He'd been being careful. He really had. The General had chased that witch into, then out of, this place, and he'd insisted they had to sweep it. Something about the half-buried building had the General's nerves pinging, so it was a good place to step light and touch nothing. He had been, too!
And then something had moved under his boot and he'd jumped backwards off the armored thing with too many legs and hit the leg of a pillar of some kind. It'd gone all the way up to the next story, but the old stone had cracked and something had come bouncing off the top of it. It'd looked like glass, or crystal. Had to catch it, it might be important. It hit the fingers of his right hand, bounced up, and he followed it. Once, twice, one more time it refused to stay in his grasp, but it was losing speed and on the fourth, a good three meters from the pillar, he had the thing cradled securely on his palm. Transparent and gleaming, no, glowing, extending off either side of his hand but secure.
The fabric of reality bent, tore, and he felt himself fading away from this place, a call off to his rear left of his name the last thing he knew from the ruins --
-- and then he was seeing the same ruins, dustier, lit only by a hand lamp, not the rolling lights they had been using to clear the place. That hand lamp was in a man's hand, a man that was reaching for a blaster. The man was shorter than anyone except maybe the Commander, the orange of his suit screaming 'uniform' but none that Fives knew.
"Who are you, and how did you just… appear?" the man asked, as an astromech beeped and booped in exclamation at the situation.
"My name's Fives," he answered past his splitting headache and incipient panic, lifting his head and immediately squinting against the light aimed at his face. The astromech's warble sounded familiar, but then, most of them had pretty similar pitches. "Could you.. not? With the light? It -- "
The astromech's sounds went into an intense screech at either his words or him looking up, before the white, blue, and silver droid shot out in front of the man, popping both a cutting saw and an electric prod, clearly threatening Fives while adopting a defensive posture.
"Artoo!" the man protested, even as he tipped the hand lamp away. "He's probably just a bounty hunter!"
"I am not!!" Fives protested loud enough that his head hurt some more, while he took a confused step backward. The faint handlamp beams weren't letting him get a good look at the droid, but the electricity sizzling in-between the tines of the prod was enough light to -- combined with the man's call of his name -- make him think that was the General's astromech partner.
But why would he be with someone not the General? Also, he'd been ahead of him with the General, just a second ago... oh, his head hurt. "...Artoo? R2-D2?"
The astromech charged forward a bit, angry beeps issuing forth in the vod'e binary code. [My pilot! Stay away!] Then, as the droid cycled through his memory, the locked files, that name registered, matched to the chromatic spectra on the armor, and the droid suddenly stilled, the saw stopping its motion. [Fives? CT-5555? How?!]
"Artoo, what are you doing? And… you, don't move. I trust my droid, even if I don't understand him right now," the man said.
"That's okay. I understand him just fine," Fives answered, his tight shoulders relaxing as Artoo stopped spinning that lethal saw at him. He knew how dangerous that thing could be! "He's trying to protect you, which says good things to me -- but hang on a minute. Yeah, Artoo, it's me. As to how -- I have no idea, little buddy.
"We were just here, with the Company, and then I caught this thing," he hefted it, just a little, "and... something crazy happened. Now you're here, but with somebody that's not the General, and my head is killing me."
Artoo scanned the device, then made a disparaging noise. [Force Thing.] He put his weapons away, then rolled back to his pilot's leg, where the man dropped a hand onto the dome, having put his blaster away when Artoo put his own away.
"I have no idea how you know my friend here," the man said, "or how he knows you, as you don't look like most of the Alderaani I have met so far. But my name is Luke Skywalker, and that thing you are holding is… maybe dangerous? I've got a feeling about it, anyway."
"Skywalker?" Fives blinked, cocking his head, "The General never said he had a vod, but you look some like him, if he bleached his hair like some do -- Artoo, is he?
"And... no kriff, sir. It just did something completely freaky and took me from my brothers and my General, I'm pretty sure it's dangerous!"
Artoo gave a whine, shifting from foot to foot, as he tried to figure out how to give information, rather than just confirm it. Luke looked down at the droid, then over at Fives.
"General?" he asked, curious, and worried about Artoo's erratic behavior.
Fives cocked his head, studying the young man's face. He really did look some like the General, from what he could see, and... "Jedi General Anakin Skywalker? Best one of 'em all, too. How'd you not place that, with Artoo with you?"
