under the hot light of the planet’s red star. Eventually the sand dipped downward into a little valley where a cluster of the spiked plants grew.

“It’s here,” said Ahsoka, coming to a stop and spinning slowly in a circle, searching for whatever she was looking for.

“There’s nothing here. Unless you wanted one of those plants, but there were plenty of those right next to where we landed,” he said.

Ahsoka rolled her eyes and was about to retort, when the plant that Anakin had been pointing at moved upward. With a rumbling sound, a whole section of the ground began to raise up in front of them, pulling plants and sand along with it. Ahsoka and Anakin backed away a few steps as what had first appeared to be a moving hill opened its eyes and looked at them. It was not a hill at all, but a massive creature. It had long arms and a long snout, and was covered in brown hair. Its eyes shone bright gray out of its dark face.

“Hello,” it said in a deep voice. “Who has woken me?”

Both Anakin and Ahsoka were staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the creature, but Ahsoka found her voice first.

“My name is Ahsoka Tano. And this is the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker,” she said.

“Yes, it was you. I was having a deep slumber, but your imbalance called to me,” he said, bending low to look at Anakin.

“My imbalance?” said Anakin, sounding offended.

“Your presence is like a violent storm in this quiet world. And you are like a smaller gale, but one that is no less dangerous,” said the creature, addressing first Anakin and then Ahsoka.

A fat brown convor bird flew up and landed on the creature’s shoulder. It wasn’t the same green as the one that visited Ahsoka, but she was still happy to see it.

“You’re a force wielder,” said Anakin.

“And you are a Jedi, a soldier for the ashla, the light side. And you carry with you an object of the bogan, the dark side.” He turned to Ahsoka. “And you are like me, the ones in the middle. I am the Bendu.”

“You know about this?” asked Ahsoka, pulling out the holocron and holding it up for the Bendu to see. The Bendu pulled up the holocron with the Force and kept it floating over his clawed hand.

“The Sith holocron. Why do you fear this object?”

“It’s dangerous,” said Ahsoka.

The Bendu opened the holocron and examined it more carefully.

“How so?” he asked.

“I think it is...changing me,” Ahsoka admitted, looking down at her feet.

“An object cannot change you, either of you, cannot make you good or evil. The temptation of power, forbidden knowledge, even the desire to do good can lead some down that path, but only you can change yourself. Do you wish for the power in this object?” There was a crackle of lightning in the Bendu’s palm.

“No,” she said.

“And you, Jedi Knight?”

“I don’t know. If I become more powerful, then I can better protect those I love,” said Anakin, watching the holocron with a strange look in his eye.

“Yes, yes, there is much to fear. I tell you what,” said the Bendu. He flicked his fingers and the holocron flew forward and down into a little cave in the sand. “Retrieve the object for me and I will teach you one of its secrets.”

Ahsoka looked at Anakin, unsure if she wanted to know any of the secrets of the Sith holocron.

“Fine,” said Anakin and he began marching up to the cave.

“Leave the weapons. I will keep them safe. And remember, go in peace,” said the Bendu.

Ahsoka took off both her sabers and set them carefully in the sand, as did Anakin, more reluctantly. Then she followed him into the cave.

 

Tipoca City, Kamino

Obi-Wan’s holoprojector beeped just as he was drifting off to sleep in the middle of the night. He smiled a little. Satine was horrible at checking the day and night schedules of other planets and was developing a bit of a habit of always calling him when he was trying to sleep. He switched on the holoprojector and the blue image of her appeared in front of him.

“How are you, my love?” she asked him.

“A little tired, but otherwise none the worse,” he said. 

She seemed to realize that he was in his sleeping clothes and looked a little bashful.

“And how is Mandalore?” he asked.

“Peaceful and quiet since Maul’s death. And Kamino?”

“Quite the opposite, though things have settled down now.”

He told her about their progress in removing the chips from the clones. They had completed the surgery on all the clone children between equivalent age five and eighteen, but were afraid the procedure was too dangerous for any clones younger than that. And the embryos still developing in their pods could not be transported until they had been decanted. They would have to stay in Tipoca City with the Kaminoan doctors and a unit of clone troopers to look after them.

“We were thinking about evacuating the children to Mandalore within a day or two, if possible. There are thousands of them.”

“We’ve been preparing for them,” she assured him. He had been worried that such an influx of children would strain the planet, but Mandalore was prosperous and relatively stable for now.

“We’ve set up facilities on Mandalore and Kalevala for them. They might be a bit spartan, but I imagine the clones are used to that. And they’ll only be temporary, until we can find more permanent homes for them,” she said.

Obi-Wan stroked his chin. He had grown back a bit of stubble since leaving Mandalore.

