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Agent of the Chancellor

Chapter Text

The temple was burning, something that should have never happened under any circumstances.

Their loyal soldiers, the clones, had turned on them. Not all of them it seemed, but the vast majority now stood within the walls of the temple itself, slaughtering the Jedi who had been safe, up till now.

And if the rumours were true, they were being led by a turncoat Jedi.

Whoever this turncoat was was not of the concern of Tera Sinube at the moment. What was was the safety of the small group of younglings he was escorting. If a fight broke out, he could delay the troopers, Tera was sure of that. If he had to sacrifice his own life for the safety of the children, to allow them to escape this massacre, then he would without a shadow of a doubt.

He was old, and his time had long since passed. All that mattered now was that someone survived.

"Come younglings, we must move swiftly." Tera croaked out at the group behind him. Six younglings. That was all he had been able to group together before the temple had been under siege. Glancing over their faces, Tera recited their names in his head.

'Petro, Katooni, Ganodi, Byph, Zatt and Gungi.'

They all had shown promising talent as young Jedi, and would have no doubt gone on to become some of the Order's greatest.

Until now. Now, all Tera could do was keep them alive.

Hearing the quiet whimpers of fear from the younglings, Tera reached into the force, sending what he hoped was calming waves through to them.

Truth be told he too was scared. How had this happened?

Moving faster than he had for years, Tera Sinube turned a corner in the endless halls of the Jedi temple, grasping a single clone trooper who happened to be there with the force, and slamming him into the wall, before breaking into a sprint, one that was assisted through the force.

Behind him he heard the younglings following him.

They encountered no more resistance as they proceeded through the hallway, entering into a secluded doorway that accessed a side room.

It was then that Tera felt it. A sudden presence in the force hit his senses, one that was heavily clouded, mixed with light and dark.

And then another one, this one further away, but closing in on them. This one was different, it was more heavily imbued with the darkside.

Clearly the turncoat.

Shaking off the discomfort and anger he felt through the force, Tera turned to the children behind him. Petro had a steady look on his face, one that was filled with internal strife. He was angry at the attack, and he wanted blood.

It was only the ever calming presence of his friends, the ones he so often sought to protect, that had stopped him from charging off into the thick of battle. Even now he could see that their survival was paramount.

Tera was proud of him for that. He would make a fine Jedi.

Moving across the small room they found themselves in, Tera found yet another doorway. Reaching into the force, he found the other side to be empty of any threats. Clearly the majority of the fighting was going on in the central chambers, far enough away that he and his younglings had a chance to escape.

Opening the door, Tera stepped through the threshold into another hallway.

And then he stopped. A presence slid across his in the force. A signature, so familiar, yet foreign at the same time.

Clearly the younglings had felt it too.

"Master Sinube, what is that? I recognize it, but at the same time I don't." It was Katooni that spoke, the young girl almost trembling in terror. She had been hit the hardest by the attack so far.

Tera did not reply, instead he turned slowly, feeling the presence of the person ever closer.

And as he turned, he spotted a single figure down the hallway, watching them.

The figure was oddly dressed, with what appeared to be some sort of amalgamation of scraps of clone armour arms and legs, as well as a cape that was attached to a chest piece. Said cape was pushed over one shoulder of the figure, dangling behind the figure's back. If there had been wind inside the temple, Tera was sure it would have been billowing gracefully.

And then his eyes locked onto the face of the figure, and he felt his old heart stutter slightly in shock.

"Ahsoka?"

The Togruta simply stood there watching, betraying no emotion or action. It was almost as if she was a Jedi.

She didn't speak. She didn't move. She simply stood there, her blue eyes watching. Inside of them was something that Tera could not identify. Guilt? Anger? Remorse?

Fear?

Why was she here anyway? She was no longer a Jedi? She had left.

Then Katooni spoke.

"Padawan Tano! You've come to help us!"

The force screamed a warning to Tera as the young Tholothian began to run towards the Togruta.

"Katooni no come back here this instant!"

But the plea remained unheard, and Katooni continued to run towards her former chaperone.

And then another sound hit Tera's senses. The snap hiss of a lightsaber.

Katooni seemed to slide to a halt, her signature in the force flooding with terror and fear.

Before her stood Ahsoka, a single bright lightsaber blade in her hand, of a colour that Tera had rarely seen before, poised to strike.

"Katooni. Katooni back away slowly." Tera called out, moving forward slightly to encourage the youngling back. Tera felt his own hand grasp his walking stick tighter, his digits wrapping around the hilt of his lightsaber just in case. If this was what he feared it was…

And then another presence hit is senses, freezing him in place. The darker, more corrupted one nearly threatened to overwhelm him. Around him he saw the younglings grasp their heads in agony, something which he himself also was forced to do.

The only person who seemed unaffected was Ahsoka, who still stood unmoving, lightsaber bathing her in a bright glow. It was almost as if she was familiar with such a feeling.

And then he heard movement. Turning around again, Tera glanced down the opposite end of the hallway.

Another figure stood, this one covered head to toe in a long cloak, one that tried to conceal his identity. The figure also held a lightsaber in their hand, this one blue. From where he was standing, Tera was almost certain it was the blade that belonged to young Skywalker.

Beneath the hood of the figure, Tera could see a pair of bright golden eyes staring out at him. Except, there weren't staring at him.

But rather, they were staring right past him.

Directly at Ahsoka.

Looking back at the Togruta, he could see that she too was staring past him at the figure, as if they were speaking to one another without speaking aloud.

Around him the younglings ignited their sabers, dropping into the stances they had been taught.

But Tera remained motionless. He had no idea what was going to happen next.

He feared what was going to happen next.

He only hoped that whatever did happen, he would be able to save someone.

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(11 months earlier)

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She had left. That was the extent of it.

After everything she had done, everything she had seen and learnt, she had left.

And now here she was, alone, by herself, looking for a way to get by.

Something that was easier said than done, especially for a sixteen year old Togruta.

It had only been two week, but it had been two of the hardest weeks of her life. When she had walked away from the temple, from Anakin, she had had nothing but the clothes on her back. Her private account, the one created and maintained by the Jedi Order had been cleared out, the credits she had saved up going towards something else.

Inwardly, Ahsoka hoped that it would go towards someone in need.

That being said, she sure could have used them herself right now.

For the first day of her exile she had wandered, searching for something to do, someone to help.

In that time she had stopped a mugging, prevented someone from overdosing on spice, and rescued a pet from a high ledge.

But all of these good deeds had led to nothing but gratitude, and as much as she appreciated such a gesture, she needed more if she was going to survive.

At first she had contemplated finding Ventress, but all reports suggested that she had simply vanished, not that Ahsoka blamed her.

She could have tried to find her own way, away from the help of others. After all, the last time she trusted people it didn't turn out so well.

And then she discovered that she was hungry, so she had headed to Dex's.

She knew Dex, having been introduced once to him by Obi-Wan. For a Besalisk, Dex was one of the nicest people Ahsoka had ever had the pleasure of meeting, and he certainly served good food.

She only hoped that he was feeling generous, considering her lack of money and all.

But, as she had hoped, the large Besalisk had been nothing but welcoming, voicing his opinion about her trial in support of her, and offering her free food, enough to last her a lifetime.

To her surprise, he had even offered her work. Nothing glamourous of course, merely cleaning work in the kitchen, but it was something.

The wage was limited, but enough that it would help her get by.

But Dex had not stopped there, insisting that she not sleep on the streets, Dex had offered up a small apartment he rented out to her. She had to pay some rent of course, but she didn't mind. Instead, the large chef simply took a small cut of her wages to pay for her new home.

The apartment wasn't exactly big, but rather three rooms.

A bedroom, a refresher, and a kitchen area with a single table. It had the necessities Ahsoka needed to survive, for now.

So yes, her first week away from the order had been rough, but she had found her way so far. But that didn't stop her from wanting more. She wanted to be helping people. She had grown up in a war, as a commander on the field, not a part time waitress part time cleaner. She was grateful to Dex for the opportunity, she really was, but she knew she could do more.

She would just have to be patient and wait for the opportunity to arise.

That being said, patience had never really been her strong suit. That more than anything explained why she and Anakin got along so well.

'No, don't think about him right now. You can't live in the past.'

It hurt to think of Anakin that way. When push had come to shove he had been the only one, aside from Padme, that had stood by her. She would be forever grateful to him for that, but she couldn't rely on him forever.

For now, she would forge her own path, and when the time was right she would return to him.

She only hoped that he would be proud of her.

Stepping through the threshold of the doorway into her apartment, Ahsoka collapsed onto a chair by her table. Her shift had been busy today, not that she minded. Still, she was looking forward to her day off tomorrow.

Sighing, she stood from where she had sat down and moved across to the kitchen worktop, extracting a pouch from a cupboard, and began to boil some water.

She couldn't afford anything too expense to eat, but after years of military rations, even the cheapest of soups tasted like heaven.

Once the water had boiled, she mixed it with the powder from the pouch she had brought, stirring until the water and powder fused into a thick creamy substance, one that smelled of various meats and spices. Allowing to cool briefly, Ahsoka moved the bowl she had the soup in and placed it on the table, before sitting back down in her chair.

Leaning into the bowl, Ahsoka allowed herself to deeply sniff the soup. The aroma almost made her eyes water. She was looking forward to this.

Grasping the spoon utensil she had on the table, Ahsoka began to lightly stir the soup, before gathering a small amount in the spoon. Lifting it to her lips, Ahsoka braced for the temperature, as well as the taste.

As she expected, it tasted wonderful. It was a simple meal, but that would suit her.

Ahsoka allowed herself to continue her meal, managing to take another three spoonful's of the liquid before a sound drew her attention away.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

Ahsoka paused. Someone was knocking on her door. Who could that be?

Her first thought was Dex, but then he had never visited her before. That and he was still working.

Aside from Dex, she had no idea who it was. No one else knew she was here, and she had never spoken to any of her neighbours, so she truly had no idea who it could be.

Internally, some part of her hoped it was Anakin come to find her. She stifled that thought as soon as it appeared. She couldn't rely on him forever.

The knocks sounded again. Clearly they were not going to do away, whoever they were, so Ahsoka was forced to answer.

Standing up and moving towards her door, soup now abandoned, Ahsoka reached for the switch that operated the door, and opened it.

On the other side was a figure dressed in a long flowed cloak, one clearly designed to conceal their identity. On first glance it screamed Jedi to her. That was until she realized she could not sense this individual as she could most Jedi.

"Can I help you?" Ahsoka asked, keeping her tone polite.

The figure then began to raise his hands, which Ahsoka could see were wrinkled, a clear evidence of age.

And then, with a sharp movement, the figure pushed back the hood that had been concealing his face.

"I certainly hope so my dear, after all, Anakin always said that I could rely on you."

Ahsoka couldn't stop the gasp of surprise at the revelation of the identity of the person at her door. This was the last person she ever expected to come and find her.

"What are YOU doing here?!"

Chapter Text

"Chancellor Palpatine?!" Ahsoka couldn't stop the sheer shock in her voice. Out of all the people that could have possibly tracked her down, the supreme leader of the Republic himself was one of, if not the last person she ever expected to visit her. It wasn't as if the Chancellor went around making social calls either, so it was clearly important.

For a moment a dark thought came over her. What if he wasn't alone? What if he had some guards to arrest her again? He had presided over her trial after all!

But as she studied his face under the cover of his hood, she saw nothing that would suggest ill intent, and the force around him was blank, showing no warning either.

"Indeed my dear, I am so glad I managed to find you. Anakin and I have been so worried." The Chancellor spoke, his voice full of what seemed like relief.

That was odd to Ahsoka. In all her time as Anakin's padawan she had known that he and the Chancellor were friends of sorts, but she had never really felt included in any discussion of theirs. At times it even seemed like Palpatine was purposefully ignoring her.

Yet here he was now, apparently in search of her out of worry.

Despite wanting to remain hidden from her past, Ahsoka stepped to the side, allowing the Chancellor entrance to her small flat. After all, it would be downright rude of her not to allow the most powerful man in the republic to come in. Clearly he had gone through a lot to get here, in disguise and all.

Ahsoka turned around and watched as Palpatine pushed his hood back, exposing his wrinkled face to the air around her flat, before he too turned to face her, a small welcoming smile on his face.

Why was he being welcoming? This was her flat after all?

That reminded her! She should probably offer him something.

"Can I get you anything Chancellor? Glass of water maybe? Something to eat, not that I have much in." Ahsoka spoke, moving over to her table and retaking her seat in front of her soup. She had waited for this all day. No way was she going to leave it to go cold, Chancellor or not.

"No thank you my dear I had a big lunch, and I'd hate to deprive you of valuable resources such as food." The Chancellor replied, moving to take a seat at the other end of the table, gesturing for Ahsoka enjoy her soup.

That brought a smile to her face. Anakin had always said the Chancellor was one of the kindest most compassionate people he had ever met. Before now she had never really seen it.

Perhaps she had misjudged him.

Taking a small amount of the soup into her mouth, Ahsoka relished the taste before swallowing the liquid. It burned her throat lightly, but she didn't care. Food was food.

"I apologise if I have come at a bad time Ahsoka, but I need your help." The Chancellor spoke suddenly, twiddling his fingers as if he was disturbed by something. That caught the young Togruta's attention. What was wrong? And why did the Chancellor need her help?

"What's up?" Ahsoka replied, flinching at her own casual response. This was the Chancellor she was speaking to! Not Anakin!

The Chancellor however didn't seem to mind about the lack of decorum, that or he was too busy preoccupied with worrying about whatever it was he wanted to talk about.

Silence reigned for a few moments, giving Ahsoka another opportunity to sip at her soup whilst Palpatine prepared whatever it was he wanted to say. Rather than try to pressure a response, Ahsoka waited patiently.

A few more moments of silence passed by before the Chancellor cleared his throat, and began to speak.

"Before I continue there is something I wish to get off my chest young one. During your trial I did not believe in your innocence, and was ready to condemn you if the jury voted so. However, as our mutual friend Anakin discovered, you were innocent. In retrospect, I should have known. No padawan of Anakin Skywalker would ever betray and murder innocent people of the republic. So, on behalf of both myself and the republic, I am deeply sorry for the way we mistreated you during the trial."

The Chancellor's admission stunned Ahsoka into silence herself. Never had she ever expected to receive such an apology, much less from the Chancellor himself.

And the thing was he seemed genuine. There was no false intention in his words, no apologising for the sake of apologising.

And no declaring that it was all simply the will of the force as certain individuals had done.

For that reason alone, she was more than happy to accept the apology.

"Thank you your excellency. That means a lot." Ahsoka replied, bowing her head in a sign of respect. At her easy acceptance of his apology, Palpatine seemed to relax slightly, as much as he could considering the stress on his shoulders from running an entire government.

"Good, I am glad my dear. Any friend of Anakin's is a friend of mine. Should you ever desire to talk, know that anything said between us shall be done so in confidence." The Chancellor replied, his tone friendly, a surprisingly warm smile on his face.

Ahsoka had to admit that it was nice to know that there were still some people out there that cared about her to some extent. She was certain her absence would have impacted Anakin the most, if only Anakin at all. Obi-Wan and Plo Koon would move on quickly, and she doubted the troops, aside from maybe Rex would really care.

After all, they had hunted her down too without question.

Taking another sip of her soup, Ahsoka was suddenly surprised to find the bowl empty. Had she really had it all that fast?!

Shaking her head, she stood from her chair, moving her bowl to the sink to wash up later on.

Right now her mind was elsewhere. Palpatine had come for a reason, and she was certain it was not just to apologise. He had said he needed her help.

But with what?

"You said you needed my help?" She enquired, returning to her seat and meeting the ageing eyes of the Chancellor, whose face took on a grim look.

"Yes my dear. One of my spies recently uncovered some disturbing information regarding an apparent bioweapon being developed by the Separatists for use on our troops. What this weapon is remains unknown, but considering your previous experience with the blue shadow virus, I thought that perhaps you would be the best option for such a mission." Palpatine spoke, his voice shifting away from overly friendly and grandfatherly, and towards his political persona that he had.

Bioweapons were dangerous, that much Ahsoka knew, and whatever it was certainly needed looking into.

But why come to her alone? Anakin and Obi-Wan had dealt with the blue shadow virus before. Why no ask them?

So she questioned it, and the Chancellor responded.

"Because my dear I need someone entirely independent from outside bodies. If I was to send a strike force or even a single Jedi it would legitimize the threat against us. But, if I send one person who is neither a Jedi nor a member of the republic army itself, then we not only find out about this weapon, but keep it out of the public eye. The last thing I want or need right now is a crisis here on Coruscant, or on any republic world for this matter. Besides, I know you have a history of infiltration missions, thus you are perfect for this role."

The logic made sense to Ahsoka. If the galaxy heard about a possible bioweapon development, there would be panic. But if someone could find out the details of such a weapon, then it would also be possible to find a way to either destroy it, or cure it.

That alone almost made Ahsoka accept the offer right there and then, but there was something in the back of her mind, niggling away.

For all accounts and measures, the republic had sold her out, betrayed her. The Senate was obviously corrupt to some extent, a few certain senators not included, but they couldn't be trusted in the long run.

So why should she, a person denounced by the republic itself across their controlled space as a possible terrorist, willingly help save them?

Truthfully she was shocked by her own grudge holding. This was about the safety of innocent lives throughout the galaxy! Not bigoted politicians in the senate.

And unlike everyone else it seemed, Palpatine had actually bothered to apologise to her!

And not only that, but Anakin trusted him, and she trusted Anakin.

Before she could continue her inner dilemma however, the Chancellor continued his speech.

"I understand my dear that you have been having trouble finding your way after you left the temple. Understandable. I myself would not return in a similar situation, but I do believe that your heart lies with the republic and the safety of its people. Therefore, I offer you a place within our ranks, not as a Jedi general, or a member of our military, but as personal agent of myself. You will work independently from the rest of our military, resolving classified missions with no interference from outsiders and unlimited access to republic resources should the need arise. I will also see that you are rightfully compensated for your work through various forms of payment."

It was an impressive offer that Ahsoka knew. The Chancellor was pretty much offering her everything she needed to get back on her feet. To survive in her post Jedi temple life. All she had to do was accept his offer and become his personal agent.

By now Ahsoka was the one twiddling her fingers in debate. She wanted to accept, but she also wanted to decline. She should make her own way in life, not have it handed to her by the most powerful man in the republic.

Clearly the Chancellor could see the debate on her face. The elderly man rose from his chair, moving round to stand beside her seat, before resting a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"It is a big offer I know my dear. I will leave you to think about it, but please do not think long. This mission is important and I do not have time to find someone else. Come by my office tomorrow with your decision. I will tell my people to expect you."

Ahsoka nodded in reply, still stuck in her inner conflict over what to do. Should she accept? Should she decline?

Ahsoka was so absorbed in her inner debate that she didn't even notice the Chancellor leave until the door closed gently, leaving her alone in her small dingy flat again.

Alone. She was alone again. For a few brief moments she had had company, albeit the Chancellor of the republic, but it was company nonetheless.

Anakin had always said he could trust Palpatine, that he was something of a mentor to her old master.

Now she understood why he said that. There was something about the Chancellor that made him likable, that made her want to trust him.

Standing from her seat again, Ahsoka moved over to the sink, intending on washing her bowl from her soup.

She had the night at least to contemplate the Chancellor's offer.

Personal agent to the Chancellor sounded good in her head.

And if it meant that she could get back to helping people, then it was all the incentive she needed.

Chapter Text

Dawn broke over Coruscant as it usually did. Nothing ever really changed on the planet. It was one giant city after all. It may have gotten dark, but the city never really slept.

It was thus that Ahsoka struggled to sleep. Whilst usually it would have been down to the noise, this time her mind had not slept, mainly due to the Chancellor's offer.

She had debated long into the night what to do. If she accepted, she could be comfortable again, but she ran the risk of either becoming complacent with the Chancellor's offers, or running into people she would rather avoid.

If she declined, she would be forced to make her own way in life, which while mentally rewarding, would mean she was stuck in this small dingy flat working as a cleaner in a kitchen everyday.

In the end however, she had come to a decision, and it had been impacted by two factors alone.

One: The Chancellor was offering her a job that involved helping people in the long run.

And two: Anakin trusted the Chancellor.

For those reasons alone, Ahsoka steeled herself and headed towards the Senate building on Coruscant, bound for the Supreme Chancellor's office. She hoped he wouldn't mind her dropping by. After all, he had told her to come.

The journey towards the Senate building was rather uneventful. The majority of the people Ahsoka encountered along the way were simply going about their daily business. Ahsoka wouldn't be surprised if half of them worked directly in the senate itself, either as aides to senators or bodyguards.

Her entry into the building was also surprisingly easy. Apparently someone had told them she might be coming, and had directed her towards Palpatine's office immediately. Ahsoka had smiled sweetly and accepted without issue. There was no reason to start an argument or anything.

Passing through the long halls of the building, Ahsoka briefly entertained the idea of popping in to see Padme beforehand, before promptly dismissing the idea. She would no doubt be busy, and the Chancellor had said the situation was urgent.

Several minutes later, Ahsoka found herself standing in the open space of a lobby, one that possessed a grand look about it. She had been here in the past, when her master had visited the Chancellor. Usually she would be asked to remain outside whilst whatever it was the Chancellor wanted to discuss with Anakin was done in private. Now however, it appeared that she would be the one alone with the Chancellor.

'Funny how the situation has changed.' Ahsoka thought briefly, before moving through the lobby and entering into the office of the Supreme Chancellor himself.

Upon entry, Ahsoka spotted the Chancellor behind his desk, a report in his hands as he read through whatever information was on it. His face emanated a myriad of emotions, from frustration to anger, as well as what seemed like acceptance, and even boredom.

Ahsoka could understand his frustration. One of the most annoying parts of being a military commander had been writing up reports on engagements. More often than not she had to write the report rather than Anakin. At the time he had said it was a way of teaching her, and that it would benefit her temple work when the time came.

Truthfully though, she knew Anakin hated the paperwork equally as much as she did, and that he only gave it to her to get out of doing it himself. It was selfish in a way, but she understood, and would never hold it against him. He had done things for her time and again as well.

Stepping further into the Chancellor's office, but not right up to his desk, Ahsoka waited to be acknowledged. The last thing she wanted to do was burst in and come across as rude after all.

As she waited for the Chancellor, Ahsoka shifted her gaze around the large office of the most powerful man in the galaxy. It was ornate in a way. The Chancellor clearly had a taste for both culture and history, if the statues that were scattered around the office were anything to judge by. Ahsoka couldn't say that she recognized who the statues represented, but they were obviously important people of the past. Why else would they have statues made of them?

"Ah, Ahsoka, I didn't hear you come in. How can I help you?" The Chancellor's voice interrupted Ahsoka's study of the office, drawing the Togruta's attention to the elder man, who now had a smile upon his face, the report he had been reading discarded.

Taking that as an invitation, Ahsoka moved over to stand on the opposite side of the desk to Palpatine before replying.

"It's about the offer you made me. I've decided to accept, assuming you'll still have me?" Ahsoka spoke, keeping her tone as professional as possible. She needed to make a good impression after all.

The Chancellor's response was instant. The elder man rose from his seat, moving round the desk clasping one of Ahsoka's hands in his, shaking it gently.

"Of course the offer is still open, and I very much look forward to working with you Ahsoka. Now, to business." The Chancellor spoke, gently gesturing Ahsoka into the chair opposite of his desk, before promptly returning to his own chair and pulling another datapad from below his desk.

"I still have not been able to attain much information about this possible bioweapon, so I am afraid you will be going in blind. The only intelligence my spies were able to attain was that the Separatists are conducting some sort of research at a hidden facility in the jungles of the planet Myrkr." Palpatine spoke, handing the datapad towards Ahsoka, who took it and began to survey what little information was on it. The only really significant information was a set of possible coordinates, no doubt the location of this hidden facility.

Myrkr was not a familiar planet to Ahsoka, and from the sounds of it was no doubt either out of the way somewhere, or under Separatist control. Neither sounded appealing to Ahsoka, considered she lacked any means of getting there. She hoped that Palpatine would provide her with the means.

"So, assuming I find this facility, what should I do? Destroy it?" Ahsoka inquired, placing the datapad back down on the Chancellor's desk.

"No, this mission must be discreet Ahsoka. I need you to recon the area, and acquire any information you can about this possible bioweapon. Until we know exactly what is happening at this facility, we cannot risk an open attack. They could be experimenting on civilians after all." The Chancellor replied, his voice grim.

Ahsoka nodded in reply. It as simple enough. Get in, recon the area, get out. Hopefully she wouldn't run into any real resistance. If she did, she would have to improvise.

"I'll do my best Supreme Chancellor. Thank you for this opportunity." Ahsoka spoke, her voice full of respect, again in hopes of pleasing the Chancellor.

Yet another warm smile came to Palpatine's face at her response, before he passed her yet another datapad. This one contained a schematic of some kind, one that resembled a ship design. The design had similarities to a T-6 shuttle, commonly used by the Jedi Order. Yet there was something about it that was different.

"I've taken the liberty of gifting you this experimental ship republic research and development have been working on. No doubt you are familiar with its design?" The Chancellor explained, gesturing to the datapad.

Ahsoka was. She had flown such ships before, usually on missions for the order, and once during an escort mission with Anakin and Padme. Usually T-6's were unarmed transports, yet the one on the datapad seemed to have been retrofitted with standard ship cannons for combat, should the need arise. It also seemed to sport a sharp red and black paint job. Why those colours Ahsoka didn't know, but they contrasted well with each other.

Yet none of that explained why the ship was experimental. Hopefully Palpatine could clear that up.

He did, and boy was Ahsoka surprised.

"You may have read the reports surrounding the first battle of Christophsis at the start of the Clone War. General Skywalker used an experimental stealth ship to destroy the flagship of the Separatist blockage. Since then we have been working on a way of developing the stealth drive itself so that we can intergrate it with other vessels. Whilst we are still a long way off mounting it upon our capital ships, our research teams recently managed to succeed in getting it to work on the T-6 shuttle you see before you. It should in theory allow you to move completely undetected in the heart of Separatist space, and I am giving it to you for your assignment." The Chancellor detailed, his expression one of excitement at the possibility of having someone test this new toy.

Ahsoka had to say that she was impressed. Stealth technology was a difficult thing to master. Nine times out of ten it went horribly wrong.

But from the sounds of it, this experimental T-6 shuttle was fully equipped with a working stealth drive.

And it was hers for this mission.

Part of her wondered if Anakin would go green with envy if he heard about this.

"Thank you Chancellor. It sounds perfect. I'll be able to get to Myrkr without being detected now." Ahsoka replied, handing the datapad back to the Chancellor, who took it to store somewhere.

"It is of no concern Ahsoka. I have taken the liberty of loading the ship up with supplies for your mission, but I am afraid they are minimal at best. Any weapons and equipment you need will have to be obtained on site for this assignment. Still, I have full faith in your abilities. You did after all, learn from Anakin."

Sensing that the meeting was over, and that the Chancellor wanted her to leave for this mission immediately, Ahsoka stood from the chair.

"Where can I find the ship then Supreme Chancellor?" Ahsoka enquired as the Chancellor rose from his seat as well, clearly intending on escorting Ahsoka out of his office personally.

"Not far from here. It is waiting for you at my private docking station. Remember Ahsoka, recon only. Do not get spotted if you can help it. I'll have your reward ready for you when you return to Coruscant." The Chancellor answered, his voice friendly as he guided Ahsoka to the door.

Said door slid open at their arrival, and Ahsoka stepped back out of the office and into the lobby outside. As she moved to leave the Chancellor, he spoke one last time to her.

"Good luck Agent Tano."

The title caught her by surprise. She had not been expecting any form of official position as of yet. Or maybe he was being polite and respectful.

Nevertheless, she turned back around and bowed to the Chancellor.

"Thank you your excellency. I will have what you seek shortly."

The Chancellor nodded in reply, before turning back around and heading back to his desk, the door sliding shut after him, separating Ahsoka's view of the man.

Anakin was right. Chancellor Palpatine was a trustworthy man, one who she could rely on.

Now all she had to do was prove that he could rely on her.

Steeling herself, Ahsoka pivoted on her heels again, and made to move out of the senate building.

It was time to get her ship.

Chapter Text

The schematics on the datapad did not do the T-6 shuttle justice. It was a marvel on engineering that much Ahsoka could see. Anakin had taught enough that she knew when a ship was not only good, but special. Every aspect of it acted as if it was new, fresh off the factory line.

Ahsoka was now almost certain that Anakin would be jealous if he found out. She would have to make sure to be around to see his face.

Still, the ship wasn't hers. Palpatine had lent it to her for this mission. Thus she assumed she would have to give it back afterwards.

As it stood, that was currently the only downside to this mission so far. She really like the ship, despite having only flown it for a few moments.

Pulling up out of the atmosphere of Coruscant, Ahsoka began to plot her course through hyperspace to the coordinates she had been given by the Chancellor. If the Separatists were really up to something on Myrkr, she had to find out.

Moments later, the hyperdrive was calibrated, and the coordinates locked. Reaching across the dashboard of the T-6 shuttle, Ahsoka proceeded to pull down the lever that would activate the hyperdrive.

Through the cockpit of the shuttle, Ahsoka witnessed the blackness of space flooded with lines of blue, before she felt the ship lurch and jump into hyperspace.

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It would take the shuttle several hours to get anywhere close to Myrkr, even though hyperspace, leaving Ahsoka with plenty of time to check out the new ship, as well as scavenge anything on it for use on this mission. Perhaps if she was lucky she would find a weapon of sorts. Anything was better than going in unarmed.

Shifting through various containers and cupboards, Ahsoka ended up finding very little in the way of helpful supplies. A few packs of field rations were stored in the cupboards. Not exactly the most tasty of foods, but they could prove useful.

The third container she checked did have something useful in however. A small backpack that she could wear during her mission. It would be useful in carrying anything she needed with her.

Heading back to the cupboards from before, Ahsoka extracted several of the packs of field rations, placing them into the backpack she had discovered, before slinging it over her shoulder to test the weight. She couldn't afford to be over encumbered on a mission such as this.

Continuing her scavenger hunt, Ahsoka proceeded to find little else in the way of useful material for her mission. She stumbled across various pieces of junk, including a wrench, a spare power cell that was virtually depleted, and several scraps of metal that evidently used to be something. What, Ahsoka was unsure.

Still, she packed them in case. If worse came to pass, she would have to improvise with whatever materials she could find, even if it was scrap metal.

By the time the console in the cockpit beeped aloud, signalling the imminent drop out of hyperspace, Ahsoka had completed her second search for items. Despite her rigorous search, she still hadn't found a weapon on any kind, and she very much doubted that a wrench would do anything against anyone or thing she encountered.

Sighing in frustration, Ahsoka returned to the cockpit, removing her newly acquired backpack and placing it in the co-pilot seat before taking her own place behind the joystick of the T-6 shuttle.

Watching out of the cockpit window, Ahsoka waited for the sudden deceleration of the ship. Moments later, it occurred.

The shuttle shuddered slightly as all ships did when dropping out of hyperspace, the twirling vortex of blue light giving way to the dark black reality of space. As the ship returned to normal speed, Ahsoka tugged on the controls, pulling the shuttle into a slower speed so that she could analyze the situation.

Visibly she could see no other ships nearby, a fact that was clarified by the scanner the ship possessed moments later. That allowed Ahsoka a small amount of breathing room. No ships meant no trouble.

Still, that didn't completely mean she was safe. For all she knew the Separatists were listening out for her with a scanner of her own.

With that thought in mind, Ahsoka shifted her gaze towards another lever on the dashboard of the shuttle, one that would not usually be on such vessels.

From what she had been told about the ship, as well as the rather perplexing manual that Chancellor Palpatine had left for her on board the ship, that lever operated the stealth drive. If all went according to plan, all she would have to do was pull the lever and then both she and the ship would be completely invisible, both to radar and physical sight.

Taking a deep breath in anticipation, Ahsoka reached across and grasped the lever in her hand lightly.

"Here we go." Ahsoka spoke aloud to no one. On a mission such as this she would be alone. Usually that would have been detrimental to a Togruta, as they preferred to live in communities.

But Ahsoka had been away from Togruta culture for far too long. She no longer cared or was bothered by isolation from others.

Part of her wondered if she should even still call herself a Togruta. She had spent far more time in the company of humans and other species that she had ever her own.

Brushing off the thoughts, Ahsoka pulled the lever down, resulting in an echoing sound reverberating around the ship.

Ahsoka assumed that meant the stealth drive was working.

She guessed there was really only one way to find out.

Glancing back out of the cockpit window, Ahsoka eyes were drawn to the planet that was now before her. From orbit, Myrkr was a mix of greens and browns in colour, each mixing with the other and contrasting, as well as blending in with itself in the process. She had down some research on the planet before leaving, but found little that would suggest exactly why the Separatists would be building a bioweapon here of all places, assuming they even were in the first place.

Furthermore, from orbit there was no sign of any Separatist involvement. No damage to the planet's surface, or no sign of conflict were present. If there really were Separatists here, that meant that they were most likely hiding somewhere within the dense forests of Myrkr.

Still, she hadn't come this far just to leave now. She had to search at very least.

Turning back to the scanner on the dashboard, Ahsoka altered the parameters of the search, focusing it on the planet below. She knew how the Separatists built their bases, and what to look for. If there was anything, she would find it.

Several minutes of unsuccessful scanning passed, and Ahsoka was no closer to finding anything that represented a hidden Separatist lab.

Perhaps the Chancellor's intel had been wrong, and she had been sent on a wild goose chase as her first mission. That would be just her luck!

Or perhaps she wasn't looking close enough. Doctor Vindi's lab on Naboo had been underground after all, but that had been to conceal it from the Naboo people themselves. There was no one to hide a lab from on Myrkr aside from maybe a few colonists.

Sighing, Ahsoka continued the search, desperation and frustration beginning to flood her mind. She had never been a very patient person. That had always been her biggest flaw as a padawan.

Another twenty minutes later and Ahsoka was on the verge of giving up entirely and calling the Chancellor to tell him she had found nothing, when the scanner picked something up.

There, deep within the foliage of a dense forest was a small blip, one that upon closer inspection bored similarities to other Separatists buildings that had been found before on places such as Geonosis or Raxus.

Allowing a smirk to come to her face, Ahsoka released a pleased sound at finding something that supported the suspicion of the Chancellor. There were Separatists on Myrkr.

Now all Ahsoka had to do was find out exactly what was going on.

Gripping the joystick controls in her hands, Ahsoka powered up the engines of the shuttle, and began to pilot the ship towards the planet.

It was time to test the stealth drive.

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The entry into the atmosphere had been surprising smooth for a shuttle of this size, not that Ahsoka was complaining. She was used to more rough entries, ones that were usually accompanied with lots of shaking and rumbling, and the occasion possible crash.

Then again, she was used to the way Anakin Skywalker piloted, which more often than not was the route of such problems to begin with.

Stopping herself from laughing at her own joke at her former master's expense, Ahsoka redirected her attention back to the task at hand. The forest before her was dense, with little space for moving, either on foot or in a ship. Finding a place to land would be next to impossible in the trees before her.

To make matters worse, her scan of the Separatist lab indicated that it was deep inside of the forest, with only a single open space above it that acted as a landing zone no doubt. Ahsoka supposed that she could land her ship right there under the cover of the stealth drive, but that would be a monumental risk in itself. She had no idea if the drive lasted once the ship was offline, and even if it did there was no guarantee that someone wouldn't stumble across the ship by pure accident. She wouldn't put it past the battledroids to be the ones to do such a thing.

So, despite the fact that it would make the mission far more annoying and tedious, Ahsoka relented and found a small gap amongst the trees a fair distance away from the location of the Separatist base. Settling the shuttle down gently, Ahsoka allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief at having arrived unscathed. Clearly she had not been detected by anyone, meaning that the stealth drive was doing its job.

Now all she had to do was make it to the Separatist base.

Standing from her seat Ahsoka reached across to pick up her new backpack, slinging it over her shoulders and resting it comfortably against her back, her rear lekku only just coming into contact with the top of the bag in the process. That was good. The last thing she needed was her lekku constantly rubbing against something. It would be irritating to no end if it was.

Stepping down the ramp of the T-6 shuttle, Ahsoka found herself surrounded by the dense lush forests of Myrkr. Her sinuses were flooded with a variety of smells, ranging from sweet ones to dank ones, all of which originated from the plant life around her.

Her other senses were also flooded in a matter of moments. The rustling of various trees in the wind, as well as the quiet sounds of what Ahsoka could only assume were animals also reached her montrals. Movement echoed all around her, discreet, yet obvious in a way that you only knew it was there if you knew already. Anyone going in blind would be completely overwhelmed and lost.

Not for the first time in her life, Ahsoka thanked her connection to the force. Despite walking away from the order, the force would always be a part of her, as much as lekku and montrals were a part of her biology. There was no losing it, thus she would use it to her own advantage to guide her through the forest.

She knew the rough direction of the Separatist base. It was just a case of getting there through the various aspects of foliage around her.

Taking another deep breathe to inhale the thick air around her, Ahsoka set off deeper in the forest.

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The trek through the forest was arduous. Ahsoka had lost count the number of times she had gotten caught up in thick vines wrapping around her arms and legs. Each time she pulled herself free, only to find herself tangled up again a few minutes later.

And despite the distance she thought she had traveled, she seemed no closer to the Separatist base.

The humid air around her also made for a rather uncomfortable journey. Sweat pulsated from her exposed skin, a thin layer of the substance coating her, making the journey even more uncomfortable.

It was times like these that she wished she had some sort of cloak with her. At least that would have helped just a little bit, even if it made her hotter.

Reaching a hand up to her forehead, she wiped away another layer of sweat before continuing, moving through a series of vines and leaves.

Movement caught her eye in that moment, as a pair of small lizard like creatures scurried across the floor and down into what looked like a burrow of some kind. It wasn't the first piece of wildlife she had seen so far, and most certainly wouldn't be the last. Still, they paid her no mind, and thus she left them to their own devices. The last thing they would want was a Togruta interfering in their daily life.

After all, she was a member of a predator species. Maybe they were just running away from her in fear of getting eaten?

Ahsoka allowed a brief smile to come to her face at her own thoughts. With no one else around to talk to she had taken to finding ways to amuse herself. If that meant laughing at her own jokes, so be it.

Continuing forward, Ahsoka found herself heading deeper and deeper into the foliage around her. Another half an hour passed by, her journey seemingly leading nowhere. By now she was certain that she was lost.

"Common Ahsoka, there's gotta be something here." She spoke aloud to no one, now desperate to find something that resembled a hidden Separatist lab.

Taking another few steps forward, Ahsoka pushed through another set of vines, and still found nothing but more trees.

Sighing aloud she collapsed onto a nearby fallen log, removing her backpack and extracting one of the ration packs she had picked up earlier. All this walking was making her hungry.

As she slowly devoured the ration pack, which was made up of some sort of organic paste, a sound caught her attention.

Sounds had be prevalent within the forest since she had entered it. Mostly native life and the trees moving in the breeze above the canopies. But this sound was different. It was almost as if it was being aimed directly at her montrals, the equivalent of shouting in someone's ear.

Listening closely, Ahsoka identified that it belonged to an animal of some kind. Looking up, she found the source of the sound. Above her, perched on a vine was a small avian creature, one that possessed an iridescent green and white sheen to it. The bird seemed to notice her too, as it locked eyes with her and hooted again. That was the sound that Ahsoka had heard earlier. The hooting of this strange creature.

Shrugging her shoulders, Ahsoka returned to finishing off her ration pack when the avian hooted again.

"What? What do you want?" Ahsoka called up at the creature, hopping to either silence it or scare it away. The last thing she wanted was some strange creature watching her. It made her uneasy.

But rather than turn and flee as Ahsoka had hoped, the creature remained still, hooting again as if responding to her.

Grumbling under her breath, Ahsoka stood from the log, placing her backpack on her shoulder with the intention of leaving, when the creature took flight.

The avian flew down past her head, hooting all the while.

Ahsoka was no expert on animals, but it almost felt like the creature wanted to be followed.

With no better idea in her head, Ahsoka moved to pursue, pushing through various vines in the process. Ahead of her the creature continued to hoot, circling above her as if waiting for Ahsoka to catch up.

"If you're luring me to your lair to eat me I'm not going to be too happy with you!" Ahsoka called up at the creature in mock jest. What surprised Ahsoka was that the creature released a series of short sharp high pitched hoots in response, almost as if it was laughing at her!

Shaking her head with an amused smile, Ahsoka continued to push through the forest, climbing over fallen trunks of trees and pushing through endless vines and leaves until…

An opening presented itself within the forest, and there, right in the middle of the opening was the familiar architecture of a Separatist base, down in what looked like a small ravine devoid of trees.

A perfect hiding place for a secret Separatist lab!

Chapter Text

From the outside, the lab didn't look too big, or too heavily guarded. Then again, Ahsoka had no idea just how far underground the lab ran, or what secrets it held in need of protection. For all she knew there was a platoon of destroyer droids awaiting her inside, or worse.

Instead, as if stood, the only defenses she could currently see, aside from the remote location, was a pair of B1 battledroids standing guard on top of what appeared to be a landing platform, guarding a door that Ahsoka suspected led deeper into the base.

Looking over the familiar architecture of the base, it appeared that that was the only way in or out.

She could turn back now. Report back to the Chancellor that she had found something and let others deal with it instead. She was only here to recon after all.

The problem was that she wasn't really able to recon the base at all, not if it was buried in a ravine, its secrets with it. The only way for her to get enough recon would be to infiltrate the base itself.

And that meant getting past those droids, a feat easier said than done when she wasn't armed.

She supposed she could, and would most likely use the force to destroy the droids, but that ran the risk of alerting other droids to her presence. Palpatine had all but ordered her to be discreet and not be spotted by anyone, including battledroids. The last thing she needed was one reporting to their superior about her infiltration.

So than severely narrowed her options. She would have to be stealthy, but that still meant she had to enter through the front door, past two battledroids.

Simply put, she needed a distraction, one that was innocent enough so that it would not be suspicious.

Glancing around the forest, Ahsoka began to run ideas through her head. She could drop a tree she supposed. She was strong enough in the force to topple one if need be, though the strain would be immense.

She could imitate a creature as well. Perhaps a hunting roar or something to draw the battledroids away? Then again, that risked drawing too much attention.

Sighing, Ahsoka turned back to look at the hidden base, surveying to see if she had missed anything, any secret entrance.

She still found none. And the two battledroids remained motionless.

She needed to get closer, to see if they was anything hidden. Creeping through the bushes and vines slowly, Ahsoka ensured she remained hidden, despite her contrasting skin color not blending in with the trees around her. Her only breath of relief was that battledroids, particularly ones of this model were not that perceptive, even during combat.

As she approached the opening in the foliage around her, Ahsoka stopped. The last few meters to the door would be in the open, across the landing pad, which was currently unoccupied.

She could rush the droids, and perhaps dispose of them in the bushes before anyone came to see why they hadn't reported in. Still, that would only buy her some time. The guards had to remain where they were in order for her to infiltrate this lab without anyone knowing she was here.

Just as she was about to abandon any pretence of stealth, the unexpected occurred. The small avian creature that had led Ahsoka to the lab earlier swooped down upon the battledroids, lightly glancing one of their heads with its claws, before taking off in the bushes, hooting mischievously.

The response from the battledroids was what sealed the deal.

"Hey! Watch where you're flying jerk!"

"That was just rude!"

It was then that the creature came back around, swooping down at the other droid and landing on his faceplate before beginning to scratch at it.

"Ahhh, get it off, get if off!"

"Hold still, I'll shoot it off!"

The avian then took flight again, heading off deep into the forest, two angry battledroids pursing it, their high pitched voices echoing through the canopies as they went. Ahsoka allowed herself to chuckle briefly, before seizing her opportunity. For some reason, that avian had helped her, twice now. If she ever saw it again, she would make sure to thank it.

Darting across the now unguarded landing pad, Ahsoka reached out into the force, slowly opening the door that led into the Separatist base, before slipping inside unnoticed.

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If Ahsoka thought security outside was lax, then inside it was virtually non-existent. As she navigated the dark grimy hallways, looking for something that would give her the intelligence she needed, she ran into a grand total of zero battledroids.

Questions ran through her head. Where were the guards? What was going on here? Was this even a secret Separatist lab or something else? Had someone captured and reprogrammed some battledroids?

Shaking the thoughts off, Ahsoka continued, moving in the shadows to avoid detection. She hadn't even seen a security camera yet! Something was wrong.

In reality, she supposed she should be grateful. Stealth was most certainly not her expertise, most likely due to her rather unorthodox training as a padawan, so the less challenges she was faced with the better.

Still, it'd be nice to have some sort of challenge. She'd hate to have to say that this was all for nothing.

Passing through another doorway, Ahsoka found herself in what appeared to be disposal room. The room was virtually empty. Battledroids didn't leave much in the way of leftovers, considering they didn't eat or drink.

That being said, there was something. A nasty stench hit Ahsoka's nose, forcing her to hold it to keep the stench at bay. She had smelt death before, but she never got used to it, nor did she find a way to block it out.

Moving forward into the room, Ahsoka found the source of the stench.

There was a pile of what appeared to be carcasses just left to rot on the floor. Various limbs and what appeared to be mutilated organs lay in a clump, insects crawling all over them.

Looking closer at them, Ahsoka breathed a sigh of relief. These weren't the body parts of any organic sentient species she knew of.

Reaching a hand out tentatively, Ahsoka overturned one of the body parts, which she now identified as a leg. It was small and scaled, no bigger than her hand, and resembled a leg of the small lizard creatures she had seen in the forest earlier on.

Examining the pile of limbs further, Ahsoka began to identity each part, and each part seemed to belong the one of the lizards she had seen earlier. She found another leg, a tail, another leg, and most disturbingly, a head severed from a body, which also lay in the pile.

Shuddering to herself, Ahsoka rose back to her feet from where she had been inspecting the body parts, rubbing her hands on her trousers to remove any gunk she had on her hands.

She was used to filthy conditions. They no longer bothered her at all.

But that didn't mean she liked seeing them, especially not ones as grim as this!

What could the Separatists possibly be doing here that required them to butcher innocent creatures in such a way?

Shaking the disturbing thoughts out of her head, Ahsoka began to move back to the door she had entered through. This room had been a dead end, and whatever information she needed was more likely in another part of the base.

All she needed to find was a terminal of some sort. Then she could find out the secrets of this place.

As Ahsoka approached the door however, a high pitched voice caught her attention.

A battledroid!

"Why are we being sent up to the landing platform again? I thought OOM 43 and 44 were guarding it?"

"They were but they got distracted by something. 43 said something about an evil bird."

"43 must have some screws loose. There's no such thing as an evil bird!"

"Tell that to him then. Anyway, someone's gotta be there when the General arrives for his inspection. Unfortunately, that's us now."

"Oh no… really?"

"Yes, really."

The animated discussion began to fade away, suggesting that the droids had disappeared round the corner.

Breathing a sigh of relief at not being discovered, Ahsoka considered her options.

There were droids in the base, she just had managed to avoid them, until now. Ahsoka was almost certain her luck wouldn't hold forever.

She needed a new route.

It was then that an idea came to mind, one that most of the time fell to her anyway.

Looking up at the ceiling, Ahsoka spotted an access hatch, one that led to what Ahsoka assumed were cooling ducts. It would be uncomfortable, but it would allow her to move around the base unspotted.

Delving into the force, she waved her hand once, opening the hatch above her, before vaulting upwards through the open hatch and into the ducts above. When her body was in comfortably, she closed the hatch behind her and began to crawl.

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The ducts were a tight squeeze, and incredibly uncomfortable, especially for her montrals. But still, Ahsoka pushed through, not deterred by the small space. She wasn't claustrophobic, which was good, but she could see how some people could easily be.

Moving through the ducts, Ahsoka tried to stay as quiet as she could. Sure, she was not going to run into any droids this way, but they could still hear her if she made too much noise.

Turning another corner in the duct system, Ahsoka found herself above another access hatch. She could see through this one into the room below. Hopefully anyone in the room itself wouldn't see her.

Looking around the room, Ahsoka spied what she needed. In back was terminal, one that looked important.

All she had to do was get to it, download what information she could onto the data drive she had in her bag from Palpatine, and get out.

Easy.

As she moved her hands to open the hatch, the sound of a door opening halted her.

Below her, two battledroids entered the room, flanking a Neidmoidian dressed in what appeared to be a lab coat.

Ahsoka remained as still as possible as the Neidmoidian turned back to the door he had entered from, addressing someone who hadn't entered yet.

"This visit is a privilege General, but I can assure you that our experiments are yielding the results you desired."

It was then that another sound hit Ahsoka's montrals. The sound of footsteps, but not footsteps. Instead, it sound almost like claws, moving across a metal floor in the form of footsteps.

And then the figure entered the room, and Ahsoka felt body freeze up with dread and horror at the familiar individual before her.

"We shall see Doctor," The mechanically terrifying voice of General Grievous snarled in reply, "We shall see."

Chapter Text

Instinct kicked in in an instant. Years ago, when she had been much younger, full of energy, and arrogant, she would have charged in in a situation such as this. She would have relished the challenge to prove herself to her master. To prove that she was worthy of being his apprentice.

But now, after so long, she was a Jedi no longer, and she knew better than to charge in.

Especially when faced with a threat such as General Grievous!

Holding her breath, Ahsoka delved deep into the force to steady herself. If she made even a tiny sound, she would be found out.

And without a lightsaber in her possession, she had no real way to counter the cybernetic monstrosity that stood in the room below her.

So she held her breath and waited. After all, she needed what was in the room too.

The Neidmoidian seemed to be in discomfort at the presence of General Grievous, not that Ahsoka blamed him to honest. Despite only coming face to face with him twice in the past, Grievous was certainly not a welcome sight to behold. Perhaps in his prime, before his 'enchancements' he would have been a sight to behold and respect.

Now, he was nothing more than a murderous monster.

Sneering at the cyborg below her, Ahsoka listened as the Neidmoidian spoke.

"As you can see General, we have made great strides with our research. The biological makeup of these creatures is fascinating, allowing them a seemingly mythical defence against such raw power the likes we have never seen before. Properly utilized, this biological advancement could be used for the benefit of the Confederacy."