"Huh? Why would I? He came to me from serving on the Tantive IV. But what… my father? You served with my father? He was a general?" Luke's voice was confused.
Artoo could only offer a croon to try and reassure his pilot. He then spoke in coded to Fives. [Many changes. Civilian droid, now military again.] He was counting on the ARC training to kick in, let Fives make the leap on why he wasn't really communicating.
"And somebody karking locked your memories," Fives said, replying to Artoo before he dealt with what the young man had said, "because they couldn't wipe 'em. Not after what the General did for you."
Now he had to pay attention to the young man, much as that was -- baffling, and made his head hurt even worse. "...um, the General is not old enough to have a kid your age. In the slightest. I mean, he's barely older than the oldest of us appear to be! ...well, except Sinker, but he went silver when he was six. ...but Artoo said 'many changes', and I just saw him two minutes ago, with the General where he's supposed to be, so --
" -- who dumped me in a holonovel?"
From beside the young man, Artoo offered, [The thing in your hand?]
"Oh, kriff you," Fives replied, looking at Artoo's optical spot with a roll of his eyes, utterly unsurprised when the astromech responded with the sharply razzing noise he expected.
Luke had to smile. "Let's get that thing secured and get out of here. Artoo seems to trust you, now, and I should get back to base." He pulled a security bag out of a pouch for the item.
[Good vod. Take care of him,] Artoo said in common binary, except that second word.
"What's that?" Luke asked, meaning the unfamiliar beeps.
"He said 'vod'," Fives replied, carefully sliding the object into the bag -- he had some of his own, but he'd let the Skywalker keep and carry it. Artoo claimed him, and he said that the General was his father, so. That was good enough for him to believe it would be in good hands. Artoo's assessment had him smiling a little. "It means, oh, what's the neutral, 'sibling', though we say 'brother' in Basic, most times.
"You're... really my General's ad -- sorry, son?" The General, with an ad. That -- that was something to think of. He'd be.. Fives wanted to think he'd be good with an infant, a child... but this was his General they were talking about, and he would probably be helpless with it. Devoted and protective and loving, but helpless.
"Yeah, though I never knew him. Still getting used to the idea he was a Jedi, actually," Luke said with a little bit of sadness. "Come on; glad I brought one of the larger ships," he added as he secured the bag. "I didn't know Artoo knew him… but you said 'locked'. That's… going to be something to get to the bottom of. But it's not like he's not used to carrying big secrets, is it, Artoo?" he asked affectionately as he led the way.
[Secrets safe. Always get my mission done. Somehow.] Artoo rolled right along, navigating a few uneven spots with a little assistance from Luke.
"You can say that again, Artoo," Fives replied with a quick, entertained smile... even while the idea that his General's son wouldn't have known him made something hurt, deep in his chest. It... his General couldn't die. Not General Skywalker.
It would gut the entire GAR to lose him. He couldn't. Fives had to find out what had happened, then figure out how to make that stupid thing take him back to his General and keep it from happening.
"Are you okay?" Luke asked, aware that Fives was hurting, with that ability that was still catching him off guard. Artoo warbled the same question, just because Luke had, and knowing how important it was to check on the Vod'e. His first pilot had impressed that on him, to always watch out for them.
"Me? Fine." Luke, beside him, cast him that sideways Jedi 'I don't believe you' look that the General was so good at, and he sighed. "Just. Worried about my General, is all. It -- it'd gut the entire Republic, let alone what it'd do to the Army, to lose him.
"But if you didn't know him, don't know any of our language..."
"Republic…" Luke shook his head. "Maybe we should talk about this back at base."
[Wait, yes. Need sit down, kaf.] Artoo rolled to where he could be at Fives' side, even as his circuits knotted up over all he knew and could not say.
Luke snorted. "Okay, if Artoo is saying that, yeah, definitely wait until we are at base to talk about any more. Though… I'd love to hear about my father. Dreis didn't get to say much before we scrambled at the fight for Yavin IV, and the other older fighters don't much have time to do more than tell me that I remind them of him with my flying."
Fives looked worriedly at Artoo for the 'need sit down, kaf', and laid his hand down on the smooth dome, careful with how he placed his gauntlet. "Hi," he murmured to him, soft.
