Chapter 1: Replacement, Part 1 of 3
“He’s insane Wullf! Insane! I quit!” Agent Yogar Lyste cried out, clutching a box of personal items to his chest. Colonel Wullf Yularen sighed.
“Go home Yogar. Get some rest.” The Colonel suggested.
Lyste was livid. “No way! I’m gone for real this time!” The now former agent stormed out of Yularen’s office, and following behind him was Agent Alexsandr Kallus, leaning against the doorframe as he peered into the space.
“I think he really meant it this time, Colonel.” Kallus commented.
Yularen nodded. “Yes, I believe you are correct. It was only a matter of time, I suppose.”
Kallus chuckled. “And here I thought my assignment was tricky.”
“It is very lucky that your charge took a shining to you. Not all Agents can be so lucky.” Yularen added thoughtfully. This gave him an idea. Kallus had found the crashed Lasat, Garazeb Orellios, on an arctic expedition to investigate the crash site, fed to the public as nothing more than a shooting star. At first, the two may have clashed, but soon became inseparable, Kallus hardly leaving the compound anymore. Not that there was much to do aside from stare out at the desert around Area 51, anyway. Perhaps, Yularen thought to himself, he could see who was present at the discovery of their current problem to be assigned as Lyste’s replacement.
“You have an idea.” Kallus egged Yularen on, hoping to see just what his superior had in mind.
“Yes. See if you can pull the files on when we picked up Lyste’s charge. I want to know everyone who was present.”
A loud rumble down the hall announced another being’s approach to the ever busy Colonel’s office. A large, furry creature stooped down to fit through the doorway, followed by a shorter human with ruffled brown hair.
“Agent Solo.” Yularen greeted kindly, coming to terms with the fact that his email inbox would just have to wait.
Before the agent could reply, the being known as Chewbacca grunted our a string of unparsable growls and barks.
“He says that we are out of shampoo, I tried to tell him there is more but he just won’t accept anything but…” Solo explained, letting his words trail off as if the need for him to translate the Wookie’s words was to much effort to expect from him.
“He prefers Mane & Tail, no?” This was not the first time Wullf had dealt with the conundrum. He found the Wookie to be relatively mild mannered when treated respectfully, and quite smart seeing that he was able to understand English perfectly. It was a shame, he thought, that only Solo understood the being’s own language. If he had more time, Wullf decided he’d like to learn it as well.
“He does.” Solo replied, and Chewbacca spoke further. “Yes, I did order more for you. But it's just not here yet!” Chewbacca growled, shaking his head. “No, it did not get lost in the mailroom. Vanto is perfectly capable. I think.”
Chewbacca, frustrated, threw up his paws, a rancid musty scent wafting towards Wullf. He tried very hard to not visibly cringe.
“I promise you, Chewbacca, you will have proper soap in no time. Han, you can pay for express shipping next time. Spare no expense when it comes to our friend’s hygiene.”
Chewbacca nodded approvingly, thanking Yularen with a polite hum.
“Now, you might as well check down at deliveries, just to be sure the box was not left in a dark corner. And be sure to say hello to Dr. Organa on the way, I am sure she will be delighted to see you.” Yularen added with a grin. Han flushed a bright red. It was no secret that the swaggering Agent had a massive crush on the legal team leader, Dr. Leia Organa. Chewbacca patted Han on the back as they slid out of the office, bodies clashing against the door frame.
Now, Wullf thought to himself, back to my inbox…
“Sir!” Agent Kallus dropped a thick folder down on Yularen’s desk. “The requested information.”
Picking up the file, Yularen flipped it open. “Thank you, Alexsandr.” Checking the time, he figured he could read through the information over lunch. “I’m sure Zeb is waiting for you, enjoy your lunch.”
“Of course, thank you sir.”
As much as Wullf liked to think he was personable with his Agents, many of them still kept up strict military regime when on duty. It was a bit much, but he’d not fight anyone over their habits.
Pulling a tuna salad from the small refrigerator behind him, Wullf cracked open the lid and scooped up a large chunk onto a cracker, eating as he read over the personnel list from the Amazon Investigation. The commanding officer has been Captain Parck. That was no good, he’d been long transferred to the CIA. There was then a sting of unremarkable Agents, but Wullf found himself lingering on one name. Eli Vanto. The mailroom supervisor. What the hell was he doing here?
The folder offered no information as to Eli’s inclusion in the mission, but pulling up his profile, Wullf saw that Vanto was bilingual whose family was from Colombia. Made sense that Parck would bring him along as a sort of guide and interpreter. Now, his mind was really racing. Vanto had been working the mailroom for years, something that could drive even the strongest willed people insane. Sure, it was a gamble, but it was one Wullf was willing to take seeing how many Agent’s he’d lost to this case.
Now was the time to think outside of the box.
Eli Vanto, no, he corrected himself, Agent Eli Vanto, knew he was incredibly unqualified and underprepared. But the Colonel had given him little choice, so he resigned to accept the role he was being pushed into.
Where most would be ecstatic to be promoted to Agent status, and receiving an assignment, Eli was upset. He happened to enjoy working in the mailroom, ensuring orders were processed and important documents accounted for. But, here he was, being led to his new charge.
Most of the living quarters felt like a neighborhood, the space lively with agents and alien residents, many of the doors decorated personally and the walls were covered in murals and photographs, giving the space character. But the further into the complex Eli was lead, the more his anger turned to anxiety. This was where the less hospitable residents lived, those known to cause all sorts of mischief who needed a little extra supervision. And then they reached the secure block. Anything deemed to be a potential threat to humanity and the planet was kept here, and even those working in Area 51 knew little about these captives. Eli had once sealed a file on a ‘Jabba the Hutt’ and the enclosed image was plenty to keep him from snooping further.
Finally, the procession came to a stop in front of a door marked simply as #0017. Yularen offered Vanto a kind expression, but Vanto just scowled. “You did not tell me that my charge would be in the secure block.”
“It is just temporary until we can get a read on him. He’s a special case, is all. Presents you no immediate harm.” Yularen assured the young Agent Vanto.
“Well, unless you are allergic to witty comebacks and talking in circles.” Agent Kallus jested.
“Still, what if he is hiding some secret and tries to… I don’t know. Eat me or something.” Agent Vanto was truly exasperated. Were they trying to send him to the slaughter?
Kallus frowned. “Look, if you are really worried we can have uh… Jarrus on standby in the hall. His charge has finally calmed down enough that he has some free time.”
“No, that’s alright. I’ll take my chances with um. What is this, exactly?” Eli was afraid of the unknown, sure, but if there was anything he truly feared it was those who called themselves the Jedi, asylum seekers from some far far away galaxy who had mystical telekinetic powers. They claimed to be peaceful, but Eli figured anyone with such abilities could easily abuse them. Figured that their own system thought the same way, hence their desperate flee from the place, stumbling on Earth by sheer luck.
“Suit yourself.” Kallus concluded bluntly.
“This is Mitth’raw’nuruodo, he calls himself a Chiss. Near human as far as we can tell, just some different pigmentation. I have reason to believe the Chiss are a warrior species. Mitth’raw’nuruodo is highly observant, so mind your tone and body language.”
That was somewhat relieving, Eli figured. “Alright. So I’m just going to go in there and try and see if he’s a threat.”
“Yes. And to learn anything more you can. I’d like to see him out of the secure block by next month, and his success depends on you much as yours on him. Remember that.” Yularen added, remembering his first and only charge. The first Jedi to land on Earth, Obi Wan Kenobi. He had set the bar incredibly high for the Jedi to follow, being a true gentleman and a pleasure to know. It was a shame, he mused, that when the Sith Lord tasked with eliminating the Jedi had landed on Earth having somehow tracked the Jedi, Obi Wan had sacrificed his life to save them all. He would be eternally thankful to the Jedi, and trusted them nearly as much as his own Agents in the protection of Earth. Luckily, a young Jedi had followed closely behind the Lord, neutralizing the threat.
More sith had followed, those who called themselves Inquisitors hellbent on eliminating the Jedi, but with four Jedi calling Earth home, these intruders were contained even further in the secure block. Yularen hoped that them not returning home would be message enough to those who thought to follow to stay put instead.
“Alright. Got it.” Taking a deep breath, Eli prepared himself, facing the door. Yularen keyed it open, the thick metal sliding aside to reveal a simple studio style apartment. Sitting at the desk was his charge, back facing Eli, features obscured by long black hair. The being hardly flinched at the intrusion, Eli stepping inside so the door could slide shut behind him.
“Hello, Mitth’raw’nuruodo. My name is Eli Vanto.” Eli began shakily, his accent coming across stronger than usual due to nerves.
Not turning around from whatever he was watching on the tablet set upon the desk, Mitth’raw’nuruodo replied cooly. “It is pronounced Mitth’raw’nuruodo. But I can not expect you humans to parse that, so you may call me Thrawn.”
A bit rude, but not hostile, Eli noted, taking note of the given name. “My apologies, I meant you no disrespect.”
Now, Thrawn turned, not fully, but enough so that Eli could see the profile of a blue face and bright red eyes. “Hm. You are different from the last.”
“Yeah, Yogar can be a bit much.” Eli commented.
“He left, I see. Interesting. Perhaps you will leave too.” Thrawn turned back to his tablet, as if to end the conversation. Eli did not want to be here probably just as much as Thrawn wanted him to leave, but he had a job to do and pulled out one of the two chairs sat at a tall dining table built into the kitchen counter, sitting to face the Chiss.
“Unless you like solitary, I’d suggest being a bit more open to the concept of me. We aren’t trying to imprison you, and after a while you can even get a ride home if you are deemed to not be a threat to the galaxy.” Eli offered, remembering the rehabilitation program that had seen plenty of aliens back to their home world safely, also serving as ambassadors of mankind. Seems that plenty of other species would rather slaughter or otherwise abuse crashed aliens.
Thrawn laughed, a dry chuckle. “You are a funny man, Eli’Vanto.”
Eli recalled his words, trying to find a joke. There was none. “You’re pretty strange yourself, Thrawn.”
There was no reply. Eli pulled out his cell phone, flipping through a forum for a favorite series of his, Star Warriors. It was the definition of cheesy science fiction, but after living among science nonfiction, it was fun to escape into a world of galactic conflict of no consequence. Getting comfortable in the chair, Eli opened a long post, knowing it was going to be a slow day indeed.
More on the Sith later ok! I promise to elaborate there! (Yes the hinted at Sith are the Inquisitors. And yes in this AU they outlive Vader.)
Also, the Four Jedi are Luke, Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka! More from them later too!
This is just a lot of loose ideas coming together, I hope its at least fun!
Chapter 3: The Inquisitor, The Pirate, and the Engineer
Consider this a sort of Interlude in the Replacement arc :)
“We both know I’m done trying to kill you. I’m reformed now.” The white skinned and bald headed humanoid simply known as ‘Grand Inquisitor’ called out, sipping on a bug filled smoothie, his personal favorite. He had to be careful not to pierce the straw with his razor sharp teeth, not unlike those of a shark.
Kanan Jarrus, former(?) Jedi, rolled his eyes. “We might have called a truce, but I still can’t just let you roam free. Not after all the stunts you pulled. Tua’s orders.”
Grinning, Grand Inquisitor raised an eyebrow-ridge, lacking any hair to form a true brow. “If it were up to you though…”
“I’d think about it.” Kanan stated flatly. “But first, I’d make you get your brothers and sisters under better control. You’ve got my padawan’s hands full letting them get on the way you do.”
Grand Inquisitor chuckled, slurping up the last of his smoothie. “I’m not their mother.”
“But you are their commander.”
“Was. I was their commander. The mission is over now.”
Yeah, the mission to kill me and Ezra, Kanan thought, but did not say. He did not linger on the thought, knowing his intentions were visible to Grand Inquisitor just as his were on display for the Jedi.
Grand Inquisitor was honest that he’d no longer try to murder anyone, but Kanan was certain he could still sense a desire to wreak havoc, probably in the form of an escape attempt, and he just could not let that happen, reformed Inquisitor or not. The people of this planet had entrusted the Jedi with their safety against the Sith threat, and Kanan was not going to test that trust on such a being as this.
“Over or not, you are all still a bunch of punks.” Wanting to change the subject, Kanan dug into his pack. “Anyway, I brought you something.”
Interest peaked, Grand Inquisitor set down the empty. “Hm?”
Kanan pulled out a book from his pack, the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft. “Some of there are hard to find online, and I know you prefer paper, so here.” Tossing over the brick of a book, Grand Inquisitor caught it with whip-quick reflexes that never ceased to impress even a Jedi like Kanan.
“As much of a mudball as this planet is, there is some interesting literature.” Grand Inquisitor mused, cracking open the volume. Kanan knew the being would be engrossed for the next few days, so he left Grand Inquisitor alone with the volume. Making his way to his own personal quarters, he caught up to Colonel Yularen and Agent Kallus who greeted him warmly.
“Come down to see Thrawn?” Kanan asked, knowing this to be the main reason these two may even visit the secure block.
“Somewhat. Yogar quit today so we are trying out a new Agent.” Kallus responded with a grim expression.
Before Kanan could ask who, Yularen answered the question for him. “Vanto, from mail.”
Kanan could not help but snicker. “Seriously? Are you just trying to get him to quit too?”
“No, I think it could work.” Yularen replied seriously. “Besides, Mitth’raw’nuruodo has been in solitary too long already. If we are not careful, we can plant the seeds of loathing in what could be a powerful ally.”
Kanan shrugged. “Even I don’t know much about Chiss space. But I bet there are a lot of them, so it would be good to have them on your side.”
Kallus noted the very deliberate ‘your’ in that statement. As much as he’d like to believe that the Jedi had the Earth’s best interest in mind, at the end of the day they were loyal to their home system first and yearned for a day they could return safely.
“Ah! Jarrus! There you are!” A woman’s voice called out. A voice that belonged to Administrator Maketh Tua. “Jedi Ahsoka was looking for you earlier.” She stated, thrusting an envelope into his arms. “Oh, and Colonel! General Veers is waiting for your response to his email. The General is a patient man but I’d not test that patience.”
“Of course, Administrator, I will be right on it, if you will excuse me.” Taking the chance, Colonel Yularen and Agent Kallus slipped away from the confrontation.
Opening the envelope, Kanan was greeted by the smug I.D. photograph of Hondo Ohnaka. “What happened?”
Administrator Tua huffed a bit. “Well, Ohnaka thought it would be fun to organize a sort of trading ring among the secure block. Jedi Ahsoka found slits carved under some of the walls for the trading of cigarettes and poker chips.”
“And you were able to trace the items back to Hondo?”
“Precisely! If you could have a little chat with him today, we’d all be very appreciative.”
“Of course, Administer.” Kanan cringed a bit internally. Hondo, some sort of galactic pirate from what they could gather, had been nothing but trouble since the day he arrived. But, it was neve the sort of trouble to land him in the secure block, just skirting the line. He had somehow managed to become Jedi Obi Wan’s charge, perhaps for fear that his supposed crew would return for him, but after Obi Wan’s death, he had never been reassigned, Colonel Yularen deeming him nothing more than a petty opportunist. Thus, he shuffled keeping an eye on him with Ahsoka, which often lead to things such as this going unnoticed for days or even weeks.
“Kanan! My friend! Do not believe a word the Administer says! I am an innocent man!” Here we go, Kanan thought, striding forward to meet Hondo in a common area.
“Let’s take this to your quarters, Hondo.”
The Weequay grinned lewdly. “Whoa there Jedi, not so fast! At least buy me dinner first.”
Kanan muttered something about Hondo being insufferable as the Weequay keyed open his quarters. “My home is your home, Kanan.” He announced with a flourish. “Not the bed though. Only if you want to share, eh?”
“What’s this?” Kanan asked, ignoring the comment to toe at a heavy storage crate loaded with bottles of rum.
Hondo, already pouring two glasses from an open bottle, answered happily. “Just a little bit of fun, nothing to worry about.”
“I’m just curious where you got it from.”
Hondo passed a glass to Kanan who set it right back down on the counter. “Oh you know. Around.”
“No I do not know around.”
“But do you want to know?”
Kanan eyed the glass of rum, and it was looking better and better by the second. “Yes, Hondo, I’d like to know.”
“Know what, my friend?”
Kanan took a long sip of the strong beverage. “Nevermind. Just, keep it out of the secure block from now on, and I won’t report the stash to the Colonel. Alright?”
Hondo nodded vigorously. “Anything for you, Kanan. Of course! You are more than reasonable. However.” Hondo wrapped an arm around the taller being’s shoulders. “I do request that you ask your little friend Ahsoka to… Mind her business if that is not too bold of me.”
“I have no authority over Ahsoka.”
“Yes! Yes! I know this, but perhaps a little chat, friend to friend.” Hondo refilled both their glasses. “Make a suggestion.”
“Don’t test me, Hondo.”
Hondo backed off, finishing his second glass in a single sip, scratching at the bony protrusions on his jaw. “Very well. Do visit again if you care to make good on that promise of dinner.”
“I promised nothing, Hondo.” Kanan retorted, setting down the glass a second time and striding towards the door. “Don’t be a moron.”
Kanan left the room before Hondo could offer yet another quip. Finally, making it to his quarters, he found Hera awaiting him on the couch, laid out wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt, holding a tablet up where she was flipping through her ship repair notes. When an alien craft crashed on Earth, they were sure to salvage as much as they could and then an engineering team was tasked with making the vessel space worthy again should the alien be granted permission to leave. Hera headed one such team, and was currently perplexed by the vessel on which one Luke Skywalker arrived, the newest Jedi arrival. The ship looked familiar enough compared to what she was used to, having come from the same system, but nearly every piece was upgraded in some way from those of decades past.
“Care to take a break?” Kanan asked, lifting her green skinned legs up to sit beneath them, draping them across his lap like a blanket.
“Shhh… I’m onto something.” Hera hissed, face contorted in concentration. She frantically typed in a new comment before tossing the pad aside a few seconds later. “Ok. Now time for a break.”
Sitting up, she planted a kiss on Kanan’s cheek. “How was everything out there? Grand Inquisitor still being good?”
“Yeah, he liked the book you picked. But let’s not talk about work.” Sliding down next to her, Kanan laid down against Hera on the narrow couch, wrapping an arm around her waist to keep her from falling. Hera curled her own arms around his shoulder, kissing his nose now.
“Whatever you say.”
Chapter 4: Replacement, Part 3 of 3
“So, it has been seven days.” Colonel Yularen began, speaking to the Agent across from him. “What progress have you made.”
Agent Vanto pouted. “Not much, sir. He’s sarcastic, impassive, and honestly a bit of a jerk if I may speak freely.”
“You may always speak freely with me, Eli. You know this.” Yularen made an effort to be on a first name basis with all of his agents, to try and keep things casual and morale high. Under other superiors, he’d heard horror stories of mass unrest and even riots due to people feeling cooped up and going insane. He ran the compound more like a town than a military facility, and so far it had worked well.
“Right. Well anyway, he’s always just scrolling through his tablet, or cooking the same thing. Toast with peanut butter and banana slices, dipped in syrup. What’s up with that?”
Yularen had no answer to that. “He must just find the taste to be enjoyable.”
“Well the small is going to drive me mad.”
He could not help but smile, compared to the so-called mental warfare Yogar had faced with Mitth’raw’nuruodo, this was small potatoes. “So no hostility?”
“Not really, just very short with me.”
“I am sure you have heard this many times, but he is trapped a long way from home, alone among strangers. Perhaps he is afraid. This could very well be his defence mechanism, to build emotional walls and regiment himself.”
Eli considered this. “Yeah. Maybe.”
“Have you asked him what he is looking at on his tablet?” Yularen offered. “Perhaps you may find common ground.”
“Hm.” Eli realized that no, he had not put forth much effort in reaching out to the Chiss aside from standard pleasantries. It was worth a shot, he figured.
So, the next morning on his visit, Eli tried the suggestion after the now habitual greeting of “Good Morning.”
“I see you have returned.”
Any reaction Eli had to the sharp reply was long gone, now it was just dull. “What are you looking at?”
Thrawn, seeming almost surprised, cocked his head a bit. “Nothing.”
Setting down the tablet, he disappeared into the closet, returning with some simple work out equipment that had been left there along with other activity items like knitting supplies and coloring books. Then, in the silence of the room, Thrawn began exercising with resistance bands, the strong musculature of his back and arms flexing, visible against his white tee shirt.
Eli forced himself to look away. No, he did not find this rude alien attractive . No way.