Throughout the discussion Ahsoka watched for Grievous' reaction. There was none, nothing that showed he was interested or bored, or that he was about to get angry.

For all she knew he could be asleep.

"The only major issue is replicating such a power. The creature itself relies on a small gland located within its internal body. It is in the end an organic organ, and thus much harder to produce artificially than it would be to grow it within a specimen. If we are to produce this weapon in viable numbers, we will need many more specimens for study."

From where she was in the vents, Ahsoka could not see what the doctor was gesturing to behind him. The only indication that something was there to look at was the light green glow that both the doctor and Grievous were bathed in.

Still, despite her lack of vision, Ahsoka was still able to piece together some of what the doctor was saying. There was evidently a link between the doctor's description, and the pile of dead creature bodies she had found earlier. No doubt they were the specimens.

The question was what they were being studied for?

Before the doctor could give away any more information, the General interrupted him, his mechanical voice clearly frustrated.

"I care little for your project doctor. I am here for my own reasons. Now leave! I have an important transmission to make."

Clearly the doctor was not expecting such as harsh and vicious remark from the general. The Neimoidian sputtered several times, gesturing behind him towards where to green glow was emanating from, as if he was pointing out he had more to explain and felt that it was rude to have been interrupted.

It was obvious to Ahsoka that the doctor was passionate about his work.

When the doctor made no move to leave as per Grievous' instructions, the cyborg growled aloud, swiping one of his clawed hands forward and grasping hold of the doctor's neck.

"Out! Now!"

Ahsoka watched as Grievous released the doctor, who are coughing slightly from where he had been choked, made a quick dash for the exit, leaving Grievous alone.

The cyborg general chuckled slightly at the incident, before extracting a small circular device from his cloak, a device that Ahsoka recognized as a transmitter.

Still holding her breath, Ahsoka watched through the grate of the vents as Grievous thumbed the transmitter on, leading to a life size hologram coming into existence before him.

The hologram figure was that of an elder human male, one dressed in regal looking clothes, and one who sported a unique looking lightsaber on his belt.

Ahsoka had to refrain from gasping when she realized who Grievous was contacting.

"Count Dooku, I have arrived at the Myrkr facility as instructed. What exactly did you wish of me?" The General inquired, confusion in his cybernetic tone.

Hologram Dooku seemed to look around the room himself for a few moments, as if taking in the research that the doctor had tried to explain to Grievous beforehand.

When Dooku had seemingly finished his inspection, he turned his attention back to Grievous.

"Do not sound so disappointed General. Your presence here was not requested by me, but rather Lord Sidious himself."

Ahsoka felt her eyes widen in shock. Sidious was a name only ever heard in whispers. Supposedly it was the name of the true Lord of the Sith, the person behind this entire war. Until now, Ahsoka hadn't even been sure he existed. He was treated as some sort of boogieman by most.

But now, hearing the name spoken by Count Dooku himself all but confirmed it.

Sidious did exist!

The question was who was he?

Or her?

Or it?

Ahsoka had no idea, and her thoughts were pulled off track as Grievous responded to Dooku.

"And what purpose does Lord Sidious have sending me to this facility. I am no scientist! I am the general of the droid army!" Grievous' voice boomed as it always did, interrupted only by the signature hacking cough he seemed to possess. Ahsoka has no clue where the cough had originated from, or why the general didn't seek a way to fix it. If she were to guess, she would link it to the so called 'improvements' of his cybernetic form. Perhaps the organs within his metallic shell were damaged in the process?

Shifting her thoughts back to the discussion between the two Separatist leaders, Ahsoka focused on what Dooku had to say.

"Intelligence from my master seems to hint that the Chancellor of the Republic has sent an agent of his to investigate rumours about this facility. My master believes that said agent is a Jedi. Knowing your, 'skills' at engaging them, Lord Sidious saw it fitting that you deal with this apparent infiltrator."

From where she was above in the vents, Ahsoka could have sworn she saw Grievous begin to bounce slightly in excitement at the word 'Jedi'. It was clear that the cyborg Kaleesh ws greatly anticipating a possible fight against a Jedi.

Still, that didn't stop the general from inquiring further.

"How do we know that Lord Sidious' intelligence is correct Count?" Grievous spoke, another cough raking his body mid sentence.

"My master's intelligence is always accurate General. Conduct your inspection of this facility. But keep your eyes open for this Jedi." Dooku replied, his ever regal and calm voice full of authority. It was odd seeing someone order General Grievous around in such a manner, but Ahsoka could see why Dooku was the one doing so. The man oozed respect and power. He had been a powerful Jedi.

And an even more powerful Sith Lord.

"It will be done Count Dooku."

And with that, Grievous disconnected the link, before pivoting sharply on his clawed heels and heading towards the door the doctor had left through.

Ahsoka listened as the heavy clunks of his footsteps reached the doorway, stepping through it, and then beginning to fade away in the distance behind a now closed door.

When she was certain the coast was clear, Ahsoka released the breath she had been holding, before beginning to contemplate her next move.

Somehow, despite this being a secret mission for the Chancellor, Count Dooku's master had discovered that someone was had come to infiltrate. She didn't know if they knew it was her, or if they assumed it was another Jedi, but that didn't matter.

Simply put, the mission was no a lot harder. It was easier to infiltrate a facility when no one knew you were coming. And it would have been equally as easy to escape without being detected.

But now General Grievous was here, and he knew that someone was coming, if not already here.

That made her escape plan far more complicated. No doubt the General would place extra guards around the facility to cover all exits. If Ahsoka were to guess, then no doubt the General would have brought a squad of his own bodyguards along with him.

And without as lightsaber in her possession, Magna Guards would be a considerable problem to deal with.

Grievous would be even worse mind you.

Taking a deep breath, Ahsoka began to consider her options.

She could flee, find a way out without the data and report back to the Chancellor with apologies.

Or she could risk it, and drop into the room below her to find out what she had come for. The download shouldn't take too long… she hoped.

Either way it was a double edged sword, and Ahsoka had not come this far to back out now.

After all, Anakin hadn't taught her to run away.

Steeling herself, Ahsoka reached out to undo the latch, opening it slowly and cautiously to avoid any sounds that might give her away, and dropped down into the room, landing in a crouched position.

Ahsoka surveyed the room for a few brief moments, analysing key strategic positions that she could fight from and move around if need be. From her analysis, there appeared to be little in the way of security. No cameras or sensors that she could see at least.

Rising slowly from her crouched position, Ahsoka began to shift her focus from tactical analysis to intelligence. That was, after all, what she was here for.

The first thing that caught her gaze was the source of the glowing green light she had seen from above. Before her was a tall tank, filled with some sort of liquid. In a way it resembled a bacta tank designed for people to rest and heal in, but from the bright green glowing liquid inside of it Ahsoka doubted the tank served medicinal purposes.

Upon closer inspection, something caught Ahsoka's eyes. There, floating in the centre of the tank, surrounded by the green water like liquid was a small creature, specifically one of the lizards she had seen earlier outside of the base in the jungle, and again in various body parts within the base itself.

"What are they doing to you you poor creature?" Ahsoka whispered sadly at the sight, laying a single orange hand on the glass tank. She could not feel any life coming from the creature itself, and it wasn't moving, save for the shift of the liquid within the tank itself. Thus she could only assume the creature was dead.

That was a small comfort at least. If, as it appeared to Ahsoka, they were experimenting on these small creatures, then at least the creatures were dead before they were horribly mutilated.

Clearly, whatever they hoped to gain from such brutal experiments was important. Doubly so if General Grievous himself had been sent to investigate and safeguard.

Moving her gaze away from the tank, Ahsoka spied the console she had seen earlier in the back.

Walking quickly and lightly Ahsoka crossed the distance between herself and the console, her hand pressing down upon the interface, powering it up.

She expected there to be some heavy level of security encryption, security that she could no bypass alone, at least not without the help of someone like R2D2.

For now, all she could do was install the dataspike she had been given, download as much data, encryption be damned, that she could, and take it back to the Chancellor for his code breakers to crack.

Extracting the small disk into a slot on the terminal, Ahsoka began the download.

The majority of the information was encrypted, that Ahsoka could see. But there was one small bit of information that gave itself away freely.

A name.

"'Project Nullify' huh? What could you be?"

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

General Grievous stomped around the control room of the Myrkr facility, listening to the incessant whining of the Neimoidian doctor. Barely five minutes in his presence and he already wanted to kill him!

Growling under his breath, Grievous began to scrape his metal talons along a railing. Where was this so called Jedi he had been sent to hunt down?

If both Dooku and Sidious had sent him on another wild convor chase he would certainly give them a piece of his mind!

Growling aloud this time, gaining both a fearful look from the doctor as well as a perplexed one from a pair of battledroids, Grievous resumed his angry pacing.

This was a spectacular waste of his time! He should be out leading the war, not playing cat and mouse with some so called…

"General, we have had an unauthorized breach in our security in the quarantine lab. Someone is trying to download the files!" The panicked voice of a battledroid sounded out, alerting the General.

Grievous spun instantly, glee flooding his senses.

Lord Sidious had been correct!

There was a Jedi here!

And he was looking forward to facing them and gaining yet another lightsaber for his collection.

Chapter Text

The download took about as long as Ahsoka suspected it would, and with each passing moment Ahsoka was waiting for someone to walk back through the doorway and into the room. If that were the case she had two options.

Hide or fight.

She still possessed the force, but that wasn't a power to be used as a weapon. Instead it merely acted as an omniscient presence that permeated around her.

Sure, she could use it offensively, but even that would only save her for a short amount of time.

So that only left her the option of hiding, not that there was much to hide behind in the room she was in. The glass tube, whilst full of green liquid, was still partially see through.

There were tables to hide behind either, and there was no way she would be able to flee back to the vents in time.

Instead, she would just have to get lucky, and pray that no one walked in.

And if they did…

A small beep from the console drew her attention back to the download. Glancing down she saw the files were transferred, though still encrypted.

'It will have to do for now,' Ahsoka thought as she removed the dataspike, storing it away in her backpack, before turning her attention to her escape route.

Getting in was hard, getting out, as expected, would now be a challenge.

Opting to use the vents again, at least to remain undetected for now, Ahsoka approached the opening she had used earlier and prepared to vault backup into the crawl space.

It was then that a sound hit her montrals, one that was indicative of metal feet on a metal floor. And it was coming from outside of the doorway.

Grievous.

"Ah kriff!" Ahsoka muttered under her breath, delving into the force and vaulting back up into the vents, shuffling around and closing the hatch behind her, before beginning to crawl away in the direction she had come.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

General Grievous wasted no time entering the room. He wasn't one for surprise and stealth, but rather brute force. By barging into the room and making his presence immediately known, he was hopefully instilling pure terror on his poor unsuspecting Jedi opponent. Fear that would in turn be their downfall.

But upon entry, Grievous found himself face to face with an empty room. There was no Jedi in sight! No republic minion for the slaughter.

No challenge for him.

Growling, Grievous slammed one of his metal claws against the doorframe in rage, allowing his anger to take control.

Either the information had been wrong, or the Jedi had escaped.

The question was how had they escaped? There was no way in or out of the room, minus the door that he had entered through. Surely he would have encountered them outside in the hallway if they had escaped.

Taking another step into the room, a sound hit his audio receptors. It was distant and quiet, as if someone was sneaking away. The sound itself was an odd one. In a way it sounded almost as if it was a material of some kind, cloth maybe, gently brushing against a metal surface.

In that moment Grievous' eyes widen in surprise as he understood, his gaze instantly shooting upwards to the ceiling. His golden eyes focused, locking onto a hatch that led to the ventilation ducts that ran the length of the base.

That was how the Jedi had escaped. They must have been a small one to fit inside though. Briefly, Grievous wondered if it was some stray padawan learner, hoping to impress their master.

If only they knew.

Lifting his hand to his faceplate, Grievous activated his comm link and began to speak.

"Commander, the Jedi is loose in the ventilation system. Purge the ducts now!"

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

It was times like these that Ahsoka cursed the fact that she was getting older. For years she had been the small one of the group, dwarfed by her comrades and superiors, by her masters and friends.

At times, her diminutive stature had given them a great advantage. She could slip into places Anakin and the others could not. She could move undetected, despite the vast array of colours that made up her body.

In truth, she didn't really noticed her height all that much in the past. She had had other things to worry about.

But now, crawling through an incredibly tight space she realised something. She had most certainly grown.

Her montrals had gotten taller, the tips of them brushing up against the roof of the ventilation ducts, sending an uncomfortable feeling through her body as her senses were disrupted in the process.

Grumbling lightly, Ahsoka pushed forward, a memory coming to the forefront of her mind.

She and Anakin had been out of a routine scouting mission, accompanied only by each other and R2. It had been early in her apprenticeship, from a time when she was unsure of both herself and of Anakin.

It had been on this mission that he had put her at ease. A gentle teasing of her height, followed by her swearing that one day she would be taller than him, followed by a series of sad beeps from R2, who was upset that he couldn't get taller, and any sense of authority between them was gone.

He was still her master, and it was her duty to listen and learn from him, but that still didn't mean they couldn't be friends.

The memory was a bittersweet one, but one that pushed Ahsoka through nonetheless.

Turning a sharp tight corner in the ducts, Ahsoka continued to crawl through, hoping to find a way out that was unguarded.

And preferably one that was away from General Grievous.

She had faced him before, and both times she had gotten lucky.

She doubted she would a third time.

Continuing to crawl, Ahsoka found that perhaps her luck was holding. There, just a few meters ahead of her was another hatch, one that hopefully led down into an area where she would be safe. All she had to do was sneak out of the base. After all, it was not like that were alerted to her presence yet was it?

Moments later, Ahsoka ate her words.

A harsh hissing sound flooded her senses as a thick noxious gas began to flood into the ducts, clouding her vision.

Ahsoka knew what was happening. They were purging the ducts.

Lifting one hand to cover her mouth and nose, Ahsoka pushed forward, her goal straight ahead. She had no choice now. It was either drop out of the ducts and into a possible group of hostiles, or stay and choke in the ducts.

At least she had a fighting chance against some battledroids.

Reaching out, Ahsoka opened the hatch and dropped out of the ducts, landing with a slight stumble as she recovered from the noxious gas currently flowing through the ducts. Despite only being exposed to the gas for a few seconds, Ahsoka could feel the effects it was having on her body. Her lungs ached and throbbed, her body desperately wanting to begin violently coughing, and possibly even vomiting in order to expel the gas.

However, if she did, Ahsoka was almost certain that it would alert someone of her presence. Instead, she began to take several large gulps of breath, hoping to balance out her breathing as she surveyed her surroundings.

Once again, she had gotten extremely lucky. There were no droids around, and no sign of Grievous.

When her rate of breathing had eventually returned to normal, Ahsoka rose back to her feet.

The room around her resembled another disposal room, similar to the one she had encountered earlier. This one however was devoid of any rotting carcassing of the lizards that the Separatists were clearly experimenting on. Ahsoka still had no clear idea of what was going on, or what this mystery bioweapon was, but she had a very bad feeling about it.

All that mattered at the moment was finding a way out and back to her ship.

She had to get the information back to the Chancellor.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

General Grievous stood before a holomap of the facility, his golden eyes surveying each and every aspect of it. Purging the vents would no doubt force the Jedi out into the open, eliminating their primary method of movement through the facility. Now they would be forced to move through the corridors, exposed to battledroid patrols.

It was just a case of catching the Jedi himself now. Battledroids were useless against a Jedi. They would be cut down in seconds. In truth, they were nothing more than cannon fodder, same as the clones, meant to distract and delay. The droids would find the Jedi, and then Grievous would follow suite.

It was just a case of predicting how this Jedi would act. If only he had an identity of some kind.

It had to be a smaller Jedi, or else they wouldn't have fitted inside the vents in the first place. Briefly, Grievous entertained the idea of it being Kenobi, sneaking through the vents, his ever present smirk present on his face as he reviled in attempting to ruin Grievous' plans.

Shaking the thought from his mind, Grievous continued his mental study of the possible identity of the Jedi intruder. If they were small enough to crawl through the vents, then they were more than likely very agile and fast, and thus possibly quite young.

Yoda briefly came to mind, but Grievous was quick to pass the idea off. Why would the Jedi Grandmaster leave the sanctity of his temple? He was no fighter.

It was then that another individual appeared in his mind. The young Togruta runt that belonged to Skywalker. She was known for this sort of behaviour, and would no doubt relish the opportunity to impress her precious master.

In the end, Grievous came to no real conclusion, not that it mattered. He would find out the Jedi's identity soon, and then he would destroy them.

But for now, he had a plan.

Turning away from the holomap, Grievous began to stomp out of the room, fully intending on returning to his shuttle.

He would wait for the Jedi there. After all, that was the only way out of the facility.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The one upside to moving through the hallways as opposed to the ventilation ducts was that Ahsoka actually had room to move around. She was no longer bashing her montrals on the roof, or scraping her knees as she crawled slowly through the harsh metal ducts themselves.

Of course, the biggest problem was the fact that she was now exposed to any patrols of battledroids. She had already been forced to backtrack several times to avoid the patrolling security, as well as enter yet another side room to ensure she wasn't spotted by a pair of magna guards.

Still, despite the issues she had encountered so far, she had remained undetected. That itself was a borderline miracle.

Slowly shifting her form around another corner, Ahsoka broke into a dash down the deserted hallway before her. The facility itself was a maze of corridors, with no clear sense of direction. Ahsoka could have sworn she had been down the same hallway several times now, though that might have been due to every hallway being the same drab grey in colour.

Coming to another junction, Ahsoka halted briefly and listened, hoping that something would give away her path.

Then she heard voices.

"This missions sucks. Why were we deployed here again?"

"I don't know. Something about a mystery weapon being developed. I don't have clearance for it."

"None of us do your idiot."

The distinct high pitched voices of battledroids echoed in her senses from the path on the right. Ahsoka had no idea how many there were, and she didn't want to risk exposing herself and being drawn into a fight.

So she went left.

Advancing down another corridor, Ahsoka found the endless hallways mercifully quite. That meant that she was unlikely to be detected.

Turning another pair of corners, Ahsoka recognized a familiar sight. The hallway before her was the same one she had entered through, evident by the small room off to the side of her that contained the various decomposing limbs.

That meant that she was on the right track.

Another minute later, and yet another familiar sight appeared in her vision.

The exit!

A wide smile came to her face as she began to approach the way out. She knew that realistically, there would be security on the other side of the door. But she could handle that, and she would disappear into the foliage around the facility before anyone even knew what had happened.

Bracing herself, Ahsoka opened the door. The bright light of the sun shone through the trees and hit her eyes, forcing her to shield them with her hands. Stepping forward, out of the darkness of the Separatist base and into the light of day, Ahsoka spotted a new sight on the landing pad. A single Sheathipede class shuttle sat in the centre of the landing platform, guarded by several Magna Guard.

And then Ahsoka saw him, standing in front of the shuttle, facing towards her, and felt her blood run cold.

And then he spoke.

"Well well, if it isn't Skywalker's pet Togruta. On another mission to impress your precious master?" General Grievous mocked, taking one step towards her, draped in his heavy cloak that contained the trophies he used as weapons. Behind him, the Magna Guard advanced, flanking their general, electro-staffs bristling with energy.

Ahsoka knew she was in trouble. She had no feasible way of defending herself, minus her connection to the force, and even that would only buy her some time, and not enough to escape from Grievous or his minions.

She was stuck, and in dire circumstances.

Still, that wasn't going to stop her from being herself.

"Oh, hey General, been a while. Lost anymore hands to Master Kenobi as of late?"

Ahsoka didn't miss the way Grievous seemed to shudder with rage at the evident mocking. Sure, Anakin had taught her to fight, but it had been Obi-Wan that had taught her to taunt, in a way that only he could.

Admittedly she wasn't as charming, or dare she say as outright flirty as Obi-Wan could be, not that he would ever admit it, but she her own way of taunting, one that relied on her natural snippiness that Anakin had nicknamed her after.

And clearly the taunt had worked, judging by Grievous' reaction.

"Jedi slime!"

Ahsoka couldn't help the sad smile that came to her face. She was no longer a Jedi, not that Grievous needed to know that.

"Yep, that's me. Slimy Jedi and proud of it. Now, are you going to surrender to me or not?" Ahsoka snipped, her eyes darting around the trees as she spoke, searching for a possible way out.

There had to be a way out.

There was always a way out, even if it wasn't obvious at first.

It was just a case of finding it.

"Funny padawan, I was about to ask the same as you. Surrender and I promise I will make your ed swift and painless." The cyborg general boasted, removing a single lightsaber hilt from his cloak and gripping it tightly in his hands before activating the blade. The bright green saber glowed ominously, further reminding Ahsoka that she no longer possessed her lightsabers. She couldn't fight him, not conventionally.

And even if she did, he had a whole group of bodyguards behind him ready to assist.

"I'm afraid I'm gonna have to refuse tinny. Thanks for the kind offer anyway." Ahsoka replied, keeping her voice light and teasing, knowing that it aggravated the supreme commander of the droid army.

Grievous seemed to snarl viciously, the sound coming through his modulated voice, making it harsher than it could ever have been without his cybernet body. To most that instilled fear.

Sadly, she was used to it by now.

Grievous began to advance, twirling the green blade in his hand in gentle arcs, clearly preparing. No doubt he was wondering why she hadn't armed herself yet.

Truth be told, so was she. She really should have acquired a weapon earlier.

Grievous continued to close in, his clawed feet clanging loudly against the metal floor of the landing pad. Behind him the Magna Guard moved in unison, waiting.

Ahsoka's eyes began to dart, looking for a way out. She could jump over them, or push them back with the force, but that would only buy her a small amount of time.

She needed something bigger than that.

And then she heard a sound.

'Hoot hoot'

It was far louder than she expected, and came from directly above her head. Glancing upwards, Ahsoka spied the small green avian creature from before, hovering above her, glaring down at the advancing threat.

Grievous clearly spotted the creature too, as he golden eyes widen as he began to chuckle.

"What is this? Relying on animals to help you are we now? The Jedi really must be desperate."

Ahsoka had no response. Her focus was on this bird. There was something about it. Something familiar.

Through the force, Ahsoka felt something. A signature of some kind, one embezzled with the lightside of the force.

And it emanated solely from the avian itself.

And then the creature screeched aloud, descending towards the General and his escort at frightening speed.

What happened next happened in the blink of an eye. The avian flew directly towards Grievous, wings spread and claws out. For a moment Ahsoka thought the bird intended or gauging Grievous' eyes out with it's claws.

It turned out that Ahsoka couldn't have been more wrong.

Rather than land and attack, the avian speed towards Grievous, crashing headfirst into his chestplate.

The force exploded suddenly, and Grievous was sent spiraling backwards at at terrifying velocity, before colliding with the shuttle on the landing pad, sending that onto its side as well.

Ahsoka couldn't help the gasp that escaped her as she watched the avian take back to the skies, before coming down and doing the same to each Magna Guard that had flanked Grievous, eviscerating them from the resulting impacts in the process.

This was beyond anything Ahsoka had ever seen before. What was this creature?!

It was then that Ahsoka heard a soft voice in her head, one that was comforting, yet commanding and powerful at the same time.

And one she could have sworn she heard before.

The voice didn't saw much, but what it said was sound advice.

"Run!"

So she did, taking off into the trees around her and away from the facility.

Chapter Text

It was next to impossible to retrace your footsteps when you were running through a thick forest. Even less possible with the knowledge that General Grievous was right behind you, fully intent on slaughtering you and mounting your head as a trophy.

But still, despite her complete and lack of sense of direction, Ahsoka ran, pushing through vines and bushes, not stopping, not looking back. She dreaded what she would see if she did so.

Reaching into the force, Ahsoka felt a presence on the edge of her signature. The one from before. The one that had emanated from that bird. It sang to her, encouraged her to run in the direction she was heading. Was it trying to direct her, or something else?

Maybe she was just imagining things? Maybe Grievous had captured her or worse, and this was some sort of wishful fantasy or coma she was in.

Still, she pushed forward. The presence had helped her so far, for some bizarre reason. It wasn't that much of a stretch of imagination that it was continuing to do so now… was it?

So she ran, and jumped, and dodged and weaved through the trees, never looking back, her only goal in finding a way out of the dense jungle, and back to her ship.

And from there, back to Coruscant.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

General Grievous surveyed the damaged around him. His Magna Guard squad lay strewn and destroyed around the landing platform, their bodies in various pieces from where they had been slammed against a variety of surfaces. His shuttle wasn't exactly in a much better shape. It rested now on it's side, sparking and in need of repairs. Grievous knew he wouldn't be leaving this rock anytime soon.

Right now however that wasn't his concern. Skywalker's runt had escaped, thanks to some kind of divine intervention of the force. What it was, Grievous didn't know? All he did know was that it had humiliated him, allowing the Jedi to escape with the information, and then vanished itself into the tree canopies above.

Snarling under his mask, Grievous began to consider his options. He knew he would have to report to Count Dooku, and that the Sith Lord would not like what he had to say.

But Grievous wasn't afraid of Count Dooku. He was not afraid of anything.

And besides, now that the information about the project was headed for republic hands, it meant that the republic itself would no doubt prepare to assault the various facilities that related to this project.

Perhaps he could lay a trap that way, and strike when they did.

Chuckling to himself, Grievous began to stride back into the facility, a plan forming in his mind.

Rather than attack, he would plan and wait, and ambush.

If such plans worked for General Kenobi, why shouldn't they work for him as well?

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Somehow, despite all the odds, and all of the possible threats, Ahsoka's blind faith in whatever the mysterious presence had been paid off. Fifteen minutes of running through the dense pungent forest led to her emerging into an open space, and there, sitting before her was her ship.

"Ah, thank the force!" Ahsoka cried out breathless and she jogged towards the ship, a wide smile on her face. "I've never been so happy to see a ship before!"

Ascending up the ramp and into the interior of the shuttle, Ahsoka unceremoniously dumped her backpack in the co-pilot seat, before taking her position up behind the controls and powering up the ship. Her montrals picked up the distinct hum of the engines roaring to life, and she felt the shuttle begin to lift off the ground as she directed it to do so.

Reaching a hand across the dashboard, Ahsoka pulled the lever that would engage the stealth drive. No doubt Grievous had entered the system on a ship of his own. Kriff, she wouldn't be surprised if the whole damn Separatist fleet was in orbit above the planet.

If that was the case, then she really needed the stealth drive to work. The success of the mission depended on it. Ahsoka was a decent pilot in her own mind, thanks mainly to Anakin's teaching, but she wasn't sure she would be able to outmaneuver an entire fleet easily.

Still, she had no options left, not as she pulled the shuttle up through the clouds of Myrkr and into orbit.

And there, before her, her suspicions were confirmed. A single Providence class dreadnought hovered in space, clearly waiting for their General to return to them.

Ahsoka could do nothing against such a colossal warship. All she could do was hope that she wouldn't be detected.

Mercifully, the ship made no move to suggest that it knew she was there. The stealth drive was working!

A smirk came to Ahsoka's face as she began to power up the hyperdrive. The dreadnought would no doubt detect the sudden surge of energy when she jumped, but by then it would be too late.

Seconds later, the hyperdrive was charged, and Ahsoka watched through the cockpit window as the blackness of space shifted in a vortex of blue.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The trip through hyperspace was thankful uneventful, as was the landing procedure back on Coruscant. Apparently the Chancellor had informed the air traffic controllers of her possible return from such a mission.

Ahsoka had, much to her surprise, be escorted to an official landing platform usually reserved for the Chancellor himself, and from there had headed straight to the Chancellor's office to inform him of the situation and give him the data she had stolen.

Admittedly, she was slightly upset that she had to bid farewell to the experimental ship that the Chancellor had loaned her, but she understood that it was needed elsewhere. For now, she had other business to attend to.

The elaborately decorated halls of the senate building was a sharp contrast to the greens of the jungle she had been wandering through not too long ago, or even the dull greys and browns of the Separatist lab she had infiltrated.

Here, the walls were decorated with a myriad of colours, reds and golds being the most predominant among them.

Turning corner in the halls of the senate building, Ahsoka found herself at the entrance to the Chancellor's office.

The door was closed, suggesting that she was not welcome to just walk on in. Instead, Ahsoka composed herself and knocked gently on the door three times, waiting to be summoned.

From the other side of the door Ahsoka heard the soft gentle voice of the Chancellor respond with an 'enter'.

So she did.

Opening the door and stepping through into the office itself, Ahsoka spotted the Chancellor staring out of the large window planes of his office. The elderly man seemed to surveying the city outside. Why, Ahsoka was unsure, and she could feel nothing of his emotions through her connection to the force that would give anything away. She wasn't even sure he knew it was her yet.

Rather than approach the Chancellor, Ahsoka remained where she was, the door sliding shut behind her. Placing her hands behind her back, Ahsoka straightened her back and stood as tall as she could, before politely coughing.

The Chancellor clearly heard her, as in response he turned around, his wrinkled eyes locking onto her face, a look of surprise on his face.

"Chancellor Palpatine, I have important information for you regarding the bioweapon you wanted me to look into." Ahsoka spoke, keeping her voice full of both respect and professionalism. Now was not the time to be 'Snips'. She was in 'Commander' mode.

The look of surprise remained of the Chancellor's face for a few seconds before his composure returned, a kindly and welcoming smile appearing on his face.

"I did not expect you back so soon Agent Tano. Clearly I was right to put my faith in you. The mission was a success then I take it?" Palpatine spoke as he moved over to his desk, taking his seat and gesturing for Ahsoka to take the one opposite, an offer she accepted.

"It did Chancellor." Ahsoka spoke, placing the data spike she had used to download the information from the Separatist lab on his desk for him to collect. "I managed to download a significant amount of data onto this spike. It is heavily encrypted however, and I haven't been able to crack the codes."

Palpatine nodded as he listened, picking the spike up in his hands and turning the device over several times, inspecting it.

"No worries Agent Tano, I will have my best codebreakers have a look at it. All that matters is that you got it to me in one piece." Palpatine replied, placing the spike back on his desk before shooting Ahsoka a grateful smile.

"I nearly didn't get back at all. Grievous showed up." Ahsoka continued, informing the Chancellor of every aspect of the mission. It was only right after all. He was her boss.

"I see. How… unfortunate. At least you survived." Palpatine spoke, his tone neutral, not that Ahsoka minded.

Silence passed for a few seconds, aside from the sound of paper rustling as the Chancellor began to rearrange the paperwork on his desk before them, creating some room on the desk itself.

"And now I believe I owe you a reward Agent Tano." Palpatine spoke, his voice warm again.

Before Ahsoka had any chance to refute whatever he was about to offer, the Chancellor had reached below his desk and placed a small item before her, one that looked like a keycard.

"What's this?" Ahsoka inquired, leaning forward in her seat slightly to get a better look at the keycard.

"This my dear is part of your reward. I could not help but notice that your current accommodation is not exactly what I would call homely. Fortunately, a rather spacious apartment in 500 Republica recently became vacant after it's owner passed away. I have taken the liberty of placing the deposit for you. This is the keycard to your new home."

Ahsoka couldn't help the fact that her eyes almost popped out of her skull. She knew of the apartment complex that the Chancellor was speaking of. The most prestigious and powerful people on all of Coruscant, save the Jedi council, were said to live there. Even the Chancellor himself owned an apartment there, further suggesting that it was not exactly open to the common person.

"Chancellor this is… this is too much, I can't take this!" Ahsoka replied, keeping her tone both steady and grateful. She didn't deserve something like this. Her small room in downtown Coruscant might have been tiny and on the edge of dilapidation, but the it suited her needs.

Clearly the Chancellor felt different, as he slid the access card across the desk and into Ahsoka's hands, a smile on his face.

"Nonsense my dear. you will need a place to relax and call home when you are not on duty. Take the card and make that place your own."

Ahsoka liked to think she was not a selfish person. She always tried to do what was best for other people, regardless of what it could do to her. She supposed that was partly down to her training as a Jedi.

But now, she was a Jedi no longer, and some part of her wanted to, for once, be selfish and accept the apartment.

Surely she had earned this, had she not?

Across from her, Palpatine's gentle smile did not change. He wasn't forcing her to make a decision, but merely waiting for an answer, no matter what it was.

With a small sigh, Ahsoka gave in, and accepted the keycard from the Chancellor.

"Excellent my dear, excellent. I'm sure it will more than suit your need. To that end, I have also created republic credit account with your name on it, and transferred a sizable amount of credits into the account as payment for a job well done. Buy yourself something nice with it my dear. You can find the access codes in the apartment waiting for you." The Chancellor spoke warmly, leaning back in his chair.

Ahsoka didn't miss the fact that Palpatine had already prepared the apartment for her. Clearly he had anticipated her saying yes to his offer.

She chose not to point it out. After all, she didn't want to be rude to the most powerful man in the galaxy.

"Now my dear, I do have one more gift for you." The Chancellor continued, once again reaching beneath his desk to extract something.

This time round, rather than a small keycard, Palpatine lifted and placed a small ornate looking box on his desk, before gently pushing it towards Ahsoka. The box was clearly made of fine wood, and had been inscribed with various patterns and markings, ones that showed prestige and value.

However, something nagged within Ahsoka. She got the feeling that the box itself was not the gift, but whatever was within it.

When the box was directly in front of Ahsoka, Palpatine gestured for her to open it.

Tentatively reaching for the lid, Ahsoka grasped it gently in her hands, feeling the course wood with her fingertips, before lifting the lid.

A sudden shift in the force caused her to flinch as something hit her, connected with her.

Called out to her.

The sudden shift caught her by surprise, and Ahsoka found her eyes blinking several times before she was able to refocus.

When her focus had returned, she glanced down at the inside of the box.

The inside of the box was decorated with a thin red velvety material, one that Ahsoka could tell was designed to safeguard whatever was in the box. Clearly it was something of great value.

But why had it called out to her through the force?

And then she saw why.

There, resting gently in the centre of the red velvet material, was a small colourless crystal. Ahsoka found herself blinking several times again as she stared at the crystal, trying to determine what it was.

And then she felt it again. The call from the force. Calling out to her.

Calling out from within the small ornate wooden box.

Calling from the crystal.

Ahsoka couldn't help the gasp of awe that escaped her.

It was a kyber crystal!

Across the desk, Palpatine had remained silent, studying her reaction. He watched as Ahsoka slowly reached into the box and extracted the crystal, the Togruta turning it around in the palm of her hand several times in wonderment.

"I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of the force in general, but from what Anakin has told me in the past, these crystals are vitally important to the construction of a lightsaber. I acquired this one years ago after it was given to me as a gift from an old friend after I had graduated from my education. At the time I did not realize what I possessed, not until I became friends with young Skywalker. In my possession this crystal is nothing more than a trinket, but I could not help but notice your lack of a saber, and thought this might help you create a new one to defend yourself with."

Ahsoka barely paid any attention to what the Chancellor had said. Kyber crystals were extremely difficult to get their hands on. Part of the reason was that they only ever showed themselves to a force sensitive individual, and even then only if the crystal was destined to be theirs. One had to have a natural connection to the crystal itself to find it, let alone use it.

And somehow, despite what was no doubt an incredibly slim chance, the crystal that Palpatine seemed to be giving her called out to her. Wanted to be hers.

Ahsoka had known the second she had left the temple, left the Jedi order behind, that the chances were that she would never be able to use a lightsaber again. She had made peace with the fact. After all, a Jedi didn't need a lightsaber to be powerful, and whilst she was no longer a Jedi, the force would always be with her.

But now, as she stared at the small crystal in her hand, she felt a rush of excitement. Perhaps the force had deemed her worthy of building a new lightsaber after all.

Smiling brightly, Ahsoka clenched her hand tightly around the crystal, before pocketing it for use later. She would need to find the materials first to build her new weapon after all.

And once that was done, she would use it to do what she had always done.

Protect those who needed protecting.

Only this time she would not be doing so as a Jedi, or even a commander in the republic army.

But as the personal Agent of the Chancellor.

Chapter Text

343.

That was the number of the apartment she now stood at. The front door before her, waiting to be opened.

And clenched tightly in her hand, the keycard to the door, and what lie beyond it.

Ahsoka didn't know how long she had been standing in front of the door. Was it seconds? Minutes?

Hours?

She had the key to get in. She could open the door, walk right in and make herself at home, etiquette be damned. This was no longer some senators apartment. It was hers!

Admittedly, she had gotten some odd looks from some other residents who had spotted her walking the halls of the 500 Republica building. No doubt they were wondering what exactly a young Togruta teenager such as herself was doing in such an aristocratic place.

A small smirk came to her face as she envisioned herself explaining to them that she now owned this apartment. She was almost certain they would be either mortified or utterly confused.

Truth be told she herself was still confused. The Chancellor had gone to extreme lengths to reward her for one small mission. An apartment, a credit account…

And a kyber crystal, one that resonated with her in the force. Ahsoka still could not believe it, even as her hand subconsciously went to the pocket it was held in. Through the material of her trousers she could feel the crystalline object, waiting and calling out to her.

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka moved her hand holding the keycard towards the receiver next to the door. Despite her shock, the last thing she wanted to do was upset the Chancellor by turning down his offer. After all, he had gone out his way to find her and offer to help her. The least she could do was accept his generous rewards.

The receiver beeped twice once it picked up the keycard, before flashing green once and unlocking the door.

The sound of the door sliding open before her drew Ahsoka's attention away from the receiver, her new apartment being exposed to her.

Wasting no time, Ahsoka slowly passed through the threshold of the doorway, trepidation mixed with a slight of excitement filling her senses.

The doorway led into a large open area, one that was clearly a communal area. A large couch sat square in the centre of the room, flanked on either side by a pair of comfy looking chairs.

Across from the seating arrangement, a large holoscreen stood on an ornate looking stand. The screen itself was clearly designed for usage of the holovision, not that there was ever anything decent on the watch. Both Anakin and herself, and occasionally Obi-Wan and Padme had taken to holding movie nights in Padme's apartment. Most of the time one of them would find an incredibly bad and cheesy movie to watch, and then the four would spend the night mocking the film as it played.

Perhaps now with a apartment and holoscreen of her own, she could be the one to host the next film. She only wondered what would be picked. If she was right, it was Anakin's turn to pick next.

Shaking her head at her memories Ahsoka dropped her backpack on one of the chairs, before continuing her inspection of her new abode.

The floors were lined with a thick expensive looking carpet, as well as bright colourful mirages that seemed to be rugs.

Continuing round her apartment, Ahsoka soon found herself in what resembled an expensive looking kitchen. The room was not separate from the lounge area either, the only divide in the rooms being the sudden end of carpet and beginning of white tiles on the floor.

The kitchen itself was adorned with various cookers and equipment, and cupboards already full of various cutlery and plates, as well as pots and pans for cooking. Whether these were gifts from the Chancellor, or belonged to the previous occupant of the apartment before he passed away, Ahsoka was unsure, but she didn't mind.

It would save her doing some shopping for such things.

Turning back around Ahsoka found herself standing behind a wooden counter, one that acted as another dividing line between the lounge and the kitchen. From where she stood she could see the seating arrangements and holovision. Clearly the kitchen and lounge had been designed with a social aspect in mind. One could prepare food whilst speaking to their guests at the same time.

It was then that Ahsoka noticed the view. Beyond the holovision was several large planes of windows, each of which revealed a magnificent view of the city below. From where she was, high up in the tower, Coruscant looked liked everything the media said it was. A crown jewel.

The buildings around the tower sparkled in the sunlight, each being made more glorious by the ones next to her.

The view was beautiful, Ahsoka would admit that, and she could see how people fell in love with such views.

But from her own experience in war, Ahsoka knew better. The outside may have been stunning, but inside things were much worse.

The thoughts percolated her mind for a few moments before she shook them off, continuing her inspection of her new apartment.

Moving from the kitchen back to the lounge Ahsoka spotted a pair of doorways on the other side of the room. Moving towards them she also spotted a large wooden table with several seats around them behind the couch. That was clearly where the occupants had eaten their dinner during formal events.

Moving past the table and couch Ahsoka entered the first doorway she had seen.

On the other side was a large double bed, one covered with what looked to be the most comfortable bedding Ahsoka had ever seen. In the temple and on the field Ahsoka had never really experienced luxury. She was used to living rough when needed.

But this bed before her looked like bliss.

Another doorway inside the large bedroom led to an en-suite bathroom, equipped with both a bath and shower, as well as refresher and sink.

Satisfied with her inspection of what she assumed to be the master bedroom Ahsoka turned and left the room, heading round the corner and through the doorway of the second room she had spotted.

Inside that room was almost an exact replica of the master bedroom, but with a large single bed as opposed to a double. It still possessed an en-suite bathroom, but was quite clearly designed as a guest bedroom.

Coming back out the guest room Ahsoka moved across the the large window planes, staring down at the city below.

The apartment was far more than she had ever expected. It was almost too large for her.

But she would not turn down the Chancellor's generosity.

Pivoting on her heel, Ahsoka's eyes ran across the apartment again. This was hers now, no one else's. No one could tell her what to do or what not to do.

The problem was she had no idea where to start. The Chancellor had told her he would be in contact when he had a new mission for her.

For now, she had to find a way to pass the time.

Like a lightbulb going off in her head an idea springed to mind.

First, she would indulge herself in a rare luxury, a hot shower.

And then she would head into the city of Coruscant itself.

Surely somewhere sold the types of components needed to build a new lightsaber?

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

It had taken a fair while to find a scrap metal dealer. Despite the lucrative nature of Coruscant itself, it was next to impossible to find all of the components she would need to construct some sort of lightsaber in one shop, and the more expensive pieces of tech she needed were even harder to find.

At least she wasn't short on money. The credit account that Chancellor Palpatine had opened in her name had blown her mind the second she saw just how many credits he had placed in their as payment for her first job.

One million credits. What was she supposed to do with that amount of money?

Still, she wasn't complaining, not when one piece of equipment she needed for her new saber cost up to 50,000 of those credits. Power modulators were never cheap.

Several hours later, Ahsoka found herself back at the door of her new apartment, a thought that still hadn't really set in yet, her backpack full of various scrap metal pieces and other components that she had managed to scrounge up, as well as some food for the fridge that resided in the kitchen. A girl had to eat after all.

Entering into her apartment, Ahsoka unloaded the various metal pieces and tech onto the kitchen worktop, stopping briefly to place the food she had brought away, before returning to the worktop. She wouldn't be able to build any sort of exquisite looking lightsaber hilt at the moment, but for now a simple hilt would do, one to house the crystal she now possessed.

Reaching into her pocket, she extracted the crystal and placed it with the other components of her lightsaber. The construction process was not easy and took both time and concentration. It made fixing a hyperdrive on a capital ship look easy, not that Ahsoka had ever had any experience with such a thing.

And it had been years since she had personally constructed a new lightsaber. What if she was rusty at it after all this time?

No! She couldn't think like that, not as she felt the crystal call out to her through the force, requesting to be used. It was strange how the crystal had connected to her, despite being a seemingly random gift.

Still, she did not dwell on that for now, not as she sat down in one of the stools at the worktop. It would dom little good to be distracted.

After all, she had a lightsaber to build.

Settling into the stool as comfortably as she could, Ahsoka placed her hands palm down on the worktop. All around her hands were the various components she had purchased, each a separate piece of metal, about to become one.

And resting at her fingertips was the kyber crystal, pulsing lightly with a colourless hue, calling to her through the force, asking for a connection.

Taking a deep breath, Ahsoka closed her eyes, and delved deep into the force.

The world around her changed instantly. Her apartment faded into nothingness as she reached into the force, her mind being transported into a neverworld, leaving her body behind. In her younger more impulsive days she had hated meditation, a trait she had shared with her master. Numerous times they had abandoned any real pretence of meditation, often sneaking out the temple together instead, usually for fast food. Ahsoka couldn't help but smile at the memory.

But now that she was older and more mature, she found that meditating could have it's benefits. In a way, it was a form of escapism for her, a way to evade the harsh realities of being a battlefield commander.

Or of being an outcast in a self imposed exile because those you looked up to sold you out!

Ahsoka flinched slightly at the sudden memory spike that hit her. It would do her no good to dwell on the past.

Centring herself again, Ahsoka listened to the netherworld around her. She could feel the presence of other force users, but could not identify them. For all she knew one of them could be Anakin, or Obi-Wan.

Or even someone like Dooku.

One could only usually identify an individual in meditation if they were in close proximity to them in reality. Meditating together most commonly led to this.

Still, not being able to be recognised at the moment was fine for Ahsoka. She didn't really want to speak or interact with any other force user right now, and she was fairly certain that certain individuals would not approve of her still using the force in such a manner after her departure from the order.

It was then that she felt a pull from something. A distant tug on the periphery shifted her focus, the netherworld changing around her. Everything was dark now, pitch black in fact, all expect on thing.

There, floating in the centre of the darkness was a light, one that resonated with energy, calling out to her and extending said energy to her, offering itself to her.

Ahsoka knew immediately what the light was. Her kyber crystal.

Reaching out with the force, Ahsoka began to intertwine her own energy with that of the crystal, binding it to hers. From it, she felt a rush of power and strength. The crystal was old, and it was clear that she was not it's first owner. Images flashed in her mind of places she thought she recognized, and faces of species she had meet. Naboo seemed common, as did the face of a Muun, but there was nothing she could truly make from it.

Instead, she refocused her energy on the crystal itself, deepening her connection to it, bonding with it. Unlike Sith, who twisted crystals to their will, Jedi, or Ahsoka at the very least, sought to work in union with the crystal, and share a harmonious relationship. Ahsoka liked to think that if the crystal wanted out of that relationship at any point, it could. She was not it's jailer after all.

Another surge of power hit her as the crystal connected to her again, forming the bond that she sought willingly. The crystal wanted to be hers, and that was all she needed.

Still deep in the netherworld of the force, Ahsoka began to channel her focus elsewhere. She would need to remain connected to the crystal as she was for the moment, but she would be unable to fully construct her new saber without a connection to reality as well.

Her mind remained in the force, but her body began to act in reality. Her hands began to move slowly, guiding the various pieces of scrap metal together into some form of shape, one she would not see until she pulled out from the force itself.

In the depths of her mind, Ahsoka began to focus even harder, straining her power to the best of her ability. She could feel her body moving in the real world, manipulating the components she had gathered to create her new saber. No doubt the hilt was forming together.

And then, with a final burst of power, the bright light that resembled her crystal faded suddenly, as if encased within a shell of some kind.

Ahsoka took that as confirmation that the process was complete.

Opening her eyes slowly, Ahsoka found herself back in reality.

Blinking several times to refocus her eyes, Ahsoka glanced down at the worktop before her. The various metal components that had previously been scattered across the worktop were now gone, as was her crystal.

What stood in their place made Ahsoka gasp in both shock and awe.

A lightsaber hilt, unique in its design, and unlike anything she had ever wielded before, a vast difference from her old sabers.

The hilt, while minimalist at best and lacking any real decoration, was curved in a similar manner to that of Ventress' or Dooku's, though not quite as sharply. It was clearly designed for a fast paced fighter, as opposed to a heavy fighting style.

'A perfect, if not unusual fit.' Ahsoka thought, reaching one hand across the grasp the hilt. These types of sabers were rare, and usually difficult to use at first. Ahsoka had no doubt in her mind that it would require lots of practise to get used to.

But, if that was the design the force had chosen for her, then so be it. Ahsoka trusted the force, perhaps more than she trusted herself.

Standing from her stool, Ahsoka moved into an open area of her apartment, testing the weight of the hilt in her hand as she did. It was lighter that her previous one, allowing for more dexterity. Ahsoka may have preferred two blades, but she was just as proficient with one.

Twirling the hilt a few more times in her hand to gauge the weight, Ahsoka took another deep breath. She had anticipated this moment from the second she had been given a kyber crystal, just as she had years prior when she constructed her first ever lightsaber.

Holding the hilt out in the front of her, she angled the emitter away from her body, and rested her fingers on the activation button.

"So, what have you got for me this time then?" Ahsoka queried aloud, her tone steady and confident.

And then she pressed the button.

The snap hiss of the lightsaber igniting did not catch her off guard, not after so many years of using such a tool. What did was the colour of the blade that erupted from the hilt before her. It was a unique colour, one she did not recall ever seeing before in her life, or reading about for that matter. Sure, there were some like it, commonly used by the temple guards, or even her previous shoto, but never one as bold as the saber she now held in her hand.

All around her a bright golden glow was cast by the saber, Ahsoka's eyes hypnotically drawn to the colour as she moved it around experimentally, listening to the sounds of the air being distorted as the blade moved. Ahsoka had always found the sounds produced by a lightsaber oddly hypnotic.

After a few moments of being lost in her uniquely coloured saber, Ahsoka regained her senses and extinguished the blade, before moving to place it back on the kitchen worktop.

It was odd, wielding a new lightsaber after using hers for so long. Ahsoka wasn't sure if she liked the new blade, or was just missing the familiar weight and grip of her old sabers.

Her old, Jedi sabers.

But she no longer a Jedi, not anymore. Perhaps this new lightsaber was a way of symbolising that aspect of her life. She would have to adapt to the new hilt, much like she had to adapt to her new lifestyle.

And if there was one thing that Anakin Skywalker had taught her it was how to adapt to any situation, no matter her opinion on it.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Two days later, in which Ahsoka had spent most of her time acclimatising to her new apartment and the areas around it, the Chancellor called for her. Apparently he had another mission for it, and truth be told Ahsoka was glad. In her time off she has found herself bored, with nothing to do aside from the menial. Thus, she relished a new opportunity to do some good.

The trip to the senate building, and by extension the Chancellor's office was a short one. The 500 Republica was easily within walking distance, and provided a nice peaceful stroll for Ahsoka, as well as a chance to watch the people of Coruscant go about their daily lives in the process. In a way, it was nice to see some people happy despite the raging war around them.

Upon arrival to the Chancellor's office, the elder man had greeted her enthusiastically, leading her over to his desk and offering her a chair, which she took.

When both individuals had taken their seats and gotten comfortable, Palpatine began.

"One of our Venator Capital Ships recently went missing over the planet Manaan. Reconnaissance suggests that the ship was shot down by Separatist forces. The ship crash landed in one of Manaan's many ocean biomes."