The idea that his General's son was still fighting, that hurt as much or more as the idea of anything happening to his General. "I can definitely talk about the General -- every vod's favorite pastime, swapping 'crazy kriffing jetii' stories. Or second-favorite, anyway. And General Skywalker's pretty much always good for winning 'craziest story gets his drinks covered' with any other unit."
"Craziest? Jetii?" Luke boggled a little, and kept wondering at the other language. It sounded vaguely familiar, like maybe he had heard it around Anchorhead.
Artoo gave his equivalent of laughter at Luke, but said nothing else.
Fives wondered, again, at how his General's son could know so little, but decided that he would keep his questions, and instead answer the young man, even as they loaded up on a ship more beaten-on than the Twilight.
"Jetii means Jedi, in Mando'a. We use it, rather than 'Jedi', for the ones that are ours, that live and fight with us, as part of us, instead of the ones that stand apart and just do what they must. There are plenty of good Jedi... but the jetii are ours. General Skywalker and General Kenobi. Generals Secura and Koth, definitely General Koon, to name a few.
"And sure, craziest, what else do you call deciding that the tops of a bunch of magna tri-droids will make a great highway to get from one position to another the better part of a klick away? And oh, by the way, while you're on the way you'll just take out all of their cannons with your lightsaber as you go?"
Fives hadn't been there for Christophsis, but the General had pulled that trick on some planet he couldn't even remember the name of, and Rex had sworn a pretty blue streak over it.
"That's all… wow. General Kenobi… Ben, I mean, Obi-Wan? He taught me a little, was the one that told me my dad had been a Jedi," Luke said. "I don't know any of those other names, but he didn't have a lot of time with me."
Artoo gave a derisive noise, but he was already jacking in to help with piloting, since this ship normally had two pilots.
Fives opened his mouth to question, thought better of it and muttered, "Kaf. Kaf first. Yeah, 'wow' covers the General pretty well, basically all the time."
General Kenobi had let anyone else have the care of his vod's son? Nothing about any of this made sense at all, and Fives raked his hand through his hair for a moment.
Luke settled in the pilot's chair and started getting them off this planet. "So my father wasn't just a pilot in the war. That's a difference in us; I tend to just stay with Rogue Squadron, and provide air support."
[And blow up the big super weapons!] Artoo protested his downplaying.
"No," Fives said, shaking his head -- and certain that 'provide air support' did not half express what any Skywalker got up to in a ship even before Artoo put his opinion in -- before he went on, "nothing like 'just' a pilot, though nobody in the galaxy is a better pilot than my General. ...it tears him up, you can see it, when we've got both a ground campaign and an air or space battle at the same time, trying to figure out where he's needed most."
He hadn't recognized that, once, but it hadn't taken too long, watching the General, to realize what that look was. The General wanted to be with all of them, to be able to be there to defend every vod with lightsaber or fighter, to bring as many of them home as he possibly could. Knowing that part of the Legion would be engaged without him drove his General right 'round the twist.
Having the Commander had helped with some of that, once the General got to a point where he didn't have to have her right there with him. But that was its own twist in the man's heart too, and most of the men felt it too. The Commander was just as quick to take risks as the General, and less experienced, for all she was a natural fighter.
Luke frowned, but it was a look of concentration, trying to see that. "I'm pretty certain the army you belonged to is a lot different than the Rebel Alliance," he finally said. "There's a central, overall command, of course, but sometimes it's like a lot of little armies in one? Leia said it's because it started as isolated cells that were slowly brought into the full effort in the last couple of years."
Artoo added an assent to that. [Many little squads and operations,] he told Fives. [Now big, but still separated a little.]
"Rebel Alliance?" Fives couldn't help but ask it at this point, kaf or no kaf, because that was one of the words that could so easily mean something terrible. Not that he really thought his General's son, General Kenobi, or even Artoo would be part of something that was against the Republic, but... he had to know.
[Alliance to Restore the Republic,] Artoo told him firmly, [Rebel, short-form.]
"Thank you, Artoo," Luke said, glancing over at Fives once he had space around the ship again. "We fight the Empire. But how the Empire exists… something I'm hazy on… will have to wait for base. Because I'm betting it's not going to be easy for you to hear."
