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I Met Them on Taris

Chapter Text

Isabela wanted one thing and one thing only from Taris--a way to get the hell off it.

Oh, sure. It’s a beautiful planet, the travel brochures said. Visit the holographic art museums, they said. Tour all the historical penthouses in the Upper City, they said. You’ll have a lovely visit, they said.

Unless you were a twi’lek, of course. Then, you would see humans with signs telling citizens to purge the Upper City of the alien peril. They would leer at you and tell you to get back to the cantina, or shout and throw you back down to the Lower City. The whole place was a planet of oozing bantha shit slicked over with a thick layer of glitter. Sparkly, with nothing but dung underneath.

Taris was a shithole. Still Isabela could handle it. She’d always handled it.

Isabela could forgive Taris all its sins, save one: she couldn’t leave. And all because of the fucking Sith quarantine. Which no civilian ships were allowed to cross.

She saw a ship try it: likely some smuggling vessel, or some criminal looking to make a quick exit. Not five minutes later, there was a flash of lasers as the armada blew it to smithereens before it could make the jump to hyperspace.

Isabela sipped the last of her drink while she watched the pieces fall from the sky and right onto one of the Upper City penthouses. 

The Sith were an authoritarian army that rarely loosened their grip once they had an iron fist around a system. She wasn’t foolish enough to wait around for them to lift the quarantine. She hadn’t meant to get stranded here, but she wasn’t about to stick around: she’d find a new ship, hire a temporary crew, and get the hell off.

But first, she’d need money. 

With that in mind, she scanned the patrons of the Lower City club she’d sat herself down in. She’d always had an eye for wealth. Looking about was one of her greatest talents. So she had no trouble singling out the few in this rubbish heap who had a credit or two, and she narrowed her eyes on the one who was loose enough with his purse. 

It was no trouble to snatch it and saunter off. Unfortunately, while the human wasn’t so astute as to notice, someone else did.

“Thief!” she heard. “Pickpocket!”

Everything happened too fast. The rich human’s slimy Gamorrean attacked, hurling what looked like a throwing axe almost too quickly for her to dodge. She whirled, drew her stunner, and blasted him straight in the face.

It wasn’t enough to take him down. But it was enough to stop him in his tracks so she could give him a proper kick in his teeth. With that, he staggered, giving her enough time to get away.

She was going to dive right into the crowd of raving patrons and get lost. It would have been a perfect getaway too. They were all too intoxicated to do much but flail about to the music, and it would be too difficult for any guard to pick out a single purple twi’lek in the crowd. 

Unfortunately, right before she could get lost, she heard a snarl and felt herself ripped away by her wrist. Everything spun a moment and then she found herself looking up to see an angry wookie roaring at her. The wookiee she had seen acting as the bouncer earlier at the door.

“Get that thief out of here!” Isabela heard one of the other guards shout.

And so Isabela promptly was hurled out a back door into an alley, barely catching herself before she fell face first onto the dirty alley. Right as she regained her footing, the wookiee snatched her right off her feet and slammed her into the wall.

“Hrrgh,” Isabela wheezed, trying to recover from the force of that. “Woah there big guy. Buy me a drink, first.”

The wookiee snarled. Isabela tensed and got ready to deflect a claw to her face. Instead, she felt the purse she’d taken ripped out of her pocket.

“Hey, just a second there--”

Isabela felt herself lifted off her feet again, and suspected she was about to be thrown to the ground and potentially have her head bashed in, depending on how bad of a mood this fellow was in. 

“Wait, wait, wait!” she said. “First--”

And that was all the distraction Isabela needed to quickly stab the wookiee’s hide with a tranquilizer. Just a small needle, easily hidden in one of her pouches, but it packed a punch big enough to take out three grown twi’lek. And apparently one wookiee.

Hopefully not enough to kill the guy, though. The last thing Isabela needed was another murder charge on her head. 

Isabela got another roar as the wookiee dropped her. She clicked her tongue and stepped back, dusting of her clothes. 

“I’ll be taking that back, then,” Isabela said, easily lifting the purse out of the wookiee’s giant claws. She checked its contents while her previous attacker passed out completely. She whistled. 500 credits. Not bad at all. Isabela looked over the wookiee's body and noticed they had their own bag slung around their shoulder.

No ship, no crew, no legal passage off planet--but Isabela would make it work. She always did.

With that thought, snatched the unconscious wookiee’s bag for good measure, and continued on her way.


 

The trouble with ships was that they needed crews. And the trouble with crews was that they were made of people. People who, in Isabela’s line of work, would and could stab you in the back for an extra credit. Like her last crew had. Or like she’d done to the previous captain. Or the captain on the ship before that. 

Getting backstabbed was an intrinsic risk in the piracy business, unfortunately.

Not that Isabela was concerned about that at the time. The first step was to figure out how to slip through the blockade. After that, she’d worry about a ship and crew.

So she found another Lower City cantina in an entirely different sector from the club she’d been kicked out of, and listened. Her ear for info was just about as good as her eye for a mark, so first it was only a matter of sitting, watching, and listening.

“--heard some pods crashed in the Undercity, too--”

“--had to have the droid shut down, shame--”

“--say that Brejik’s got something planned for the next swoop--”

“-- need to find a way off this place. We need to find Bastila. And you keep wasting time with these--”

Isabela tilted her head toward the last conversation. In the corner of her eye, she saw the speaker: a human man who looked like he hadn’t slept in days, and his companion who Isabela couldn’t quite see.

“Look,” the man said tiredly. “The Upper City matches were one thing. But you have a duty to the Republic--”

“Volume, Carth.”

The man, Carth, lowered his voice to a hiss. “We have things we need to be doing! This isn’t the time for you to get into some illegal deathmatch for money!”

Carth’s companion took a long slurp from their drink.

“Yeah, I’m gonna go do the deathmatch,” they said breezily. “See ya in an hour.”

The figure strode away. The human called Carth seemed to look even more tired for a second, leaning back in his seat for a second before getting up to follow. 

Isabela considered chasing them down and following. That was, after all, a lead. A weak one, but something to start with. Other people who were trying to slip through the quarantine might have some more leads on how that could be done. They might even be willing to pool resources. 

She was still considering it, when a different voice sang sweetly from the other side of the cantina. 

You must know a way through, then. You’re a Sith.”

Isabela promptly forgot the last conversation and turned to the new voice. She couldn’t see who’d spoken so she had to get up and walk towards it. What she found was a tiny cathar staring up at a human man with large eyes.

“You must know lots of things, being in the army,” the cathar said. “Oh, don’t you want to buy me another drink?”

“Yes,” the man nodded furiously. “I want to buy you another drink. Bartender!”

Isabela leaned against the wall, raising her eyebrows at the scene playing out in front of her. 

“Oh, I’m also very hungry,” the cathar said piteously, leaning a bit on his shoulder and giving him the saddest eyes. “It’s been so long since I’ve eaten anything.”

“A hot meal for the lady, as well!” 

Isabela folded her arms, a smile tugging at her lips. The man--an off duty Sith soldier, it seemed--was completely wrapped around this sweet thing’s finger. 

“Thank you so much, you’re so kind,” the cathar told him. “I’m new here so it’s lovely to meet a friendly soul. Everything here is so strange.”

“Of course, miss.”

The cathar woman babbled on, practically bouncing in her seat. “I’ve been in cities before, but Taris is just so massive. There’s so much city I don’t know how they get food here,” she said. “And there’s always something happening here. Why, just on the way over here I saw a body with a vibroblade right through its chest, just lying there like it was anything.”

Isabela watched the conversation continue, the cathar asking about the Sith’s duties, how the Sith were allowed in the Upper City, and what documents were needed to be able to get there. 

“The Upper City just seems so pretty. I’d love to see it sometime. It’s a shame that I don’t have any papers to go up there.”

Isabela had to cover her hand with her mouth. This was just too good.

“Well… I could maybe…”

“Oh, how about we go outside a bit and walk around?” the cathar said, her ears twitching excitedly. “You want to go outside with me, don’t you?”

“I want to go outside with you.”

“Perfect!” her tail swirled, and she clapped her tiny clawlike hands together. 

Isabela followed them out. For all her grifting talent, the cathar lady didn’t seem to notice she and her mark were being followed. They left, and Isabela waited thirty seconds before going out to find the two linking arms. 

“I’m afraid I don’t actually know anything about the access codes to get through the quarantine,” the man was saying as Isabela peeped out. “The information is strictly prohibited. Only those going off planet get to know, and I have been stationed here for the next few months.”

The cathar’s expression fell. “That’s too bad,” she said forlornly, before immediately perking up. “So, you’ll help me see the Upper City?”

“I…” the man frowned. “I’m afraid we’re not supposed to let anyone pass through the different city levels except on Sith business.”

The cathar let out a disappointed mewl. “Oh that’s a shame. You’ll hand me your documents then?”

“I’ll hand you my documents then.”

And he did, right there as Isabela watched. Isabela had bumped heads, and other parts, with enough Jedi and similar folk to understand how this worked. To announce her presence, Isabela clapped loudly so that the couple turned to look at her.

“Now that’s something,” Isabela said delightedly. “You’re a real pro. Aren’t you, kitten?”

The cathar’s eyes met hers. Sometimes, when Isabela met someone, she would feel something go click in her head, the way it might when she’d just figured out her next brilliant escape plan, or when she’d figured out the perfect route through a particularly difficult asteroid field. When Isabela saw someone and felt that, then she knew immediately they were… something. Something unique, or important, or useful. 

She felt it now.The cathar’s own eyes widened.

“I am,” she chirruped, before blinking a bit. “A pro at what?”

“I think we have similar goals,” Isabela told her. “And I think we could help each other out.”

“Really?” 

“Mind your own business,” the man snapped at Isabela.

“Don’t be mean,” the cathar said. “Anyway, don’t you have to be going somewhere now?”

“I…”

“You won’t think about this conversation or about me ever again,” the cathar said with a bit of a sad lilt. “In fact you’ll forget me completely.”

The man nodded and agreed cheerfully. “I will.”

“Oh, and I’m all out of credits,” the cathar said piteously. “Do you have any to spare before you go?”

Isabela snickered. The man struggled for a moment before he pulled out his wallet and handed all his credits over.

“Thank you so much,” the cathar chirped, waving as the man walked away. “Goodbye!”

“Well, you seem to be a woman of unique talents,” Isabela said, closing the distance between them. “What’s your name, sweet thing?”

The cathar’s ears perked as she drew closer. “I’m not much, really. I get by, you know? I just have a knack for--oh! My name, that’s right. I’m Merrill. Anyway, I just have a knack for finding the… best people.”

Merrill’s eyes swept over Isabela as she said that, and then her ears fell back shyly as though she noticed how obvious she’d been. Isabela grinned.

“Merrill,” she said, leaning against the wall. “What a lovely name for a lovely woman.”

“Lovely...” Merrill echoed dreamily. “Oh I mean, what were you saying about goals?”

“I heard you saying you want a way off this planet,” Isabela said. “It just so happens I’m after the same thing. Luckily, I know how to fly just about anything in the galaxy.”

“Oh, you’re a pilot!” Merrill said.

“A captain,” she said. “A smuggler. A pirate. A bit of this, a bit of that.”

“A pirate?” Merrill said. “That’s so amazing! I used to hear all about space pirates. Flying through deep space, taking ships and throwing the old crews out the airlock--how exciting. Have you ever thrown anyone out the airlock?”

Isabela laughed. “I try to make it so that the people I’d throw out it never step foot on my ship in the first place,” she told her.

“So…”

“Once or twice,” Isabela admitted.

Merrill beamed.

“Anyway, I’m going to need a crew,” she said. “And I’m confident I can find a way off the planet, with a bit of digging.”

“Do you have a ship?” Merrill asked. 

Isabela thought of her old ship. She knew it was on this planet, in the possession of her old crew. Before she could take a second and answer, however, Merrill was already pushing.

“You want to tell me all about yourself,” she said. “And of course that includes telling me whether you have a ship and how you plan to get through the quarantine.”

Isabela immediately felt the pull. She stepped even closer towards Merrill, holding herself against the wall with one arm and leaning in close to Merrill’s face, and smiled. 

“Of course. You are a treasure, aren’t you?” Isabela said sweetly. “Gifted and beautiful too.”

Merrill’s face and her tail drooped as her play failed, only to light back up at the compliment.

“Think you’d like to try a bit of the pirate life yourself?”

“I--”

It was then that Isabela noticed the wookiee from before, far down at the end of the walkway. She froze. 

“I think that that would be nice,” Merrill babbled on, not noticing Isabela’s reaction. “But I don’t know how long. I can’t--There’s something I need to do. I need to find my people. Ever since the Mandalorians drove us off our home planet… I mean, regardless, if you can help me get off Taris I would love to help you, it’s just that…”

The wookiee from before hadn’t noticed Isabela yet. Isabela kept her expression schooled into an easy smile.

“Although for some reason you didn’t want to explain how you’re planning to do that,” Merrill said. “Which, of course I’d have to hear what exactly you plan before I sign up. Um, that might have sounded too harsh, I mean--”

The wookiee had noticed her now. And recognized her, too. Immediately the wookiee started to charge in their direction, unbeknownst to Merrill.

Isabela shushed Merrill with a finger to her lips. She could see the shiver go through Merrill’s fur at the light touch. Isabela deftly slipped a tiny chip out of her pocket, and leaned in close to Merrill’s ear.

“See this? Plug it into a holopad and it’ll show you where my place is. That way, you can visit,” she said, keeping her voice smooth as she watched the wookie running down the pathway. “We’ll talk plans then.”

The wookiee was getting close enough that Isabela could hear the angry sounds. She wasn’t sure how Merrill hadn’t noticed. Perhaps the problem was that screaming or roaring was just background noise in this place. 

Isabela took Merrill’s hand, placed the chip in her palm, and gently curled Merrill’s fingers around it. Merrill vibrated at the touch.

“Mrrrrrrrrrp!” was all she managed.

“I’ll be waiting for you, kitten,” Isabela said with a wink. “Unlike that guy from before, I won’t be forgetting about you.”

Then with as much poise and swagger as she could manage, Isabela strode back into the cantina.

The wookiee charged in after her a full minute afterwards.


 

Her unfortunate rendezvous with the wookiee bouncer from before ended explosively. In the worst possible way. 

The wookiee chased her. Isabela ran, occasionally throwing bystanders in the wookiee’s path to slow them down. Eventually she found a speeder and hopped on to steal it, sweeping past her pursuer.

“You know, I don’t think your purse is worth all this effort!” Isabela shouted. “Like really, there were only, what, fifty credits?”

The wookiee responded by tackling her speeder. Somehow. 

“Woah woah woah!” Isabela screeched. “You’re going get us both killed!”

The wookie somehow started to climb over the edge.

“Rrahhowo ahao rhraoaor!”  

“I don’t understand wookiee, okay?” Isabela said. “I--wait, wait!”

The wookiee climbed aboard and lunged for the steering wheel. Isabela lurched.

“We are a thousand miles in the air above the ground right now!” Isabela said. “Can this--argh--I don’t even have the purse on me right now! Can this wait until--”

And then they crashed. Right into a building, as it happened. They went straight through some of the windows and then hit one of the building’s supportive pillars.

Isabela hopped out in time. The wookiee unfortunately, didn’t. 