It was an odd mission, that Ahsoka could already tell. An entire Star Destroyer being shot down and crashing was hardly unusual. So what warranted her involvement?

"The ship itself was recently returning from a long range intelligence mission, and republic intelligence believe they have discovered something related to this mysterious project you uncovered on Myrkr. I would like you to travel to this planet and investigate the shipwreck to see if any useful information can be salvaged." Palpatine explained, his face grim as her reported the news.

Ahsoka understood now why she was involved. Whatever 'Project Nullify' was had to be discovered. She had begun the search, so it only made sense that she continued it.

"I'll head there right away Chancellor." Ahsoka replied, preparing to stand from her seat, until Palpatine stopped her. It appeared her had more to say.

"There is a complication Agent Tano. This Venator was commanded by a high ranking member of the Jedi order, one of their shadows to be precise. As such, the Jedi council is sending an agent of their own to assist your search. At first they had wanted to send Master Windu, but I assumed that he would not have been a welcome choice for you, so I recommend someone else instead."

Ahsoka had to admit the Chancellor was correct. Windu was the last person she wanted to work with anytime soon, especially after his non-existent apology to her weeks earlier.

The only question was, who had the Chancellor recommended in his place.

Seconds later, she found out who… and she couldn't have been more glad who it was.

"Chancellor? Master Windu said you requested my presence for a special assignment with… Ahsoka?"

Ahsoka couldn't help the warm smile that came to her face as she stood from her seat to face her old master.

"Hey Skyguy!"

Chapter Text

She was gone. That was the extent of it. The situation was not complicated or convoluted, as many situations before him had been. Instead, it was horrifyingly simple, and a situation that he had absolutely no power over whatsoever.

Ahsoka had made her choice, and it was not his right to interfere with that. The Jedi side of him cried out that she was throwing away her entire career and life.

But the more personal side of him, the side he only ever showed to his closest friends and family told him she was right. The council had all but betrayed her, and there was no way they deserved her forgiveness, let alone loyalty anymore, not when they themselves had none for her.

And so it was, while not exactly how he wished it would happen, that Anakin Skywalker willingly allowed his apprentice to walk away from those that had turned on her. He would never hold it against her. After all, he knew what it was like to live with people who always expected the impossible. If there was anything he wanted for Ahsoka, anything he had tried to teach her, it was to be her own person, rather than some drone for the Jedi council to order around and all but abuse verbally when things didn't go their way.

So Anakin had stood and watched as Ahsoka's figure descended the grand steps of the Jedi temple, fading into the sunset in the distance as she left. Anakin couldn't help but spitefully think that was a metaphor of some kind. Ahsoka leaves, and the sun set on the Jedi order. It was what they deserved after all for chasing away their most promising student in recent years.

Anakin had continued staring at the descended sun for nearly an hour after Ahsoka had left, and when he felt the chill of the night beginning to arrive, he turned and headed for the hanger bay of the temple. He could not stay there tonight, not whilst he had the knowledge that he would be spending his evening alone in his formally shared living quarters.

Instead, climbing into his speeder, Anakin set course for the one place he wanted to be right now. He needed a familiar comforting face, one that would listen.

One that would tell him that everything was going to be ok.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Anakin didn't bother knocking on Padme's front door, not that he ever needed to anyway. Mostly he did it to keep up the pretence of their secret relationship, but right now he couldn't care less. He needed to vent, and he knew Padme would listen.

Entering into her apartment the first figure that greeted him was C-3PO, who was as enthusiastic as ever at seeing him.

"Oh Master Anakin how good to see you again. I must say that I could use you help with some repairs to Miss Padme's…"

Anakin all but cut Threepio off as he wife entered the room, her face full of what appeared to both concern and relief. Clearly she could see the look that adorned his face, one that Anakin was sure was giving off his grief.

"Ani? Are you ok?" Padme's soft gentle voice was a source of comfort for him. Knowing that someone cared was good enough.

But right now Anakin really needed to vent, and he hoped that Padme wouldn't think any less of him for it.

Pacing around the room, Anakin stopped briefly at the couch in the centre of the room, bending down to pick up a pillow from it, before promptly throwing it across the room, revealing at the sound it made when it hit the wall with a soft 'thud'.

"Ani?" His wife tired again, coming toward him, a hand out, offering it as a source of comfort, one that Anakin took.

Neither spoke for a few moments as they embraced, Anakin calming himself in the process as Padme no doubt tried to understand what was possibly happening to him.

After a few moments of the warm embrace, Anakin spoke, his voice coming out in a whisper.

"Ahsoka left us."

It was a simple statement, but one that hurt nonetheless. Saying it was almost as if he was confirming it. She really was gone, simply because he had said it.

"What?" Padme gasped in shock, pulling back from the embrace slightly to be able to see Anakin's face.

Sighing, Anakin continued.

"The council offered her reinstatement to the order, at the rank of knight no less. She would have been the youngest knight in several generations. But she refused and left the order."

Anakin struggled to keep his tone neutral, his attempt briefly failing, allowing a hint of anger to slip through in his tone, one that Padme clearly picked up on.

"You're not mad at her are you?" Padme questioned, her tone growing concerned. It occurred to Anakin that Padme probably thought he was angry at his former Padawan for leaving. That couldn't have been further from the case.

"No! Of course not. I may not like it much but she did what she wanted to do, and I would never stop her from doing that. It's the kriffing council that I'm angry with!" Anakin replied, this time allowing his anger to seep through.

Padme however was having none of it. Rather than listen she merely tightened her grip on Anakin, pulling him closer to her as comfort.

That quelled Anakin's anger instantly, as both of them hoped it would. They would talk about it later no doubt, but right now all they both wanted was to enjoy the fact that they still had each other.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

When morning rolled around Anakin rose early, gently kissing the head of his sleeping wife, before heading out the door. Despite the previous days events, he had had a good night's sleep.

He could only hope that Ahsoka did as well, wherever she had ended up.

Anakin and Padme had talked some more in the night, mostly Padme with Anakin listening, but it was a talk nonetheless. His ever brilliant wife had all but assured and convinced him that Ahsoka would be fine, and that if she needed his help she would contact him. Had anyone else told him that he would not have believed them, but with padme it was different. he trusted her work explicitly. She would never lead him wrong. So if she said that Ahsoka would be fine, the she would be fine.

It would be a stretch to say that he had fully accepted and made peace with Ahsoka's decision, but for now he was willing to accept it. He trusted Ahsoka, and knew she would find her own path in time. He only wondered what sort of path it would be.

For now however, he had a much harder task to deal with. The 501st had yet to find out what had happened to their commander, and Anakin was almost certain there would be outrage from them.

He wasn't wrong.

Anakin had found several members of his battalion sitting together in their shared barracks. While not quite as exquisite as the jedi temple, the barracks served their purpose as a resting place for his men.

Taking a spare seat at the table, Anakin's eyes went over the faces of the various troopers assembled. Rex was there, naturally, as was Fives and Kix. Jesse had also come, as had Tup. There may have only been five on them there at the moment, but it was the five he trusted the most, and the five who deserved to know what had happened.

Upon noticing his arrival, Rex nodded his head in a sign of respect, drawing the attention of his companions who were clearly engaged in an animated discussion. Rex could clearly sense that his general needed to speak to them about something.

When the conversation had died down, Anakin began, keeping his voice steady and professional. The last thing he needed was for his troops to see their general broken.

"I'm afraid that, as of yesterday evening, Commander Tano has officially left the Jedi order, and by extension given up her rank as a commander of the GAR. The council offered her reinstatement into the order, but she chose to walk her own path in light of what has happened."

The five clones around him each had a different reactions to the news. Tup slouched in his chair, clearly upset at the news. Kix's head was in his hands in an instant, a deep sigh coming from him as he considered the news. Jesse had stormed off, grumbling under his breath about the council costing the 501st their commander and friend.

Rex's face didn't change, but his eyes did. Most people would not recognize the subtle shifts that Rex unknowingly used to portray his true emotions. but Anakin did. The Captain's eyes glanced down briefly, before coming back up to refocus on Anakin. The Jedi could tell his loyal Captain was upset at the news, but understood the reasoning behind it. He, like Anakin respected Ahsoka's ability to make decisions for herself.

Fives' reaction was completely different.

"Those kriffing council members! That kriffing traitorous Offee! Kriffing Wolffe for hunting her down! I'm gonna kill them all!"

Anakin had never seen Fives so angry. It was the sort of reaction he expected from himself. The fact that it was his ARC trooper instead was not a comforting thought. By now Fives had stood from his chair, knocking it over in his anger in the process, fuming with anger. What exactly was he going to do?

It wasn't until Tup rose to his own feet, grasping the ARC trooper by the shoulders to calm him down, that Fives' anger seemed to recede, the ARC trooper coming back to sit in his chair.

"I understand how you feel Fives. i had to stop myself from verbally abusing the council last night myself. It won't do you any good. For now, all we can do is wait and see. Hopefully one day she will return to us."

Anakin's words, even if they were said more for his own comfort that the clones, seemed to work. The troopers were not happy with the news of their commander's departure, but they accepted her decision, just as he had.

Shortly afterwards, the table was cleared, leaving only Rex with his general. It was then that the Captain spoke for the first time following the news.

"She's really gone sir?"

All Anakin could do was nod.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Anakin's talk with his troops seemed to have a positive effect, at least for a while. Merely three hours after he had departed the barracks, he received an emergency call from Rex.

"Sir, Fives has… taken matters into his own hands. I think you need to get down here now."

The worry in Rex's voice was rare, and thus immediately gained Anakin's attention. Rushing back to the barracks he had left only hours before hand, Anakin braced for whatever Fives was up to. Upon arrival, he was forced to spring into action.

Lying on the floor was Commander Wolffe, blood trickling from his nose and a fresh purple bruise adorning it, a clear sign of someone hitting him.

Behind him were various members of the Wolfpack, looking on with what appeared to be anger, with various members of their battalion holding back others who looked particularly bloodthirsty.

Glancing over the other side of the room Anakin spotted Fives being held by himself by the combined might of Tup and Jesse, both of which were struggling against Fives, who was evidently desperate to escape his comrades clutches and resume what Anakin assumed was his physical assault on Wolffe. Behind them other members of the 501 stood, many of which also had looks of anger on their faces.

"Skywalker," A deep voice spoke from beside him as Anakin turned to unexpectedly come face to face with the masked visage of Plo Koon. The Kel Dor had clearly entered the room behind him, no doubt being called by members of his own battalion to investigate the situation. "What is happening here?"

Anakin had no real idea, even if it was glaringly obvious what had happened. The situation was getting out of hand, and he knew he needed to deal with it himself.

Drawing on the force, Anakin bellowed across the room.

"ENOUGH! STAND DOWN, ALL OF YOU!"

Dozens of heads turned to him in an instant, some with looks of shock and guilt on, others retaining their look of anger.

In that moment, Fives managed to break free, making a dash for the injured Wolffe , clearly intent on finishing what he started.

That was until Anakin moved to intercept, standing directly in Fives' path and restraining him.

"Explain yourself at once trooper!" Anakin all but snarled. He did not tolerate this sort of behaviour from his troops, not ever!

Fives however was not intimidated. "This piece of bantha poodoo is responsible for Commander Tano getting captured. If he hadn't stunned her she wouldn't have been brought to trial, and she wouldn't have left us!"

Anakin's expression softened slightly. He was not expecting Fives to take Ahsoka's decision so badly. He'd almost say that Fives was taking it worse than he was.

It was clear that Fives was looking for someone to blame, and Wolffe was just the one unfortunate enough to be in the path of Fives' wrath.

Still, that didn't make his actions acceptable.

"I understand you're angry Fives. I'd love nothing more than to tear apart those that caused this, Barriss chief among them, but this isn't the way. If we resort to violence we are no better than the person who framed Ahsoka in the first place. Wolffe was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

From the way Fives' face began to contort it was clear that Anakin's words were having an effect. A few moments later, and several deep breaths on Fives part and the tension in the room seemed to evaporate. Now calm, the ARC trooper moved around Anakin, bending down to help Wolffe to his feet, before murmuring his apologies and calling Kix over to help him.

From there, the rest of the two battalions began to disperse, the unexpected spat between them dealt with. In the end they were all brothers, no matter which general they worked with. That was a bond that was unbreakable.

Content that his job was done Anakin began to move to the exit, nodding to Plo Koon as he passed by. Unlike the rest of the council the Kel Dor had actually bothered to apologise for his actions. That at the very least earned Anakin's respect.

Now though he had to deal with someone else on the council he hadn't spoken to since Ahsoka had left.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Anakin didn't bother to even knock on the door that led to his old master's private quarters. Through the force he could feel that Obi-Wan was in there, no doubt either meditating or enjoying a cup of the herbal tea that he seemed to have a penchant for. Anakin thought it tasted like garbage himself, but then he was not Obi-Wan.

Striding into the room Anakin spotted Obi-Wan resting on a chair, a cup of tea in his hand, as he had predicted. The elder man glanced up at Anakin as he approached, a small, if not sad smile coming to his face. Anakin could sense what was about to happen, so he seized his opportunity before Obi-Wan did.

"I know what you're going to say Obi-Wan. Attachment is not the way of the Jedi order, but Ahsoka was far more than just my padawan. She was my friend, and you and your council sold her out to maintain a public image that was already in the dirt!" Anakin spoke sharply, trying to contain his anger. He wasn't sure what to make of Obi-Wan these days, not after the Rako Hardeen incident, and now this!

"I completely and utterly agree with you there Anakin." Obi-Wan replied, standing from his chair and moving towards the small kitchen in his quarters, beginning to put some sort of drink together. Anakin had no real response for a moment. he merely stood dumbstruck. Had Obi-Wan really just agreed with him?

"I'm, I'm sorry?" Anakin stuttered in reply, shaking his head as if trying to clear his head of any false thoughts.

Obi-Wan, who by now had finished pouring a drink of what Anakin assumed was caf, moved back over towards the table, placing the drink down in the process and offering it to Anakin.

"We turned our backs on her when she needed us most Anakin." Obi-Wan continued, his features sinking slightly at the memory of the recent days gone past. "For that I am eternally sorry, but grateful at the same time."

"Grateful! You're grateful that my padawan has left the order!" Anakin very nearly shouted at Obi-Wan. It wouldn't be the first time of course, but it was the last thing he wanted to do. To shout was to show weakness.

And Anakin was anything but weak.

"No Anakin," Obi-Wan answered, his voice remaining calm, "I'm grateful that she saw the flaws of the council, and had the guts to leave us. They don't deserve her Anakin. No one does. She is her own person. Always has been, always will be."

Anakin knew what Obi-Wan was going on about. His master was clearly upset at Ahsoka's departure, just as he was, but he had accepted it for the same reasons Anakin had.

Ahsoka was an individual at heart. Sure, she loved to socialise, as did most Togruta, but her personality made her unique.

As a Jedi, she was forced to withhold that personality at the best of times, much as he had been forced to keep his marriage a secret, and as Obi-Wan had been forced to push his feelings for Satine Kryze aside.

In the end, that was not what Anakin wanted for the young Togruta teenager he proudly called his apprentice. If her being herself meant leaving the Jedi Order, then so be it.

He only wished he could be as strong as she was.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The next few days passed by rather uneventful. The absence of Ahsoka still hadn't faded from Anakin's mind, but he was making do. He very much doubted that she would be off sulking for not by his side anymore.

In fact she'd probably be mocking him if she saw him in such a state.

It was on the fourth day after she left that something finally came along to distract him. Apparently a joint mission had been organised by the council, with the combined might of the 501st and 104th coming together to liberate a city from Separatist oppression.

Anakin hadn't personally interacted with Plo Koon since the incident with Fives and Wolffe, and thus had no real feeling of how exactly the Kel Dor would be towards him.

Or how he was dealing with the departure of the child he had found.

The Jedi Master had greeted him in the hanger bay of his personal Venator, immediately guiding both him and a group of loyal 501st clones over to a gunship in back. Behind Anakin, Rex and Fives followed, their eyes darting around the hanger bay. There appeared to be no lingering animosity between the troopers over the fight the other day, for which Anakin was grateful. The last thing he needed was internal conflict.

It was then that Plo Koon began to talk, his ever deep voice echoing across the hanger bay.

"I have asked you here prior to the mission to give you a gift General Skywalker. Or perhaps I should say, a gift from Commander Wolffe and his pack." Plo spoke, what sounded like humour in his voice as he directed Anakin and his two followers further into the hanger bay. Moving around a group of assembled boxes, Anakin found himself in front of a single LAAT gunship, and standing before it was Wolffe, as well as other members of the Wolfpack.

Upon noticing their arrival, Wolffe stood to attention, snapping a quick salute, before speaking.

"General Skywalker. Captain Rex. Arc Trooper Fives. I wanted to personally apologize for the role I played in the apprehension of Commander Tano. As a symbol of the condolences of both myself and the 104th, I would like to gift you this unique gunship."

Anakin could only raise his eyebrows in confusion as Wolffe spoke. What was he going on about?

And then Wolffe moved to the side, his brothers following him, allowing Anakin a glance at the gunship.

It wasn't a unique model or anything like that. It was a standard LAAT. But what did stand out was the markings that adorned the side of it. The troopers were known for adding custom nose art to their gunships. It appeared that Wolffe and his men had done the same to this one.

The image on it however was not what Anakin had anticipated.

Painted on the front of the gunship was a fierce looking Togruta, armed with dual lightsabers, in the midst of combat, flanked by several white and blue armoured clones. The identity of the Togruta was obvious to anyone who had worked with the 501st before, clearly shown by the quiet gasp that emerged from Fives.

Anakin could barely look away from the art. It was a perfect depiction of the young woman his padawan had become. A fierce and capable warrior, who sought to protect anyone in need.

From where he was standing, Wolffe spoke again, his voice surprisingly soft for once.

"This way she will always be with you, protecting her brothers."

Anakin was rarely a sentimental man, at least that was what he told himself. But this gesture got to him. Wolffe had played a role in Ahsoka's capture, and clearly even he knew that Ahsoka had been innocent.

The question remained however, why didn't the council?

Shrugging off that thought, Anakin turned his head to Wolffe and spoke.

"Thanks Wolffe. She'll serve us well."

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The mission turned out to be a roaring success, thanks to the cooperation between the 501st and 104th. Anakin would never admit it, but he had missed the chaos of the battlefield. At least there he felt like he was in control of things.

When he had arrived back at Coruscant a few days later, fully intending on spending time with his wife, Anakin was instead surprised to receive an invitation to lunch from Chancellor Palpatine instead.

Briefly checking in with Padme, Anakin had decided to accept, heading to a popular cafe for the elite of Coruscant that the Chancellor seemed to favour. Upon arrival, the most powerful man in the republic had as usual warmly welcomed him to his table, offering him a glass of expensive looking alcohol in the process. It would have been rude to decline, even if Anakin was not one for drinking.

"So I hear that you and your troops managed to once again pull off a victory against Count Dooku's forces. The republic shall always been in your debt Anakin." The Chancellor spoke, a wide smile on his face as he spoke to the Jedi Knight. Anakin couldn't help but smile back. At least someone appreciates his abilities.

"Thank you your excellency. I'm glad I can be of service."

The Chancellor merely smiled again in response, before his face took a rather grim look. That concerned Anakin.

Slowly and cautiously the Chancellor reached below the table, pulling a datapad seemingly out of nowhere, before placing it on the table before them, sliding it over to Anakin in the process.

Anakin eyed the datapad with suspicion. Why had the Chancellor given him this?

"It is only right that you know of this Anakin." The Chancellor spoke, his voice neutral, betraying nothing.

Anakin's eyes darted between the pad and the Chancellor a few times, before he gingelly reached across to the pad, touching it once to power up.

An image flashed to life in an instant. It took Anakin a few seconds to figure out it was a graph of some kind, or a poll.

Or a vote. And that these were the responses.

There were two bars. One was significantly taller than the other one, suggesting a vastly majority favoured one option over whatever the other one way.

It was then that he saw the headings of each bar.

'Guilty', and 'Not guilty'.

"No?! Anakin whispered in shock as he stared at the data before him. Surely this wasn't what he thought it was?

And then he saw another heading, one that encompassed the entirety of the data on the pad.

'The Republic Senate vs. Ahsoka Tano.'

Anakin's eyes began to dart back and forth between the two bars again. The one that read 'guilty' was so much larger than the one that read 'not guilty'. It wasn't even close!

"How can the Senate had voted ninety-eight to two against her?" Anakin nearly shouted, counting the numbers again. Only two people had thought her innocent? Ninety-eight people were willing to execute a teenage girl!

The Chancellor seemed to be at a loss for words as well, his wrinkled hands moving to take the datapad back from Anakin.

"It is indeed a great injustice Anakin. As it stands the two who voted for in favour of young Ahsoka were Riyo Chuchi and Lux Bonteri. Everyone else voted otherwise." The Chancellor spoke, his lips forming a thin line, one that resembled remorse.

Anakin couldn't help but lean back in his chair. He would have to thank Senators Chuchi and Bonteri later for their support. At least Ahsoka had some friends in the Senate.

But the fact that so many others had voted against her sent waves of boiling anger through Anakin's veins. Bail? Mon Mothma? Had they voted against Ahsoka as well? They must have done… considering the results on the datapad!

Suffice to say, Anakin's mood remained rather agitated throughout the remainder of the meal, not that the Chancellor minded apparently.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

A few days after the meal, Anakin received yet another call from the Chancellor, this time regarding a high priority mission. Apparently the council had originally wanted to send Master Windu along on the mission, but the Chancellor had been very adamant that he would not get along with his new agent.

Anakin knew nothing of this new agent of Palpatine's, or what the mission was. The only thing he was told was that he would be the only Jedi his agent trusted.

Thus, as he always did when it came to requests from his dear friend, Anakin accepted.

Truth be told, he needed a distraction.

And who knew, maybe he would find a new friend in this agent of the Chancellor.

Chapter Text

Ahsoka barely had any time to say anything before she suddenly found herself crushed into a tight embrace, her face buried in the texture of dark coloured Jedi robes.

Anakin had always been open with his emotions, something which Ahsoka admired him for.

That being said, he rarely ever gave into them in public. Even rarer was a hug the strength of the one he was currently giving her. In fact, she was finding it kind of hard to breathe.

"Master… can't.. breathe… squashing me!"

The words seemed to have the intended effect, as Anakin pulled back from the embrace, not fully letting go mind you, but far enough so that she could see his face.

It had only been a few weeks since she had last seen him, but Ahsoka was struck by how different he seemed to look. His eyes were warier, and had what looked to be 'bags' under his eyes, at least that's what Anakin had called them in the past. Togruta didn't suffer from 'bags' themselves.

His hair was also far more out of control than when she had last seen him. Had he not been grooming himself… or whatever it was humans did with their hair?

But right now, his physical appearance didn't matter at all. He was here, and he was still Anakin.

Anakin meanwhile appeared to be in a similar state of both shock and joy at seeing his former apprentice. He had worried for so long, knowing full well that she would take care of herself, but still wanted nothing more than to go and find her.

And yet now here she was, standing before him.

Perhaps the force had not given up on him yet?

"Ahsoka I… it's good to see you. What are you doing here?" Anakin questioned, surprised by how his own voice rose in enthusiasm. he hadn't felt this joyous in quite some time.

A gentle cough came from behind Ahsoka, drawing Anakin's attention to the Chancellor at his desk, who had a warm smile on his face as he witnessed the reunion before him.

"My apologies for not telling you sooner my boy. Ahsoka has been working for me recently as my personal agent. I felt so bad about the outcome of the trial, and I hated to see you worrying about her wellbeing, so I took it upon myself to ensure she was doing well. I do hope you don't mind that I orchestrated this reunion for you both?"

Anakin's eyes darted between his two friends for a few moments as he considered this new revelation of the Chancellor's. He knew that Palpatine was pragmatic at best, and that many did not agree with his policies or the way he ran things. But Anakin knew that he was a good man deep down, only wanting to preserve and uphold the sanctity of the republic.

The fact that he had taken Ahsoka under his wing when Anakin could no longer protect her meant the world to him, and only further convinced him of the Chancellor's innate goodness.

"Of course not your excellency. It is I who should thank you for looking out for Ahsoka." Anakin replied, moving forward to shake the Chancellor's hand with gratitude.

"Nonsense my boy, nonsense. Any friend of yours is a friend of mine. Now, Agent Tano will fill you in on the details of this mission on route. Your ship is waiting for you one docking platform seven." The Chancellor replied, before turning his attention to Ahsoka again.

"Agent Tano, I have taken the liberty of assigning you the experimental T-6 shuttle once again. I have also updated the registry on it. She is yours from this point onward. I hope she serves you well."

It was Ahsoka's turn to be surprised by the Chancellor's gesture this time. Now he was gifting her an experimental ship!?

Still, she wouldn't say no. Especially since it would more than likely make Anakin extremely jealous.

Bowing her head once, Ahsoka uttered her thanks, before gesturing to her former master to follow her out of the Chancellor's office.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Both Human and Togruta walked down the ornately decorated halls of the senate building side by side, a companionable silence settling in between them as it had done many times before. The atmosphere between them wasn't tense, as Ahsoka had expected it to be, but rather once of acceptance.

Still, she could tell that Anakin desperately wanted to ask her every possible question in existence, all so he could figure out if she was ok. However, he seemed reluctant to do so, and whilst before she would have gently tugged on their master and apprentice mental bond, now she wasn't sure if she should. The last thing she wanted to do was overstep the boundaries that now existed between them. She was no longer his apprentice. Perhaps he wanted to be cut off from her through the force?

Still, someone had to speak first, and if Anakin wasn't going to be the one, then she would be.

That being said, there was also no way that she would immediately jump to more sensitive topics. Rather, she opted for something that was more familiar to both of them.

Harmless mocking.

"So, 'General Skywalker', is that a grey hair I see on your head? Losing the colour in your old age huh?"

Ahsoka didn't miss the way Anakin shook his head in false despair at her comment, nor did she miss the small smile that came to his lips. She was at least glad they still had this between them.

"Dunno Snips, can't say I really pay much attention to the hair. Besides, I'm not the one that used to spend over an hour in the refresher every morning. I mean, how long does it take to wash your montrals huh?" Anakin jibbed back, his tone teasing and light, as it always was with her.

"Yeah well at least I don't constantly crash every ship I fly." Ahsoka replied, shooting a smug look up at her master. He was still much taller than she was. One day that might change, if her biology was anything like other Togruta's, though that was still a long ways off. For now, she would make do being shorter than he was.

"It's not my fault it's the ship!" Anakin replied, his tone jokingly agitated and somewhat embarrassed by the sound of it.

Ahsoka couldn't help but chuckle to herself at the words he so commonly said when confronted with such accusations. Every time he blamed the ship.

"Keep telling yourself that Anakin."

Ahsoka expected that to be the end of the 'debate'. Clearly Anakin thought otherwise.

"Now Ahsoka, don't be so rude to your elders."

This time Ahsoka couldn't stop herself from releasing a loud laugh, one that attracted the attention of other individuals walking through the hallways, confused looks on their faces as they watched the two friends.

"Elders?! You're only six years older than me, even if you act two most of the time!"

The scandalized look on Anakin's face only made the situation funnier, especially when he attempted to answer back but could only respond with stutters and splutters as he tripped over his words.

"Sorry, what's that master? I can't hear you over the sound of me being right." Ahsoka continued, shooting a smug smile up at Anakin as the two continued to walk through the hallways towards the landing platforms.

Eventually, Anakin managed to gain control of himself, regaining control of his speech, before falling silent. It didn't escape Ahsoka's notice that the bright smile that had appeared on his face since seeing her again hadn't left, even in the midst of their teasing of one another.

The duo made it several more steps forward before Anakin spoke again, this time in a different tone. Gone was the mockery and teasing nature, replaced with what Ahsoka could only call sincerity.

"I've missed this Snips."

It was a simple statement, but one that meant the world to her.

"Me too Skyguy. Me too."

As if right on schedule, both Anakin and Ahsoka found themselves face to face with the doorway to the landing platforms, where hopefully Ahsoka's new ship was waiting.

Exiting out of the senate building and onto the landing platforms, Ahsoka gazed across the horizon at the various assembled ships. Many were quite clearly expensive speeders or personal transport shuttles owned by the various senators that worked daily within the building. Each was, in a way, a symbol of prestige and power.

It occured to Ahsoka suddenly that, if she really wanted to, she could more than likely afford a speeder similar to the ones around her now, thanks to the sheer amount of money the Chancellor had given her as payment. Perhaps she would indulge when she got back from this mission.

Shaking the thoughts out of her head, her eyes continued to survey the landing platform for the familiar sight of the T-6 shuttle. Now that she owned it, she would have to give it a name.

Eventually, her eyes came to rest of another familiar ship to her. A yellow painted Jedi Starfighter.

Anakin's starfighter.

And there, parked next to it as if it was fate, as the T-6 shuttle.

Leading the way, Ahsoka approached the back of the ship, intending on heading up the ramp and into the ship itself.

"This is your ship? I don't see what's so special about it that renders it experimental?" Anakin questioned, following Ahsoka up the ramp and into the ship.

"It's got a few upgrades to it, including a stealth drive. It allowed me to sneak right past a Separatist capital ship on my last mission." Ahsoka replied, smirking at the astounded look on Anakin's face.

"A stealth drive? Seriously? Snips! You gotta let me fly this beauty!" Anakin replied, bouncing on his heels in what appeared to be excitement. Seconds later he quite obviously began to move towards the pilot seat, fully intended on taking control of the ship itself.

That was until Ahsoka stepped right in front of him, halting his progress, a serious expression on her face.

"I don't think so mister. Remember our earlier discussion. You crash every ship you ever fly. No way am I letting you fly my new ship unless I absolutely have to."

With that, she gently grabbed his arm, before pulling him over to the co-pilots seat, before pushing him down into it, chuckling as he groaned under his breath about how unfair it was.

When she was convinced that Anakin had learnt his lesson, ironically enough, Ahsoka sat down in the pilot's seat and began to power up the ship, inputting the coordinates they needed for the mission.

When all was said and done, she grasped the joystick controls in her hands, and pulled upwards, lifting the ship off of the landing platform and into the sky above Coruscant.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Hyperspace was as uneventful as always, giving both Anakin and Ahsoka time to reacquaint with one another.

The two had talked briefly, mainly about what the mission was the entail, as well as a brief description of what exactly Ahsoka had been up to on her last mission. Anakin hadn't been too impressed that she had gone up against General Grievous again without him.

But still, despite the easy nature of their relationship that they had instantly resumed, Anakin couldn't help but think that more needed to be said. He and Ahsoka had been through so much together, and her departure had hit him hard. He didn't blame her, he never would.

The question was, did she know that?

Glancing out of the cockpit window at the vortex of hyperspace, Anakin took a deep breath and prepared to speak. This discussion was coming, one way or another. It was just a case of when.

And all Anakin wanted to do was get it over as fast as possible.

"Listen, Ahsoka, about what happened. You know I don't blame you, right?"

Ahsoka's head snapped round suddenly, surprise and what appeared to be horror present in her bright blue eyes.

"Of course not master! Did you really think that I would think that?" Ahsoka replied, her voice sounding both much younger than it should be, as well as much more wise for someone her age.

Anakin didn't miss the way she addressed him by his title. She shouldn't have to do that anymore. He wasn't her teacher anymore.

"No it's just… I don't think I've ever told you how proud of you I am Ahsoka. I couldn't have asked for a better padawan, nor a better friend. No matter what has happened, I'll always be there for you, day or night, ok?"

Anakin knew he was bordering on overly sentimental. He also knew that he was practically violating every aspect of the Jedi code on attachment. But he didn't care. Ahsoka was one of the few people he trusted unconditionally in his life. She would understand him, and she would never judge him for it, even if it flew in face of everything the Jedi had tried to teach them both.

Ahsoka's response was a warm smile, followed by her reaching across the gap between them to squeeze his hand gently.

"I know you're proud of me master. I never doubted that. And I couldn't have asked for a more annoyingly brilliant mentor in you… even if you do act like a child some of the time."

Anakin couldn't help but roll his eyes with humour at Ahsoka's response. He was touched by her kind, encouraging words. It was almost as if she was trying to teach him a lesson.

"Cheeky Togruta." Anakin quipped back, nudging her hand away with his in response.

"Aggravating Human." Ahsoka replied in kind, the smile never leaving her face.

Before the two could descend into any further insults or jokes, the telltale sound of the shuttle's hyperdrive powering down hit their senses, the blue vortex of hyperspace fading away in conjunction with the sound, replaced by the blackness of space.

Glancing out the window, Anakin spied the planet that was their destination before them.

Manaan was, for all accounts and measures, an aquatic planet strewn with various small islands. As far as he knew it was inhabited by any major species in the galaxy. Certainly no major aquatic species, such as the Quarren, lived there. Still, he was certain that the waters more than likely held some sort of indigenous creatures within them.

Still, if what Ahsoka had told him about the mission thus far was true, then it was more than likely that the Venator had gone down deep into one of the oceans of Manaan.

That meant that this mission was more than likely going to involve some deep sea exploration, not that Anakin minded all that much. Growing up on a desert world had given him an intense love of the water and of swimming in general. It was part of the reason he like planets such as Naboo so much.

'Aside from the other reason you like Naboo so much huh?' A sudden and surprisingly voice in his head sounded out. Anakin hadn't realised that he and Ahsoka were still mentally linked, eve after so long apart. Had he subconsciously re-connected their bond? Or had she?

Shaking his head, Anakin sent his response to her.

'Very funny Snips.'

Ahsoka chuckled again in response before focusing on the task at hand, piloting the shuttle down through the atmosphere of Manaan and into the clouds.

A few moments were spent navigating slightly choppy winds before the shuttle emerged from the clouds, allowing both Anakin and Ahsoka their first glance at their target.

Beside him Ahsoka gasped at the sight before them. Their target, the Venator class Star Destroyer, had not sunk completely. The rear section of the capital ship, containing the bridge and the engines were submerged, leaving only the front end of the vessel pointing out of the water, as if it was a monument of some kind. There was no sign of any hull breaches on the exposed section of the ship, but Anakin had no doubt that the submerged section would be much different. After all, the ship had to have sunk somehow.

Glancing around the crash sight further, Anakin spotted a chain of small islands next to the sunken ship, a perfect spot to land the shuttle and prepare.

Inwardly, Anakin shuddered lightly at the sight of the beach, but chose to ignore it. Now was not the time for personal preferences.

"Guess it's a good thing the Chancellor put some scuba gear in this ship huh?" Ahsoka commented from beside him, her hands moving the joystick controls as she spoke. Anakin felt the pull of the ship as it began to descend towards the chain of islands he has spotted. Clearly Ahsoka thought it a good place to land as well.

"Yeah." Anakin replied. "Though I get the feeling that something isn't right about all this. Where are the Separatists, or scavengers for that matter?"

Through the force, Anakin felt the ever comforting presence of his former padawan, who clearly shared his sentiment at the situation.

Suffice to say, Anakin had a bad feeling about what was to come.

Chapter Text

The landing had been surprisingly gentle, a testament to the skills Ahsoka has learned as a pilot under his teachings. The string of islands offered a place of refuge for them for the mission, as well as a place to leave the ship, hopefully where it would be safe, until they came back. The shipwreck itself was only a short swim out from the beach as well, and from where Anakin was standing the water appeared to be surprisingly calm.

'Hopefully that makes the swim out to the wreck easier for us both.' Anakin thought as he finished zipping up the remainder of his wetsuit, attaching the oxygen tanks to his back in the process with a strap. Glancing down again at his suit to ensure there were no gaps, Anakin gave a gentle hum of success, before reaching down ton pick up his bowl shaped helmet from the sand, brushing off the grains in the process, as well as attaching his own lightsaber to his belt. He might very need a way to defend himself if this was a trap.

It was then that movement from behind caught his attention, causing the Jedi Knight to turn around. The force told him he wasn't in any danger from the individual, not that he needed it to anyway. He instantly recognised the warm signature of his former padawan anywhere.

"You ready Snips?" Anakin inquired as Ahsoka walked over to him, her own wetsuit fully equipped, along with both her oxygen tank and facemask.

"As I'll ever be Skyguy." Ahsoka replied, a smirk coming to her lips behind the glass plane of her helmet.

Anakin couldn't resist the urge to smirk back. Ahsoka had always had that effect on him. Sure, around Padme and Obi-Wan he felt like he could be himself. But with Ahsoka it was somewhat different. He felt like he could trust her, even if he felt the need to constantly protect as he did everyone else he held dear. She was, in his mind, like him in more ways than she would probably ever admit.

That was most likely why they worked so well together, at least in his mind.

Lifting his helmet above his head, Anakin attached it, ensuring it was secure as to prevent any leaks, before beginning to walk towards the ocean, Ahsoka falling in step beside him.

The two waded out into the water, and before long both up to their necks in it, unable to walk on the ocean bed anymore.

Pushing forward with his arms, Anakin broke into a swim, Ahsoka still beside him, the two moving through the waves that were present with ease. Every pull and push of the water around them brought them ever closer to the shipwreck, and before long they were up against the ship itself.

The only question was how to get inside.

They had discussed the plan at length before setting off. From what they had been able to work out, it would be unwise to simply enter the ship through whatever hull breach had allowed the ship to sink in the first place, and cutting a hole in the hull underwater would only risk sudden and severe decompression.

Luckily for them, there was an airlock door that had not been submerged in water. They could enter through that.

Swimming up close to the airlock door, Anakin began to reach down to his belt to equip his lightsaber, when a new sound cut him off, one that resembled the snap hiss of a lightsaber.

Glancing over at the source of the sound, Anakin felt his eyes widen in surprise when Ahsoka appeared with a single bright golden blade in her hand, before plunging it into the airlock door and beginning to cut a circle.

"Where did you get that?" Anakin couldn't help but ask. He had her old lightsabers back in his quarters in the Jedi temple for safekeeping, in case she should ever return.

However, it appeared that she didn't need them at all, not if what he was seeing before him was any indication. Though he couldn't honestly remember the last time he had seen a golden blade. Yellow, sure, but golden?

What was that about?

"The Chancellor happened to have a kyber crystal given to him as a gift in the past. He gave me the crystal, and surprisingly it called out to me. Thus, I built a lightsaber with it." Ahsoka replied as she continued to cut a hole for them to enter through.

Anakin wasn't about to complain. If Ahsoka had a lightsaber, then that meant she could protect herself from any and all threats. That alone gave him some peace of mind.

A few moments later, Ahsoka retracted the blade from the airlock door, extinguishing the saber in the process and placing it back on her belt. How had he not seen it there before?

"Hang on a minute, is that thing curved?" Anakin inquired further, noticing the subtle way the hilt bent to one side slightly. It reminded him of Dooku's or Ventress' sabers, just far less pronounced in its curvature.

"Yep, and no, you can't borrow it. You've got your own." Ahsoka replied, before lifting one hand to grasp the circular hole she had cut out with the force, people pulling the metal away, creating their opening.

The metal splashed into the water behind them as Anakin vaulted up out of the water and through the hole Ahsoka had cut, the Togruta following behind him.

The interior of the ship was exactly how he had expected it to be. The lights were off, and many sections of the hull plates had buckled under either the impact of the crash, or the pressure of the water around them.

The hallway before them was also on its, side, meaning the duo were forced to endure a surreal experience of walking on the walls rather than the floor. Anakin already felt a headache coming on just at the sight before him. He dreaded what the flooded sections of the ship would be like.

"Ok," Ahsoka spoke from behind him, "We need to find out if any information has survived this crash, as well as figure out if anyone survived. I reckon if we can find this Jedi Master the Chancellor spoke of we will find the info we need."

"Agreed. I think we should make our way to the bridge if we can, even if it is submerged. Best guess is we will at least find something there." Anakin replied, taking point down the overturned hallway. They layout of all Venator's was practically the same. He had memorised pretty much every corridor on previous ships. It was just a case of finding a way deeper into the ship when said ship was both badly damaged and nearly upside down and lodged in a ravine.

"Right then, if memory serves me the mess hall should be nearby. Maybe we can find a way through from there?" Ahsoka inquired, her voice sounding surprisingly mature. It occurred to Anakin that she wasn't asking for an answer, a she had done whilst learning from him, but instead offering an opinion and suggestion herself. Ahsoka had always been opinionated, but she respected what others thought. The fact that she was now making the suggestions, rather than deferring to Anakin's was a sign of how much she had changed and matured.

And how much she had learned. They were equals now. Working together to achieve a goal, rather than one following another.

"Sounds good Snips. It should be this way." Anakin replied, gesturing down another upside down hallway that led to a bulkhead door at the end. It was closed, like pretty much every door would be on the ship, and without and power to open them, they would again have to cut their way through.

This time round Anakin ignited his saber first, plunging it into the bulkhead door and beginning to cut it open.

A few moments later the hole Anakin had cut fell open, and a rush of water came pouring through.

"Ah kriff!" Anakin exclaimed as he was knocked off his feet by the water, the flow quickly consuming the hallway they had been in and submerging both Human and Togruta. After a few moments the rush of water stopped, and Anakin regaining control over his body. In the corner of his eye he spotted Ahsoka, a small smirk on her face as she watched her former master knocked over by the sudden rush of water.

"You can't ever not make a scene can you Anakin?"

Behind his helmet Anakin rolled his eyes before pushing through the water, swimming through the hole he had created and into the mess hall.

Reigniting his lightsaber to provide a source of light, Anakin swam deeper into the dark room, before suddenly bumping into something.

Bringing his lightsaber up to illuminate the object before him, Anakin felt his heart sink at the sight of the white armoured figure before him.

A clone, and behind him, several more, all floating in the water, completely and utterly still. Some still had their helmets on. Others did not, and their exposed faces were frozen in looks of both horror and emptiness.

Behind him he heard a quiet gasp come from Ahsoka as she too spotted the floating bodies, her own lightsaber bathing her in a bright golden glow.

Behind her helmet, Anakin spotted Ahsoka's eyes close briefly in a sign of mourning. She had always seen the clones as more than just soldiers. To her, they were people. People who had lost their lives in a horrible way.

"There's nothing we can do here Snips. We have to keep moving." Anakin spoke softly, reaching a hand out to her, gently squeezing her arm and pulling her along with him.

"I know master, I just don't like seeing this, even now." Ahsoka replied, her voice quiet as she swam alongside Anakin, gently moving between various other floating bodies, careful not the disturb their rest.

"That's what makes you a good person Ahsoka. You care." Anakin replied,, leading the way out of the mess hall and down another flooded hallway.

Hopefully they would be at the bridge quickly, for both their sake.

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The swim through the submerged hallways of the downed Venator droned with an ominous feeling. What light their lightsabers gave of only served to both illuminate the way, as well as reveal the floating bodies of the dead. Practically every hallway had at least one corpse in, suspended in the water, some with looks of terror on their faces, others mercifully hidden behind white helmets.

The sight never got any easier for Ahsoka. The bodies of the dead was something that had haunted her dreams early on, and still did to this day. At times she would dream of a battlefield of dead clones, bodies laying strewn from blaster fire, and on more than one occasion, lightsaber markings.

Other times were much worse. Rather than endless clones, she would dream of her closest friends laying dead around her, as she, the sole survivor, walked amongst the bodies. Anakin and Obi-Wan were fairly common bodies that she would find, sometimes more than one of them at once. Padme had appeared often as well, her usually bright and happy face mired with a look of betrayal.

Various other individuals appeared to, Jedi chief among them. Plo Koon, Yoda, even Windu had appeared in the piles of bodies.

Oddly enough, the one person who never seemed to appear was Captain Rex, for which she was grateful. She barely coped seeing the bodies of Anakin and Obi-Wan in her dreams. Rex would more than likely push her over the edge.

And now, the various bodies floating in the water around her as she swam through the dark and eerie halls only sought to remind her of those haunting dreams.

Swimming through another open doorway, Ahsoka lifted her one free hand forward to move another floating body out of the way when something caught her eye.

The chestplate of the clone was singed badly, a jagged hole directly in the centre, exposing what looked like scorched skin underneath.

"Anakin! Look!" Ahsoka spoke, calling her former master over to her. The human swam over to her, his hand resting on her shoulder as he arrived next to her, his eyes focusing on her discovery.

"A blaster mark?" Anakin questioned aloud, "I don't think this clone drowned."

Ahsoka nodded her head in agreement. Someone, or something had shot this clone, and they could very well still be in the wreck with them.

"Droids?" Ahsoka replied, her eyes surveying the next flooded room. There were three more floating bodies beyond the one in front of her, and each also seemed to have similar burn marks on them to the first.

"More than likely. We need to be extra careful now." Anakin answered cautiously, before swimming past the descended clone and into the next room.

Ahsoka glanced at the body of the clone one last time, before fully intending to swim after Anakin.

That was until her montrals picked up movement behind her.

Spinning round as fast as she could in the water, Ahsoka thought she spotted something moving behind her in the darkness beyond. Lifting her saber up to illuminate the hallway she had previously swam down, Ahsoka focused her eyes…

And saw nothing. There was no one there.

Perhaps her eyes were playing tricks on her. Togruta didn't do especially well in cramped conditions, even with their echolocation ability provided by their montrals. Perhaps the water and wreck around her were making her see and hear things that weren't there.

Shaking her head, she turned back around and began to swim after Anakin. For all she knew she was wrong about something being behind her, and right now she had bigger issues.

Something had killed the clones.

And that something could very well still be inside the ship.

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Anakin had been waiting for her up ahead at the entrance to a large flooded room. At first glanced it didn't appear to be anything she recognized.

That was until she saw the familiar sight of an overturned AT-TE walker submerged in the water.

"Hanger bay by the looks of it. We are on the right track." Ahsoka spoke, her eyes surveying the room.

"Yeah, but I sense an ambush." Anakin replied, gesturing with his hands towards the darkness beyond. It would indeed be a perfect place to hide and ambush, and knowing what certain droids were like they would easily be able to hide until the last possible moment.

"So what's the plan then?" Ahsoka enquired, gripping her saber tighter in her hand in case she needed to defend herself suddenly.

Out of the corner of her eyes she saw a small smirk appear on Anakin's face, before he took off swimming into the hanger bay. Ahsoka resisted the urge to roll her eyes at Anakin's recklessness, before kicking off with her legs, propelling herself after him.

Somebody had to watch his back after all, especially if he was going to once again charge headlong into a possible trap!

"Reckless Human!" Ahsoka called out in jest to anakin as she came up alongside him, shooting him a cheeky smile in the process, one which he returned.

"Hey, you're the one following me Snips!"

This time Ahsoka did roll her eyes in humorous disdain, before opening her mouth again to reply.

That was before she was interrupted by the sound of a blaster firing.

Anakin span in an instant, his blue blade pivoting through the water in time to deflect the shot back at where it had come from.

And then, like clockwork, they emerged.

Several dozen silver armoured droids appeared from the shadows, blaster's firing towards both Anakin and Ahsoka from all directions.

"Aqua Droids!" Ahsoka called out a she brought her golden blade up in defense, deflecting a series of blaster bolts back towards one approaching droid, destroying it in the process.

"Predictable in hindsight!" Anakin called out in reply as he too continue to deflect incoming blaster bolts.

In a matter of moments both Anakin and Ahsoka found themselves back to back, covering each other from the droids that were surrounding them. There wasn't an overwhelming amount, but enough to force them to fight defensively until they had whittled down their numbers.

Ahsoka pivoted her new blade quickly, falling back on all of the training that Anakin had taught her, redirecting as much fire as she could. Around them, droid after droid fell, lowering their numbers.

That was until there was a gap in the blaster fire.

It was then that Anakin struck.

Surging forward through the water, Anakin cleaved two approaching aqua droids in half, before turning to redirect fire back at a third. When that was done he surged forward again, engaging in combat with another pair of droids.

Ahsoka couldn't help but chuckle at the dramatics of Anakin's fighting style. Sometimes she couldn't help but wonder if he was just showing off on purpose.

Redirecting her attention to her own situation, Ahsoka spotted three aqua droids closing towards her at speed. Bringing her saber up in front of her she swung upwards, cleaving one in two, before rotating the blade in her hand to her prefered reverse grip, bringing it across the centre of another droid in the process, slicing it in two.

The third droid however was able to close the gap faster than she could respond, slamming into her and knocking her back against the a nearby floating starfighter.

Ahsoka grunted from the force of the impact, dropping her lightsaber in the process, and bringing her now free hands up to push against the droid, which now had its own hands around her neck, attempting the strangle her.

Ahsoka struggled against the droid for a few seconds, before it's head suddenly exploded in a shower of metal, freeing Ahsoka from its grasp.

Shaking her head to remove the disorintation, Ahsoka glanced towards the darkness beyond her. She hadn't done anything to the droid, and neither had Anakin, as he was still busy finishing off the last of them.

In fact, judging by the way the droids head had exploded suddenly, Ahsoka would guess that something, or someone had shot it. The damage was certainly not done by a lightsaber.

Focusing her eyes again, Ahsoka could have sworn she saw movement in the shadow, just as she had earlier.

Only this time, she was convinced something was there.

"Snips? You ok?" Anakin's voice interrupted her train of thought suddenly, the human appeared beside her with her lightsaber in his hand, offering it to her.

"Yeah, I'm good." Ahsoka replied, taking the lightsaber and igniting it to illuminate the darkness beyond.

Again, nothing moved in the darkness. She could have sworn she had seen something this time!

Lowering her head in contemplation, Ahsoka was distracted by the sudden taste of water on her lips.

Wait! Water! On her lips!

Ahsoka's eyes widen in horror.

It was then that she saw the look on Anakin's face.

As well as the crack in her helmet.

Chapter Text

"We've got to find an air pocket now Snips!" Anakin struggled to keep his tone steady and in control, despite the piercing lance of terror that swept through his body at the thought of Ahsoka drowning before him. He wouldn't lose her, not like he had his mother.

"No arguments here Skyguy." Ahsoka replied, before gesturing towards another doorway beyond. Her tone was also surprisingly calm for someone running the risk of imminent death.

Then again, he supposed she was more than used to such things these days, and that thought only sent further chills down his spine.

What was the Jedi Council thinking, sending children into a war?! And what was he thinking bringing Ahsoka along on any mission that could have ever caused her harm, let alone letting her fight in a war?! He had tried his best to protect her, and yet she still came, both of her own accord and his.