Thrawn bent over, picking up hand weights from the floor and stretching his legs in the process. Eli could not help but spare a glance that way. Shit. He was kind of hot. Especially with his hair tied up, showing off the sharpness of his cheekbones and curiously articulated forehead plates. As the Chiss twisted his core, he locked eyes with Eli. “Either leave or join me. I prefer not to be watched.”
Eli did not take long debating his response, hopping down from his chair. “I’ll join, but you’re going to have to put on some music or something, I don’t work in silence.”
“Your choice.” Thrawn replied offhandedly, starting a set of squats with weights.
Stepping towards the desk, Eli paused as he reached for the tablet. “Mind if I use your tablet?”
“I have nothing to hide, there is no password.”
“Alright. Thanks.” Turning the device on, Eli saw nothing out of the ordinary, but opening the MeTube app, he nearly had the breath knocked from him. Nearly every video suggested was a Star Warriors movie clip, some of them already marked as watched. “Wait. You like Star Warriors?”
Thrawn did not stop his exercising, still not even breaking a sweat or out of breath in the least. “I find it to be an interesting attempt to explain the galaxy at large. Vastly incorrect, but very creative. I am having trouble finding many reputable sources, however. Perhaps you could enlighten me on the theory’s origin.”
Eli took a moment to process this, which was by far the most Thrawn had ever said to him. As he realized just what Thrawn meant, he laughed. “Thrawn, Star Warriors is fiction. It's not meant to explain anything, it's just something made up.”
Thrawn averted his gaze. “Oh. I see.”
“Hey, that doesn’t mean it's not good. I agree that its creative, and honestly a lot of fun to watch. Have you seen the whole trilogy yet?”
“I will admit to having difficulty locating all the sections of film two.” Thrawn admitted.
“Lucky for you I have the whole extended cut on DVD. I’ll bring it over tomorrow, if you want.”
“I would like that, yes.” Thrawn admitted, slowing the pace of his motions. “Do you still care to join?”
“Yeah, what the hell, I could probably use a bit of exercise.” So, setting on a Star Warriors soundtrack playlist, Eli approached the equipment, selecting a low grade resistance band to stretch with. For once, the rest of his visit passed quickly.
“Storm Area 51, they can not stop us all.” Colonel Yularen read from his notes to the assembled agents and personnel before him, four Jedi among them.
“I would like to believe this is a joke, but then again I do not wish to take any risks when it comes to the safety and security of this compound.” He could tell that most of those assembled thought this was a load of crap, but nonetheless, the briefing had to happen. Governor Tarkin was many things, but hip with the modern culture was not one of them. Yularen tried to keep up with pop culture and social media trends, but it was difficult as such a busy person. So, when Tarkin had called him about preparing for the supposed raid, he had no solid evidence to the contrary and preparations were set into motion.
“Now, Agent Kallus will present some details for you all, and the current shift plans. Prepare for doubles.” A collective groan sounded as Alexsandr Kallus rose to take the podium.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Area 51, in the secure block, Grand Inquisitor pulled on the paper being shoved under the crack under the door, unfolding a note that read:
My friend! I have a very beneficial offer for you! Tomorrow there will be a bit of chaos I believe we can take advantage of to… widen our horizons, so to say. Reply in two minutes or I will consider you to decline the agreement… -H
Grand Inquisitor smirked. The details were vague, to be sure, but he was always ready to stir up a little chaos. Flipping the page over, he scrawled down an ‘Im in’ and slid the paper back under the door.
From the other side, he heard a muffled cheer, then something larger was shoved in the crack. An envelope full of roast crickets, Grand Inquisitor found it to be. Now he was really smiling. For once he was glad to have befriended the pirate.
“Good speech.” Zeb said to Alexsandr after the briefing. “Very, uh, through. I liked the part where you said ‘see them aliens’. Very funny.”
Alexsandr groaned. “I can’t believe Tarkin is making us actually take this seriously. Anyone who shows up is just going to camp out and dick around. Going to be the most well guarded tailgate in history.”
Zeb chuckled, patting the smaller human on the back with a massive clawed paw. “You’re probably right. But if I have learned anything, it is that Earthlings are very unpredictable.”
“Unpredictable in the ‘kill you without hesitation’ way or the ‘fall in love with you’ way?”
Zeb pulled Alexsandr closer. “Both, I guess. Definitely prefer the latter.”
Making their way through the complex, the pair was stopped by no other than Hondo. “Hello gentlemen! I have heard wonderful things about your briefing, Agent Kallus!”
Kallus huffed. “From who? Zeb?”
“Oh no, no. Everyone is talking about it. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the briefing…” Hondo continued, unfazed.
“More like you were not invited.” Zeb muttered. Hondo patted the Lasat’s bicept.
“And that is very much a shame, I must say! Now, where was I… Yes! Your speech. Do tell how I might acquire a copy of your presentation.”
“What could you possibly need that for?” Kallus protested, perplexed.
“I have some… Very delicate things I must ensure are safe. Wish to make sure I am well protected and know the best places to stay away from danger!” Hondo continued with a flourish. Kallus sensed this was not the full truth, but figured there was no harm in sending Hondo his presentation. It just had shift changes, which were even more dense than usual. Perhaps it would deter him from stirring up trouble. “I’ll send a PDF file to your tablet.” Kallus conceded, pulling out his phone to just get it over with.
“Ah! I thank you greatly, Agent Kallus. You are a good man!”
With that, the Weequay left them alone, and not wanting to be stopped again, the couple ducked into Zeb’s quarters. Alexsandr recalled a time when he could have been fired for such a thing, just associating with the resident aliens. Or much worse. But since Colonel Yularen had taken control of the facility, integration was encouraged between Agents and residents. Which, frankly, had Alexsandr realizing that all of his bickering with Zeb had stemmed from frustration of several kinds.
“I’d say you’ve earned a nice relaxing evening.” Zeb purred, pulling Kallus down onto his lap. “Care to watch a movie?”
“As long as you’re not going anywhere, that sounds perfect.”
Zeb ruffled the agent’s slicked back hair, earning a disgruntled hum from the human. “You know I’ll be right here, Alex.”
At hearing his beloved nickname, Alexsandr nuzzled into Zeb. “Or we can just cuddle.”
“Or we can cuddle.” Zeb repeated, closing his eyes and just enjoying the moment through all his heightened senses.
The next morning, Kallus lay entwined with his boyfriend, his phone sitting on the bedside table completely dead. Colonel Yularen dialed the number for the fifth time. “Damn it, Alexsandr, answer!” He swore under his breath. It was the day of the raid and his right hand was nowhere to be found.
A tone sounded to indicate an incoming call, and Yularen gave up on Alexsandr, answering a call from Agent Yrica Quell. “Yes?”
“Chass is setting her music equipment up in the front yard. Should I stop her or?” Yrica asked, sounding a bit overwhelmed. “Also, Wyl and Nath are hanging green balloons from the light posts. Kairos is helping them, who knew she could breathe helium.”
Yularen could have had a stroke right then and there. “Clean up what you can, but when the sun rises, everyone has to go inside. Try and get Caern Adan to help you.”
“Caern is hung over and refuses to open the door to his room. It’s just me.”
Yularen fought the urge to say ditto, flagging Han down with wild arm gestures. “Alright, I’m sending Solo. Chewbacca should be able to reach the light posts in the front yard.” Yularen said loud enough for the agent to hear him.
Acknowledging the request, Han turned around on his heels, barely avoiding a collision with the Wookie as he made his way to the front.
“Cool. I’ll go talk to them.” Yrica said, then hanging up the call. Yularen exhaled slowly, deciding to recruit the Jedi from their hall patrol to cover the perimeter. They looked human, so it should be fine. Besides, no one in their right mind would be dumb enough to disturb the secure block today, right?
“I’ll be damned! Nath Tensent really did it, hm.” Hondo mused to himself as he peered over a steaming cup of caf to watch the Jedi patrols leave the living halls. The scoundrel turned pilot had owed him a favor for several bottles of quality beverages, and he had really outdone himself to lure out all four Jedi.
As casually as he could, Hondo strolled towards the secure block. Knowing the Jedi would be back at sunrise, he did not take his time in locating a very specific door and unlocked it with a home made key. At first it protested. But Hondo was able to jimmy it open.
“Hello there!” Hondo called out with open arms. Grand Inquisitor had been waiting for him, fully dressed and armed with his tactical electro-knife. Not quite the same as his lightsaber, but it would do.
Grand Inquisitor flashed sharp teeth with a snarl. “Took you long enough.”
“Hey! I held up my end of the bargain! Now it is your turn, Inquisitor.”
The much taller being barged past Hondo, seeming to leave him behind until he turned around to hiss. “Keep up or I’m leaving you behind.”
Not needing to be told twice, Hondo jogged to catch up, long dreadlocks bouncing behind him. “I see, I will do my best to stay right behind you. Yes just a few paces behind.”
Rolling his eyes, Grand Inquisitor did not slow down, only stopping below a large air conditioner intake. Using his blade, he pried off the vent and exposed a wide duct system.
“After you.” Hondo gestured. Grand Inquisitor did not hesitate to duck down into the square metal tubes.
So the story threads may be a little jumbled together but the chapters are in chronological order. I hope this is a fun read for y'all!
Chapter 6: See Them Aliens, Part 2 of 2
“Oh stars!” Administer Maketh Tua exclaimed, clutching her hands to her chest as she noticed the disturbed intake vent laying on the floor. Her first instinct was to call Colonel Yularen, but all she got was a busy tone. Moving down her contact list, she reached Ahsoka Tano.
“Administer?” Ahsoka asked, answering on the second ring. “Is something wrong?”
“Yes! Oh yes! Something is very wrong! Someone has escaped!” Tua blurted out.
“Whoa, slow down, what happened?” Ahsoka was already getting ready to come in, the sun nearly on the horizon, but now she really darted towards the complex.
“Someone seems to have crawled into the air vents! In the secure block!”
Ahsoka swore under her breath. Of course Yularen would be too trusting, and now they had a dangerous alien on the loose. She should have pointed out that she looked anything but human and should say back, but she was too intrigued by the spectacle balloons and music. Somehow, she suspected a few of Chass’ speakers remained.
But that was not important now. Drawing on the force, she tried to pinpoint movement in the rafters of the complex. Soon, she was able to find a life force exerting effort to crawl through the ducts and chased that signal. Rather than crawl in behind them, Ahsoka scaled the building and waited at the nearest exit of the air conditioning system, knowing the being was heading in the direction.
The exit vent seemed a bit out of place, but was not unfastened entirely so Ahsoka figured it might just be weathering. Soon, a familiar voice echoed out into the morning air.
“Oh… This is far too narrow… I did not anticipate this, it is slowing me down, I can't even see.. Oh hello friend! Mind helping me out, I seem to have lost my way! Someone of my years has a sometimes unreliable memory, you know.” Hondo flashed a winning smile at the Jedi frowning down at him.
“Figures it would be you. Tua always does love overreacting.”
Hondo did not miss a beat in realizing Grand Inquisitor had escaped unnoticed. Very well, if this was the game he would play so be it. Hondo still had his rum and secret trade ring, after all.
“Did Kanan not warn you about these stunts?” Ahsoka commented as she pried open the vent, doubting Hondo could reverse his way down the vents. He got one thing right at least today, he was quite old, even for a Weequay.
“Oh so Jedi Jarrus did speak with you! Wonderful!”
Ahsoka just sighed. Leave it to Hondo to try and spin around a caught escape attempt. Realizing it was starting to get light out, Ahsoka pulled Hondo over to the fire escape. “Down.”
“Right, yes. Of course. This is the way!”
Meanwhile, hiding in the dense bushes, Grand Inquisitor hardly breathed, focusing on masking his force signature with all of his energy. For this to work, he would need to evade four Jedi. Then, he could taste freedom. Even if it was on this forsaken mudball. A cricket chirped beside him, which he promptly caught between two ashen fingers and popped into his mouth, taking the small burst of protein.
After what felt like an eternity, Ahsoka finally disappeared into the complex with Hondo in tow, who flashed Grand Inquisitor an unsavory gesture behind his back. Now it was time to make his move. Dashing in the shadows and dodging cameras, Grand Inquisitor made it to the first fence which he cleared in a single force-fueled bound. Then, the second fence. All that was left was desert in all directions. It oddly reminded him of his home world.
Then, he noticed a crowd forming on the horizon.
The raid was no joke. People were coming in hundreds, thousands even.
Raising his hood over his head, Grand Inquisitor sought to blend into the crowd, many of whom were wearing garish costumes of rainbow ‘aliens’.
“Dude, awesome mask!” A teenage girl with brightly dyed hair called out to him first. Trying to look as stiff-faced as possible he just nodded in reply. But it was impossible to go unnoticed towering over the crowd as he did, his height significantly more than an average human. As the crowd reached the gate, something unexpected happened.
The rowdy group of humans went silent. Then, of all things, music played. Obnoxious, nearly painful Pop music. But the humans loved it, not caring where it came from and singing along to the lyrics.
“You are late.” Colonel Yularen commented.
“I know, sir.” Agent Kallus, hair disheveled and face greasy, replied.
“There is music playing.” Yulared continued, eye twitching.
“I know, sir.” Kallus replied, peering out of the one way glass window. The building was secure and private, but it was not entirely soundproof.
“Can we do anything about it?” Yularen practically begged.
Agent Yrica Quell piped up next. “I can cut the power, but then we’re all in the dark.”
The silence that followed was punctuated only by a thrumming bassline. Yularen, defeated, asked. “Does anyone at least know what song this is?”
“I believe it is E.T. by Katy Perry.” One of the young Jedi, Ezra Bridge, said, earning questioning looks from those assembled. “What? I like her music.”
“Ironic title.” Kanan scoffed.
Not knowing what else to do, they just watched what looked to be a party ensue in front of the gate. The next song, at least, was one Yularen Knew. He could not help but tap his foot along to it.
“Alright, your turn.” Ezra said, poking him in the side.
“Illegal Alien. Genesis.” Yularen admitted.
The third song had everyone saying in unison. “Rocket Man!”
“This is sort of funny, you have to admit.” Ezra said. “Those people don’t seem to be looking for trouble, either. I think they just came to party.”
“Maybe we owe Chass an apology for trying to ruin her plan.” Quell said, but this only garnered a glare from Kallus and Yularen.
By the time the fourth song, Space Oddity, came on, they noticed something strange.
“That costume looks awfully familiar.” Ezra joked, pointing to a tall man in a hood. “Grey face with red markings.”
Ahsoka nearly broke through the window, pressing right against the glass. “You’re kidding. Nope. There it is. Someone had a very lucky guess.” The more she stared though, the more uncanny the resemblance became. Kanan also felt a bit weary at the likeness.
“I’m going to go swing by Grand Inquisitor’s quarters, just to double check. Make sure that guy stays put.” Ahsoka finally decided.
As the fourth song finished, Grand Inquisitor decided he’d had enough of this. Humans in a large group were much worse than he had anticipated. He’d been touched nearly constantly, and already the odor of sweat assaulted his nostrils. No one seemed to be the type to sit down with a book, or have an intellectual conversation. It was all “Can’t wait to clap them alien cheeks!” and “We came to see them aliens!”
Frankly, he was disgusted, and ready to go home. Or as close to home as he could, which was his private and thankfully solitary quarters. So, slipping out of the group, he made his way back to how he came, using the force to keep anyone from noticing his departure. Yes, these humans were very weak minded indeed. Somehow even more so than those at the complex.
When he got back to his room, he slammed and locked the door behind him, only for it to pop back open. “What the hell?”
Turning around, he found himself face to face with none other than Ahsoka Tano. “Can I help you, Jedi?”
Ahsoka seemed a bit surprised, but not suspicious in the least. “Huh. No, just making sure everyone is in their place.”
“I take it the raid did not turn violent then?”
“No, it's actually sort of funny. Became a dance party.”
Grand Inquisitor laughed. “Really? I would have never guessed that.”
Chapter 7: Bee Juice
Don’t ask about the chapter title.
Hondo slipped the clear glass bottle, wrapped in cloth, into a small pack, slinging it around his shoulder. Figured he ought to return the favor from the raid, and so he sauntered towards his good friend Grand Inquisitor’s quarters. Ensuring that no Jedi were present, he swiped his home made key and forced his way inside.
Grand Inquisitor hardly looked up from his book. “Yes?”
“I have brought a gift!” Hondo announced, opening his pack. “Come, come!”
Rolling his eyes, Grand Inquisitor closed his book with a slam. He did not, however, come.
Hondo waited a good few seconds, but upon seeing that the Pau’an was not about to budge, he instead plopped himself down on the couch beside the other alien. “Very well, I come to you. Just this once.”
“What is it?” Grand Inquisitor asked flatly.
“Well, um. You know. We really ought to think of something more interesting to call you than Grand Inquisitor. Does not roll off the tongue well.” Hondo speculated as he unwrapped the stout bottle, made of clear glass. Jabba had done well this time, smuggling in such a good proof.
“That is what you would do well to call me.” Grand Inquisitor suggested flatly, disguising a threat directed at the pirate. Frankly, he was not fond of Hondo’s company, or the fact that the Weequay had unlimited access to his room now. He wondered how long the pirate had that key.
“Fine, fine. Whatever you say, oh mighty Grand Inquisitor.” Hondo quipped back, fully unveiling the bottle, waiting for a reaction.
Grand Inquisitor scanned the gift. He was not one for most Earth beverages, however something about this one piqued his attention. There was an image of an insect on the bottle, a bee to be exact. Interesting.
“Shall we drink to our failure, and to our future success?” Hondo offered, ripping the cork out of the bottle and raising it.
“There was no failure for me.”
“Then why are you still here, hm?”
Groaning, Grand Inquisitor yanked the bottle away, taking a long swig at the strong, amber liquid within. It burned from the inside as it went down, but there was something familiar about it.
Hondo grinned. “Tequila with honey. Thought you might enjoy it.”
“It's terrible.” Grand Inquisitor took another sip.
“Well, save some for me, yeah?”
And another sip. “You said it was a gift. I intend to use it.”
“All at once?” Hondo blurted, seeing that nearly half of the bottle had already been ingested.
Grand Inquisitor kept drinking. “It burns good.”
Hondo could not help but laugh. “Yeah I know a few things that burn good if you know what I mean. Merely joking!”
Hondo sobered a bit, leaning closer. “Whichever you prefer.”
Grand Inquisitor shoved the Weequay away half-heartedly. “I would prefer more of your…” He hiccuped then, expression twisting in surprise. It was highly uncommon for Pau’an to catch hiccups. “This. More this.” He chugged the rest down in a bid to rid himself of the jolts, slamming the bottle down onto the floor.
Hondo whistled lowly, drawing out the note. “I hope you know how to hold your liquor, friend. This Earth stuff is not a joke, I must say.”
“Hold my what?” Another hiccup. Grand Inquisitor groaned, sinking down into the couch.
Hondo scratched at his chin. “Grand Inquisitor. You do realize that tequila is an alcoholic beverage, correct?”
In a split second, the Sith was on top of Hondo, hands pressed tight on his shoulders. “You poisoned me?” He boomed, snarling through sharp teeth.
“No! No! It is simply an, erm, a recreational beverage is all!” Hondo stammered, losing some of his cool at the sudden change.
Grand Inquisitor flopped down, practically laying on the pirate. “Oh. Alright then. I will not kill you after all.”
“Yes, right, well you are suffocating me, you large and very drunk sith!” Hondo commented, trying to shove the much larger Pau’an off and finding no success until the alien took it upon himself to roll back over to his side of the couch.
The next sound to take over the room was that of someone else. “What the hell?”
Hondo turned to find Jedi Kanan Jarrus standing in the doorway looking somewhat disturbed.
“Hondo brought me a present. That was very nice of him. He’s a nice guy, you wouldn’t know that now would you, Jedi? Passing judgment on everyone one here like you’re better ‘an us or somethin’.” Grand Inquisitor slurred.
“I don’t want to know what’s going on here. Seriously, I don’t. Do not try and explain aaaany of this. But you’re not supposed to be here, Hondo.”
Shrugging the Weequay grinned. “Just making my rounds, Jedi Jarrus. It is not like we are trying to escape!”
Kanan hissed a breath in through clenched teeth. Hondo had No Idea the can of worms he was opening right now. But that conversation had already been held. “Just. Go back to where you are supposed to be. Please?”