She felt her face slammed against the ground, and winced at some of the damage. The level of the building they had crashed into had been occupied, but everyone quickly screamed and ran out in a hurry. Isabela stood herself up, and let out a relieved breath as she realized she didn’t have any serious damage. Then, she looked at the wreckage.

The wookiee trashed under the rubble, breathing heavily. Some of the rubble had pierced their hide, and an alarming amount of blood pooled around them on the ground. Isabela blinked, and then scrunched her nose. There was a smell in the air that was rather familiar. She took a moment to puzzle out how exactly before she remembered it was the smell of a leak that was quickly about to turn into an explosion.

“Shit,” Isabela hissed.

She ran towards the wookiee. The bastard swiped at her.

“Woah!” she dodged. “Stop for one second!”

The wookiee swiped again, and got in a good hit across Isabela’s face. Well, probably not very good by wookiee standards, but it made Isabela reel.

“You are going to die in five minutes!” Isabela shouted, clutching her face. “Unless you let me help.”

The wookiee quieted at that, and then struggled to lift the rubble off. No use. Isabela grabbed the first thing nearby that was pole shaped, and used it to pry the heaviest bits off, and then brushed the rest away with her hand. 

The smell got stronger, and Isabela started to hear a hiss from the engine.

“Come on,” she said. “Get up, big guy.”

The wookie grunted angrily and tried to stand, only to falter.

“Oh for the love of…” 

Isabela took a step back, ready to turn and leave. She’d already done more than enough after all. But now that she’d done that much, it felt like a waste to just go and leave the asshole to die. 

She cursed one more time and threw the wookiee’s arm over her shoulder. She staggered under the wookiee’s weight, struggling to support as much as possible so the wookiee could stand. Together, they stood up and hobbled away.

They barely got far enough before the speeder exploded. 

Isabela wished that was the end of it. But no, then the giant lug had to faint on her. Likely from the blood that was dripping all over Isabela, too.

And then since the Lower City really was such shit that emergency services didn’t exist, she had to drag the wookie--an entire, fully grown wookiee--to yet another stolen vehicle. And then drive to the nearest clinic.

Isabela dragged the wookiee out to the doorstep, and then huffed as she saw the medic rushing over.

“Don’t worry, you hairy bastard,” she said, patting the unconscious wookie’s shoulder. “Medical technology these days is a marvel. They’ll have your idiotic brute self up to go chase purse snatchers in no time.”

Then, noticing a new pouch strapped to the wookiee’s chest, Isabela snatched it, and went on her way.

Chapter Text

Isabela got a good night’s rest and woke up sore after her excursion the night before. She considered just lying in bed the whole rest of the day, but even thinking about it bored her, so she got up, stretched and was on her way.

She thought she would hit some of the Lower City gangs up for information, perhaps after listening in at a few more establishments. That was the plan, at least. Then on her way out of the shabby apartment, she overheard some people talking.

“He took out all the last hunters,” said a gruff, muffled voice. 

“There were only two of them,” said another. “We have better numbers now.”

Bounty hunters, then. None of Isabela’s business. She’d be on her way then.

“I still say this is stupid. All of these men, all of this money, to get back one slave?”

Isabela froze.

“I don’t care what the client is thinking,” grunted the first one. “It’s good pay. The best pay on a job I’ve had in years.”

“Yeah, because the bugger is damn hard to catch!”

Isabela made a strangled noise. She just had to run into this, didn’t she? And right after getting all sore dragging a hairy idiot out of a crash scene. It was too much effort to put into the world in a matter of hours. Too much!

Isabela liked to follow a strict “one hour of altruism per week” schedule. Strict meaning usually less and never more.

“I’m sure this recent scheme will get him,” said one of the bounty hunters. “Any second now and we’ll get a call.”

It seemed like the target--whoever he was--was handling himself pretty well, Isabela decided. They’d said he’d already taken down some men. No need for her to get involved.

She had just decided when there was a burst of static.

“Got him, Captain,” said a voice over the comms link.

The two bounty hunters cheered. “What’s your ETA?”

“Twenty minutes.”

Isabela walked back to her apartment and swore, loading up her blaster and packing the few stun mines she had left.

“Of course they had to be just sitting there, talking about their nefarious schemes aloud,” Isabela muttered. “Of course they had to be chatting where anyone could hear it. Who does that?”

Slavery was illegal in the Republic. Or it was supposed to be, at any rate. Yet somehow, it was everywhere Isabela went, to the extent that people weren’t afraid to casually talk about slave-trading, thus making it her problem. 

Then again, maybe it wasn’t illegal now that they were under Sith occupation. Isabela wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

She had twenty minutes to prep and plan. Likely more than that, but how much exactly depended on how long the slave hunters intended on sticking around.

Luckily, it turned out the vents were spacious, and there was enough space between the grates over the vents to fit a blaster through.

Isabela walked down the hall and set a stun mine in front of the door. Then she crawled through the vent shaft, and peered down at the room.

The boredom was the hardest part. Killing them was too easy.

The slave hunters set off the mine the instant they opened the door. Four more, two of whom immediately dropped a body bag. The two hunters in the room shot up and ran to see what had happened. 

Isabela was an excellent shot. They didn’t make it to the door. 

She picked off the stunned men one by one. Then, she sliced through the vent and hopped down.

She opened the body bag, and peered in. It was another cathar. A different subspecies than the one she’d met the other night, though. This one was furless and near human looking, albeit with some large pointed ears. There were also some strange lines on his skin, but they looked less like the tigerlike marks Cathar tended to have and more like something that had been engraved into the skin.

“Hello there, love,” she said, poking him. “You with me?”

Not even so much as a groan in response. The guy was out cold.

Isabela dragged him out and heaved him onto the bed. There was a neural disruptor around his neck--likely so he wouldn’t be able to be coherent enough to try and escape when he woke up. For extra measure, they had bound his arms and legs. She removed all of it so he’d be able to move freely when he woke up.

Then, of course, she attended to the most important thing: looting all of the dead bodies.

She had just emptied all their pockets and was picking a lock on their safe when she heard the man behind her sit up quietly, without so much as a groan.

“Hello there,” Isabela said, not taking her eyes off the safe. “Didn’t think you’d wake up so fast.”

“Who are you? What happened?”

The man’s voice was deep and flat. Isabela turned and looked at him and saw his green-yellow irises were boring into her. She grinned.

“Well it seems those guys kidnapped you,” she indicated the dead bodies with a nod. “But then they started arguing with each other about something. Who’d get what amount of money. Dunno, didn’t hear all of it.”

The cathar man squinted at her.

“Anyway, they got in enough of a tizzy that they shot each other. Lucky you!”

“Lucky me,” he echoed, a sarcastic edge to his voice. “Someone removed restraints from me.”

“Oh, that was me,” Isabela said. 

“I see. And you are…?”

“I came in for the loot,” Isabela said. “Dead guys have no use for their stuff after all. Oh! There it is.”

The safe opened. Unfortunately, there were only weapons inside. 

“Ugh,” Isabela said. “Just my luck.”

“More are coming.”

“I’ll be on my--what?”

“More are coming,” the cathar repeated, going to pick up a vibroblade. 

“And you know that…?”

The cathar blinked at the question, pausing for a second. 

“There were ten men in this company,” he said. “I saw them before. There are only six bodies lying here.”

“Well,” Isabela said. “Shit.”

She stood and turned towards the door, checking her blaster. While she could pick off guys from a hidden area in her sleep, fighting four bounty hunters charging in at her head on sounded like the opposite of a good idea.

“Ugh,” she said. “Well we’d best be out of here before they get back.”

The cathar narrowed his eyes at her, testing the vibroblade briefly. “I do not think we have that much time.”

“And how can you be so sure?”

Right as she said that, someone shot at them. They both ducked for cover. Isabela looked around to see where the shots were coming from, and saw two men standing outside. 

“Shit, shit, shit,” Isabela hissed. “Alright, here’s how we can--”

The cathar didn’t wait for her to elaborate on a plan. He charged out--yes, charged right into a group of men with blasters aimed at him.

“You--”

He blinked right out of Isabela’s sight.

A blur registered and the cathar re-appeared behind his attackers. She realized he was simply moving too fast for her to see--and too fast for the hunters, as well. 

In a flash, one of them was beheaded and another impaled. Isabela jumped out and shot at the other two, getting one in the head right as the cathar cut the other man’s throat.

“Alright,” Isabela said. “Problem solved then!”

The cathar man stepped back and took a deep breath before wiping his blade. Isabela stepped out to take a look at the corpses. Or well, the one with his throat cut was still alive and gurgling, so Isabela aimed her blaster and quickly took care of that. She clicked her tongue. 

“Well, well,” she said. “Nicely done. It seems they were after you for more than that pretty face and chiseled physique of yours.”

The cathar winced like she’d slapped him, and his posture stiffened as though he were drawing in on himself. Isabela could tell immediately she’d said the wrong thing. Or maybe the right thing: he wouldn’t get any ideas about her being a noble benefactor, now. 

“I’m surprised they got you at all, with that sort of speed. Anyway, let’s see what we have here.”

She turned her attention back to looting the bodies, patting them down to see if there might be anything hidden in inside pockets.

“Is this how you make a living?” the cathar asked her, sounding a tad judgmental. 

“More of a habit, really,” Isabela said, and then proceeded to drag one of the bodies into the apartment.

“What are you doing?”

“Gonna strip them.”

“...what?”

“This is some good armor,” Isabela said. “I could probably sell the boots for thirty credits each. Grab one of the other guys, love.”

The cathar stared at her for a moment, and then looked around the hallway. He made a disgusted noise and wrinkled his nose, but got to work dragging the bodies in. 

“What about law enforcement?” he asked. 

“Law enforcement? In the Lower City?” Isabela chuckled. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“I am not.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Now, help me divest all these men of their valuables. You can keep some of the wallets if you like.”

“How very generous,” the cathar deadpanned.

“Heh. I like you,” Isabela said.

Soon she’d stripped them all strung up as much armor as best she could to carry it. 

“You will sell them with the blood on them?” the cathar asked dubiously. 

“Never stopped anyone from buying before,” Isabela said. “You can get the rest of the boots and chest pieces if you like.”

The cathar looked down at the remaining pieces of armor and seemed to take a moment to debate with himself for a moment before giving in and doing it. 

They took all the pieces to a shop. Isabela did the talking while her temporary companion watched quietly. Afterwards, she slapped what she deemed was a fair share into his hand. She expected him to haggle for more, or to bring up that he’d killed most of the hunters that attacked them. He didn’t and only quietly pocketed what she gave him.

“Alright then,” she said. “Best be off now.”

She walked away. She didn’t get more than a few feet before she heard him trailing after. She sighed, and turned around.

“I…” the cathar frowned. He didn’t say anything else, but instead looked at her with a pleading expression, like he didn’t know how to ask what she knew he was going to ask. Isabela folded her arms.

“You know, I don’t think I caught your name.”

“I didn’t drop it,” he said. “Fenris.”

“Fenris,” she held out her hand. He stared at it a moment, and then tentatively held it for an awkward handshake.

“Pleasure to meet you Fenris,” she said. “How about I buy you a drink?"


 

Fenris wolfed down the food and drink she bought like a starving man. She felt a twinge watching him. While he’d seemed deadly confident in combat, now he just looked like a sad refugee. Which, she thought, he likely was.

“So Fenris,” she asked. “You said you’re not from around here. Where are you from then?”

He swallowed. “Far away,” he told her.

“Oh yeah?” she asked. “Outer Rim, then?”

“Perhaps.”

“Mysterious sort. Alright,” Isabela said. “Not a war refugee, then?”

Fenris frowned quizzically. “What war? There is a war happening?”

“Hoo boy,” Isabela said. “You really are from far away.”

“I am sorry,” he said. “I am still learning much about the Republic. I have never been here before. The history, the language… it is all new to me.”

“Never even been to the Republic. Well, that sure is something,” she said. 

“I am uncertain of a lot of… things,” he frowned at his own vagueness. “This place, the Republic, is very strange to me at times. I thought--I had heard there was more order than what I have seen.”

“Sometimes,” Isabela said. “Technically we aren’t in the Republic though.”

This surprised him. His ears twitched. “We are not? But, Taris…”

“Just got taken over by the Sith. Who are trying to dismantle the Republic or somesuch. Not that things were peachy here before the Sith took over. I’ve visited Taris a few times before this. It’s a shithole.”

“The Sith…” Fenris frowned. He muttered another similar sounding word under his breath, as though comparing them. “I am sorry, I may have heard of them but… I am learning Galactic Basic still, and I am not sure which terms translate to my native tongue.”

Isabela raised an eyebrow. “You’re learning Basic? Well, you could’ve fooled me. You sound like a Republic native.”

“Thank you,” he said simply. 

“Alright then, Fenris from a system far, far away,” she said, taking another swig. “You have anywhere to live on Taris?”

His ears twitched again. “No…”

“Have you been finding work?”

He shook his head. 

“No place to live, no way to make money, and slavers on your tail.” Isabela clicked her tongue.

“I do not have a tail,” he said. 

“I know. Figure of speech, love,” she said. “So you want to explain who you’re running from?”

Fenris looked around suspiciously. “I am running from… magicians.”

Isabela blinked. Her mind turned to street performers who pulled ribbons out of their sleeves of swallowed swords. “Magicians?”

He frowned deeply at her reaction. “That does not mean anything to you?” he asked. “Perhaps that is not the word… Well, in any case, I am running from… someone I thought I could avoid by coming to the Republic, where they do not permit slavery.”

“Gotcha,” Isabela said. “So you know what’s a great profession for someone with no home, no job, and who has to be constantly moving from place to place to shake off pesky pursuers?”

“What?”

“Piracy,” Isabela said. “And smuggling. Take your pick.”

He looked her up and down. “And you are a pirate.”

“A pirate looking for a crew,” she said. “A pirate who could probably use an extra hand getting off this place. And, a pirate who’d be able to put you up. What do you say?”

Fenris scrunched his nose. “Put me up where?”

“Give you a place to stay,” she explained gently. 

“I see,” he said. 

“So are you in or out?”

He took a moment to consider. “I am unfamiliar with that idiom, but I will join you,” he said. “I am glad to have met you, Isabela.”

She winked. “I’m sure this is the start of a beautiful relationship.”


 

They needed to get into the Upper City if they were going to work on getting away, or getting a ship, they decided. Only the Sith were given access to the Upper City now, unfortunately, since letting citizens move freely was just too much for them. Luckily, Fenris had an idea.

“We find some uniforms,” he said. “They will disguise us.”

“Ugh. It’s a pain to fit my headtails into those helmets, though,” she said, flicking them over her shoulder. “Fine, though. I don’t see much of another way. Where do we get uniforms?”

“I saw a group go to the Undercity,” Fenris said. “Not all of them came back, so…”

“So some of them probably are sitting down there rotting in their shiny armor,” Isabela said. “Perfect. But the Undercity is blocked off too. How do we get there?”

The solution to that problem ended up being killing, more killing, and then looting a pass from some Vulkar gang members. Somehow, they had gotten approved passes to the Undercity. Right after they had finished that, Fenris abruptly stopped.

“Wizards!” he said.

She turned to look at him. “Um…?”

“The people I am running from.”

She tilted her head. “Not ringing any bells.”