“Padmé sent us word from Coruscant that several of the senators have offered their planets and moons as homes for the clone children, as well. Alderaan, Pantora, and Chandrila for a start, and I’m sure there will be others.”

“Good,” said Satine. She looked him over for a moment and then asked, “Should I let you get back to sleep?”

“No, no, talk to me for awhile longer,” he said. He wanted to hear her voice. In all honesty, he wanted to be there on Mandalore with her, but for now it was enough just to watch her hologram image in front of him.

***

The cloning chamber had sustained some damage from the invasion of Tipoca City and one column of embryos had been lost. The new Kaminoan doctor, Toka Luteh, assured Shaak Ti and the other Jedi that the other embryos should be able to complete their successful development in spite of the damage. Shaak Ti didn’t exactly trust this new doctor, but she also knew very little about the cloning process itself, a bit of an embarrassing thing to admit after spending so much time on Kamino. Toka Luteh, at least, did not have the power to activate Order 66. They had tested her and a few other Kaminoan doctors to see if they could activate a volunteer from the clone guard. None of the doctors had been able to, and so they were allowed to continue overseeing the clone development process. The rest of the Kaminoans remained restricted to the northern sector of the city, unable to send out communications, but otherwise able to go about their business.

Toka Luteh had also informed them of the stage of development when the chips were implanted in the first place. It was done in the late stage embryos, once they had formed enough brain tissue to support the implant. They had halted the insertion process, of course, so no new embryos would receive the chip. For the ones who already had it, however, they would have to wait until they reached equivalent age five to get the surgery to remove it.

Shaak Ti watched the chamber of embryos, twitching a little in their pods as Toka Luteh moved among them, observing them. There was a little pull on Shaak Ti's robe. She looked down to see a clone of about equivalent age six, with a scar on his temple from where his chip had been removed. He wore the red and gray uniform of the young clone cadets, with his number, 87-2491, stitched on front. There was also a small white patch under the number, flagging him as potentially unfit for combat.

“Yes?” she asked him.

He tugged on her robe again.

“What is your name?” she asked him. He pointed to his clone number.

“You must have a nickname, though. What do your brothers call you?” she asked, leaning down to be closer to the young clone’s height.

He only shrugged.

“That’s Hush,” called the voice of another young clone, this one about equivalent ten. “He doesn’t say much. Or anything.”

“Did something go wrong with his vocal cords in development?” she asked.

“Nope, there’s something wrong with his brain.”

Shaak Ti stood up to her full height and regarded the older clone child.

“Aren’t you supposed to report to Commander Cody with the others?” she asked.

“Yes, Master Ti,” said the clone child, looking a little embarrassed. He bowed awkwardly and hurried away.

“Come then, Hush. You must join the others. You all are leaving for Mandalore tomorrow.” She held out her hand and Hush took it. She couldn’t help but to remember what Fives had told her on Mandalore, that the young clones saw her as a sort of surrogate parent. As a Jedi, she had never really considered the possibility of children, but if Fives was right then she had around eight thousand, with many more on the way. The thought was daunting to say the least.

They reached the barracks of the clone children, where Commander Cody and the other members of the 212th were overseeing the evacuation.

“Sorry, General, a few of them slipped out and have been wandering the city,” said Cody when she brought Hush to him.

“That’s alright. They do seem a bit more…independent now that their chips are out.”

“We’ve started moving them onto the Vigilance , but we just need to make sure all are accounted for. I’ll take this one.”

Hush seemed reluctant to let go of Shaak Ti’s hand, but eventually did so. She crossed her fists in front of her and then pulled them aside.

“Safe,” she said. Then she held up her right hand with her index and middle fingers curved and moved the hand in front of her. “Journey,” she said. She did the motions again.

“Safe journey,” she said.

Hush stared up at her for a moment, and then crossed his hands in front on him and mimicked her movements. Shaak Ti smiled at him and then walked down to the southern landing platform to watch the other children board the starship.

Chapter Text

Atollon

The cave was damp and had a musty sort of smell to it that was almost overpowering. Anakin and Ahsoka didn’t have their lightsabers to illuminate their way and had only one small flashlight between them. They followed the small patch of light through the pungent darkness until they came to a fork in the tunnel.

“I think it’s this way,” said Ahsoka, taking the left passageway. Anakin followed her without complaint, but she could sense his annoyance at having to be in the cave in the first place. They walked a little farther and then Anakin stopped.

“Do you hear that?” he asked.

Ahsoka stopped, too, listening hard. The cave seemed silent at first, except for the sound of their breathing, but then she heard it, a skittering sort of sound. She couldn’t be sure, but she had the awful suspicion that it was the sound of legs crawling through the tunnels. The sound grew louder, approaching them from the direction they were headed.