“Oh but we are having such a nice time. Let me have some fun for once!” Grand Inquisitor protested, leaning his head on Hondo’s shoulder. The Weequay just raised his palms, feigning innocence.
Kanan’s own palm found his forehead as he shook his head. “You know what. Fine. You’re not causing any trouble, stay as long as you like. I’m going to need that fake key you used to get here though.”
“Such a party pooper, you are.” Hondo mused, tossing over his key.
“You’re lucky I don’t go get Ahsoka.” Kanan added flatly.
“Did I say that? I meant a gracious host!” Hondo corrected with a wink.
Groaning, Kanan left the two… whatever they were behind. Making his way down the hall, he found Colonel Yularen and Agent Kallus standing outside of Thrawn’s door. Kallus waved him over. As he neared the door, he heard just what the two were listening in on.
Emanating from where Thrawn and Agent Vanto were was a long string of grunts and moans. Kanan jabbed Kallus in the ribs playfully. “Seems they are imitating a certain other duo I know.”
“Now, now. Don’t jump to conclusions.” Yularen scolded, only to be punctuated by Agent Vanto shouting out Thrawn’s name.
“You were saying?” Kallus smirked.
“They could be sparring?” Yularen suggested, but he hardly sounded convinced of the theory himself
Kallus chuffed. “Sure, just like me and Zeb.”
Inside the room, Eli hopped up and down on one foot. “UGH! THRAWN!”
The Chiss had accidentally dropped a weight on the human’s foot during their work out routine. A foot which was now clutched in Eli’s hands.
Chapter 8: Join me for dinner?
Agent Han Solo picked at his meal, much more distracted by the big furry alien sitting next to him. The story he told seemed too good to be true.
“So, you are telling me that Vanto was able to tame the Chiss through ritual bonding?” Han tried to confirm, sarcastic but also sort of hoping it was true.
Chewbacca grunted with a firm nod.
“Well I will believe it when I see it.”
The youngest Jedi, Ezra Bridger, slid on the bench next to Han. “Wait, seriously? Kanan was not just bullshitting me?”
“Apparently not.” Han affirmed. Ezra eyed his plate.
“You going to finish that pudding?”
“All yours kid.”
Luke Skywalker, just older than Ezra by a few hours according to him, plopped down across from Ezra, next to Chewbacca. “No way. Not that I’ve met Thrawn but. Vanto seems like a pretty normal guy.” He reached for Han’s spoon, untouched. “By the wan, Han’s pudding goes to me.”
Chewbacca growled, speaking over the bickering that ensued.
“Chewie wants it, actually.” Han more suggested than stated. “And you know the drill. Let the wookie win.”
Luke huffed, passing over the prized desert. “Fine.”
Ezra picked a green bean from Han’s plate, the agent not minding in the least. “Also I think Hondo is seeing Grand Inquisitor. Apparently they were laying all over each other.”
“Hondo just got him drunk.” Han retorted. Chewbacca agreed through a mouthful of pudding.
“Good to know sith can even get drunk.” Luke added as another group approached, Dr. Leia Organa and Wedge Antilles, the transportation director of Area 51.
“Hello boys, Chewbacca.” Leia greeted them, sitting on the other side of Han. Wedge squeezed on the bench beside Luke, wrapping an arm around his waist. Chewbacca tossed an empty pudding cup to the side, Ezra watching it fly away with a frown.
“Leia, hi, hello!” Han stammered, trying to look cool but failing miserable. Leia smiled wider, finding him to be quite endearing. Chewbacca rolled his eyes with a low grunt.
“Finally got that shampoo?” Leia asked the wookie, who nodded vigorously.
“And we are ALL very glad.” Han replied, shuddering at what he had to endure. Stinky unwashed wookie musk was no joke. “How is your case going?”
Leia sighed. “As usual, Tarkin is trying to put up barriers at every stage, but we are making good progress.” Advocating for a top secret compound was a complex and intricate task, but Leia was truly an expert and handled it with ease, even if it meant working late most days.
“You know.” Ezra butted in. “Kallus and Zeb are cooking tonight. If you can land a table, could be fun to meet up there.”
“Right, how could I forget!” Han began. “Leia, would you care to join… me?”
Chewbacca tried to protest, wanting to join in on a good meal, but Han shot him a look that said to just give him this one thing, if he could. Chewbacca quieted, turning instead to Luke who was beginning to understand the language he spoke. Observant, and using the force to help in his learning by sensing the emotions Chewbacca felt as he spoke, he could carry on a simple conversation with the wookie.
“Are you asking me out on a date, Agent Solo?” Leia teased.
Han folded his arms over his chest. “Yes. I am.”
“Good. I’ll see you at seven, I suggest you get here early to reserve a table.” Leia winked.
Han blushed. “Of course! Seven, perfect. Great.”
Rising, Leia ruffled his hair. “I look forward to it.”
“I’m sure he’ll bring you back some leftovers, right Han?” Luke asked the Agent, patting Chewbacca gently.
“Oh yeah, those two make huge plates, there will be plenty left. So long as Leia doesn’t finish it all.” He joked, earning a playful smack to the shoulder from Leia.
“Don’t underestimate my appetite. But yes, I promise to save some for you, Chewbacca.”
The wookie cheered. “He said thank you.”
“Well…” Ezra continued, trying to grab Luke’s attention back. “I don’t have anyone to go with, and it would be kind of strange to go alone…”
Ezra knew Wedge and Luke knew damn well that he was friends with nearly everyone in the compound, but hells, he was going to shoot his shot. He’d always found Wedge to be strapping, and ever since Luke showed up and swept the pilot off his feet, he’d had eyes for them both. And Luke… Well, Ezra could hardly tear the sweet blue eyes and golden hair that the Jedi possessed from his memory, and his sweet laugh and genuine sense of humor? It was almost too much to handle.
Luke and Wedge met each other’s gaze. The pilot spoke first.
“Are you asking us out?” Wedge said with a smirk, nearly imitating Leia’s sentiment. Ezra blushed deeply.
“You guys are so cute together and I just… I want to be a part of that. If you’ll have me.”
Luke’s hands found their way to Ezra’s own which where balled up on the table, clenched. He covered them gently. “Of course. I had no idea you felt this way…”
Ezra unclenched, releasing a breath and meeting Luke’s clear eyes with his own. “I guess I was hiding it pretty well…”
“Very well. Regardless, I think what Luke is saying is that yes, we’d love to join you.”
As Leia left to return to her work, Agent Eli Vanto soon replaced her spot, and all eyes were on him. He looked, frankly, exhausted, as he dug into his meal. Almost like he’s just run a marathon. After taking a few bites he realized people were staring.
“What? Oh. Forgot to comb my hair. Sorry. Thrawn really worked me hard today.”
An inhuman sound escaped Han, high pitched enough that Zeb’s ears perked up several rooms over. Eli tried to tame his curls, but it was pointless really with how sweat made it act up.
“So. What’s he, like, like?” Ezra asked, leaning around Han with his head in his hand on the table.
Eli swallowed his current bite. “He’s alright once you break through the walls he built around himself. I think Yularen hit it on the nose, he was lonely and afraid. He opened up though.”
“How wide?” Han snickered.
“Wide? What’s that got to do with anything?” Eli pouted.
Luke gave Eli a sympathetic look. “Kallus has been saying you two are, well, becoming a bit more intimate with one another. I think my friends are just trying to confirm that rumor.”
Eli just about spit out his food. “I’m going to kill him.” He said, but the blush painting his tan cheeks told another story.
“So you’re not that close yet, but you do like him.” Wedge concluded, the others concurring with the observation.
“And hey! Don’t touch Alexsandr, I’ve got a lot riding on him tonight!” Han protested. “Zeb seems like a great guy, but we all know who the real genius in the kitchen is.”
Eli’s nostrils flared. “I won’t touch him. But we’ll be having a little chat.” Picking up his plate, Eli hightailed it towards Alexsandr’s office.
“Well that went smashingly.” Ezra commented sarcastically.
Noticing that Han still seemed worried, Luke reassured him that Zeb could probably toss any of them, aside from Chewbacca, clear over the fence. “Chewbacca, though? Maybe just a few yards.”
The wookie grunted.
“Sorry, a few feet.”
Chapter 9: It's Raining... What? Part 1 of 4
Han had been waiting for a solid hour now, still barely managing to snag a table, but glad he did. Leia would probably mock him for years had he managed to mess this one up. Not that it would be too bad, it would still be attention from her. But still, positive attention was the goal here. Checking his watch, the Agent steeled himself. Any second now…
“Agen Solo, is this seat taken?”
Looking up in surprise, Han found himself facing Leia, wearing an ankle length white dress with silver embellishments. Needless to say, the breath was knocked out of him. Frankly, he was just glad he had also opted to dress up. The mess hall was hardly a glamorous venue, but with the lights dimmed and candles lit, they could at least pretend it was a nice restaurant. And any doubt left would easily be blown away by the food that was to come.
“Been saving it just for you.” Han replied with what he hoped was a winning smile, rising to pull out the chair for Leia.
“Almost ready for you lot!” Zeb called out from the kitchen, where he and Alexsandr were still hard at work juggling pans. Whatever it was they were making, all could agree it smelled amazing and would certainly be worth the wait.
Then, all at once, every single phone went off.
ALERT! WE HAVE A CODE ORANGE! PREPARE ACCORDINGLY!
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Han groaned as Leia stood right back up from her seat.
“Sorry Han, next time alright?” Leia lamented with a soft smile, patting his hand gently.
“It’s a date, then.” Han, knowing he’d also be needed, stood as well. Then, they were forced to go their separate ways.
In the command center, Colonel Yularen pointed to a fuzzy image projected onto the wall. “Looks smaller than usual, but the trajectory is right at a civilian area, highly populated. The Las Vegas strip.”
Alexsandr, still wearing a green apron emblazoned with ‘I Kiss Aliens’, crunched the numbers quickly in his mind. “We’ve got about an hour before estimated touch down, meaning 50 or so minutes until it's noticeable from the ground.”
Wedge was already in contact with his hangar crew. “I’ve got three choppers on standby, and four pilots including myself.”
“How small do you mean by smaller than usual?” Han asked, arms crossed and his face in a sour expression.
Colonel Yularen tried to find some sort of scale to go off from the image, eventually settling on the sun itself. “I’d guess about four feet across, maybe five.” He said, pointing at the golden oval shape in the image.
“We might be able to catch it before it makes landfall.” Ezra offered. “I could probably use the force to pull it into a catch net on the helicopter.”
“You’ll need a good pilot too, to pull that off.” Wedge commented with a confident grin. “Colonel?”
Yularen did not take long in debating the plan internally. “You have my permission. Wedge, you will fly. And in the case it does make landfall, you know the drill.”
“Containment and then clean up.” Ezra repeated. “That is a lot of people to mind trick if it hits.”
“Luke will go with you as well.” Alexsandr offered, more of a command than a suggestion. Yularen agreed. Then, the trio departed.
“Agent Vanto.” The colonel continued. “If I am not mistaken, this is your first Code Orange.”
“Yessir.” Eli agreed, perking up a bit from where he was fidgeting beside Agent Solo.
“Feel free to speak up, your input is just as valued as anyone’s here. A new perspective can sometimes be just what is needed for a successful mission.”
“What’s that?” Eli replied, confusing most in attendance.
“I think the colonel means the you are welcome as an equal.” Kanan spoke up.
“No, I mean what is that.” Eli said again, stepped forward and pointing to a second blip on the sonar display, not far from the first that caused the Code Orange.
“I want a visual on that immediately.” Yularen barked,
A few seconds passed as Agent Yrica Quell continued to work to get a drone out on the scene, trying to get better imagery. “Looks like… Two of them. One a bit larger than the last.” An image popped onto the screen, replacing the last with a more high definition shot of two oval shaped pods, glowing orange as they plummeted through the planet’s atmosphere.
“They seem to have a different trajectory. I estimate that their landing location will be… Oh shit. Los Angeles.” Alexsandr offered, tracing lines on his tablet’s display.
“Not good.” Han muttered.
“We have a little more time. About 75 minutes.” Alexsandr replied.
Kanan spoke up next. “I can catch them, and I know a pilot who can get me in position.”
“Our best pilot just left, Jarrus.” Han warned, not liking where this was going.
“I’m not talking about your pilots. I’m talking about mine. Hera Syndulla.”
“She’s not taking out that damn saucer of hers.” Yrica commented, a twinge of jealousy in her voice. Ever since her crash four months ago, she’d been grounded and was not pleased at the fact that they would even entertain an alien flying before her. Piloting a drone just was not the same. “I can get you there.”
“Agent Quell, not with that arm can you.” Colonel Yularen said softly, pointing to the sling resting around her neck in which her arm sat. “Can Syndulla fly one of our birds.”
“Yeah, she’s memorized the schematics and moved them around the yard before. Trust me, I’ve seen her in action, she’s our best bet.”
This time, the colonel took his time deliberating. Alexsander gave him a reassuring nod.
“Fine. I give you permission. But I want one of our men with you too. Take, erm.” Yularen flipped through the pilot roster, a rather slim document. He decided on the pilot who had the most time with the unit. “Klivian with you.”
Kanan saluted the Agents in attendance. “I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Then he was gone, off to fetch Hera and Hobbie. Yularen had full confidence that Kanan could mind wipe a whole state if needed, but hoped that would not be the case.
Now, the only Jedi left was Ahsoka.
“Colonel, we’ve got another one.” Eli called out, the drawl in his voice pronounced due to displeasure at the discovery. “Pretty far away from the others too. And huge.”
Yularen swore under his breath. “Quell?”
“Working on it!” Activating a remote drone about where the blip was, she took to the skies from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Not long after, five golden ovals were displayed on the screen.
“We’ve got one chopper, one Jedi, and five ships.” Han observed. “Perfect.”
Ahsoka shifted uncomfortably, knowing Yularen was not about to let her leave the base unprotected, but also knowing that five unknown ships, potentially hostile, could not be allowed to land.
Alexsandr actually laughed. “I think they are coming here for a vacation, you’ll never believe where these are headed.”
“Just spit it out.” Yrica muttered.
“Three to Orlando, Disney World to be exact, and two to Miami Beach.”
“I’m open to any ideas, people.” Yularen called out, not breaking his stare at the display.
“I’ve got one.” Ahsoka commented. “You’re just not going to like it.”
“You have the floor, Jedi Tano.” Yularen prompted.
“First, I need to know, Yrica, how many drones do you have at your disposal in Florida?”
Yrica grinned. “All of them.”
“Great. I’m going to need you to work with your team to keep the two gunning for Miami in the air as long as possible. Juggle them, play hot potato, I don’t care, just keep them out of sight.”
“Yeah, we can do that.” Yrica said, already pulling her phone out to alert Wyl and Nath. When those two had landed, in that same mission when Yrica had her accident, they had been hopeful for more Jedi. The craft certainly looked similar enough, flanked by another containing Kairos, Chass, and Caern. However, they seemed to simply be humans, just not of this planet. Which was a first, but not entirely surprising seeing the Jedi spoke of how their abilities were not common in their home systems. However, Yrica felt that there was a little something more to them. Kairos, Chass, and Caern, being aliens, had their biological differences sure.
But Wyl and Nath were different. Not in an obvious way, but they seemed to be somehow intune to some sixth sense. Nath could predict how a person would react near perfectly regardless of how well he knew them, and Wyl had been known to randomly bolt outside to rescue a baby bird who had fallen from a nest without even seeing the incident. They were small things to be sure, but they had not gone above Yrica’s notice, and the Agent was hoping that intuition could make this mission a success.
At the very least, this would give the couple something to do that wasn’t causing trouble like that balloon incident back at the raid.
“I like what you are thinking so far.” Yularen commented.
“Oh, we’ve not gotten to the bad part yet. I’m leaving with the last two pilots to go to Disney World.”
Alexsandr huffed. “I believe we have a rule of at least one Jedi being here at all times, no? For emergencies.”
“Kallus this is an emergency! Besides, there will be a force user left with you.”
Yularen narrowed his eyes. “Who?” But he already knew the answer. He just wanted to hear her say it. Let it be known that if something were to go wrong, well, this would be glaring evidence that perhaps the Jedi were not to be so blindly trusted.
Chapter 10: It's Raining... What? Part 2 of 4
Administer Maketh Tua was the one to break the news to him. Grand Inquisitor just scowled.
“So, they need me now? What if I don’t want to cooperate.”
Ahsoka, knowing time was of the essence, had already fled the scene, leaving it up to Maketh to get Grand Inquisitor on board with her whole scheme. Putting on her most cheery, positive tone, the Administer pressed him further.
“Do you not want to go home soon? This could help really enhance your, erm, image.”
Grand Inquisitor scoffed. “Why should I try and impress you all? For all I know, as soon as I help you out, you’ll keep me trapped here for as long as I’m useful, like those damn Jedi.”
“The Jedi could leave at any time they wish. They stay because it’s safe here.”
Now, the Pau’an laughed, a sour sound. “They are afraid. Afraid of me, my brothers and sisters who seek to eliminate them.”
Maketh knew a good deal about all of those under her charge, Grand Inquisitor included. Kanan gave her daily updates, after all. “You no longer seek to eliminate them.”
“My master is dead. But there are others. You do not see.”
“No, I believe I see perfectly well. Now, all this is telling me is that you, in fact, are the one who is afraid.”
Grand Inquisitor shot up, rising to an impressive height that towered over Maketh. “You see nothing!”
Maketh simply shrugged. “I see enough. Now, come with me, there are important things to do.”
If only to end this conversation, Grand Inquisitor followed a pace behind the woman as they traveled to the command room. The compound was on a full lock down, no beings lingered in the hall. Grand Inquisitor was pleased by this, not having to deal with any gawking Rodians or anything of the like.
Yularen had not quite decided on a greeting for when the doors to the command room opened, and that they did all too soon. But lucky for him, all he would need is a curt nod as soon a worried voice took over the space, coming in over the speakers.
It was Ezra, they had made it on the scene with time to spare, but things were not going to plan. “I’m not sure what’s wrong with these pods, but we can’t get a grasp on them!” He called out into his headset from his seat in the back of the helicopter currently flying high above Las Vegas.
Luke piped in next. “It’s almost like they have some sort of shield from the force. I can’t even sense any life inside of them.”
“So they are empty?” Agent Solo asked flatly.
“Well, we can’t get a read on it period. So I can’t say for certain if it is empty or full. It's just nothing.” Luke replied.
“Like a black hole.” Ezra agreed. Yularen’s brow furrowed. Grand Inquisitor grinned, it brought him joy to hear the Jedi were already failing spectacularly.
“Do you have any ideas, then?” Agent Kallus asked the Pau’an pointedly, obviously not pleased at his presence.
“No, no. Just observing.” Grand Inquisitor assured, leaning in a far corner usually reserved for Agent Quell when she was not manning the drone station. She rolled her eyes at his response, but had an idea of her own. It would bank on Antillies being half as competent as command seemed to think he was, but it could very well work.
“Wedge, you there?” She asked into her own headset, loud enough for the whole room to hear.
“Affirmative.” The pilot responded, obviously working hard at the controls while the Jedi fumbled.
“Remember the back half of the plan, snagging the pods in the net beneath you?”
“Yes, where are you going with this, Agent?”
Yrica held her tongue, knowing she could be just as short in the hot seat. “Rather than having the Jedi focus on the pods, have them cast the net out.”
“So, we’re going fishing?” Ezra butted in with a chuckle.
“That’s going to put a lot of stress on the chopper to slow these things down.” Wedge interrupted.
“We can slow them down by focusing on the net. Somewhat.” Luke interjected.
“You’re the one with eyes on the target, so it’s going to be your call, Antilles.” Colonel Yularen began. “Can it work?”
Wedge thought it over. “Yeah, it’s the best chance we’ll have. We will give it a go.”
Not long after, a new voice joined the conversation. “Syndulla reporting in. Neither of the pods are receptive to Kanan’s efforts.”
The room collectively groaned. Hera continued. “We can try Quell’s method on one of them, but I’m afraid we can’t snag both. Once one is bagged, Kanan does not think he can send the net back out, and they are too far apart to grab in one go.”
Colonel Yularen sighed, rubbing his temples. “Catch what you can. I’ll have Jedi Skywalker and Jedi Bridger come out after their mission to help with the collective mind trick, if you need.”
“I should be able to contain it, but in the event things go wrong I’ll take you up on that offer, Colonel.” Kanan chimed in.