Anakin knew why deep down. He was too selfish to let her go. She belonged by his side, even in war.

In the end, he supposed it was entirely his fault for letting her be a general's Padawan in the first place. He should have sent her back to the Temple that day on Christophsis, if only to protect her.

'And then she would no doubt have been assigned to another Jedi Master, one who wouldn't care about her wellbeing like you do.' Anakin's mind countered, confusing him further. Had he done right by taking her along with him?

"Hey! You coming or not? Kinda on the verge of drowning here after all!" Ahsoka's voice, one that was laced with a hint of humour despite her situation, drew him out of his internal thoughts. Stifling a smile, as now was not the time for such a thing, he pushed through the water, following behind her as she swam through another dark and flooded hallway.

Several turns through the hallway revealed no real air pocket, and Anakin was beginning to grow desperate. All they needed was a gap small enough for Ahsoka to remove her mask and drain any water within it. Maybe they would also be able to patch it up with something they could find, if they were lucky.

Passing through another doorway, Anakin's eyes scoured the room they had entered in search of something that would give away the presence of an air pocket.

But there was none. The entirety of the ship appeared to be flooded, with no place to get air in sight.

It would be too late to pull back now. Ahsoka would surely drown by the time they retraced their path.

It was next to impossible to ignore the voice in his head that was screaming at him to protect Ahsoka through any means necessary. He wouldn't let her down again.

He couldn't!

Continuing onward through the flooded wreck, salvation appeared. A small room off to the side of the main hallway, one that resembled a storage closest, was not completely flooded. How, Anakin was unsure, not that he really cared at that precise moment.

Reaching his free hand out, he grasped Ahsoka's free hand, pulling her into the closet with him and up to the surface of the water.

"You ok?" Anakin asked as he looked directly at Ahsoka. It was only then that he realized that the water level inside her mask had risen considerably, covering her entire mouth, with her only source of air intake being her nose.

Despite the peril however, Ahsoka seemed in high spirits as she nodded her head, extinguishing her saber to allow herself to grasp her mask with both hands and remove it, draining the water in the process.

"Close one huh?" Her voice echoed in the flooded closest, a smile on her face as she examined the damage.

Anakin couldn't help but roll his eyes at Ahsoka's flippant attitude. She had nearly drowned! Did she not understand that?

"Too close." Anakin replied tersely, passing his saber for Ahsoka to hold whilst he took her mask to examine. The crack wasn't exactly large, but large enough to allow water to slowly seep in and drown the wearer.

"So, what now then?" Ahsoka enquired from beside him, moving his lightsaber in her hand to illuminate the doorway they had come through. Her face suddenly shifted, as if she was concerned about something she had seen or heard.

"What is it Snips?" Anakin asked, his own eyes moving to the shadows beyond the doorway. It was difficult to see underwater and in the dark. Even harder when you were above the water line.

Ahsoka didn't reply for a few moments, instead closing her eyes in what looked like meditation, as if she was trying to sense something.

A few moments later she re-opened her eyes, but did not shift them away from the shadows beyond.

"I think something or someone is following us in here. Back in the hanger bay something shot one of those aqua droids, and I could have sworn I saw movement behind us earlier."

It was rare that Ahsoka behaved in a way that could be called paranoid, especially in comparison to himself. But, if she said she had seen something, then he believed her.

"Then we'll have to watch our backs." Anakin replied, before passing her mask back to her. "Stay here for a second. Gonna look in the cabinet below us. We might be able to find some cloth or something to repair that crack temporarily."

Ahsoka nodded in reply, taking the mask back from Anakin, passing his lightsaber back in the process.

Diving back under the water, Anakin gently pushed himself towards a large metal cabinet that had sunk from it's considerable weight. Not everything floated it seemed.

Approaching the cabinet Anakin brought his lightsaber forward to cut the lock, allowing him to open it without having to struggle, before reaching out with the Force and pulling the doors open, a feat that was harder than usual due to the water around them.

When the doors did finally open, Anakin held his lightsaber up in front of him to illuminate the contents within.

The cabinet itself appeared to be used to hold medical supplies, as evidenced by several medical kits that floated inside. The kits themselves were generally used for emergencies in the field, should one need to patch up a small wound to prevent infection or blood loss. Most of the items within were basic wrappings, along with several small bacta pads to cover wounds. Those would no doubt be useless.

However, there was one thing in the pack that caught his attention. A small tube floated in the centre of the pack, one that Anakin knew contained a thick substance designed to hold together wounds, as an alternative to stitches. The thick gluey substance was only designed to be temporary, at least until the person it was being used upon could get access to a bacta tank to heal properly in.

However, now it could possibly have another purpose. If Anakin remember his lessons in the Temple as a Padawan, the substance was not only thick in nature, but set hard quickly, and was waterproof.

All the things he would need to fix the crack in Ahsoka's face mask, if only for a short time.

Grinning behind his own helmet, he reached his free hand out to grasp the tube, before heading back up to the air pocket.

Upon surfacing he was met with a contemplative look from Ahsoka, who had clearly been watching what he was doing under the water to the best of her ability.

"Seriously? Medi-glue?"

"You got a better idea Snips?" Anakin retorted calmly, once again trading his lightsaber for her mask.

Shaking her head in a negative, Anakin unscrewed the lid off the tube, before gently squeezing a small amount of the thick liquid out of it and onto the crack on the mask.

When that was done he began to gently rub the substance across the crack, hoping that it would seal all the gaps that it could before hardening.

When he was content with his work he ceased the rubbing and waited for the glue to harden. It would only take a few seconds, if his memory was correct.

Playing it cautiously, Anakin waited for a minute before testing his repair job, dipping the mask into the water one way to see if any water seeped through the crack.

Submerging the mask slightly, Anakin was pleased to see that the unconventional repair job had worked for the time being. No water seeped through the crack, and thus now hopefully Ahsoka could push forward.

Smiling at his own stroke of ingenuity, Anakin reached forward with the mask, placing it back on Ahsoka's face himself, a smug smirk on his face.

"See? Told you I'd fix it. I can fix anything."

"Except for all the ships you crash huh?" Ahsoka replied, a smirk on her face as well as she handed his lightsaber back to him.

"Yes, except for those." Anakin replied.

When he was sure that Ahsoka was ready, he dived back under the water, heading back out into the flooded hallway. Glancing behind him he saw Ahsoka following, throwing a thumbs up in his direction in regards to his repair job.

Content that his friend was safe again, Anakin turned back around and continued forward.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The repair job seemed to hold, at least as far as Ahsoka could tell. She could no longer feel the rush of water against her lips, forcing her to breath through her nose. Instead, her helmet was empty, aside from the oxygen being pumped into it through the tank on her back. Frankly both she and Anakin were lucky that neither of them had been compromised yet. If that happened…

Shaking the thought out of her head, Ahsoka continued to swim forward, the presence of Anakin directly behind her, watching her six as he always did.

Swimming around another corner, Ahsoka halted for a few moments, casting a quick look behind her into the shadows, scanning them for movement. Anakin came up alongside her, his own eyes surveying the darkness they had come from, watching for anything.

"Anything Snips?" He inquired quietly. The last thing he wanted to do was reveal that they knew something was following them.

Reaching out with both the Force and her heightened sensory abilities, thanks to her montrals, Ahsoka listened. Nothing moved in the shadows beyond, at least nothing that gave away a telltale presence of another person or thing, and the only sound she could hear muffled in the water was the creaking of the shipwreck around her.

"Nothing so far, but I swear we're being followed."

Anakin said nothing in reply, merely nodding his head before continuing through the flooded hallways, pushing through some floating crates in the process. Ahsoka remained staring at the shadows for a few moments.

Still nothing moved, but there was something. A flash of something appeared in the deepest darkest shadow. Ahsoka couldn't tell if the flash of twin red orbs the size of balls really had existed, but it was all she needed to be convinced of her situation.

Something was definitely following them, and it didn't look friendly.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

When Ahsoka finally caught up with him Anakin couldn't help but share her feelings of trepidation. He knew Ahsoka was a good tracker, no doubt in part thanks to her Togruta physiology. If she said something was following them, then he believed her. And if that person or thing wasn't going to reveal themselves, then all Anakin could do was wait. Perhaps it was just some sea creature that had decided to nest in the ship, or a scavenger looking for parts, the last thing on their mind being fighting two Jedi.

'One Jedi Anakin. One Jedi. Ahsoka left!'

Ignoring his own mind, Anakin turned his attention to the door in front of him. It had taken them a while, navigating the seemingly endless flooded hallways of the downed Venator, but finally they had come to their goal. Before him was a large door, one that separated the bridge from the rest of the ship.

Truthfully, most Venators had a pair of command bridges, in case of emergencies. One was generally used for command and control over the ship in general, whereas the other commanded the fighter squadrons based on the ship. As it stood, Anakin had simply chosen the closest one in hopes that what they were looking for was inside.

Waiting for Ahsoka to come up alongside him, he gestured towards the door with his lightsaber, offering a suggestion. Seeing Ahsoka nod in agreement was all the encouragement he needed, before he plunged his saber into the doorway, beginning to cut with a circular motion. Across from him, Ahsoka too delved her saber into the door, cutting in unison with him until both blades met.

Retracting the sabers, the duo floated backwards gently, before reaching out with the Force to pull away the hole they had cut.

The metal of the door fell away easy, it's weight forcing it down even in the depths of the ocean.

Not wasting anymore time, Anakin pushed forward through the water, entering the equally flooded bridge, his saber lighting the way. Behind him, Ahsoka followed.

The first familiar sight that Anakin came across was the ruined holotable that resided in the back of the bridge. Despite being underwater, Anakin swore he could see some sparks emerging from the damage the holotable had taken. It was clearly not operational, not that Anakin expected it to be.

The next sight that was familiar to him was of a human male floating in the water, one who quite clearly wore a uniform indicative of a Republic admiral. This was clearly the commander of the vessel, and he had gone down with his ship. Anakin respected that, even if he didn't like seeing it.

"Such a shame. I wish we could have saved all these people." Ahsoka's voice sounded around the room, her tone sad but resolute. He knew she didn't like this either.

"Me too Snips. Me too."

Continuing forward through the water, Anakin swam into the central area of the bridge. The transparisteel windows that lined the room were all smashed in, thick shards floating in the water around them. If they weren't careful they ran the risk of cutting themselves. This deep underwater would almost certainly lead to infection of such a wound as well, something which Anakin knew from past experience was not a pleasant experience.

It was then that another figure caught his eye, this one floating in the centre of the bridge. The only real reason this figure stood out to him was because of their attire.

"Looks like our Jedi didn't make it." Ahsoka stated from beside him, her tone neutral as she swam up to the floating body, her free hand carefully inspecting it. From where he was there appeared to be no sign of a blaster wound or anything to suggest he the Jedi had been murdered. Instead, it seemed that, like with virtually everything else on the ship, they had drowned. An unfortunate, and painful fate.

And now it meant one less Jedi to defend the Republic. Anakin allowed himself to mourn briefly, even if he didn't know the identity of this Jedi. From what Ahsoka had told him, information that in turn had been relayed to her from the Chancellor, the Jedi now floating before them had been one of the rumoured 'Shadows' of the Order, the closest thing they had to covert agents or spies.

And now it was yet another respected member of the Jedi Order, lost to the ongoing violence around them.

Swimming up to the body to join his former Padawan, Anakin too began to inspect it, reaching into a pocket on the Jedi's robe. He searched for several moments, before his hand stumbled across a circular item.

Grasping it in his hand, he pulled it out, opening his hand to see what he had found. It was a data drive, one no doubt containing all the information gathered by the Jedi on their travels.

And from the look of it it was ruined, no doubt thanks to the water.

"Kriff! Guess that any data on it is ruined then."

"Yeah, but at the very least you can return this to the Temple for safekeeping. Don't want it getting into the wrong hands now do we." Ahsoka replied to his statement as she pulled back from the body, her free hand now holding what looked like a lightsaber hilt, no doubt the one that belonged to the drowned Jedi Shadow.

Anakin was about to respond to the Togruta when a loud shriek pierced the flooded bridge, followed by an explosion of movement.

What appeared to be a mass of tentacles seemed to emerge from every direction, flailing around the bridge. Where they had originated from, Anakin couldn't tell, but if he had to guess they were most certainly hostile.

And then, the seemingly random flailing changed into what could only be seen as organized strikes, heading directly in towards him.

Chapter Text

Ahsoka swung her golden blade in a vicious downward arc as the first tentacle came careening in her direction, clearly poised to either wrap around and crush her, or strike and knock her back. Neither option was preferable.

The golden blade passed through the water quickly, illuminating the room around her as it made contact with the tip of the tentacle, burning away at the skin and forcing whatever creature was attacking them to back off. Beside her she witnessed Anakin doing the same, his own blade pivoted in a way that would impale any tentacle that came in for an attack.

The damage caused by her lightsaber did indeed force the creature back, only for it to release an unmistakable roar of rage and pain, before it's tentacles began to flail again.

"What the kriff is this thing?!" Anakin's voice echoed between them, both panic and frustration evident in it.

"Some kind of aquatic creature clearly. A squid maybe?" Ahsoka replied, lunging with her blade again, whilst igniting the one she had taken from the drowned Jedi as well, swiping out towards another approaching tentacle. This time the tentacle appeared to fall back at the swipe of the blade, as if it had learned its lesson the first time.

That still didn't stop it from trying to attack.

"Thanks Captain Obvious! You have any other words of wisdom in this situation!" Anakin's voice hit her montrals again, sounding overly sarcastic as he spoke, not that Ahsoka was surprised. That was just who Anakin Skywalker was, no doubt mainly due to his training under Obi-Wan, who himself had a serious sarcastic streak.

"You should brush your teeth everyday, less they fall out!" Ahsoka couldn't help the quip back, even if it had no bearing on the situation at hand. Again, that was just who they were.

"Very funny Snips!" Anakin replied once again, swinging his saber in a vicious arc at an approaching tentacle, this time proving successful at landing at hit.

The creature roared again in agony as Anakin's saber severed the tentacle, the appendage now floating in the water.

Still, despite the wound, it appeared the creature was not deterred. Even with one tentacle missing the creature kept up it's assault, swinging it's remaining limbs at the duo, attempting to bypass their defences.

Another tentacle again came speeding towards Ahsoka, who in turn brought both her blade and that of the fallen Jedi up to defend herself.

The tentacle failed to stop in time, and was met with a wall of superheated plasma, the scorched end being rendered useless.

It was then that more movement occurred throughout the bridge and the creature fully emerged, it's whole body being exposed for the first time from where it had been concealed in the darkness. It possessed a long spindly frame, one that was covered in what appeared to be warts and other protrusions. Dozens of tentacles were attached to its body, each poised to quite obviously kill anything it viewed as hostile. Ahsoka couldn't say she had ever heard of such a creature before, let alone encountered one!

"OK, definitely a squid of some kind!" Anakin called out again, his blade moving to defend his body from another approaching tentacle.

And then something caught Ahsoka's eye. The body of the squid-like creature seemed to open, a large gaping void full of sharp incisor like objects appearing in the middle of it.

It occurred to Ahsoka seconds later that they were teeth!

"I think it's hungry!" Ahsoka called back, her eyes widening as the creature's mouth snapped closed, before opening again, repeating the motion.

"Well I've got no intention of becoming dinner today!" Anakin replied, pushing backwards through the water in hopes of escaping the reach of the creature. Ahsoka too began to fall back, swinging her own blade at an approaching tentacle in the process, severing it from the rest of the body.

This time, when the creature reacted with another roar of pain, it's tentacles began to flail even more erratically than before. One long appendage smashed into the side of the bridge, contorting the already damaged metal and and causing it to buckle and break. A gaping hole opened in the side of the bridge, sending more debris into the chaos in the process. Large shards of metal plating, mixed with sharp fragments of transparisteel floated all around them. The sheer speed of the tentacles' flailing around them only served to make matters worse. Crosscurrents of water threw debris in all directions, giving both Anakin and Ahsoka yet another hazard to dodge.

Evading to the side as best he could to avoid a tentacle, Anakin was forced to bring his saber up to cut a large chunk of loose metal that hurtled towards him in two. But as he did so the creature seized its chance and a large tentacle wrapped around Anakin's torso before he could react and began to pull him towards the razor sharp teeth that adorned its mouth.

Ahsoka felt her entire body go cold when she saw this. She would not lose Anakin, not like this! Not after she had just gotten him back!

Bracing herself against a nearby wall, Ahsoka pushed off with all her strength, sailing through the water towards the tentacle that held Anakin, who himself was struggling to get free.

As she approached it, Ahsoka angled her body in a way that would allow her to spin, the two blades she was wielding spinning with her in a vicious whirlwind.

The gold and blue hues of the lightsabers she held flooded her vision as she span, severing two tentacles that were coming for her in the process, before slicing a third, the one that held Anakin, allowing her Jedi master to get free.

Stabilising herself in the water, Ahsoka glanced up at the jaws of the creature, now mere inches away from her. Despite the evident pain it was in, the teeth still continued to gnash towards them, determined to feast on a meal of Human and Togruta.

It was then that the unexpected happened. The sound of a blaster firing hit her senses, and a bright red bolt went sailing past her head, directly into the jaw of the creature, followed by three more.

Each bolt pierced through the skin of the creature, forcing it to retreat, it's tentacles coming up as if to defend itself.

But right now that wasn't Ahsoka's focus, but rather the shooter was. Spinning around Ahsoka spotted a single figure floating in the centre of the doorway, a blaster in hand. Whoever they were they were dressed in garb similar to both she and Anakin. A dark grey wet-suit covered the entirety of their body, exposing no skin or anything that would give away their identity. The figure was humanoid in shape however, something that helped to narrow down the species somewhat.

Glancing up at the face of the figure, Ahsoka found that it too was hidden behind a dark visor, making it impossible to identify the shooter in any way.

That being said, the visor did not shield everything from sight. Focusing her eyes slightly, she could make out two small red spots that were seemingly glowing behind the visor, much the same as the ones she swore she had seen earlier following her and Anakin.

And now it appeared that she was right in her assumption. Someone had indeed been following them. The only question was whether they were friend, or foe.

The figure shot their blaster another two times, before gesturing towards both Anakin and Ahsoka, and then pointing at the hole in the hull that had been created. Clearly, whoever this person was was suggesting a retreat, and Ahsoka couldn't agree more.

Anakin too seemed to understand, as he pushed through the water towards the opening, Ahsoka on his tail, and the mysterious figure behind them.

The breach in the hull led directly to the bottom of the ravine the ship had crashed into, and was thus fathoms under the water. It would be a long swim up.

Just as she began to swim up however, the creature returned. A long spindly tentacle crashed through the hull behind them, speeding towards Ahsoka's legs and wrapping around her entire body in the process, pulling her downwards.

"Master!" Ahsoka called out in desperation, forgetting the fact that she was no longer his apprentice and thus did not have to refer to him as her master. Perhaps it was the life or death situation she faced that caused the slip.

The tentacle around her began to tighten, crushing her body and forcing the air out of her lungs.

And then the worst happened.

Her oxygen tank ruptured.

'Oh come on!' Ahsoka thought in despair as she felt herself begin to struggle for breath. She could hear the sound of the oxygen rapidly leaking out of the hole in the tank, bubbles erupting from it in the process, the telltale sign of what had happened. If she wasn't struggling for air before, she was certainly doing so now.

Then another sound hit her montrals, this one sounding like a roar of anger. Ahsoka assumed at first that it was the creature below them, roaring out in rage as it tried to pull her in.

But then she discovered the true origins of the sound.

Anakin came barrelling towards her, a look of pure fury and hate on his face, his eyes locked onto the tentacle that was wrapped around her. With a single precise swing of his saber, he severed the tentacle, cutting her free, before grasping hold of her hand and pulling her up through the water with him.

Not complaining at his 'heroic' rescue, Ahsoka kicked her own legs sharply, helping to propel them both upwards, the mysterious figure beside them the entire time, blaster out, watching their six.

'Who is this guy?' Ahsoka couldn't help but think, trying anything to distract herself from the way her throat began to tighten as she ran out of oxygen. Her tank was empty now, and her vision began to distort, various coloured shining spots appearing on the periphery of her vision, which in turn began to blacken.

Glancing upwards, Ahsoka briefly saw the way the water above them began to brighten as they approached the surface, before the strain became too much, and she passed out, Anakin calling out for her in desperation in the process.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Ahsoka awoke some time later with a rush of air flowing into her mouth, almost as if someone was blowing into her.

Her eyes remained closed as she felt her body ache from some phantom pain, before she felt a large weight upon her chest, pushing down on her ribs several times in succession, before another rush of warm air flowed into her mouth.

Opening her eyes, Ahsoka saw what the source of both the weight upon her and the rush of warm air was, and promptly responded in surprise.

Reaching out her hands, despite the ache in her arms, she shoved Anakin back from where he had been attempting to resuscitate her, rolling onto her side in the process, hacking violently in the process.

Several sharp coughs later, she turned her head to face Anakin's and spoke.

"Yuck Skyguy! I don't want your germs! Give them to Padmé instead!"

The look on Anakin's face was one of both bemusement and realization, before what looked like a thankful smile appeared on his safe.

"Hey now Snips, my germs just saved your life!"

"They still taste like rotten Nexu!" Ahsoka replied, entering into another harsh coughing fit as she felt oxygen slowly seep back into her lungs, which themselves felt like they were on fire.

Despite the seeming awkwardness of the situation, Anakin remained by her side throughout, rubbing her back gently to help her. A few more harsh coughs later and Ahsoka was convinced she was alright, lifting a hand to Anakin, allowing him to help her stand.

It was then that Ahsoka spotted another figure standing behind Anakin, the one from the shipwreck. They still wore the entirety of their scuba gear, unlike both Anakin and Ahsoka who's helmets and oxygen tanks were now strewn around them on the beach they had managed to swim to.

Now that the person was standing before her in the open light of day, Ahsoka was able to properly analyse them. The figure suggested male, as they lacked anything that would identify them as female, though it could be a member of a species that had less easily distinguishable genders.

Rising to her feet, she gestured towards the figure, who seemed to be watching every move Anakin and her made, as if they were studying them. Behind the helmet they wore, Ahsoka could almost picture a pair of eyes scrutinizing them.

It was Anakin that made the first move to communicate, much to her surprise.

"Thanks for the help down there friend. You have a name?"

The mysterious figure titled their head, before several sounds came from behind the helmet, one's that sounded like speech, but in a language Ahsoka had never heard before.

"I'm sorry?" Anakin responded, clearly not understanding the language either, something that was rare for him.

"I don't think he speaks Basic Anakin." Ahsoka spoke, before gently removing herself from Anakin's supporting arms and taking a single step towards the figure before them.

Through the Force she could feel no ill intent or threat from the person, only the concern of her former master as she approached the figure.

Looking up at the black face plate, Ahsoka decided that the best way to identify and possibly communicate with the figure was to do so face to face.

That meant they had to remove their helmet.

Reaching up with her hands to her face, Ahsoka made a gesture that represented the removing of one's own helmet, before gesturing to Anakin behind her and repeating the gesture.

She then turned her eyes back to the figure, who all the while was watching her with a tilted head, and repeated the gesture, pointing at them in the process.

The figure made no move to remove their own helmet, their head moving from side to side, watching both Anakin and Ahsoka. And then, just as Ahsoka was about to repeat the action again, the figure moved their hands to their face, clasping the helmet, and gently pulling it off.

Ahsoka watched as the figure's face was revealed. The person, who she could now tell was definitely male, was not human. He had sharp cheekbones that gave him a stern, yet inquisitive looking face, as well as neatly groomed blue/black hair.

Those however, were not the most unique features of his face. Ahsoka had seen many different skin tones in her life, but the shade of blue of this person's was different in some way. It was deeper than a Pantoran's, and far more noticeable in a crowd. What made him stand out even more however were his eyes. They were a shade of bright red, one that would usually suggest a person had an eye infection of some kind. The eyes themselves also seemed to have their own unique traits, and if Ahsoka didn't know any better she would have said they glowed.

Together, this person's facial features created a stark contrast, ensuring he would stand out in a crowd at any event.

The man's mouth moved again, another string of unfamiliar words leaving it, before he tilted his head in expectation. It was clear he had asked them a question.

But they had no idea what it was.

"We're gonna need a translator for this." Ahsoka quipped, fascinated at the figure before her. She had never encountered a member of this species before.

"Good thing we know one then." Anakin replied, earning an odd look from Ahsoka in response.

Who was he talking about?

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The trip back to the shuttle was merely a short walk across the beach, Anakin leading the way, with Ahsoka and the mysterious individual seemingly following at will behind.

The figure seemed to carry himself with an air confidence, but not to the point of arrogance. He radiated respect, both towards the people around him and towards himself. It was an odd combination really.

Still, he seemed willing to cooperate, which was a good thing. These days Ahsoka had no idea who was on their side or not, especially after she had been framed for the bombing of the Jedi Temple by Barriss.

Taking her seat behind the controls before Anakin could seize his opportunity, Ahsoka turned the chair around to face her former master, who was now sitting in the co-pilot's seat, working on the transmitter. Whoever they needed to talk to was clearly a ways away, hence the need for the holocall.

Whilst her human companion worked on linking the call to whoever it was he needed to speak to, Ahsoka turned around in her chair again to face the mysterious individual, who seemed to be glancing around the cockpit with great interest, inspecting the various components from afar. It was clear that he was trying to maintain a respectful distance from technology that he had never seen before, or believed he was not allowed to touch. Could he be a member of a primitive species that had never even seen a spaceship before?

The figure's eyes then shifted to lock with hers, with what seemed like scrutiny within them. His mouth opened again, clearly attempting to speak words, words that she didn't understand.

There was nothing worse in such a situation than not being able to understand another's language.

Rather than try to speak and further confuse the alien herself, Ahsoka simply gestured with a free hand to a spare chair that was nearby, next to a console with various readings upon it. As far as Ahsoka knew, all that there was on said console was a galaxy map. He couldn't do any great harm with that.

The alien glanced between the chair and her, as if asking permission to sit, even if she had just offered it in the first place. Throwing a gentle smile in his direction, Ahsoka gestured to the chair again, and watched as the alien slowly sat down, testing the comfort of the chair with a few experimental bounces, before nodding at her with what seemed like gratitude.

It was then that Ahsoka heard a new voice in the cockpit, one that she was very familiar with, as was Anakin.

"Anakin? What are you doing calling me with an unknown ID?" The voice of Padmé Amidala gave way to a bright smile coming onto Anakin's face, one full of adoration and love. Ahsoka had to refrain from making a snippy comment about Anakin being too loved up. How they thought they had succeeded in hiding their relationship, she didn't know?

"Sorry Senator, I'm on an important mission for the Chancellor with his new agent. I'm contacting you from the ship we are using." Anakin responded with a surprising level of professionalism. It was clear that even now he was trying to hide his relationship with Padmé from Ahsoka.

"You're telling me you are calling in a middle of a mission? Anakin, that is very irresponsible of you!" Padmé's response was one for the highlight reel. The woman could be terrifying when angry, even more so when she was angry towards Anakin, who himself seemed a little shocked at the aggressiveness of her tone.

Before the situation could get out of control, or before Anakin found another way to put his foot in it, Ahsoka chose to intervene, leaning towards the hologram of Padmé that had appeared.

"Yeah, tell me about it Senator. All this guy does is break regulation after regulation. I feel sorry for his old apprentice sometimes."

Ahsoka didn't miss the way the features of Anakin's face contorted in mock annoyance, and was thus forced to repress a chuckle because of it. Still, that wasn't her focus right now.

Padmé's face was one of shock, as if the sudden appearance of Ahsoka was the last possible thing she had been expecting to occur, much less on a mission with Anakin.

"Ahsoka? What? How? When? Have you come back to the Order?" Padmé inquired with speed, each question faster than the last, urgency present in her tone all the while, even as a warm thankful smile came to her face.

It was nice to know that some people had missed her.

Well, Padmé and Anakin at the very least.

"Long story Padmé. Simply put, I'm working for the Chancellor now on secret assignments. He tracked me down and offered me a job as an apology. Couldn't exactly refuse huh?" Ahsoka replied, brushing off any concern that she knew Padmé would have for her. The older woman was a mentor of sorts to her, in ways that people like Anakin or Obi-Wan, or even Rex could never have been.

"Well when you get back from your mission you come round here right away and explain everything to me Ahsoka. I would have helped you if you'd asked." Padmé responded, her tone warm and loving, her eyes bright and full of happiness.

"You did more than enough for me during my trial Padmé. I didn't want to burden you anymore."

"You would never be a burden to anyone Ahsoka." Padmé's reply was instantaneous, and quite frankly surprised Ahsoka. The whole Temple bombing incident had shaken Ahsoka's world to its very core. Barriss, whom she had counted on for help had instead betrayed her in spectacular fashion. And the Council, whom she had always considered wise and benevolent despite not always agreeing with its decisions, had tossed her into the hands of a military tribunal without hesitation. They had even gone so far as to pretend to give her a chance to defend herself before them, when in fact the decision to expel her had already been made behind closed doors. The Jedi Order had been her family and her life. She had dedicated herself completely to them, but in her time of greatest need they had simply abandoned her. After that ordeal she just couldn't help but wonder if she had really ever meant anything to anyone, if she hadn't just been another mouth to feed or tool to be used and then discarded.

But now, here was Padmé Amidala, one of the most powerful women in the galaxy telling her the opposite of what Ahsoka believed. If Ahsoka was to truly believe anyone other than Anakin, then it was her.

Opening her mouth to reply, Ahsoka suddenly found herself cut off by Anakin.

"This isn't a conversation to have over a holocall. You two can chat later to your heart's content. Right now however we need help."

Despite being interrupted in the midst of a heart to heart discussion, Ahsoka knew that Anakin was right. They had a mission, and that took priority over her personal feelings.

"Well then, how can I help you General Skywalker?" Padmé replied, clearly understanding the shift in topic as well. Despite how warm and welcoming the woman was, she had a serious side to her.

Unsurprising considering her job.

"Truth be told Senator it's not you we need, but rather Threepio." Anakin said, his tone neutral.

There was a sound of movement behind Padmé for a brief moment, before the Senator stepped aside to allow the golden protocol droid to take his place in front of the holoprojector without any fuss.

"Oh my, Master Anakin, this is an unexpected pleasure. Most people usually do not wish to speak to me so I am quite surprised by this turn of events. I so hope you are faring well. I get so worried about you and little Artoo. That droid does not understand the basics of self preservation most of the time, always rushing off into danger. And oh my, is that Miss Ahsoka with you? How wonderful to see you well my dear. Master Anakin and Mistress Padmé were so worried about you when you decided to leave. Have you been looking after yourself? My studies suggest that a growing Togruta adolescent such as yourself should eat at the very least three full courses of meat a day and…"

Despite the the fact that See-Threepio was once again running off on an unnecessary tangent, Ahsoka couldn't help the bright smile that came to her face at hearing the eccentric droid talk. Threepio had always been that way, and would more than likely always remain so. Quite the contrast to his usual companion in Artoo.

"I'm fine, thank you Threepio. However, now is not the time for a catch-up. We had some unexpected help from an alien of a species we have never seen before on our mission, and from what Anakin and I can deduce he doesn't seem to speak Basic. Are you capable of translating for us?" Ahsoka replied, entering what Anakin called her 'commander mode', a state in which she assumed complete control over the situation. The Clones had always been surprised at how quickly she shifted from happy go lucky Padawan, to Commander in an instant.

She guessed it was thanks to her training from Anakin. He had taught her how to lead, as well as how to be a normal person. She was most grateful for the diversity he had instilled in her. Without it, she would be no better than a battle droid, listening and obeying all orders given without question.

"Why of course I can translate Miss Ahsoka," Threepio's voice all but squeaked in what Ahsoka might have called feigned offensive, " I am fluent in over six million forms of communication."

"Well let's see if those bragging rights hold up." Anakin chose that moment to interrupt, humour in his voice as he gestured behind him. Threepio's gaze moved from Ahsoka to where Anakin had pointed, his eyes locking onto the blue skinned alien sitting in the chair behind them.

"Greetings, I am See-Threepio, human-cyborg relations. What language do you speak my friend?"

Ahsoka turned her head to watch the alien with interest, to see what his response would be. He was unresponsive at first, his eyes studying the hologram of Threepio intensely, as if figuring out how he was put together.

And then he opened his mouth, the language he was familiar with coming out fluently.

"Ah, I see." Was Threepio's reaction, before the protocol droid himself changed language, the same sounds coming from his vocabulator as came from the alien's mouth. Ahsoka watched with a small smirk as the alien's eyes widened in surprise at the sudden way the droid changed to his language, before he responded to Threepio's comment with a series of sounds that were clearly words.

"What's he saying Threepio?" Anakin questioned from beside her, his own eyes watching with great interest.

"He is asking whether or not Miss Ahsoka is ok, as she very nearly drowned not too long ago?"

Now it was Ahsoka's eye's that widened in surprise. All this time, and all the alien had been doing was asking if she was ok?

Now she felt incredibly rude for ignoring him.

"Tell him I'm fine Threepio, and ask what his name is." Ahsoka replied, watching as Threepio reiterated her phrase in the alien's language.

The discussion between droid and blue skinned alien continued for a few moments, before Threepio switched back to Basic to translate his response to Ahsoka's own question.

"He says his name is Mitth'raw'nuruodo."

Chapter Text

"It's a pleasure to meet you Mitthrawnurudo. I am General Anakin Skywalker, and this is Commander Ahsoka Tano." Anakin replied following the revelation of the blue skinned alien's name. It was a long one, that was for sure. Most alien cultures had slight differences in how their names were both spoken and spelt. A different vowel in a place it should not be, or perhaps an extra consonant were not all that uncommon.

But the name of the alien who had helped them was truly unique. He had never encountered one that required so much twisting of the tongue to pronounce in the first place. It was certainly not something that would just roll of a person's tongue. He couldn't imagine shouting the name in the midst of a battle.

In that moment he couldn't help but wonder if Ahsoka's name was normal for a Togruta or not. He'd have to ask her later on.

Across from him, Mitth'raw'nuruodo's lips moved again, his native language rolling off his tongue with minimal effort. Anakin couldn't even begin to try to replicate it. In a way it sounded oddly hypnotic, or perhaps that was simply the tone of his voice instead. It possessed an eerie level of calm and control about it, never changing to simulate emotion. Anakin couldn't even begin to imagine what he would sound like if he was angry.

"Oh, Master Anakin I am afraid you pronounced his name wrong. It is Mitth'raw'nuruodo." Threepio chose that moment to interrupt, his high pitched voice correcting what Anakin had assumed was already correct in the first place.

"Yes Threepio, that's what I said. Mitthrawnurudo." Anakin replied, shooting a perplexed look at the hologram of Threepio, who proceeded to shake his head again in what Anakin could only call disdain.

"Master Ani you really must work on your pronunciation skills. I can offer you several courses on understanding basic language and grammar if you wish? It might very well help you in the long run if you can pronounce foreign names properly."

Beside him, Anakin heard a slight chuckle emanating from Ahsoka, who had one of her hands over her mouth to hide her wide grin as she watched the situation unfold before her. He'd like to see her in his position, simply so he could laugh at her instead.

The blue skinned alien spoke again, his voice echoing round the cockpit as he addressed the hologram of Threepio, who looked as if he was listening intently, before nodding his head in understanding.

"Our new friend here has told me that it might be easier for you to refer to him as Thrawn, rather than his full name."

Despite the language barrier, it appeared that this 'Thrawn' had fully understood the difficulties of Anakin's situation, and had thus chosen to make it easier on all.

"Well, it's nice to meet you Thrawn. Can we help you in any way?" It was Ahsoka that spoke this time, glancing over at Threepio, who began to translate Ahsoka's words into the language Thrawn spoke. The discussion between Thrawn and Threepio lasted several minutes, before the protocol droid turned his head away from Thrawn and back to both Anakin and Ahsoka, switching back to Basic in the process.

"Thrawn here is a member of a species called the Chiss, and operates as a deep space researcher. He wishes to study the various cultures of the galaxy, the Galactic Republic in particular. He was investigating this crash site for possible supplies, as his ship was shot down by a battle droid fighter and crashed deep into the sea. He has been living here for quite some time and would appreciate a rescue."

There was a lot of information in Threepio's statement. Anakin had only ever heard of the Chiss as some outer world legend, a species that existed in the far reaches of the galaxy, remaining isolated from the wider galactic community and it's variety of cultures.

The fact that there was now a member of said species sitting in a chair inside Ahsoka's ship, willingly communicating with them was impressive.

'And they call Obi-Wan 'The Negotiator'. We've just opened up communication with a new species without him!' Anakin spoke through his reopened bond with Ahsoka, feeling her laugh through the Force in response.

'Yeah! If Obi-Wan was here he'd probably accidentally start a war or something by offering Thrawn a cup of tea!' Ahsoka's voice echoed in his head in mock terror, her signature bouncing slightly as she laughed again, something that Anakin reciprocated.

"Does he need help getting off-world?" Anakin inquired, watching and listening as the droid translated the question again for Thrawn, who in turn answered in his own tongue.

"Yes Master Ani. In fact he requests that he be granted passage to the centre of the Galactic Republic. He wishes to assist in the war effort against the Separatists so that he can learn the cultures and history of the galaxy and its people." Threepio translated, his tone remaining neutral despite the odd request from Thrawn.

"Does he have any military experience?" Anakin inquired, watching as Threepio again translated the question to Thrawn, who in turn answered with a few short sharp words.

"Indeed he does. Thrawn has served as a Commander within the Chiss military for some time. The reason he was chosen to investigate outside his home territories was because he was considered the best Commander within the fleet. He offers his services to the Republic navy in exchange for a position where he can study the Republic."

Anakin nodded at Threepio's words. Thrawn's credentials seemed impressive, perhaps a little too impressive. Anakin wasn't one to take someone at their word though, especially not where the war was concerned.

It would be a risk to bring him to Coruscant, and and even bigger risk to allow him access to anything related to the Republic military. If it turned out that he was a spy of some kind, be it for his own people, or worse, Count Dooku, then he could very well cripple the Republic from within.

But then, he seemed genuine, as if he honestly wanted to help and do good. Maybe he really did just want to study the galaxy, like some sort of scholar. And if his military skills were as impressive as he made them sound, then he would be an invaluable asset in the long run.

Still, at the end of the day, it wouldn't be his decision. It would be the Chancellor's.

"Threepio, can you ask our guest to wait outside the ship while we talk to the Chancellor please? Explain that we will need his permission to bring him along."

Threepio nodded his head in understanding, before translating the request to Thrawn. Anakin watched as Thrawn listened intently to Threepio's words, his red eyes never moving, only studying the droid intensely. There was something about them that unnerved Anakin. Simply put, he wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of a hostile glare from him.

As Threepio finished his translation, the alien now known to them as a Chiss stood from his seat, bowing his head to both Anakin and Ahsoka in what they assumed was a gesture of respect, before turning and leaving the cockpit.

A few moments later, Ahsoka spoke.

"Well, he seems nice."

"Everyone seems nice to you Snips."

"Not General Grievous, or Count Dooku for that matter."

Shaking his head at his friend's statement, Anakin turned back to the hologram of Threepio.

"Stay on the line Threepio. We'll need you again once we're finished talking to the Chancellor."

"Of course Master Ani. I will be waiting."

With that the hologram of Threepio faded away for the time being, a small light on the dashboard of the shuttle blinking rhymically in the background as a reminder of the holocall that was on hold.

Reaching out with his hands, Anakin began to input several numbers into the commlink. The Chancellor had given him his personal codes long ago as a gesture of trust between the two, promising that if he ever needed to talk to him about anything, that Anakin could always call him. Anakin couldn't have been more grateful to the Chancellor for such an offer. There were some things he couldn't tell Obi-Wan, or even Padmé. Having another friend, especially one who was the most powerful man in the Republic, meant that he had another confidant he could not only trust, but rely upon for help. And despite his busy schedule, the Chancellor always seemed to make time for him, something that Anakin appreciated.

He was even more grateful that Palpatine had taken Ahsoka under his wing as well. There were so many things he could teach her, just as he had taught him.

Another minute passed before the holocall was ready to connect, time enough for Anakin to straighten in his seat and compose himself. Palpatine may be his friend, but this was not a social call. This was business, and thus he had to maintain respect.

The hologram of Chancellor Palpatine appeared before both Anakin and Ahsoka abruptly, a warm smile coming to his wrinkled face as he greeted the duo.

"General Skywalker. Agent Tano. How goes your mission?" The Chancellor spoke first, his aged voice full of both concern as well as trust in the two people he had sent.

"Chancellor, we have scoured the shipwreck for the information you believed was here, however, we found only the body of the deceased Jedi Shadow and his crew. We did find a data disk on his body however. Unfortunately, it has been seriously damaged by the water it was submerged in, and is thus unlikely to work." Anakin replied, putting on his 'General' voice in the process as he relayed the discoveries he and Ahsoka had made.

The hologram of the Chancellor shifted slightly, his hands coming up before him to clasp together, the spindly fingers intertwining with one another in a gesture that resembled one being in deep thought.

Then he spoke.

"Unfortunate that the information was lost, however it was not entirely unforeseen and cannot be helped given the circumstances. Agent Tano, bring the data disk to me anyway and I will see if my technical teams can repair it. We may yet be able to salvage something useful from this."

"Of course Chancellor, we can only hope." Ahsoka replied, bowing her head as she answered.

"Excellent. Now, was there anything else my friends?" Palpatine spoke again, his tone friendly and inviting.

"Yes Your Excellency, there is." Anakin replied, watching as the Chancellor turned to lock eyes with him again, his permission to continue visible in his eyes.

"We've encountered an individual of the Chiss species called Thrawn. He has requested passage to Coruscant and wishes to learn about us. He has offered his military experience as a Commander of his people to the war effort against the Separatists as well. However, as a member of an Outer Rim species he does not speak Basic, and would thus require either a translator, or a tutor."

Palpatine seemed to consider this new information rather deeply, in a way that reminded Anakin of many military generals planning a large scale battle. Did he already know about the Chiss species or something?

The Chancellor did not respond for several minutes, his fingers beginning to drum together in a pattern as he considered Anakin's words. Concerned that he had said something wrong, Anakin glanced over at Ahsoka, who too seemed to be as confused as he was at the Chancellor's lack of response.

When Ahsoka noticed Anakin looking at her, she simply shrugged her shoulders before turning back to watch the hologram of the Chancellor.

Another minute passed without a reply from the Chancellor, before he finally moved his hands, separating them and placing them before him, no doubt resting them on his desk.

"Bring this 'Thrawn' to me at once. I will listen to what he has to say in person and decide on what route to take from there." Palpatine finally answered, his tone cautious as he considered this unexpected offer. Anakin knew that if anyone could get answers and make an informed judgement about someone, it was the Chancellor.

"Yes Your Excellency." Anakin replied simultaneously with Ahsoka, who shot him a smirk afterwards.

"Good day my friends. Safe journey home." Palpatine replied before his hologram faded away, the call being disconnected in the process.

The Chancellor had seemed incredibly understanding in regards to the loss of the data, for which Ahsoka a grateful. The last thing she needed was having yet another superior be annoyed and begin doubting her.

"Right Snips," Anakin begun beside her, his hands reaching across the various instruments on the dashboard as he spoke, "I'll reconnect the call to Threepio whilst you go and get this Thrawn fellow from outside."

Nodding her head, Ahsoka stood from her seat and began to walk out of the cockpit, navigating through the back of the shuttle and down the ramp.

Stepping off of the ramp and into the blazing sun above them, Ahsoka's first thought was that Thrawn had disappeared. The blue skinned Chiss was not standing at the bottom of the ramp, or sitting on the floor waiting as she had anticipated he would be. In fact, he was nowhere in sight.

Had he decided to leave after all, rather than come with them as he had originally requested?

Or perhaps he was a spy of some kind, and was setting a trap for her and Anakin?

A humorous solution came to her mind also. Perhaps he had simply gone for a swim or something?

Ahsoka then felt something land on her head, bouncing off her montrals in the process and sending a loud ringing sound through her head from the impact.

Glancing down at the ground beneath her, Ahsoka's eyes spotted a small purple sphere shaped object, rolling away from her. Upon closer inspection, Ahsoka deduced that it was a fruit of some kind.

Shifting her gaze upwards, Ahsoka spotted a large tree abundant in the fruit above her, and there, resting on a large branch, steadying himself with one hand whilst reaching for one of the fresh fruit with the other, was Thrawn.

"Hey, what are you doing up there?" Ahsoka called up to him, a roguish smile on her face and a laugh in her throat at the sight before her. Thrawn's head span downwards instantly, his eyes widening in what appeared to be surprise, as if he had just been caught doing something forbidden.

And then, just as quick as the surprise had appeared, it faded, being replaced with what looked like intense concentration. Rather than respond to her, Thrawn continued his quest, reaching a hand out to grasp the purple fruit that was growing before him, before sharply pulling it off the tree.

When he was done, he turned back and began to crawl along the branch he was on until he reached the trunk of the tree. Reaching both his legs and arms out, he braced himself and began to climb down.

A few moments later and Thrawn released his grasp on the trunk, falling safely to the ground and into a roll in the process, before coming to stand before Ahsoka, towering over her. Ahsoka half expected there to be a smug smile on his face at the demonstration of his acrobatic skill. Instead though, there was none, just the same look of intense concentration that rarely left his face.

Nodding her head in approval at his antics, Ahsoka was even more surprised when Thrawn held out a hand to her, the purple fruit he had acquired in it. Ahsoka's brow rose in confusion, before she understood exactly what was going on.

Thrawn was offering the fruit to her.

It was then that she spotted two more fruit that he was holding, clearly collected from the tree as well.

Now she understood what he was doing in the tree. He was gathering some food for them.

The only issue was that she, as a Togruta, was primarily a carnivore. Sure, she could eat fruit and other foods like it, but much of her energy and general health came from eating meat.

Still, it would be rude to turn it down. She could eat it after all, even if it wasn't optimal food for her species.

Gratefully taking the fruit that was offered to her, Ahsoka smiled back at Thrawn and gestured into the shuttle, suggesting that he follow her.

This time there was no hesitation from the Chiss. He seemed to understand what she had gestured, before bowing to her in a sign of respect, and heading up the ramp and into the ship.

Ahsoka stared after him for a few moments, contemplating the strange new alien they had encountered. Perhaps in time he would be a valuable ally to them, and maybe even a friend.

Turning the small purple fruit over in her hand once to inspect it, Ahsoka made a small noise of contempt to herself, before moving to follow Thrawn into the ship.

It was time to head back to Coruscant.

Chapter Text

The trip through hyperspace back to Coruscant was surprisingly peaceful, even with an additional person aboard.

Thrawn had spent the majority of his time aboard Ahsoka's shuttle sitting in a chair, staring at the galaxy map on the terminal in the back of the cockpit. It had taken Ahsoka some time to figure out that all he was doing was simply watching the red dot on the map that signified the ship he was in as it travelled through the stars. He was clearly trying to understand everything, to map out the galaxy as he travelled it.

Ahsoka could see why he wanted to help the Republic. He was genuinely interested in them.

The only time Thrawn had ever left his watchful vigil over the map was to use the refresher that was in the back of the ship. Thankfully there was no confusion in regards to that topic. Some things were common to all humanoid species, it seemed.

Anakin meanwhile had been wandering all round the ship, investigating various pieces of machinery and technology, as well as taking apart various consoles to work on. If Ahsoka didn't know any better she'd say Anakin was trying to stem his annoyance at her for not allowing him to fly the shuttle by keeping busy with maintenance instead.

She would let him fly her new ship, one day. For now, it was far more entertaining to tease him for his affronted reactions.

The only question now was what to name her ship. The Chancellor had gifted it to her permanently, and if her time as Anakin's apprentice had taught her anything it was to have a flair for the dramatic. The old beat down freighter they had recovered from Teth had been given a name after all, so why not her new ship.

She wanted it to be unique, something that represented her and who she was. She was no longer a Jedi, but she was not a civilian. She still fought for what was right, and for the safety of the people, just differently from how she had before. Rather than command legions of Clone Troopers, she was working in the shadows, hunting for secrets and truths that were hidden from prying eyes, all in the name of the the Republic, ensuring its survival.

A thought came to her. As a Togruta, she was a member of a hunter-gatherer species, of a society that placed great emphasis on 'The Hunt'. They would hunt for food, hunt for supplies, hunt for trophies. In that regard, it was considered the most important role for a Togruta colony, let alone their people as a whole. Without a hunter, the colony would not survive.

And without it's spies and agents, those willing to do what must be done, no matter the cost, the Republic too would not survive. And now she found herself amongst those very individuals, subverting the normal doctrine of war to ensure survival.

She was, essentially, a hunter.

"The Huntress."

"Huh?" Came the voice of Anakin, as he sat down beside her, his hands covered in what appeared to be grease. Now what had been been taking apart?

"That's what I am going to name my ship. The Huntress, after the hunters of Shili. Makes sense all things considered." Ahsoka replied, a small smile on her face as she decided on the name. It had a certain ring to it.

"Fitting for you really. I still remember the time you caught that rodent thing and cooked it in front of all the Clones to eat. Rex was disgusted!" Anakin replied, resting in his seat as his mind seemed to slip into fond memories, one's that Ahsoka remembered as well.

"Tell me about it." Ahsoka replied, the memory of Rex's horrified face coming to mind, slowly turning pale as she had bitten into the cooked rodent. "I still can't believe that Tup had some as well!"

Beside her Anakin chuckled. Tup had certainly been bold that day, and he had paid the price for it the next one. A stomach bug in the midst of a battlefield was not a good mix.

Neither spoke for a few moments, both lost in their own memories rather than bring up any new ones. The only sounds that could be heard in the cockpit was the gentle hum of the hyperdrive, as well as the slight shifts coming from Thrawn behind them, who was still intently studying the galaxy map.

A few more moments of companionable silence passed by before Anakin spoke, his voice quiet and what Ahsoka would call downtrodden.

"I get the feeling I already know the answer to this question, but you do know my offer still stands right? The Council's offer as well? You could come back and be my apprentice again? Kriff, they'd probably make you a Jedi Knight after everything you went through. You should at the very least consi…"

"No." Ahsoka interrupted, not meaning to sound as harsh as she did. Glancing to the side she saw the brief look of pain that flooded Anakin's face, before it was replaced by a steely professional look, as if he was trying to hide his emotions.