He folded his arms, and they headed to the Undercity elevator.

“Sorcerers?” he asked on the way down.

She thought for a moment. “Still got nothing.”

The people of the Undercity were dressed in rags that looked like they had been pulled out of the trash. They lived in a settlement of tents surrounded by a tall gate, and ate garbage that came from the upper levels through the sewage pipes. 

The place smelled like trash, too. Isabela had smelled worse, but she could see Fenris put up his nose and plug it. 

“Ugh.”

“Ugh,” Isabela agreed. “So we need to ask where the Sith investigators went, and--”

Before she could finish her sentence, there was the sound of screaming. Something--a large, slimy creature running around on all fours--had gotten into the settlement, sending everyone running as it tore through a tent. Isabela pulled her blaster, Fenris readied his blade and…

And it turned out to be unnecessary. The ghoulish creature stopped in its tracks, and then floated slightly in the air. It snarled and struggled for a moment, only to go limp.

“Calm down, everyone!” called a voice. “It’s okay, I got him sedated. Open the--never mind, I’ll see if I can lift him over the fence.”

The Undercity dwellers gasped at the display. Fenris flinched, and tightened his grip on his blade. Isabela turned to the voice, and saw a man step into view: a human with dirtied blond hair and tattered robes that looked no better than what the rest of the Undercity dwellers wore.

Jedi , Isabela knew instantly. Next to her, Fenris snapped his fingers. 

“Like him!” he said, pointing. “I am running away from people like the garbage man right there!”

Instantly, the creature stopped being moved, and dropped right onto the floor. The man whirled.

“Excuse me?!” he spluttered. “Garbage--well this garbage man just saved your life you ungrateful--!”

But once he stepped closer, he stopped. Fenris stepped in front of Isabela, and raised his sword, glowering.

“Wait, wait, now,” she said, putting a hand on Fenris’s shoulder. “There’s no need for that.”

The man gaped at them where he had stopped in his tracks. “Isabela?” he asked.

And then, though he was barely recognizable in the dimness of the Undercity, Isabela looked at him and her eyes widened.

She knew him.

Chapter Text

Isabela had met Anders at one of her favorite establishments on a lush and prosperous planet. The brothel with the best wine, the best employees, and as it turned out, the best patrons.

She’d caught sight of him playing cards in the corner, the light catching his golden hair, and making several piercings sparkle around his face. He giggled into his hand of cards and leaned against the darker-haired human next to him. His skin was pale so Isabela could see the redness rushing up his neck and face the way it did with humans.

Then he’d looked up, and locked eyes with her.

Click. 

“Why hello there,” Isabela had lilted, sidling up next to him. “Got a bit more gold on you than I normally see on Jedi.”

He hadn’t seemed surprised she’d guessed what he was, and had just winked. “I have better taste than most Jedi.”

Anders drank too much and laughed too much. He buried himself in every new texture there was: in the silk sheets, in the fur draped about Isabela’s neck. When they went to bed he’d hugged the pillows and babbled about how much softer they were than at the enclave he was from. His eyes sparkled at everything with a childlike wonder. 

He also could use those Jedi tricks damn well in bed. Isabela had made a point of seeking out the more debauched members of the Order after that. 

“You should join my crew,” she said while they laid together under the sheets the morning after.

“I should,” he said. “Wait is that a real offer?”

“For you? Of course,” she purred. “I’d be heartbroken if I never got to feel that electricity trick again.”

They had really planned to leave. Anders had run away from the Order four times previously, and was hoping to make it final this time. 

“They don’t just let you leave?” she asked.

“Officially, they say they do,” he said. “In practice? I haven’t had much success just telling them I want to leave.”

She hadn’t questioned him about how they brought him back each time. They were the Jedi, after all. She was sure they pulled some bureaucratic nonsense and required too much hoop jumping for an impatient kid like Anders.

“Anyway,” Anders told her. “They didn’t ask permission when they took me, so I don’t feel inclined to ask permission when I leave.”

When they showed up to bring him back, it didn’t go how Isabela expected it. The Jedi master had just stared at him coldly.

“Anders,” he said. “You will stop this and return immediately.”

“No.”

“You know you are not allowed to leave without express permission--”

“I am not a child anymore!” he said. “I am a grown man. I told you before. I won’t go back. I have a right--”

“You do not have any right,” the man countered. “To leave the Order without first--”

“--but they never let me do that! They ignore my requests, I file papers and never get a word in return--”

“Because you have no control! You’ll be an embarrassment out there at best. At worst, the dark side--”

“LalalalalaIcan’thearyoulalala.”

“Silence.”

Isabela could feel the weight behind those words. Anders’ mouth clamped shut suddenly. The Jedi stretched out his hand.

“You will return now,” he said. “No more arguments.”

Isabela waited for Anders to tell him to fuck off. Instead he stood there and she could see every muscle in his body clench up. His head turned, as though he were about to walk away, only to snap back forward. 

“Anders,” Isabela said. “You don’t have to.”

“Come with me,” the man said.

A convulsion ran through Anders’ body for a moment. He took one step forward, and then one step back. She could see veins bulging in his neck and arms as he clenched his fists.

Now.”

Anders left without another word.


 

The Anders now had sallow skin, and his eyes seemed hollow and sunken. His hair had dulled from its original brightness. There wasn’t any of the shiny piercings she remembered. 

“Anders!” she said. 

Fenris turned back to her with a raised eyebrow. “You know this man?”

“She sure does!” Anders said testily. “Get out of the way, now.”

Fenris sneered a bit at that, but Isabela stepped ahead.

“Woah there, love. I can handle myself,” she told Fenris. “Anders. Anders. What happened to you?”

It seemed Anders didn’t have anything to say to that. For a moment after she asked that, she saw his eyes sink a bit. His eyes flicked away for a moment before he crossed his arms and looked back to her, raising an eyebrow.

“What happened to you that brought you all the way to the Undercity?”

“Sir, sir!” screamed one of the bystanders. “The rakghoul’s waking up!”

The slimy ghoulish creature was indeed snapping out of the fugue Anders had put him in.

“Shit,” Anders said, raising his hand again. “Here, I got it. I’ll just make him sleep again, and then--”

In a blink, Fenris had moved past both Anders and beheaded the creature. Blood sprayed out of the arteries all over the two of them. Anders stepped back quickly, trying to avoid the spurting blood.

“Well, aren’t you a charmer,” he muttered under his breath. 

Fenris clearly heard, and shot him a sneer. Before he could say anything though, a woman staggered forward towards the rakghoul. She fell on her knees and started to wail, reaching out for the beast. Anders rushed forward.

“Adona,” he spoke gently. “Adona, no. You’ll catch the disease yourself.”

“He’s gone!” she shouted. “He’s gone, you killed him!”

Fenris stepped back. Anders proceeded to comfort the woman in hushed tones, holding her by the shoulders and guiding her away to the other villagers. One of them embraced her with tears in his eyes.

“You know this man?” Fenris asked Isabela quietly.

“I do,” she said. “I met him a while back. Wanted him on my ship. I ran into him a few times after that but alas, he kept getting pulled away by Jedi nonsense.”

“Sorcerers--wiz-- mages can convince you of things,” Fenris said quietly. “Take away memories. Replace them with new ones. Are you certain?”

“Mages,” Isabela said. “Is that what they call those people where you come from? Well, the Jedi here are pricks, but they don’t get up to that sort of business. And I trust my own memories. I can tell when they play their little head games.”

“Jedi.” Fenris repeated, frowning. “Jeeedi. Jidai? Is that the word for all… the ones like him?”

“Not all the ones with powers, no,” Isabela said. “There are all sorts. The Jedi are just one of them.”

Fenris watched as Anders spoke to the people in the crowd. “And you trust this Anders?”

Isabela laughed. “Oh sweetie, that’s such a rookie question. If you have to trust someone to work with them, you don’t belong in the smuggling business.”

“That… makes some sense,” Fenris admitted grudgingly. 

Anders came back, still splattered with rakghoul blood.

“So,” he said.

“Why did the woman weep over that creature?” Fenris asked.

“That,” Anders said, gesturing to the rakghoul body, “Was her brother, you idiot.”

Fenris eyed the body, and then looked back to Anders who was shooting him an accusing glare.

“And of course I had to have known,” he drawled. “As there is such a strong familial resemblance.”

Isabela snorted. Anders looked annoyed.

“It’s a disease,” Anders explained. “You get bitten, boom. You turn into a rakghoul. Or possibly if you get exposed to too much of the blood. Or, if you get scraped and you happen to come into contact with their blood. Which is why I generally try not to kill them in the village.”

“Oh,” Isabela said.

Fenris grunted. 

“So,” Anders said brightly. “You’ll be helping me remove the body and sterilize the area, then.”

They did so. Isabela had to gag a bit at the smell. She thought about arguing that she wasn’t the one who beheaded the thing, but decided it wasn’t worth arguing the point. Not if letting the body rot might expose herself or others to the disease. Besides, Anders had done her enough favors during their brief meetings in the past.

Fenris didn’t move to help at first, and stayed firmly rooted in place until he saw Isabela move. Then, he followed. He scrunched his nose the entire time, stopped frequently to get away from the stench. He also made a face every time Anders told them to do something. In turn, that made Anders more impatient and snippy.

“Oh, your mommy never made you clean up after yourself?” Anders sniped after he stepped away the first time, scrubbing the rocky ground harder.

“Give him a break,” Isabela said. “He’s got a much stronger sense of smell than you.”

There wasn’t much in the realm of sanitization equipment in the shithole of a village, but it seemed Anders had somehow scored plastic gloves, masks, and protective aprons. When they were done, they burned all of the equipment and deposited it outside the gates, along with parts of their clothing that had gotten stained, after which they had to replace it with clothes provided by the villagers.

By that time, the mood had managed to get even more sour, and Fenris only seemed more unhappy when he had to put on some scrappy armor that looked like it had been pulled from the trash. 

“Ugh,” Fenris said. 

“So, Anders,” Isabela said. “We’re out here to loot a bit from the Sith who came down here. I’m sure you can appreciate that.”

“Indeed I can,” Anders said. 

Fenris paced in the background, keeping eyes on Anders as Isabela talked. Anders flicked him a brief annoyed look, before focusing on Isabela.

“Can you tell us anything about the Sith who came down here?” she asked.

“Well, not much,” Anders said. “Lots of people came down here when the Republic pods crashed here in the Undercity. Some gang came first, though I wasn’t there when they came.”

“You weren’t here?” Isabela said. “Where were you then.”

“The sewers…. Long story. Anyway,” Anders coughed before continuing. “Anyway, the Sith came afterwards. I couldn’t tell you much about them, though, because I hid when they came. Didn’t to get, you know…”

“Killed?” Isabela asked. “Nabbed? Ooooh wait I heard they have the quarantine up because they’re looking for a Jedi. Is that you?”

There was instantly a flash in Fenris’s face as Isabela could tell he got the thought to turn Anders in so the quarantine would be lifted.

“Me? Pfffft no,” Anders said. “They’re looking for someone important.”

And then the light in Fenris’s face died.

“Are you here on Jedi business then?” she asked. “Spying? Sent to help out these folk before the occupation happened?”

“No,” he said. “I just ended up here. It’s…”

“Long story?”

“Long story,” he agreed, nodding. “Short version: I am looking for a man named Karl. Turns out he’s not on Taris, but I didn’t have the luck to figure that out before the Sith showed up.”

“So you must be looking for a way off this rock, then?” Isabela pried. “Since your guy isn’t here.”

Anders’ eyebrows raised, amused. “Well, so I am.”

“And so are we. Isn’t that fortuitous?” Isabela said. “But how in the universe did you end up here, in this rubbish heap? This isn’t exactly your style.”

“I had to hide when the Sith came. The Undercity is one place they are loathe to enter. And the outcasts here helped me.”

“I’m sure you fit right in,” Fenris drawled, eyeing his tattered robes. 

Anders fixed a glare on him. Isabela cut in before he could get into it.

“So,” she said. “Like I said, we’re looking for a way past the blockade. You want to get off, I want to get off, and isn’t that what we’ve been good about helping each other with?”

Anders snorted. “I suppose.”

Surprisingly, Fenris didn’t even groan at that. She supposed he’d digested her tidbit about working together even with people you didn’t trust. She held out her hand to Anders and winked.

“Care to help a lady out?” she asked. “I’ll help you find your guy afterwards.”

She saw a flicker of the smile she remembered. “Absolutely,” he said. Then, he frowned deeply. “But the outcasts here, they need some help. There’s something for them I need to find first, and I think we can find it on our excursion beyond the gates.”

“Can do. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, and everyone gets off. Just like the old days. Deal?”

“Deal,” Anders agreed.

They shook on it


 

Outside of the village was even more of a cesspit than inside. They focused on sneaking past the large packs of rakghouls, only fighting when absolutely necessary. Anders explained as they went that there was talk of a serum for the rakghoul disease out here. That someone had developed it and then unfortunately died on the way back. 

“If I can get the cure,” he told her. “I can leave.”

“You can leave anyway,” Isabela pointed out. “It’s not like those skinny fellows could force you to stay down here.”

Anders’ face fell. “I suppose,” he said. “But the people here are… I can’t just--or I could but it wouldn’t be right.”

Isabela frowned. “Well you didn’t create the disease yourself, right?”

“No, but…”

“Not your circus, not your arquet.”

Anders paused for a moment.

“Besides,” Isabela said. “It might be impossible to find by now. Something down here might’ve eaten it. How about instead of looking for this serum, I cut you a better deal and get you out of this cesspit.”

“Isabela…”

“You do want to find this Karl fellow, right?”

“Of course!” Anders said. “But who else will help them, Isabela? They are outcasts who are given nothing. Of what they forage, they are allowed little. They are forced down here with the rakghouls with no recourse, and no help from those above.”

Isabela frowned and tilted her head a bit. Something about his diction and tone seemed a bit off, from what she knew of him. 

“I cannot leave them without having tried,” he said. 

“If it matters, I think it perfectly acceptable that you stay down here,” Fenris cut in. “Keep trying. By all means.”

Anders grinned tightly, and then held up a hand to his ear. “What’s that? Sorry, I have trouble distinguishing anything you say from the growling of the rakghouls in the distance.”

“So glad you two are off to a good start making acquaintances,” Isabela said.

“I think it would make an even better end,” Fenris offered. 

Isabela smiled. Fenris was coming on strong with this. Then again, he’d said something about the people he was running from being “magicians.” Seemed like a story to pry out of him with some good old Rodian rum later.

They searched various corpses for the serum Anders was looking for. They did find Sith bodies, with the armor they were looking for, but there was no sense in dragging the armor around while they still had to find something else. The hours went by, and Isabela got impatient.

“So,” she said. “If you can’t find it in the next hour…”

“I need more time,” he said. “I am sure I can find it. I just…”

“How long?”

He paused, conflicted. Then he opened his mouth, before closing it.

“We’re being--”

“Someone is surrounding us,” Fenris said before he could finish. 

“Yes, I was about to say,” Anders said.

Isabela hissed, and looked around. She could indeed see a few flashes of movement behind all the junk. 

“I would have been on guard,” she hissed quietly. “If I had known anyone was organizing ambushes out here. I thought you said it was just the rakghouls.”

Anders squinted at a flash of movement. “I think I know them.”