Glancing at the live map, Colonel Yularen was somewhat relieved to see that Ahsoka was still a good ways away from Florida. This would give them all some more time to brainstorm how to contain three of these pods. He’d never heard of a ship able to resist the Jedi, but in this line of work it had become incredibly hard to surprise the experienced Colonel. Frankly, he’d seen it all. But this was definitely new.
“Tano, you hear the good word?” Han joked, speaking what was on the mind of the whole room. Her response was delayed.
“I’m thinking. How’s the containment going in Miami?”
From the main drone command center, Nath’s voice came over the intercom. “We’re juggling these things like a bunch of clowns.”
Wyl spoke next. “We are able to slow them down, but we are losing altitude with each pass. They are just too heavy.
“For the sake of being thorough, think you can start clowning around in Orlando too. If we don’t think of anything better, the spare time could at least let us net two of them.” Ahsoka offered.
“Already on their way.” Unexpectedly, Caern Adan spoke up next.
“What are you doing in there?” Yrica hissed at the Balosar in Drone Command through a private channel.
“Didn’t want to miss out on the action.” He muttered. “Besides, you all are severely understaffed for this sort of thing. Had it not been for me, the four droned heading over there would still be fifteen minutes away.”
“You’re lucky the Colonel can’t fire you, but he can certainly fire me!” She whispered into the private channel.
“He’d be a fool to do that.” Caern argued, but knew she had a point. Maybe the Colonel liked her, but at the end of the day he had superiors to please and the man would already be in hot water from Kanan having to do a wipe after dropping the second pod. Perhaps, the alien mused, antenna furrowing into his curling hair as he was deep in thought, the Colonel could spin this incident to his advantage to get more resources, an extra helicopter even. He’d have to hint at this, plant that seed in the man’s mind. But for now, he’d have to focus on this mission. Even with his mechanical companion, the hovering black ball with spindly metal arms known as IT-O, piloting four drones at once was no easy task.
“Just, keep them up as well as you can and stay out of Ahsoka’s way.”
Closing the private channel, Yrica announced that four drones were on their way to Orlando.
With nothing much to do now but wait, Yularen turned to Agent Vanto, collecting a few printed images of the pods and putting them in a folder to pass to the rookie.
“Vanto, go down to the barracks and ask around, see if anyone recognizes these ships. I want as much intel as you can gather, and if someone seems to know a lot, tell me who. I may bring them up here to brief the group.”
Eli nodded, taking the folder. “Yessir.”
Han patted him on the shoulder as he passed. “Ah, I remember when I had to do the grunt work. It gets better. Just have to wait for someone newer than you to be promoted.” The agent chuckled. Yularen thrust a second folder into his hands.
“You too, Solo. And take Chewbacca with you to interpret for some of our newer residents.”
“Alright, I earned this.” Solo responded sarcastically as he joined Eli in the procession down to the living areas.
The agents first attempts proves to be mostly fruitless, the only exception being Hondo Ohnaka who swore he’d seen such ships somewhere, but would need some ‘encouragement’ to jog his memory. Fairly certain the Weequay was just looking for something out of them, Han moved on, a grunt from Chewbacca all that was needed to keep Hondo from pressing the issue further.
Eli’s next stop finally proved to be somewhat useful. Passing the folder to Thrawn, the Chiss quirked an eyebrow. “I’ve not seen these ships in quite some time.”
“So you know what they are?” Eli pressed.
“Yes.” Thrawn said, setting down the folder. “They are migrating Ysalamiri.”
Chapter 11: It’s Raining... What? Part 3 of 4
“Ysalamir! Of course I knew that was exactly what they are!” Hondo called out as he caught up to the group making their way back to the command room.
Agent Solo sighed. “Hondo, please. This is a serious situation.”
“And I have serious information for you all!” The Weequay continued. “You would not be wise to leave me behind. Surely the Chiss does not know everything about the little critters!”
Chewbacca suggested quietly, as quietly as a Wookie can that is, that maybe it would be helpful to have a second opinion about the aliens who were currently crash landing towards heavily populated areas.
“Fine, but no asking for any sort of payment or trade for intel, capiche?” Han added.
Hondo grinned widely as they entered the command room. “Perfect!” Immediately, his eyes moved to the being lurking in the corner- Grand Inquisitor. He quirked an eyebrow but did not ask as to why he was present. Grand Inquisitor seemed equally surprised at Hondo’s entrance, but even more surprised to see Thrawn.
Colonel Yularen kept a straight face, but Agent Kallus looked like he’d been punched in the gut. “Of course it would be these two who know about the ships.” He mumbled.
“Tell us everything you know.” Yularen insisted.
“That explains a lot.” Luke admitted as they flew back to base, pod in tow.
“No kidding. Can’t believe force repelling reptiles even exist!” Ezra added, sinking down lower into his seat.
“I’m just glad we were able to catch them with the net. It was quite the challenge for all of us.” Wedge admitted, keeping the chopper up high, far out of sight of any prying civilians.
With the new information, Kanan had hatched a new plan. As soon as he caught the first pod, he climbed down into the net dangling below the helicopter, extracting several furry, orange lizards and passing them up to Hobbie who stowed them in an interior cargo net of the helicopter. From then on, it became a full time job to keep the long creatures from climbing out of the net, or chewing through it.
“I’m glad I’m wearing a respirator.” Hobbie huffed as Kanan worked to swing the net out, his force abilities severely dampened by their new passengers. “Can only imagine what these things smell like without one seeing it freaking stinks with the thing!”
“They have had a long flight, probably just need a good bath.” Hera offered, able to catch a whiff of the stench even in the front of the helicopter.
“Well, let’s just catch the damn things, alright?” Kanan shouted over the noise of the helicopter.
“You got it, babe.” Hera assured him, getting into position, far lower than she would have liked, to try and snag number two.
Thrawn had assured them all that the ysalamiri would not cause them any harm, but Hera and Hobbie were not fully convinced and they were sure to keep close tabs on them. Surely that had some sort of motive in aiming for population centers.
Of course, Hondo had an answer for this. “They are reptiles! In orbit, they found places of heat and light and made a straight line right to it. At night, these places look quite bright no?”
“Makes sense.” Eli agreed, thinking over all the facts that had been revealed. “But, if they are hardly sentient, how did they manage to build ships and pilot them to Earth?”
“They had help.” Thrawn commented cooly. “From who, I am not sure.”
“Can they track force signatures?” Grand Inquisitor asked softly, finally speaking up.
Thrawn considered this. “Perhaps. They do not feed on it, but they do neutralize it, so it would not be outside of reason to assume they can also sense it in some way.”
“Due to the Jedi presence, I’m sure the Earth is crawling with force, if that's how it works.” Yrica offered.
“Not quite, but yes the force is altered by our presence.” Grand Inquisitor said, adding emphasis to the ‘our’ knowing very well Yrica did not imply him or the other Inquisitors in that sentence. She did not trust him, that was fine. But she would not insult him.
“Perhaps this impromptu migration is someone trying to track the Jedi…” Eli concluded, understanding that they usually only migrate on their own planet, not between galaxies.
“Perhaps that is your someone?” Hondo offered pointing out the window. All eyes snapped there at once, and low and behold there was a humanoid figure outside of the gates.
“What the…” Kallus began, and then the figure, a horned being with red and black patterned skin, ignited a red lightsaber. The exterior feed was patched into the room, replacing the muted banter between Hera and Kanan.
“I’ll deal with it.” Grand Inquisitor said curtly, leaving the command room. The figure used their blade to cut through the first fence.
“I hope Ahsoka was right.” Han muttered as Kallus left with Grand Inquisitor to let him outside.
“We’re going to take a small detour.” Kallus said softly, pulling Grand Inquisitor into an office. Yularen’s office. Grand Inquisitor just followed along for now, watching as Kallus rummaged through a drawer. As he watched, he considered just how odd looking Kallus was, even for a human. His facial hair was kept at sharp angles, framing square cheekbones, and his hair was somewhere between kept and messy, with just a few strands allowed to fall loosely around his face. Wide shoulders and strong arms contrasted narrow hips, only made more apparently by a bulky jacket and tight grey pants. Yes, this human was most definitely unattractive. Perhaps Lasat have different criteria for attractiveness, he considered.
“Here.” Kallus finally said, ending his search and drawing fourth his lightsaber, tossing it over. “I think you are going to need this. We’re counting on you.”
For the first time in a while, Grand Inquisitor smiled, igniting the duel blades of the saber as soon as it hit his hand, twirling them around a bit before attaching the ring to his belt. Without his armor, he could not mount it to his back as he was used to, but this would have to do for now.
Kallus gave him a hopeful, approving look. And maybe, just maybe, he caught a glimpse of what Zeb saw is the man in the way his golden eyes lit up in the glow of his saber.
Without further ceremony, Kallus released Grand Inquisitor onto the grounds to intercept the shouting red man standing just inside the gates, now with two gaping holes in them.
“Where is he!” The angry humanoid called out.
“Who?” Grand Inquisitor replied calmly, hand hovering just over his lightsaber.
The humanoid growled. “Kenobi! Where is he?”
“Never heard of him. Now tell me who you are.”
Grand Inquisitor could feel the beings anger growing by the second. “I am Maul. You are hiding him, aren’t you?” Maul took a step closer, seeming to inspect the Pau’an before him.
“Hmm… You are no Jedi. Why do you protect Kenobi?”
“Look, we have a Jarrus, Tano, Skywalker and Bridger. But no Kenobi.” Grand Inquisitor droned on. “Now, you are to leave this planet immediately, or you will force my hand in defeating you.”
“Skywalker… Interesting. But not what I want. Not today at least. Very well. Protect your precious Jedi. It will cost you your life!” Igniting both blades of his saber, Maul lunged.
Grand Inquisitor quickly drew his saber, deflecting Maul’s powerful lunge. Twisting around, he made his own attack, which Maul dodged with apparent ease. Then, the being reached out, hitting Grand Inquisitor with the force hard enough to remind him of his former master after a failed mission, sending the Pau’an flying back against the concrete building.
Regaining his bearings, Grand Inquisitor found himself purely on the defensive, countering attacks that came at a blinding speed while dodging kicks from spiked mechanical feet.
He’d always considered himself talented, but Maul was something else entirely.
Hondo paced the command room, unable to watch the beating taking place just outside the window. “Is there not another who could assist!” He finally called out, turning to face Chewbacca. “The Wookie perhaps?”
Chewbacca grunted something that Han did not bother to translate.
“I can not force any of my residents to fight.” Yularen answered simply. “You are welcome to join the fight if you would like.”
“But I am unarmed. Perhaps…”
Kallus exhaled loudly. “Are you seriously considering getting in the middle of that chaos?” He asked.
Hondo hardened his expression. “Yes, I am. Pirate’s code of honor and all that. Help a fellow scoundrel.”
Yularen and Kallus exchanged looks. None of the other Agents commented, eyes transfixed on the battle outside. Eli and Yrica winced as Grand Inquisitor was flung into the air like a ragdoll, landing a glancing blow to Maul’s thigh on the way down but ultimately leaving the exchange in worse shape than the newcomer.
As Kallus allowed Hondo to peruse the confiscated weapons closet, he asked out of pure curiosity as the Weequay inspected an obscenely large blaster rifle. “Is there even a pirate’s code of honor?”
Deciding on a smaller set of pistols, Hondo flashed Kallus a toothy grin. “Nope! Now, where is the exit?”
“Right this way, you brave fool.” Kallus grabbed a bo-rifle off the rack, a weapon that was both electrostaff and blaster. As they approached the door, Kallus ditched his jacket for armored gloves and a cuirass. Armor was offered to Hondo as well from the weapons closet, where he plucked his own spiny helmet from the selection and nothing more.
A Lasat, armed to the teeth, greeted them at the main gates. “I can’t believe you’re makin’ me go out there so you don’t get yourself killed.” Zeb joked, poking the center of Alexsandr’s armor with a clawed finder. “Also, this shit looks ridiculous.”
“I said it Looked ridiculous. I’m glad you are wearing it. Also, you forgot this.” Reaching out, Zeb plopped a heavy looking helmet on Alexsandr’s head. “There.” Had his cheeks not been covered by the helmet, it would have been very obvious that Alexsandr was blushing.
Hondo tapped on the door. “Ok love birds I am so happy you are properly dressed. Shall we join the party now?”
Then, the door was opened and the trio entered the fray.
“Oh more company! Delightful!” Maul called out, shoving Grand Inquisitor aside effortlessly, the Pau’an coughing up blood. Maul was definitely injured, covered in small gashes and burns, and breathing heavily, but he was nowhere near defeated.
“I have fought many monsters in my years.” Hondo began, cocking a blaster. “But you, my enemy, are by far the most ugly!”
Maul simply roared in reply, charging at the Weequay who bravely stood his ground, raising both blasters. Hondo aimed his shot, and fired, one blast after another, but Maul juked from side to side, dodging each blow. Then, it was too late, and the sith was on him, tackling Hondo to the ground with a knee to the gut. Zeb and Alexsandr made their move, coming in close with bo-rifles extended for close quarters combat, but Maul deflected both attacks with his saber, keeping hondo down with a metal foot against his throat.
Hondo struggled to breathe, taking a desperate last shot before his blasters were thrown away by Maul. Suddenly, though, Maul also gagged, hands grabbing at an invisible grasp on his neck.
“Let them go, this fight is between us.” Grand Inquisitor called out, rising to his feet with a hand outstretched, choking Maul.
Maul stepped off of Hondo, the Weequay scrambling back, but as he fell to his knees, he chucked his saber at Grand Inquisitor, forcing him to break his concentration to dodge and release Maul.
“Where did you learn that trick?” Maul croaked as he blocked an advance from Zeb with his foot, smacking Alexsander in the gap of his helmet with his elbow in the fray, the human crumpling down into an unconscious heap.
Zeb roared, doubling his efforts as Hondo rose again, trying to aim a sure shot with a recovered blaster. When Grand Inquisitor joined the fight, they finally began to gain ground, forcing Maul down to his knees where hondo got a fair shot to his chest. But, the persistent sith did not go down, groaning at the shot and reacting by sending Zeb and Grand Inquisitor flying.
“You are far too annoying for your own good.” Maul hissed, making another approach at Hondo. This time, he did not rush, stalking his prey on his own terms, deflecting any shots right back at the Weequay.
“I may be annoying, but I am good!” Hondo retorted, pulling an ion grenade from his belt and throwing it at Maul’s knees as he. Shot at his head.
“Oh you’re good.” Maul cackled as one end of saber deflected the bolt and the other disabled the grenade. “But not good enough.”
Hondo did not turn to run, and the push to his chest and darkness that followed were expected.
“Is that all you have?” Maul roared, starting towards the building again as Zeb groaned on the floor, taking wide shots that Maul did not even need to deflect.
“I’m not through with you.” Grand Inquisitor cried out, rising to one knee.
“Oh just give up, you’ve lost.” Any other words Maul had were drowned out by an approaching helicopter. Grand Inquisitor smiled as it landed not far off, Kanan emerging and carrying something long and orange. As soon as his feet were on the ground, the helicopter lifted away to safety.
Maul laughed to himself and moved to push this newcomer away, but found his abilities rendered null. “Impossible!”
Kanan draped a ysalamir across Grand Inquisitor’s shoulders as he continued his approach, scattering some very confused looking lizards around the floor where they slowly crawled towards Maul.
“Don’t underestimate us.” Kanan replied, drawing a blue lightsaber from his belt. “No bullshit, no force, just you and me.”
Maul laughed. “Why would you give yourself such a disadvantage, Jedi?”
“It’s your disadvantage. You bright these things here, now deal with them!”
“Have it your way.”
From the control room, they could see that Kanan was not faring much better, even with Maul injured. Looking at a display, Eli could see that the other Jedi were still far off, Luke and Ezra dealing with another pod found heading towards New Mexico and Ahsoka hard at work in Florida. Thrawn peered over his shoulder, making a curious noise.
“Do you have confidence that Jedi Jarrus can turn this fight around?” He asked Eli softly, who glanced at the battle.
“I really don’t have much experience with this sort of thing, but it’s not looking too good.” Eli replied.
“I do not think he can win at this rate.” Thrawn agreed, rolling his shoulder. “I will go.”
“Whoa there, Thrawn, you’re strong and all, but these are Jedi. With laser swords and stuff.”
“Their greatest weapon that I can not counter, the force, has been neutralized.”
Colonel Yularen approached the pair. “If you would like to join the fight Thrawn, you are welcome. But I do hope you recognize the risks.”
“I do. Do you?”
“Excuse me?” Yularen asked for clarification.
“I hope you do not wish for the invader to be taken alive. I can not promise such an outcome.”
The low chatter in the room fell silent. “Vanto. Take him down.” Yularen said.
The pair did not even stop at the weapons closet and stopped before bulletproof one way glass doors.
“I did not intend on revealing this side of myself to you.” Thrawn muttered, pushing Eli away gently with a hand on the shorter being’s shoulder. Eli stepped away, unable to peel his eyes off Thrawn as he pulled his plain white shirt off over his head. With a soft grunt, Thrawn closed his eyes, seeming to focus intently. Eli had to make a double take as he watched several bumps begin to form along Thrawn’s spine.
These bumps grew into antennae-like spines, blue with glowing red tips, the longest of which protruding out from his hairline at the center of his head, hanging forwards a bit. Then, as Thrawn turned back to him, Eli noticed long fangs displayed between parted lips, and bone like protrusions jutting out from his elbows and between his knuckles.
Thrawn inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with stale indoor air. “Open the door.” He hissed, whip like barbed tail swaying out behind him.
“Alright. Yeah.” As Thrawn slipped out the door and slunk towards Maul from behind like a panther, Eli just stared. Who knew the Chiss were so… Interesting. “That’s new.” A voice said from behind him. Whipping around, Eli found himself facing Agent Solo.
“I came down to see what was taking so long. I now see that he was growing claws.”
“I had no idea he could do that.” Eli stammered, watching the fight finally turn in their favor as Thrawn got in a surprise swipe to Maul’s backside, ripping him open viciously.
“You and me both.” Han clapped Eli on the back. “I imagine the sex will be out of this world.”
Eli blushed deeply. Sure, Thrawn was attractive, but was he really that kind of attracted to him? Watching Thrawn brutally attack the sith, teaming up with Kanan, Eli did not notice Han start to laugh until it was too late.
“Agent Vanto, I believe you are in love with a Chiss.”
Eli pouted. “Maybe I am. Not like he likes me back or anything.”
Han just rolled his eyes. “We’ll see about that.”
Mega thanks to star_wars_rebels_4 for letting me use their amazing Chiss anatomy ideas. Battle Thrawn Go! We agreed that he’s a bit like Stitch in that the bits are retractable, and hella cool looking!!
Chapter 13: Recovery, Part 1 of 5
Finally subdued, Maul squirmed on the ground where the Chiss pinned him down, cursing and screaming about Kenobi. Kanan was down on one knee, his leg broken in the fight, as blood streamed down his face from a nasty slash that landed just above his eyes.
Rising back to his feet, Hondo approached the instigator, igniting half of the red saber he once brandished. It was obvious to him that Maul was dying, blood oozing out from dozens of claw marks inflicted on him by Thrawn, whose transformation was even a shock to the Weequay.
“Kenobi is dead.” Hondo called out, looming over Maul. The villain stopped his shouting, looking up at the pirate with a sick grin and yellow eyes.
He opened his mouth to speak, but Hondo would not have the memory of his friend, nay, his savior slandered, removing Maul’s head from his body in a single slice.
Thrawn rolled off of Maul and stood up, blue skin stained red and sporting many burns and bite marks of his own. With a shudder and grunt, he retracted his many antenna, the red glow of his eyes dimming as the sensory organs returned to dormancy. The bony claws remained, however, as he simply stood to regain his breath, staring at Hondo with a quizzical expression.
The pirate offered no more than a shrug before rushing over to Grand Inquisitor’s side, confirming a pulse before using a belt as a tourniquet to slow some of his bleeding. Not long after the medical team ran out, along with some Agents who assessed the damages. Eli did not give Maul’s body a second glance before confronting Thrawn who seemed a bit dazed by the sudden hustle surrounding him.
“Hey, you alright?” Eli asked, not really knowing how else to start a conversation with the Chiss. Thrawn just nodded, taking a step back. His injuries had a medic approaching them in no time, but Eli turned them away seeing Thrawn’s negative reaction to the sudden attention.
“I promise to clean the wounds and have him in before the end of the day.” Eli assured the medic before taking Thrawn by the hand and leading him inside. The protrusions from between his knuckles were unexpectedly rough and scraped his hand, but Eli hardly paid it any mind.