Ahsoka of course knew better, and she knew when Anakin was hiding something.

"Yeah… I figured you'd say that." Anakin then replied, his tone short and snappy.

Reaching across the gap between them, Ahsoka grasped one of Anakin's arms, tugging him slightly in order to get him to turn and face her.

"It's not a no to you Anakin. I would very much like to still be friends, or at the very least acquaintances. But I can't go back to an Order that outright sold me out for lies, and then didn't have the courage to properly apologise to me. At least Palpatine actually sought me out and admitted his mistakes, unlike Windu and even Yoda!"

Ahsoka had to admit that she was shocked at her own outburst, and clearly Anakin was as well, judging by the way his eyes widened at her words. Out of the corner of her eye Ahsoka spotted that even Thrawn had turned around in his chair to glance over, his red eyes surveying what was happening briefly, before returning to his intense study of the galaxy map.

Realizing that she had all but shouted at Anakin, Ahsoka shrunk back in her seat, murmuring a quite apology to Anakin in the process.

"Heh, no need to apologise to me Snips. You're right to be angry at them, and I'll always be your friend, regardless of the path you choose to take. If you want to work for the Chancellor rather than the Jedi, that's fine by me. At least I know someone I trust is keeping an eye on you." Anakin said, his tone back to the usual happy go lucky one he was known for, especially during their first few months together as Master and Padawan. Ahsoka found she missed that side of him, even if he was insufferable most of the time.

"Thank you Anakin. That means a lot."

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Dropping out of hyperspace above Coruscant had been as uneventful as the rest of the journey, for which Ahsoka was grateful. The last thing they needed was a surprise ambush by Separatists.

Or Hondo for that matter.

Glancing out at the cockpit window, down towards the planet's surface below, Ahsoka felt someone come up behind her, a quite gasp escaping their mouth in the process. Glancing backwards, Ahsoka saw that it was Thrawn standing behind her, rather than in his chair by the galaxy map. His gleaming red eyes stared out at the planet, watching the vast glowing lines that ran across the surface of the planet-wide city. He was evidently mesmerised by the sight before him.

Smirking to herself, Ahsoka reached out with her hands to disable the autopilot, grasping the joystick that controlled the ship in the process, before angling the shuttle down towards the surface. Apparently the Chancellor was waiting for them on a landing pad at the Senate building.

As the shuttle descended through the atmosphere, and down through the clouds, Thrawn continued to analyse everything. When the sight of the vast city below came into view, the Chiss gasped again, before heading back to his seat, inspecting the readout from the console.

"Well, he certainly seems excited." Anakin quipped from beside her, a small smirk on his face as he watched the Chiss analyse the readout of the planet below.

Ahsoka understood. When she had first been brought to Coruscant from Shili she had marvelled at the towering buildings that covered the planet. Even then, at three years old, she understood that the very existence of such a city-wide planet was something that had taken millennia of work to complete. Coruscant had seemed like a jewel at the time, a planet of perfection and grace, even more so when she had entered the Jedi Temple for the first time.

Now however, she knew better. There was a dark seediness to that planet, one that was overshadowed by the lush extravagant facade of a surface.

The same could be said about the Jedi Order as a whole.

"We can only hope that the Chancellor sees something in him." Ahsoka replied, continuing to steer the shuttle forward. Focusing her eyes, Ahsoka spotted the landing pad she had been directed to, as well as several figures waiting for them. One was clearly the Chancellor, and he was flanked by several Senate guards, their blue armour almost blending in with the scenery.

Next to them were two more figures, both of whom were unrecognizable at first, until Ahsoka spotted the familiar golden sheen of Threepio.

And beside Threepio stood…

"Hey, Padm…. I mean Senator Amidala came to greet us as well." Anakin spoke again, his voice full of what Ahsoka would call excitement as he pointed out what she had already seen.

"Yes Anakin I can tell." Ahsoka replied, forcing the smug smile that threatened to consume her face away as she guided the shuttle to land.

A few moments later the landing sequence was complete and Ahsoka powered down the systems of the shuttle. Turning her chair around, she glanced over at Thrawn, who now appeared to be watching her, his face not betraying any emotion whatsoever.

She had to give him credit. In his position she would have been incredibly nervous and worried. Was Thrawn not? Or maybe he was just incredibly good at hiding it?

Stretching her legs as she stood from her seat, Anakin rising beside her simultaneously, Ahsoka gestured to Thrawn to follow her, shooting a warm welcoming smile to him in the process. The least she could do was make him feel welcome.

The Chiss seemed to appreciate the gesture, as he nodded in reply and stood from his own seat, gesturing to the back of the ship allowing Ahsoka to go first.

Nodding her own head, Ahsoka began to lead the way out of the ship, her footsteps being followed by Thrawn, with Anakin bringing up the rear.

Descending down the ramp Ahsoka was greeted with a rush of warm air that was common on Coruscant. The planet was not quite as hot as the deserts of Tatooine, or as humid as the plains of Shili, but it was still warm, no doubt thanks to the sheer amount of people and machinery generating heat of their own.

Glancing before her, Ahsoka spotted the Chancellor approaching her, a kindly smile on his wrinkled yet warm face, Threepio and Padmé following behind him.

"Agent Tano my dear, I am so glad to see you and General Skywalker are unharmed. A shame about the data being lost, but that cannot be helped considering the circumstances." Palpatine spoke, the smile never leaving his face as he surveyed both Ahsoka and Anakin, who had now come to stand by her side.

"Thank you Chancellor," Ahsoka replied, bowing before him in a sign of respect, before returning to her full height, "This data drive is all that survived."

The Chancellor reached out to grasp the offered drive, inspecting it slightly before grimacing suddenly.

"Hmm, the damage may not be that severe. Perhaps some information survived."

"We can only hope Your Excellency." Anakin chose that moment to join the conversation, bowing his own head, a gesture that Palpatine returned.

It was then that Ahsoka heard what sounded like the shuffling of feet behind her, as if someone was trying to get her attention.

Stepping to the side to allow the Chancellor to get his first proper glance at Thrawn, Ahsoka began to make the proper introductions.

"Chancellor Palpatine, may I introduce to you Mitth'raw'nuruodo, or Thrawn for short. He assisted us in the mission and wishes to help the Republic in it's time of need. Thrawn, this is Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, leader of the Republic."

As she spoke, Ahsoka became aware of Threepio moving forward, beginning to translate what she had said from Basic to whatever language it was that Thrawn spoke. She would have to ask the protocol droid later.

As communication between Thrawn and Palpatine opened before her, Ahsoka heard the voice of Anakin in her head, speaking privately to her.

'How come Threepio didn't question the way you pronounced Thrawn's full name? I said it the exact same way and he chastised me?'

'Maybe he just likes me better Skyguy?'

'Pfft, you do know I built him when I was a child right? He's like my eccentric droid son.'

'You would have a droid as a child.'

'Very funny Snips.'

'I jest Anakin. Maybe I'm just better at pronouncing alien names than you are.'

'Doubtful, but could be. You are an alien like Thrawn after all. Maybe humans aren't meant to be able to pronounce long names. They aren't normal names after all. Why couldn't he be called Lars or something?'

'That's racist! Besides, Obi-Wan is human and he has a weird name.'

'Yeah cause he's Obi-Wan. He has to be awkward for the sake of it. And I'm not racist. I have plenty of alien friends!'

'Name one?!'

'Well, you for starters.'

'Doesn't count you rampant racist!'

'Snips, I'm not a…'

"General Skywalker? Agent Tano? Is everything alright?" Chancellor Palpatine's voice interrupted their mental teasing, a concerned look on his face. Thrawn now stood beside him, his demeanour having changed to one that Ahsoka would call friendly.

"Huh? Oh, sorry Your Excellency. Ahsoka and I were just communicating over our old bond. What were you saying?" Anakin replied, his tone apologetic and respectful. The last thing he wanted was to upset the Chancellor.

The concern on Palpatine's face faded instantly, being replaced once again with a warm smile.

"It is of no concern my boy. One day you really must explain to me the intricacies of such a talent. I imagine it is quite useful in many situations?"

Both Ahsoka and Anakin nodded their heads again, grateful for the understanding, before Palpatine continued.

"As I was saying. Mr Thrawn and I are going to return to my office to continue our discussion. See-Threepio will come along as out interpreter for now if that is ok with you Senator?" Palpatine spoke, turning to face Padmé in the process.

"Of course Chancellor. I hope he proves helpful."

"I'm sure he will my dear, if he's anything like his owner." Palpatine replied, now turning to face Anakin. "My boy I received word from the Jedi Council. They wish to debrief you on this assignment, and I believe they also have a new one for you. I told them I would direct you to them when you returned."

Ahsoka didn't miss the way Anakin's shoulders slumped slightly at the news. The likelihood that he was being redeployed with the 501st was very high. Deep down she knew he just wanted to rest for a bit.

Still, there was nothing she could do about it, and neither could he. Anakin wasn't going to leave the Jedi Order anytime soon. He was too devoted to his duty as a General and a Jedi.

"I understand Chancellor. I shall leave immediately." Anakin replied, bowing to Palpatine once more, before looking over Ahsoka's head to where Padmé stood, an equally disappointed look on her face.

Ahsoka watched as a small smile came to his face, before he glanced down at her, the smile she would call sweet and sentimental being replaced by a mischievous smirk.

'Seeya later Snips! Call me sometime and we'll catch up. I'd love to see your new apartment.'

'Will do, you racist!'

'I'm not a racist!'

'I know, I'm teasing you Skyguy. Give the Council hell for me would you?'

'Always.'

And with that, Anakin had already set off, not looking back, his feet carrying him to his starfighter, which rested nearby. Ahsoka watched him go, the sense of warm familiarity that had kept her company in Anakin's presence fading as he did. Even if it was just for one mission, she was glad she had gotten a chance to work with him again. They were still Skyguy and Snips. Her leaving the Order had not changed that.

A gentle hand grasped hold of her arm, pulling her attention away from Anakin's retreating form and to the bright welcoming face of Padmé Amidala.

Ahsoka opened her mouth to greet the human senator when once again she found herself pulled forward and into a tight embrace. It wasn't as strong as the one Anakin had first greeted her with, but one that was equally as welcoming and full of what Ahsoka assumed was relief.

"Ahsoka," Padmé began, "I'm so glad to see you're well. When Anakin told me you left I was worried."

Pulling back out of the embrace, Ahsoka allowed a warm smile to come to her face. Padmé had always been welcoming to her, even back when Ahsoka was a young brash and frankly, arrogant Padawan. Over the years she had grown and developed, becoming more powerful with the Force and more patient and respectful as a person.

But it was Padmé's influence on her that had caused her to see things differently. The galaxy, and the war in general, was not as black and white as she had once thought. Not all Separatists were evil, and not all members of the Republic were good. There was grey on all sides of the war, especially within the Jedi Order as a whole.

"I'm glad to see you too Milady. Rest assured I managed to take care of myself. No need to worry, though I appreciate the sentiment." Ahsoka replied, bowing before the Senator from Naboo. Padmé may be her friend, but she was still her superior, and a very well respected member of the Galactic Senate. She deserved the same courtesy the Chancellor received.

Padmé however seemed almost affronted by the gesture of respect, with what could only be described as a hint of teasing on her face. Ahsoka couldn't help but notice how similar the small teasing smile that now covered Padmé's face was to the one's Anakin so frequently possessed.

"'Milady? I didn't come all the way down here for us to stand on rank and privilege Ahsoka. I was wondering if perhaps you would like to come to my apartment for lunch. You must be starving after your recent mission?"

If Ahsoka was being truthful then yes, she was starving. Swimming through a shipwreck, coupled with almost drowning had made her awfully hungry. Even the small ration packs she had brought with her on the mission had done little to fill her up.

And frankly, she knew she needed a good meal. During her time in the underworld Ahsoka had noticed a small, yet significant loss of weight. If she wasn't careful, she could very well fall ill from lack of a good balanced diet.

Plus it would be a good opportunity to catch up with one of the few people who had actively defended her during her ordeal.

"Thank you Padmé. I think I'll take you up on that offer."

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

"Unfortunate the loss of our Shadow is, as well as the loss of the data he was gathering."

"Not to mention the loss of an entire Star Destroyer and a legion of troopers."

"Their sacrifice is in vain with the lack of any intel. We must ensure that our intelligence divisions are more aware of surprise Separatist attacks."

"Unorthodox Count Dooku is. Subvert any expectations he will. Plan for his strategies, we cannot."

"The battle droid armies move closer and closer to securing more worlds every day. They have recently begun a campaign against the Wookiees on Kashyyyk!"

"We do not possess the resources to assist the Wookiees at this time. Our focus must be on finding and capturing General Grievous and Count Dooku."

"A feat easier said than done I assure you."

"We are Jedi. We will succeed, and the Republic will stand for generations more."

"Hmmm, clouded the Force is. Unknowable, is the future."

"Have faith Master Yoda."

Anakin couldn't help the sigh of frustration that escaped his lips. He had only come to deliver his report to the Jedi Council. Now he was being forced to listen to them rattle on and on about the politics of the war in endless circles.

He'd long dreamt of being invited to join their ranks, but perhaps being a member of the Council wasn't exactly what he'd imagined it to be.

"Do you have something to add to this meeting Skywalker?" The voice of Mace Windu drew Anakin out of his inner thoughts, his eyes shifting to lock onto the dark skinned Jedi Master, who was watching him with a pair of sharp judgemental eyes.

Windu had never liked him. All Anakin could say was that the feeling was mutual.

Beside Windu, the diminutive yet powerful Yoda chuckled slightly at Anakin's expression.

"The mission, not a complete loss you believe Skywalker?" Yoda inquired, his clawed hands grasping hold of the lightsaber he and Ahsoka had recovered from the drowned Jedi Shadow. Ahsoka had given it to him to return to the Temple. It was better off there than floating randomly round the galaxy. Besides, it was common practise in the past for a lightsaber to be returned to the Temple after its owner became one with the Force. The Temple had once housed the lightsaber of the legendary Tarre Vizsla after all, which had been recovered after his death.

A lightsaber was a Jedi's life, as Obi-Wan had so frequently told him. It was only right that it be returned to the Temple.

"No Master Yoda. Not only have we confirmed that there is a Separatist presence in the Pyrshak system, but we were able to recover a small data drive that was heavily damaged. The drive is now in the possession of the Chancellor, who has agreed to have his best technicians look at it to see if anything can be salvaged." Anakin replied, standing tall as he continued his report. He hadn't mentioned anything about Ahsoka yet, not that he intended too. No one on the Council, aside from perhaps Obi-Wan deserved to know where she was.

Looks of disapproval suddenly came flying at him from various directions. Clearly many of the Council members did not agree with the decision to hand the data over to the Chancellor instead of them.

Anakin couldn't care less what they thought. They hadn't exactly proven themselves trustworthy lately, unlike Palpatine.

"If the Separatists are operating out of the Pyrshak system then that suggests that an invasion of the inner rim is coming. Perhaps even Coruscant is at risk?" Ki-Adi-Mundi spoke this time, his hands coming to rest on either arm of his chair as he glanced over at Windu.

"Possibly, though even General Grievous isn't stupid enough to outright attack Coruscant, not unless he had something monumental to gain." Windu replied, glancing from Mundi to Yoda, who nodded in reply, sharing the sentiment passed by the dark skinned Master.

"Dangerous times these are. Unpredictable, our enemy is. Trust in the Force, we must, lest we become lost." Yoda replied, his head moving to survey each individual in the room in what appeared to be both a sign of respect, as well as an attempt to teach.

Even after nearly nine hundred years, Yoda was still teaching, even those on the Council.

Anakin had to resist the urge to roll his eyes. Surely a member of the Council had nothing left to learn?

"Skywalker, there is one aspect of your report that concerns me. You mentioned a 'we'? Who is this 'we'?" Plo Koon chose that moment to speak up, his taloned fingers clenched together as he drummed them against one another, a look of contemplation on his face.

Anakin had known going in he would have to tell the Council who he had worked with.

But that didn't mean he had to tell the full truth.

"The Chancellor sent his personal agent to assist me on the mission, as it was of both Jedi and Republic military jurisdiction."

Glancing around at the Council members, Anakin took note of their reactions. Some seemed interested, others seemed to accept him at his word.

Obi-Wan's face didn't change. Could he perhaps sense that Anakin was hiding something.

And then Windu spoke up.

"Yes, we were aware that Palpatine was intending of sending one of his people to investigate the ship as well. However we were under the impression that this person was merely a member of the Republic military, and not Palpatine's personal agent. Who is this individual?"

Anakin had also expected this line of questioning, and once again had prepared for it.

"Unfortunately, due to the nature of the missions undertaken by his agent their identity must remain a secret. Even I wasn't able to learn their full name. All I was given was a code name."

"And pray tell, what code name was this?" Windu replied instantly, his tone hostile and demanding.

Staring directly back into the sharp eyes of Windu, Anakin replied.

"The Huntress."

Once again, each member of the Council began to exchange a variety of looks. If Anakin didn't know any better he'd say they were communicating mentally, most likely about him!

The only person who wasn't exchanging the looks was Obi-Wan, who remained staring at Anakin, as if trying to work something out. In his mind, Anakin felt Obi-Wan subtly prodding his thoughts, asking for permission.

Anakin responded by slamming down his mental barriers, feeling Obi-Wan retreat in understanding.

"Unexpected this development is. A careful eye we must have for this new agent of the Chancellor's. All around us spies are. Careful we must be." Yoda said, his wisened tone clearly being used to end the debate. Anakin knew in time that the Council would discover that Ahsoka was working for Palpatine, but he'd be damned if he was going to willingly tell them.

Ahsoka didn't deserve to be harassed by the Council anymore.

Chapter Text

"... and then one day the Chancellor just showed up at my door requesting my help with a secret mission. He straight up just offered me a job doing something I was good at. It was too good to pass up." Ahsoka spoke through a mouthful of food, knowing full well that her manners were extremely lacking. She couldn't help it though. She hadn't had a meal this good in ages!

"Palpatine really just offered you a job as his personal agent? No strings attached?" Padmé responded to Ahsoka's story of what she had done since leaving the Order, delicately taking a bite out of her plate of food in the process. Ahsoka couldn't help but notice the stark difference in the food on each of their plates. Whereas Ahsoka had a large pile of well cooked meat wrapped up in a bun, Padmé simply had a plate of various pieces of salad, a thin layer of exquisite looking dressing on top.

If Ahsoka wasn't a carnivore, she'd most certainly eat Padmé's meal.

"Yeah, it seems so. He straight up apologised for the trial and even offered to listen to any problems or concern I have. I see why Anakin respects him so much. He's like a kindly grandpa in a way." Ahsoka replied, swallowing her mouthful of food in the process and shooting a toothy grin at Padmé.

"Palpatine has always been pragmatic, but honest. Even if I disagree with how he runs things I won't deny he's done some incredible things for the Republic." Padmé continued, reached down to her plate with her utensil to pick up another piece of what looked like a long stringy leaf, before placing it in her mouth.

"Yeah, well the important thing is that I'm stable now. He even gifted me an apartment at 500 Republica."

Padmé nodded her head at Ahsoka words, finishing off the rest of her plate of food before placing the utensil down on the table. Ahsoka meanwhile was still a ways off finishing her lunch. Barely half of it was eaten, as Ahsoka savoured every bite.

"I'm glad you are doing well Ahsoka, but you really should have come straight here after you left the Order. I would have helped you in any way I could, you know that."

Freezing mid bite, Ahsoka shifted her eyes to lock onto Padmé's, slowly lowering her bun to her plate in the process. Padmé's eyes showed nothing but compassion, as well as an alluring sense of guilt and worry. Just looking into her brown eyes made Ahsoka feel sad, as if she had done something wrong, or hadn't done something she was supposed to do.

"Padmé I..." Ahsoka began, struggling over her words, her hands coming together, her fingers fiddling with one another, "I didn't want to bother you. You'd already defended me in that bogus trial, and you had bigger things to worry about than dealing with a lost Togruta. Besides, the last thing you needed would be to be seen in the company of a suspected murderer and terrorist. It would damage your political career to no end."

The look that came across Padmé's face was one that Ahsoka had never seen before. It contained a hint of anger, but one that was mainly covered by shock.

"Do you think so little of me Ahsoka? I couldn't care less what people thought of me helping my aquited friend who was in need. You're still only a teenager Ahsoka. It's ok to allow someone to look after you."

Now Ahsoka was the one who felt guilty, looking down at her plate of half eaten food in shame. She shouldn't have assumed anything bad about Padmé. After all, she was one of , if not the nicest person she had ever met in her short life. Ahsoka valued Padmé's friendship and guidance as much as she did Anakin's.

"No Senator, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to offend you, I just… I just didn't want anyone to worry about me. Anakin didn't even want me to begin with, and after the Council all but threw me out of their Order I just… I just assumed I wasn't worth it." Ahsoka replied, her voice falling low in despair.

In an instant Padmé rose from her seat and came walking round the table, crouching beside Ahsoka in the process, who now had her head in her hands, and wrapped an arm round her.

"Well Anakin wants you around now. I want you around. Even the Chancellor wants you around. You have people who care about you Ahsoka, you just have to let them."

Ahsoka considered Padmé's words. Throughout her life she had been a sociable individual, making friends with everyone around her. Her nature as a Togruta was to interact with others, to build bonds and to work together.

But when the very people she had trusted, the very people she had allowed herself to get close to had turned and betrayed her, as Barriss had done, that was when she had changed.

Her sociable nature, her gregariousness and willingness to do everything for everyone had done little to help her.

Everyone, save Anakin and Padmé had turned and abandoned her, even the troopers she had served and bled with for years. Even Rex had done nothing for her. In the end, she had gained nothing, and lost everything.

That was why she had left. The Council's words, and lack of apology had hurt, but she hadn't been too surprised by it. In fact, Anakin seemed more offended by it than she was.

It was the fact that no one was there for her, that no one even tried to help her that hurt the most, especially after everything she had done for them.

So she had left.

But now, she was back, at least back within the lives of those few that had supported and helped her.

And if there was anyone left in the galaxy worth giving a damn about, it was Anakin and Padmé.

"I know, and thank you Padmé. I might not believe it right now, but it's nice to hear nonetheless." Ahsoka replied, raising her head to look at Padmé's face, a warm smile covering it.

"Good girl. Now finish your meal. You look like you haven't eaten properly in weeks."

"Heh, I haven't, not really." Ahsoka replied before grasping the bun in her hands once again, taking a sizable bite out of it in the process, before beginning to chew. The taste was exquisite. Not too salty, but not too sweet either.

Padmé began to move to return to her chair when a noise drew her attention away.

The sound, which could only be described as a fast whoosh, signified that the door to Padmé's apartment had been opened. The only question was who had entered without even asking for permission in the first place?

Turning in her seat slightly at the sound of heavy footsteps stomping forward, Ahsoka's eyes widened in surprise at the sight of the person before her.

Said eyes became even wider when the individual wasted no time scooping Padmé up into a tight hug, burying their face in her hair in the process, murmuring under their breath in the process.

Ahsoka could have sworn she heard something about the Jedi Council in the murmuring, but she was too preoccupied with the sight before her to care.

Padmé clearly recognized the situation however.

"Anakin, Anakin stop."

"No Padmé, I just, I can't, kriff the damned Council and their stupid decisions."

"Anakin, seriously!"

"Seriously what Padmé? What's wrong?"

Padmé spoke no more, merely gesturing with her head to the table where Ahsoka was sitting. Ahsoka watched with wide eyes as Anakin's head turned to notice her, not understanding at first, before his eyes too widened in surprise, breaking out of his intimate embrace with Padmé and taking several steps back in the process.

"Oh kriff!"

At that, Ahsoka couldn't help but burst out laughing. Both Padmé and Anakin stood looking sheepish, both their faces bright red as if they had just been discovered doing something forbidden.

Most likely because they had been.

When Ahsoka had managed to calm herself down enough to stop laughing, wiping the tears that had appeared in her eyes way in the process, she attempted to speak.

"You? And you? Together? Behind everyone's back? I was only teasing you earlier Anakin. I didn't realise how right I was!" Ahsoka said, devolving into fits of giggles again as she tried to keep a straight face. It wasn't that the situation was funny, but just their reactions. Both Anakin and Padmé stood there, guilty looks on their faces as if they knew they had done wrong.

And then Anakin's face changed to one of panic.

"You can't tell anyone Ahsoka! Not Obi-Wan, not Rex, not even Palpatine! You understand me?"

Ahsoka nearly burst out laughing at the desperation in Anakin's voice as he tried to contain what she assumed was a dark secret, until she looked into his eyes.

Within them, there was no hint of humour, or jest, or even the edge of cockiness that he so frequently held within his eyes. Instead, all Ahsoka could see was fear. Fear of losing everything around him. Fear of losing Padmé.

Glancing over at Padmé. Ahsoka saw that she too had a deep look of concern and worry on her face. There was no fear, not like what she saw in Anakin's eyes, but still worry. She too obviously didn't want to lose Anakin.

Standing from her chair, what remained of her food forgotten for the time being, Ahsoka approached the duo.

"Hey, I'm not going to tell anyone, you can trust me. Not like Obi-Wan and Rex are really speaking to me right now anyway, right?" Ahsoka explained, attempting to add some humour, no matter how depressing, into the conversation as a means of distraction. It didn't work but she did see some of the fear and terror in Anakin's eyes recede.

Knowing she needed to say more to convince them, Ahsoka continued.

"You two are the only people who defended me in that trial. You both mean a lot to me. I'm not going to tell anyone anything. You're both entitled to your privacy."

Both Anakin and Padmé glanced at each other, as if silently communicating, before their heads moved back to face Ahsoka.

"Your really ok with this Snips? I mean, it completely violates the Jedi Code and everything you were taught as a child." Anakin questioned, his eyes still wide and full of worry, but significantly calmer now. All elements of fear were gone now, for which Ahsoka was glad.

"A Code taught by people who outright betrayed and abandoned me you mean? Kriff the Code, and kriff their stupid rules. If you two can find happiness with each other, then why not? I'll always support you, as you did me." Ahsoka finished, a gentle smile coming to her face in the process. Hopefully that would convince them that she was on their side.

Both Anakin and Padmé glanced at each other again, their faces slowly changing to something along the lines of warmth and love, before they both turned to Ahsoka.

Anakin approached first, reaching out with his arms and placing them on Ahsoka's shoulders, squeezing gently in a sign of affection.

"Thank you Ahsoka, it means a lot that you trust me as much as you do. I promise we were going to tell you one day, but it was never the right moment."

Ahsoka nodded at Anakin's words, reaching with her own hand up to grasp Anakin's, pushing him back in jest.

"Hey now, no need to go all big softy on me. I think I'll take my leave for now, let you two enjoy the rest of your day." Ahsoka replied, stepping out of Anakin's reach and turning back to the table. Taking the last piece of her bun, Ahsoka stuffed it in her mouth and began to eat it, turning back around and nodding her head to her two friends, before moving past them and heading for the door.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Anakin watched as his former apprentice left the room, excusing herself in light of what she had just discovered.

When the door closed behind her, Anakin released a sigh of relief that he hadn't realized he had been holding. That had been close. Far, far too close. Had it been anyone other than Ahsoka he would be panicking right now.

But he trusted Ahsoka completely. If she said she wouldn't tell anyone, then he believed her, and it meant more to him than she would ever realize.

His relationship with Padmé flew in the face of every single tradition of the Jedi Order, of every aspect of the Code that spoke of attachment, and how it led to ruin.

But for Anakin, both understanding that aspect of the Code, as well as following it was next to impossible. People had accused him in the past of caring too much, and he had admitted to such accusations. As far as he was concerned it made him stronger, and granted him greater focus. Time and time again he had used his so called attachments to help him. His connection to Padmé, his bond with Ahsoka and even his relationship to both Obi-Wan and Palpatine had all helped him become the man he was.

Anakin Skywalker. The man who did all in his power to make sure everyone around him was happy and safe.

That was his goal in life. To ensure the safety of others. Growing up as slave had shown him that if he didn't look out for those who couldn't look out for themselves, then no one else would.

His mother had taught him that. How he missed her.

A pair of arms wrapped around his waist, drawing Anakin out of his inner thoughts. Allowing a warm smile to come to his face he turned around, readjusting Padmé's arms so that he was facing her, but so they were still wrapped around him.

"I'm glad she took that so well. I was worried for a second." Padmé spoke, her voice soft and gentle as she rested her head against Anakin's chest.

"You and me both. Don't really know why though. Ahsoka's not as close-minded as most other Jedi, and would never be malicious or vindictive." Anakin replied, resting his chin on the top of her head, enjoying the soft herbal scent of her hair in the process. He loved the various smells his wife washed her hair in.

"I'm surprised you would ever think that Ahsoka could be vindictive! She's a good young woman who only wants what's best for people." Padmé answered, her tone confused at Anakin's statement. He hadn't meant it of course. Ahsoka was not cruel, especially not to him.

Her enemies on the other hand...

"I know Padmé, I know, it was just a figure of speech. She's always had my back regardless of the situation." Anakin continued, tightening his hold on his wife in comfort, more for him than for her.

"You must be very proud of her." Padmé replied, lifting her head to look directly at Anakin.

"I am. Always was, always will be." Anakin replied without hesitation. If he could go back in time and tell his younger self that Ahsoka becoming his Padawan would be one of the best things that ever happened to him he would. He had been arrogant back then. Ahsoka had taught him as much as he had taught her.

Not that he'd ever tell her that of course. The last thing he wanted to do was over inflate her ego.

She had, after all, been an incredibly snippy youngling once upon a time. Anakin was almost certain that somewhere behind her mature attitude, that young girl still remained.

Focusing on the warm look in his wife's eyes, Anakin leaned his forehead down, resting it against hers.

"The Council is deploying me and the 501st to Ringo Vinda tomorrow, so I can't stay long." Anakin spoke softly, despair in his tone. How he wished he had more time with her.

But rather than share in his despair, Padmé merely nodded in understanding, leaning forward to place a kiss to his lips before speaking.

"Then we better make the most of our time together."

Chapter Text

The sound of her personal datapad vibrating as it indicated a message being received awoke Ahsoka from her slumber. The bed in her apartment was beyond comfy. She remembered arriving back late after leaving Padmé's, having been called to the Chancellor's office beforehand for a debrief.

Ahsoka had told Palpatine everything she knew, not that there was much that he didn't already know. In fact the whole debrief had seemed like a courtesy gesture more than an official meeting. The Chancellor had inquired what it had been like the work with Anakin again, and honestly, the only answer she could give him was that it was good.

It felt like nothing had changed, even if nearly everything had.

The Chancellor had let her leave after that, promising to call as soon as he had another mission for her. Ahsoka hoped he would have one soon, lest she go stir crazy again.

The weight of the day, coupled with very nearly drowning twice had evidently taken its toll on her however. No sooner had she made it back to her apartment that she began to feel weary, and upon laying down on her bed she had quickly fallen asleep.

And now she was awake, feeling far more refreshed than usual. There were no nightmares this time, about the war, or about her friends.

Instead, her dreams had been simple and happy. She was grateful for that.

Her datapad buzzed again, drawing her attention to it. Sitting up on the bed she realised she hadn't even changed out of her clothes from the previous day. Her wardrobe wasn't exactly filled to the brim with extravagant clothing like most girls her age, but it still held enough casual wear to warrant a change of clothes everyday.

Clearly she had been incredibly tired.

Pushing off from the bed Ahsoka walked over to a small table in her bedroom, grasping hold of the the datapad in her hand. Flicking her fingers across the display, Ahsoka brought up her list of messages, seeing two new ones that had appeared from Padmé.

Ahsoka had given Padmé her link the previous day as a means of keeping in touch. Padmé had insisted they remain in contact, and Ahsoka was more than willing to do that.

Opening up the message Ahsoka began to read.

'Hey, you up?'

'Feel like heading out for the day? I've had a great idea.'

Rereading the messages twice Ahsoka moved her hands across the pad, typing her response.

'Yeah, just got up. What do you have in mind?'

Sending the message off Ahsoka moved to enter the lounge of her apartment, glancing out of the large window panes and down at the city below.

The sun had long since risen over the planet, and Coruscant was basked in it's bright glow. Through the windows she could feel the warmth of the day outside. It would be a good day to do something with one of her dearest friends.

Her pad vibrated again, signifying Padmé's response.

'Just a day out. Figured we both might need it. I know you're not really a girly girl but I do know something you will enjoy. Not only that but I know someone who will be able to really help you out with something.'

Ahsoka couldn't help but raise an eye ridge at Padmé's reply. She was right that Ahsoka wasn't a stereotypical girl, but that didn't mean she couldn't learn to enjoy such things, if she was able to experience them that was.

And what did Padmé mean by someone who could help her with something?

Shrugging her shoulders, Ahsoka typed her reply out.

'Sounds good. Need a shower first though. Where we meeting up?'

Padmé's reply was instantaneous this time.

'You know of a place called Dex's?'

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

A short yet refreshing shower later and Ahsoka found herself wandering the streets of Coruscant once again, headed for the small diner owned by Dex. It would be nice to be back there as a paying customer as opposed to cleaning dishes as she had after leaving the Order.

The streets of Coruscant were, as usual, packed with various people of varying species. Every direction she looked she saw a melting pot of cultures. Humans walked alongside Zeltrons. Twi-lek spoke to Zabrak.

There was even a young Dug riding on the shoulders of what appeared to be a Dowutin. How had that come about?

Despite everything going wrong in the galaxy, despite all of her hard struggles and inner concerns it warmed Ahsoka to see that there were still some people out there that were generally happy in life. They hadn't experienced the harsh realities of the war, at least not yet.

Ahsoka hoped that they never would. That young Dug certainly didn't deserve to be forced into such a dangerous situation because a few politicians disagreed with one another.

Her walk through Coruscant's streets continued, more and more of the city she had always seen but never really explored coming into view. Even now she was still discovering new things about the planet. She supposed that was part of it's charm.

It was then that she felt something brush up against her in the Force. It was another signature, of an individual she didn't recognise. It was a mixture of emotions, influenced by the light, yet concealing darkness that almost threatened to overwhelm it. Whoever it belonged to was clearly conflicted about something.

Glancing behind her, Ahsoka attempted to spy anything suspicious. Perhaps she was being followed? Perhaps a Jedi had found her and was following her to report back to the Council? Had Anakin told them about her working for Palpatine?

The presence in her mind lingered for a few moments, before vanishing abruptly, as if it had either gotten what it came for, or decided against whatever it was doing in the first place.

Ahsoka waited for a few moments, her blue eyes continuing to survey her surroundings for anything out of place.

But there was nothing to suggest anything suspicious. No obvious sign of someone following her or watching her.

Whoever, or whatever it was had gone, yet Ahsoka got the feeling that they would be back.

For now all she could do was push onward and meet up with Padmé at Dex's.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

"Hey, glad you could make it Ahsoka." Padmé's greeting was as warm and welcoming as ever, standing from her seat in the booth she had picked and moving to embrace Ahsoka as she approached, an embrace that Ahsoka gladly returned.

"Not very often someone invites me out for food. Couldn't exactly say no could I?" Ahsoka replied, ending the hug and taking her seat in the process opposite Padmé, who also returned to her seat.

"Well you're very welcome. I also wanted to say thank you again for yesterday, and sorry that we kept it a secret from you for so long." Padmé whispered across the table, clearly worried about being overheard by someone. Truthfully it didn't look like anyone here recognized her, which was a good thing. To most people they were just two friends enjoying a meal together, not a former Jedi and a Galactic Senator.

Chuckling under her breath, Ahsoka reached out to grab a menu that lay nearby on the table, replying to Padmé's comment in the process.

"Oh believe me Padmé it was hardly a well kept secret. Most of the 501st had a betting pool on you and Anakin being an item of some kind. Not sure who will win but still, it was kinda obvious, especially in hindsight."

Padmé's face took on a mortified look for a brief second, before returning to the calm collected woman that Ahsoka knew her as.

"Well. I guess we'll have to be more careful when he gets back then."

That caught Ahsoka's attention. Anakin had only just come off of one mission, and now he was away on another one?

Did the Jedi Council no longer believe in having time off?

Then again, she shouldn't be too surprised. They were at war after all. She was just lucky enough to now have a job that didn't involve fighting on the front lines all the time.

"I'm sorry Padmé, it's not fair to either of you. Do you know where they sent him?" Ahsoka replied, shooting a sympathetic smile over at Padmé in the process, who smiled back at her.

"Ringo Vinda. Apparently he and his troops were needed to reinforce another pair of Jedi Masters. Hopefully it will be a simple mission this time round." Padmé replied, taking a second menu that rested on the table to look at as well.

"Well then," Ahsoka began, "I guess you're stuck with me for now?"

"I guess I am. Wouldn't pick anyone else though." Padmé replied, her eyes examining the menu.

"Except maybe Anakin?" Ahsoka teased, seeing Padmé's eyes look up from the menu and lock onto hers instead.

"Heh, maybe."

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The two hadn't eaten much, neither being particularly hungry in the first place, but they had still enjoyed the meal. The only issue had been when it came to paying. Padmé had been quite insistent that she pay for the meal, and Ahsoka had objected, storming over to the counter to pay for both of them herself. After all, Padmé had taken her in the day before and fed her. Ahsoka simply wanted to return the favour.

Padmé had been displeased at first, her face adopting a look of annoyance, before she resigned to the fact that Ahsoka had paid for them both.

Leaving Dex's, stopping briefly on the way out to thank her old employer for what he had done for her in her time of need, Padmé had directed them down a series of alleyways, into more parts of downtown Coruscant that Ahsoka never even knew existed.

"So, where exactly are we going then?" Ahsoka inquired as she walked alongside Padmé. The Senator from Naboo merely smiled gently before turning down another street, Ahsoka following with interest. Whatever it was that Padmé wanted to show her was certainly important, or at least Padmé deemed it so.

Several more minutes of walking later, which passed by relatively quickly thanks to Padmé discussing the current ongoing crises of the Senate, and it appeared that they had arrived at their destination.

Padmé halted before a door, one that possessed what looked like a flag displayed above it. The flag itself was coloured a deep grey, and possessed a rather ornate looking symbol upon it, one that clearly represented something. What, Ahsoka wasn't sure, but she could tell it was important to whoever owned it.

"Well, here we are." Padmé commented, turning to look at Ahsoka, who stared back in confusion.

"And where exactly is this?" Ahsoka questioned, gesturing to the building before her. It wasn't especially large, but it was clearly a commercial building of some kind.

But why had Padmé brought her to a shop? And what sort of shop was it to begin with?

"I know the person who runs this place. He's an old friend, and he specializes in forging armour of a unique nature. I figured that you could use a set for yourself in your missions for the Chancellor. Better to be protected after all." Padmé replied, gesturing towards the door again.

"An armourer? Out here on the streets of Coruscant?" Ahsoka inquired, confused by the sudden revelation. Ahsoka had never really been one for armour, instead favouring an outfit that granted her flexibility combat, something that benefited her combat style greatly.

Sure, she had received some criticism about her choice in outfits, and in hindsight, running around in a battlefield showing more skin than having covered up was perhaps not the brightest idea she'd ever had, but it had worked, and she had never had much concern for what others thought about how she looked.

Being trained as a Jedi had that effect. One didn't care for their outwards appearance. It was what was inside that mattered.

But still, times had changed, as had Ahsoka. Maybe it would be a good idea to see what this armourer could do for her, even if it was just something small.

Following Padmé through the doorway and into the shop, Ahsoka took a moment to analyse everything that was on display. Rows of pedestals and stands, with various pieces of armour hanging on them lined the edges of the room. There were chest pieces and helmets, gauntlets and greaves, and even a vast array of what appeared to be armoured capes, designed to protect one's back.

It was then that Ahsoka recognized the familiar design of the armour, particularly that of the helmet. The visor of one of the nearby helmets sported a very familiar and very iconic T-shape, a shape that was known to instill fear in many people, and was used as a symbol of violence and destruction, as was the rest of the armour that accompanied it.

"Mandalorian armour?" Ahsoka inquired, her eyes continuing to survey the assortment of armour pieces scattered around the room. Now that she looked even closer, she could see the intricate patterns that covered the various armour pieces, a telltale sign that all of the armour produced in the shop was of Mandalorian design.

"Indeed young lady, you do have a good eye!" A wizened old voice appeared from a second conjoining room, the owner of said voice emerging from the room as he spoke. Glancing up at him, Ahsoka took note of the man's features. He was human, and clearly aged in his years. Ahsoka was no expert at deducing the age of humans but she could tell this man was in his twilight years.

Still, it was his eyes that caught Ahsoka's attention. Despite the wrinkles that covered his face, they shone brightly, even in the well lit shop. The bright green of his eyes radiated compassion and trustworthiness, as well as a level of friendliness that Ahsoka would have never expected from someone who forged Mandalorian armour.

"Lukaa, it's so good to see you!" The joy in Padmé's voice as she moved to greet her friend distracted Ahsoka from her observation of the man's face, turning to watch as the Naboo Senator moved across the room and into the waiting arms of the man she now knew as Lukaa.

"Padmé my dear I am glad to see you well. What can I do for you this fine day?" Lukaa spoke, his tone inquisitive as he pulled back from Padmé, his wizened face softening at the Senator.

"It's not me my old friend, but my companion who could use your services. Ahsoka, this is Lukaa Nykaz. He's an old friend of my father's. Lukaa, this is Ahsoka Tano." Padmé introduced the two to one another, Lukaa moving forward to offer his hand as a greeting, which Ahsoka took in politeness.

"Always a pleasure to meet a friend of my favourite senator. What can I do for you?" Lukaa spoke, his tone returning to the joyful one he had held when he had first made himself known.

Truthfully, Ahsoka didn't really know where to begin. She had never really been shopping before, much less for armour, so she had no idea what to say.

"Um, well, I've recently gotten a new job that can be quite dangerous, and I've been thinking about investing in some protective gear. I don't know if you'd do anything for me though. I don't ever recall any Mandalorians willingly forging armour for someone who was not one of their own." Ahsoka began, making it up as she went along. She didn't expect to get very far. This man before her, who not only possessed a shop full of handcrafted Mandalorian armour, was quite clearly of Mandalorian descent. Why would he, as a member of a civilization that prided themselves on family armour, forge anything for an outsider such as her?

However, rather than receive the denial she expected, Lukaa simply chuckled. "That's because much of Mandalore's past has been lost in time. We were once an inclusive people, even if we were warlike in nature. I'd be more than happy to attempt to forge you a suit of your preference. I've never had to create a suit for a Togruta before. I see it as a challenge!"

Now that was a surprise! If someone would have told Ahsoka that one day a Mandalorian armourer would willingly forge her some armour, she would have laughed in their faces. What were the chances of that?

And what would other Mandalorians think if she ever encountered them again?

They'd probably be pissed off.

"So, what are you looking for then my dear? A full suit, or perhaps only bits and pieces?" Lukaa questioned, moving over the a desk that was situated in a corner of the shop, between a pair of pillars sporting Mandalorian helmets, picking up a datapad off of it in the process, his fingers lightly tapping the screen as he input some commands.

Ahsoka shrugged her shoulders in response, unsure of how to answer. Where did one begin with armour shopping?

Lukka seemed to sense her hesitation, a small smile coming to his face as he moved to stand before her, datapad in hand.

"A difficult question I'm sure, so let us begin with a simple measuring yes?"

This time Ahsoka could only nod in reply. Measuring sounded like a good place to start. She would hate to have a suit that didn't fit her.

Upon seeing her confirmation, Lukaa tapped the datapad in his hands a few more times before holding it up before him, the back of it facing Ahsoka.

"Stand tall and straight if you would. This will just take a second." Lukaa spoke, his tone friendly, even as he stared at the datapad.

Doing as instructed, Ahsoka tried not to flinch when a bright blue light was cast over her entire body by the datapad. The burst of light only lasted a split second, but it was enough that she had to force herself not to react, despite how startling it was. When Lukaa seemed satisfied, he asked for Ahsoka to turn around, repeating the process on her back. At least this time round Ahsoka wasn't blinded by the flash of light.

Nodding his head in what appeared to be approval, Lukaa lowered the datapad before moving to place it back on the table. Ahsoka could only assume that he now had her measures on it for future use.

"Now, tell me Ahsoka, this job of your, are you required to participate in combat?" Lukaa inquired, his eyes roaming the room, seemingly analysing the various pieces of armour that stood on stands, as if trying to piece together a puzzle.

"Yes, the missions are often dangerous and combat is rarely if ever out of the question." Ahsoka replied, following Lukaa's gaze as he continued to survey the room.

"And what sort of weapon do you primarily fight with? Blaster? Vibroknife? Something else entirely?" Lukaa continued, moving across the room to inspect the helmet design that Ahsoka had recognized earlier.

It was a big question, and Ahsoka knew that many Mandalorians did not look upon Jedi with any real respect, let alone kindness. In fact, she would go as far as saying that they hated Jedi.

Then again, she was no longer a Jedi.

"A lightsaber," Ahsoka answered, unsurprised when Lukaa's face span to face her, a look of shock on his face. "As well as the Force in general."

Lukaa nodded his head several times, understanding perfectly what she was saying. It was likely that he was judging her, but then she couldn't care less if he was.

"In that case flexibility will be of great importance to your custom design. After all, a Jedi who cannot fight well with a lightsaber due to lack of mobility is no threat whatsoever." Lukaa replied, moving over to another stand where a pair of vambraces sat.

"I'm not a Jedi, not anymore anyway." Ahsoka replied, trying to control the small amount of venom that threatened to seep into her tone. From where she stood off to the side, Ahsoka could see the sad smile that came to Padmé's face as she watched and listened.

Upon hearing Ahsoka's remark, Lukaa turned again, glancing over her with aged yet wise eyes.

"I see. I understand what it is like to walk away from your past. My clan all but disowned me for my interest in art and culture. The only one of them that still talks to me is my son."

Ahsoka was surprised by the sudden revelation. She knew what it was like to be disowned by those she considered family. At least she still had Anakin and Padmé, just like Lukaa had his son.

"I'm sorry that your family disowned you. At least your son still cares. Do you see him often?" Ahsoka inquired, trying to make small talk, if only out of politeness.

Lukaa's expression lit up in an instant at the question.

"Yes, I saw him the other week at his five year wedding anniversary. Married a young Countess of Clan Wren. They already have a young son and daughter as well. He's living the happy life with a clan that accepts him, unlike me. At least with them his artistic nature is appreciated."

Ahsoka allowed a similar smile to come to her face, seeing Lukaa lost in his own thoughts. She was always glad to see that people were happy, even in the midst of the galaxy-wide war that was raging.

And then, just like that, Lukaa snapped back to business mode, turning to Ahsoka with an enlightened look on his face.

"I think I know just what to create for you."

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Lukaa hadn't said much more that day, only promising that he would get to work right away on designing a custom suit for her. He had only asked Ahsoka two questions.

How much armour, and what colour?

Her answers to both questions had been whatever he thought was best for her. He was the expert armourer after all.

And thus it was, that four days later she received a call from him telling her her suit was ready. How he had made it so quickly she had no idea, especially if he had no previous experience in designing one for a Togruta. Still, she wasn't complaining, and she couldn't wait to see it.

Stopping to allow a trio of humans leave the shop first, Ahsoka stepped over the threshold and into the main room, being immediately greeted by a rather pleased looking Lukaa. Beside him was what looked like a case of some kind, one that could be used to store something large, yet still be carried around with ease.

Like her new armour.

Now Ahsoka was definitely excited to see what he had for her.

"So, it took some time and patience, as well as a little bit of research as to who you were and what you have done, apologies for the personal intrusion, but I think this will suit you best." Lukaa spoke, reached down to pick up the case and place it on the table behind him, unclasping the hinges that held it shut in the process.

"You did some research on me? How?" Ahsoka questioned, surprised by the actions of Lukaa. He could have just asked.

"Mostly from Holonet news reports about the war. Senator Amidala also helped with a few things that weren't public knowledge. You used to fight with the 501st Clone Battalion if I am not mistaken, and so I have decided to take inspiration from their armour designs." Lukaa continued, opening the case as he spoke.

Glancing inside the now open case, Ahsoka couldn't stop her eyes from widening in surprise.

Inside the case were various pieces of armour, each intricately designed, and each looking formidable. The largest and most impressive looking piece of armour was a Mandalorian chest piece, the design altered to allow for increased mobility. Rather than the blocky square shaped armour that most Mandalorians used, the one forged by Lukaa for her was oval in shape, protecting her vital organs, yet leaving enough room for her body to twist and contort in the midst of battle without any discomfort or hindrance.

A pair of gauntlets also rested on one side of the case, as well as a pair of what looked like combat boots. There was also a pair of shoulder pads present, and what looked suspiciously like a cape.

How was that supposed to help her?

In the midst of her inspection, Lukaa reached in and extracted the gauntlets first, holding them out to Ahsoka with open hands.

"These gauntlets are based upon the design of Mandalorian vambraces. They may lack the various devices that come with them, but they will provide you with not only stability of the wrist in combat, but also the flexibility you will need in order to properly utilize a lightsaber. I opted for a shorted design as to not obstruct the joints of your arms. A full sleeve could have caused problems in the long run. They are made from Mandalorian Beskar as well, therefore they should remain durable for a lengthy period, even under blaster fire."

Ahsoka reached out to clasp one of the gauntlets in her hand, testing the weight. It was light, which was not something she would have expected from the legendary Mandalorian armour made of Beskar. She could see why Lukaa had chosen to craft her a pair.

Returning the gauntlet to Lukaa, who in turn placed both of them back in the case, Ahsoka watched as the next item was removed and presented to her.

"These combat boots should provide you with extra comfort, as well as reinforcement for your feet. The ends are also steel tipped, which should offer you further protection from any foe who seeks to crush your feet. They can also have other uses, if you catch my drift." Lukaa spoke, a small smile coming to his face as he finished off his sentence.

Ahsoka couldn't help but smile back. She could imagine the damage that a steel tipped boot to the face would do. She almost felt sorry for any unfortunate fool that would be on the receiving end of them.