“Friends?”

“No, not good-know them. Bad-know them.” Anders paused. “I may have killed a few of them before.”

“Well,” Isabela said. “Lovely, then.”

Their pursuers stepped out. Mostly Gamorreans, a few others. Definitely too many for all of them to fight off. Twenty, at least. Anders held up his hands.

“Hey!” he said. “So, I am sure we can talk this one out.”

Fenris charged immediately for one that was looming closest to him. He got a good slash on one before getting hit with a stun grenade. One of the thugs shot him once, before several grabbed him.  Isabela jumped into action immediately, but unfortunately was in the blast range of same stun grenade.

She was tackled and thrown to the ground. Looking up, she could see Anders hadn’t moved at all. Hadn’t even blinked. Just kept his hands raised while they grabbed him and threw him to the ground. 

Fenris snapped out it surprisingly quickly. Isabela could see he was bleeding, but he snarled and struggled against the thugs holding him. 

“Why aren’t you using your magic?” he shouted. 

“My what?” Anders asked.

“They will kill us!”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Anders said. “They can make more money by selling us.”

“They wha--”

And just as Isabela was about to snap out of it, something hit the back of her head and she was out cold.


 

Isabela woke up to a smell that was even worse than the regular Undercity smell, along with a terrible throbbing in the back of her head. She heard a soothing voice, and felt a hand gently press on where it hurt. The pain faded away.

“There we go.” It was Anders’ voice. “No serious damage. Isabela, can you hear me?”

She groaned and turned over. 

“Hello, lovely,” she said, managing a grin. “Nice to have your hands on me again.”

He crossed his arms at her. “How are you still flirting when your head just got bashed in?”

“One of my gifts,” she said. “Where’s…?”

A quick look around told her the answer to what she was about to ask. Fenris was in the corner against the wall, a gauze messily slapped on the blaster wound on his shoulder, where it seemed their captors had torn off his sleeve to slap it on. His eyelids fluttered briefly. He was awake, but having trouble staying so.

Anders reached for him next. That seemed to cause enough alarm for Fenris’ eyes to jolt open while he batted Anders’ hand away.

“Stop that,” Anders said testily. “I’m trying to heal you.”

“Do not touch my mind!”

“I’m not going to do anything to your mind! Sheeesh,” Anders said. “What is with you? If that chip on your shoulder were any larger it’d break your back.”

Fenris struggled for a moment, and looked to Isabela for reassurance. Fenris anxiousness to be following someone’s cues was another thing Isabela decided she’d pry out of him later. Preferably with some Quarren whiskey. 

“Fine,” he said.

Anders touched his forehead, and Isabela saw Fenris’ face melt for a moment as the pain went away.

“That takes care of the bashing,” he said. “Now, if you’ll let me--”

He peeled away the gauze on Fenris’s chest. He didn’t touch the wound there, but let his hand hover an inch away from it. There was a soft blue glow, and the wound sealed. Fenris looked at it, eyes widening just slightly.

Then, without so much as a word or a glance at Anders, he stood up to look around. Anders looked indignant.

“Excuse me?” he asked.

“If you’re expecting me also to say I want your hands on me, you are wrong,” Fenris told him. “Where are we?”

Anders rolled his eyes. “Sewers,” he said. “Slavers tend to put their hideouts here. They like to pick off the outcasts who wander outside the village to find food or materials.”

“Oh, wonderful,” Isabela said. “More slavers! What is it with this place. You can’t so much as throw a skipping stone here without hitting more slavers.”

“Relax,” Anders said. “These guys are amateurs. They didn’t even have neural disruptors to use.”

“Relax?” Fenris asked incredulously.

“They didn’t even put us in shackles. They didn’t even put us in separate cells!”

“How kind of them,” Fenris said. “Well you may stay here if you find them so generous. Isabela, how will we get out?”

Isabela looked around. They were in a makeshift cell, with one gamorrean guard outside the gate. “Well, there is only one guard,” she said quietly.

“Yes,” Fenris agreed in a hushed tone. “And I can easily get past the gate. But if this is a hideout there are likely many more around the corners. We cannot fight them all. And we cannot sneak past them easily if we do not know where the others are.”

“It’ll be easy,” Anders said cheerfully, and loudly. “This place was practically made to escape!”

The guard turned around and squealed indignantly. Both Isabela and Fenris turned to glare at Anders. Anders shrugged, and then with a wave of his hand, the guard fell asleep.

“Brilliant,” Fenris said sarcastically. “And can you do that to every slaver in these sewers?”

“Well, no… I’d quickly faint if I tried.”

“Then how will we kill them?” Fenris demanded. “This would not have happened if you hadn’t insisted on looking for your miracle serum!”

“Kill this, kill that. Is there anything in your mind besides killing?” Anders snapped. “We won’t have to fight a single one to get out of here.”

With that, he gestured upwards. There was a large grate about twenty feet above them. Anders held out his hand, and closed his eyes. Slowly, they heard cracking as the grate was forced out of where it was held, and moved to the side. Anders stopped, and looked at them both brightly.

“It is still too high to--” Fenris started.

Anders jumped up through the grate. 

Fenris scrunched up his nose with disgust. “Magic,” he scoffed.

“It’s not magic, it’s called the Force!” Anders shot back at them. “Here, Isabela. Let me lift you.”

Isabela’s stomach turned as she felt her feet leave the floor. Fenris’s eyes widened a moment, and jumped as though ready to catch her or pull her down if need be. Anders lifted her gently up and then gently grabbed her by the waist to guide her to the ground above.

She felt the hold drop abruptly. Anders took a deep breath, sweating from the effort. At this distance, she could really see how sunken his eyes had become.

“It’s not supposed to be that hard,” he said. “I’m just really bad at all that.”

Isabela didn’t know what to say. “Alright,” she said. “Can you get Fenris now?”

Anders sat on the floor. “I don’t know,” he said lazily. “I’m so tired now.”

“I can hear you,” Fenris said from below, unamused. 

“I’m not sure how much more I can do,” Anders said, dramatically throwing a hand up to his forehead. “I’ve completely exhausted myself. Maybe we should just leave him.”

Isabela gave him a kick. Not a hard one, but enough that he got the idea.

“Brace yourself, Fenris,” she called down.

Anders followed her cue. Soon Fenris was lifted up into the passageway with them with an expression similar to a cat being given a bath. Anders also tried to grab Fenris by the waist to steady him, but Fenris instinctively jerked away. 

“Hey!” 

Anders lost his concentration, and Fenris fell. He flailed, but somehow managed to move half a foot in the air and land on his feet next to them. Anders squinted at him curiously, and tilted his head. 

“Alright,” Isabela said. “So we’re up here. How do we get out?”

“This place is a bit of a maze. If we go down, we’re going to run into more slavers, so we have to travel up. I’ve done it before. We can probably get to the Lower City in about… twelve hours?”

Isabela and Fenris both groaned. 

“What, this isn’t how you two got down here?”

Fenris shot Anders an incredulous look. “No. We used the elevator. Normal people do not travel via sewer.”

Anders’ lips tightened into a thin line. “So you guys got Sith documents then?”

“Yes,” Isabela said. “Anyway, we can’t go back to the Lower City yet, we need those Sith uniforms to get into the Upper City!”

Anders paused and frowned. “But you have the papers, right?”

“Yes! The papers to get into the Lower City,” Fenris pointed out.

“Well they’re the same, actually,” Anders said. “You only need one set of those documents and they’ll let you travel between any of the levels.”

Isabela contemplated how much time they had spent coming down here to get the uniforms, and suddenly felt incredibly irritated. She gave Fenris a side glance, and from his expression he felt similarly. Isabela sighed.

“Up we go, then,” she said.

It was a slow, miserable crawl to the Lower City.


 

 

Anders wasn’t nearly as chatty as Isabela remembered. It was only when they got to the Lower City and were walking to her apartment that he started to mumble.

“Need to get back,” he said, seemingly to himself. “Still haven’t found the serum. But, Karl.” he frowned. “But… the people. Probably more infected by now. Need healing.Back through the sewer, shouldn’t take so long.”

Isabela glanced at him. “Hey now, you were Jedi-hopping all around the sewers,” she told him. “Take a break. You can sit in my apartment a bit.”

“Short break,” he grunted. “Just a short break.”

Once he got to Isabela’s apartment, he fell flat on his face and was out like a light. He made nary a sound, except for when Isabela checked to see if he was alive and got only a faint murmur in return.

“Coming, Karl,” he said.

Anders proceeded to sleep for twenty hours.

Chapter Text

Isabela did attempt to wake Anders up. Unfortunately, he was asleep like the dead, so she instead roused Fenris, who was still groggy after their sewer adventures but still ready to get up and follow. She left a note for Anders, explaining that they were out to do more business, and the two of them headed out.

“We did not even need to go to the garbage town,” Fenris said miserably while they walked. “We could have avoided going to the garbage town.”

Isabela sighed. “Well, at least we got another crew member out of it.”

Not that they had found the serum Anders’ had asked, or that he’d promised to go along with them without it. But Isabela was sure she could bring him around. 

“We could have avoided meeting the garbage mage too,” Fenris grumbled.

Isabela chuckled. “Well, we’re going to need crew members,” she told him. “We can’t fly an entire ship with just the two of us.”

Fenris grudgingly nodded. “Very well. How many more will we need?”

“Hm,” Isabela said. “Depends on what kind of ship we get. For a small smuggling ship… at least four, I would say. Ideally about six.”

“Then we should find a ship first,” he said. “Or a way out of the quarantine first?”

“Hmmm.”

Isabela thought about it. A moment. 

“Apparently there are access codes,” Isabela said. “You know the code, and they let you through. Luckily, I met a lovely girl the other day who can probably help us with that.”

Her mind turned back to Merrill, the sweet cathar woman who easily charmed papers out of the off duty Sith officer. Granted, Anders was a Jedi and should be able to do similar, but she was pretty sure he couldn’t--otherwise she knew he would have grifted a lot more gold out of people back in the day and not gotten caught so much. 

“Still,” Isabela said. “It would likely be good if we could try and glean our own information. Try to find some Sith and figure out which ones among them would know the codes. Meanwhile, we can also scout out some ships.”

“And how will we obtain the money to purchase one?”

Isabela shot a look at him.

“...nevermind,” he said. 

“You seem like a fellow with a keen eye, Fenris. How good are you at information gathering?” she asked. 

“I… can listen around,” he said. “This culture is strange to me. But I have found ways to discover what I need.”

“Excellent,” she said. “So how do you feel about hitting up some of the cantinas down here before we head to the Upper City? Check out the ones the Sith frequent and see what you can hear. Meanwhile, I’ll try to go and pick out potential ships.”

Fenris hesitated for a moment, before nodding.

“Great,” she said. “Meet me at the apartment when you’re done.”

Most of the docks were in the Upper City, but Isabela knew that she would have a lot more trouble acquiring one there, where there were Sith officers crawling everywhere. While she didn’t know Taris like the back of her hand, she knew enough about its seedy underbelly to figure out where to look.

Most of the ships docked in the Lower City hangar belonged to small time rogues and villains much like Isabela herself. Not all were designed for hyperspace travel, though. She quickly eyed what seemed like the perfect vessel: a ratty “merchant” ship equipped for interplanetary travel. Even better: it was poorly guarded. 

(Ships in the Upper City tended not to have personal guards stationed there to protect them, and simply relied on port security.  But then, people didn’t steal ships so much in the Upper City.)

She could see there were bigger, shinier vessels. Likely belonging to that crime lord everyone talked about here, Davik. But there were more guards around those, so she narrowed in on the one that seemed the easiest to steal.

Four guards. Different races, but three of them were chatting jovially like friends. The fourth one (a Mandalorian, if the armor and helmet was anything to go by) seemed to be getting the cold shoulder. They left him out of the conversation and, when addressed him, barked orders. 

Likely because he was a Mandalorian, she thought. No one felt all that kind to them after the Mandalorian Wars. 

She watched them change shifts with other guards. The three walked off together, laughing and sharing an anecdote. The Madalorian went off in an entirely direction.

Isabela instantly knew where to start.

She approached the Mandalorian. He stopped before she’d gotten within twenty feet of him, and turned around. He said nothing, but tilted his head and lifted his gun a bit.

“Great!” she said. “You saw me coming. I like a man who’s aware of his surroundings.”

The Mandalorian said nothing.

“I have a proposition for you,” she said. “How about I get you a drink?”

“Drink?” The Mandalorian’s accent was heavy. He looked her up and down. “Drink. No.”

“Come on now,” she sauntered up. “Couldn’t you use another job? Work’s tough to find these days.”

That seemed to get a different reaction.

“Ah, job,” the Mandalorian said, perking up a little. “Yes.”

She turned and gestured to him over her shoulder. “Why don’t we talk somewhere a bit more fun?”

The Mandalorian took a moment to puzzle out what she said. “Fun? ….Yes.”

Isabela had never met a Mandalorian before who was not fluent in Basic. Yes, they had their own language, but she’d thought they all learned Basic from a young age as well. Definitely none of them had an accent as heavy as this guy. Exceptions existed everywhere, she supposed.

The Mandalorian sat down at a booth with her. She bought him a drink. He looked down and stared at it, but made no move to touch it or remove his helmet. Isabela sipped her drink, leaned forward on her elbows and offered him her most pleasant smile.

“Don’t you want to relax?” she asked. 

“Relax?” 

“Surely that helmet is heavy,” Isabela said sweetly. “Why don’t you take it off so we can talk a bit more freely?”

“Take it off….” the Mandalorian leaned back an inch, and gave a distrusting grunt.

Maybe he thought she’d put something in his drink. She reached across the table, took his drink, and took a swig herself before handing it back to him. He still made no move to remove his helmet or take the drink out of her hands.

“Still no?” she said. “Alright, more for me then.”

She took another swig and leaned back in her seat.

“So here’s the deal,” she said. “Taris is a miserable shit hole. I want to get off.”

“Get off?” the Mandalorian sounded deeply suspicious.

“That’s right,” she cocked a grin at him. “I know, doesn’t seem like anyone can get past the quarantine. But I’ve slipped through blockades before. I’m working on getting the access codes. Thing is, I need a ship. And I think you can help me get one.”

“Get one,” the Mandalorian repeated. There was a pause. “Get a ship? Ahhhh.”

“That’s right,” she said. “I noticed you seemed to be a guard for a nice little ship. And I get the impression that your loyalty might be a bit… malleable, shall we say. Maybe you could help me out.”

“Help, yes,” he said. And then he paused yet again. “For credits.”

Isabela smirked. “I had a feeling I’d like you,” she purred. “What’s your name?”

The Mandalorian seemed to be a bit taken aback by her tone. “My name is Dorian,” he said. A complete sentence, finally. But then, a sentence that was right out of Galactic Basic 101. 

“Alright, Dorian,” she said. “Love that name. So how about we talk price, then?”

Dorian paused and started to think. “Price?” he asked. “...fifty credits an hour.”

Isabela frowned, wondering why he was giving an hourly rate, and then wondering why he was charging so low for something as big as double crossing his employer and stealing a ship.

“Forty credits an hour?” Dorian asked, bargaining quickly.

“Oh honey,” she said. “Is that what they pay you to guard at the docks?”

Dorian took a while to answer. “Boss pays… thirty credits an hour.”