Finally finding themselves alone in Thrawn’s quarters, the Chiss violently bashed his elbow against the metal door, breaking off the spine with a crunch. The other side soon followed.
“What are you doing?” Eli asked, panicked. The motion seemed to cause Thrawn pain, but he continued, snapping off the jagged points from his hands one by one.
“They do not retract. Do not be alarmed, they will grow back in time beneath the skin.”
Eli nodded along, still a bit shocked by all of this. Not knowing what else to do, he slumped down in his usual chair. “Alright.”
“It is not common for them to grow so long, either.” Thrawn commented casually, picking away at the last bits of bone remaining as his skin began to close back up over the holes.
“I take it you have not needed to use them in quite some time, then?” Eli noted.
“Correct. The process of retracting and removing them is not pleasurable, so I try to avoid it.”
Eli could imagine as such. “You didn’t have to go out there. But, thank you. I’m sure the whole area owes you thanks.”
“It is not necessary.” Thrawn commented plainly, moving over to the sink to wash dried blood from his arms and hands.
“Well, we might all be dead right now if it were not for you.”
Thrawn scrubbed his skin thoughtfully. “Perhaps. Perhaps not.”
“No need to be so humble.” Eli added, padding over to the kitchen to pour two glasses of water, suddenly parched. “I did promise to get you cleaned up, so I am going to have to ask you to follow me into the bathroom when you are done here.”
Thrawn finished quickly after that, soon finding himself sitting in the shower in nothing but his undershorts as Eli scrubbed at his back with mild soap. When the suds seeped into a burn, Thrawn hissed under his breath, grip tightening on a handle built into the shower.
“Almost done.” Eli said softly, deeply concentrating on his task. Thrawn found the human’s dedication to be admirable, maybe even cute. He didn’t allow himself to linger on the thought. He should have one goal- returning home to the Chiss Ascendancy. Yet, he quickly found himself becoming accustomed to the dramatically domestic life he’d carved out with Eli.
This was the human’s job, a clinical, skeptical part of him thought, to establish a rapport with the resident aliens in order to learn more about them. To create a sense of comfort so that his true intentions would show. Agent Vanto, he corrected himself, was very good at this job. A staunch contrast to the Agents who came before him, easily angered and manipulated. Thrawn was not sure why this thought hurt him so much to accept as true, but it was the only rational explanation for the kindness, even fondness that the Agent seemed to show towards him.
As Eli finished rinsing away the soap, he sat back, thoroughly soaked despite himself not being bathed. When thinking about his former years in the mail room, he would have never imagined how things had so quickly developed, receiving a promotion to Agent and being thrust into the most difficult assignment in the whole place. The crazy part was, this connection he had with Thrawn, be it friendship or as Han had put it… a crush, he corrected, not wanting to bring the L-word into this, came so naturally between them after some initial bristling.
“I think that’s all I can do for you.” Eli admitted, wringing out the wash cloth. Thrawn hesitantly rose to his feet, and Eli could not make heads or tails of the blank expression he wore.
“Thank you, Agent Vanto. Would you please escort me to the medical center?”
Eli was taken aback. Agent Vanto? It had been weeks since they had used such formality. And to think of what he was just considering. A vague notion passed through his mind. Could Chiss read thoughts?
Did it matter? Passing the Chiss a towel and some clothes, Eli vacated the restroom. “Yeah, but get dressed first.”
The Area 51 Medical Center was a complete disaster zone. In one corner, a nurse worked around Hera fretting over Kanan, brushing his hair out of the way and double checking all of her bandaging as she tried to dress the Jedi’s wounds. In another, Thrawn was finally convinced that the doctor only had his best intentions in mind and would not administer any drugs without allowing the Chiss to assess their chemical makeup. At the far side of the room, Alexsandr and Zeb were tended to, arguably the best behaved patients present despite the Lasat unconsciously lashing out at anyone unlucky enough to be re-inserting his IV needle. And smack in the middle of it all, Hondo and Grand Inquisitor laid next to each other, awaiting attention from the skeletal staff present.
“So, you knew Kenobi?” Grand Inquisitor mused. Hondo croaked out a laugh.
“Oh yes, we were very close. Very close indeed.” The Weequay grinned as a happy memory flitted through his mind.
Grand Inquisitor would never admit it, but he felt a twinge of jealousy towards the dead Jedi Kenobi, as he had learned who it was. It is not that he liked Hondo, in fact he found his company to be quite jarring. He’d hardly forgiven the being for drugging him with the tequila either. Yet, the envious feeling came and went.
“You see, my friend, I was the first to land on this planet, finding it by sheer navigational skill, and a bit of good luck. I suppose to an observer, it would look like I crashed, but I assure you it was intentional!” Hondo began, telling his story earnestly but not without some of his trademark flair. “Anyways, the people of this planet were curious folks, and well, a pirate with no ship is hardly a pirate so I was stuck. And in being stuck, these people decided that I would serve best as a sort of, well. I believe the term is to be like a lab-rat. Not a fun time in my life, no.”
Hondo’s tone sobered here, and Grand Inquisitor could not help but feel sorry for the being. He himself had been subject to torture at the hands of Darth Vader and was far too well aware of how such mistreatment felt. “I am sorry to hear.” He murmured.
“Oh, I do not ask for your sympathy. You see, this is when Kenobi enters the story!” Hondo continued. “Upon his arrival, he was able to shake up the command structure, talk to some very important people. And when the Colonel was put in charge, I was released from, well. I was given my current residence. We had some fun times, Kenobi and I. I would try to escape, he would find me. Yes, fun times indeed.”
Grand Inquisitor rolled his eyes with a groan. Yes, some friend that was. Sounded a bit like his relationship with the Jedi Kanan Jarrus. The envy he felt was mostly sated, but part of him wondered if Hondo held him in as high regard to Kenobi.
“It was a sad day when he died, but I have continued to live on in his honor. Trying to escape, and being thwarted by the next generation of Jedi each time.” Hondo winked, and then the doctor arrived to look them over. Grand Inquisitor sunk down into the bed, curling his legs a bit so his feet would not hang off the edge. He might as well get used to the company as it seemed the doctor had no plans of releasing either of them any time soon.
Chapter 14: Recovery, Part 2 of 5
A quick chapter warning- Luke suffers a bit of force withdrawal/is overwhelmed when it returns with the whole ysalamiri incident. These is much comfort given, but if these sort of symptoms (feeling physically ill/shivering) may squick you in any way please move on to the next chapter.
Stay safe friends <3
Luke felt bile rise in the back of his throat looking at the carnage before him as he, Ezra, and Wedge finally returned to Area 51 from their mission. There was blood on the hard packed sand, baking in the sun, and scraps of fabric strewn about. He hardly glimpsed at the beheaded red and black corpse at the center of it all. The body was mostly covered by a sheet, but it was not enough. All of this on top of the hole in the force created by their captured aliens was just too much.
“Feeling sick?” Ezra asked him softly, pulling the other man close to his side as Wedge stayed back a bit to direct the containment effort of their payload, the non Jedi not affected by the aliens.
“A bit…” Luke replied weakly, closing his eyes and taking a long breath of hot air.
“Let’s go inside.” Ezra suggested, guiding Luke around the worst of the damage, towards the door. Frankly, he was just glad that the injured had been taken inside already.
Walking down the hall, Luke finally eased up, leaning less on Ezra. “Just getting away from those… things helped a bit.”
Ezra understood perfectly what his boyfriend meant. Having his connection to the living force severed had certainly been unpleasant. It was like losing a limb in a way. Something you could rely on for input and sensation suddenly taken away. “I’m glad to hear. Want to lay down? I’m certainly beat.” He offered.
“That would be nice, yeah.” Luke said thankfully as Ezra opened the door to Wedge’s quarters, which just happened to be closest to the entrance, and thus the hangar bay. It also created the benefit of Wedge coming to them after his duties were complete, which Ezra was sure would be a welcome sight. The pilot was a true cuddle monster, despite his more stoic outward appearance, according to Luke, which sat very nicely with Ezra.
Closing the door behind them, Ezra helped Luke out of his shirt, pulling it over the boy's head and mussing long blonde locks in the process. It was still a bit surreal to Ezra, being invited so welcomely into Luke and Wedge’s relationship, but theirs was a rhythm that matched his own quite well so the change felt almost like a natural progression of things.
Stripping down to his own undershorts, Ezra pulled back the covers on the large bed, a pleasant contrast to his own small bunk, and Luke climbed right in, slipping his toes under white fabric.
“Comfortable?” Ezra asked, pulling the covers up to Luke’s shoulders.
“Yes but… I’m still a bit cold.” Luke commented, winking innocently at the other Jedi. Ezra just chuckled.
“I’ll hop in soon, just going to grab us some water first.”
“Be quick.” Luke requested, smiling lightly before closing his eyes, snuggling down into the plush mattress.
As Ezra turned for the kitchen, he finally had a moment to really assess the space, which was another pleasant surprise. Wedge had decorated the place quite cozily, framed images of planes and spacecraft scattered around plush furnishings and brightly colored rugs. There was even a small window over the sink that Ezra looked out of as he filled two orange ceramic mugs with water, the color seemed to be favored by the pilot. Of course, the view overlooked one of the hangars, their helicopter parked just outside.
Returning to the bed, Ezra nearly dropped the mugs. Luke was shaking badly, teeth clattering a bit as he buried his head in the pillow. Setting down the drinks, Ezra sat on the edge of the bed, placing a hand gently on Luke’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s ok.”
“Cold…” Luke muttered. Ezra knew he was not talking about the temperature of the room. Ezra could sense it too. Death and anguish lingered in the force, the sensation having been missing for so long, it was increased tenfold for the Jedi.
“I know…” Ezra said softly, sliding over to lay beside Luke, drawing him into his arms. Luke was receptive, leaning his back against Ezra. “Everyone’s going to be alright.”
On the outside of the complex, Wedge passed on the last of Ahsoka’s payload, the Jedi returned from her adventure in Florida. Her pilots, Wes and Tycho, seemed absolutely exhausted. He was sure they had been put through their paces by the Jedi who managed to catch all five of the pods just in time. The drone room had shared a collective sigh of relief when she had arrived before the pods were visible on the ground.
“So what are we going to do with all of these?” He asked the nearby Colonel Yularen.
“I believe that once Mitth’raw’nuruodo and Ohnaka are healed, we will need to have a discussion with them both about proper…” He was at a loss for words.
“Space lizard care?” Wes offered, setting an inquisitive orange reptile into one of many cat crates they had assembled as temporary holding for the creatures.
“Yes. That.” The colonel sounded nearly as tired as the pilots, but there was much work yet to be done. “Agent Solo?”
“Yessir?” The agent appeared behind Wedge and Wes with a Wookiee in tow, scaring them a bit.
“See if we can move these into the basement for now. Ensure the temperature is kept warm enough that they do not die on us.”
Han acknowledged the order and rounded up some agents to assist. Wedge was glad to see his pilots were not called upon and dismissed them to their quarters.
“You can go as well.” Yularen began. “I think Jedis Skywalker and Bridger will need all the support they can get.” He added with a light smile.
Wedge took the hint. “Yessir.” Turning away, he headed inside, meaning to wash off in his quarters first before tracking down his boyfriends. As good a pilot as he was, this mission had been stressful, and he was certain he’d sweat through all his flight suit layers.
As he walked away, he overheard Yularen asking Vanto to check in on Thrawn and see if the Chiss knew about reptile diets. Wedge had heard about how the Chiss managed to turn the tide of the battle over the communications channel, and if he was not afraid of the alien already… Well, he thought, at least they knew he was on their side.
Entering his quarters, Wedge practically ripped off the heavy flight suit, and the layers beneath, on his way to the restroom. Passing through the sleeping area, though, he was met by something very unexpected.
Ezra and Luke were tangled up in each other, under the sheets and nearly nude. Ezra rose a finger to his lips to quiet words that Wedge has just opened his mouth to speak, but stopped. Luke must have been asleep. The mission has been especially hard on the Jedi, his connection to the force incredibly important to him, so to have it taken away he’d been strong for his friends. But Wedge knew him well enough to know it would take a massive toll on him emotionally.
Silently, he thanked Ezra for comforting their boyfriend, and tried to slip away for a shower, but Ezra would not have it, grabbing his wrist with the force and pulling him towards the bed. Wedge tried to protest, knowing he was a mess, yet Ezra continued to insist and soon both men surrounded Luke with warmth and affection. His shivers stilled to periodical tremors, soft snores coming from the man.
Wedge took one of Luke’s hands into his own, and Ezra’s into his other. Slowly, he leaned over, leaving a soft kiss on each of their foreheads. Ezra returned it with a slightly more heated meeting of lips.
“We’ll all be alright.” Ezra whispered, burrowing down against Luke and falling into a heavy, peaceful sleep.
Chapter 15: Recovery, Part 3 of 5
Some angst and drama ahoy! Just a heads up, but I promise it all will be resolved in a timely manner. This is a fluff fic, after all!
TW for nightmares and mention of torture/medical experimentation that occurred in the past and is being recalled.
The medical center the night after Maul’s attack was a cacophony of snores. On one side, Alexsandr Kallus and his Lasat mate, Zeb, roared in alternating sequence, sounding more like a chainsaw than sleeping beings. On the other side, the Chiss known as Thrawn whistled a bit in his sleep, an almost piercingly high tone. The staff on duty had long evacuated the space, the sound driving them insane.
However, Grand Inquisitor had no such option, and soon enough the Weequay pirate to his right joined the chorus with incoherent babbling in many languages and random, jerking motions that caused his bed to creak.
Wishing he had stronger ear coverings, the highly powerful muffs he wore designed to protect sensitive hearing while still allowing him to hear his surroundings, Grand Inquisitor rolled over yet again, this time facing towards Hondo.
Looking over the Weequay in the low light, he was too tired to intercept a suddenly flailing hand that smacked him across his mouth, a metal ring clacking against sharp teeth. Patience run thin, Grand Inquisitor snarled, grabbing Hondo’s wrist and having half a mind to toss the appendage right back into the pirate’s smug face.
“No-no… No secret… Please don’t…” Hondo mumbled in heavily accented English, body curling in on itself and his mouth dipping into a weary frown. Unable to release Hondo’s wrist now, Grand Inquisitor ran his thumb along leathery skin, exhaling deeply. He quickly realized the Weequay was trembling.
The force would not be needed for him to know that Hondo was having a nightmare. Grand Inquisitor knew the feeling all too well. Honestly, the Pau’an avoided sleep as much as he could, knowing it as the time his mind was most vulnerable to the lasting effects of the more traumatic events in his past. He’d lived through Vader and Palpatine’s reign of terror once, and often wondered why the force made it so that he’d have to relive it over and over again in his rest. Perhaps it was fate, or the karma that humans so loved to refer to here on Earth. Whatever it was, he’d fight against it however it was, and soon found himself gently shaking the smaller being beside him awake.
“Nothing… Don’t know…” Hondo continued, growing more urgent, before his eyes snapped open, an expression of terror painted on his features momentarily before they softened.
“Oh. It’s only you. Is it morning already?” Hondo asked softly, seeming to force a slight smile.
“No, not yet.” Grand Inquisitor replied quietly, hesitantly removing his hands from Hondo. He could not be sure, but he thought he felt a pang of sadness radiate off the Weequay at the loss of contact.
“Ah, then… Yes. It is still night. Do you wish to make an escape? I do not see any security, mm.” Hondo offered while sitting up on elbows, voice still a bit shaken but well masked enough that a non observant being could miss it.
Grand Inquisitor was very observant. “You need to heal.” He said flatly. Hondo flopped back down on the bed.
“Well… I apologize for waking you, if that is what happened.”
“I was not sleeping. What did happen?” Grand Inquisitor pried, both wanting to know more about the being beside him and a bit afraid of what he would hear.
“It is a long story, I warn you.” Hondo replied gravely.
“Nothing better to do.”
This is the story Hondo told.
He’d crashed on Earth. Intentionally, he swore, but that was up for debate. Regardless, once landed, he’d dragged himself to the nearest civilization, which happened to be a remote military base. Area 51, to be exact.
The first person he’d encountered had been a trigger happy guard who shot him in the foot on principal of him being an intruder. Realizing this was not a being from this planet, Hondo had been dragged in and laid out on a medical table. For security, his wrists and ankles were cuffed to the bed after he was divorced from his garments.
“Never have I been so aware of how out of shape I was, every inch on display like that.” Hondo had joked, but Grand Inquisitor was sure that he’d felt much more than just embarrassment in that moment.
He was correct in that thought. Hondo had been nervous, anxious, and very afraid of what might come next. The beings which quickly surrounded him, humans from what he could tell, spoke in a language he could not understand yet, and poked at him with metal instruments. They did nothing for his broken arm from the crash, instead laying it out painfully on the table, and only wrapped his shattered foot in white gauze to stop the bleeding.
Hondo would later be told no medical action would be taken for fear of harming or killing him due to not knowing his anatomy, but there was also the fact that he could not be a threat so thoroughly injured.
“I think the worst part of those first weeks, besides being stretched out on that damn table, was when some laser brained researcher quack decided they ought to take samples to try and figure me out.” Hondo continued.
They’d cut out pieces of his skin, snipped off dreadlocks that had taken decades to fully grow out, and even used a bone saw to remove part of one of the bony protrusions jutting out from Hondo’s jawline. The Weequay pointed to one on the left side of his face, worn down but significantly shorter than the rest. “I have half a mind to trim the rest to match!”
Hondo continued with his story, Grand Inquisitor listening intently, but the more he went on, the fuzzier details got. “I believe they realized that Weequay are rather near-human on the inside and began administering sedatives and the like. Slept a lot and woke up with new stitches wherever the bastards pleased.”
Finally, Hondo reached a positive point in the story. Jedi Obi Wan Kenobi had come to Earth to investigate a newly charted planet that showed signs of sentient life on the probe scans. What he found had deeply disturbed him.
After much negotiation, an agreement had been reached. Earth could become a sanctuary planet of sorts so long as any hostiles would not be permitted to stay and wreak havoc. And, of course, all of this would remain a secret from the planet’s population. Area 51 was chosen as the base of operations for this new agreement, and the military base received new management.
Colonel Yularen, suddenly thrust into a much larger universe of existence, was immediately sympathetic to the case of Hondo, and any other who ended up on what he was assured was an extremely remote planet compared to galactic civilization as a whole.
“How close were you?” Grand Inquisitor blurted out, regretting butting in immediately and glad that a blush would not be visible in the low light.
Hondo chuckled, a deep reverberating sound that was almost musical in its own way. “Closer than the Jedi order would have preferred.”
Realizing he was not about to get a straight answer, Grand Inquisitor was just thankful that Hondo revealed as much as he did. He also realized that the snoring around them had stopped. Glancing over Hondo’s shoulder, he saw Alexsandr quickly fall back down, pretending to be asleep.
“Something you want to say, Agent?” The Pau’an grumbled, sitting up despite the pain throbbing in his… everywhere. Rising to his feet, he walked around to the other side of Hondo’s bunk, taking a subtle defensive stance.
Alexsandr raised his head. “Not particularly. I was not here when…” Coughing, the Agent’s words were cut off. He pulled at his collar with his hand, but found the gesture to be futile, throat constricted.
“The hell you doing?” Zeb growled, rising to an impressive height and baring razor sharp fangs that could rival those of the Pau’an standing before him.
The two beings stared each other down, yellow irises glaring into bright green scleras. Only a hand on Grand Inquisitor’s outstretched arm pulled him from the trance.
“Stop.” Hondo commanded firmly. Grand Inquisitor dropped his hand, Alexsandr sucking in a desperate breath. Zeb pulled him into his arms as he collapsed down to the bed.
“Knew there was a reason the colonel kept you locked up.” Zeb muttered. Alexsandr shot the Pau’an a sharp look but kept his mouth shut aside from breathing deeply.
“Perhaps you ought to rest in your own quarters if you are prone to these outbursts.” A cool voice offered from the other side of the room.
Grand Inquisitor was reminded that despite his heroics of the day, he would never be one of these beings. He’d never be accepted into their ranks, or praised for anything other than being a war dog.
For all their talk of humanity and morals, these people were no better than Vader himself, torturing and manipulating everything in sight.
And he was finished with bowing down to such warlords.
“I believe our blue friend makes a very good point.” Hondo said, taking a firm grim on Grand Inquisitor’s shoulder to try and stand, but the Pau’an laid him back down.