“We should go,” said Anakin, putting his hand on her shoulder.

“We’re so close,” said Ahsoka and kept walking. They kept moving forward, toward the sound, and didn’t notice the side tunnel that connected to the one they were walking down. 

“It stinks in here,” said Anakin.

There was a clicking sound and a faint hiss from behind them. They turned to find the tunnel blocked by an enormous white creature with six spindly legs and more eyes than Ahsoka could easily count. Anakin raised his hand and threw the spider-like creature backwards with the Force. It hit the wall of the tunnel and shrieked.

“Ahsoka, we gotta go,” he said.

“No, wait!” She grabbed his left arm to keep him from leaving. “The Bendu said we have to go in peace. We can’t fight them.”

“Why do you trust this Bendu? We don’t know anything about him. This could all just be a trap to kill us.”

“I just do, alright? You may not trust him, but you can at least trust me. Please, Anakin. We can do this.”

Anakin looked like he wanted to argue, but then he let out a sigh.

“I do trust you,” he said.

The spider rose to its feet and came toward them again.

“Stay calm,” said Ahsoka.

The spider didn’t attack, only stared at them with its many beady eyes. Ahsoka continued the way down the tunnel, with the spider following behind them. She could feel a hint of nervousness starting to reach her, so she began her meditation chant. Anakin couldn’t understand Togruti, but it seemed to calm him a little, as well.

The tunnel dipped downward and then opened up into a larger chamber, where three more of the spiders were waiting. On the back of the tallest spider sat the holocron. Anakin pulled it to them with the Force and caught it. He tensed for a moment, as if expecting an attack, but the spiders didn’t advance.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Anakin.

The Bendu was waiting for them when they finally emerged from the cave system. He looked, if anything, a little bored by it all, though he perked up when he saw them.

“Ah, well, done. You didn’t get eaten, I see,” he said.

“Yeah, thanks for the warning,” grumbled Anakin. Ahsoka nudged him in the ribs.

“The krykna spiders can sense fear and anger, and tend to respond to it in kind. But those who are peaceful and brave can easily pass through their ranks unharmed.”

“Is that the lesson you promised us for retrieving this?” asked Anakin, waving the holocron.

The Bendu pulled the holocron to himself and opened it with ease.

“No, no. There are many secrets in this object and I will share one with you now. What would you like to learn? How to summon the Force lightning, perhaps.”

“What is that?” asked Ahsoka.

“The Force lightning? It is one of the many powers that the Sith can achieve. It allows them to send out energy from their very fingertips to harm or kill their opponents.”

“How do they do it?” she asked.

“It takes the purest of hatred and anger to summon the lightning, undiluted by any feelings of mercy or compassion.”

“I don’t feel much anger, only sadness and disappointment,” Ahsoka admitted.

“Well, there aren’t many Sith powers driven by that. But I may have one for you. If you cannot summon the lightning yourself, you can learn to redirect it.”

“Teach us,” said Anakin, and then at Ahsoka’s look, he added, “Please.”

“Lightning is powerful, and if you yourself are not at peace, then it will explode within you as you try to redirect it. You must be peaceful as you pull it through your own body. Start by catching it in your fingertips and then making it travel down your arm and into your stomach. You must be careful that it never passes through your heart, however. If it does, the effects could be fatal. Then, pull it up from you stomach into your other arm and out through the hand.” As the Bendu spoke, he moved his own arms in the motion, tracing the pathway the lightning needed to take.

Anakin was frowning as he watched and when the Bendu finished he removed his glove and held up his mechanical right hand.

“How will I do it with this?” he asked.

“That arm is a part of you. It will work the same, as long as you don’t try to hold the lightning inside of it.”

Ahsoka mirrored the motion that the Bendu was showing her, trying to imagine the Force lightning moving through her. Anakin hesitated and then did so, as well. They repeated it several times, with the Bendu making a few minor corrections, until they were sure they had it memorized.

“Thank you, Master Bendu,” said Ahsoka, bowing to him.

“Master?” he said with a chuckle. “Now go on, and leave me to my sleep.”

They retrieved their lightsabers from him and then turned to leave the valley.

“Oh, and what should I do with this?” asked the Bendu, moving the holocron.

“Keep it. As a gift,” said Ahsoka, over her shoulder.

They could hear the Bendu chuckling to himself as they left.