That hurt just to hear. Isabela felt bad for the guy immediately. “Sweetie,” she said. “Sweetie, no. That’s not enough to live on. That’s not enough to feed a gizka!”

Dorian didn’t say anything. 

“Look,” she said. “You’re still learning Basic, I see. Are you new to the Republic?”

Dorian still didn’t say anything.

“You’re getting ripped off,” she said. “You need to learn to charge better rates! Or else steal them off your boss’s gutted body.”

Dorian tilted his head again. “Body…?”

“How do you make enough to live somewhere on that?” she asked. “Do you live anywhere? Do you have a place?”

“No,” Dorian said. 

Isabela was aghast. “Alright,” she said. “Well, I’ll pay you a fair rate if you help me leave Taris.”

“Leave...leave Taris?” Dorian sat up at that. He tried to gesture helplessly, and Isabela could not grasp his meaning until he snapped his fingers. ”I... wish? Also leave Taris.”

“Well, you won’t save up enough at that rate!” she said. “I can’t believe a Mandalorian is letting himself get taken advantage of this way.”

Dorian didn’t seem to follow. “You wish leave Taris?”

“Yes,” she said. “You want a ride? Okay, here’s a thought. Mandalorians all learn a bit of piloting, a bit of what to do on a ship, yes?”

Dorian hesitated. “.......yes?” he echoed. 

“Okay, here’s a deal,” she said. “I’m looking for new crewmembers anyway. If you need a new job, and you want to leave this shithole, I’ll hire you on once you help me with my little problem.”

Dorian nodded. 

“Come on,” Isabela stood up. “How long until you have to go back and guard?”

“Eight hours,” Dorian said, after a moment.

Isabela started to calculate if that would even give Dorian enough hours to sleep between shifts, but gave it up. The guy was clearly being taken advantage of.

“Alright,” she said. “How about we head over to my place? “

And even longer pause. “Your place?” he asked.

“To meet the rest of the crew,” she said. She gestured. “Come on.”

Maybe Anders was up, and would be able to use his little Jedi tricks to tell her if Dorian was a good person to bring along. Sometimes Jedi had a decent intuition about those things. She felt like she was usually a pretty good judge herself, and she was getting the vibes that recruiting Dorian would be a good idea. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to get an extra opinion. 

No sooner than they had stepped out of the cantina, however, than they were surrounded. Isabela groaned.

“Second time in forty eight hours,” she groaned. “Really?”

“So you think you can double cross me and get away with it?” hissed a human standing behind the thugs surrounding them. “Well too bad! I overheard everything you were planning in the bar there.”

“Ah,” Dorian nodded, gesturing with one hand. “The boss.”

“This is your boss?” Isabela asked. “You mean your ex-boss, who likes to take advantage of immigrants who don’t know the language.”

Someone shot a blaster bolt. Isabela flinched. It didn’t hit her. It didn’t seem like it was meant to. Just to intimidate, at this point.

Dorian pulled head back. Somehow, even with his helmet on he managed to look utterly indignant.

“Not my shift yet,” he said. It sounded like a practiced phrase, and that was kinda sad. Then, to Isabela, he tilted his head in knowing fashion while gesturing to the boss again. It somehow artfully conveyed a tone of ‘you see what I have to put up with?’

“Well you won’t get away with it!” the human snarled. “Shoot them! Shoot them both!”

They shot. Isabela reached instinctively for her gun, even though she knew it would be too late. Instead, all their enemies were suddenly gulfed in waves of electricity. Not enough to kill them, but enough for them to convulse and fall to the floor.

Isabela looked to Dorian, whose hand was raised as though he had called forth the bolts of electricity. Which he probably did.

“Oh, great,” she said. “You’re one of those sorts. Even better.”

The electricity stopped. The enemies were still alive, just disoriented from the lightning. Dorian proceeded to shoot each one in the head in a very precise method while they were lying on the floor.

Isabela took one look at Dorian, and then one look at the bodies before she proceeded to loot them. She tossed the boss’s wallet to Dorian, who caught it.

“That’s a token of goodwill,” she said. “Now let’s head out.”

Halfway back, Dorian stopped abruptly.

“Oh!” he said brightly. “You mean, betray boss, get the ship!”


 

Dorian was stiff and reluctant in front of the door, and entered slowly and uncertainly.

“Oh come on,” Isabela said. “It’s not like it’s a rancor pit. Though it might smell like one after that sewer jaunt.”

Dorian looked down at Anders, who was still face down on the floor. Isabela had tried to move him, but he was heavy and Fenris had been unwilling to help. Isabela would have given him a pillow and a blanket, but there weren’t any to spare and she wasn’t parting with her own. 

Dorian pointed at Anders’ body and then mimed dragging him outside.

“No! He’s not dead,” Isabela said. “That’s Anders. Your crewmate. Anders? Anders? You awake yet?”

She nudged him with her foot.

“Mrrghfffff,” Anders said.

“Sit,” Isabela said to Dorian. “You can take that armor off if you want.”

Dorian did not, and just stiffly sat down on the bed fully armored. 

“Alright,” Isabela said. “Or you can… not.”

“Mmmmm Isabela?” Anders asked. “That you?”

“Yes, love,” she said. “We have some company.”

“Where am I?” Anders groaned. “Why am I on the floor?”

“Well you see…” Isabela started. 

“Shit, shit, shit!” Anders jumped up suddenly. “The villagers! The serum!”

He shot up.

“Woah woah,” Isabela said. “Take the papers if you want to go down. If you vanish for another forty hours because you had to climb down the sewer again, I swear…”

Anders grabbed the papers and then bolted out without another word.

“He’ll be back,” Isabela told him. “No worries.”

She tried to explain plans to Dorian. It was a bit hard with the language barrier, but she made do drawing things out on a holopad and using gestures as needed. She also tried to tell him about Fenris, and the other probable crewmember, Merrill. 

“Fenris’ll be coming back any minute,” she said. “He should stick around for more of a chat.”

Fenris did come in shortly. The second he saw Dorian, however, he jumped back like he’d stepped on a hot coal and let out a hiss. Isabela could see his sharp teeth bare for a second.

“What is this one doing in here?” he demanded. “Isabela, explain!”

Dorian also jumped back, throwing up his hands. 

“Calm down,” she said. “We need crewmembers, right? What’s the problem?”

Fenris glowered. Dorian didn’t say anything.

“Ah, riiiight,” Isabela said. “Mandalorian. Cathar.”

In the Mandalorian Wars, not too long ago, the Mandalorians had attacked the planet of Cathar. When the cathar people refused to submit, they were enslaved and driven into exile. Even now, with the Mandalorians defeated, the cathar still had not reclaimed their home planet. Technically it was reclaimed by the Republic, who now had control, but the cathar had already been scattered across so many planets that there would be no easy way back for all of them. No one had made any attempt to find all those who were lost, free them, and bring them back home.

And if anyone managed it, Isabela still wondered if the Republic would be willing to give the planet back. 

“Anyway,” Isabela said brightly. “I hope that won’t be too much of a problem, Fenris. You know what I said about working with untrustworthy sorts.”

Fenris’s face pinched up.

“Also, since I think we need to lay this on the table quickly, he’s what you call a mage.”

“Of course he is.”

Fenris glowered for another moment, and then spoke up. Kelias nu iv takas je'as slastaj iv tave aeuso, dar del stai.” 

Dorian’s head shot up. “Arar kuris tu? Zenoti kait tu?”

“Dinora kam zinot tu kia ji?” ” Fenris hissed.

“Wait,” Isabela said. “You know Mandalorian?”       

“I do know his tongue,” Fenris said. “Zinot dinora ar tu kasidz kia ji….”      

“Zinoui nu! Zinoui nu!” Dorian shot back.

Fenris snarled at him, speaking so quickly that Isabela stopped being able to make out individual words. It all meshed into one long, angry hiss, which Dorian 

“Boys, boys,” Isabela said placatingly. “You’re both pretty. Mind telling me what’s going on?”

The two of them fell silent. Fenris still glowered. The two of them exchanged a few words, Dorian speaking in a tone that sounded placating and reassuring. At the end of the conversation, Fenris folded his arms.

“Still haven’t heard an explanation, yet,” she said. 

Fenris looked at her, but didn’t say anything.

“Dorian, you care to share anything?” 

Dorian was also silent.

“Well, this is lovely,” Isabela said. “I’m glad we’re being all so forthcoming at the start.”

“I do not trust him,” Fenris said.

“Of course,” she said. “But can you work with him without killing him?”

“That remains to be seen,” he said darkly.

“Wonderful.”

Dorian spoke up, launching into what sounded like a long diatribe. Fenris listened quietly with his arms folded, not seeming appeased by anything he said. Finally, Fenris turned back to Isabela.

“Well, what’s going on?” she asked. “Am I about to see you two battle to the death? You know each other?”

“No. We do not. It is… enough that he is what he is,” Fenris said. “I have been hounded by those like him. But he is not here to be my enemy, he says.”

“He’s going to get us a ship,” Isabela said. “And for a bargain price too.”

Fenris looked back to Dorian, narrowing his eyes. He asked Dorian something. Isabela could hear the questioning lilt, so she presumed he was asking about the ship. Dorian answered quickly, his words blurring into a long stream of indignant sounding hissing. 

And then, he kept talking. And talking.

They kept at it. Isabela went from ready to jump into a fight to bored, to tired. She went and got a glass of water and found them still going back and forth.

“Ugh,” she said. “You two going to kill each other if I head out for some fresh air?”

“Perhaps,” Fenris said.

“Well,” Isabela said. “I’ll leave you to it. Settle things how you want. But if there’s blood, winner has to clean up the apartment.”

And with that, Isabela left.

The Lower City wasn’t exactly ideal for a pleasant stroll, but she figured she needed to give those two enough time to settle things. She went to a bar, filled up a flask, and went to the least shitty part of the Lower City she could find, with a window overlooking the city. 

She took a swig and stared out of it, wondering how she was going to get these moody men to work together, if they weren’t all dead when she got back. She then considered ditching them to find a new crew.

A sweet voice broke her out of her thoughts.

“Oh Isabela!” Merrill said. “I found you!”

 

Chapter Text

Merrill had a powerful magnetism to her, Isabela realized. Isabela could practically feel a pull as the sweet little cathar approached, like she was a star ready to pull Isabela into her orbit. Isabela leaned back against the window and smiled at her, letting her approach.

“Hello, kitten,” Isabela said. “Lovely to see you again.”

Merrill didn’t waste any time in getting perhaps just a bit too close, looking right up into Isabela’s eyes so that Isabela could see the texture of her wide irises.

“Yes, I went to the apartment you mentioned, but you weren’t there. So I figured you were busy and went to do some more exploring, and I did, but then I needed to find you so… I did!”

“You did,” Isabela agreed.

“Yes, it was pretty easy. You were thinking about me too, weren’t you. It was like you were broadcasting a signal so I could just pounce right on it like--mrrp!”

Merrill, unlike Fenris, had a tail. It flicked a bit as Merrill mimed pouncing on something. 

“Alright, kitten,” Isabela said, laughing with genuine delight. “Come with me. Let’s talk plans.”

Isabela walked ahead and Merrill followed, her tail quivering excitedly. The sweet little thing was too adorable. Practically cut out to be a con artist, or grifter, or thief, Isabela thought. Who would look at those cute little eyes and suspect a thing? 

“So,” Merrill said.”Do you have a ship?”

“I do,”  Isabela said. “And I have a crew now, too.”

“Oh, that’s great!” Merrill said. “So all you need is the Sith access codes and then you can get off the planet?”

“That’s right,” Isabela said. 

“I can get the Sith codes!” Merrill said. “I found out where they are, and who knows them. I tried to talk to one of the officers that would know but he wasn’t as nice as the one from the other day. You know, the one you met. He was very mean, actually, and he even called the guards on me, so I’m not sure I can try again.”

Not as nice meant not as easily swayed by mind tricks, Isabela supposed. 

“I haven’t found anyone else who plans on leaving, either,” Merrill chattered breathlessly. “Or well, I found some but they are in a club called the Exchange and I don’t know how to join. It seems like you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get in, and I don’t have time for all that. I want to get away now.”

“You and me both,” Isabela said. “And you say you know how we can get those codes.”

“I do!” she said. “But I need a lot of help to do that. And that’s when I thought of you. That and you being a pilot and also having a ship probably and I really need someone like that, seeing as I can’t fly or anything and I need to find my clan somewhere out there in space.”

“Details,” Isabela said. “What sort of help do you need?”

“Well there’s a base that has the codes, but I think that it would be too hard to break in. And I think they have been um, training people to make sure they don’t give away the codes to people like me. But some of the um, upper pilots? The people who fly who have a higher rank?”

“Colonels?”

“Yes! Those,” Merrill said. “Some of them have copies secured in their offices. So we can just get into one of those offices and steal them!”

“You need a thief then,” Isabela said. “Well, you came to the right woman.”

“Yes!” Merrill trilled again, practically vibrating. “Because you’re a pirate. A real live pirate who shanks people and steals their boots!”

“I do do both of those things,” Isabela agreed.

“Let me take you to the Upper City!” Merrill said. “I can show you. I think I picked out the best person to target. All I have to do is ask and I could probably get someone to let us have a really nice room…”

“Slow down now,” Isabea said. “I still need to meet up with my crew and discuss this. And I don’t think any room you could get is big enough to fit three grown men, along with the two of us.”

Merrill’s ears drooped.

“Aw, sweet thing,” Isabela said. “Why don’t we plan to meet somewhere up there tomorrow?”

Merrill’s tail flicked impatiently. “But… well, I suppose that makes sense. Um, tomorrow, Jabberwoci Cantina then? Um, sometime around evening?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Isabela said. “I hope you’ll get along with the boys. They’re…. A bit much.”

“I can get along with anyone,” Merrill insisted. “Don’t worry!”

“Hmmmm.” Isabela doubted it. “Well, I’ll see you then, in that case. Sleep well, kitten.”

She waved goodbye, and headed off with a wink. Merrill stopped, and Isabela could feel an intense gaze on her back as she walked away. Again, she felt that magnetic pull, a radiating aura from the little cathar that seemed to beckon.

It would be so lovely to go back. It would be wonderful to just run off to Merrill’s room for the night and listen to her adorable chattering. For a moment Isabela ached to do just that, the longing sitting deep in her chest. 

But that was the mind tricking, Isabela knew. So she continued on.

Right as she was about to turn around the walkway, however, she heard the padding of soft footsteps and then Merrill was next to her, taking her hand.

“Oh don’t go that way!” Merrill said. “There are people over there who want to hurt you.”

Isabela raised her eyebrows. Merrill’s eyes were wide and guileless, her tail flicking.

“They’re very angry at you,” Merrill said. “I don’t think it will end well if you run into them. I noticed them earlier. The, um, Vulkars?”

Isabela raised an eyebrow. “Alright, I trust you,” she said. “Why don’t you lead the way then?”

Merrill gave a pleasant, “mrrrrrp!” and led her away.

 


 

“Um,” Merrill said. “This way! Or… this way?”

Isabela had followed Merrill’s lead and now they were both utterly lost. Merrill looked between the two forking walkways, and her ears flattened.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. “I know where the angry people are coming from… but I don’t know anything else about how to get around down here.”