“You need to heal.” He said for a second time. This time his tone was not caring but blunt.
Hondo said nothing in reply. Once Grand Inquisitor had left, Alexsandr and Zeb whispered among themselves, the human eventually migrating into bed with the Lasat. Part of him wanted to have company, perhaps get to know Thrawn, but the Chiss was asleep before he could make up his mind.
If he healed, Hondo figured, he could visit Grand Inquisitor sooner, and tried to get comfortable.
In the morning, he found himself facing some very unfortunate news. “He did what exactly?” He asked, trying to wrap his mind around the information.
“Grand Inquisitor escaped and stole your ship to leave the planet.” Agent Yrica Quell repeated. “I can show you the security tape of him leaving, but all others have been tampered with.”
“No, that's quite alright.” Hondo sighed, shifting where he sat on the medical cot. Glancing across the room, he found Alexsandr and Zeb fuming. “I assume someone will have to go after him.”
“Unfortunately, yes.” Quell continued, smoothing bleached blonde hair down against her skull.
“What are the chances that someone could be me?” Hondo asked, not overly optimistic but hopeful.
Jedi Kanan Jarrus is who responded to this. “We are still assembling a team, but I’ll put in a recommendation for you.”
“I’d like to go, as well.” Kallus butted in, crossing his arms. From what Hondo had gathered, no one had reported the whole choking incident, and he was not about to snitch on the being. However, he worried that Kallus had only poor intentions for going.
Meanwhile, he noticed that Thrawn had already left the medical center and wondered what the Chiss may be up to.
“Sessile creatures, they live in densely forested areas eating local flora and insects.” Thrawn continued, stroking the patch of shaggy fur that sat atop the ysalamir’s head that was draped on his shoulders. The orange reptile closed its four eyes and emitted a low purring sound, seeming to enjoy the contact.
“Well, we can’t exactly just release them in a forest.” Jedi Ahsoka Tano argued, staying as far away from the creatures as possible, but a runaway slowly dragged itself across the floor towards her. Noticing the Jedi’s discomfort, Agent Eli Vanto picked the creature up, adding a third reptile to his body between one climbing up his leg and another resting across his own shoulders.
“And I assume you don’t want to keep them nearby you, or the other Jedi.” Eli added.
Surveying the dozens of crates strewn about, Thrawn considered their options. “Ysalamir often live in family groups, so they will not require much space so long as climbing apparatus can be constructed, and food provided.”
Ahsoka frowned at the lizard in Eli’s arms who began chewing on the agent’s sleeve. “Are you suggesting we keep them in your quarters?”
“I’d not be opposed to the idea.” Thrawn replied.
Ahsoka figured as much. A defense against the Jedi would surely appeal to the difficult alien. But, truly, what other choice did they have? She doubted Ohnaka could be trusted with the beings care.
“Fine. I’ll have Chewbacca and Solo bring you some wood and help scrap something up for now. But if it becomes a problem…”
“It will not become an issue. Thank you, Jedi Tano.” Thrawn concluded.
Considering the incident dealt with for now, Ahsoka left Thrawn and Eli to transport the critters and left to track down Chewbacca.
Alone with Thrawn, Eli let himself relax. “They are pretty cute.” He said softly, extracting his sleeve from between flat teeth.
Thrawn nodded quietly, leaning back in the chair Eli had rolled into the room for him. He was still quite fatigued after the battle of the day before. He was also still conflicted on how to view his relationship with the man before him. Thrawn knew that Eli was simply performing his role as an agent, yet he could not explain away the sincerity with while Eli acted. Part of his heart ached at the fact that this was likely a performative gesture, something to coerce the Chiss into behaving, becoming sympathetic to the human cause.
The worst part was that despite all this, it was working.
Eli smiled at him, and Thrawn felt his cheeks warm. “Ready to start taking these guys to your room?”
“Yes, Agent Vanto.”
The smile melted away, and Thrawn turned his attention elsewhere.
This was all just an act, wasn’t it?
Chapter 16: Recovery, Part 4 of 5
“You want us to do what?” Agent Han Solo cried out as Jedi Ahsoka already began walking away.
“You heard me, Solo. Get some wood and build some fake trees in Thrawn’s room.” Ahsoka repeated before turning a corner.
Beside the agent, Leia Organa chuckled. “I’ve heard some crazy orders around here, but this might just take the cake.”
“No kidding.” Han groaned. He’d just met up with Leia, hoping to get lunch with the woman, but it seems those plans would need to be postponed. Again. Did the universe just not want them to do on a date? He wondered to himself.
Leia’s smile quickly improved his mood, however. “Better get to it.”
“You would not happen to be inclined to help, would you?” Han asked, only half way sarcastic.
“Nope!” Leia replied with a wink. “Tarkin’s already blowing up Yularen’s phone after such a close call, and he needs his Lawyer on hand to deal with whatever that slime bag is cooking up.”
“You know, I take it back. I’m glad to build some fake trees for the Chiss.” Han replied with a laugh of his own.
“Have fun, Han.” Leia added, taking his hand into his own for a second before making her way to Yularen’s office. Chewbacca quickly replaced her place, towing a huge pile of wood beams. Greeting Han with a grunt, the Wookie urged him on.
“Yeah, let’s get this over with.”
Hondo was honestly quite impressed with the argument Kanan presented for him.
Unfortunately, Alexsandr had an equally compelling reason for his own joining on the mission to find Grand Inquisitor.
So, several hours later, Hondo found himself seated beside Alexsandr in Hera’s personal spacecraft, its owner and Kanan sitting before them at the controls.
“Ghost you are cleared for takeoff.” Wedge Antilles’ voice rang out over the intercom.
Alexsandr gripped his seat’s armrest as the Ghost lifted off the ground, the sensation much different from what he had experienced on Earth.
“If you think you are going to be sick, the bathroom is down the hall.” Kanan called over his shoulder. Alexsandr just stared ahead out the windshield. Hondo laughed.
“Been awhile since I’ve been in the air!” He declared with a hearty laugh. “This is quite the craft you have, Hera.”
“My pride and joy.” The Twi’lek said as she quickly brought the craft up and out of the atmosphere. Wedge and Yrica had spent the better part of the past four hours clearing the airspace above them for hundreds of miles so that they could escape unseen, and so far it was going well.
“Chopper, scan for any trace of our friend.” Kanan called out to the orange and white astromech droid parked in the corner of the cockpit. A few seconds later, Chopper warbled out a reply.
“Aiming for that trajectory now…” Hera called out as Kanan activated long range scanners.
“Must have been in some rush to not fix the tibanna leak.” Hera mused, and Hondo gasped.
“My ship has a tibanna gas leak? No way! Unless… It was tampered with!”
Hera shook her head. “We tampered with more than just the tibanna intake. That thing was in pieces when we got it, and in spare time the teams take turns trying to reassemble it. You’re lucky it's even space worthy.”
“Down the hall!” Kanan suddenly cried out, and a green faced Alexsandr fumbled with his seatbelt before rushing to the bathroom. “Why did we bring an Earth native with us again…”
“Yularen’s orders.” Hera muttered. “At least he’ll be out of our hair now.”
“Yeah. Not that I dislike the guy but his emotions are off the charts…”
Hondo’s face paled a bit, hoping Kanan would not piece together the events of the night before.
“Know any reason Kallus might dislike the Inquisitor?” Hera asked Hondo.
“Oh, no. None more than anyone else, that is. Last I checked, Kanan here was not his biggest fan either.” Hondo improvised, hoping he sounded convincing and could redirect the subject.
“Hard to like a sith.” Kanan said flatly. “But he’s… He’s not corrupt to the core. I’ll give him that. Probably seen a lot.”
Reading her scanner results, Hera began calculating hyperspace coordinates based on the tibanna trail. “I think I’ve got a bead on him.”
After making the jump, Alexsandr returned to the group, looking a bit shaken but nearly back to his normal peachy color. Hondo noticed the flush made a starfield of freckles show up on the human’s cheeks.
“What?” The agent asked, sounding irritated.
“Nothing, you are feeling better?” Hondo covered, raising his hands in a gesture of armistice.
“I’m fine.” Alexsandr said flatly.
“If you say so.” Kanan added, skeptical. “How long is this jump going to be?
Hera checked the display before her. “About three hours, so get comfortable.”
Once a fairly long jump away from Earth, Grand Inquisitor allowed himself to pause and properly check over his ship. Or rather, Hondo’s ship that he stole. He tried to force himself to not feel guilty about taking the pirate’s only ticket off world, but there was still a hollow pang in his chest as he passed a crude carving of a loth cat made on an interior door.
Every inch of the vessel told a story, from brightly colored fabric wrapped around the cold water line to the collection of shiny junk on the dashboard. What demanded his attention the most, however, was the haphazard work done to patch the ship back together after the fateful crash on Earth. Various tools tucked in his belt, Grand Inquisitor began work on the most egregious of the damage- a leaking tibanna gas intake.
He’d disabled the tracker planted deep within the bowels of the ship before taking off, but he would not put it past Syndulla or Tano to figure out how to track him through the discovered leak. And he was not going back.
So, working quickly, Grand Inquisitor addressed this and a few other issues and in a few hours he was ready to make the next jump, drastically changing trajectory. Best case scenario he could quietly make a new life for himself somewhere in wild space, perhaps find work bounty hunting or smuggling to carve out a sort of fringe existence, far away from the influence of Coruscant.
Exiting the jump, the Ghost crew found themselves truly in the middle of nowhere.
“The tibanna readings are high, but the trail ends here. Must have fixed the leak.” Hera said plainly. Chopped buzzed confirmation of the observation.
Hondo found himself kicking Kanan’s chair in front of him, swearing under his breath.
“We can try and trace the trajectory that he jumped next from patterns in the leaked gas.” Kanan offered. “Just might take a while to work out the physics of it.”
“Right. I’ll leave you to it then.” Hondo siad, rising. “You mentioned a spare room in the back?”
“Yeah, there’s a sitting area and kitchen, if you want.” Kanan responded, gesturing down the hall. Hondo soon found himself sitting at a round table, holding a steaming mug of tea that he made more for warmth than to drink.
Some time later, the ship jolted, signaling the start of a new jump. Surprisingly, someone came back to join him around the table.
“I apologize for any perceived ill will you think I have.” Alexsandr greeted Hondo with, lowering himself to the furthest point on the crescent shaped bench.
Hondo sighed into the now lukewarm tea. “You have every reason to be upset…”
“I believe he was simply trying to protect your privacy, and yes overreacted. But I can not say I’d be able to restrain such power when it comes to someone I love.”
The comment hit Hondo like a truck. He tried to laugh it off. “Love? I believe you are mistaken, my friend.” But Alexsandr was hardly convinced, raising a brow at the pirate.
Hondo shifted in his seat. “If you are not upset, then why insist coming on this mission?”
Now it was Alexsandr’s turn to move uncomfortably, crossing his legs under the table. “As good to you all as Colonel Yularen is, his word is not the final say and well. He was quick to suspect what went down last night and… Let’s just say the entire agenda is not made common knowledge for good reason.”
Hondo was quite interested. “Continue.”
“There are protocols in place that are meant to put the safety of Earth and her native residents first, and that can not be ignored no matter how forgiving the Colonel is. Protocols that mean if Grand Inquisitor were to return, he’d be executed.”
Leaning forward, Hondo’s eyes blew open wide. “What are you talking about?”
“I came on this mission so I could return you to your ship.”
It all made sense now. The emotions Kanan got from Alexsandr were not anger, but anxiety as he was about to break what Hondo was sure was very strictly enforced protocol. Hondo’s expression soon changed into a grin. “Ah, she does need her captain back, doesn’t she.”
Alexsandr nodded. “Right. Just, please, don’t make me regret this.”
Rolling his eyes, Alexsandr rose back to his feet. “Can’t believe I’m trusting a pirate.”
Chapter 17: Recovery, Part 5 of 5
“Ok, he’s in our sights!” Hera called out, and soon the two seats behind her and Kanan were occupied.
Hondo was both anxious and excited. He’d been wanting to leave Earth since the day he showed up, and this was his chance. Yet… He considered for a moment that perhaps he would miss the family of sorts he’d found there. Regardless, he told himself, he was a pirate, and no self respecting pilot would allow themselves to be chained, held in place.
No, he’d take full advantage of this opportunity. Reaching around to the front console, Hondo activated the comm on all frequencies, never breaking his stare with the ship in front of the Ghost. His ship.
And on that ship? Well, they would just have to address just what that was, wouldn’t they.
“This is the Ghost hailing…” Hera began.
“The Severed Kyber .” After Kanan shot Hondo a curious look, the pirate shrugged. “What? I am, among many other things, a sentimental man.”
“Sure.” Kanan stated plainly, turning back to the console and swatting Hondo’s hand away.
“Ghost, I suggest you leave this sector at once.” A deep, familiar voice replied over the comm, joined by erratic buzzing.
“Ah, R5, there you are!” Hondo responded excitedly. “Been some time, hm.”
The droid, R5-P8, responded with a binary curse.
“No I did not forget about you…” He tried to cover, and heard a tinny smack over the comm. “Hoi! Hands off my droid!”
Grand Inquisitor muttered something incoherent, then gave his offer. “What do you want? I’m blasting you in 30 seconds with… Oh very nice. The full array of proton torpedoes.”
“You have proton torpedoes on that thing?” Hera hissed.
“Well, yes, one must have, erm, insurance!” Hondo tried to cover, now standing between Hera and Kanan by the comm station. Alexsandr sunk lower into his seat, head in his hands. What had he just gotten himself in the middle of.
Shoving the shorter pilot out of the way, Alexsandr took control of the comms. “Look, Grand Inquisitor, we simply want to make a trade. You take this pirate off our hands, and then we turn around. It’s that simple.”
Now Kanan and Hera’s eyes were fixed on the Agent, who muted the comm. “I know what I said. We’ll tell Yularen we shot them both down for treason or something.”
“Now, I don’t know if he’ll believe that.” Kanan began. “He knows them better than you think.”
“Well he doesn’t know about this.” Alexsandr stated, loosening the high collar of his tunic to reveal dark purple welts, swollen and angry. “Our big friend out there and I had a disagreement last night… Just let them go and I’ll handle the rest.”
“Well,” Hera interjected. “The big guy has to agree to your terms.”
As if on cue, the Grand Inquisitor’s voice came over. “Fine. Send him over.”
Hera gestured to the back of the ship. “Phantom’s ready for you.”
Patting Alexsandr on the back, Hondo bid them farewell. “It’s been a pleasure, my friends.”
Chopper waited for Hondo in the Phantom, ready to pilot it back after the drop off. “Onwards, little one.” Hondo urged, sinking back into a threadbare seat and kicking his feet up on the dash, much to the droid’s chagrin. After a quick zap, his boots were planted firmly on the ground.
Once docked in the small hangar of the Severed Kyber, Hondo found himself entirely alone as the Phantom pulled away. Hustling down the familiar halls of his ship, purely on muscle memory, he brought himself to the freighter’s cockpit. He found Grand Inquisitor’s hand straining on the torpedo launch controls.
Hondo delicately laid his hand on top of the Pau’an’s ashy digits. “Let them go.”
Part of him thought that Grand Inquisitor would lash out, push him away, or choke him like he did Alexsandr. But most of him trusted the being fully, and soon Grand Inquisitor’s hands were resting elsewhere on the console, punching in hyperspace coordinates.
“Esai.” The Pau’an said softly.
“That’s my name. Esai. You may use it.”
Hondo tested the sound on his tongue, and found he quite liked it. “Where to, then, Esai?”
The Pau’an shrugged. “I have some contacts, so do you. Figure somewhere will be safe.”
That was fair enough for Hondo, who resigned himself to the co pilot's seat, patting R5 on it’s dome. Esai pulled on the hyperdrive control, to which the ship protested loudly, sputtering out as the Ghost blipped away into starlines. “Your ship is a piece of shit.” Esai said flatly.
“She’s taken a beating… a few beatings. No matter, Hondo can fix it!” The pirate announced, nearly running right into Esai and R5 as all parties made for the exit. Rolling under Hondo’s feet, R5 caused him to lurch forward, Esai leaning forward to catch the Weequay.
Hondo righted himself, trying to act like it was nothing, laugh off the gesture, but he could not hide the hitch in his breath at the sudden contact. Stoically, Esai continued down the hall.
“You’re going to want to pull up the 5th floor panel in the hall.” Hondo called out, hurriedly shrugging off his coat and grabbing some parts from a hidden compartment. “Compressor probably blew.”
R5 bumped into him again, warbling out an observation.
“So what if I do? I am not one to force myself on others.” Hondo whispered in reply. “Besides, there is a much more pressing issue.” He continued, gesturing to the smoke billowing out from the removed panel.
Esai waved away the grey clouds to peer down into the crawl space, which Hondo did not hesitate to jump down into. “Just a quick fix…” He said, both to himself and his companion.
It was not long before it went to hell. Esai went from passing down tools to squeezing in the crawlspace alongside Hondo, reaching around each other as if fixing the Severed Kyber were a game of Twister. With one hand holding a cracked plastoid tube from spewing out exhaust gas and another locking down a loose valve, Esai had to hold his head out of the way as Hondo climbed all around him to access various panels and switches. Neither apologized about the contact.
Covered in grease, and various other ship excretions, Hondo hoisted himself out of the crawlspace. “That should do it!”
“We are selling this as soon as we make it to the first outpost.” Esai grumbled, pulling his shirt over his head and using the inside fabric to try and wipe away some of the grime. Hondo did not try and hide the survey he took of a muscular, sculpted back, prominent shoulder blades dominating a red and while canvas. Much like the markings on his head, curving red deltas trailed on either side of the Pau’an’s spine.
“Good luck with that.” Hondo replied snarkily, shaking himself from staring down the being before him. With a few orders given to R5 they were officially on their way.
Chapter 18: Spacing, Part 1 of 2
Seems that Hondo has left one pickle only to fall into a trap. Grand Inquisitor calls out to the only allies he knows, but will they respond to a seemingly impossible request?
Things were quiet. Too quiet, Kanan Jarrus thought to himself as he made his rounds. Instinctively, he found himself standing in front of the door of his former charge, Grand Inquisitor. Shaking his head, Kanan walked away. Grand Inquisitor was gone now, as was Hondo Ohnaka, stars know why they’d taken a shining to one another. But, at the end of the day, they were all better off because of it, weren’t they?
This latest incident had truly spread the Area 51 crew thin, with all the Jedi dispersed they’d had to rely on Grand Inquisitor to fend off a fellow Sith. It was a gamble for sure, but one that paid off. Yet, in the aftermath, where Kanan should feel glad, he didn’t.
If anything, he felt useless. Colonel Yularen had been shipped off to Washington D.C. immediately after the incident to meet with the top brass of the Pentagon. From what he’d heard, General Veers had been pleased with the response to the threat, but Governor Tarkin, who technically the Colonel was to report to but the chain of command could be fuzzy, was not nearly as happy. In fact, right before Dr. Organa had left, she had told him in confidence that Tarkin was threatening to take over the entire Area for himself, saying the military could not be trusted with such delicate affairs.
Leia would have her hands full, and it seemed Agent Han Solo was feeling equally as discontent as Kanan. Possibly more.
“Governor Tarkin is like a third grader compared to her.” Han muttered as he walked past Kanan, Chewbacca following close behind and offering a sympathetic warble.
“You are right, Han. He’s no match for Leia. She’ll be back soon.” Kanan said in what he hoped was a delicate voice. Han shot him a slightly less ice glare than the stare he’d given the hall in front of him.
“Yeah. Soon.” Han repeated, fiddling with his shirt hem. “If you are looking for something to do, Hera’s busy as ever in the hangar. Choppers took a bit of a beating on that last one, not built for what we make them do.”
Kanan had half a mind to ask how Han knew this yet wasn’t in there himself, but know Hera she probably kicked him out for just sulking around. “Right. I’ll go check it out.”
Han shuffled away, and Chewbacca bid the Jedi a good day. After returning the gesture, Kanan followed a familiar path to the hangar. He might not be an expert in Earth mechanics, but certainly there was menial work to be done, or even just some heavy lifting. Besides, being near Hera was about as close as he’d get to feeling good today.
Entering the hangar, he saw a lot of the pilots hard at work on their craft. Ezra and Luke passed tools to Wedge, who was waist deep into a helicopter engine. A delicately placed hand on his ankle kept the thin man from sliding too deep into the machine and disappearing altogether. Clustered around some tables were Wyl, Nath, and Chass, Yrica demonstrating how to hammer out dents in the bodies of their large drones. Then, at the center of it all was Hera, laying down under the belly of one of the choppers, hard at work.
