When they realized the missing Torgrutan villagers had been taken by slavers to Zygerria, Anakin knew it would be the worst mission he had ever faced, he also knew it was something he needed to do. If he didn’t try to help these people, if he turned a blind eye to all of this, then he couldn’t call himself a good person. He would have become everything he hated in others as a child. He would have lost his one dream.
The plan for this mission was a harsh one to set up.
At first, Obi-Wan suggested that Ahsoka should be the one to dress up as a slave for the mission plan. Attempting to not so lightly suggest that Skywalker was too emotionally invested with the situation to be put in that position.
"Anakin, I know how you feel about slavery." Kenobi spoke to his former padawan before they had left the atmosphere. Away from the ears of Rex and Ahsoka. “I don't think the plan would work, Ahsoka should play that part, she's a Torgurta, it would work out perfectly."
"What part of having a child be presented as a slave is okay.” Anakin spoke in a harsh tone. "And that outfit... what are you thinking?! Do you know what they'll do to her? Does Ahsoka even know what they'll think of her? I'm an adult. I know exactly what I'm signing myself up for."
Obi-Wan did not meet Anakin's harsh gaze.
"Let me do this, Obi-Wan. I've been trained for it already. I'd play the part perfectly." Anakin continued. The, I've already dealt with being a slave before, so I can handle it again went unspoken.
"That is what I was worried about." Kenobi shook his head. "But, it's your choice, in the end. Be sure to keep a hold on your emotions."
As if they went with Obi- Wan’s plan Anakin would suddenly be fine with everything. With pretending to own someone. With playing nice with the Zygerrian Empire.
Ultimately, Obi-Wan knew he could not prevent Anakin from going through with his version of the plan.
So the plan was revised.
Anakin would play the part of slave and Ahsoka would be the Master, the two of them would infiltrate the Queen’s ranks and castle. While Rex and Obi-Wan searched for the missing people in guard uniforms.
The necessary information was given as quickly and formally as possible. Facts about his past that would make this plan seem believable to an audience. Anakin said everything through grit teeth and clenched fists.
"Well, it seems like I get to be the Master for once." Were the first words from Padawan Ahsoka Tano, as she departed from their ship, attempting to break the tense and awkward silence that had began on the ship. She was out of her regular Jedi uniform, completely covered in dark brown lightly armored bounty hunting gear, with a mask and scarf that covered her monorails and lekku. She wouldn't even be recognized as a Torgruta, and the mask's voice modifier would ensure they wouldn't know her age.
The outfit would also help with her less then stellar acting skills.
"Ha ha, snips very funny." Anakin sarcastically responded; Traveling closely besides her, but a pace behind, in an oversized brown poncho. Underneath he had on a more then reveling outfit safely hidden from sight.
At a leisurely pace they both traveled several meters ahead of Obi-Wan and Rex, who would eventually take a corner and be separated from view.
Intent on getting to the Queen to enact the first stage of the plan as soon as possible, the duo scouted for the official guards of this planet walking through the lower streets of Zygerria, where sentient beings were being sold along with the regular market items.
Circular lookout droids roamed the streets at every corner. Looking as eyes and ears of the Queen for any sign of an uprising or runaway slave. It would be hard to stage an uprising if every word and move was seen.
It wasn’t long until a conversation was made. Walking through these streets they had a lot to say to one another.
"How can a civilization this wealthy still practice slavery?" Ahsoka asked, uncomfortable for many reasons, at the scene happening around her, with leading Anakin like this, and knowing what would soon happen next as they enacted their plan. Her eyes were hard to pull from the horrific sight of people being sold.
"They’re wealthy because of slavery." Anakin spoke to her in a hushed dark tone. His eyes looked to everything happening around him, but they didn't linger like Ahsoka's had. "They take, and take from people who can't fight back or don't know they should, and- they pretend like the people they leave in poverty are less then them because of it. Like they deserved to be treated like this.”
Anakin noticed, despite the mask, how Ahsoka kept looking to the sides of the street; to those who were being auctioned off or shown off. Through the force Anakin felt her unmasked disgust. He tried to gently nudge her away from stopping or starring in the force. But she did not say anything further.
In this moment of seeing everything again, Anakin had a lot of memories at the forefront of his mind.
"Once, a long time ago... me and my mother were sold in a place just like this. Judged and put a price on so Gardulla could use us in bets. I still remember it. I thought I would never see her again."
Ahsoka did not know what to say back.
Despite being like a sister to him for over a year, he had never spoken about this until today. The cold formal facts he told earlier being the first time he mentioned his time before the Jedi to her. Although, from the many rumors she had heard about him she knew about his past without anything being said.
Ahsoka was starting to regret this entire plan. There was still time to turn back and think of something new.
In that moment a troop of the queen’s guards quickly leading a small group of Twi'lek's in chains stepped out in front of them. One of which tripped, fell, and struggled to rise.
"Get up." The head guard spoke down to the fallen man.
"I can't, the- the chains, they're too heavy." The Twi'lek spoke in a fearful voice.
The guard, cruel and unsympathetic, activated his electrified whip and raised it.