Fives froze on his feet, a cold as deep and bitter as carbonite or space sinking into his chest worse and sharper than a vibroblade. 'To Restore' -- that meant --
"We failed? The... the Republic fell."
He would not shake. He would not break in front of this young Jedi, his General's son, but he couldn't think much past the determination not to do that and the blank, shocked horror at the thought. That all of his brothers, all of the Jedi, all of the civilians could have died for nothing, because they had failed to do what they were made for....
"Fives." Luke's calm voice cut into his ruminations, but it wasn't the first time he'd said it, not by that tone. "I'm sorry. I really am. And maybe… maybe the Force is trying to do something about it, that it pulled you here/now and made me, of all people, come investigate. I'm not really a Jedi, but I'm trying. So maybe we can figure this all out, get some of the older ones to talk to you, and then… make that thing send you back?"
Artoo all but vibrated in place at the very thought. His pilot and senator could be saved? Snips wouldn't vanish? Everything bad could be undone?
Now he had to figure out how to undo the memory lock!
Fives shook himself back into 'now', appalled that his General's son had had to call him multiple times, and then he nodded, slowly. "I... maybe? Normally see the practical applications of the Force, not the mystic stuff, but... there's got to be some reason I'm here.
"And I've got to get back home, once I know enough to stop it. I've -- just got to. I can't let all of my brothers' deaths be for nothing. ...Artoo? What's going on in there, buddy? I can feel you about to shake yourself in half, don't do that."
Artoo made a disparaging noise, then tried to find the words that would work around the lock. [Secrets.] It came out plaintively, a frustration and plea alike for his protocols to be voided, somehow.
Luke looked to his astromech, then to Fives. "So, if he was 'locked', who would have the authority to unlock his memories? I hope not just my father, because… well." His tone said all on that subject, as well as the deep, aching sadness in his eyes.
"No, it wouldn't be just him -- he wouldn't risk that," Fives replied, shaking his head as he tried to think at least a little like his General. He looked at the viewscreen rather than Luke or Artoo, certain he wouldn't like the responses to any of the names he could immediately think of. "...the Senator -- sorry, Senator Amidala, of Naboo, I mean -- surely would. General Kenobi and the Commander -- Commander Tano -- certainly. I'd bet on our Captain, Rex, too. Kix, maybe.
"Obviously, not me. He wouldn't have told many people -- less trusting than a Null, sometimes, our General -- how to do it, or how to reverse it, and the instructions can't be with Artoo..." Who else, or how else?
"Other than Ben… Kenobi… I don't recognize any of those names," Luke said. "But, when we get to base, I can run a search on them all!"
Artoo managed to hold back his sad sound; he was pretty certain none of those people were alive now. Except maybe Captain Rex; he had been on the Tantive IV once.
His General's son didn't recognize the name of the woman that held his General's entire heart, will, and spirit in the palms of her hands? Didn't know the name of the woman that every vod in the 501st knew had to be protected, if they wanted to keep their General safe from himself? Every inch of Fives' skin crawled under his blacks for a moment, and he decided to try a leading question. "...who's your mother, Luke?"
Luke gave a small shrug, with a twist of his mouth. "I asked my aunt once. She said my mother was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, but wouldn't say anything else about her," he said softly. "Considering my uncle told me that my dad was a spacer, just that… I guess she could be anybody. Ben didn't mention my mother, when he told me about my father, the truth about him, anyway."
Luke should have asked, he knew, but there had been so much, and so many shocks, and losing his aunt and uncle had hurt deep in his soul. He knew his mother had to be dead, just because of the lack of information.
"Someone said what about my General?!"
Luke had to snort at Fives' indignation. "With the Jedi extinct, I guess it was safer? I don't know. Maybe Uncle Owen was just trying to keep me grounded, so I'd stop pestering him and actually do my chores."
Fives growled, but that 'the Jedi extinct' had chills sliding up and down his spine. What in the names of the stars and storms could have possibly killed all of the Jedi, their jetii? And how and why could General Kenobi have escaped that?
He'd never want to. That jetii was one that was near eager to march far away, sometimes. "...maybe," he had to allow. "Maybe. Your father, though.... he only ever had eyes or time for one woman, that I ever saw -- and she was surely the most beautiful human woman I can think of seeing." .