A gloved hand reached out for a wrench, just shy of reaching it. Using the force, Kanan nudged the tool kit a bit closer to the Twi’lek.
“Thanks, hon.” Hera said, voice echoing in the metal behemoth above her.
“Anytime.” Kanan replied softly.
Hera didn’t peek out from the craft, and Kanan wondered just how she knew it was him. Luke and Ezra were right there, after all. Well, a glance in their direction was answer enough, two sets of eyes enjoying the view sticking out from the access panel of their helicopter, a sliver of pale skin peeking out from dark fatigues.
“Feeling alright?” Hera asked. Kanan didn’t reply immediately. He’d never admit it, not even to himself. But what he was feeling was in fact that he missed the two scoundrels, despite all the trouble he caused. Things were far too quiet, that was for sure.
Kanan had to stifle a chuckle as his phone pinged, an urgent alert. “Yeah, been better. I should check this.” Hera knew the sound well and sighed, tightening something important.
It was Agent Alexsandr Kallus, calling all available hands to the command room.
“Hope it's nothing major.” Hera called out as Kanan turned away.
“When is it ever ‘nothing major’.” Kanan joked. “See you later, love.”
Surprisingly, Kanan found Ezra and Luke joining him on the walk over. Reaching the command room, it became apparent this was not something necessarily pertaining to Earth. In fact, Alexsandr was the only Earthling present for the meeting. “We’ve received a transmission from deep space.” The human began, taking on the role left for him by Yularen well. “From some of our old… Residents. Apparently Hondo wanted to go home, only to find his planet over run by beings called the Hutt.”
Kanan swore under his breath, and most of the room shifted uncomfortably. The Hutts were a powerful criminal cartel, one you absolutely did not mess with, but Kanan knew exactly where this was going. Right where it should not be.
“You are familiar with them, then.” Alexsandr continued. “It would seem that in a poorly constructed effort to liberate his people, Hondo got himself captured and Grand Inquisitor does not think he can take them on alone. In his own words, “I know that you have no reason to help me, but I ask anyway as there are none other in the Galaxy I can consider anything other than a death sentence.”
Kanan groaned, knowing he was already willing to volunteer for what would likely be a suicide mission. He was surprised when Ezra spoke up first. “Hondo was, no, is my friend. Of course I’d help him, and liberate his people.” The young Jedi sounded so sure of himself, Kanan almost found himself proud of how far he’d come since first finding the orphaned boy.
“I’ll go.” Kanan said simply, deciding not to think this over any longer.
Luke stepped forward next, but Alexsandr held out his hand. “I can not stop you, but I do ask that not every Jedi leave. We never know when another Maul might strike.”
“We can take them, you keep an eye on Wedge, and everyone else.” Ezra added, flicking one of Luke’s bangs out of his eyes.
“Then I’ll go.” Zeb said gruffly, patting Alexsandr on the shoulder. “No Jedi here.”
Kanan could read the hesitation on Alexsandr’s face, but he did not speak against Zeb’s choice. Wise. The Lasat had lost his own home world to the Galactic Empire, an entity not much better than the Hutt Cartel, and was certainly moved by such a cause even if he’d never met any of Hondo’s folks. There were no more takers for the mission.
“Jedi Jarrus, I’m putting you at the helm of this mission, then.” Alexsandr concluded. “And, well, I hate to ask this of her. But I think that Syndulla will be best fit to fly.”
Kanan nodded. “No, it’s the right choice. And I think that she’ll be receptive to the task.”
“And if not?” Zeb interrupted. He made a good point, after all. Hera might be a bit too sane to want to mess with the Hutts right in their own corner of space, if the planetary coordinates displayed on the monitor were true.
“I can go. My entire squadron’s ships are fully functional.” Agent Yrica Quell interrupted. Right, her quote on quote ‘squadron’, a ragtag bunch of former aces who came with jury rigged death traps of ships currently resigned only to drone duty. Alexsandr fought hard not to flinch.
“Hera will be willing to fly.” Kanan interrupted, knowing her better than anyone else here. “However, we could use the extra firepower.
If Yrica could blow her eyes any wider than the pleading look she gave Alexsandr right now, her eyes might fall out of their sockets. The intern-colonel groaned. “Very well. Just remember- there are still trackers on your vessels and if you remove them, the entire thing blows.” Seeing that there really was no way to enforce them coming back to Earth, special tamper proof trackers had been installed in the ships so at least tabs could be kept. Alexsandr hoped Yularen would agree with his judgement call here that Yrica and her squad were finally ready to go. “And if Hera thinks you will cause more damage than help, you’re grounded.”
“Understood, thank you agent!” Yrica beamed.
“Good luck to you all. Dismissed.”
Chapter 19: Spacing, Part 2 of 2
Esai was, frankly, floored.
It had only been a day and reinforcements were on the way. Sitting alone in a newly stolen freighter, he answered the call on the agreed upon frequency when it came, breaking up rounds of pacing the small ship. Looking out the viewport, he saw a much larger freighter, Syndulla’s Ghost, fall out of hyperspace, flanked by an alphabet’s worth of starfighters, ranging from A to Y.
If Pau’ans could cry, Esai figured he might have just now. Perhaps.
Responding to the call, he said calmly that he’d now transmit the coordinates for Sriluur, the Weequay homeworld. Where Hondo was held prisoner. They had met up on the edge of Hutt space for safety, but now it was time to dive in.
“We will make a swift approach, come out of hyperspace just outside the planet’s atmosphere and dive down. Chass and Nath, use your B and Y wings to take down the strongholds that Grand Inquisitor has plotted for you. Wyl and Yrica will stay in orbit to provide support with the A and X wings. And Kairos, come down with your U-Wing to pick up anyone needing a lift.”
Esai knew what was coming next, and he was ready to fight. “Grand Inquisitor, you follow me down. If the Weequay are all held as centrally as you say, we’ll be able to burst in while Chass and Nath are proving plenty of distractions.”
“Of course.” Esai grinned. He’d have his revenge. Already, he felt the dark side of the force flow through him, preparing for slaughter. For once, he considered the Jedi might be just as willing to match him kill for kill. They were, at least, right for once, being against the Hutt and the atrocities they were committing on every planet in their domain. Enslaving the population and using their resources until they ran dry, which were already thin enough on the desert planet of Sriluur. He thought about how Hondo’s skin texture was somehow even tougher than his own, both Pau’an and Weequay adapted to harsh climates. But where the Pau’an had retreated underground, the Weequay had faced the suns and sandstorms head on.
He’d always admired the species for being so resilient, and getting to know one of its members only confirmed his suspicions. Esai was certain that he was not too late, that Hondo was resisting and fighting and would be ready for them. He had to be.
The mission heated up as soon as they entered Sriluur’s atmosphere, Hutt ships taking to the skies. Hera tensed in the pilot’s seat, confident in her own ship but worried for the rookies flanking her. Before she even could call out a warning, the B-Wing juked, foils spreading out into battle position to dodge an attack and fire back, immediately dispatching of an enemy fighter. Perhaps they were truly ready, and Yrica hadn’t just been desperate to fly in her salvaged starfighter.
It was for the human that Hera worried the most, this being her first true flight outside of Earth’s influence. But the woman was keeping up just fine, having truly dedicated herself to the art of flying and it showed.
“Heading planetary west for the first bombing run.” Nath announced over a comm, the Y-Wing pulling away as Chass followed close behind in the B-Wing.
“You’re on your own now, Ghost.” Chass called out, dispensing of another vessel before Zeb could get it from the Ghost’s turret.
“I could have gotten that one.” The Lasat grumbled before his attention was snapped elsewhere by another assailant.
“Whoa…” A new voice chimed from behind the three seated in the cockpit. Ezra whipped around first, Hera and Kanan busy at the controls.
“Who are you?” The young Jedi exclaimed. A woman in brightly colored clothes with equally colorful short hair stood in the hall, eyes transfixed on the battle raging outside. Emblazoned on a tie-dye shirt was the phrase ‘I Believe’.
“I knew it!” She proclaimed, slipping into the vacant seat behind Hera as if she owned the place.
“We can’t just space her.” Kanan said flatly and Hera looked to about blow a fuse at missing a stow away on her own ship.
Ezra was frantic, hands flailing uselessly. “Just- don’t touch anything. Alright.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll just watch.” Pulling out her phone, the woman tried to film but the device would not turn on.
“Hyperspace messes with Earth tech.” Ezra muttered. It was for the best.
The woman just shrugged. “Cool. My name’s Sabine by the way.”
“Pleasure to meet you Ezra. Sorry about sneaking in but the whole dance party didn’t really cut it. I had to see for myself.”
“Well, now you saw. Sit tight and let’s hope we all don’t die.” Ezra concluded darkly.
“What’s going on up there!” Zeb shouted from the turret, a short reprieve from the constant barrage as Nath’s payload hit home and many of the fighters turned their attention to the immediate threat, lining up for a swift death by B-Wing.
“Just keep shooting!” Kanan replied, quickly scanning over this Sabine with the force and finding that she harbored no ill-will and was simply curious. Quite stealthy too seeing she snuck under everyone's noses including his own. He’d have to work on not being distracted after missions. To think this was all because of Hondo! Even when he is gone, the pirate is able to stir up chaos!
“Bringing her down for a landing.” Hera stated next, and soon the Ghost touched down on the surface, Grand Inquisitor’s ship not far behind. “You, stay put.” Hera commanded their new stowaway, and Sabine nodded, not wanting to argue with such a firm tone of voice.
Zeb met the others at the ramp, bo-rifle extended and Kanan and Ezra ignited light sabers. As the ramp opened, a barrage of blaster fire came right for them, which Kanan and Ezra deflected as Zeb prepared to shoot at their assailants.
“Wait. Aren’t those Weequay?” Zeb shouted over the fight, flicking his rifle down to stun.
“Yeah, must be forced to fight. Or bribed to join the Hutts. Don’t kill them.” Kanan agreed, and Hera joined in with blue stun bolts as Zeb took down groups with wide blasts. A familiar figure twirling a red saber made their charge, similarly only incapacitating the fighters as they bolted towards the stronghold.
“Better make a move.” Ezra suggested, stepping forward. The group followed suit, but was not able to penetrate the sheer mass with the aerial assault continually pushing them back.
“Well, I hope he gets all the way. We’ll just have to keep the exit as clear as we can for him.” Kanan noted as Grand Inquisitor disappeared into the looming structure before them.
Inside, aside from a few guard patrols, Esai found the place to be nearly deserted. Adjusting his ear-coverings to make his hearing more sensitive, he tried to find signs of life, further enhancing the sense through the force. He’d hoped to face a Hutt and droid army, but so far it had only been locals, as if the Hutts knew he’d not kill such forces. Or were daring him to do so, not wanting to waste their armies on an enemy they thought they could beat.
That would be the Hutt’s demise. He heard it, deep and guttural breathing, and loud chewing. Yes that had to be the Hutt. Some representative of the Gorensla clan which has laid claim to Sriluur. Sure enough, making his way deeper into the compound, Esai found himself face to face with the disgusting slug creature, who laughed right in his face, groaning out something in huttese.
Roughly translated, the Hutt was mocking his army of five.
“There will be nothing for you to mock when you are dead.” Esai said plainly, stepping towards the Hutt. Several guards of various species including a Wookie and Togrutan approached, electroblades thrumming with charge and ready to meet his own red saber.
Independently, the guards would never surpass Esai’s ability, but with six ganging up on him with surprising coordination, Esai felt himself pushed further and further away from the Hutt. Meanwhile, the Hutt watched the battle with amusement, snacking on some sort of grubs.
In a fake out, the Wookie was nearly able to bring his blade home, Esai reacting quickly to block with the hilt of his saber, but this found it cut cleanly in half. He was trained in using a staff formation, but knew the basics of duel wielding and tried to change tactics to get the upper hand. He dispensed of the Wookie with a clean cut across a furry torso, but the five who remained quickly saw through Esai’s tactics, now much more basic to make up for the sudden change in fighting style.
“Toss one over here!” An all too familiar voice called out. How’d he not hear another being approach? As an electro blade nearly missed Esai’s wrist, he knew how.
Not having time to ask just how he’d burst out before what was supposed to be a glorious rescue, Esai threw one half of his saber to Hondo who caught it and joined the fray.
Switching to a reverse grip, Esai fought alongside the Weequay, finding the pirate’s fluid fighting style easy to compliment. Hondo fought as if he were dancing, fluttering around the room and circling the enemy, landing near every blow he made. With someone watching his back, Esai’s own swipes became deadly efficient, not a single movement wasted.
It was not long before all of the guards lay at their feet, and Esai set his sights on the Hutt. Hondo was sure as hell not going to stop him from going after his captor, following him step for step, wanting his own taste of revenge. Babble as he might, the two continued to bear down on the Hutt, and acting as one they ended his pathetic life.
Now, Esai was able to get a good look at Hondo. At first glance, he looked a bit roughed up but otherwise about the same, just missing the usual complement of headgear and coat he’d recovered from his ship. After a few seconds though, there was something Esai could not ignore. “Your…”
Hondo shook his head. “I knew you would come, but a pirate must have some sort of insurance. You would not believe the price they will fetch that very lucky cell guard.”
Reaching out, Esai ran a gloved hand across Hondo’s jawline, tracing raised mounds of skin from which spines once grew. Now, there were empty craters, and from the way Hondo winced, it had to be painful.
“You should have waited.” Esai stated. Hondo shrugged, taking the hand into his own and drawing it away from his face, holding it between them.
“They will grow back.”
A dark image flashed across Esai’s mind. The need to seek this guard and end him just like the others. To destroy every last remnant of the Hutt who dare force the being he… he…
It was short. A fleeting moment. A quick peck. But it was enough. Esai’s mind settled, and he was content. Hondo’s wide eyes gazed up at him, pinching in the corners as he smiled gently. “Let’s go. My people can take it from here. They were not simply waiting for a rescue, after all.”
A low roar grew into a battle chant, and hundreds of native Weequay poured from the depths of the compound. Esai suddenly understood. Hondo had made a sacrifice not for himself, but for all of his people, allowing them to fight in a way that would be most honorable and meaningful.
Hondo tried to pass back the saber, but Esai refused. “You know how to use it, keep it.”
“Very well. I will have you know that this too will fetch quite the profit…”
A growl from Esai caused Hondo to chuckle. “Merely kidding. Now then, let me see what chariot awaits us.”
Exiting the space, the duo made their way behind the battle group, the front runners already thick into the heat of it against those who would pledge loyalty to the Hutts.
“Kanan! My friend!” Hondo boomed, weaving through the battle as if it were a sculpture garden, taking out a few droids who had finally been dispatched with a red blade almost as an afterthought. Esai fought to keep up, having to deflect a few stray bolts with his saber.
“Who gave you that!?” The Jedi exclaimed.
Hondo just winked. “I missed you too.”
Esai glanced at his freighter only to find a smoldering mess. “Sorry, collateral damage.” Zeb grunted. “Get in or stay down, we’re leaving.”
Hondo turned towards the battle raging. “I believe I must stay and fight the good fight. Safe travels to you all.” As he jumped back into the thick of it with a joyous shout, Esai followed suit, offering a curt nod to the Jedi before defending… well, they would have time for definitions later.
“You heard the man, safe travels. Get in!” Hera called out, already backing up the ramp and toggling it shut. “We clear up there?”
“Yrica’s comms are out but the hyperdrive isn't smoking yet so if you want cover, now’s the time to beat it.” Wyl responded.
“Are you trying to tell me we’re not going to finish off the last of these clowns?” Chass chimed in, happily picking off a vulture droid. As if to answer her question, pirate vessels soon began to leak from a previously locked down hangar, joining in the battle.
“Let’s leave the final honor to the locals.” Kanan retorted. “Time to head back.”
“After you.” Nath added sarcastically, swinging his Y-Wing around to flank the Ghost. As they gained altitude, Wyl slid in on the other side, Yrica taking up the rear.
“Kairos? Chass?” Hera asked over the comm, finding both their signals suddenly jammed. Honestly, she could not blame them.
In fact, the U-Wing was nowhere to be found. Which reminded her… “Where’s Sabine.”
Ezra swore. “I’ll go look…”
Feeling the Ghost slip into hyperspace, Ezra began his sweep and it was not long until he found her in one of the sleeping chambers, hard at work… “Seriously? Are you really tagging Hera’s ship?”
“It’s art.” Sabine responded, hard at work with spray cans to complete a mural of what looked to be hyperspace itself, blue and white starlines streaking a dark mass. It was more of an impression of the sight than a direct translation, with colorful streaks possibly representing ships.
“Explain that to the captain.” Ezra responded sarcastically, leaning in the doorway.
Sabine sighed. “I think I’ll have bigger things to explain than this.”
Chapter 20: The Halloween Special
Just a silly costume party one-shot for Spooktober. Enjoy!
Eli was above all confused by the large box set on the table before him. Thrawn stood across from him, looking far too excited than he had any right being.
“But what is it?” Eli asked, eyeing the contents over. It looked like some sort of horse head? Why did Thrawn order a horse… No. No way. As Thrawn lifted the brown fabric from the box, horror dawned on Eli.
“It is for the Halloween party. I was told that costumes were encouraged and then researched popular options for two.” Thrawn replied.
“But why do you want to be a horse? Wait. What do you mean for two? I’m not going as a cowboy if that's what you are implying.” Eli nearly shuddered as he remembered nearly every one of his childhood halloweens, most of which were spent as the aforementioned character after a disastrous home made attempt at an astronaut.
“We will both be the horse, Eli.” Eli could have sworn the Chiss was smug in his reply as the full extent of the costume was revealed. All Eli could do was stare, speechless. “The party begins soon. Let us prepare.”
The only reason Eli knew they had arrived to the party was the music growing louder and louder and Thrawn’s eventual greeting to the first party guest encountered. Now that Thrawn was trusted in the compound, he knew just about everyone. Eli knew everyone too, but his current view afforded him only brown fabric and Thrawn’s ass. Bent over with his hands on the Chiss’ hips, he made up the back half of a bad idea. The first few times Thrawn had paused, Eli had face planted right into him, which was not entirely unpleasant but definitely not ideal.
“Colonel, you look quite dashing.” Thrawn said, nodding to the man before him, causing the horse’s head atop his own to fall forward.
“Please, Wullf is fine. And thank you. Mother always said I’d make a fine sailor.” Yularen replied with a light smile.
“Arrg, you had best watch out and hide yer treasure!” Kanan butted in, waving around a plastic sword. With Hondo gone without taking much of his previously confiscated belongings, Kanan had found himself with a schmorgish board of pirate attire. For this occasion, he’d decided on a long red coat and thick belt, pants tucked into folded over knee high boots. To finish it off was a wide hat and tinted goggles.
“Behave yourself, or I might have to lock you in the brig.” Yularen joked in return.
“Or cook you into my brew!” Hera called out, walking over from a fizzing cauldron of fruit punch. She’d come as a classic witch, not needing face paint to complete the look. As their conversation dragged on and then Thrawn began to wander off, Eli found his mind wandering. That is until a sharp smack met his backside.
“Yeehaw!” Came a familiar voice. Ezra.
“Hello Jedi Bridger. Jedi Skywalker.” Thrawn replied.
“I think you two ought to win for best costume.” Ezra said, earning a slight grin from Thrawn.
“Yes, I put much research into my selection.” Thrawn agreed proudly.
“I feel bad for Eli though.” Luke added. “He doesn’t get to enjoy the party hardly now does he?”
Eli opened his mouth to reply, but Ezra beat him to it. “Nah, I think he’s enjoying his position. I mean, look at it.”
Wedge came up behind the pair, lightly swatting Ezra on the back of the head. “Don’t be rude.”
“Alright dad.” Ezra whined and Eli decided he’d had enough, stepping back and coming up for fresh air.
When Thrawn turned and gave Eli a pained frown he explained, “My back was starting to ache.”
Thrawn seemed understanding enough and Eli got a good look at the place, the mess hall lit with colorful lights and decorated with all sorts of spooky themed things. In front of him, the two Jedi and pilot were dressed as members of a soccer team he’d never heard of. How original.
“There he is.” Luke commented, reaching out to wrap an arm around Wedge’s waist. “Enjoy the party, you two.”
“And grab some food before it's gone.” Wedge added.