But the guard never struck the Twi'lek.
"You don't wanna do that." Ahsoka threatened through a modified voice as she held onto the guards wrist.
"And why is that?" He spoke lowering his feline ears as the other guards activated their guns, ready for a fight.
Ahsoka let go of him. The slaves forgotten about for the moment.
"We-" she turned to look to Anakin, before realizing she likely had to do this entirely on her own, he could not help her without blowing there cover, "-are here to see the Queen."
"Then you have and invitation?" The guard said condescendingly, waving out an open palmed hand. "We can't just let anyone in."
“But, we’re not just anyone.” She responded.
The guard took a step forward.
“Then who exactly might you be. You’re going to be in big trouble for interrupting the queen’s personal guards and stock.” He threatened.
The situation was very quickly getting out of hand. Both Ahsoka and the head guard were filling quickly with anger.
"News from Bruno Denturi, we know him well." Anakin interrupted, getting the sense that if allowed to continue this would turn into a fight.
Immediately the guard turned outraged to him, raising his weapon once more. Having read the relationship between the two of them as intended from the plan.
"And who the kriff are you, interrupting me, you little-"
Then one of the many watch droids intercepted the space between Ahsoka, Anakin, and the Zygerrian. Instantly defusing the tension.
"They must be escorted to the Queen, immediately." It spoke.
The Zygerrian did not look happy with that statement, but he instantly complied.
"Alright then." He said motioning for his guards to lower their weapons and giving a fake smile. "Let us have an audience with the Queen." He held a hand out and motioned for them both to walk ahead. Likely to keep an eye on them both.
“The lot of you,” he said referring to the other guards, “bring them to where they belong. It appears that I have a new assignment.”
Stage one of their plan was completed. Stage two: get close to the Queen and either, 1: Get information or 2: Distract her from her duties.
The walk to the castle was tense. Anakin could not stop thinking about what would happen next, if the Queen would buy their play and if she did, the consequences of it.
Anakin did not exactly tell Ahsoka the details of how the interaction would likely play out. Leaving everything implied instead of stating the darker details. Those were hard to say. Harder even then talking about himself as if he was a product.
“Your name.” The gaurd suddenly said, bringing Ahsoka out of her thoughts. The two of them had not exchanged names, had they?
“Lars Quell.” Ahsoka said, giving the fake one Anakin had given her.
“Hmmmm.” He gave a wordless response. The silence returned once more.
Ahsoka had the feeling this man wanted nothing more than to quite literally shoot them in the back.
The cutoff between poverty and royalty was nearly instantaneous as they reached the grounds of the royal castle. With prosperous gardens and intricate etchings of stone beginning and tarp ceilings with dirt and gravel roads suddenly ending. It was a jarring separation. Hard to believe it was real.
As they entered the Zygerrian Queen's throne room, they heard her speak to someone hidden in the pillars to her side, "Make certain all preparations are complete for this evening."
The Queen looked the part. Dressed in fine blue robes with gold highlights made in literal gold, her presence towered above everyone else in the room. Her very voice spoke of cold strength and royalty. Her nails were manicured to a perfect predatory point. She was exactly what they would expect the Queen of the galaxy's biggest slave trade to be.
As they came close to the throne, they noticed guards were standing in the shadows of every pillar in the grand hall. Watching them both with a close eye as they were lead by the head guard.
Looking to them both the Queen's eye was caught on Anakin for a few moments. She smirked at the sight of him.
Something bad churned in Ahsoka’s gut.
"And fetch refreshments." The Queen told a chartreuse Twilek woman kneeling at her side. She quickly stood up and left.
As the Queen turned her attention, the guard that had been leading them quickly stepped into place.
"My queen, I present Lars Quell." The head guard said as he bowed in respect to his leader.
"Hmmm, so you're the one who claims to be aquatinted with Bruno Denturri." The Queen addressed Ahsoka, but her gaze kept moving to Anakin.
Anakin did not make eye contact and he kept his head down.
"I am." Ahsoka spoke with fake confidence, he expression hidden behind her mask.
"And when you last spoke, did he mention my intense hatred for him?" She barred teeth with these words.
The head guard suddenly pulled a blaster on Ahsoka, but did not pull the trigger. He looked glad for the opportunity to kill.
"He didn't need to say that, because I have killed him." Ahsoka quickly spoke in a voice that was louder then it was vindictive. Not used to having to play a role or act, it was hardly believable.
Skywalker did his best not to visibly cringe at the display.
It would be for the best if the introductions went past quickly, and they could move onto different subjects. Ahsoka was better at giving information, then pretending to play a role.
Anakin gently nudged her in the force to make sure she remembers, and goes through with the next part of the plan. Getting the message, Ahsoka in a dramatic fashion, pulled the poncho from Anakin and pushed him forward, giving her best attempt at acting once more.
"-And here is his most valued slave from his palace, as a show of... goodwill.” Ahsoka's voice wavered in the end at the sight of Anakin in a reveling blue and gold outfit.
But Anakin did not shake or waver under the gaze of the Queen, and her guards. It was the quietest and most controlled she had ever see him be. It was chilling to see.