 

Beskara, Mandalore

Satine had wanted a huge celebration to welcome the clone children home to Mandalore, but unfortunately they still needed to be discreet. News of the invasion of Kamino had not yet reached Coruscant, but they knew it would soon. They had to act as quickly and quietly as they could. The Vigilance sent out shuttles of clone children to the locations on Mandalore and Kalevala where their quarters had been set up. The Mandalorian officials and the caretakers knew they were coming, but they had tried to keep the information quiet from the rest of the citizens. It would leak eventually, and then make its way to the Republic, but hopefully not for a few more days.

Satine waited for the shuttles to arrive at the facility on the outskirts of the city of Beskara. She wished she could greet them at every location, but she couldn’t be in so many places at once. The first shuttle touched down in the landing field and its ramp hissed open. Obi-Wan was the first to walk off of it, followed by a few dozen children, each one identical to the others, though varying somewhat in age. He pulled her into a hug when he saw her, which elicited a few murmurs and giggles from the children.

“I’m glad you made it here safe,” she said. She had had a pit of worry growing in her stomach ever since he left for Kamino.

“We’ve been lucky so far,” he said.

“Obi, this is Obek Niscova and Dr. Lyzza. They and their staff will be in charge of the boys’ care,” she said, introducing the two Mandalorians that stood behind her.

“We’ll make sure they are well fed and looked after,” said the doctor.

Satine led the way into the plain gray building. The lodgings inside were simple, but comfortable, with rooms of six bunk beds, a large dining room, and even some recreation rooms with sabacc cards and dejarik boards. It was the young clones’ first time away from Kamino and the younger ones looked a little nervous at their new location.

“Listen up, cadets,” said Boil, and they all snapped to attention.

“We have a mission for you all while you are here on Mandalore. We need you to lay low and stay out of sight until Coruscant and the Galactic Senate are secure. Can I count on you?” asked Boil.

“Yes, sir!” they all shouted.

Even the littlest ones, equivalent to five year olds, were so military already, like tiny soldiers. They would have to learn how to be proper children.

One of the older boys, who looked about fourteen ran up to Obi-Wan.

“General, can’t we join you? We’re old enough to fight,” he said.

Before Obi-Wan could respond, Satine said, “You will fight, here on Mandalore.”

Obi-Wan looked shocked at her words.

“You can fight off ignorance by working hard at your education,” she added and Obi-Wan laughed and shook his head a little.

“Yes, Duchess,” said the young clone, looking confused.

“There are a few more shuttles arriving,” said Obi-Wan, leading Satine back outside.

***

Obi-Wan could not stay more than a few hours on Mandalore. He had to return to Kamino to get the adult clone troopers and cadets, and take them to Coruscant to begin the assault against the Supreme Chancellor. It wasn’t nearly enough time, especially since the Coruscant mission was sure to be dangerous, perhaps more dangerous than anything he had ever done. Then again, Obi-Wan had managed to wound a Sith apprentice when he was only a padawan, and Satine knew how capable he was. They had some time together while Commander Cody took another group of clone children to Kalevala, but after that he would have to depart. They couldn’t leave Beskara, so they simply went for a walk on their own through the sunny streets.

“Obi, can I ask you something?” Satine felt herself growing nervous, and fiddled with one of her bracelets trying to distract herself.

“Of course.”

“There’s something I need to tell you, something I probably should have told you a long time ago.”

“That Korkie is our son,” he finished for her.

Satine’s eyes went wide and she whirled to face him.

“You knew?”

Obi-Wan shrugged a little. “Well, his Force signature is similar to mine. Not to mention, he was born nine months after we…”

“Violated your Jedi oath.”

“Yes, well, I suppose, yes,” he said, blushing a little.

Satine took his hand and continued walking.

“Are you angry that I didn’t tell you sooner?” she asked.

“No. I should have been more honest with you, as well. I realize I must have put you in a difficult situation.”

“We were just so young when it happened. And I was afraid if I told you, you would leave the Jedi for me and then later come to regret it. And my older sister was already married. She had stability, so she offered to raise Korkie as her own.”

Obi-Wan squeezed her hand, and couldn’t to help but to wonder how different his life would be if he had left the Jedi order sooner.

“He doesn’t know, does he?” he asked.

“No, but I’m going to tell him.”

They made their way into a quiet park off of the walking path.

“Keep each other safe. Until I get back,” said Obi-Wan, stopping and wrapping his arms around Satine.

“We will.”

“Oh, and I have to ask. Why in all of the galaxy did you name him Korkie?”

Satine slapped his arm lightly, but she laughed and buried her face in chest. He held her tightly. It was true that it would be difficult to leave her and his son to go on so dangerous a mission, but as he hugged her, he also felt a determination to make the galaxy as safe as he could for her. He had fought for the Republic for so long, but now he had something very different and infinitely more wonderful to fight for.