Lukaa passed the boots to Ahsoka, who promptly removed the ones she was currently wearing, before replacing them with the combat boots. She had to make sure they fit after all.

Once her feet had slipped into the boots, she began to pace around the room, getting a feel for them. They were comfortable, and didn't weigh her down too much, despite the steel tip. Even if they did she could use the Force to compensate slightly, but she wasn't sure she would have to.

"Those combat boots are built to last. They should fit you for some time." Lukaa continued, turning back around to the case and removing the shoulder pads next.

Now that they were out of the case Ahsoka could take them in fully. Much like the gauntlets it was clear they were also made from Mandalorian Beskar, evident by the intricate lines that ran across the exterior of the pads. Mandalorian designs in general had always possessed a rather iconic and unique look to them, filled with tall lines and sharp shapes. It was no surprise that such designs translated over to their armour as well.

The shoulder pads that Lukaa held however looked a bit different compared to the other designs in the shop. Their shape was more rounded, somewhat similar to those worn by the Clone Troopers. Perhaps this was what Lukaa was referring to when he said he took inspiration from the 501st's armour.

Or perhaps it was the fact that both pads were uniquely patterned as well. One was painted white, with a series of blue lines in a horizontal pattern, clearly inspired by the colour scheme associated with the 501st.

The second held a more unique design. The pad was painted a dark blue, and upon it was a familiar marking that resembled a diamond made from two lines in bright white paint. Ahsoka couldn't help but smile at her recognition of the symbol painted upon it, even if it was borderline vanity.

Returning the shoulder pads to the case, Lukaa extracted the next item he wanted to show Ahsoka. The cape.

It was long and black, a stark contrast to the colours she would usually wear, but one that to her eyes actually looked good. She could imagine herself wearing the cape.

Still, why was it part of the collection in the first place?

Ahsoka voiced her thoughts, and was met with a simple and obvious response.

"Why, to keep you warm of course. That cape is made of the fur of an apex predator from Shili, the Akul I believe? I assumed you would appreciate a connection to your heritage. Plus the thickness of the material should be able to protect your back from any blaster fire. Like everything I sell, it serves a purpose."

Ahsoka reached out with her hands to accept the cape when offered it to her, gently rubbing her hands along the material in appreciation. It was smooth, yet solid at the same time. Well built, sturdy enough to withstand fire if need be, just as Lukaa had said. How, she wasn't sure, but she knew from first hand experience that Akul were resilient predators. It took a lot to bring just one down. There was a reason the people of Shili were so wary of them.

Lifting the cape to cover her neck and back, Ahsoka was surprised just how warm it was under the cape. It wouldn't keep her warm in a blizzard, but it would help for any cold nights she found herself out in. Upon closer inspection she found that the cape had a hood as well, clearly designed to fit over her montrals. It could, in the right circumstance, provide a good way to conceal her identity on any secret missions for the Chancellor.

That said, she couldn't really see herself using it much in combat situations. No doubt the cape would get in the way given her preferred style of fighting. Still, she appreciated the gesture nonetheless.

It was then that Lukaa moved to another case that rested nearby, unlocking the clamps on it and lifting up what was inside for Ahsoka to see.

This time round Ahsoka gasped. Resting in Lukaa's hand was a helmet, one forged in similar design to all Mandalorian helmets, with two tall spires on the top of the helmet to compensate for her montrals.

Lukka had made her a helmet! Now that was a surprise.

"This is my masterpiece. It took many hours of reforging and remodeling the molten iron and Beskar to form the shape, but I am confident that this helmet will provide you with every advantage of a normal Mandalorian helmet, but adapted for your unique physiology." Lukaa spoke, joy in his voice as he almost bounced on his heels across from Ahsoka, lifting it above her head and sliding it on for her as a test.

The helmet slid on perfectly, and was an exquisite fit. It was neither too tight nor too loose, and Ahsoka's vision was not obstructed by any means. It was protection for her head, which was not something she had ever really possessed in her time as a Jedi.

The helmet also did not seem to interfere with her passive echolocation. She could still sense the subtle movements in the air around her without the Force, thanks to her biological advantages offered by the hollow organs.

Suffice to say, it was a perfect fit, both physically and technically.

"So my young friend, what do you think?" Lukaa spoke again as he helped Ahsoka lift the helmet back over her head, returning it to the case it had come from in the first place, before placing both cases before Ahsoka.

Ahsoka did not hesitate. There was no reason to.

"I love it all. You've done brilliant work Lukaa. Thank you very much. How much do I owe you?"

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

In total, the armour forged by Lukaa had cost her a quarter of a million credits, and she was both more than happy to pay, and more than able to afford. The Chancellor had compensated very well again for her previous mission to Manaan, despite the loss of the data.

Walking through the streets of Coruscant, two rather heavy but important cases in her hands, Ahsoka couldn't help but smile to herself as she went back to her apartment. Not long ago she had lost virtually everything in her life.

Now she had pretty much everything she could ever want. Credits, a comfortable place to live, a stable job, friends and some badass armour. Perhaps it was a little selfish of her to want such things, but after everything, didn't she deserve to be selfish? Didn't she deserve to have things that other people dreamed of? She had fought in a war since she was fourteen after all. Surely after all of that…

It was then that she felt something through the Force. A presence, one that was familiar, yet not at the same time. In fact, it felt an awful lot like the presence that she had felt a few days ago when on route to meet up with Padmé. Was someone spying on her?

It was then that movement caught her eye. In a dark alleyway off of the path she was walking, something moved. The shadows concealed their identity, but there was clearly someone, or something there.

And it was watching her.

Through the Force she felt a pull, as if whatever was in the shadows was inviting her forward to meet.

In fact, it felt more like it was requesting her presence.

The feeling in the Force changed again, this time to a signature, one that was light, but with a slight edge of darkness in it, darkness that was barely contained.

Perhaps this person needed help from someone. Perhaps they had sensed Ahsoka's presence and decided to seek her out for help.

Throwing caution to the wind, something that was common during her time as Anakin's Padawan, Ahsoka approached the alleyway, stopping just before the shadows.

The figure stood before her, concealed in the darkness, but somewhat identifiable. The figure wore armour from head to toe, including a helmet that concealed their identity.

And then he spoke.

"Ahsoka Tano, I desire to speak to you."

The voice was deep and distorted by the helmet they wore, but was definitely male. It had a slightly regal tone, as if respectful of the person before him, with an undercurrent of what she would call self pride.

And then the figure stepped out of the shadows and into the light around her.

In that instant, she recognized the design of the armour the figure wore. It was not like she could ever forget such a design in her life.

"A Temple Guard?"

Chapter Text

The figure before her, dressed in the heavy cream robes and armour of a Jedi Temple Guard, stood still, doing nothing, saying nothing. The Force around him did not move, but rather simmered in contemplation. It was clear that he was waiting for her to make the next move, whatever that may be.

Why was he here? How did he know who she was? Had the Council discovered she was working for Palpatine? Had they sent this Temple Guard to bring her in or something?

Ahsoka silently cursed the fact that she had chosen to leave her lightsaber in her apartment. She didn't think she would need it on the streets of Coruscant. The underworld sure, but not the upper levels.

But now, as she stood before the Temple Guard, her eyes were drawn not the his covered face, but to the lightsaber he possessed, attached to the belt at his waist. If he drew that to attack, she wouldn't stand a chance.

Her only option was to talk her way out. Lucky for her, that was what the Temple Guard had said he wanted in the first place.

"Do I know you?" Ahsoka questioned, keeping her tone neutral and her stance peaceful. The last thing she wanted to do was intimidate him into thinking she was a threat, even if he was several inches taller than her.

"Not personally, but we have met." The Guard replied, betraying no emotion in either his speech or his body language. What exactly did he want?

"When have we met?" Ahsoka replied, eyes hardening at the Guard before her. She hadn't known any of the Temple Guards personally, and from what little of the role she understood it was a rotating position with the Order. Perhaps they had met before this person became a Temple Guard or something.

Or maybe he was a fan. She had had those come up to her before.

"We met when I removed your Padawan braid during that hoax of a trial you endured, and again when the traitor Offee was brought to justice!" The Temple Guard replied, his tone far harsher this time round, with what seemed like deep anger within it.

Images flashed in Ahsoka's mind. Of her trial, both before the Senate and the Council. Of a hand reaching out and pulling away her Padawan braid with force. It was a feeling that she would never forget.

And now, here was the individual who had removed it before her. Had he come to finish the job?

"What do you want with me? I left in case you weren't informed." Ahsoka spat, snarling slightly at the Guard before her. She wished he would take off his helmet, just so she could see his face. She wanted to look into his eyes, to be able to judge his reaction to her words.

"I was aware, and I support your decision. I have not come to 'bring you back to the fold'." The Guard spoke, a sarcastic edge to his voice, "But rather to ask you about Offee's words. Do you believe they have any merit?"

It was a big question, that was sure. Ahsoka had spent a long time thinking about Barriss' words before the Senate. How she had all but called the Jedi servants of the dark side of the Force. How they were becoming the very thing they had sworn to destroy.

And despite trying to see through her words, to convince herself that Barriss was wrong and the Jedi were a force of good, she couldn't.

Barriss' words made sense. The Jedi had become Generals, not peacekeepers. Sure, they didn't bomb civilians or enslave species like Count Dooku did, but they still led an army of clones who had no choice but to fight. Men who were slaves in all but name. Men who willingly followed their every command at whim, who died for them, who occupied planets in the name of peace.

And it was the Jedi who led this, who advocated this. Sure, Palpatine had requested their help in the war, but hadn't it been the Jedi who had attacked the Separatists on Geonosis first? By that logic, hadn't they started the war?

Barriss' actions had been evil and wrong, but they had shown just how far both the Jedi Order and the Republic had fallen. They had been willing to execute a sixteen year old based on little more than suspicion!

All of that had only helped to reinforce Ahsoka's decision to leave. She couldn't in good conscience continue to serve the Jedi whilst they fell further and further away from what they were supposed to be.

But perhaps under Palpatine's wing she could still do some good, and not feel dirty about it in the process.

"Barriss' words have relevance. The Order is indeed not what it used to be, and if they do not change I fear both they and the Republic will pay the price." Ahsoka replied honestly, trying to keep any anger out of her voice. It was a touchy subject for her, but one that was of great importance. If she could get someone else, aside from Anakin and Palpatine to listen to her then maybe change was possible.

And if not, at the very least she had the potential to help one more person, even if it was a Temple Guard. A good deed was a good deed, regardless of the person it was towards.

The Guard remained motionless for a few moments, clearly contemplating Ahsoka words. Whatever was going through his head was clearly causing some internal debate however. Through the Force Ahsoka felt his signature fluctuate slightly, anger residing on the edge of it, threatening to spill out at a moment's notice.

And then he spoke.

"I appreciate your honesty Ahsoka Tano. I too have begun to have my doubts of the Order's decency. They are not what they once were, and I am left unsatisfied by my place with them. I want you to know that there are others within the Temple, a small band of us in fact, that share this opinion. We see your trial as unjust, as a symbol of the failings of the Jedi. The Councilors may have turned their backs on you, but you have allies in the Order. Remember that."

And then, with nothing more to be said, the Temple Guard moved past her, his long cloak billowing behind him as he left.

"Wait a minute," Ahsoka called out to his retreating form, the Guard halting as he was addressed, "Don't I get to know who you are?"

The Temple Guard remained motionless once again, not turning to face her.

"A friend." He replied, before continuing on his way. It was clear she was not going to get any more information from him, so she let him leave, hoisting her cases of armour once again and turning to go as well.

Even so, she got the feeling she had not seen the last of the mysterious Temple Guard.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Much to Ahsoka's surprise, the following week went by incredibly quickly. No call came from the Chancellor, evidently meaning he had no assignment for her. At first Ahsoka had been disappointed, finding herself going stir crazy from the lack of action.

To counter that, Ahsoka had found herself a local gym, and had proceeded to attend everyday for a rigorous workout. No one had questioned why she was there, or who she was, and Ahsoka found she liked that. It was nice to have her privacy respected for once. She had had to submit an application with name and address, but that was kept private by the gym itself. Unless someone recognized her it was unlikely that she would be pestered at all.

Over the days she found she was enjoying her free time. As a Jedi Padawan, free time was more often than not occupied with endless studying or practising various katas with her saber. Sure, she still did that now in the seclusion of her fancy apartment, but it was not the same. Before she had had the ever present monolith of the Order and its rules and regulations breathing down her neck, telling her what to do and how to train.

Now she could do what she liked when she liked.

Plus it helped not to have Anakin chastising her every time they practised together for her reverse grip. Why he was so adamant that she change it had been beyond her at first. Now though she understood. The reverse grip allowed for more flexibility with her maneuvers, as more often than not it would result in weaker, yet faster blows from her lightsaber. In contrast Anakin favoured heavy debilitating strikes that forced enemies onto the defensive until they became exhausted.

It had taken time, as well as many petty arguments for them both to come to an accord. They had agreed to respect each other's style of fighting, adapting what parts they could from one another in the process. It was why they worked so well as a team. Anakin would cover Ahsoka's flaws and vice versa.

Ahsoka always missed his company, as well as support on solo missions. Now that she was serving as Palpatine's personal agent, it looked more and more like she would be fighting alone.

Perhaps now would be a good time to rethink and adjust her combat style to incorporate Anakin's more aggressive forms. Not that she would tell him of course. She'd much rather not be responsible for his ego expanding twice the size it already was.

Resolute in her decision to begin a new training routine, Ahsoka glanced down at the bowl on her table, half empty from her morning breakfast. She had to finish that off first.

Outside the window the sun shone brightly through the blinds, inundating the apartment with rays of sunlight that bathed her body in warmth. Despite being early morning, it looked like it would shape up to be a good day for some exercise.

Finishing off her breakfast, a composite of various fibres and proteins in a rich soup, Ahsoka pushed her chair back and stood from where she had been sitting.

Reaching down Ahsoka picked up the bowl, moving over to the kitchen area and began to wash the bowl up for later use. There was no sense in leaving it around to stain the bowl when she could easily clean it here and now. It wasn't like she was in a rush this morning or anything.

Seconds later, she took back her words.

A loud beep sounded out several times throughout the apartment, a sign that her personal commlink was being called. Turning to glance at where the commlink rested on her table, Ahsoka reached lightly into the Force, using it to grasp hold of the commlink and pull it towards her, catching it in her hand and activating it in the process.

"Tano here." Ahsoka spoke, keeping her voice professional. She didn't think answering any call in a laid back manner would be appreciated, even if it was someone like Padmé calling her.

The voice that came through the call was not Padmé's, and Ahsoka was thankful that she had been respectful.

"Ahsoka my dear I have new information for you regarding the data you acquired on Myrkr. Can you please come to my office right away?" Chancellor Palpatine's kindly, yet authoritative voice hit her montrals, the tone nothing but respectful towards her. In fact it felt like she could even say 'no' to it if she really wanted to, not that she did.

If he had another mission for her then she would certainly accept it.

"Of course Your Excellency. I will be right over." Ahsoka replied, waiting for Palpatine to disconnect the channel himself. When she was certain the Chancellor had hung up, she placed the commlink back on the table, before moving towards her bedroom.

Reaching underneath the bed she pulled out the two cases of armour Lukaa had crafted for her.

Now would be a good time to test them.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Fully suiting up in her armour had taken some time, especially when it came to fitting the damned Akul fur cloak. In the end she had given up trying to attach it in a way that would not hinder her movements, instead choosing to abandon it in her apartment for the time being. She appreciated the gesture and all, but as it stood she had no real use for it.

That was unless Palpatine was sending her to some sort of frigid wasteland. Then she would most certainly double back for it before she left Coruscant.

Aside from the cape the rest of the custom made Mandalorian armour fit perfectly, and gave Ahsoka a strangely satisfying feeling. She couldn't imagine what Rex and the others would think if they saw her now, fully armoured up.

The only thing she wasn't currently wearing was the helmet, which was tucked gently under arm as she entered into the Chancellor's office. Glancing over at his desk she saw him analysing a hologram of what appeared to be a military base. As she approached she began to recognize the architecture of the building. It quite clearly belonged to the Separatists.

In fact, it looked almost like the facility she had snuck into on Myrkr.

Coming to a halt in front of his desk, Ahsoka stood to her full height and spoke.

"Agent Tano reporting for duty Your Excellency."

The Chancellor glanced up from where he had been studying the hologram a brief look of surprise coming to his face as he took in her new armour.

"Ah, Ahsoka, I didn't hear you come in. Please, sit." He spoke a moment later, the ever warm and welcoming smile that adorned his face appearing, compelling Ahsoka to sit opposite him.

"Thank you Your Excellency. What seems to be the problem?"

At her question the Chancellor gestured to the hologram before them, the smile on his face being replaced by a grim frown.

"My slicers have completed their decryption of the data you recovered from Myrkr, as well as salvaged what intelligence they could from the damaged data drive you and Skywalker brought back. From what we have been able to piece together Count Dooku and General Grievous are experimenting on a species of creatures native to the planet Myrkr. Why we cannot begin to speculate yet, as no intel in either source you recovered has given us a clear enough picture of their intentions. We were at a loss, until this came up." Palpatine spoke, tilting his head to the hologram.

"It looks very similar to the facility on Myrkr, just not surrounded by a giant forest." Ahsoka replied, inspecting the hologram for herself. The outside layout seemed roughly the same, and she could only assume that the inside was also similar.

"Indeed, and it may very well hold the missing information we seek. My analysts believe that the facility you broke into was merely an offsite backup facility. The data there was only one half of whatever the Separatists are doing with these experiments. Thus, if we can acquire the second half…"

"We can piece together exactly what Dooku and Grievous are up to… I like it." Ahsoka replied, a smile coming to her face. It was a sound plan. If they could understand what this weapon was, they could counter it.

Palpatine's hand moved gently across his desk, the hologram powering off in the process as he extracted a small data disk and handed it to Ahsoka, who readily took it.

"Unfortunately there is a complication. This facility is located on the planet Hypori, which is currently under firm Separatist control. We only discovered this second facility by pure chance." Palpatine spoke, standing from his seat and moving over to the window, looking down at the city below.

"What do you mean?" Ahsoka enquired, not sure if she should move to join him by the window or remain seated. Had she earned the right to treat the Chancellor as a friend yet, rather than an employer?

Palpatine audibly sighed, as if wanting to hold back some information for some reason. Clearly he either didn't want her to know, or knew it might possibly upset her for some reason.

"A Jedi Master and her battalion went to scout the planet for droid foundries and any weaknesses in their defenses. The plan was to cut off at least one source of production of their troops, much like General Grievous attempted to do once on Kamino. Unfortunately their ship was shot down and they are currently stranded on the planet not too far from the facility. With some luck they managed to transmit long range scans of the facility, as well as an intercepted transmission from the Commander of the facility to Separatist command about 'Project Nullify', before they crashed. With the stealth drive in your ship I believe you could bypass any external defences, infiltrate the facility and retrieve the information with the help of the Jedi and her Clones, and extract all of them back to Coruscant."

It was always good to have a plan of some kind, even if nine times out of ten Ahsoka had ended up improvising in the field, altering the plan in the process. Anakin had always supported and advocated those sorts of plans. Obi-Wan had not. At least, not always.

Standing from her seat, Ahsoka waited for the Chancellor to turn to her before she bowed to him.

"It will be done Your Excellency."

Palpatine nodded in appreciation, before retaking his seat at his desk, extracting a datapad from under his desk.

"I appreciate your willingness to assist in this mission. I imagine it will be hard working alongside a Jedi Master again, considering how quickly they cast you aside on mere speculation. I trust you will be able to work through that?" Palpatine enquired, his eyebrows raising as he questioned her.

"Of course Chancellor. In the field I am a professional."

Palpatine smiled in response, clearly pleased with her outlook.

"Excellent. I will attempt to establish communications with the General to inform her that you are coming. In the meantime this datapad contains a transponder code to look out for. That will mark the location of their encampment, which is no doubt somewhere hidden. Good luck Agent Tano. Go and bring security and prosperity to the Republic."

Bowing to the Chancellor again, Ahsoka replied with respect.

"Yes, Your Excellency."

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

From orbit, Hypori looked simply like a giant dust bowl. The planet was a myriad of shades of orange, some lighter, some darker, and some bordering on shades of brown as well. From space, Ahsoka could not work out what the terrain below would be. The colours could indicate a desert, or some mountains of various heights.

Or perhaps it was simply just an orange planet.

Glancing out of the cockpit windows of 'The Huntress', Ahsoka continued to hold her breath as the shuttle slowly moved past the Separatist blockade that was overhead. Upon exiting hyperspace at the edge of the system, and immediately powering up the cloaking device, Ahsoka had managed to count enough Separatist battleships to successfully invade the core worlds. If Count Dooku was using the planet as a staging ground for a major offensive, then it wouldn't be long before another series of brutal drawn out campaigns began.

That was the way in war, or so it seemed. A period of heavy fighting, one side assaulting the other, would then be followed by a brief respite as both sides recuperated and planned what to do next.

The cycle would repeat itself from there. One side would attack, war would rage, and then a period of little action would occur, only to be followed by a fresh breakout of conflict.

Truth be told Ahsoka was beginning to wonder if this damned war was ever going to end. How old would she be when it did? Where would she be?

Would she even still be alive?

Pushing that thought to the back of her mind, as she had no intention of dying anytime soon, Ahsoka adjusted the controls of the shuttle, angling the ship down towards the surface of the planet, and into the atmosphere.

It would be next to impossible to escape from Hypori in anything other than 'The Huntress', and there was no way they were fighting their way past a blockade of that size without being instantly vapourized.

That only left stealth as an option.

"All part of the plan." Ahsoka muttered to herself as she tightened her grip on the joystick some more, attempting to balance out of the turbulence of atmospheric entry. Despite the seemingly rocky entry, Ahsoka managed to keep it steady, and when she was certain that everything was stable, she reached across to the commlink and inputted the code from the datapad Palpatine had given her.

The code began to broadcast on a hidden frequency, avoiding being picked up by any Separatist listening posts nearby. If the signal was discovered, then the mission as a whole would fail and no doubt everyone would die as a result.

Again, another reason why stealth was so important, at least for now.

Precious seconds ticked by with no response, and Ahsoka began to expect the worst. Perhaps the Jedi and her troops had already been found by the droids and slaughtered. Perhaps this was all for nothing.

Perhaps she would have to infiltrate this facility all by…

The comm-link pinged in that instant, the sound of someone responding to her call. Someone was still alive!

"Thank the Force." Ahsoka sighed to herself, directing 'The Huntress' over to the set of coordinates that came through with the response. She was clearly expected, which meant that Palpatine had managed to get a message through, despite the difficulties he would have no doubt encountered.

Ahsoka had to admire his ability to get a seemingly impossible task done. The Chancellor was a very resourceful man. She saw now why he had managed to retain Chancellorship for so long.

He was far more effective in leading than a certain group of others were after all. And unlike them he hadn't turned his back on her at the slightest hint of so called treason.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Ahsoka had to continue flying for several minutes before something that looked like a good place to hide came into view. It helped that the coordinates she had been sent pointed the way too, but even so, it would only be a matter of time before the Separatists found this small encampment.

Before her was a range of mountains, varying in size and shape, andall very good for concealing what was between them. Glancing out the cockpit window, Ahsoka spied what looked like the entrance to a cave, one that appeared to head deep within the mountain itself. If she were to guess, that was where the Jedi Master and her Clones were hiding, waiting for her.

Her suspicions were confirmed seconds later, when she spied two figures emerge from the cave, glancing up at the sky as if looking for something.

They couldn't see her of course, thanks to the cloaking device, but at this point they could probably hear her ship. Her ship's engines weren't equipped with silencers after all, merely sound dampeners instead. Anyone could still hear the ship approaching.

Not only that but they would also certainly see her when she got close to the ground. The dust that would be thrown up by the landing would draw anyone's attention.

Angling the shuttle downwards, Ahsoka settled in for a comfortable landing.

As expected, dust was thrown up from the ground, almost creating a mini sandstorm, attracting the attention of the two individuals who had exited the cave earlier.

When Ahsoka was content that 'The Huntress' was settled, she power off several systems, but left the cloaking device active. Otherwise all the Separatists had to do was fly over when the device was offline and see her ship to know where the Clones were hiding. At least by keeping the ship invisible she was negating that possible outcome.

It would also mean that she would have to remember exactly where she parked!

Standing from her seat, Ahsoka reached across the the co pilot chair, hefting her new helmet up and placing it over her head. It was easier than carrying it everywhere she went, and whilst she wasn't too concerned about revealing her identity, it was good to have the choice to do it or not.

Besides, the helmet would offer her benefits, especially in the dark of the caves she assumed she was about to head into.

Walking through the shuttle, Ahsoka began to descend the ramp, stepping onto the dusty planet below, her combat boots leaving imprints on the ground below.

Glancing before her, she spotted the two individuals waiting for her, a look of surprise on both of their faces. At first she was confused why, then it came to her.

She had probably just materialised out of nowhere to them. They didn't know she had a cloaked ship.

That or they assumed she was a Mandalorian, given her armour. And given Mandalorian history with the Jedi and the Republic, it would be of no surprise that they were confused, if not apprehensive about her presence.

Chuckling under her breath at the thoughts, Ahsoka stopped to quickly mark the sand below her, scraping the front of her boot horizontally across where the base of the ramp that led into 'The Huntress' was. The marking would hopefully help her find the ship later.

When that was done she began to move over to greet those waiting for her. As she walked she took in the two vastly different figures before her.

One of them was clearly a Clone, his face similar, yet different, to all of the men she had served with for years. Running from the top of his head, across his left eye and down through his cheek at a diagonal angle was a thin scar, one that looked healed over time. His armour was much like that of many troopers, customized with thick red lines and markings that were no doubt representative of his Clone Battalion.

The second of the two individuals was much shorter, and much younger. He was human, and had a look in his eyes that suggested that he only wanted to please those around him.

He was also dressed in the simple robes typical of a Jedi, and sported a small braid of hair at the back of his head.

A Jedi Padawan.

As she neared to Clone and Jedi, the trooper stepped forward.

"Are you the Chancellor's agent?" The Clone asked, his voice teetering on the edge of exhaustion. He was clearly very tired, not that Ahsoka was surprised.

"I am. And you are?" Ahsoka replied, surprised at the sound of her own voice. The helmet modulated it slightly, not to the extent of it being unrecognizable, but distorted enough.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Sir. I'm Commander Grey, and this here is…" The Clone… Grey, spoke, saluting in the process before gesturing to the young Padawan beside him.

Before Grey got a chance to finish however, the Padawan did so for him, bowing in a sign of respect in the process.

"My name is Caleb Dume."

Chapter Text

He couldn't of been more than fourteen years of age, perhaps younger. Ahsoka was no expert on human ages, despite having grown up surrounded by them, and having one as her Master.

That said, Anakin may have been in his early twenties, but he still acted like a petulant five year old sometimes.

But now, this young Padawan that stood before her, the boy that called himself Caleb Dume only served to remind Ahsoka of one thing. Of one person.

Herself.

She had been as young as him when she was thrown into the war, made to fight on the front lines with the troopers, to bleed with them, to kill with them. To suffer with them. And now, here before her was another young Padawan who was going through the exact same thing.

She could only hope that whoever his Master was treated him as well as Anakin had treated her. If not…

Ahsoka shuddered at the very thought.

"Pleased to meet you young Jedi." Ahsoka replied, bowing to him in response, something that clearly surprised him. She wondered if he had seen the lightsaber attached to her belt and made any assumptions. Perhaps he thought she was a Jedi too?

"Sir," It was the Clone that spoke this time, Commander Grey, as he had introduced himself, "General Billaba and the rest of the troops are inside the caves. We've been expecting you. The Chancellor said you are here to rescue us?"

General Billaba. She recognized the name, despite never having met her in person. Depa Billaba had once been the Padawan of Mace Windu, and thus was known as being one of the more formidable Jedi in the Temple as a whole. One didn't train under Master Windu and not become dangerous. She only hoped that Billaba hadn't inherited her former Master's lack of decorum.

Billaba had also been a Council member at one point, if Ahsoka remembered correctly, but had lost a battle during the war that had left her in a comatose state. Clearly she was now awake, and had a Padawan to boot.

And from the confident way that Caleb held himself, his back straightened and his facial expression serious, it was clear that she had been teaching him for only a short while. The Padawan seemed eager to impress, much like she had been at the start before she stopped caring what Anakin and the others thought about her. In time, Caleb hopefully would too, and forge a much closer bond with his Master than he would otherwise.

There was a major difference between trying to impress someone, and them being impressed by you. If you forced it, as she had tried to on Ryloth, everything would go wrong. But if you let it come naturally, then there would be no need to worry about your Master not being impressed or proud of you, simply because they would be regardless. It was part of the Master-Apprentice dynamic. If you couldn't trust one another and rely on each other, then there was no bond.

Perhaps over the course of this mission she could impart some advice to young Caleb… assuming he'd listen to her at all. She remembered not listening when she had been that young herself, assuming she already knew everything.

Boy had she eaten her own words back then.

"That's part of the mission Commander, but I have another reason for being here. I'll explain once we are inside. Lead me to General Billaba." Ahsoka replied, her voice still modulated by her helmet as she kept her tone steady and professional. She didn't know these Clones. She had no reason to assume they would appreciate her normal style of communication.

"Of course Sir, right this way." Grey replied, before turning on his heel and beginning to walk towards the cave entrance.

Ahsoka followed behind, Caleb by her side the entire time. Out of the corner of her eye, and despite the helmet on her head, she spotted the young Padawan shooting intrigued glances at her as subtly as he could. His eyes appeared to be analysing the suit of armour she wore, as well as judging the differences between them. She wasn't much taller than him, perhaps only by a foot or so, but to Caleb she probably towered above him.

His analysis however did confirm one thing to Ahsoka. He had spotted her lightsaber. His eyes kept moving back to the hilt attached to her belt, his eyebrows rising and his eyes widening in either surprise or confusion. He was clearly trying to piece together something from what he could see. Ahsoka had to admit that for someone so young he was incredibly analytical. Obi-Wan would have loved to teach him.

He may already have at some point. Obi-Wan loved to teach some of the younger initiate classes around the Temple. Anakin less so, not that that surprised her after his initial reaction to her on Christophsis.

Descending deeper into the cave network that the Republic forces had decided to hide in Ahsoka found herself coming into contact with more and more Clones. Several waited at what appeared to be intersections, bathed in the dull light of several floodlights that the troopers had evidently salvaged beforehand. The power cells would not last forever, that Ahsoka knew. It wouldn't be long before all light ceased, and they were left in nothing but pitch blackness.

After a few more moments of navigating through various winding tunnels, Ahsoka found herself emerging into a wide open space, several floodlights basking a much brighter glow than the previous ones around the cavern. Clones stood in various places, some quietly speaking to each other, others being tended to by a designated medic. Some of the Clones glanced over at her, nodding their heads in greeting, despite only just meeting her. They couldn't see her face of course, but then she knew what that was like. She had never needed to see the faces of her own men to know they were watching and paying attention. She'd prefer to of course, but she understood the need for the helmets in war.

Continuing her survey of the cavern, Ahsoka's eyes were drawn to two figures standing by a small holographic interface, clearly one that was portable. She doubted they would carry an entire console down here after all.

The first figure was dressed in the white armour of a Clone trooper, his helmet off as he analysed the information on the hologram, which represented a Separatist looking structure, no doubt the lab she was sent here to infiltrate.

The second figure was a tall woman dressed in the heavy robes of a Jedi, one who either heard or sensed her arrival as she turned to face Ahsoka.

Behind her helmeted visage Ahsoka studied the Jedi Master's face. She had kind eyes, yet ones that were hardened by endless war and violence. It was clear she was no stranger to situations such as this, and was fully aware of the peril that lay ahead.

If she was as pragmatic as the rumours said she was, then Ahsoka would have no problem working with Depa Billaba.

"Commander Grey. Padawan Dume. I trust this is our contact?" Billaba spoke, her voice calm, but not as regal as Ahsoka expected. There was an element of lightheartedness in it that she did not expected from a former apprentice of Mace Windu.

Ahsoka couldn't help but wonder what Windu's opinion of her was.

"Yes General. This is 'The Huntress'."

Behind her helmet, Ahsoka's eyes widened in surprise. Since when was she called that? That was the name she had given to her ship, not herself!

And then it occurred to her. Anakin.

He must have invented some sort of codename for her to keep the Jedi Council off her back, to conceal her identity just as the helmet was doing so now. Why he had used the same name as her ship she didn't know. Perhaps he had panicked and that was the first thing he thought of.

Still, it mattered little. Right now she had a mission to complete. Until she chose to reveal her identity herself, then she may as well use the anonymity granted to her by her former Master.

"Excellent, well thank you for coming so quickly 'Huntress'. The Chancellor was not too forthcoming with information about this facility. Hopefully you can fill us in enough to plan accordingly." Billaba greeted, moving forward to offer her hand to Ahsoka, a gesture which Ahsoka reciprocated. The Jedi Master was taller than her, and had no doubt sensed the Force around her. Still, she said nothing, and asked no questions about it.

Yet.

"I'm pleased to help General Billaba. The Chancellor's reluctance to reveal too much information was necessary to maintain security. If our information is correct, this facility you have discovered is but one blacksite of a much larger research project." Ahsoka replied, stepping towards the hologram of the Separatist structure. She had her own copy of it on the data disk Palpatine had given her before departing, and she had studied it carefully during the trip through hyperspace, looking for any weakness that she might be able to exploit.

"What exactly is the nature of this research project?" The Clone beside Billiba questioned, his stern face turning to Ahsoka.

"We have limited intelligence I'm afraid. The last facility like this that I 'visited' held several storage tanks used to house specimens. They appeared to be studying a species of lizard native to Myrkr. Why, I cannot say for sure, but our intelligence suggests that they intend to create a biological weapon of some kind." Ahsoka replied, extracting her own data disk from a pouch on her armour and presenting it to Billaba. A hologram of one of the lizard creatures appeared before them, rotating slowly.

"So by all accounts we are going in blind then? No knowledge of this weapon whatsoever?" Billaba inquired, surveying the hologram of the lizard intently.

"Indeed, though one thing is certain. They certainly aren't engineering a form of medicine for their troops." Ahsoka replied, hoping that a joke would alleviate some tension she could feel in the air. Her presence here had not gone unnoticed, and whilst everyone had been welcoming so far, she could feel their trepidation through the Force.

A small chuckle came from beside her, causing those assembled to turn their heads in the directions of it's source, only to find a red faced Padawan looking rather sheepish and embarrassed.

"Sorry Master." Caleb spoke afterwards, straightening his posture in an attempt to be perceived as professional. Ahsoka half expected his master to chastise him, as many other Jedi would for such a response.

But instead, Billaba's face adopted a large grin as she too chuckled at the comment. "No need to be sorry Padawan. It was a humorous statement."

At that Caleb's previously straightened posture seemed to deflate slightly, something that pleased Ahsoka. She was glad that his Master wasn't as overly rigid as others could be. Ahsoka could happily work with that.

"Well, it's not going to be easy to get into this facility anyway. The whole area is patrolled by battle droids, and there's only twenty of us left." Commander Grey chose that moment to interrupt, his tone disheartened, yet strangely resolute. It was as if he was expecting to die on this mission.

"A full frontal assault is out of the question. We'd be cut to pieces, even with two Jedi and a whatever you are with us." The second trooper spoke, tilting his head to Ahsoka in the process. No doubt he too had spotted the lightsaber she carried, and was as equally confused as the young Padawan was.

"I agree with you there Captain Styles. Rushing this facility would only lead to fatalities. We must use stealth in this regard." Billaba said, her eyes turning back to the hologram of the facility.

"Easier said than done when you have a legion of battle droids between us and the facility. Unless it's escaped your notice, the facility is out in the open!" The Clone referred to as Styles snapped, his tone far more aggressive than Ahsoka expected. There was something about him that she didn't like.

"Calm down Captain." Grey spoke then, his own voice becoming hardened as he turned towards his subordinate. It was clear that fatigue, as well as the loss of many brothers, coupled with their perilous living conditions had left the Clones with a short temper, not that Ahsoka could blame them. War had its effects on everyone, even soldiers created specifically to fight.

Before any sort of argument could break out, Ahsoka chose to speak.

"Perhaps it would help if we did a little recon beforehand to help plan accordingly. Do we have any way of getting line of sight on this facility?"

"Yes, we do." It was Caleb that answered this time, his youthful enthusiasm showing despite the situation. "There's a tunnel that leads to an opening in the mountainside we are under. It overlooks the valley below where the facility is. You can see for parsecs from it!"

Turning to face the Padawan, a smile on her face hidden behind her helmet, Ahsoka spoke directly to the Padawan.

"Then lead the way Padawan."

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Depa Billaba surprised Ahsoka once again. Rather than stop her Padawan wandering off to show what was essentially a complete stranger to a vantage point to observe the facility from, she had instead not only allowed him to lead her, but encouraged him to do so. She was clearly training him up to be a strong Knight, one who would lead with respect and honor.

Ahsoka never would have guessed that Mace Windu's former Padawan would be so lenient.

Caleb had led Ahsoka down yet another series of pathways within the cave network, Commander Grey accompanying them. Several twists and turns later, as well as one section that involved crawling through a tight space, and they emerged at an exit, one that overlooked a large valley below, surrounded by mountains on all sides.

And there, sitting directly in the centre of a large flat plain was the Separatist facility. From her position high up in the mountains Ahsoka couldn't make out the defences, but she was sure they were present. Unlike the facility on Myrkr, this one didn't have endless trees and foliage to conceal it. Despite being surrounded by mountains on all sides, it could easily be spotted from above.

Thus they would have to have other ways of defending themselves. No doubt that meant many droids guarding the facility, far too many for a straight up fight.

"That's the facility down there Sir. It's heavily fortified with what looks like anti-ship cannons, as well several dozen squads of battle droids of many variants. It'd be suicide to attempt to attack that thing!" Grey exclaimed as he moved to stand next to Ahsoka, looking down at the facility. Ahsoka had to agree with the Commander's statement. The facility would be heavily guarded, and would no doubt have some nasty surprises in store.

That said, she needed to get in. And they needed to do it quietly.

"Then it's a good thing we are going to sneak in then." Caleb responded from the other side of Ahsoka, dusting off his robes from where they had crawled through the crawl space beforehand.

"And how exactly are we going to do that then?" Grey inquired, kneeling down at the edge of the opening on the cave, his own helmeted visage scanning over the facility below.

It was a good question. What they really needed was a way of sneaking in, as Caleb had suggested. Approaching across the open plains around the facility would be suicide, as would attempting to land her ship anywhere nearby. Even with the cloaking device there was a good chance that they would be found out and shot down.

Not only that, but if all went to plan then her shuttle was the only means of getting off the planet undetected. It was their escape route.

"There's always a way." Ahsoka muttered quietly to herself, continuing to survey the facility and surrounding terrain below. All it would take was a bit of patience.

Beside her she heard Caleb move, his own eyes surveying the facility below. Part of her hoped he was the one to come up with the plan, not so that she didn't have to, but so that he could take the opportunity to prove himself, both to his troops and to his master. She wouldn't force it, unlike her master had all but done to her at Ryloth, but she still wanted to give him an opportunity.

Then maybe one day he too could say he invented some sort of military maneuver or plan, as Anakin frequently boasted about of his own Padawan.

'Former Padawan.' A voice in Ahsoka's head whispered in despair. She was his apprentice no longer.

It was then that something in the distance caught her eye. On the opposite side of the large canyon, perched on an outcropping of rocks was something small. From the distance, it merely looked like a small dot, albeit one that was moving.

That said, Ahsoka could have sworn that whatever it was was watching her. The Force around her seemed to sing lightly, as if something was calling out to her.

"What is that? I feel something strange." Caleb spoke suddenly, reminding Ahsoka that he was there. Whatever she had sensed in the Force, he clearly had too, and was just as confused as she was.

"A mystery for a later date my young friend." Ahsoka replied, her modulated voice coming out surprisingly soft. If Caleb wasn't confused about who or what she was beforehand, he'd most certainly be now.

"Hey look, we've got another dust storm blowing in. Better get back inside." Grey chose that moment to interrupt, his armoured hand pointing towards a large orange cloud that closed in rapidly, beginning to conceal the mountain range around them, blocking out all sight.

Beside her, Caleb covered his eyes, retreating back into the cave network, Grey on his tail.

Ahsoka paused for a moment, watching as the thick cloud of gritty sand blew throughout the canyon, reducing visibility of the facility below to zero. When she could no longer see said facility, she turned and followed the Padawan and Clone, an idea coming to mind.

Chapter Text

Upon entering the large central chamber of the cave network Ahsoka made a beeline for Depa Billaba, who still stood with Captain Styles, analysing the hologram. Caleb too had just arrived back at his Master's side, bowing his head in a sign of respect to her, before glancing back over at Ahsoka as she joined them.

"So, did you find anything of use?" Billaba inquired, directing the question to her Padawan, eyes only for him.

"Nothing we didn't already know Master. Approaching the facility would be suicide."

Billaba nodded her head lightly, her shoulders slumping slightly, but managing to find the strength to praise her student regardless.

"It is a difficult situation Padawan. Don't beat yourself up over it."

"Yes Master. I'll try not to."

"Remember Master Yoda's words Caleb. Do or do not…?"

"There is no try. I know Master."

It was always fascinating to Ahsoka to watch other Master and Padawans interact that weren't her and Anakin. Every bond was different, and whilst they might not have been as outgoing as she and Anakin had been, it was clear that both Depa and Caleb cared deeply for each other.

Despite having only known them for less than an hour, Ahsoka was confident that they would be fine in the grand scheme of things.

"If I may interrupt," Ahsoka took that moment to speak, the heads of all three individuals that had gathered round the hologram turning to face her in the process, " But I may have a solution to our problems. Tell me, how often do those dust storms blow in, and how long do they last?"

"They blow in fairly frequently, and often last up to an hour, maybe even more. Why?" Styles spoke this time, his tone having changed from the hostile one he had used earlier to one that sounded intrigued. "Well, since the only way into the facility is across those open plains where we can easily be seen, I say we use the storms to our advantage."

"Are you suggesting we use the cover of a dust storm to sneak into the facility undetected?" Styles spoke again, understanding coming to his voice.

Ahsoka nodded her head in response, watching as realization dawned on the faces of the others around them. It was possible that they had already considered using the storms, but had decided against it.

Still, at the moment it was the only solution they had. In their position, they had to adapt and use what they had. If that meant traversing through a hazardous dust storm, then so be it. If she had to go alone, she would.

"It's possible. The droid's scanners would be scrambled by the sheer density of the storm, and they wouldn't be able to see us approaching." Depa spoke, a small smile coming to her face.

"But how would we see? The troopers and 'The Huntress' have helmets to block out the dust. We don't!" Caleb then joined in, voicing his concern for the plan.

"You do not need your eyes to see Padawan. We can keep them closed as we traverse the plains. The Force will guide us." Billaba reassured her Padawan, throwing a confident smile in his direction, one that he seemed to appreciate.

"I guess we could try it. Be good practice if I ever go blind right?"

"That's the spirit kid!" Styles spoke, chuckling in response to the Padawan's comment, gently patting him on the top of his head in the process, a gesture that caused Caleb to squirm.

At that Ahsoka couldn't help to laugh lightly as well, earning a perplexed look from both Caleb and Styles in the process, both of whom were evidently surprised by the fact that she had a humorous side, despite the joke she had told earlier. They still didn't know who she really was. Chances are they expected her to be some sort of uptight privileged snob, given her connection to the Chancellor and all.

The only one who didn't have a surprised reaction to Ahsoka's laugh was Depa, who's eyes seemed to narrow, as if figuring something out. For a moment, a sense of fear flooded Ahsoka, fear that she would not be welcome.

And then, just like that, the look of concern on Depa's face vanished, instead being replaced by a warm smile.

"It's decided then. We'll wait this storm out and when the next one blows in we'll put our plan into action."

No arguments came from the other people gathered round the hologram, which Ahsoka could only take to mean as agreement with the plan. Sure, it meant waiting for a bit, hopefully without any undue stress, but patience would be needed in order to have the opportune conditions to strike.

"Captain Styles, go and keep watch on the storm. Let us know when it passes, and when the next one looks ready to blow in. Caleb, go find Commander Grey and prepare the equipment we managed to salvage for abseiling down the cliff's edge. 'Huntress', a word?" Depa Billaba suddenly became General Billaba, issuing orders to her troops and Padawan, who both burst into action, one with a salute, the other with a respectful bow.

That just left her with Ahsoka, who could only begin to imagine why Depa had wanted her to remain behind for a 'talk'. Had she figured out who she was?

As Styles and Caleb left, Ahsoka found Depa's eyes locked on her and her alone. They were studying her, not in a harsh way, nor a judgmental one, but rather just pure interest. It was as if Depa Billaba was trying to piece together a puzzle somehow, at least that was what it looked like.

Chances are she was.

"I get the feeling that the Chancellor's primary concern is this secret lab, and not whether or not the troops make it back, despite what he claimed in his transmission. We all knew the risks coming to this place, and are all prepared to sacrifice ourselves if necessary, though I hope to avoid such circumstances." Depa began, her tone quiet, taking care not to be overheard by anyone else within the cave, a feat easier said than done. Voices carried easily in such open hollow spaces.

"In that aspect we are in agreement. I certainly won't risk anyone's lives needlessly. I'm not here for a suicide mission." Ahsoka replied, taking care to keep her own voice quiet, despite the modulated tone coming from her helmet.

"I'm glad we agree on the troops welfare then." Depa replied, a small smile coming to her face in gratitude for Ahsoka's words. "There may not be many of them left, but they are more than capable of bringing down the entire facility if need be."

Ahsoka didn't doubt that. The Clone Troopers were a formidable bunch, each unique in their own way, and each more than capable of completing any mission given to them. She was certain that a fair few of the Clones would rival even the strongest of the Jedi or Sith in a fight.

"Between your troops, yourself and your Padawan, this mission should be a breeze." Ahsoka answered, a smile on her lips behind her helmet. Hopefully she could inject some lightheartedness into the discussion.

Depa chuckled lightly in response, pleasing Ahsoka. "Oh Caleb could probably bring down General Grievous with the sheer amount of questions he asks. He will make a fine Knight one day, once this dreadful war is over."

"He certainly will." Ahsoka replied softly, turning from her position to glance in the direction Caleb had disappeared in. From where she stood beside Depa she could see the young Padawan in discussion with Commander Grey, a pair of other Clones listening intently to what he had to say, before nodding their heads in response and moving over to a pile of equipment they had gathered together. It was good to see that the Clones clearly liked and listened to their young Padawan commander. Caleb would learn as much from them as he would his own Master. Rex had certainly taught her a fair amount about war and strategy, for which she was eternally grateful.

"You would have too, had you chosen to stay." Depa's voice echoed softly within the cave again, the sound being registered by her montrals and causing her to stiffen in surprise. So Depa had figured out who she was.

'Kriff.'

Turning around to face Depa, Ahsoka spoke, fake confusion in her voice. If she could play innocent…

"I'm sorry? I don't understand what you mean?"

She expected some sort of negative reaction from the Jedi Master. Perhaps a sneer, or some off handed remark about the code and abandoning her principles.

But instead, Depa's face remained stoic, with a hint of compassion and understanding covering her features. Ahsoka knew in that moment there was no way of getting out of this without her identity being revealed.

"There is no reason to be alarmed Ahsoka Tano. You may no longer be a Jedi, but the Force swells around you in support. Whatever actions the Council took, whatever decisions were made in the past matter little in the long run. I will not judge, nor will anyone here. You are amongst friends."

Depa's words were meant to be encouraging, that Ahsoka could tell, and she appreciated the gesture.

However, there was still one burning question in her mind.

"How did you figure it out?"

Depa's smile only widened in that instance, as if she knew some great secret that Ahsoka did not.

"Many things give it away to the attentive. Skywalker came back from a mission with the Chancellor's personal agent considerably happier than he had been recently. Considering his sour mood could be felt all across the Temple in the aftermath of your decision to leave, coupled with a codename of the Chancellor's agent being a word used to describe the hunters of Shili, it didn't take a genius to at the very least have some suspicion as to your identity. You showing up here, fully concealed in what appears to be customized Mandalorian armour only further supported my speculation. That, and I can see your lekku dangling down from your helmet. That colour and pattern match the ones Ahsoka Tano was known for."

Ahsoka had to say that she was impressed. Piecing together all of that into a coherent picture was not easy, and was something she would only ever expect someone like Master Yoda to figure out. Anakin would certainly never be able to do it.

Still, she had overlooked the visible lekku, which were dangled down in front of her chest piece, exposed. Perhaps she would have to revisit Lukaa and find a way to get them armoured as well.

Sighing softly beneath her helmet, Ahsoka reached her hands up and grasped the gear, gently pulling it upwards and off, exposing her face to Depa. There was no reason to hide it now, and frankly she preferred to keep it off when not in combat. Easier on her neck after all. Despite the unique nature of the design of the helmet, it still felt rather claustrophobic to wear it all the time.

"Guess I'm not as good at this hidden identity stuff as I thought I was huh?" Ahsoka quipped, stretching her neck from side to side in order to loosen her muscles. Despite the usefulness of the helmet, it wasn't exactly light. It would certainly take some getting used to.

Depa merely shrugged her shoulders in response, clearly not at all bothered by the revelation of Ahsoka's true identity. It was nice to know that she was still accepted, despite what had happened between her and the Jedi Order.

If only more Jedi were like Depa Billaba.

"You could be Asajj Ventress for all I care. The only thing that matters to me is that you are here, and you want to help. Though I will give you one warning. The Troopers may not know exactly who you are and what happened to you, but Caleb most certainly will. Just be aware that he can be a bit… hyperactive at times."

At that Ahsoka chuckled. "What Padawan isn't. Think I'll go help him and your Commander with the equipment."

At that Depa nodded again, before turning her attention back to the hologram, no doubt beginning to study it for anything she had missed before.