The Queen stood from her throne with a smile and said, "You've impressed me, he is quite a prize." Then walked down the marble steps to approach Anakin, to get a closer look at him.
Slowly walking around him while gently running her long nails along his exposed back she said, "Bruno always knew how to choose a fine stock." Even under the Queen's touch Anakin was unwavering as if he was made of stone.
"What is his price?"
"Let us discuss, he was- Bruno's favorite after all." Remembering what Anakin told her to say, but still uncomfortable in it she said, "He is... fully trained in a lot of skills."
"Hmmm, both of you, with me, to the balcony. Tell me more about him there, bounty hunter." She said in response. For what reason, Ahsoka didn’t know why she wished a light change of scenery.
The Queen took two drinks from the chartreuse woman as she passed on her way to the grand balcony overlooking the city.
Ahsoka did her best to not stare at the twi’lek as she passed, but she couldn’t stop her eyes from catching at the blinking collar she wore around her neck. In this moment there was nothing Ahsoka could do for her.
"Drink this." She said to Anakin handing him one of the glasses. He compliantly took and sipped it without making eye contact.
Ahsoka had to get a grip on herself before repeating the information she had been told. It was disturbing to think most all of it was complete truth.
"He was originally owned by Gardulla the-"
The Queen interrupted with a faked gasp.
"That slug, how unpleasant, I'm sure you will enjoy living here instead." She smiled and put her hand on his for a moment. "You'll find the accommodations for pleasure slaves quite luxurious if you behave."
Ahsoka did her very best to ignore what the queen was saying.
"He can repair starships and-"
"But we wouldn't want him doing hard work like that around here." She interrupted once more. While Ahsoka didn’t like saying what she had to, it was irritating being interrupted again and again.
However, the moment was soon interrupted.
Sensing sudden danger Ahsoka swiftly moved and intercepted the hand that held the incoming warning.
"No! Let go of me!" The chartreuse twi’lek yelled as she yanked her hand away from Ahsoka's grip, and backed away from her and the guards approaching because of the commotion.
"She will have to be sent back to the reprocessing center." The Queen appeared to be nonchalant with the situation, speaking as if it was a regular occurrence.
"No! I won't go back there! I won't." The Twi'lek said, suddenly stepping onto the stone ledge of the balcony. There was a bad feeling about what was going to happen next.
Unable to stay silent about this situation Anakin shouted, "Wait-!"
Close to her Skywalker tried reaching a hand out to prevent her fall, but she took a step back and fell, just out of his reach.
Ahsoka could not see the woman hit the ground, but she heard the sickening crack of it. Everything happened far too fast to make sense of any of it.
"Such a waste." The Queen said leaning up against the place where the woman had just killed herself, as Anakin looked down on the woman's dead body over the edge of the balcony. "But you are proving to be quite resourceful."
How cold hearted must she be, Ahsoka thought, to see someone kill themselves and act as if it was a minor accident and move on. But Ahsoka still had to continue this mission no matter what. Far too much was at stake, and now she saw how bad everything was firsthand. It was hard, not to take her lightsabers out and kill the Queen on the spot.
"If I may, seeing as this was partly my fault I want to offer him to you, as a gift." Ahsoka said through grit teeth, hoping to win her favor.
"Very well." The Queen spoke as if she wasn't practically begging for information on Anakin, and was going to buy him just moments ago. "I'll take your offering of goodwill, it seems I'm in need of a new personal servant."
Anakin turned and bowed to the Queen in a sign as respect and submission. It looked wrong, although he did it perfectly.
"I also wish for you to be my guest at the slave auction." The Queen said to Ahsoka.
"...What a generous offer."
One she literally could not refuse. It would be seen as a great insult to deny this gift.
"Saving a Queen's life is quite noble, not what I expected of a bounty hunter type like yourself, and giving me such an expensive gift... I believe you have won my favor.” She said as she dragged a hand down Anakin's cheek. "Stay at the palace. I'm sure it will be better then wherever you intended to stay the night."
It would be hard to gather intel from directly under the Queen’s nose, but she would manage. Hopefully winning her favor would give her some room to move.
"Thanks, I'll lead A- the slave out of your way."
"That is unnecessary, he will be sent up with the others I own, get a bit of makeup to fix his face." The Queen said, then added with a darker tone. "Unless he isn't fully trained as you said."
"He is." Ahsoka quickly reassured. Although saying so was hard.
"Then I'll have my guards show you to a guest room." She snapped and one of the guards took a step forward in an instant.
That particular guard then turned and lead a way out of the throne room.
Ahsoka followed the guard without looking back.
The room she was lead to was pretty. It was much better then hers and Anakin's conjoined place in the Jedi Temple, but she couldn't stop thinking of what it was built on. That all this luxury and beauty was made from suffering. That Anakin right now was suffering for a mission they didn't know would actually work. That she was sitting here on a nice bed and Anakin was thrown back into where he had came from.
There was immense guilt at thinking, at least it wasn’t her, that even though she felt bad for Anakin, she was glad it was not herself.