Luke's eyes lit at that. "What was she like? Was she a fighter too? What can you tell me?"
Artoo was listening to all of this, with so many answers for them, and hating that he could not. His memories of his Senator and Pilot kept queueing in his banks, and he wanted to show the images!
"Amazing, resourceful, incredibly dangerous," Fives answered, but had to follow it, immediately, with, "compassionate, generous, unfailingly kind. She cared enough to learn our names, and she almost never got one wrong once she'd heard it. She argued for ends to the war -- but it was always with a care for what happened to us, after. Unlike just about the entire rest of the Senate.
"Senator Padmé Amidala, is --" Artoo made a staticky garbled noise, and Fives clenched a fist, understanding, " -- was, her name."
Luke absorbed that, taking in the idea his mother, or at least the likely one, was a politician, a Senator like Leia had been. That was amazing to him, and just added to his growing disconnect with why he had been hidden away on the furthest spot from the bright center of the galaxy.
"I wish I knew more about why my aunt and uncle raised me," he finally said. "I should have asked more questions with Ben. There had to be more to it than my father being murdered by Darth Vader. I just wish I knew."
Artoo had to choke off a sound of protest; the truth was part of events Senator Organa and General Kenobi had put behind the locks.
"Another kriffing Sith?" Fives protested that idea, even as anger slammed through him. His General dying on the field, that was one thing, horrible but comprehensible. His General murdered, with everything that word implied? "...what happened to General Kenobi?"
He didn't want to know, but... he had to understand as much as he could. He reached to put a hand on Artoo again, petting to soothe that frustrated edge. "We'll figure it out, Artoo. Somehow."
Luke shrugged. "When I was growing up, he was just this crazy old wizard, living like a hermit out in the Wastes. I think he was there to keep an eye on me, maybe? I ran into him a few times when I was younger, but Uncle Owen didn't approve of him. They got in an argument when I was about twelve?
"Now, I'm pretty sure Ben was trying to get him to let me be trained. But I never really thought about it after the night I heard them."
"...I didn't think there was anyone General Kenobi lost arguments against," Fives said, baffled at what he'd heard, before he shook his head slightly. "Not when he thought it was important." Bickering with his former cadet, killing the tension with banter at each other, that was different. "But that's not -- "
He frowned a little, trying to figure out how to rephrase the question without asking it outright. How had their other General, their High General, died, was what he meant.
Luke felt a question in that tapering off, and frowned, trying to let the Force in, to find the right answer to words not asked… but he couldn't quite get there. He refused to sigh or show his frustration over all he was still lacking, wondering how he was ever going to be a proper Jedi like his father.
[Jedi got stupid.] Artoo could say that. He'd witnessed enough of Ben after the memory lock to volunteer that.
"Well, that's obvious," Fives replied, his mouth quirking slightly before he returned his attention to Luke. "I meant... what happened to him. That he's not with you teaching you now. How he -- died."
Saying it ached.
Luke looked out at the distorted starfield of hyperspace, remembering that moment of seeing the lightsaber move, of the robe falling, empty.
"He had gone to knock out the tractor beam. Me and Han were rescuing Leia, with Chewie. We all kind of got separated, and the droids were having to come from a different side. There were stormtroopers all around the Falcon. Then they took off… and I could hear a lightsaber, then another.
"We made for the ship… and then I could see them. Ben, and Vader. Vader… Vader killed him. It looked like he might have been surrendering, because he stopped fighting… and Vader just struck him down." Luke swallowed hard against all the feelings. Ben had been the last link to his life before.
Fives burned that name into his mind.
Darth Vader. The death of both of his Generals (his Commander? please, Force, no) and Sith of this 'Empire', whatever it was. The Generals could preach against hate all they wanted, but hating the sentients that kept the war going was working just fine for Fives so far. No trouble to add another name to the list of those. "General Kenobi would have known what he was doing, Luke. He always did, no matter how crazy it seemed. ...I'm sorry."
Luke shook his head. "It hurt, for a lot of reasons, and I got wrapped up in it, but… what happened with me and Ben there, that's nothing compared to Leia. I mean, she was tortured by him. And then made to watch as they destroyed her home planet!"