Isabela sighed. They’d been running in circles for an hour now. Merrill hadn’t let go of her hand.

“Here, sweet thing,” she said. “How about I take the lead for a bit?”

“But…”

Isabela shushed her with a finger to her nose. “I know my way around, kitten. No need to worry.”

She proceeded to run right into five Black Vulkars.

“You!” one of the snarled at Isabela. “You killed Davos!”

“.....oops?” Isabela said. 

“You don’t want to attack us,” Merrill said sweetly. “You want to go home now.”

The men paused, but only for a moment, before charging right ahead. Isabela grabbed Merrill’s hand tightly and they both ran. She lost them around the corner, but once she ran in a direction, Merrill tugged her hand.

“Not that way!” Merrill chirped anxiously. “There are more over there.”

“Shit, shit,” Isabela said, looking around. There was only a single door open at this hour, one with music and flashing lights bursting from the door.

“Into the club it is!” she said.

They hopped in, and struggled through the crowd. 

“Everything is so loud here!” Merrill said. “Where are we going?”

Isabela looked over her shoulder, and saw the Vulkars entering after them. She pulled Merrill through the first inconspicuous door she could find. A closet, as it turned out. Small, dark, but the noise was muffled. 

“Oh, that’s better,” Merrill said. 

“We’ll wait them out,” Isabela said. “But just in case they find us…”

She readied her twin blasters. Merrill vibrated.

“Oh, we’re going to shoot them,” she chirped, and then grabbed a nearby broom. “I’m ready.”

They waited. Flashing lights streamed through the cracks between the door and the wall. As the minutes went by, Merrill started to deflate, holding her broom less high.

A new song started. The lights kept flashing.

“Erm,” Merrill asked. “How long will we wait?”

Isabela checked the time. “Let’s give it an hour. 

“Oh…” Merrill deflated. 

“Sorry, love,” Isabela said. 

“Why are they chasing you? Who is Davos, anyway?” Merrill asked. “Did you throw him out of an airlock.”

“No sweet thing,” Isabela said. She thought for a moment about her and Fenris’s escapades from the other day. “Dunno who Davos is, but he’s probably someone I killed to get documents to travel to the Undercity.”

“Oh! That’s so exciting!” Merrill said. “I didn’t have to do that. I’ve hardly killed anyone. Probably less than five people. Seven at most. Or maybe eight, depending on how you count. Oh! Do you want me to keep it quiet?”

“And miss hearing your sweet little voice, kitten?” Isabela said, still keeping her blaster up and her eyes focused on the door. “Absolutely not.”

Merrill trilled happily.

The hour went quickly listening to Merrill. She chattered away ceaselessly about everything from interesting little experiences she's had on Taris to proverbs her clan's leader had told her. Isabela didn’t have a problem with it.

Thing was, sometimes Merrill would turn to her with wide eyes and ask her questions.

“Isabela. Isabela,” Merrill rolled the name on her tongue. “That’s not a very Twi’lek name, is it? Oh--pardon me, that sounds rude. I mean, I have never met a Twi’lek with that name, but I have met a few humans.”

“I don’t doubt you,” Isabela answered with a gracious smile.

“It’s a human name then?”

“It is.”

Merrill looked ready to drink up anything Isabela said. Isabela said nothing else, and Merrill’s ears fell a bit.

“So, how did you get into piracy, then?” Merrill said. “That must have been so exciting! Did someone shang-hai you? Were you afraid?”

Isabela tilted her head, still smiling. “I started by joining a ship, of course. I knew someone who knew someone who needed a bit of a hand on board.”

“Did he have a cybernetic leg?” she asked. “How did you meet him. And oh, what about an eye?”

Isabela started to feel a slight tug.

“It must have been so exciting. I want to hear the whole story,” Merrill said.

“No cybernetic legs or eyes I’m afraid,” Isabela sighed. “Although there was a quite delicious assassin involved. Had some of the best nights of my life with him.”

“But why piracy? Did you ever want to do something else? Ooh, that sounds rude. I'm sorry,” Merrill was still vibrating. “I just want to know more about you.”

“Oh?” Isabela asked.

“I do! I think you’re so interesting and beautiful and you’re a real life pirate! I want to hear everything about you! Don’t you want to tell me about yourself?”

Merrill’s eyes were nearly black, and her voice taking on a piteous whine at the end. The pull to tell tell tell everything felt stronger. Isabela considered telling Merrill she knew what she was doing. Instead, she turned to her with an affectionate smile.

“Hold on there, love,” Isabela said. “I think there’s something caught in your fur.”

Merrill was quickly distracted by a light hand trailing right behind her ear. She leaned into it.

“Aren’t you just the cutest?” Isabela said, scritching her ears. “Do you like that, then?”

Merrill just let out a high pitched chirrup in responses. Isabela gave her a few more scritches, and pulled away. Or, she tried to, only for Merrill to grab Isabela’s hand and place it back on her head.

Then, the door opened, and Isabela snapped around with her blaster ready. She froze in confusion, however. Outside wasn’t one of the Vulkars from before, but the towering silhouette of a wookiee. It only took Isabela a second to recognize that silhouette.

“Oh for the love of--”

With a roar, the wookiee smacked the blaster out of Isabela’s hand and dragged her out of the closet. 

 


 

“Put her down!” Merrill’s voice was shrill, almost lost in all the noise. “You want to put her down. Isabela!”

Merrill reached out for her. Isabela swore and kicked. No use. She wriggled and went limp and flipped. Still no use. 

The wookiee took her out of the club. She wasn’t slammed against the wall this time, but placed down on the floor. The wookiee still held her shoulders firmly to stop her from running.

“Come off it,” Isabela snapped, struggling. “I saved your life! Can’t we call it even?”

“Whoo ohwo oarawh'ao rooohu wahuscrh canhuao.”

“I don’t know what any of that means!”

The wookiee grabbed Isabela’s shirt with one hand, and reached for a holopad with the other. Isabela tried to take advantage to get away, only for the wookiee to then push her against the wall. Not nearly as roughly as before, but firmly so Isabela couldn’t get away. In the process, the holopad got dropped and the wookie grumbled.

“Argh!” Isabela said. “Listen, you have to negotiate with a girl before slamming her into a wall and doing the whole domination thing.”

The sound that the wookiee made at that sounded utterly disgusted. Isabela expected to get her head torn off, when Merrill came out the door with her broom.

“Let her go!” Merrill said, stretching out with one hand. “You want to. Let. Her. Go.”

The wookiee paused, and grunted, but did not let Isabela go. Merrill ran up and swacked the wookiee with a broom. Isabela was worried for a second that the wookiee was going to turn around and claw Merrill in the face, but instead the wookiee barely acknowledged her. 

Merrill tugged at the wookiee’s arm, and looked up piteously. “Please? Mr. wookiee?”

The roar that came out of the wookiee’s throat was absolutely indignant. Again, the wookiee reached for the dropped holopad, and Isabela took the opportunity to wriggle free and run. This time, she managed it.

“Come on Merrill!”

Merrill hurried after her. Surprisingly, the wookiee didn’t immediately run for them, but grabbed the holopad instead and started to furiously paw it before running after them. That gave Isabela and Merrill enough time to reach a corner.

Unfortunately, once they turned it, they ran directly into two of the Vulkars, both holding metal batons.

“Shit!” Isabela threw her hands up and backed up. “Shit shit shit!”

“You will put your weapon down now!” Merrill tried.

Isabela got smacked right in the stomach. As she did, she felt a burst of painful electricity. Ah, a stun baton. What a terrible weapon for a gang member. Not nearly as easy to kill with as a vibroblade or a blaster. Bloody painful though.

She crumpled to the floor. Her vision went blurry for a moment and she heard Merrill cry out. Before she could do anything, though, she felt another blow directly to her face, and then one to her back.

And then she a roar split her ears. The beating stopped. 

She couldn’t move. Her limbs had gone limp at the shocks. Best she could, she tried to flick her eyes to the action. Everything was blurry, but she could see blood, and the Vulkars getting pummeled against the ground, arms pulled out of their sockets and strewn about.

Isabela twitched. She felt a giant paw on her and flinched, expecting her arms to be ripped out of her socket any minute now. Instead, the wookie sat her up against the wall. Isabela struggled to focus. 

“Huh?” she said. “You gonna rip my head off?”

The wookiee held the holopad from before, and snarled. It was broken, smashed up during the fight. It promptly got thrown at a wall. 

Isabela lifted her head up. She could see Merrill had also been put up against the wall, and was groaning. The wookiee took a pack slung around their chest off, and opened one of the packets. A medpack, it seemed. The wookiee leaned forward, and swiped a patch of Isabela’s skin before injecting her with something from the pack.

“What…” Isabela coughed. “What the fuck is this about?”

Movement came back to her limbs. She clenched her fists, and shook her head.

“Did you fix me up just so you could beat my head in yourself?” Isabela grumbled. 

“Whoo rooohu wahuscrh canhuao!” 

“Ughhhhh,” Isabela said, moving her head away. “Don’t scream so close to my face buddy. You’ll get spit in my eye.”

The wookiee snorted, and moved to Merrill, repeating the process with her.

“Ohhhh that hurt,” Merrill sniffed, tears in the corner of her eyes. “Thank you Mr. wookiee.”

The wookiee stood, and offered Isabela a giant furry paw. Isabela stared at it suspiciously. 

“What’s with this sudden change of heart?” Isabela grumbled.

She took the claw, and found herself gently helped up. Isabela squinted up at her rescuer, who then went to help Merrill.

“You’re not going to rip out our arms then?” she asked, wide eyed.

The wookiee shook their head. 

“Dunno what brought on this mood change,” Isabela said. “Thanks I guess. We can call it even now then. Thank you, giant hairball, and goodbye. I hope our paths never cross again. Come on, Merrill.”

Isabela limped away, wincing from her beating earlier. Merrill followed, stepping over the various limbs of the Vulkar gang members that were strewn about. 

The wookiee stepped forward, following.

Isabela shot a glare back. “And where do you think you’re going?”

The wookiee grumbled. Isabela walked on. 

“He’s still following us!” Merrill said. 

“I’m sure that he’s going to part ways right at this corner,” Isabela said between her teeth. “Isn’t that right?”

The grumble she got  in response sounded annoyed. They turned a corner. And another, and another. 

The wookiee still followed.


 

 

About a block away from her apartment, Isabela whirled on the wookiee.

“Are you serious?” Isabela said. “You’re really going this far just to get a measly little purse back? It didn’t even have 200 credits!”

Merrill gaped. “Oh! You stole his purse! That’s why he grabbed you.” Merrill’s head bobbed. “That makes sense, you are a pirate.”

Somehow that elicited a loud groan from the wookiee behind them. 

“I am going back to my base. My hideout,” Isabela said. “There are dangerous, vicious men back there. I’ll get them all to murder you if you don’t knock it off!”

She turned back around and kept walking. 

“Absolutely vicious,” Isabela said, looking determinedly ahead. “We have a Mandalorian, a ruthless bounty hunter, an ex-Jedi…. Not even you could take them all.”

Still the wookiee followed. 

“Nothing you do makes sense you hairy bastard,” Isabela grumbled. 

Merrill seemed to think for a minute, and then gasped, her fist meeting her other palm in a “ah-ha!” gesture.

“Isabela!” she said. “He must be in love with you!”

The wookiee roared. Isabela looked back to see the wookiee shaking their head and flailing their arms in a dramatic sign for NO.

“That’s why he both ran off with you and then saved your life!” Merrill said. “It’s the only thing that makes sense!”

The wookiee groaned, and rested their face in their claws for a moment. Merrill turned brightly.

“I think it’s sweet,” Merrill said.

“I don’t,” Isabela grumbled. 

They reached the exact alley Isabela’s apartment was in. Isabela stopped.

“Well, Merrill,” Isabela said. “We still on to meet tomorrow? After I deal with all this?”

Isabela waved to indicate the wookiee, who grumbled again. Merrill’s ears dropped, and her face fell into an utterly pitiable expression. 

“I…” 

Isabela expected to feel a pull again, while Merrill tried to convince her to go somewhere else, or do something else. But no, there was only a tiny cathar standing there looking utterly sad and alone. Isabela sighed.

“You said you can get a room easy just by asking, right?” Isabela insisted.

“I can,” Merrill agreed, still looking completely heartbroken. 

“I have two, possibly three guys in my apartment,” Isabela said. “If you want to stay it’ll be a tight squeeze.”

Merrill instantly brightened.

“Yes! I want to stay,” she babbled. “And I’ll be nice and get along with everyone, I promise. I am very nice.”

“I know you are.”

Isabela hobbled to the apartment. About ten feet away she turned one last time back to the wookiee.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll give you the money back. Deal? And then you’ll go your own way and never bug me again?”

The wookiee said something, but Isabela supposed it didn’t matter. She walked up to the door. From five feet away, she could already hear voices going back and forth inside.

She opened the door. Anders--yes, Anders--was flailing his arms at both Fenris and Dorian. Fenris, by contrast, was still as a statue, arms crossed as he glared up at Anders, trying to talk over him. Dorian’s head was turning back and forth in between the two of them, looking hopelessly lost.

“--No I haven’t used the Force to--”

“--trust you, if she isn’t back in--”

“--a Jedi, we don’t do that! Or at least--”

“--don’t care what kind of mage you are, just--”

Everything stopped as Isabela came in. Anders froze, hands still in the air, while Dorian’s fell to his side in an almost soldier like manner. Fenris actually perked up, ears twitching as he turned to her.

“Isabela!” he said, looking her up and down, aghast. “What happened to you?”

“Any blood in here?” Isabela asked. 

“What?” Anders asked. “Why would there be blood?”

“No blood,” Fenris said. “Yet.”

Isabela turned to Anders. “You found your serum thing?”

“No,” he said. “They have it. Also everyone in the outcast village is gone.”

Isabela raised her eyebrow.

“It’s a….”

“Long story, got it,” Isabela confirmed. “Glad to have you aboard then. Merrill, come in.”

Isabela didn’t wait for Anders to confirm he was coming along and hobbled in. 

“Wait!” he said. “What in the stars happened to you, Isabela. Your bruises have bruises!”

“Long story.”

Anders sighed, and just reached out to heal her. Instantly, she felt the aches go away, and without another word went for her desk and started to rummage for the credits she’d stolen. Merrill stepped in and waved.

“Everyone, this is Merrill.” Isabela said without looking up. “She’s gonna get us the passcodes.”

“Hello!” Merrill chirped. “I’m so glad to meet you all!”

“We were just about to go out and look for you,” Fenris said. “...why is there a wookiee out there?” 

With that, the wookiee bowed their head and squeezed through the door. Everyone jumped.

“You are so pushy!” Isabela said. “Just hold it for one second. There’s barely enough room in here for you.”

The wookiee snarled something. 

“She says she wants her purse back,” Anders offered helpfully. “You stole her purse?”

“I am getting it! I’m getting it!” Isabela said. Then, she stopped. “Wait, ‘she’?”

“You speak this language?” Fenris asked.

“No I don’t bloody speak wookiee, that would be impossible for a human,” Anders shot back a little more harshly than necessary. “Or at least… almost impossible. I did learn to understand a little, though, in the Jedi order.”

“She?” Isabela repeated.