Taking that as her cue to leave, Ahsoka turned on her heel, helmet still clutched in her hands, and began to move over to where Caleb was working.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Caleb Dume knew that being a Jedi Padawan in the middle of a war was both a great honour, and incredibly dangerous. All it would take was one well placed shot, one explosion, or some simple accident and it could all be over for both him and his Master. The crash landing onto Hypori had been a prime example of that. The vast majority of the Clones, of their men, had been killed in the landing, or slaughtered by the droid patrols that had come to investigate afterwards. Caleb had done his best to defend them, putting everything he had learned so far into protecting them, but it hadn't been enough, regardless of what both Master Billaba and Commander Grey had told him.

As far as Caleb was concerned, one casualty was too many.

"How are we doing Commander Grey?" Caleb called out to the Clone beside him, who was diligently working on assembling a series of hooks to the end of a long wire, one that would be used to climb down the cliffside. Caleb had always enjoyed climbing. He had found it invigorating, an aura of freedom about it. If Caleb could climb something, that meant he could get anywhere. At least, that was how he looked at it.

"Going well Padawan. You untangled that second wire yet?" Grey replied, his tone laced with humour as he continued his work.

Grumbling to himself, Caleb shifted his attention back to the mass of tangled wire he held in his hands. It would take a long time, as well as nearly infinite patience to untangle it all.

Pushing one piece of wire through an open loop he had managed to force apart, Caleb allowed a small smile to come to his face as he witnessed the tangles give way, if only ever so slightly. It was a step in the right direction.

"Anything I can help with?" A voice, young and feminine came from behind him, almost making him jump in surprise. Turning his head, Caleb's eyes widened at the figure before him, her face now completed exposed to him.

She was a Togruta, which he had already figured out, thanks to the lekku, and possessed a rich orange skin tone that made even the darkest of places shine. Her eyes were an equally warm and bright blue, a sharp contrast to her skin tone that just felt right. Her face was also covered in a series of intricate markings, bright white in colour, making them stand out to anyone who saw them. The markings consisted of several sharp angular lines on her forehead, as well as two softer ones on her cheeks, both of which would not be complete without the other.

And then it came to him.

"You're Ahsoka Tano!"

The declaration wasn't said with any discretion whatsoever, Caleb's voice booming across the cave as he spoke, drawing many glances from those around the cave. Over by the hologram of the facility in the back, Caleb could of sworn he saw a smirk on his Master's face.

"Wait, you're the one who came up with the Marg Sabl maneuver? I thought you'd be older." Grey's confused voice spoke out next, his own face remaining neutral as he studied this new arrival for the first time properly.

Not quite realizing the scene he was making Caleb jumped to his feet in a instant, bowing before the Togruta before him, before practically bouncing on his heels in excitement.

"Wow! Ahsoka Tano! Do you remember me? We sparred together once! Master Sinube invited you to help our class!"

At that, a warm smile came to the Togruta's face, as if she was remembering a fond memory.

"I remember you being the only one confident enough to challenge me to sparring practice, and ending up on your rear."

At that, several loads guffaws and laughs echoed round the cavern, each emanating from the various Troopers present in the cave. Caleb himself felt his face suddenly become incredibly hot.

"Yeah, well I learned a lot from you that day, so thank you Padawan Tano." Caleb replied, trying to cover up his blush that he was certain was showing with a wide bright smile.

It was then that the Togruta's face changed suddenly, a look of what Caleb would have called hurt or despair covering it, if only for a second. But why would she be sad? She was one of the best Padawans in the Order!

"I'm not a Padawan anymore Caleb." Ahsoka replied, her voice almost timid.

Caleb would have been worried if it had been anyone else. But from what he knew about her, and from what she had said, if she was no longer a Padawan, that meant…

"You've been knighted! Congratulations Master Tano!" Caleb couldn't help but boom out, once again bowing before her in a sign of deep respect. Around him he could feel the Clone's shifting moods, as if picking up on something that he was missing.

But surely there was nothing to be concerned about… right?

It was then that he noticed to look on Ahsoka's face, really noticed it. Gone was the bright shine in her eyes, instead replaced with an almost dull and dreary look, as if she was completely and utterly exhausted by everything.

Clearly something bad had happened to her. In the short time he had met her, Ahsoka had come across as a bright warm young girl who would never break.

To see her like this…

"I'm not a Knight either Caleb. I'm not even a Jedi anymore. I left the Order."

Caleb felt a sudden chill run down his spine, as if someone had just poured all of the ice and snow of Hoth down his back at once. Surely that couldn't be true?

"No, that's not what Master Yoda told us." Caleb began, his hands suddenly coming together, rubbing against one another in an effort to distract himself. Around him he spotted the various Troopers, each returning to their assigned tasks.

Ahsoka's face changed again, this time taking on a look of shock rather than despair. "What did Master Yoda tell you then?"

Caleb began to glance from side to side, seeking anything to help him escape the moment. This wasn't how he wanted it to go. He really really didn't want to upset her.

Still, he had come this far, and she had to know, especially if it wasn't the truth.

"Master Yoda told us that you were taking an extended meditation break after you were exonerated, and that you would return back to the Temple in time."

Chapter Text

Time seemed to suddenly stand still for Caleb as he stared at the figure before him, watching and waiting for a reaction. He hadn't meant to hurt anyone's feelings. He was only repeating what he had been told by the Grand Master of the Jedi Order himself. Surely he wouldn't lie, right?

But judging by the look on Ahsoka Tano's face, one that was a mixture of deep hurt and betrayal, not everything was as it seemed. Perhaps Yoda's words did not hold the merit he thought they did.

Before he could say anything more, the Togruta abruptly turned and stormed off, mumbling something under her breath. Caleb could only watch as she skulked into the shadows, heading back in the direction of her ship through the long dark cave network.

"I think you hit a nerve kid." Commander Grey's voice came from behind him, a comforting hand resting on his shoulder in the process, a gesture that Caleb appreciated.

"I didn't mean to upset her… I was… I just…"

"I know kid, but clearly you don't know the full story of whatever happened with her." Grey replied, his hand gently squeezing Caleb's shoulder, before returning to his work.

Grey's words made sense, and something within Caleb sunk as he understood. Why did he not know the full story? Had Yoda left certain parts of it out? He had known that Ahsoka Tano had been put on trial for terrorism and treason against the Republic, but he had thought her acquitted and welcomed back into the Order!

But then she had said she hadn't come back, and had practically all but thrown off the title of Jedi! Why had she done that?

As the stinging in his eyes forced Caleb to realise that he had been staring wide-eyed at the spot where he had last seen Ahsoka for the past couple of seconds, he blinked several times in order to re-hydrate his eyes and began to mentally trace the likely route she would take through the caves. In the Force he could still feel her presence ever so slightly, as if it was being concealed or subdued, either by her or by an outside party, Caleb couldn't tell.

Still, Caleb prided himself in being inquisitive, even if he knew it annoyed people. If Master Yoda wasn't going to tell him the full story, then maybe Ahsoka would.

Assuming she either trusted or liked him that was, and that he hadn't upset her too badly. For all he knew she was going to get in her ship and fly away, abandoning them all here to die.

Resolute in his decision, Caleb stood up, told Grey that he would be back shortly, and made to follow Ahsoka, heading deeper into the dark cave network with every step.

********************************************************************************************************************************************

His trek through the dark winding tunnels bore no result, at least not until he emerged back outside of the cave network. In the spot where Ahsoka had emerged seemingly out of nowhere from what he presumed was some sort of stealthed ship, he now found a brand new sand dune that had the rough outline of a Republic shuttle. Hidden safely within the bowels of the mountain he had never even stopped to consider what effect the sandstorm would have on their only means of getting off the planet, a thought that now made him feel even more uneasy than he already was.

Taking a step out of the shade of the cave entrance and into the bright hot sun of the planet, Caleb breathed a sigh of relief upon realization that the dust storm had blown over. There were still several small gushes of wind that blew dust into the air around them, but it was nothing like the storms that had ravaged the planet so far. He could actually traverse the distance between the cave entrance and the shuttle without risk of being blown away or lost in a thick cloud of dust.

Covering the distance quickly, Caleb halted at what appeared to be a dust ridden ramp into the ship. From where he now stood he could see that whatever technology was used to hide the ship did not cover it entirely. Up the ramp he could quite clearly see the clean and open interior of the ship, and could easily hear someone moving around inside of it.

Taking a deep breath in anticipation, Caleb began to ascend the ramp, ideas of what to say to her running rampant in his mind.

He wanted to apologise for upsetting her, but he also wanted to know exactly why she had reacted the way she had, and what she had meant by that she was no longer a Jedi. She had said she had left… but why?

As his feet reached the top of the ramp, Caleb couldn't help but glance around with interest. Part of him wanted to explore the ship, even if it was a bit small. It was nothing compared to the size of the Venator of course, but there was something about the shuttle. In a way, it felt like a home, designed not for war, but for something else entirely. Perhaps it had only been retrofitted for combat due to the war. It's design was clearly based on shuttles used by the Jedi Order after all. Perhaps it was supposed to be more like a home, such as the Temple, rather than a warship, like as the Venators.

Shaking the thoughts out of his head, Caleb redirected his attention when a sound of movement hit his ears. Taking several steps forward again, Caleb found himself passing through the threshold of a doorway and into what looked like the cockpit, one that was laden with various terminals and controls. There were also several seats positioned around the compartment, two by a terminal that displayed what looked like a galaxy map, and another two by what Caleb assumed were the piloting controls.

And there, sitting in one of those seats, her back to him, was Ahsoka, her hands gently moving over the various terminals and controls before her, probably running some sort of diagnostic checks. Caleb himself wasn't very good at piloting, or ships in general, not yet at least. Perhaps she could teach him a little?

The Togruta clearly hadn't heard him enter, only further supporting the idea in Caleb's mind that she was upset by what either he or Master Yoda had said.

The sense of guilt that had been building up slowly in the pit of his stomach began to flare again. He had to apologise for upsetting her.

Reaching a hand up to his mouth, Caleb coughed lightly, hoping to get her attention.

What he hadn't been expecting was for her to jump out of her seat in surprise, whacking her knee on the console before her in the process, hissing in pain as a result.

Now he had two things to apologise for.

'Great first impression Caleb!' His own voice muttered in his thoughts sarcastically, something which caused Caleb to blush as a result.

"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you jump, or upset you. I was just really excited to meet you and I got carried away and…" Caleb began, the words rolling off his tongue in a high pitched voice, one that Caleb knew was full of panic.

"And I said some things without thinking and I just assumed that you were still a Jedi. I didn't know you had left and never meant to upset you and…"

"Caleb."

"And now I've snuck aboard your ship and invaded your privacy and everything…"

"Caleb!"

"And you've banged your knee because I made you jump and I'm just really really sorry for upsetting you and…"

"Caleb! Calm down!" Ahsoka interrupted him again, this time more forcefully. Her tone wasn't harsh, and her face was flooded with what appeared to be amusement, something which again caused Caleb to blush.

'Well done Dume. You've made an utter fool of yourself. Some Jedi you're turning out to be.' Caleb's own thoughts circulated again in his head, making him halt before her spoke any more. Sometimes less was more, or so his Master had told him in the past.

Managing to hold his tongue for the time being, Caleb instead waited and studied the Togruta before him. The warm amused smile that had come to her face hadn't faded, and through the Force he could feel only compassion. Hopefully that meant she wasn't too mad with him.

"Don't worry about what you said, and don't worry about making me jump. I was just caught off guard, both by you following me and by Yoda's words." Ahsoka replied, gesturing to the co-pilot seat beside her, clearly offering it to Caleb.

"You're really not mad at me? I thought… because you stormed off…" Caleb continued, hesitant to take the offered seat. If he had upset her, then as far as he was concerned he didn't deserve to sit with her.

"No! Of course not!" Ahsoka answered, again gesturing to the seat beside her, the warm smile never leaving her face. This time, Caleb took the seat, turning around to inspect the various controls and displays around him. Clearly there was a lot to learn in regards to piloting a ship.

"That said…" Ahsoka continued, her gaze never leaving Caleb, even as he surveyed the interior of the cockpit around him, "I'm somewhat upset by what you've told me, but that's not your fault, is it?"

"No, I suppose not." Caleb replied, his voice lowering slightly in despair. It may not have been his fault, but he had still been the one to deliver the news, and said news had upset her.

So in a way, it was his fault, from his point of view at least.

"Hey," a gentle hand grasped his own, squeezing with the clear intent of offering comfort, "Chin up Padawan. From what Master Billaba tells me you're usually full of enthusiasm. Where's that spirit now then huh?"

Caleb felt a small smile come to his face, struggling to keep it from flourishing into a wide smile at her words of encouragement. She may not be a Jedi, according to her own words, but her presence was still a comforting one, much like it had been when he had first met her, even if it had only been briefly.

He would never say it aloud, especially not with her in the same room, but he'd used to imagine meeting her. Hearing about the adventures of the elder Jedi in the war, how they travelled around the galaxy defeating bad guys and saving people had only made Caleb want to do the same. He wanted to complete his training, become a full fledged Jedi, and help end the war. He wanted to fight alongside all the legends in the stories he had heard, fight alongside those he would call his heroes.

And now, here, seated beside him, was one such legend, one such hero. Many of the younglings had looked up to Ahsoka Tano, seeing her as a perfect example of what they could be one day. Her status as the apprentice of the 'Chosen One' only helped to increase her fame, and from what Caleb had heard of their exploits, they rivalled even those of the legendary members of the Order's history.

If Skywalker was a hero and role model for the Knights and Masters of the Order, then Tano was the same for the younglings. She was, at the end of the day, proof that they could go far and succeed in their career, and help people, even as Padawans.

She was his hero… and then she had left.

And now, here she was seated beside him. He had long since dreamt of meeting her again, of asking her for advice and to help him become the best Padawan to his Master. Who better to ask than the apprentice of the legendary 'Chosen One' herself.

The Force swam and sang around her, emanating with bright radiance, one that welcomed Caleb in, offering what he would call protection.

But beneath that there was something that he couldn't identify. It wasn't anything he wanted to avoid, but something else. Something to be cautious about. Whether or not Ahsoka knew she radiated such a presence was unknown, and he certainly didn't want to accuse her of such a thing, not after causing her to storm off just a few minutes prior.

For now, she seemed happy, and welcoming, and above all else, kind.

She was all he imagined she would be.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

Depa Billaba had warned Ahsoka that Caleb would be somewhat energetic… and she was right, to an extent.

The young Padawan before her could not seem to control his mouth, word after word escaping from it as if someone had opened the floodgates of a dam. The flow of his speech, of the way his eyes darted around, taking everything in around him at once whilst trying to maintain a stable conversation with someone he clearly respected all helped Ahsoka to determine exactly what this young Padawan was truly like. His outgoing nature, his friendliness, his passion all pointed towards one very familiar feeling for Ahsoka.

He was insecure. Caleb Dume, the Padawan that so far everyone had told her was always asking questions and always willing to help was unsure of himself. In a way, his persona was merely a facade.

And it was a facade that she knew well. When she had first been assigned to Anakin, she had been the same. Young, chatty and always trying to impress. It wasn't until her Master had revealed that he too was a child at heart that she had decided to just be herself, and not act like someone trying to impress everyone around her.

That and someone had to be the mature one in their relationship.

And now, here was Caleb before her, trying to be friendly, trying to impress. In truth, if he calmed down, and stopped worrying what others thought about him, then he would fit in much better than he currently did.

A peaceful silence fell into place between the two, with Caleb breaking eye contact to scan the cockpit, his eyes lighting up as he examined the various consoles with interest. It was good to see that he was interested. The last person she wanted for company right now was someone who was bored.

"You like my ship?" Ahsoka decided to spark the next conversation, choosing to avoid the topic that had caused her to storm off in the first place, something which was in hindsight an error of judgement. She would worry about Master Yoda's words later on.

"It's great! Does it have a name?" Caleb replied, his youthful tone still full of enthusiasm, but more reserved, as if he was calming down after realising that he hadn't done anything wrong.

The bright smile on Ahsoka's face only widened as she replied to Caleb's question.

"She's called 'The Huntress'."

Caleb's face shifted to one of temporary confusion, as if he was trying to piece together bits of information he had gathered.

"Oh, so that's why your codename is 'The Huntress' as well right?"

Shaking her head in response, Ahsoka watched as Caleb shifted towards a more contemplative look. His speculation had been wrong, and now he was trying to figure out why.

"No," Ahsoka decided to spare him the train of thought, one that would only lead him around in circles, "I guess someone heard the name for my ship and assumed that was my codename or something. I have a guess who it was, but I'll talk to them later about it."

"Oh." Was Caleb's only reply, as his eyes again began to survey the cockpit, taking in everything around him.

The conversation about her ship appeared to be over, for which Ahsoka was somewhat grateful. Even if Anakin had taught her plenty about ships and how to maintain them, she really didn't want to have to try and explain exactly how each independent aspect of it worked, especially not the cloaking device. She barely understood how it worked herself, let alone trying to explain it to someone else.

"So, what was it like to be trained by 'The Chosen One'?" Caleb was the one who sparked up the conversation this time, asking her a question many Jedi had asked of her in the past. Anakin's prodigal status around the Temple was something of both great respect, but great stress at the same time. He had never outright said it, but she could tell the title and expectations that came with it wore on Anakin. He didn't want to be some legendary 'Chosen One'. He just wanted to be Anakin.

"It was, unique, but rewarding. Anakin isn't like other Jedi. He doesn't let the traditions and restrictions of the Jedi stop him from helping people, and he cares deeply about everyone around him, even if he barely knows them, and would go to any lengths to help them should the need arise, especially if they are threatened. I couldn't have asked for a better Master, truth be told." Ahsoka replied, trying not to let her voice grow too nostalgic or wistful, even as flashes of memories of her time by Anakin's side flooded to the front of her mind. How she missed working by his side every day, even if she had done so recently.

"You call you Master by his first name? Not 'Master Skywalker?" Caleb questioned again, his eyes widening at her description of her time as Anakin's Padawan.

It was a funny thing, now that Ahsoka thought about it. She did very often refer to her Master in a casual manner, either calling him directly by his name, or the somewhat endearing yet also aggravating nickname she had coined for him on Christophsis. Rarely did she ever refer to him as 'Master Skywalker, and usually she only did so because she was in company of people who had expectations of her as a Jedi. If she went around calling him Anakin all the time, people might have looked down on her, or worse, down on his teaching methods.

So in public, she had kept up the facade of being a dutiful and respectful Padawan. But when it was just the two of them, or they were around friends, he was always 'Anakin' to her.

And she had always been 'Ahsoka', or 'Snips' to him. It was just their way of doing things.

"I don't think my Master would approve if I called her by her first name." Caleb replied, interrupting Ahsoka's train of thought. Glancing over at the Padawan she saw him slouch slightly in his chair, as if something was wrong with him. Was he perhaps jealous that she had a closer relationship to her Master than he did his?

"Well what about you then?" Ahsoka continued, a wide smile coming to her face as she began to radiate a feeling of openness through the Force, hoping to welcome him and set his mind at ease. "What's Master Billaba like to train with?"

Caleb's previous despondent look changed in an instant, his eyes flaring up, evidently full of energy and enthusiasm as he began to speak.

"Oh, she's a brilliant Master. I'm honoured that she chose me. She's kind, and patient, and very powerful with the Force. Just being around her makes me feel like I can conquer the universe and make her proud of me. That's all I really want, to be the perfect Padawan. She's a perfect Master after all."

Ahsoka was glad that Caleb was comfortable enough to talk about his training, even if it was only a description of his Master. From the way he had described Depa Billaba it seemed that she could do no wrong. Ahsoka knew firsthand however that Jedi Masters were more than capable of making mistakes. No one was perfect. In fact, being perfect was one of the worst possible things one could be.

Back when she had first been assigned to Anakin she had wanted to be perfect, to impress, and to achieve the greatness she knew she was capable of.

But under Anakin's teachings she had learnt to just be herself, and that there was always some new lesson to learn, or something to improve upon. If you were perfect, you could go no further. But if you weren't perfect, then at the very least you have room to improve.

Perhaps it was the unorthodox methods of Anakin Skywalker that had given her that mentality, or perhaps it was something else. Needless to say, she was happy with just being average, even if Anakin would always brag about how brilliant she was.

Caleb would, in time, learn to be the same, and to accept his place by his Master's side, regardless of whether or not either of them were perfect.

But for now, she would let him hero worship his Master. She had done the same to hers at first, much to her embarrassment, and to Anakin's jubilation.

Just when she was about to respond to Caleb's statement, a series of beeps echoed around the cockpit, originating from Caleb's wrist-com.

The young Padawan's face took an immediate turn to the serious side, something that impressed Ahsoka, before he tapped the receive icon lightly, his Master's voice coming through comm in response.

"Padawan, can you and 'The Huntress' report to the command centre… if you can call it that. Captain Styles reports another storm is on its way. If we are going to strike, now's the time."

"Copy that Master. We are on our way."

Chapter Text

Ahsoka had been in this position many times before. Back when she had first started, mission briefings had been one of two things for her. Boring…

Or, if she was the one giving the briefing, downright terrifying. Back then, she had been convinced that no one would ever want to listen to her in a million years. After all, who would listen to, and take military commands from, a fourteen year old girl, especially one of her stature?

But as time had passed, as campaigns had been fought and won, she had learnt to listen, learnt how to plan.

And while she would never think of herself as a strategic genius on the level of people like Yularen or Obi-Wan, she at least believed now that she was capable of leading, and that people would listen to her.

That, in turn, made meetings such as these far more interesting, and far less scary at the same time.

Standing tall beside Depa Billaba, Ahsoka faced the assembled Clone Troopers, some who had their faces exposed, others who did not. Each seemed to be listening intently as their Jedi General ran through the plan that they had decided upon earlier. Those whose faces were visible did not display any hint of doubt or anger at the plan and it's dangers. Each seemed willing to go ahead with it, and one or two looked almost excited to try something so unorthodox. Ahsoka hated risking the lives of anyone, but if it was their choice, then so be it.

She would have gone alone if necessary, but these men seemed to want to help her.

And who was she to deny them that opportunity. They had every right to be here too.

Even so, this moment also always unsettled her a bit, even after three years of constant war. She knew that no matter how prepared the Clones were or how good the plan was, some of them would almost certainly be wounded or killed, resulting in piles of white armoured bodies laying strewn around the battlefield, blaster marks and other egregious wounds marking their bodies whilst other troopers celebrated around them, rejoicing in their survival. It was a painful fact of war that sometimes made her wonder if it would all be worth it in the end.

"...once we are close enough to the facility, we will find a way inside. Stealth will be key and must be maintained as long as feasibly possible, even after we have entered the facility. If we are spotted beforehand…" Depa continued her explanation, drawing Ahsoka out of her inner thoughts. On the other side of Depa, Ahsoka spotted Caleb, a wide smile on his face, one that radiated confidence. She wouldn't be surprised if he was the true source of the Clone's willingness to help. The 501st had certainly taken her into their fold with open arms, doing everything in their power to help and care for their rambunctious 'Little Togruta Sister', as Fives had once called her.

'Except for help you prove your innocence that is. They didn't help you then!'

Shaking her head to rid herself of the darker voice in her head, one that had been popping up more frequently since leaving the Order, Ahsoka focused on the briefing at hand once more, catching the tail end of a comment made by one of the helmeted troopers.

"We become target practise. Wonderful." The comment was said with some sarcasm, something that got a chuckle out of a few of the assembled Clones, as well as a tug of the lips from Depa herself.

"Well Big-Mouth, as long as you keep quiet we should be fine." Commander Grey spoke next, slugging the trooper who had spoken gently on the arm with his fist, a smirk on his face.

"I'll try my best Commander." The Clone, Big-Mouth, responded, his focus shifting back to Depa.

Depa nodded again before gesturing to the pile of rappelling equipment that had been thoroughly sorted out nearby.

"Now, when the storm hits the wind speed will make the climb down the cliff face dangerous, so take extreme caution on the way down. A fall from this height will certainly kill you, though myself, Caleb and our guest here will do everything we can to prevent a hard landing if the worst comes to pass." During the Jedi Master's detailing of the plan, several of the Clones locked their gaze with Ahsoka's, some nodding their heads in a welcoming sign of respect, others simply staring at her, either judging her, or trying to figure her out.

Ahsoka understood. She had yet to prove herself to them. Hopefully she would do just that on this mission.

A light cough echoed through the open space of the cavern, gaining the attention of everyone assembled, each of whom turned to look at Captain Styles, who clearly had a question in mind.

"Not to sound impudent General, but how exactly are we getting out of that facility once we have whatever it is we are after? I don't think stealing a Separatist ship is really the best solution, and then there's that blockade in orbit to worry about."

This was one part of the plan that hadn't been actively discussed, a fact that was an error in hindsight considering the type of mission they were about to undertake.

Still, Ahsoka hadn't trained under the Masters of Improvisation without learning a thing or two.

"We'll use my ship for extraction. It has a prototype stealth drive that should allow whoever is piloting to just swoop down and pick us up. To the Separatists it will look like we vanished into thin air." Ahsoka replied, her comment gaining the attention of the troopers present, all of whom seemed to nod their heads in understanding and acceptance.

All except Styles that was.

"Well then if you've got an invisible ship why don't we just take it and land at the clanker's base rather than sneak in through a storm. We definitely won't be seen then!"

Ahsoka had entertained the idea already. At first glance it made sense, but upon closer inspection, there was one fatal flaw with it.

"My ship may be hidden from sight and sensors, but you can still hear it, and it will throw up a lot of dust, even during a storm. We'd be found out before we even got into the base. We need to use the ship as our means of extraction only. Gotta save some surprises for the Separatists after all."

Ahsoka's explanation seemed to be accepted by the irate Clone Captain. Styles may not have been the nicest Clone she had ever encountered, but he clearly knew his way round a battlefield and was adept at tactics and strategy.

That alone made him an excellent trooper.

That said, Ahsoka was certain he wasn't going to like his assignment on this mission.

"Now, our numbers are limited on this mission due to the injuries sustained by some. Two of our troopers need constant medical attention or they will die. That means our medic will remain behind with Styles, who will be in charge of piloting 'The Huntresses' ship to extract us. The rest of you will accompany us through the storm." Depa began again, issuing commands to all, which Ahsoka could see was received with nods of respect, as well as glances of concern towards where two troopers lay on makeshift gurneys in the back, tended to by a single Clone medic. Even Styles seemed to accept his orders with ease and understanding. Perhaps he was grateful for the opportunity to play the rescue party for once.

Glancing back over the rest of the assembled team, Ahsoka did a quick headcount, a habit she had picked up from Rex.

Sixteen of them would go on this mission. Thirteen Clones, two Jedi, and her. Not exactly what she would call an army, but a team both small and large enough to complete the mission.

Reaching down to pick up her helmet, Ahsoka threw an encouraging, if not slightly cocky smile at Caleb, one that he returned, before placing it over her head.

"Right then. Time to get moving."

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The wind was, as expected, pure hell, especially when one was dangling from a long rope attached by a single hook to the top of a mountain as you abseiled. Even worse was the dust blowing everywhere. The wind was harsh, but as dust particle after dust particle grazed across the exposed skin of his face it felt like his face was on fire. He was almost certain it would be heavily swollen once this was all over.

To make matters worse, and not that he would want to, given the circumstances, Caleb could not open his eyes. He had to climb, down a sheer cliff face, attached to a frankly flimsy rope in the middle of a storm, completely and utterly blind!

It was times like these that he missed the warm comforting nature of the Temple creche. This was not the kind of adventures he had in mind when he had become a Padawan.

A warm comforting presence wrapped around him in that moment through the Force, offering nothing but encouragement and compassion. His Master was a welcome presence in the Force, and one of the few that he would openly embrace if she called to him. He only hoped she didn't think less of him for accepting her comfort. Attachment, in any fashion, was not the way of the Jedi after all.

Continuing to climb down the side of the mountain face, hands tightly gripping what outcroppings he could find with all his strength, Caleb focused himself, delving deep into the Force simply to see.

Around him he could feel the presence of the Clones, even if they were not sensitive to the Force themselves. They too were climbing downwards, some attached to ropes not his own, others both above and below him on the same rope. They had the luxury of wearing a helmet, meaning they could at the very least have their eyes open and their skin protected from the hazardous conditions. The thought that his troops, his friends, were at least safe spurred him onward.

Continuing to reach around in the Force he found the convoluted presence that was Ahsoka Tano. She radiated outgoing warmth, but deep within her presence there was something else. A sense of determination, of focus, one that was almost borderline obsessive in a way. He got the distinct feeling that she was a very different person when on a mission as opposed to when not. Hopefully she wouldn't turn into some scary order giving drill Sergeant like the ones the Clones spoke of sometimes.

Steeling himself to push onward, or downwards as the situation would have it, Caleb continued to descend, taking it slow and steady, yet fully aware of the fact that Commander Grey was directly above him, waiting for him. The Commander seemed to not mind however, at least that was the feeling Caleb got through the Force.

After several more minutes of harsh windswept abseiling, Caleb finally felt his feet hit solid ground, and nearly jumped for joy. His eyes were still clamped shut, his vision swimming in a sea of black, but that wasn't going to stop him. He had come this far, and had survived what he would call the hardest challenge of his time as Depa Billaba's Padawan so far.

Now all he had to do was survive the rest.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Behind her helmeted visage, Ahsoka surveyed her surroundings.

Dust, dust and more dust. That and the occasional dark outline of a figure before her, one that could be Clone or Jedi.

The wind was harsh, much harsher than she had been expecting, and no doubt the dust was making life a living hell for both Caleb and his Master. She shouldn't have asked for them to come along. She should have come alone.

But now wasn't the time, and there was nothing that could be done. She was here, and so were they. Now all they had to do was cross the storm ridden plains and sneak into the facility unnoticed. Hopefully it would all go to plan.

Gesturing to one of the shadowed figures before her, one that she was just able to make out as Commander Grey, she indicated towards the general direction of the facility, one that was equally hidden from view. Chances were they wouldn't know it was there until they walked right into one of the walls.

Or right into a battledroid.

Grey nodded his helmeted head in confirmation, before disappearing into the storm before her, no doubt to inform the others. Content that they were ready, Ahsoka too began to push through the harsh winds of the dust storm, heading in the direction she had previously indicated. She had no idea how far they would have to walk, despite seeing the distance earlier in the day. Even if she could remember, the storm around her had a way of disorientating people. It was quite possible that she was simply walking round in circles.

It was quite possible they all were… but still she pressed onward through the storm, her arms coming up to shield her face on instinct despite the helmet. She still wasn't used to it being over her head, though it was certainly proving its worth right now.

As she moved slowly and steadily through the storm a pair of figures appeared before her, walking side by side keeping one another balanced in the harsh storm. As she neared them she was able to make out their identities. One was the Clone referred to as 'Big-Mouth' whilst the other was Caleb. Clearly the two were sticking together in hopes of success. Reaching through the Force she subtly brushed her presence up against the young Padawan's, informing him that she was there, as well as trying to reassure him. Through the Force she felt him acknowledge her, his ever bright and warm signature flaring even in the storm.

Moving up alongside them they continued onward, Ahsoka's eyes darting side to side behind her helmet, looking for something, anything. A sudden shadow could be a Clone trooper or a battledroid. It would be hazardous to approach anything right now, especially if it turned out to be a droid. She had taken a great risk simply by approaching Caleb and Big-Mouth. If they had turned out to be droids…

It was then that another shadow appeared before them, this one much larger, and directly blocking the route in front of them. For one brief moment, Ahsoka began to think that she was hallucinating.

And then she realized what it was, and gasped beneath her helmet.

She had clearly lost track of how long she had been walking through the fierce wind and dust, as before them now was one wall of the Separatist base.

Now all they had to do was find a way in.

Tapping both Big-Mouth and Caleb lightly on their shoulders, she directed them to head along the wall one way, whilst she checked the other. Through the Force she felt Caleb acknowledge her suggestion, promising to contact her if he or Big-Mouth found anything.

Splitting up, Ahsoka watched as the duo disappeared into the storm again, keeping close to the wall they had found, before she too turned and proceeded in the opposite direction. Keeping one hand steady on the wall as she moved, Ahsoka pushed forward, searching for something, anything that might have resembled a way in. Right now she would take even a ventilation duct, as long as it was something.

And then she saw yet another shadow, no… two shadows before her, their backs to her. She debated approaching them, trying to see who they were… that was until she heard them speak.

"Why do we always get stuck out here on guard duty during a storm? It's not like we can see if anything is coming anyway!" The high pitched borderline squeaky voice of a battledroid echoed across the storm. Upon hearing the voice Ahsoka crouched, one hand on the hilt of her sabre, before she began to back away, the shadows of the two droids slowly fading into the storm. Even then, she could still hear them talking.

"I know right, and all this dust is corroding my servo motors. And my paint job!"

"But you're the same colour as the rest of us, why would that matter?"

"I meant the yellow stripe on my head idiot!"

"Ohhhhh!"

Shaking her head at the antics of the now unseen droids, Ahsoka began to debate her next move. She could try to sneak past them, or stealthily disable them with a well placed Force push or something. A lightsaber would give her and the rest of the team away.

Or, she could just turn and go in the opposite direction and hope that Caleb and Big-Mouth were having better luck than she was.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

It took several slow and steady minutes of walking before Ahsoka found both Caleb and Big-Mouth, and when she did they were not alone. Another three Clones had joined them by now, each covered head to toe in dust coated armour.

And there, right in front of them was what looked like a door. If anything, Ahsoka would have called it a back door, or perhaps an emergency exit if of some sort.

Now it was their way in.

Crouching down beside Caleb, who was sitting on the ground, clearly trying to catch his breath, even in the harsh wind, Ahsoka placed her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently, trying to give him a gentle sign of encouragement. The young Padawan's eyes were still clamped shut to block out the dust as best he could, but upon feeling her presence he allowed a smile to appear on his face, his presence in the Force flaring in happiness.

Moving her gaze from Caleb, Ahsoka spotted Commander Grey, also crouched down beside what appeared to be a terminal, fingers hard at work trying to cross some wires inside of it. No doubt he was attempting to slice the door controls so it would open.

Ahsoka only hoped that it wouldn't set off any alarms within the base.

It was then that another signature in the Force flared in her mind, one that was familiar to her, but not at the same time. It was warm and welcoming, and very very powerful. Far more powerful than most Force sensitive she had ever met.

She pried her mind, trying to remember where she had felt it before. It wasn't Depa, or Caleb, or even her own, but she had felt it before, around her, guiding her.

In fact, she could have sworn it was the same signature she had detected earlier, when surveying the facility from afar with Caleb. Something had been watching them then. And now it was watching them again, even in the storm.

The signature got bolder all of a sudden, as if it had realized that Ahsoka had picked up on it. Caleb too lifted his head, a perplexed expression on his face, even if he could not see.

It came from behind them, from within the dense dust storm raging around them. And it felt like it was coming right towards them.

For the second time in the last few minutes, Ahsoka's hand rested on the hilt of her lightsaber, just in case. For all she knew it could be some darksider coming for her, using the Force to distort their signature and fool them into letting their guard down.

Ahsoka waited, her eyes studying the dust, watching for anything that might give something away. A shadow, or a sound, or a light. Anything!

And then there was movement. A small shadow came swooping overhead, far enough away that it was concealed within the storm, but close enough for Ahsoka to make out the outline. She couldn't identify what it was, only that it was small and fast. In a way it reminded her of a bird, swooping overhead.

But it couldn't be. No bird would dare take flight in a harsh storm such as this.

"Master!" Caleb's voice echoed out suddenly, the young Padawan instantly regretting his call out as dust entered his mouth. Glancing back in front of her, the swooping shadow out of her mind, Ahsoka watched as Depa Billaba advanced towards them, the rest of her Clone troopers following behind her. No one looked injured, and there were no signs of a battle. Hopefully they had managed to sneak past without alerting anyone.

"Ha ha! Got it!" Grey said behind her, the sound of the door he had been attempting to open doing just that. Ahsoka allowed a wide smile to come to her face at the sight of the interior of the facility. It may have been a dark and downright creepy looking hallway, but it was better than the storm they were currently in.

Reaching down, she grasped hold of Caleb's arm, pulling him up and into the facility, the rest of the Clones and the Padawan's Master following suite. When all were inside, Grey closed the door behind them, sealing them away from the harsh storm outside.

They had made it, despite every element working against them. That in itself was an accomplishment. Now all they had to do was find the information they needed and get out.

Hopefully everything would go to plan, because if it didn't…

Ahsoka didn't even want to begin to think of the consequences.

Chapter Text

"Gah, my face feels like it's on fire!" The voice of Caleb echoed through the dark corridors of the Separatist base, one of his hands coming up to gently rub his brow.

The statement was not an exaggeration either. Ahsoka was fairly certain humans weren't supposed to have bright red faces. At that moment she was incredibly thankful for the protection offered by her helmet. She would hate to have a face as sore as Caleb's evidently now was. Depa's face was a similar shade of red, though she complained significantly less. That said, Ahsoka could have sworn she saw a few grimaces of pain covering her face from time to time.

"If you two had put helmets on like I suggested then you wouldn't be in this mess. We had a least two spare ones after all. You brought all this on yourselves." Commander Grey spoke next, his voiced somewhat hushed, yet full of both mirth and sarcasm.

Moving as silently as her armoured boots would allow, Ahsoka poked her head round the corner of an intersection in the corridor, checking to see if the route was clear, before seeing that it was and signalling the others to follow. She had volunteered to be on point for this part of the mission. It was only right after all.

"In hindsight you are probably correct Commander, but it is nice to know you care." Depa spoke next, her voice equally as quiet as to avoid being heard by any battledroids that might be lurking around.

A loud sigh escaped from behind Grey's helmet, one that Ahsoka could tell was merely a show of frustration at the actions of his Jedi.

"I swear, one day you two are going to kill me."

At that several chuckles emitted from the other troopers present, as well as from Caleb too. Behind her helmet, Ahsoka couldn't help but smile. It was nice to know that even these troopers had independent personalities. They weren't like Rex, but they were just as good.

Slowly advancing further through the hallways of the Separatist base, Ahsoka forced her thoughts to change from the whispered banter to a more serious topic. The mission.

And more importantly, the lack of any resistance.

It was downright odd, and it put Ahsoka on edge. Ever since they had entered the base they had begun to slowly navigate the seemingly endless hallways, searching for anything that could help them. The layout was similar to the base on Myrkr, but had subtle differences as well.

And so far, the one difference that set her on edge was the lack of any battledroids. They had not seen a single one so far. In fact, they hadn't seen anything that so much as resembled security of any kind.

Something was clearly not right, and Ahsoka wasn't the only one that felt it.

"So, where are all the droids, not that I'm complaining?" Big-Mouth spoke from behind her, his question directed at anyone who'd respond. Not having any real answer, Ahsoka merely shrugged her shoulders. The answer didn't seem to satisfy Big-Mouth, as he clutched his blaster even tighter than before, helmet scanning practically every single shadow in search of something. To some it may have seemed that he was being paranoid, but Ahsoka knew what he was doing. He was watching her back, watching the entire squad's back. And for that, she was grateful.

"Be cautious, something is wrong with the Force here." Depa's voice was grim, her entire posture on edge. She too was worried by the complete lack of guards so far, and had clearly sensed something within the Force that was not right. Ahsoka could feel it too. The Force was, in a way, twisted, yet also felt distant or hard to touch, as if something was either blocking it or heavily distorting it. Years ago the feeling would have made Ahsoka's stomach queasy, and her head light. These days she was used to such feelings, which certainly wasn't a good sign.

Glancing behind her, she saw Caleb, his own face contorted in what appeared to be immense discomfort, both from the soreness of the skin and the distortion of the Force. Ahsoka had no idea which was worse. The young Padawan looked up, his eyes locking onto her helmet's visor, before nodding once, a small semblance of a smile appearing, before it faded twice as fast as it had appeared.

There wasn't much she could do for him right now, She didn't want to risk using the Force to send comforting messages to him, just in case whatever it was that was disturbing the Force found a way to corrupt her messages. The last thing they needed was a mentally distraught Padawan.

Continuing forward, Ahsoka found herself before yet another intersection, and again, there was no sign of any Separatist occupants. No droids, no scientists, nothing. It was as if no one was home.

"Perhaps the guards are all outside enjoying the weather?" A clone spoke from the back, earning another series of chuckles from his brothers, as well as a visible smirk and roll of the eyes from Depa.

"I hear battledroids do love a good dust storm." The Jedi Master rebuked, before her face shifted back to the tense one Ahsoka had seen earlier. Her face changed a few more times, pain, discomfort, and then what appeared to be understanding. She blinked twice, before looking directly at Ahsoka.

"Do you feel that?"

Ahsoka nodded. The Force has shifted again, this time almost calling out to them, leading them. Ahsoka had no idea what it meant, but something within her told her to follow it, to track the source of the signal in the Force. Perhaps, if they were lucky, it would lead them straight to where they needed to go.

Or perhaps it was someone calling out for their help.

"I think it's coming from this direction." Ahsoka replied, allowing the Force to guide her as she began to stroll down yet another seemingly endless hallway. Ten steps turned into twenty. Twenty into thirty. Thrity into…

"Here!"

Before her was a door, one that looked no different than any of the other doors they had passed on the way in. None of them had opened for them when they had approached, but there was something about the door before her that made Ahsoka approach it. In fact, it felt like the Force was guiding her to it.

Not expecting the door to open, Ahsoka was surprised when it slid open with ease, allowing her entrance into the room beyond. Stepping through the threshold of the doorway, Ahsoka felt her eyes go wide at the sight before her, even if it was one that she had seen before.

There, positioned around the room were several tall glass containers, each filled to the brim with what appeared to be a green liquid of some kind. The liquid emanated a fluorescent glow, suggesting that it was chemical in nature, and quite possibly highly volatile. But that wasn't caught Ahsoka's eye. Instead, it what was what was suspended in the liquid that did.

Shapes floated in the containers, shapes that looked unmistakably like body parts of a creature of some kind. Images flashed in Ahsoka's head of the room she had found in the previous lab, with discarded carcassses of those strange lizard creatures, each missing various limbs from their bodies. Was this what had happened to said limbs?

"Holy kriff!" BIg-Mouth had entered the room behind her, his hands coming up to remove his helmet so that he could get a closer look at the parts floating in the liquid. His face contorted in disgust and horror, his eyes jumping between each container as he mentally tried to put each piece back together.

Slowly, more of the Clones began to enter the room as well, each surveying the sights before them with their own eyes, and each letting out various sounds of disgust at what lay before them.

Caleb and Depa said nothing as they entered the room, closing the door behind them. Through the Force Ahsoka could tell they were horrified, and somewhat intrigued and confused.

Ahsoka had deduced back at the previous lab that the Separatist were doing something to the lizards, which appeared to be native to Myrkr. At the time she had assumed that it was some sort of project being conducted on various different species of animal.

But now, from what she could see, the Separatists only had an interest in these strange creatures. The question was why? What did they hope to create? What sort of bioweapon was this?!

"Hey, there's an intact one over here." Big-Mouth spoke again drawing the attention of everyone around him.

Glancing over at where Big-Mouth stood before another glass container, Ahsoka saw he was correct. One of the strange lizards floated in the tube whole, clearly dead, but completely intact. As she got closer to investigate, she began to match the similarities to the carcasses she had encountered in the past. They were one and the same creature.

"I've seen this before, in the lab on Myrkr. The Separatists are experimenting on these creatures for some reason."

"But why?" Caleb spoke for the first time since entering the room, one of his hands resting against the glass of the container, as if he hoped to touch the creature.

Ahsoka had no answer for him, at least none that fully explained the situation.

Not yet at least.

Ahsoka's vision was drawn over to what looked like a series of terminals, as well as several display screens. Hopefully, if they were working, they would provide the information they sorely needed to be able to piece this mystery together.

Approaching the console, Ahsoka's hands began to glide across the surface of the displays, each terminal and screen coming to life, displaying what looked like countless pages of information.

Or, if she was reading it right, research.

"Project Nullify continues to stump even the brightest minds we have. The species known as the Ysalamir possess a unique trait that no other species has. It's natural ability to survive in harsh conditions, as well as adapt to any situation makes it a formidable creature, both as a hunter and as prey." Ahsoka read aloud, gathering the attention of several troopers, as well as both Jedi Master and Padawan.

"I'm guessing these poor creatures are the Ysalamir." Depa replied, shaking her head at the sight of what appeared to be a long wispy tail suspended in the green liquid.

Ahsoka's hand ran across another terminal, this time bringing up a holographic readout, or more precisely, a scan of one of the small creatures bodily structure. The hologram displayed itself on one of the main readout screens, various smaller boxes of text appearing alongside, each with an arrow pointing towards a specific body part.

No, not a body part… but an internal organ!

Glancing back at the research before her, Ahsoka continued.

"However, it's true capability, and the reason for this project continues to elude us. How is such a creature capable of such power, power that no sentient being has been able to replicate so far? Is it an internal organ that provides this attribute, or some kind of mutated gland? Perhaps a pheromone produced by the creature? So far, none of our experiments, none of our dissections have revealed any results. Count Dooku demands results, but how are we supposed to produce them when we have no idea how these creatures can negate the Force in such a manner?!"

The end of the log she had been reading caused Ahsoka to halt. Negate the Force? What could that mean?

"Hang on… does that log really say that?" Caleb's voice was the first to break the sudden silence that had flooded the room. His face was a mixture of emotions. Confusion and fear were dominant on it, and Ahsoka couldn't blame him. If the Separatists were developing a weapon that could nullify the Force itself…

"It's not a bioweapon against the Republic! It's a weapon to be used against the Jedi!" Ahsoka realized , piecing everything together. The experiments on the creatures, the secret labs, the discarded carcassess, all of it was to find a way to neutralise the Force, and in turn, destroy the Republic's biggest advantage in the Clone War.

"An astute observation Miss Tano. Not what I expected from the apprentice of Skywalker."

The voice, one full of dark sarcasm, but one carried with a tone of regalness seemed to come from nowhere. The room burst into movement as every trooper reacted, their blasters coming up to, eyes searching for it's point of origin. Even they could tell that the voice was not a friendly one.

But no figure emerged from the shadows as expected. Something was not right. Clearly she hadn't been the only one to hear whoever's voice that was, and judging by the way both Caleb and Depa glanced around, they too had heard it.

It was then that Ahsoka felt a wave of darkness flush over her through the Force, her face contorting in discomfort, though not as much as both Caleb and Depa's. Was it odd that she had less of a reaction to the dark side of the Force than a Jedi Master did?

And then, another terminal flared to life, and a large hologram of an elderly human man flashed to life before them all.

He was tall, and his face was, in a way, pointed. He possessed a sharp beard, one that looked like it could cut through Beskar. His outfit was regal, one that screamed 'royalty' to Ahsoka.

But those were not the only things that caught her eye. On his belt was a lightsaber, with a curved design, not too dissimilar to her current hilt, but one with far more complexities to it.

And the man's eyes. Rather than a calm collected shade of blue or green, were a darker shade of gold.

She had never seen him in person, at least not to her memory, even if he had once been a Jedi. But she knew who this was right away.

"Count Dooku."

The Count of Serenno's face turned into a vicious smirk, one that Ahsoka would connect to a Sith Lord any day. Ventress had once had similar looks on her face, before her departure from the Count's services.

Dooku's eyes continued to linger on her for a moment, silently judging her in a way that reminded Ahsoka of Master Yoda, only in a much crueler way. When he was done with his analysis, his gaze moved over to the next person, his smirk being replaced by a sneer.

"Depa Billaba, I am surprised to see you here, and with a young Padawan no less. A shame what is about to happen to you, truly."

Ahsoka could see the look of anger and disgust that appeared on Caleb's face. The young Padawan had stepped forward, clearly intending on voicing his own opinions about the Count.

In contrast, Depa's face remained unchanged and unfazed. She was not intimidated by the Sith Lord.

"Count Dooku. A shame you have not decided to grace us with your presence this day. Organizing tyranny and slave empires must be hard work for you after all, especially for someone in their twilight years."

Ahsoka was honestly shocked at the insults coming from the respected Jedi Master's mouth. She knew that taunting was a common aspect of confrontations, something that she had partaken in the past as well. But hearing it from someone other than Anakin, and dare she say, Obi-Wan, surprised her. Depa Billaba was clearly nothing like Master Windu.

Dooku's face twisted into a even darker sneer than before, one full of hatred and barely concealed anger. All common traits of a Sith Lord.

"Charming to the end, Master Billaba. I do so wonder how you and your expendable troopers have survived as long as you have. After all, General Grievous did annihilated virtually all of your army the last time he encountered you. Clearly you have not learned your lesson."

"That was supposed to be a lesson?" Depa shot back, her face never changing from calm and collected. Ahsoka admired that.

"Impudent Jedi!" Dooku snarled again, his holographic form bristling with anger.

"What do you want Count?" Ahsoka joined in, drawing the Count's attention away from Depa and back towards her. His face did not change, but he seemed to calm down, if only a little bit.

Were Sith Lords ever calm after all?

"What I want is irrelevant Miss Tano. What matters now is that you have, as expected, fallen right into my trap. Did you really believe we would let you all stroll in here undetected?" Dooku spoke, his tone full of menace and what Ahsoka could only call a dark sense of glee.

"How did you know I would be coming?" Ahsoka enquired, her mind racing. This had been a trap, that much was clear.

Still, now that she knew, she could at least plan how to escape it. That or she would do what Anakin had taught her best.

She'd improvise.

"We had intelligence that you would be coming, and given your last raid on our facility on Myrkr, it was only a matter of time until you came here as well. That we have the company of a Jedi Master and her Padawan is merely an extra benefit to the Separatist alliance."

"How do you mean?" Ahsoka questioned again. Dooku's words, while clearly threatening, were just as cryptic as those of a Jedi Master. Had she missed some sort of lesson during her time as a Padawan on how to be cryptic?

Dooku's head shook from side to side slowly, disappointment evident on his face.

"For a brief moment I believed you were more perceptive than your Master. Clearly I was mistaken. I suggest you look outside." Dooku replied, his holographic hand gesturing to another terminal, one that suddenly sprung to life.

Before Ahsoka could respond to Dooku's quip about Anakin, the hologram fizzled out, the room falling silent again. Rather than focusing on where Dooku's hologram had been, Ahsoka's eyes were drawn towards a now illuminated console.

As she approached the image displayed on screen became clear. It was security footage, clearly linked up to some unseen camera on the outside of the base.