Fives hissed sharply at that, shaking his head. He'd seen worlds laid waste, it was hard to miss, but.. there was something in the way Luke said 'destroyed' that warned him of worse. He decided he didn't want to know much more. "Kriffing Sith di'kut," he muttered. "But... enough about that, I was talking about the General, wasn't I?"
He fiddled with his gauntlet a minute, before he found the holoclip he'd gotten from Coric, the General against the witch out in the space between their lines, the Commander defending against the droids, and flicked it up.
Luke stared at the scene, his eyes flicking over all of them before coming back to the very potent figure that the man with the blue lightsaber was. This was his father. This man that looked… almost as young as himself fighting against a woman with red lightsabers.
"He's… he's young. I didn't expect that."
"Just over twenty standard, when the Legion got him," Fives agreed, watching his General fight through the long two minutes of the clip before Ventress ran. He laughed for a moment, looking back over his shoulder with a heft of his lightsaber and that devil-may-care smile that always promised a really good fight, tip of his jaw 'come on, then,' before he charged, "twenty-two, now. Well. Now for me."
Luke's eyes would not leave that man, the smile… reminded him of Han… and laugh making him seem even more real to his son. "Not much older than I was at the battle of Yavin IV," he breathed. "I just turned twenty on the last Empire Day, a few weeks back."
Artoo all but rattled with the reason why, but he stayed quiet, wanting to show all of his clips, and unable to.
But he could say something about one of the people in that clip.
[Fulcrum. Togruta is Fulcrum.] That was post memory lock, and he flashed up a common symbol of the Rebellion, her marks, where the lines and diamonds came closest.
Fives blinked for a moment, then felt his heart unlock a little, relief spilling through him at Artoo's use of present, not past. 'Is', not 'Was'. The mark that flashed up looked like a tattoo or paint, even while it was undeniably his Commander's markings. That thought, a vod wearing the Commander's markings, rattled around unpleasantly in the back of his mind for a second and he wasn't entirely sure why, but he focused on the relief, "The Commander's -- no, sorry, bet you can't with that phrasing -- Ahsoka Tano's alive, Artoo?"
[Unknown. Saw, often. Then stopped coming. But, Fulcrum is still known. Maybe?] Artoo offered. [Big leader.] He let his pride come through in that trill.
"I don't know the name you used, but… Fulcrum is a code-name that crops up in a lot of the tighter security stuff," Luke said. "I have never met them, and I know I've never seen anyone like the non-human. But Leia might know. She does tend to know all of the power players."
Fives hummed thoughtfully, giving Artoo a long look. "I'm not giving up on her until I lay her on a pyre myself," he replied to that 'maybe', "not if she's survived this long."
He nodded at Luke, even though he had to blink a little. "She's a Togruta, from Shili. There aren't a lot of them that leave the planet, so I guess it's not too surprising that you wouldn't recognize her. If she's a high-up in your Alliance, then I've got to be in the right place. So... who's this 'Leia' you keep mentioning?"
Luke lit up like Hardcase in the middle of pranking the Captain. "She was Alderaan's Senator, and she is the Princess, which means she's got not just the Alliance to help run, now that her father is dead, but she's also the one the Alderaani look to as a spiritual and political leader, until they can find a new homeworld. She's the smartest, most dangerous person I have ever met, and she's also just…" and he made a hand gesture of complete bewilderment, "she's Leia."
He'd never seen his General open up like that, quick and bright (more like the Commander) and somehow sweeter than honey, all that open worship falling from his lips and written across his face. He'd seen edges of that kind of depth of emotion, behind the General's tight control of his weaknesses, but...
"...totally gone on a Senator," Fives said with a moment's laugh, some of the tension breaking and he would take that, "you're so your father's kid."
Luke blinked, then actually blushed a little, ducking his head down with a shy smile. "She's my friend… " he protested.
"Good," Fives replied, sure of what he saw -- stars knew, there was enough falling in and out of love among any legion that it was easy to recognize -- but willing to take pity on anyone that blushed that quick and easy, at something so mild, "best that way."
Luke didn't want to get into the complexity of Leia plus Han plus the Rebellion itself, and his heart still being in knots if he sat for too long and thought about Biggs.
Luke went quiet, something hurt flashing across his eyes, and Fives settled in for the ride, his hand occasionally reaching to brush Artoo's dome before he took the advice of a million generations of soldiers and went to sleep.