“Well, yes,” Anders coughed. “She is using the vocal inflections to indicate femininity in wookiee. Right?"

The wookiee nodded at Anders, confirming what he'd said.

Merrill clapped her hands and stared up at the wookiee woman. “Oh, you’re a lady!” she said. “I’m so sorry. Pleased to meet you, Ms. wookiee.”

“I’m not pleased,” Isabela muttered. Finally, she found the purse and flung it at the wookiee woman. “There! There you are! Head off now.”

The wookiee caught it, and opened it. 

“Okay fine, I spent some. Here you go,” Isabela said, flinging extra credits at her, which the wookiee deftly caught. “That enough?”

The wookiee looked at her a moment, and then proceeded to sit down on the nearest chair.

“What,” Isabela said. “What is your problem!”

“Ah oarawh'ao anworahowo rooohu whoooh,” The wookie folded her arms. “Aoacahc ahc scro wahuaoro.”

Isabela turned to Anders, who shrugged. 

“I got about a fourth of that,” he said. 

The wookie repeated herself, slowly and somehow managing to sound very irritated.

“Yeah,” Anders said. “She’s not going to leave.”

What.”

“Oh! She is in love with you!” Merrill beamed, clapping. 

“Ah! Acrahowo! Ra! Anahwwwowaworhao!”

Anders’ eyes widened in sudden understanding, only for the wookiee to quickly mumble something while miming NO NO at him. He turned to Isabela.

“She says the light really brings out the color in your eyes.”

The wookiee roared at Anders, who giggled.

“I mean, she….. Also needs passage off Taris,” Anders said. “So.”

Isabela leaned against the wall, and banged her head a few times.

“Guys…” she said. “I know it’s late but… you ready to try and drag this giant carpet out?”

The wookiee snarled. Anders shook his head. Fenris translated to Dorian, who also shook his head. Fenris looked at Isabela.

“If you truly wished me to, I would try,” he said reluctantly. “However, I don’t think we would win.”

The wookiee snorted. Smug bitch.

Isabela reached and grabbed the rodian rum she’d stashed in her desk. She drank some right from the bottle.

“Alright, asshole,” she said. “What do we call you?”

After a few tries of Anders and the wookiee going back and forth, it turned out she wanted a holopad. Merrill handed her one. Slowly but surely, she typed out a name.

AVELINE.

“Aveline?” Isabela asked. “That’s not a very wookiee sounding name.”

“Oh! I know this one!’ Merrill piped up. “Most species can’t pronounce wookiee names with the proper intonation so they tend to have a human name to go by when they have to work with people who speak Basic. Right?”

Aveline nodded at Merrill, who made a pleased “mrrrrp” sound.

“Aveline,” Isabela said, taking another swig. “Just curious, what is your real name then?”

Aveline spoke her name. Anders was right, there was no way Isabela could pronounce it, but its vowels and consonants closely followed the pattern of 'Aveline.' There was a rhythm and music to it, though it would have been nearly impossible to transcribe into a Basic spelling.

Isabela blinked. “...huh,” she said. “That’s actually a pretty name.”

Aveline grumbled something.

“She says you’re such a tease,” Anders offered.

Aveline shot up, grabbed Anders by the shoulders and started to shake him violently. Suddenly everything descended into a chaotic clamor, with Aveline growling, Anders laughing like the asshole he was, Fenris chuckling at the scene, Dorian trying to get an explanation out of Fenris, and Merrill mewling at Aveline to stop.

Isabela took one more swig, then pulled a spare blaster out of the desk and fired a loud bolt at the ceiling. Everything went quiet.

“Alright,” Isabela said. “Tomorrow, we find a way to get the Sith access codes. For now… well. Figure this out, and figure it out quietly.”

Isabela gestured, indicating the entire flat.

“This apartment clearly wasn’t meant to hold six people,” Fenris pointed out. 

“It sure wasn’t,” Isabela agreed. “Now everyone shut up so I can sleep.”

She jumped in the only bed, and rolled over in her blanket, and left them to figure out the sleeping arrangements themselves. Luckily, they listened and did so quietly. It was only when everyone was settled when Isabela heard the clank of armor and Dorian’s voice. Isabela turned to see him poking Fenris while shooting glances back at Anders.

Jidai?” he said. “ Tym kash zo jidai??”    

“Xaz. Jidai,” Fenris said. “Now, quiet.”

Dorian let out a strangled noise under his helmet. Isabela turned over and went to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Isabela woke to all the unpleasant smells that came from too many bodies being cramped in a room. Well, that and the lingering Undercity stench that clung to Anders and the charming smell of wookiee. Isabela groaned as she recalled the events leading up to this pile up. 

Fenris, it seemed, was way ahead of her in the smell department. He was covering his nose with a pained expression on his face. Aveline was stretched out on the floor, snoring. Merrill had curled up into her side and was letting out a contented purr. Anders, it seemed, had also snuggled up to Aveline, likely because she was the biggest source of warmth in the room.

Dorian, meanwhile, was standing straight up, still completely armored. 

“Ughh,” Fenris moaned.

Slowly, everyone followed Fenris in waking up. Merrill stretched and yawned, revealing her sharp teeth. Anders woke up, blinked, and yawned.

“Eh,” he said. “Not the worst I’ve woken up next to.”

Meanwhile when Aveline opened her eyes, she jumped back and made a disgusted wookiee groan. Even to Isabela’s ears it sounded like a long “ughhhhhhhhhhhh.”

“This place stinks. Like sewage,” Fenris moaned, shooting a look at Anders, who shrugged. 

“I don’t think it’s too bad!” Merrill chirped. “One time I slept in a broken trash compactor, and it was way worse!”

Fenris narrowed his eyes at Merrill. Merrill brightened in response, her ears perking forward.

“I’m glad I ended up on a crew with another one of the people!” she said. “Good morning!”

Fenris didn’t say anything to her, and went outside. Merrill looked like she had been slapped.

“Don’t worry about Fenris,” Anders said. “He just hates everyone, it seems.”

“I…” Merrill swallowed. “Okay.”

Aveline stood up and hit her head on the ceiling, growling. Anders turned to Dorian and frowned.

“Did you even take off your armor last night?” he asked. “Did you even sleep?”

Dorian, in response, took a step back. As though he were trying to put as much distance between himself and Anders as possible. Then, quickly, he did an about face and quickly walked out to join Fenris.

What a wonderful, in sync crew she’d found. 

Isabela sighed and rolled out of bed. Her body didn’t ache, thanks to Anders’ healing from the night before, but she still got out with reluctance. 

“Alright everyone,” she said. “Let’s head out.”

 


 

Isabela hoped everyone would get less grouchy on their way to the Upper City. Instead, they grew more so. 

First there was only a chilly silence. Then it progressed to mild grumbling.

“How are we going to pass through the streets of the Upper City with so many of you non humans?” Anders asked Isabela. “Like no offense but… it’s not exactly friendly up there.”

Aveline grunted, although it sounded more like agreement than an objection.

“How are we going to pass through the streets with someone who smells of sewer and who dresses like the Undercity spat him out?” Fenris asked.

And then, Dorian nudging Fenris as they walked.

“Fenris, tu mes adata zo manti kia vykti kalv Anders ar things zuti nedro.”

Fenris said something back in a low voice.

“I heard my name,” Anders said. “What are you two saying about me?”

“If you are so curious,” Fenris said. “You can use your magic powers to find out.”

“It’s not magic! It’s the Force!”

“Magic powers,” Fenris repeated.

Anders flipped him off.

And then, Merrill’s tail started to nervously flick in the un-companionable silence, so she started to babble. She moved toward Fenris.

“So, ah, what is your clan?” she asked. “Or, do you have a clan? I know not all our people do, especially the ones who lived away from the homeplanet so long. Have you lived away from the homeplanet? Oh, where were you born?”

Fenris seemed ready to answer, but stiffened a bit. 

“Say  something ,” Merrill said, her voice getting a hard edge. 

And then, both Dorian and Anders’ heads snapped to her and they stopped abruptly.

“Keep away from me, witch,” Fenris growled, shouldering away from her. “I’ll have none of your tricks.”

Merrill stopped. “I just want to talk...”

“Are you seriously trying to mind trick someone over something so trivial?” Anders asked, outraged. “A Jedi should know better.”

Merrill’s tail flicked. “I’m not a Jedi.”

“I suppose I should have guessed,” Anders said haughtily. “Jedi learn ethics.”

Merrill took in a deep breath, and then smiled. “The ethics of stealing babies?”

Isabela cut in before it could get worse.

“Anders, didn’t you used to use Jedi tricks to get discounts?”

“Yes,” Anders said. “When I was a padawan who didn’t know any better.”

“Alright, well quit it everyone,” Isabela said. “I haven’t had enough of a drink to deal with this.”

When they got to the Upper City, everything seemed unnaturally bright and clean. Everything seemed white and polished. Everywhere they went people gave them dirty tricks.

Merrill brought them not to the Sith Base, as Isabela thought, but to a large office building. In there, apparently was where all the paper-pushing side of the Sith occupation got done. And in there, on the computer of one of the higher-ups, would be the codes, according to the info Merrill had gathered. 

There were also a stunning amount of guards, both outside and inside (from what Isabela could see through the windows).

“Alright,” Fenris said. “Do we analyze the building for potential entrances, then?”

Isabela clicked her tongue. “We’re a bit of a conspicuous lot--even you, Anders--so I don’t think we should stroll right up and get our mugs on their security cameras.”

“Point taken,” Fenris said. 

Isabela eyed the place. 

“Alright,” she said. “Let’s find the seediest club in the Upper City, and talk plans.”

 


 

They came up with a plan to infiltrate as members of the cleaning staff. That was the only way they could walk about in a Sith building without getting kicked out. The Sith army had apparently become strictly human-only recently. Not that they were paragons of diversity before.

Of course, they got the custodian uniforms and ID by ambushing the actual custodians and stealing their gear, an endeavor they all managed to be a part of. But for the actual infiltration, Isabela decided to cut down her party.

“Alright,” Isabela said. “Merrill, we’ll need your charming self, so go get changed. I’ll also go. Anders?”

Anders grimaced. “Do I have to?” he asked. “I’ve never been good at this sort of thing. I’m no infiltrator or hacker. Plus, the Sith aren’t very kind to Jedi they catch, so I’ve been trying to avoid them.”

“Right,” Isabela said. “Then we’ll have you nearby to help us escape if things go south. Aveline--you’re too conspicuous. If you walk in you’ll turn heads, and that’s the last thing we want.”

Aveline grunted back.

“She says she won’t turn as many heads as you, Isabela,” Anders said with a suggestive wink.

Aveline swung at him. Anders just barely dodged.

“I appreciate the compliment Aveline,” Isabela teased, drawing another groan and facepalm from the wookiee. “Fenris?”

Fenris nodded. “I have some skill at this sort of thing.”

“Dorian?”

Fenris relayed the question to him. Dorian replied.

“He’s not taking off his armor,” Fenris said. “He says he’s not sure if you all are worthy of gazing upon his beautiful visage.”

Everyone looked dubiously at Fenris. 

“What?” Fenris grumbled. “It’s what he said.”

Getting into the building went well. Their IDs didn’t match their faces at all, but Merrill smiled and chattered and no one noticed. Someone told them that they were out of the regular rotation, and Merrill once again chirped at them.

“We’re where we need to be,” she said. “No need for you to tell anyone about this.”

“No need to tell anyone. You’re where you need to be,” the person parroted.

Isabela saw Fenris’s eyes darken watching this, but he said nothing. 

“Nice work, kitten,” Isabela told her. “Normally I have to seduce my way in, but this way leaves less of a mess.”

“Ooooh,” Merrill said. “I want to seduce someone.”

“Maybe if we need a distraction,” Isabela said. “For now, let’s keep things discreet.”

They even made it to the right office without much of a fuss. It was a room with a heavily fortified door, but with a thick glass window that allowed them to look in. And currently, it was empty. 

But Isabela swiped their access card, only for it to be rejected.

“Shoot,” Isabela said. “We don’t have clearance.”

Fenris’s eyes darted around. “I can--”

“Oh, do you want me to go and get the right card key from someone?” Merrill asked brightly. 

“Not so loud,” Fenris hissed. Then, quietly, he said. “I can get in.”

“I don’t think we can break through the glass,” Isabela said. “I’ve seen this before. It’s fortified against blades and blaster bullets. Besides, even if he did, it would likely set off the alarms.”

“I can walk through the walls,” Fenris explained.

They both stared at him. 

“Well, shit.” Isabela said. “Seriously?”

Fenris nodded.

“Oh wow!” Merrill said. “I have never met someone who used their powers that way before!”

Fenris bared his teeth at her. “It’s not like your magic,” he said. “It’s--never mind, this is a--”

“A discussion for later,” Isabela finished for him. “Go in there and get the access codes!”

She expected Fenris to say it was a joke, that he had developed a sense of humor at the least appropriate time. But then she blinked, and he was gone. She turned and looked through the window. He was there, in the office.

“Go on!” Isabela said. “Go to the computer!”

She gestured. He did so, and then frowned. He then went for the door, trying to open it, but it was no use. He in a flash, he was back next to Isabela, his face wrinkling as though in pain.

“I…” he swallowed. “I don’t know how to use a computer.”

“Shit,” Isabela said. “Well, can you bring me across?”

Fenris paused for a moment. “I… think so,” he said. “My sword travels with me. It is difficult to hold on to large objects, however. I can definitely bring no more than one person at a time.”

“Okay,” Isabela said. “We’ll try it. Merrill, you stay out here and distract anyone who comes by. We don’t want anyone to see us in here.”

She looked at her watch, and frowned. “In fact, it might only be a matter of time before a security guard looks at the right camera and notices we have ghosted into the office. So we need to make it snappy.”

Fenris did, indeed, bring her in. And then he made a pained noise. Isabela paid no mind, and got straight to the computer, taking out her computer spikes. She logged in, bypassing the need for identification, and started to look.

And it was there that things went wrong.

Isabela was still looking when Merrill started banging on the window. 

“Shit,” Isabela said. “Fenris, go see what the issue is.”

Fenris blinked through and back.

“An officer passed by. One who could identify her,” he said. 

She swept through file after file, trying to figure out how it would be labelled, and cursed. Looking up, she saw Merrill wave to someone and say something, shooing away a potential problem.

“Nice work, kitten,” Isabela said under her breath. “Hold on, I almost got it.”

Then she saw a flash of a security guard’s uniform through the window.

“Fenris, hide!” she said instinctively.

She ducked behind the desk, and he jumped behind the door. Isabela felt her heart pound, and took a deep breath. She was pretty sure they hadn’t seen her. Problem was, now she couldn’t see what was going on out there, either.

She heard something sizzle, and a muffled cry from behind the thick glass.

She gave it a few seconds, and then peeked. Merrill was out of view, along with most of the security guards. Only two were left behind--or their bodies, rather--the armor around their necks crushed inward.

“Kitten?” Isabela asked. 

Fenris flashed toward the window before Isabela could so much as blink. “They have her.”

“Fuck,” Isabela said. “Alright, new plan.”

She ripped out the computer’s hard drive. Fenris raised his eyebrows.

“Hack later,” Isabela said. “Get Merrill now.”