Moving around the quickly filling space, Thrawn looked Eli over. “I apologize if my choice caused you discomfort.”
Eli recognized that this was Thrawn’s first holiday on Earth that he got to celebrate and understood why he would be so excited. “No, it was fun. Just can’t do that all day.”
“I see a crime scene!” Maketh cried out, approaching Thrawn in a bright blue kitten costume. “Who cut the horse in half?”
Eli nodded over to Nath, who was covered in fake blood as a sort of failed surgeon, Wyl his ‘headless’ patient standing beside him. “My best guess is those two. Seem to be in a dismembering mood.”
Maketh chuckled. “I can see that. Having fun?”
Thrawn nodded. “This is a very strange tradition to me but I must say that I enjoy it greatly.”
Clapping her hands, Maketh bobbed up and down. “Wonderful! My party planning committee was incredible this year and it really shows.” This was a committee that Eli avoided religiously, the thing run tighter than the compound itself. Holidays were no joke to a select few.
After concluding her speech of sorts, Maketh went on to the next group of guests.
“I think Wedge mentioned food running short.” Eli hinted, guiding Thrawn away from the party games towards a buffet table. “We can come back to those.”
“Very well.” Thrawn conceded, and Eli found slim pickings indeed at the set up.
“Sorry boys, running short on it all.” Alexsandr apologized from behind the table, restocking napkins. Next to him, Zeb began collecting empty trays. Both were dressed as mummies, wrapped in dirtied gauze. Eli had to guess that was so any food stains would not show up compared to the hundreds of others and had to give them points for ingenuity.
Selecting the few options available and setting them on plates, Eli and Thrawn migrated to one of the standing tables. As the night wore on, Thrawn got to experience everything the party had to offer, from cornhole to karaoke. No one would ever tell them, but his and Eli’s cover of Old Town Road was horrendous.
Eventually, as things wound down, the pair found themselves back at Thrawn’s new quarters, where it all began. Peeling themselves out of the costume, both collapsed down on the couch.
“So how was your first Halloween?” Eli asked. Thrawn leaned in a bit closer than he had before.
“Wonderful, thanks to you Eli.”
Eli felt a bit of a blush rise to his cheeks. “Oh. Thank you.”
Thrawn didn’t back away. “There was one thing missing though.”
“Yeah, kinda sucks that we missed out on the food. Apparently the witch’s fingers taquitos were wickedly good.”
“That is not what I mean.” Thrawn whispered, moving closer still. Then, cool lips found a warm cheek that flushed even brighter.
Thrawn pulled away. “If you do not feel the same way…” He was interrupted by a finger pressed against his lips.
“No, I do. Just. This is very sudden, Thrawn.” Eli slid his hand over to rest on top of Thrawn’s squeezing gently. “I really like you. A lot. I just… Need to go slow.”
Thrawn met Eli’s gaze. “Of course. Thank you for being honest. I will go at whatever pace you desire, your comfort is of paramount importance to me”
Eli lifter Thrawn’s hand up, gently kissing the knuckle. “Perfect.”
“Would my arm around you be ok? Perhaps we can watch a film?”
Nodding, Eli scooted closer to Thrawn. “That sounds nice. Yeah. Ever hear of Beetlejuice?”
“I do not with to try juice made of beetles, Eli.”
Eli had to laugh. “No, you goof. It’s a movie.”
“Then no. I’ve not heard of such a film.”
Flicking through the television’s menu, Eli found what he was looking for. “Then strap in because this one is a ride.”
Thrawn at least did not have to ask if the movie made the couch move. Eli had already explained this saying twice before.
Han did not want to be here. He’d intended to slip out hours ago, but here he was passing yet another banner down to Leia. “I think that is the last one.”
“I think you are right.” She agreed, rolling up the thick material.
“Thank you both for helping clean up!” Maketh beamed as Leia placed the banner in one of the many decorations boxes. “Have you considered joining my party planning committee? I can tell you have the spirit!”
Han groaned internally, not wanting to get within 100 feet of such a thing. He was only here to try and get some one on one time with Leia afterwords.
“We’d love to!” Leia answered.
Han’s eyes nearly bulged as Maketh clapped excitedly and returned to her own supervising work. “We?”
“Yes. I think it will be a good excuse to see each other.” Leia replied.
Well, Han was not about to argue with that, but this was not his first choice of ways to see Leia. He’d heard the horror stories about that committee. Noticing that Han was not entirely convinced, Leai placed an arm on his forearm. “Oh come on, it will be fun. You seem to really enjoy the parties, after all.”
Han smoothed out his white ‘Lifeguard’ shirt. “Sure yeah the parties are fun but planning them? Really?”
Leia rolled her eyes. “Just trust me on this one. I’ve got a call with Tarkin in the morning so I better head out.” After ruffling his hair, Leia called over to Maketh. “Still need help with the cobwebs?”
“Of course! Chewbacca will be here all night if it’s only him working on the darn things!”
“I’ve got a volunteer right here!”
The Wookie’s interest peaked, he came over to collect his plus one.
Laughing, Leia made her way out of the mess hall. “Have fun.”
“Right. Sure.” Han grumbled, fixing his hair but not exactly complaining about the contact either. Chewbacca noticed. “Yes, sure it was nice. Let’s just get this done.
“And that is why I have stolen your clothes!” Hondo announced with open arms, giving his statement a flourish.
Esai narrowed his eyes. “I still don’t get it.”
“It is Halloween my friend. Simply an Earth tradition that I happen to like to indulge in.”
“And the spiced liquor?”
Hondo winked. “That is simply my interpretation of the festivities.”
Plunking Hondo’s helmet on his head, Esai knocked back one of the orange shots lined up on the ships control panel. “Happy Halloween, then.”
“That’s the spirit!” Hondo downed one of the glasses himself. “You know. I will need both halves of the saber to complete the look…”
“No.” Esai considered that Hondo did not make nearly enough of the special beverage for him to get through this evening.
Chapter 21: Pets
In this chapter we will be checking in with Hondo and Esai in an unknown system after another incident, and then catching up with Eli and Thrawn back at Area 51, all the while meeting some new animal friends! Cuteness ahoy~
“I have never been so proud in my life.” Hondo said cheerily as he greeted Esai from the other side of a heavy-duty door. Esai, in a brightly colored jumper with unrecognizable digits printed onto it, simply grunted. “You learned so quickly!”
“I thought you would be more upset.” Esai muttered at Hondo was roughly stripped of any valuables on his person. He was glad he had left his rings on the ship.
“Upset? With you? Never.” Hondo grinned, holding out a hand but settling to just hold Esai’s forearm as the Pau’an was still in binder cuffs. The large, reptilian creatures of unknown species that had detained the force-user when he was ‘liberating’ some libations from a mysterious outpost eyed the duo just as curiously as Esai looked at them. Hondo, however, only had eyes for his partner. “Sure, you put my very recognizable and legendary name down to bail you out, which lead to a grand loss of profits, but things could be worse!”
“I could be dead.” Esai offered. He was silently glad that Hondo did not feel the need to comment on he now being the one rescued, a switch of roles. Esai did not like being vulnerable one bit and bristled against the binders.
Hondo shook his head. “I said worse, not bottom-of-the-ditch-terrible. Meant more…” Hondo waved his hand vaguely as they were escorted out of the prison ship. “Like, I could have lost the ship for your ransom. But yes, sure. That. What you said also works.”
Esai smirked, a flash of sharp teeth and pink gums. “Indeed. How horrible, but not quite the worst. Losing the ship.”
Finally released from the binders in the hangar, the pair were roughly shoved up the ramp into their ship.
“So that was fun.” Hondo joked sarcastically, taking a quick visual inventory of the ship to ensure nothing was taken as Esai squeezed past him to sit down into the pilot’s seat.
Without asking where Hondo wanted to go, he took off and punched it into hyperspace, in a direction away from both Earth and this wretched system. They would be able to survive the trip on rations-
“Someone ravaged the rations!” Hondo exclaimed.
Esai closed his eyes, inhaling deeply before venturing to the storage area of the ship. Sure enough, the rations looked like a loth-rat had ripped through them, crumbs and wrappers strewn about the space. “I don’t think out captors did that. Too messy.” Esai commented, moving some flimsi to reveal a ration bar with a bite taken out of it. A relatively small bite compared to the unknown aliens. Closing his eyes again, Esai reached out to the force for answers.
Somehow, Hondo found the culprit first when it let out a shrill PROO!
“I believe we have a stow away.” Hondo said as he stepped up onto a crate, reaching into a corner of the room, moving cases to find…
A brown and orange avian creature burst out and flew loud circles around the space. Esai tried to exude a calming aura, but this was not exactly a former-inquisitor’s specialty. Once again, Hondo came to the rescue before the porg, yes this was certainly a porg, started dive-bombing the room.
“Here, little soft fluffy friend.” He said gently, holding out a blue puff-cube. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Landing on Hondo’s outstretched arm, the porg assessed the weequay with large brown eyes before accepting the treat, swallowing it down in one bite.
“Certainly hungry for such a small creature.” Esai commented, gathering the ruined rations and putting them into a waste receptacle. Before they could be completely disposed of, however, the porg swooped down for another munch.
“Poor thing was probably starved on that awful ship.” Hondo responded, pulling out another blue cube. Scratching the top of it’s feathered head, he decided on a name. “We will call him Puffy.”
“Hello, Puffy.” Esai said flatly, offering another crumb of ration bar. His finger was promptly squished between sharp teeth. “Hey!” Wrenching his arm away, Esai glared at Puffy who took refuge on Hondo’s shoulder.
The pirate laughed. Esai could not bring himself to hate the little being, but he didn’t think this was exactly the start of a beautiful friendship either. He did have to admit that a bird on a shoulder definitely fit the image of a pirate, at least.
Hondo noticed him staring and planted a small kiss to his jawline. “So, where are you steering us, my dear co-captain?”
Taking Hondo’s brown hand into his own of ashen skin, Esai pulled the weequay closer, but not too close as to not get bitten. “Why don’t you wait and find out.”
“They are reproducing, Thrawn.”
“Yes. It is beautiful.”
Eli sat up from where he lay on the floor of the quarters they had been given to house the ysalamiri, somewhere way back in the compound. The Grand Inquisitor’s old rooms, actually. Far away from where they could interfere with the Jedi’s duties. As he rested on his elbows, nine tiny fuzzy lizards with only two eyes open clung to his shirt, squeaking in surprise at the sudden motion. “They are adorable but we barely have enough room as is.”
Thrawn smiled narrowly as he refilled the feeding stations that Eli could not reach. “Perhaps your friends would like to adopt a pet, then.”
Eli laughed. “Maybe. But I only have so many friends, and these are an invasive species.”
“Then it would be prudent of us to separate them by sex.”
Nodding, Eli placed the newly hatched ysalamiri one by one into a nesting box mid way up a climbing frame, the inside lined with a freshly washed towel, nice and warm. “Ladies in the bedroom suite, gentlemen out in the kitchen?”
After wrangling the slow moving creatures to their assigned spaces, the pair flopped down onto the hard bench they had replaced the couch with, not wanting there to be much fabric in a space where lizard droppings were inevitable. Regardless, they made the bench as comfortable as they could, leaning against one another, and eventually hands began to wander.
Only the buzzing of Eli’s phone could break this up. Glancing down at the message, the human saw that it was urgent. “I have to go…” he murmured sadly, peeling himself away and fixing his clothes.
He didn’t try and hide his pout when he got to the briefing room, only barely holding back a snide comment about how this better be important. When his eyes landed on a civilian with bright hair and no security clearance in the space, he realized what was going on.
Someone had actually broken into Area 51.
Chapter 22: The Valentine’s Special
Will Han finally be able to woo Leia with his roguish charms?
How have the ysalamiri managed to keep breeding?
And who the hell is Yrica constantly chatting with?
All of this and more in... The Valentine’s Special!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chewbacca ruffled up Han’s carefully combed hair with a great big swipe of his paw.
“Hey! That took me nearly an hour!” Han grumbled, frowning at his reflection in his bedroom mirror. His dress shirt was a bit wrinkled, and now stray brown hairs fell across his forehead. Chewbacca’s grunted reply essentially said that Han looked better when he didn’t try so hard, and that Leia ought to be able to recognize him.
“I know, Chewy. Still… Today’s an important day. I want her to know it’s special.” Looking down at his watch, Han swore under his breath. There was no time to redo his hair, so he did his best to get it back to its usual state of semi-controlled waves before spraying probably expired cologne on. “Here goes nothing. And make sure those plants get to Vanto, he may not be working the mailroom anymore but he expects it to still run like clockwork.” Han didn’t resent that courier duty had been unofficially dropped onto him and Chewbacca, it gave them an excuse to make their rounds and hopefully run into Leia after all, but at times like this the extra duties could interfere with his personal time. And this exact personal time had to go perfectly.
Assuring his friend that the goods would be delivered, and yes in one piece, Chewbacca bid Han farewell with a hug that further wrinkled his shirt before heading in the opposite direction once out of Han’s quarters.
Taking one last deep breath, Han started out towards the kitchen first, grabbing the brown bag from where Alexsandr had promised to leave it, and then towards the front doors. Distracted, Han’s next step found him walking straight into Agent Yrica Quell.
Her phone falling from her grip, it slid across the floor, earning Han a string of swears. “Watch where the hell you’re going!” She snapped, chasing after the device. Han was too concerned with his parcel, his grip going white-knuckled on the fold in the paper.
“Sorry, sorry! I was…”
Yrica rolled her eyes as she wiped the phone off on her pants. “I know. You have plans with Dr. Organa. Well, newsflash, you’re not the only one with important shit to do today, Solo.”
“How do you know that?” Han asked, pointing an accusatory finger. That wasn’t supposed to be public knowledge.
“Rumor mill runs hot this time of year, what can I say.” Turning back to her phone, she flicked back onto her voice call. “Sorry about that, some dumbass decided to skip his walking lessons…”
“Who’s that?” Han asked, intrigued. Yrica was not exactly known to be social with anyone, especially over a call, so the fact she was video chatting with someone and actually smiling at the screen raised all sorts of flags.
However, Yrica ignored the question, picking up her pace as she walked along and out of earshot. Looking again to his watch, Han followed suit, nearly running towards his date.
Reaching the doors, he nearly ran into yet another person, but seeing who it was, Han used the wall to slow down, spinning around quickly to open the door as smoothly as he could muster. “Allow me.”
Leia smiled, both glad to see Han and amused by his usual antics. “Why thank you.”
Stepping out into the cool morning air, long shadows cast by the complex preventing the front yard from heating up quite so quickly, Han offered his arm, brown bag cradled in the other, to Leia.
Taking it, Leia walked alongside the agent. “To what do I owe the pleasure of a free breakfast in such fine company?”
Fighting back a blush that already began to populate his cheeks, Han brought her to a wide window ledge with two bar stools left next to it and a single rose in a vase left in the center. It was not much, but a bit fancier and surely more private than meeting in the mess hall. “Just the fact that your company is just as nice. Nicer. The best.” Pausing to regain himself, Han restarted his statement entirely after setting the breakfast bag down on the ledge that would serve as their table. “Good morning, and happy Valentine’s Day Leia. I was wondering if…”
Interrupting Han, Leia whipped around to pull him into a hug. “I was beginning to worry that you’d never ask. Of course, Han.”
Knowing the man would be too elated to make any sort of next move, Leia added a kiss on the cheek. “Sit with me. Let’s eat.”
Snapping out of his incredibly happy daze, Han grabbed Leia’s wrist before she could sit down, pulling her back and into a true kiss. “Let’s eat.”
“And kiss.” Leia added with a wink, her face just inches from Han’s. She kissed him again with a grin.
“Yeah, and kiss.”
Meanwhile, Chewbacca traversed the inner bowls of the complex with his arms full of tropical potted plants. With his vision obscured by palm fronds, he was quite vocal as he walked routes he could do in his sleep aside from the fact that people milled about and could inevitably get in his way. So, to discourage this, he sang a favorite song of his very loudly.
Most people laughed, or sang along with him, but a few told him to keep it down, to which Chewbacca just raised his volume further. One person, however, was especially insistent and nearly made him drop his cargo when she grabbed onto a furry arm.
“Do you mind? I am trying to talk to… someone.” Yrica growled at the Wookie who growled right back.
“What was all that racket about?” A tinny voice rang from the phone.
“Nothing, Griii-Man. Human.” Narrowing her eyes at Chewbacca, Yrica mouthed out ‘don’t tell anyone about this’ before rushing away, phone clutched close.
Wondering who Griii-Man the human was, Chewbacca continued on his merry way, eventually finding himself at the allotted quarters for Agent Eli Vanto’s reptile assignment. Kicking the door to knock it, Chewbacca heard some commotion on the other side before he was permitted in by Eli.
“Oh great, the palms got here! Just put them there in the corner for now, Thrawn and I will plant them in the humid room later today.”
Doing as asked, Chewbacca did not linger long. The room was uncomfortably hot and sticky, and he found that humans were not a fan of the natural Wookie musk such a climate created.
Alone again, Eli slipped back into the quarter’s bedroom that had been designated for one of the sexes of ysalamir. Somehow, they were still breeding. Thrawn wrapped a clutch of eggs in a towel before replacing them in the nesting box, their mother hissing quietly at him for disturbing her family.
“How is this happening?” Eli sighed, wiping sweat from his brow.
“Either they have learned how to open doors, or they are able to change sex.” Thrawn offered, picking up the male ysalamir from his high perch over the nesting box, likely the father, who had somehow managed to infiltrate the female enclosure.
“I guess we ought to start keeping track of each individual to find out.” Eli thought out loud.
“Indeed.” Observing the human, Thrawn noticed Eli fiddle with his necklace, a piece of black cord with a carved wooden charm hanging from it just above his pectorals. It was the one thing he noticed Eli never took off, the clasp in the back far too warped from wear to be functional and the length too short to fit over his head. “Perhaps collars are in order.”
Eli snapped his fingers. “That is an excellent idea. I’d gander that those breakaway cat collars would fit them just fine, and if they snag on something nothing will get hurt.”
Thrawn idly wondered at what tension Eli’s necklace might break away as the man searched up the items online.
“How do you like this set?” Eli asked, holding out his tablet which displayed a neon rainbow assortment of cat collars.
“The colors will make it simple to track individuals.” Thrawn noted, not entirely in the moment as he imagined all sorts of things about Eli’s neck. Noticing the Chiss’ distracted state, Eli placed the order and then stepped right into Thrawn’s personal space.
“Yeah, I’d bet they will. Can’t really ignore something so bright, can you. I’d say the blue was especially radiant.” The human teased, running a hand along the front of Thrawn’s tight black shirt. “You know, today is a special day for us Earthlings.”
“Like Halloween?” Thrawn asked, kissing Elis forehead with a grin.
Eli chuckled. “It’s a bit different than that. No costumes or parties. But there are some other traditions I think you will enjoy.”
Standing up on his toes, Eli did just that with a meeting of their lips. “There’s one.”
Finally finding a quiet corner in the hangar of all places, Yrica settled on a supply crate. “Sorry about that, the service in my apartment is abysmal so you’d just hear a bunch of static or something.”
The image on her screen laughed, hearty and full. “Ah, don’t worry about it. I’d talk to you on the toilet if I had to.”
“Really? The toilet?”
The man placed a hand over his heart, showing off a large circular tattoo on his bicep. “You’re just that special, Yrica.”
Her dark skin flushing, Yrica looked away as she giggled. “Stop it!”
“Fine, lucky for you I don’t live in the middle of nowhere and get service in normal places. Like my living room.”
“Speaking of the middle of nowhere, is there any word on your application?”
The man nodded, running a hand through close-cropped hair that was peppered with grey at the temples. “Yeah, it’s going pretty smooth. Figure a transfer from the FBI to your gig isn’t as crazy as starting from scratch. Freya is having a hell of a time even getting hers considered. There’s also the fact she has 10 years less experience, but I think it's mostly the fact I already have high clearance.”
“Damn. But good for you, maybe add on that you can share quarters with someone so they can save resources and all that. She joked, then in all seriousness added. “I can see it now, Agent Griff Halloren of Area 51.”
“Yeah, that’s got a nice ring to it, don’t it.”
That’s right y’all! Some Resistance cast incoming!
Both Yrica and Griff were hotshot TIE Pilots before defecting, so seeing this is faux-set in the timeline around the time of the Battle of Endor, they would both be in their late 20s/early 30s and honestly, I think they would get along swimmingly.