He gave her a look. Not a reproachful one so much as a curious one. But he ghosted her through the door nonetheless. The second they were through, Isabela could hear thrashing and then the sound of a stunner. They were just in time to see Merrill getting dragged around the corner--literally dragged, held up by her arms as her feet and tail swept along against the floor. She twitched a moment, setting her foot on the ground to struggle to regain her footing, only for one of the guards to hit her again with a stunner, making her limp again.

There were four guards. Possibly more than they could take on. Sith guards were a step above regular thugs, after all.

Isabela had the hard drive. She could tell Fenris to get her out of there, and leave Merrill behind. She’d gotten everything she came for, after all.

Instead, she grabbed for the blaster she’d hidden in the janitorial cart they had been pushing around.

“If we fight them,” Fenris told her. “Every guard in the building will come for us.”

“Yeah,” Isabela agreed, cocking her blaster. “Pain in the ass, right?”

Fenris actually smirked at her, and pulled a vibroblade out of the cart.

She charged around the hall and fired. Immediately, they dropped Merrill and whirled and the fight was on. Fenris blinked in and out of sight, moving too quickly to see as he striked them down. Isabela shot from a distance. 

Three fell quickly. The fourth ran, and then came the alarm bells. Isabela picked up Merrill, who was groaning.

“Oh Isabela,” she said, voice slurring a bit. “I tried. I told them to go away but they didn’t listen to me this time and they hit me and I could only kill two--”

“Shh. I know,” Isabela said. “Fenris, think you can ghost your way through the whole building?”

“I can only take one at a time,” he reminded her.

She practically shoved Merrill into his arms. “Go.”

Fenris hesitated.

“Go! Get out of here!”

And then the two were gone. Isabela ran.

“Shit shit shit shit shit,” she muttered under her breath.

She ran. She ducked into corners and behind things. She wondered if Fenris would come back once he’d gotten Merrill out. Likely not, she thought. Who would want to trade a hard-earned free life for a short, painful existence in a Sith prison cell?

Isabela was on her own.

But she could handle it. She always handled it.

She ran for the nearest window once the guards had run by. Surely she could climb down the back. Anders and Aveline should be waiting outside, ready to catch her if she needed to jump. Heart beating, she crept quietly for the window, only for a blaster bolt to hit her and light up her vision.

“There’s one! Get her!”

Isabela ran for the window, and everything went black.

 

Chapter Text

Isabela woke up on her feet. Sort of. She was being dragged along, iron grips on both of her arms and her hands cuffed behind her back. She tried to regain her footing, only to lose it as she was dragged along.

She also couldn’t see. They’d put a hood over her head.

Still, she could tell she was being moved along outside. In the background, she could hear a ship taking off. The Sith base, then, she thought.

Fenris had the hard drive. Someone else could hack it. Dorian had the ship. Someone else could pilot.

Isabela listened to the sound of the ship rising in the air, and cursed herself.

 


 

 

They put her in a force cage: a miserable device too small and narrow to do anything but stand up in. The force fields around her burned to the touch, so if she dozed off and leaned in the wrong direction, she had a lovely little wake up.

She stood, and waited.

It wasn’t long until a helmeted officer came in to interrogate her. 

“What were you doing infiltrating headquarters?” he asked. 

Luckily, Isabela didn’t have anything worth hiding.

“Well, I was trying to get the access codes,” she said plainly. “I’m sick of being stuck on this miserable rock and I want off.”

“Who are you working for?”

“No one,” she said honestly.

He pulled a lever, and pain shot through her every nerve. She convulsed. Her vision turned white. Then, she came to.

“That,” the interrogator said. “Was one of the lower shock settings.”

Isabela didn’t have any comeback. “Lovely,” she managed.

“Now tell the truth. Who do you work for?”

And that was the thing. They wouldn’t believe the truth, because the truth was terribly disappointing to them. They wanted her to reveal she was somehow in league with the Republic, or the Jedi, and that she could blabber out plan after plan so they could capture Bitchula Khan, or whoever. Too bad for them they’d just caught a regular lone crook.

“No one,” she said. 

And so it continued. 

“Let’s try something else. Where are your conspirators?”

“Likely off the planet by now,” she said, truthfully.

That got her another heavy shock that rooted her to the ground for a minute. After that one, she swayed dizzily, almost hitting the force field. 

And it continued.

“Are you in league with the Jedi Bastila Shan?” 

“No.”

And again. 

“We’ve heard reports,” the interrogator said, “Of Bastila being sighted running around with a Twi’lek.”

“Well, whaddya know,” Isabela said. “There’s a whole other Twi’lek on Taris.”

And again. It was getting hard to focus her vision. Not to mention hard to remain on her feet.

“Alright, I confess,” Isabela said.  “I’ve been taking orders from Bisilia Shunt. In fact the other night I personally licked her--”

And again. 

She switched tactics. She told them exactly what they wanted: made up a fake location where she had gone to get orders, a fake contact who was still on Taris. But by then, they didn’t know whether to believe her. Because she had already “lied” so many times after all.

“Give us the location of the Jedi.”

Isabela thought. She could tell them about Anders. Anders would likely be off the planet, anyway. They might not even bother to go after him, a small time runaway who had never even fought in the wars, far as she knew.

“Well, I hear…” she said, licking her lips. “I hear they have a base on Coruscant.”

And so it continued.

 


 

Isabela started to doze off when the interrogator left, only to be woken every few minutes when she collided with the force field. Which stung. A lot. 

Eventually, she heard the door open and saw a pair of armored feet walk in. The interrogator, followed by another. Maybe it wasn’t the same interrogator, she thought. They all wore the same damn helmet, so it’s not as though she could tell them apart. 

Isabela struggled to stand up straight and look him in the eye. How long had it been? Long enough that she could feel the sleep deprivation. She barely managed to keep her eyes open.

“More questions?” she slurred.

“Get rid of her.”

And then, another lever was pulled. This one didn’t bring electricity, though. Instead it brought a smell that crawled right into Isabela’s lungs and burned. She wheezed and coughed and things started to fade from her vision.

Distantly, she heard more footsteps, the sound of blaster fire, and distant cries.

A wookiee’s roar.

She fell forward. This time, though, she didn’t fall into the force field, but into someone’s arms. She gasped, the air returning slowly.

“Isabela.” It was Merrill. “Oh Isabela, say something!”

She felt a familiar warmth under her skin, and the pain went away. Still, she struggled to breathe.

“Give her mouth to mouth!” 

Fenris. That was Fenris.

“That’s not how it works, you idiot!” Anders snapped back.

“She needs air!”

“Excuse me, are you the healer? Did you train for eight years? No? Then shut up and let me do my job!”

There were soft hands on her face. Isabela’s eyes opened, and she saw the widest green eyes looking down at her.

Isabela coughed, her throat still on fire. “Hey, kitten,” she managed.

“Isabela!” Merrill cried. “Oh, she’s awake!”

Isabela lolled her head up. It seemed she was resting in Ander’s arms as he healed her while Merrill was kneeling close. Then, in an instant, she saw everyone’s faces crowding around her, every single one of them looking worried sick.

Well, except Dorian that is. He still had his helmet on. 

She felt her throat and lungs sting for another moment, and then the pain melted away.

“What’re all you idiots doing here?” she croaked.

“Saving your life,” Fenris said.

“Damn foolish.” Isabela struggled to get up, leaning on Anders as she did so. “You’re all terrible pirates, you know that? Y’re all in the wrong business. Pirates n’ smugglers don’t go around saving lives.”

Fenris’s lips quirked a bit.

“I mean,” she wheezed. “Sith bases don’t even have any good loot! All they got is--”

Before she could finish, she was silenced by too many hugs.


 

Isabela was still sleep deprived, and wanted to simply drift away into oblivion. But there was a base to escape, so instead the group stuck a stimulant into her thigh. Aveline propped her up. Aveline, who had a grip like death.

“What are you even doing, charging into a base after me,” Isabela grumbled. “Stubborn bitch.”

In response, Aveline showed her that wookiees could give the middle finger.

“Okay,” Isabela said, still hoarse. “How many people did you kill on the way in?”

“A lot,” Fenris said. 

“So the other guards are alerted, then.”

“Well, no. We uh….”

“There isn’t really anyone left to call for help in the places we came through,” Anders said. “And we killed the guys watching the security feed first.”

“Apparently the base was broken into right before you got taken there,” Merrill said. “They were still restaffing and rebuilding all the security systems.”

“Well, damn,” Isabela said. “So there’s a chance we can just walk back out?”

They walked back over a lot of corpses. It was eerily quiet, yes. But luckily devoid of blasters pointed their direction. There were also a number of computer terminals that were smashed up.

“Geez guys,” Isabela said. “Overkill much?”

“It was already like that when we got here, actually,” Fenris said.

“Previous break in. Right.”

Before they could simply walk out the front door, they heard armored footsteps. Isabela looked around the corner to the hallway, and saw more Sith troopers, looking down and inspecting all the bodies and damage. She turned back.

“Shit,” she whispered. “Back up has already been called. Okay, new plan--”

Before she could say anything, Dorian ran past her and threw a grenade into the hall, which promptly exploded.

“What the fuck, Dorian?” Isabela shouted.

But it was too late. The troopers in the hall had been taken out, but their position had been discovered. Isabela drew her blaster, Fenris and Aveline charged out. They fought, ran into the front room--

--and promptly ran back out when they saw twenty men there.

“This way!” Isabela thought fast.

She had been hooded when they had taken her through the hangar. But she knew it was there. Anders threw up a barrier, deflecting dozens of blaster bolts aimed at them as they ran. Isabela closed her eyes and tried to remember.

Miraculously, she found it. And there was one ship docked currently, with a Sith pilot walking up the ramp.

“Into the ship!” she cried. 

They charged in. There was a crew of three getting ready for takeoff, all unarmed, all easily shot down. Isabela kept the captain alive, and held a gun to his head. 

“Get rid of the bodies!” she barked, keeping the gun to the man’s head.  “What kind of ship is this?”

“Uh-ah-um--a bomber!” the man said quickly.

“Hyperdrive?”

“Uh-uh-yes? Yes there is a hyperdrive.”

“Access codes?” Isabela asked.

“Already plugged into the mainframe,” he stammered. “Please don’t kill me.”

She threw him out of the ship, unharmed, along with the bodies. Outside, the Sith troopers were bursting out of the building and surrounding them. Isabela shut the hatch, and made for the captain’s seat. She flipped the lever to start up the ship. 

“It’s going to take a minute to get off the ground!” Isabela shouted. “I need a co-pilot. Someone--Fenris, come here.”

Before Fenris could move, however, Aveline rushed forward and took the co-pilot’s seat, and started to gingerly press all the right buttons to put in coordinates.

“Oh!” Isabela said. “Oh, that’s how it’s going to be. Alright then.”

Outside, she saw more troopers arrive with heavier artillery.

“They’re going to manage to keep us grounded if we don’t get them now!” she said. “Someone, get in the turret!”

Dorian, Merrill, Anders, and Fenris all looked at each other.

“Figure it out between you!” Isabela said, struggling to give orders as she focused on getting the ship going.

“Rock paper scissors!” Anders said. “Except no one explain the rules to Dorian, so he has to do it.”

Fenris opened his mouth as though to object, before he turned a squint to Dorian for a second. Then, quietly, he looked back to Anders and nodded.

In about thirty seconds the other three had shoved Dorian into the turret. 

“Okay okay okay,” Isabela mumbled. “Thirty more seconds. Dammit, we need to fire that turret!”

The ship rumbled as a turret finally fired at their foes. Isabela sighed. 

“We have the access codes,” Fenris pointed out. “But if any of those men down there call the commander and inform them of a stolen ship, it won’t matter. They’ll have their armada shoot us down regardless.”

“Well,” Isabela said, and then turned back and pulled a lever. “If we move fast enough--”

“Bomb them.”

Merrill and Fenris both turned to look at Anders.

“They can’t call base if they’re all dead,” Anders pointed out. “And they are vile members of a violent invading force. They deserve no mercy.”

Isabela had to stop at that, and look at Anders for a minute. Not in judgment so much as shock. He said it placidly, his voice leveling into a level monotone, to opposite of the vocal pattern Isabela was used to hearing from him. Anders, who had dug in his heels about fighting in any wars himself and who hated to use his lightsaber for anything more than parlour tricks.

“...Does this vessel have any bombs?” Fenris asked cautiously.

“What if we miss and hit a civilian building, though?” Merrill asked.

“The turret might have to be enough,” Isabela said.

Aveline turned to Anders, calling something out to him.

“She says that this model should be outfitted with some bombs,” Anders said. “She knows how to fire them. Or, I think she said she knows how to fire them. But there are definitely bombs.”

Isabela turned to Aveline. She was definitely going to have to ply the wookiee with the strongest vodka in the galaxy and get her to explain how on earth she knew the vessel so well. But that would be for later. 

“Alright, big girl,” Isabela said. “I’ll get into position. You deploy them when they’re ready. Now hang on, everyone.

Isabela lifted off, and sure enough, the three standing behind them fell to the ground. She had no mind to pay them, though. She flew high, and looped right over to hover over the base. She held her breath, and felt her heart hammer in her chest. Next to her, Aveline pulled a lever. 

Isabela heard the blast first. Then, as she turned to fly away, she got to see the building go up in smoke. 

In a few minutes they were at the blockade. Isabela fumbled for the radio, only for an automated voice to come over it.

Access code accepted.

They soared into the stars.

 


 

Isabela leaned back in her seat, and allowed herself a breath. Then, without wasting another moment, she started charging the hyperdrive.

“Punch in the coordinates for the nearest system, Aveline,” Isabela said. “Let’s not stick around for them to figure out we’re fakes. Or that we blew up their base.”

Aveline started to push the buttons. Two minutes to charge the hyperdrive. Isabela took another breath. Her heart was still pounding. In the corner of her eye, she saw Dorian climb out of the turret, and promptly shout something at Fenris. 

She turned back around, and closed her eyes.

A shrill scream made her eyes flash open. She turned to see Merrill crumpling to the floor.

“What is it?” Isabela asked.

Merril reached out to one of the back windows. Dorian threw up his arms in a gesture of disbelief, before his hands went to his head. Anders covered his mouth like he was about to vomit, and supported himself against the wall. Only Fenris stood straight, mouth falling open.

She heard an explosion. And then another. And another after that, followed by the sound of blasters.

“They’re--they’re attacking?” Merrill said. “I don’t understand!”

“They can’t--” Anders swallowed. “The whole planet? They can’t!”

Isabela turned the ship around, just for a moment. The entire Sith armada had turned on Taris, and began to raze its surface with every weapon they had.

“But it’s their planet now!” Merrill said. “It’s under their control! Why…?”

“Maybe because… they found one of their bases destroyed?” Fenris asked. “To punish perceived rebellion.”

“But their own men!” Anders said. “They have their own soldiers stationed there!”

Dorian rasped out something. Fenris shook his head, and said nothing else.

Isabela watched. Buildings went up in walls of fire, turning everything to dust. Others crumbled from the force of the blasts. Fighters flew over and shot down anything left standing.

Isabela grit her teeth, and turned the ship away.

“Hyperdrive’s charged,” she said. “Everyone get ready.”

The stars turned into streams of light. In seconds, Taris and whole Sith fleet were behind them. Nothing but a tiny spec in the mass of space.

They had survived, Isabela thought. That was all that mattered.