And there, standing in the open was a legion of battledroids. The storm had died down, particles of dust now resting on the plains around the facility. There was no more concealment, not for anyone.

Endless rows of droids stood, various models waiting, each facing the facility. Far too many for them to handle in a straight up fight.

But that wasn't what concerned Ahsoka the most. It was who was standing at the forefront of the army, white cape over his metallic shoulders, the bright light of the sun reflecting of his frame.

And hands grasping a pair of unignited lightsabers.

Chapter Text

Hypori was, for all intents and purposes, a deserted wasteland covered in seemingly endless desert plains. Very little life existed on the planet, and that which did was more often than not consumed by the storms that seemed to ravage the surface. One such storm had blown in not too long ago, kicking up dust and sand up into the air, turning the sky a hue of orange. To anyone caught in the storm, it would have most likely led to either major disorientation…

Or death. It was at times like these that General Grievous was glad for the 'upgrades' he had received. His cybernetic form may be ungainly and downright insulting, but it did provide him with some useful benefits. Back when he had been flesh and blood, when he had been himself, and not some General of the Droid army, he had been a respected hunter of his people. Kaleesh were natural warriors, and despite the mutilation of his body years ago, he still held the warrior traditions of his people sacred.

Having four arms certainly helped him in that regard. Jedi ran from him in fear, something that always made him laugh with glee. The thought that the honoured monks of the Jedi Order, who spouted bravery and self-sacrifice would run in fear from a simple cyborg brought joy to Grievous, when little else did.

Hopefully today would be one of those days.

Glancing up at the facility before him, his legions of battledroids moving to create a circle around it, Grievous chuckled. Someone had walked right into his trap, just as Count Dooku had predicted. Now all he had to do was wait for confirmation from the Sith Lord. Hopefully there was at least one Jedi who had come for the slaughter.

General Grievous' thoughts were pulled away from the mental image of himself disemboweling a Jedi when his comlink began to blink, a harsh beeping sounding out from it at the same time.

Placing the lightsaber he was holding in his right hand back to into his cloak, Grievous grasped the commlink in his metallic palm, holding it before him and activating it.

The commlink flared to life, a small hologram of Count Dooku appearing in his palm, golden eyes focused directly on the General's face plate.

"General Grievous, Republic forces under the command of Jedi Master Depa Billaba have infiltrated the facility. My Master wishes us to send a message to the Jedi. Destroy all who dwell within, General." The Count's voice was sharp and crisp, even over the holo-transmission. Clearly he was not in a patient mood.

"But of course Count, I will relish the opportunity to finish Billaba and her Clones this time around." Grievous responded, cackling in response.

Dooku's face changed again, his eyes flaring a brighter gold, if only for a moment, before he spoke again.

"Do not allow your pursuit of trophies to cloud your judgment, General. Whilst this operation must result in the deaths of Billaba and her men, my Master has a secondary objective for you that you must not fail!"

Now that was intriguing… and certainly made life more difficult… and less fun. Usually Grievous was only ever deployed for scorched earth policies, not what sounded like a delicate operation.

"I assume it has to do with the research conducted at this facility. Rest assured Count, it will remain in one piece." Grievous replied, assuming the nature of his secondary objective. It made sense to him at least. No point wasting the research being conducted here.

However, judging by the Count's reaction, that was not what he had in mind.

"Whilst I appreciate your desire to safeguard the information within this facility, we do possess backups at our main facility in the Albarrio sector. If need be, destroy the facility at will. That said, your secondary objective does indeed involve ensuring the survival of a very important person."

Blinking twice in confusion, Grievous responded.

"Is there a scientist within the facility to evacuate?"

Again, Dooku shook his head, his face never changing from barely concealed anger.

"No General. Billaba is not the only Jedi to have come to this facility. She has a young Padawan with her, as well as the apprentice of Anakin Skywalker."

"Tano?! She is here? I will destroy her and send her head back to Skywalker and Kenobi!" Grievous boasted in response, his other hand gripping the lightsaber hilt he held even tighter, glee rushing through him. He 'owed' Tano one for his defeat the last time he had encountered her.

"No, General!" Dooku spoke again, his voice bordering on shouting. "My Master has ordered that she be allowed to escape. Failure to do so will ruin my Master's future plans. Slaughter Billaba and her apprentice, as well as the Clones, but leave Tano alive!"

And with that the hologram of Dooku faded, leaving Grievous astounded at the order. Why would Lord Sidious want Tano to escape alive?

Still, orders were orders, and he would endeavor to follow them through.

Tano would escape alive… but that didn't mean he couldn't hurt her at least.

Turning to face his legion of droids, Grievous spoke.

"Ensure that no one leaves the facility alive. I will deal with these intruders myself!"

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The occupants of the room had exploded into action upon the realization of who was coming for them, something which filled Caleb Dume with confidence, but also a sense of trepidation.

They were surrounded, that much was certain. This entire operation now appeared to be nothing but an elaborate trap, designed to lure in high ranking Republic forces to their deaths. The fact that General Grievous himself appeared to be leading the operation only made the situation more dire. Master Billaba made no secret of her past defeat at the cyborg Kaleesh's clawed hands, her tone hinting at what Caleb would call fear, her signature only serving to back that feeling up. If his Master was afraid, then surely he should be too?

Glancing up from the terminal that showed the droid army awaiting outside, Caleb's eyes locked onto the figure of another person, one who was hard at work at a terminal of her own, fingers moving swiftly across the holographic display, as if she was typing something out.

In quite the contrast to his Master, the Force signature of Ahsoka Tano, as well as her body language suggested a calm collected confidence, as if she was at ease in such a situation. How anyone could feel at ease in a situation where their lives were at stake, much less one where they were completed and utterly surrounded was unknown to Caleb. Here he was, nervous and downright terrified, but this Togruta who was only a few years his elder was content, radiating no fear whatsoever.

He'd have to ask her how she did it… assuming they survived that is.

"Caleb what's going on with Grievous and his army?" The voice of his Master brought him out of his musings, his focus moving back to the display screen before him. The image wasn't exactly perfect, if anything he would describe it as rather grainy, but it still revealed what he needed.

Or more like revealed what wasn't there anymore.

"Grievous isn't with his army anymore. He's vanished into thin air!"

The helmeted faces of several Clones turned to face him, as well as each other as they contemplated this revelation. Through the Force he felt a spike of concern and dread from his Master, one that only further pushed him towards the feeling of trepidation.

"That means he's coming for us alone." Ahsoka spoke up from where she was, her own gaze never leaving the terminal in front of her. Her voice didn't waiver, perhaps in an attempt to show some confidence at the situation. That said, Caleb would say that her tone held something of a sense of familiarity, as if she had been through this sort of scenario before. Had she really been fighting this war for so long that this was just a normal day for her? Would he become like that one day too?

"Oh great. A crazy cyborg with lightsabers is coming to kill us all. Wonderful!" the familiar voice of a Clone echoed out next, sarcasm evident.

"Not on my watch their not!" Ahsoka spoke again, turning to glance at the trooper briefly, her own tone still strong and confident.

So what's the plan then?" Commander Grey questioned, moving up to the terminal next to Ahsoka. The Togruta continued to type away with her hands, swiping from left to right on occasion, moving information around.

"Well we can't march out the front door. We'll be slaughtered on sight!" Big-Mouth replied, joining Caleb next to his terminal, a small smile on his face, one that was directed at Caleb alone. Caleb was grateful for the trooper's attempt at support and comfort. He only wished he had more confidence about whatever the plan was.

"Extraction from the roof is now out of the question, especially with the droid army surrounding us. No doubt Grievous will have his fleet in orbit too. Getting past that, even in an invisible ship, will not be easy. The droids could place a tracker on it when it extracts us." Depa spoke, a hint of trepidation and hesitance in her voice. Caleb would never question it, but he could tell that the droid General was a sore spot for his Master. It was only natural, even as a Jedi, that she might be cautious, or even fear him.

Caleb certainly did.

"It's not as out of the question as you may think General Billaba." Ahsoka interrupted, turning to glance over at Caleb, nodding her head once, before turning back to her own work.

"What exactly are you doing?" Caleb couldn't help but inquire, his own natural curiosity once again getting the better of him.

But then, someone had to ask these sorts of questions. After all, Ahsoka had revealed nothing yet.

The Togruta continued to work for a few more seconds, before stepping back from the terminal and allowing others to see what she had done.

It took Caleb a few seconds to realize what he was looking at. On the screen was a short collection of words, one that formed a message. Why Ahsoka was typing out a message to someone in this situation however eluded the young Padawan. That was until Ahsoka began to explain.

"This terminal was how Dooku was able to broadcast his message to us, thus it must be a communication device of some kind. I'm going to use it to send a message to someone who I believe will be able to help us in this situation."

"What's to stop the Separatists from blocking the transmission though? It is their facility after all." Commander Grey spoke next, his tone confused. Caleb had to agree with the Commander's assessment. Ahsoka's plan seemed very weak.

"Because I'm not sending a hologram, but a simple worded message to a private account of a friend, one who I know has a vested interest in dealing with General Grievous. Hopefully he gets the message in time."

"And if not?" Caleb asked, his own voice meak. He didn't want to appear scared to anyone, less they think he was weak. A Jedi was not weak after all, and feared nothing, even death.

"Then we come up with a new plan." Ahsoka replied, her gaze looked onto Caleb's, the Force singing encouragement and confidence around her.

He only hoped that her plan paid off, and that whoever Ahsoka's friend was would come quickly.

Taking another glance at the message the Togruta had typed, he memorized what he could, just in case.

'General Grievous is on Hypori. Blockade in orbit. Pinned down. Need help. Only hope. Snips.'

Caleb managed to reread the message three times before Ahsoka sent it, the text disappearing from the display screen in a blink of an eye.

"Let's just hope that the Separatists aren't watching their own communication lines as well as they are ours." His Master spoke, nodding her head in acceptance of the plan. Clearly it meant waiting out the no doubt incoming siege until whatever reinforcements Ahsoka had requested came… assuming they did at all.

"Now all we need to do is download whatever data it is we came her for in the first place." Another voice, the one belonging to Big-Mouth, sounded out. As if she had been expecting the statement, Ahsoka moved over to another terminal, the first one she had read from regarding the experiments conducted in the facility itself. Reaching into a pouch, Caleb watched as the Togruta extracted a small disc, one that was clearly used for downloading and transferring information.

"Well… that answers my question then." Big-Mouth spoke again, moving to the doorway the team had entered through, taking up a position as a sentry.

And then, just as Ahsoka moved to place the disc into a terminal, the displays screens abruptly shut off, and all the terminals went dark.

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

"General Grievous, we have deactivated the exterior generators of the facility. The Republic forces within no longer have life support and will be forced to leave the facility or asphyxiate."

"Excellent work Commander. I have entered the facility and will flush the Jedi out shortly!"

************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

"And now the power's out… this day just gets better and better!" Big-Mouth exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air in protest, earning a few chuckles from some of the troopers, as well as looks of disapproval from the others.

"Without the power we have no way of downloading the information. Not only that but we'll have no life support either. Grievous is forcing us out." Depa spoke, taking position in the centre of the room, addressing and rallying the troops in what was a dire situation. Ahsoka was glad to see that she was maintaining her composure despite the severity of the situation.

"Master? Do you think there might be a backup generator somewhere in the facility, in case of emergencies?" Caleb inquired, his expression deep in thought.

"Most likely Padawan, and if we are to stand any chance against Grievous we need the power online." Depa replied, a wide smile on her face as she praised her apprentice, something that caused Caleb to blush slightly.

"We can't just abandon this room though. We need the information on the terminals." Commander Grey joined in, moving to stand next to Depa, drawing the attention of the remaining Clone troopers.

Grey's words were true. They needed the data, and that meant they had to hold the laboratory no matter the cost. But they couldn't download the data without the power being restored. That meant that someone was going to have to go in search for the backup generator and restore power.

All while General Grievous stalked through the shadows.

Still, even that wouldn't stop her.

Opening her mouth to volunteer to search for the backup generator, Ahsoka was surprised when someone beat her to it.

"I'll go Master. I can move the fastest and get the power restored quicker than the rest of you." Caleb spoke, his face hardened with steely determination. Ahsoka admired that in a way, but felt guilty at the same time. She couldn't in good conscience let her new friend go alone, especially with General Grievous lurking about. If Caleb faced him alone…

Ahsoka didn't even want to think about that possibility.

"I'll go with him, watch his back just in case." Ahsoka said, moving to stand by Caleb's side, his face turning to hers with a grateful smile on it.

Turning her own gaze towards Depa Billaba, Ahsoka spotted a look of concern come over the Jedi Master, before being replaced as quickly as it had appeared with one of complete composure.

"If you are both certain?" The Jedi Master spoke softly, her voice warm and encouraging, but worry clearly present.

"I can do it Master. You've taught me well."

Ahsoka watched Depa's face for her reaction, felt for her signature in the Force. It was steady, and confident, ready to face anything.

And from what Ahsoka was feeling, Depa believed in Caleb's words. That was a good sign.

"So I have, Padawan. So I have."

Chapter Text

Without any power running through the base, navigation became a significantly more challenging task.

No power meant no lights, which meant that both Caleb and Ahsoka were relying entirely on the light being emitted by Caleb's ignited lightsaber to find the path they needed, not that either had any clue where the backup generator might be in the first place.

Further adding to the difficulty was the fact that the doors, once automatic thanks to the power, no longer worked. Instead they had to force them open, quite literally in some cases.

And even then they were having next to no luck in finding what they sought. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the layout of the Separatist facility, no clue that suggested they were heading in the right direction.

They were effectively blind in more ways than one, navigating a labyrinth-like facility. It wouldn't be so bad though, if weren't for three important factors.

One: they were on a time limit. The lights and doors might not be working, but no power also meant no life support. They would all suffocate in time if they couldn't restore power.

Two: Depa Billaba and the rest of her troops were defending what was essentially a dead end. If they were attacked they'd have nowhere to go, at least not until they were able to download anything they could from the terminals, which again couldn't be done due to lack of power.

And three: There was a murderous cyborg General on the loose.

Ahsoka honestly didn't know what was worse.

"I could have sworn we've been this way already." Caleb quipped from beside her as they approached a three way junction, one that looked exactly like the last one. It was incredibly easy to get turned around in this place. How the Separatists coped with such a layout was beyond her.

That said, in hindsight, she supposed the endless hallways of the Jedi Temple, or the corridors of Yularen's Venator were much the same, and Ahsoka had always felt like she knew exactly where she was and where she was going when in those locations.

Perhaps it was her sense of familiarity about such places that led to such ease in finding her way around them.

"I'm not too sure. That said, I'm not looking forward to finding our way back to the lab." Ahsoka replied, glancing down the two possible directions they had before them. Surely one was the right way to go.

"I hadn't even thought about that!" Caleb exclaimed in response, his eyes going wide in despair for a moment. Clearly he was now regretting volunteering for this task.

Still, there was no turning back now.

"We'll find it Caleb. Have patience."

Caleb seemed to acknowledge her words, his own eyes glancing down each dark corridor before them, debating.

Then, with a deep breath, he turned and headed down the left hand passage, seemingly confident in his choice.

Having no choice but to follow, Ahsoka moved to catch up with him, the two bathed in the blue light of Caleb's lightsaber as they proceeded deeper and deeper into the facility.

****************************************************************************************************************************************

Several more twists and turns in the dark, and several more comments from Caleb believing they were lost, and finally, something went their way.

Before them was a large door, one that was already open. Unlike the previous rooms the one beyond it was much larger and full of several large pieces of equipment, several that looked a lot like generators used to power large facilities.

"Hey! We found it!" Caleb exclaimed from beside her, moving into the room with a smile on his face. Ahsoka couldn't help the chuckle that escaped her throat at the sight of the young Padawan, his spirit renewed.

"These certainly look like generators, though they don't exactly look like they are in great condition." Ahsoka replied, moving into the room and examining the large machines before her. They were rusted and corroded in several places, exposed wires left dangling from various components with no regards to safety whatsoever. Frankly it was a wonder the whole complex hadn't gone up in some sort of explosion so far.

Perhaps the generators had merely failed on their own, as opposed to being deactivated manually? Ahsoka doubted she would be that lucky today, not if the rest of the mission was anything to go by.

"Well if these are the main generators, then surely the backup one is nearby right?" Caleb asked, his own eyes surveying the damage. Unlike Ahsoka his own eyes moved over the evident damage and wear quickly, showing that he wasn't nearly as skilled and adept in engineering as she was. It was times like these that Ahsoka was glad for the lessons in mechanics that Anakin had given her. It turned out that sticking her under his personal starfighter and saying 'fix this or I'll die in my next flight' was a surprisingly good teaching method. The last thing Ahsoka wanted was to get Anakin killed after all. That wouldn't exactly do her reputation as a Padawan any good at all.

"Should be… in theory." Ahsoka replied, gesturing towards another door nearby, one that was still closed. Nodding his head, Caleb moved towards it, the light from his ignited blade illuminating the way.

Reaching out into the Force, Ahsoka grasped the door and pulled it open, the sound of metal screeching as it was forced grating on her montrals. She hated that sound!

Once the door was open sufficiently, she stepped inside, a wide smile coming to her face as she saw what was on the other side.

A single generator stood in the centre of the room, looking pristine and fully functional. It wouldn't be enough to fully restore all power throughout the facility, but enough to get the key systems online.

"Guess we found the backup then." Caleb said as he too squeezed through the open door, the joy in his voice evident.

"Guess so. Give me some light so I can work." Ahsoka answered, moving over to the backup generator, opening a side panel on it and extracting a connective wire in the process. She just had to link it up to the main power circuit and all should be good.

The wire moved relatively easily, allowing for Ahsoka to pull it out and back into the previous room. It was pure luck that the wire was able to stretch as far as it did, otherwise they would have had no chance whatsoever. Ahsoka could only guess that whoever had designed the facility in the first place had considered such a situation.

The longer the wire became, the harder it was to pull, but still it moved, allowing Ahsoka to close on the main power circuit.

Reaching forward with her free hand, she disconnected the wires connecting to the main generators, and connected the backup's wire in their place.

Content that the wire was inserted correctly, Ahsoka moved her hand over to a lever next to the power circuit, grasping it tightly in preparation.

"Let's hope this works." Ahsoka muttered, mainly to herself. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Caleb cross his fingers on his free hand, a look of confidence on his face. The fact that he was full of hope was enough to encourage Ahsoka.

Smiling beneath her helmet, Ahsoka pulled the lever down.

At first, nothing happened. No sound or sign of anything activating occured. Ahsoka felt her spirit begin to drop…

That was until something, she wasn't sure what, sparked. The power circuit suddenly flared to life, small lights of multiple colours becoming illuminated as energy ran through it's circuits. IN the side room the sound of the generator roaring to life hit her montrals, a telltale sign that the generator was now in working order.

The room itself, once shrouded in darkness became illuminated by several dim red emergency lights. The backup generator may not have restored the lights to full power, but this was more than enough to light the way.

"Now let's hope the terminals back in the lab are working." Caleb's voice echoed over the sound of machinery working, shifting Ahsoka's attention away from the lights and towards him.

But as she looked over at the young Padawan she spotted something behind him. Something huge.

Terror flooded her senses in an instant as she realized what it was, and she barely registered her own voice yelling at him to move!

Reaching out with one hand, she grasped him with the Force and pulled him towards her. Caleb released a surprised yelp as he was pulled behind Ahsoka, landing with a roll and pivoting back to his feet in time to turn and watch Ahsoka dart forward, her signature in the Force flooding Caleb's mind with a rush of fear.

The sound of two lightsabers activating simultaneously hit Ahsoka's senses as she moved forward, the area before her suddenly becoming illuminated with bright blue and green light as two blades of plasma appeared.

Reaching down, Ahsoka grasped the hilt of her own lightsaber, pulling it off her belt and igniting the golden blade just in time to intercept the two blades that were descending upon where Caleb had been.

The sound of the lightsabers clashing against one another, locking together as the combatants pushed against one another flooded the room.

And then another sound, a voice, hit Ahsoka's montrals. A voice that sent shivers down her spine.

"Tano! So it is to be a rematch then?"

Ahsoka pulled back from the bladelock, twirling her blade in her hand as she moved it to deflect several strikes from the cyborg general that now stood before her.

Grievous was a master at wearing people down. Unlike herself he wasn't restricted by a biological form that would eventually tire. He could continue indefinitely, and was leagues ahead of her when it came to lightsaber combat.

All she could do was stand her ground against him, and perhaps if she was lucky land some sort of debilitating blow.

Her only real advantage was that this was exactly what Anakin Skywalker had taught her to overcome, opponents that were bigger than her. Even though she had hit a growth spurt recently, Grievous still towered over her. Hopefully that would somehow work to her advantage.

Pulling back out of the reach of his sabers, Ahsoka began to consider her options. Grievous was a relentless monster. He would not rest, unless he was either forced to, or was outmatched.

Fighting him directly would not end well, and running would lead to him pursuing her.

That didn't leave her with many options.

Bringing her saber up again Ahsoka deflected another series of strikes from Grievous, until one caused her to stumble under the weight of the blow.

The strike forced her to one side, leaving her side exposed to a strike from Grievous' own sabers, one that the cyborg General instantly launched.

That was until it was intercepted by the lightsaber of young Caleb Dume.

Recovering from her stumble, Ahsoka brought her own blade up to clash against the second saber of Grievous, forcing him into a blade lock with both herself and Caleb.

"How pathetic that someone of your caliber must rely on a youngling to save them. Skywalker would be ashamed if he was here!" Grievous snarled, a hint of laughter in his voice as she pushed against his two combatants.

"Says the cyborg General who keeps getting his hands cut off! How many has Obi-Wan taken from you so far?" Ahsoka spat back, her voice modulated by the helmet, but clearly full of both rage and anger.

"Kenobi will pay one day for all he and the Jedi have taken from me. And you will be the perfect bait to draw him out!" Grievous continued, pulling back out of the blade lock and unleashing a barrage of strikes towards both Caleb and Ahsoka, who were forced to back away to avoid being cut into several pieces.

"Keep telling yourself that Grievous!" Ahsoka spat in return, pivoting her blade to the side in time to deflect a blow that had been aimed at Caleb's unprotected flank. She knew that Grievous would show no mercy, regardless of how young Caleb was. If he had an opening, the cyborg General would take it.

Grievous continued to barrage the duo with endless strikes, his lightsabers clashing against theirs with terrifying velocity. Each strike caused his opponents to stumble, forcing the other to counter and defend, leaving themselves exposed in the process. At this rate, he would have both theirs heads on a platter.

Reaching into the Force, Ahsoka tugged on the signature of Caleb, calling out to him.

'We can't fight him here! Fall back to the hallway.'

'But if we break off he'll destroy us!'

'I can hold him for a brief second, enough for you to get back into the hallway. We stand a better chance there than we do cramped in this room!'

Caleb made no further comment, suggesting that he understood and agreed with her plan. That, or he was simply putting all his faith and trust in her.

Frankly she didn't know what was better.

Caleb pivoted his blade again, deflecting a strike from Grievous, before pulling back and breaking off into a sprint, heading out of the generator room and into the hallway beyond. At the same time Ahsoka brought her own blade up in a horizontal position, blade locking with Grievous' in the process, the cyborg General pushing against her with ease.

"Your friend has abandoned you… such a shame. But then it shouldn't come as a surprise that a Jedi would abandon you Tano." Grievous boasted, his golden reptilian eyes boring into Ahsoka's own blue ones. The taunt was evidently intended to cause mental harm, and Ahsoka would be lying if she had said it didn't cause a brief painful memory to flow through her head.

"Yeah well maybe I work better alone. I've dealt with you twice before by myself if you recall." Ahsoka snarled back, pushing with all her might against Grievous' saberlock, not that it had much effect on an individual literally made of metal. All she needed was a small opening, enough to fall back and escape his wrath for now.

In response to her own comment Grievous chuckled, the sound twisted and distorted and downright terrifying to anyone who wasn't used to it. Despite their past encounters, Ahsoka could say she was certainly not. The enjoyment that Grievous got out of combat, out of killing was not something she would ever understand, or ever sought to understand. He was a monster… one that needed to be destroyed.

Summoning what strength she had left in her body, Ahsoka pushed her blade forward, twisting it in the process, forcing Grievous to break the saberlock or risk losing a limb. When she was content that she was out of harm's way she turned and sprinted out the room and towards Caleb, who stood with his saber ready in hand.

Coming to stand beside him, panting slightly from the ongoing duel, Ahsoka spoke.

"This is gonna get rough Caleb. If things look bad I want you to run and find your Master. I'll buy you some time."

Caleb's response was instantaneous.

"No way, I'm not leaving you to face this monster alone!"

While grateful for his show of loyalty and support, Ahsoka knew that Caleb would not stand long against Grievous. He had to be protected, and she would protect him.

"Caleb I…" Ahsoka began before the sound of heavy metal footfall drew her attention to the doorway that Grievous had just emerged from. The cyborg General's eyes seemed to study the surrounding hallway, before his eyes locked onto the two teenagers. Ahsoka was certain that if he could smile menacingly, he would be.

Ahsoka brought her blade up into a ready stance, Caleb doing the same beside her. They didn't have time to argue, and if they ran Grievous would just endlessly pursue them. They had to make a stand, even if it was a futile one.

Ahsoka watched as Grievous's arms separated, two appendages becoming four, a second pair of lightsabers igniting in the process, all now pointed towards both her and Caleb with obvious intention of impaling them. At the sight of the four ignited blades, Ahsoka heard Caleb gulp in terror.

Ahsoka couldn't help but share the sentiment.

Grievous shifted his stance again, this time crouching ever so slightly, bringing two of the blade forward, the other two extended behind him. Then his two front hands began to slowly rotate, the cyborg General taking slow steps forward in the process.

Ahsoka watched as the two blades began to pick up momentum until they were spinning at such speed that all she could see was a blue and green blur. The arcs of plasma sizzled in the air around them, emitting a constant high pitched sound as the blades distorted the air around them.

Grievous began to inch closer, each clawed step bringing him closer and closer to the duo, blades not relenting in their arcs. There was no deflecting such an attack, Ahsoka knew from experience. All you could do was hope to avoid it, and in turn hope to avoid the two sabers he held behind his body in reserve, poised to strike them down.

It was either that or they would need to pray for some sort of miracle intervening.

Luckily for them, a miracle was exactly what happened.

A small spherical object rolled between both Ahsoka and Caleb, bound for the clawed feet of the droid General, whose head jerked up in response as he recognized the object, which now possessed a small blinking red light atop it. Grievous halted his attack in an instant, bringing his four sabers up in a futile attempt to defend himself as Ahsoka grabbed hold of Caleb and threw him onto the ground, diving atop him to protect his body with her armoured one.

Seconds later, the thermal detonator exploded, a rush of fire and shrapnel erupting through the small hallway, heat swarming over them in the process. Ahsoka heard Grievous yell out in surprise and what sounded almost like fear, before another series of sounds began to rush over her head.

"FOR THE REPUBLIC!"

Lifting her head up Ahsoka spotted the familiar armour of a trio of Clone Troopers emerge from the hallway behind them, blasters in hand, unleashing a barrage of fire towards the now downed Grievous, who Ahsoka could see was struggling to get back to his feet, the front of is armour scorched and blackened from being so close to the explosive going off.

Ahsoka watched as the Clones fired at the General, who vaulted up, lightsaber in hand as he attempted to deflect several blasts back at his attackers. One of two shots were redirected, but the Clone's superior skills allowed them to dodge with ease, and without true access to the Force, Grievous could not accurately deflect the blasts like a Jedi or Sith could.

Trusting that the Clones had the situation under control, Ahsoka pushed herself up, helping Caleb in the process, who immediately ran behind the lead Clone Trooper, who Ahsoka now recognized as Big-Mouth. The Clone nodded at her, hand reaching to his belt to equip another thermal detonator, priming it and throwing it past her in the process towards Grievous, who roared in frustration.

Ahsoka didn't turn to watch Grievous no doubt retreat once again, instead opting to turn and run herself. They had been given the opportunity to escape thanks to Big-Mouth, and she sure as hell was going to take it.

Pushing herself forward, Ahsoka joined Big-Mouth and his troopers, who also began to retreat, firing off a few more blasts from their rifles before turning and running themselves, escaping the blast radius of the detonator, which exploded behind them in the process, flooding the hallway with a rush of heat once more.

They had escaped Grievous, if only for the time being.

Now all they had to do was escape from the facility alive, and hopefully with the data they came for in the first place.

Chapter Text

Somehow, the Clones that had rescued them seemed to know the way back, not that Caleb was going to argue about it mind you. Running through these seemingly endless hallways would only spell certain doom if they didn't have some sort of guide, not to mention the fact that a murderous cyborg general was still on the loose.

If he had to blindly trust the men who had trusted him to lead them, then so be it.

"Thanks for the rescue Big-Mouth. Things were looking grim for a second there." Ahsoka spoke as she ran alongside the Clone, following his every move as he was. Behind them two other troopers watched the rear, just in case Grievous decided to follow. So far he had not.

"No problem 'Huntress'. When the power came back up General Billaba ordered us to come find you whilst she downloaded the data. Wasn't too hard to reach you once the sound of lightsabers started flooding these hallways. You two did good against the General back there." Big-Mouth replied, nodding his head at Ahsoka in the process, an evident sign of respect.

"Don't be so modest trooper. Without you we'd be in pieces. I owe you one." Ahsoka called back, turning a corner in the process as indicated by Big-Mouth.

"You can pay me back later." Big-Mouth responded, continuing to lead the way, turning another corner in the process.

However, this time he stopped, skidding to a halt as so to not run into the people before him. Ahsoka too was able to stop herself in time, pausing to regain her breath before standing tall.

Caleb, however, was not so lucky. Rather than stop in time he barrelled into the back of the armoured Togruta, knocking her to the floor, his own body tumbling over hers in the process.

"Sorry Ahsoka!" Caleb apologised, pushing himself off of Ahsoka's collapsed body, reaching a hand down to help her up. He knew he was blushing from the embarrassment of what he had just done, but he didn't want to come across as any more of a disappointment. What sort of Jedi Padawan ran into and knocked people over?

Ahsoka's response however was not what he expected. Rather than chastise or grumble at him, the Togruta merely began laughing, the voice modulated by the helmet, but clearly full of humour at the situation. If she found it funny, then maybe he didn't need to be so worried?

"It's fine Caleb. No damage done."

If he could see behind her helmet, Caleb was certain she would be smirking as she accepted the offered hand up, standing back up to face him, her free hand moving to his head to ruffle his hair affectionately.

That got another blush out of Caleb… not that he would admit it… even if everyone could see it.

"Did you get the data General?" Big-Mouth inquired, his helmeted visage facing towards Depa, who stood before them, the remaining clone troopers standing behind her.

"I did. Hopefully this will be all we need to create a plan of action on how the deal with this bioweapon." Depa answered, extracting a small disc from a pouch she was wearing on her waist, offering it to Ahsoka, who accepted it.

"Combined with the data I got on Myrkr it should be. Now it's just a case of escaping this damned place."

"And not getting murdered by a scary cyborg General in the process." Big-Mouth finished off Ahsoka's thoughts, nudging Caleb with his arm, to which Caleb nudged him back.

"Well then, that should be simple enough." Another Clone spoke, one whose name Caleb couldn't remember. Caleb was about to laugh at the obvious sarcasm in the Clone's voice before everything went dark. The dim lights that had come on after connecting the backup generator fizzled out suddenly, bathing the team in blackness once again.

No one moved for a second, and then a single headlight appeared on the top of Commander Grey's helmet, blinding Caleb for a moment until his eyes adjusted.

All head turned to look at Grey, who spoke what everyone was thinking.

"Poodoo."

************************************************************************************************************************

General Grievous stood as the backup generator sparked before his golden eyes, a molten line of cut metal embedded deep into it, the evident marking of a lightsaber scoring.

And in his clawed hand was said lightsaber, bathing him in a green glow.

The Jedi had been foolish to come here, hoping to restore the power. He had been the one to cut off the backup in the first place. And then he had laid in wait, hoping for a Jedi.

And then two had come, one of them being the target he needed.

The duel had been quick, and it had been clear that he was vastly overpowering the two Jedi younglings. In a way, he was disappointed. Tano had proven herself in the past to be a competent duelist, and a formidable challenge when pushed too hard.

But instead, she had been so focused on protecting the Padawan of Billaba that she had left herself open and weak.

"Foolish Jedi sentiment." Grievous snarled, reaching his free hand down to grasp his communicator.

"All Forces, storm the facility. Eliminate the Jedi and Clones, but bring the Togruta to me alive!"

************************************************************************************************************************************

"Ok, so the power has been cut off again and we are stuck in the dark completely and utterly surrounded by a droid army whilst their General stalks these halls ready to kill us. Did I miss anything?" Big-Mouth commented, his own flashlight on now, helmeted face moving between his various higher ups, waiting for orders.

"We need to get to the roof if we can. Hopefully either Styles can pick us up in my ship, or my friend will show up to help us." Ahsoka answered, arms crossed as she considered the situation they were in. Neither option was really looking too good as it stood, and Caleb didn't even want to begin considering their odds of escape, let alone survival.

"Assuming your message even got through that is." Grey replied to Ahsoka, helmeted face hiding his expression. Judging by the tone of his voice he was not exactly pleased at their predicament.

"It is the only path open to us Commander, and thus we must walk it regardless of our feelings. Let's see if we can find a hatch that leads to the roof." Depa spoke, hand coming to rest of the armoured shoulder of her Commander, clearly trying to calm him down. It was a rare sight to see Grey so uncomfortable. For all the time Caleb had known him Grey had been a symbol of strength and steadfastness. Usually it was Styles that was the grumpy one who complained about everything.

For Clones, they were really all unique.

"We will follow your lead General Billaba." Grey replied, snapping into a salute in a sign of respect, one that Depa bowed to in return.

It was then that a sound echoed through the hallways, one that resembled the metallic clunking made by battle droids.

"Ohhh that can't be good!" Big-Mouth whispered, hand gripping his blaster tightly as he surveyed the darkness around them, lighting up what he could with his helmet flashlight.

"Agreed, let's move." Depa responded, instantly shifting towards her 'General' persona rather than 'Jedi Master' one as she turned to lead the way, lightsaber igniting in the process to provide extra light. Caleb moved to keep up with his Master, coming to stand side by side with her, his own blade ignited, further illuminating the hallways. Glancing up at his Master's face, he saw her shoot him a confident smile, one that he reciprocated.

If she believed they could escape, then so could he.

Following his Master as she lead the way, Caleb glanced behind him to make sure the others were following safely. Big-Mouth was in the back alongside Ahsoka, who also had her golden saber lit up, covering their six. Between them was Commander Grey and the rest of the small strike team, cautiously following their commanding officers, hoping to find something that would lead to an escape.

"Whilst the data was being transferred from the main computer I was able to get a brief glance at the schematics of this facility. There should be a series of hatches somewhere within this quadrant that lead to the roof. We only need to find them." Depa spoke as she lead, addressing everyone and informing them of the plan. It was simple enough, but relied entirely on finding one of these hatches in the first place

"Well I hope you are good at reading maps then." Caleb quipped, shooting his master a small smile, one she returned with ease.

"Here's hoping Padawan." Was his Master's reply, leading the team towards a junction, turning down the left path in the process.

Continuing to follow his Master, Caleb glanced behind him again to see both Ahsoka and Big-mouth turn the corner as well, bringing the rear up safely.

That was until another sound echoed through the hallways, and a large hulking silver figure emerged from the shadows behind the rear guard.

"Behind you!" Caleb called out pushing through the Clones in the middle of the group and bringing his lightsaber up in time to deflect a barrage of blaster fire from the Super Battle Droid that had literally emerged from the shadows to strike. Beside him he felt Ahsoka move into position to help, her own lightsaber catching and deflecting any blaster bolts he missed. Over his head the roar of more blaster fire sounded as his troopers moved to assist, going on the offensive whilst the two lightsaber wielders focused on defence.

Several blue bolts courtesy of Big-Mouth hit the Super Battle Droid square in its chest, burning through vital components and destroying the droid in the process.

But that was only one of the droids. As the murderous machine fell, Caleb spotted dozens more appeared behind it, blasters aimed in their direction, before they too opened fire.

Caleb pivoted his blade, angling it in all directions as he tried to deflect as much fire away from the Clones as he could. Beside him, Ahsoka did the same, covering his own gaps as well as hers and the Clones. He hoped he could fight as well as she could one day.

Blaster fire continued to travel over his head and the Clones played their part, downing droid after droid with precision shots whilst their leaders defended them.

It occurred to Caleb suddenly that his Master was not up front helping them. Worry flooded through him for a second, worry that turned into terror when he glanced round to see why she hadn't come to help.

As it turned out, she had been protecting all of them from a much greater threat.

Depa too was twirling her blade in various directions, deflecting and clashing with several more lightsabers at the same time, pushing against them and keeping them away from her men. The towering figure of General Grievous stood before her, four arms wielding four deadly blades, fighting with a ferocity that Caleb had never seen before. Had he been toying with them earlier?

"Kriff! Master!?" Caleb called out, his attention diverted back to the advancing droid army in the shadows by Ahsoka.

"She'll be fine Caleb, focus on the droids!"

Trusting that his Master was more than a match for the General of the Separatist army, Caleb turned his sight away from the duel, focusing again on the encroaching droid army. For every droid that seemed to fall, two more took its place, something that made the already claustrophobic hallways of the facility even more terrifying.

"We can't hold this position for long!" Commander Grey called out above the ongoing sound of blaster fire and lightsaber swings, firing his own blaster with ferocity over his Padawan Commander's head, downing another Super Battle Droid in the process.

"Agreed Commander! Caleb focus with the Force and push on my mark. We've got to make a path out through the droids!" Ahsoka commanded from beside him her tone of voice serious, yet respectful, her blade pivoting as she spoke, reflecting yet another shot that otherwise would have struck Caleb in his leg. Had he been a younger more inexperienced Padawan he probably would have objected to following the orders of someone only three years his senior.

But Ahsoka had been in this fight from the start, unlike him. She knew what to do, perhaps far better than he ever would. One didn't become the personal agent of Chancellor Palpatine without proving themselves worthy.

"Ready when you are!" Caleb called back, twirling his blade whilst reaching into the Force in preparation. Hopefully this would work. It had to!

Behind him he could hear as lightsabers clashed and pushed against one another again, signifying the ongoing duel between his Master and a monster. Depa only needed to buy them a few more seconds before...

"NOW!"

Ahsoka's call thrust Caleb into action, as he in turn thrust his hand out, palm facing towards the approaching droids. Through the Force he felt the energy rush out from both himself and Ahsoka, her own palm facing towards the droids in the darkness beyond.

Caleb watched as the droids were thrown backwards, crashing against one another whilst the Clones continued to fire over their heads, destroying the droids as they were pushed to the floor.

"There's our opening. Everyone move!"

The Clones burst into action, sprinting ahead of both Caleb and Ahsoka, firing on any downed droids that were still operational as they sought a way out. Turning his head Caleb saw the duel between his Master and Grievous come to an end, the Jedi Master thrusting her palm out towards the cyborg General, sending him careening backwards with the Force, snarls echoing down the hallways in the process.

Without stopping to check her handiwork, Depa turned and sprinted after the Clones, her Padawan falling in beside her, Ahsoka covering the rear. Caleb knew his Master was powerful, but the fact that she had held off Grievous single-handed reminded him of why she used to be on the Jedi Council.

He truly was lucky to have someone as wise and powerful as Depa Billaba as his Master.

Following the path his Master ran led to another corner, one with a door partially opened. The gap between the door and the floor was wide enough for them to slide under, and would hopefully slow any pursuers down, even if it was just for a moment.

Sliding under the doorway Caleb pushed himself back to his feet, taking the offered hand of one of the Clone troopers in the process.

"Thanks" Caleb said, shooting a brief smile at the Clone's faceplate, who nodded in reply.

"General Billaba, we found a ladder. Hopefully it leads to the surface of the facility." Commander Grey spoke, hand pointing into the darkness of the room, towards a single ladder that led upwards into what looked like a pipe of some kind.

"Excellent work Commander. Let's get up there and hope that Captain Styles is waiting for us." Depa replied, moving towards the ladder, with Caleb following digilantly. The ladder was not particularly wide, but it would serve their purpose. Even if it didn't lead to the roof it would still put more distance between them and General Grievous.

It was then that a harrowing sound echoed through the hallways beyond the partially closed door, one that would flood even the bravest of soul with nightmares.

"I get the feeling that Grievous is pretty pissed off right now." The comment came from Ahsoka, who was watching the doorway, her posture tense, as if expecting another ambush. Caleb couldn't say he blamed her after what they encountered earlier.

"He'll be here faster than we can all climb the ladder." Big-Mouth spoke, coming to stand beside Caleb, helmet off for some reason. He had a deep thoughtful look on his face, as if he knew something… as if he was planning something.

"Then we better move fast Big-Mouth." Depa replied, bracing a hand on one of the bars of the ladder before vaulting herself up, beginning to climb.

And then Big-Mouth spoke again, and Caleb felt his heart plummet in his stomach.

"You go ahead General. I'll buy you some time."

Depa's response was instantaneous, dropping down form where she had previously been climbing and coming to stand before Big-Mouth, face to face.

"No… I can't let you do that Big-Mouth."

"With all due respect General Grievous will catch us. We can only climb that ladder one at a time. If I stay then maybe a few more of us will get out alive."

"And if you come with us we will all get out of this alive!"

"I think we both know that's not happening General. It's been a great honor to serve with you and your Padawan. You are both fine Jedi, and downright brilliant people. Let me do this for you at the very least."

Caleb didn't even realize that he had been holding his breath, not until he saw the way his Jedi Master's shoulders sagged slightly in despair, understanding and remorse on her face. Clearly some part of her knew that Big-Mouth was telling the truth, no matter how horrible of a truth it was to hear. Beside her Commander Grey now stood, his own helmet clutched in his hands as he stared at his brother, a stoically calm expression covering his face. His eyes however betrayed his true emotions. A fire burned deep within them, one showing hurt and loss, but also despair, knowing he could do nothing to stop Big-Mouth.

Depa's head lowered briefly, eyes narrowed as she contemplated Big-Mouth's words, her breathing slow and steady as she tried to balance herself in the Force. Caleb could feel her mood sour through it, before a sense of acceptance passed over their bond.

In that moment Caleb watched as Depa raised her head, locking eyes with Big-Mouth before speaking.

"You are one brave man Big-Mouth. I'm so sorry."

"I'm not General. Has to be done. Get everyone to safety and find out exactly what the Separatist scum were up to here." Big-Mouth responded, snapping into a salute, to which Depa and the surrounding Clones responded in kind.

Caleb knew that nothing he would say would change the trooper's mind in that moment. If his loyal General was unable to make him do so, what chance did a mere Padawan have?

That still didn't stop Caleb from feeling immensely guilty at the decision. Big-Mouth was about to sacrifice himself, all for a slim chance that they might possibly escape the facility alive.

And even if they did manage to climb the ladder to the roof their escape hinged entirely on Captain Styles actually showing up to extract them… that or whoever Ahsoka had called for help arriving on time, if at all.

Suffice to say, Caleb really didn't like their chances.

"Hey kid?" Big-Mouth's voice startled Caleb out of his internal thoughts, bringing his attention to the Clone who now wore his helmet standing before him.

"Yeah?" Caleb replied, not trusting himself to be able to form larger sentences in the current situation. Looking up at the faceplate of Big-Mouth's helmet it occurred to him that he would likely never see his face again, despite sharing it with several million brothers.

"Stay safe yeah? You're gonna make one fine Jedi Master one day. Maybe even a Council member?"

Caleb didn't know how to respond. How did one respond to someone who was quite literally going to walk off to meet their deaths whilst others survived?

Instead, he chose to simply bow to the heroic trooper, showing the respect most often reserved for a Jedi Master. The slight tip of Big-Mouth's helmet in response showed that he recognized and appreciated the gesture.

Big-Mouth then turned to Ahsoka who was still watching the partially closed doorway, anticipating an attack, and spoke directly to her.

"You watch out for this one for me?"

It was a simple request, one that made Caleb's heart hurt more than it already did. Why was Big-Mouth doing this?

"Consider it done trooper." Came Ahsoka's response as she moved past Big-Mouth towards the ladder. Several Clones had already begun their ascent, following their Jedi General's lead up the ladder to hopefully their salvation.

But Caleb made no move to follow. He couldn't leave Big-Mouth to face Grievous alone. He hadn't abandoned Ahsoka, and he wouldn't abandon his men.

Big-Mouth could quite clearly see he wasn't leaving. Instead the two stood before each other, staring, watching, waiting. Caleb couldn't see Big-Mouth's eyes, or his expression, but he hoped it was not one of fear, or terror.

In fact, if anything, Caleb was willing to bet that Big-Mouth had a rather large smirk on his face, confident even when facing the end.

"Get out of here Commander!" Big-Mouth said his tone raised in what Caleb would call commanding, authority resonating in his voice before he lowering his body to the ground, slipping under the exposed gap in the door.

Seconds later, the door slammed shut.

"Caleb, we have to go now!" Ahsoka's voice brought him back around, her hand gently gripping his arm as she lightly tugged him towards the ladder.

Caleb had little choice but to follow.

Chapter Text

The climb up the ladder was perhaps the least strenuous activity that Caleb had undertaken since this foolhardy mission had begun. That said, it was up against other events such as fighting off General Grievous, and traversing through a harsh sandstorm completely blind aside from the Force.

Suffice to say, the ladder was almost like a vacation for Caleb.

Reaching his hands up he continued to pull himself upwards, climbing the ladder towards what he hoped was escape. If they were lucky, a concept the Jedi did not usually believe in, then Captain Styles would be waiting for them.

If not… then it was likely they were walking into yet another trap.

"Keep going Caleb, you're doing great." The gentle soothing voice of Ahsoka came from below him, distorted by her helmet, but warm nonetheless.

Encouraged by her words he pushed on upwards, hands grasping metal bar after metal bar as he continued up the ladder until finally he reached an opening, sunlight shining on his face. Reaching a final hand up he grasped the now evident ledge and vaulted up, finding himself in the middle of a group of heavily armed clones, who in turn were surrounded by a ring of droids of a unique variant he had only ever heard of before.

"Oh great." Caleb muttered under his breath, reaching a hand down to help Ahsoka out of the hole, sealing it behind her as she exited into the open space of the facilities roof.

The Togruta too seemed to notice the ring of droids that were staring menacingly at them, ensuring they could not run. It was then that Caleb noticed the presence of a pair of droid gunships circling above them as well, covering the skies just in case.

"This day just gets better and better!" Commander Grey quipped from beside Caleb, blasters drawn and sighted on one of the Magnaguards, who in response activated an electrostaff, twirling it dangerously as a threat towards them.

They hadn't attacked yet, so clearly they were waiting for something.

Or someone.

Seconds later, said someone arrived. A single blue lightsaber erupted through the metal of the hatch they had just sealed, melting the metal and creating an opening for the person beneath it.

A single clawed hand reached up, pulling it's cyborg body up in the process, rising to his full height before the assembled group of Jedi and Clones, who backed away in caution.

Caleb audibly gulped at the situation. They were essentially caught between a rock and a hard place, or a droid army and its murderous general, in this instance.

For a brief second an image of Big-Mouth flashed in Caleb's mind. He had stayed behind to hold off the cyborg General, and considering Grievous presence before them now…

Had he suffered… or had it been quick and painless. Merciful.

Caleb doubted very much that it was.

"A valiant effort today Master Billaba, though ultimately futile. Did you really think that leaving a single clone behind would delay me? Or did you order him to waste his life?" Grievous snarled, taking a step towards Depa, who was now standing between her troops and the leader of the droid armies.

"Big-Mouth's sacrifice will not be in vain and we are hardly finished here. You haven't won yet Grievous." Depa responded, hand tightly gripping her lightsaber hilt before her, ready for when the General inevitably attacked.

"That was not a sacrifice Billaba, but a suicide mission. Then again, I suppose your troops are created with the intention of being disposal pieces of flesh!"

Caleb didn't miss the way the various clone troopers stiffened in anger at the General's comment. He himself was pretty angry at Grievous for even suggesting that the Clones, his friends, were expendable.

"They aren't battle droids Grievous. They had their own life ahead of them." Caleb came to his friends defence, moving to stand alongside his Master, blocking the cyborg from reaching the Clones.

"Foolish youngling. For every Clone killed two more take its place. That is the definition of expendable. And besides, unlike my droids your Clones have free will. Free will which is stripped from them by their forced loyalty to the Jedi Order!" Grievous continued to boast, his face turned towards Caleb, golden eyes locked on his own teal ones with a dark sense of joy in them.

"We'll die before you get anywhere near them." Another voice, Ahsoka's, came from beside Caleb in that moment as the Togruta too moved to join the Master and Padawan, ready to defend the Clones from the monster before them.

At her comment the General laughed, a horrific sound punctuated by several sharp hacking coughs before her regained control.

"Nothing would please me more Tano, but my Master for whatever reasons has specifically requested that you be left alive. The rest however shall meet their fate!"

In an instant Grievous' arms extending, separating into four, each with a lightsaber held in his hands, igniting the four of them simultaneously, before angling them directly at his opponents. Caleb wasted no time, igniting his own blade and dropping into the ready position he knew best. The three of them versus General Grievous would surely be enough.

But then he remembered the surrounding droids as well. There was no way the Clones could take on such droids, and if he, his Master or Ahsoka broke off from Grievous for even a second to help they would be cut to pieces by the General himself.

Grievous had clearly anticipated this, judging from the way he cackled once again.

"Do not worry Padawan, I will treasure your lightsaber as if it was my own!"

Caleb was about to retort, to declare that Grievous would never lay his clawed hand on his lightsaber, when something interrupted him.

A loud bang echoed throughout the sky and suddenly one of the droid gunships exploded in mid-flight, its wreckage crashing down upon the roof, crushing several of the Magnaguards in the process. The force of the impact knocked Caleb off his feet for a brief second, providing Grievous with an opportunity to strike, one that was blocked by his Master. Around him blaster fire began to roar out as the Clones moved to engage, another explosion echoing above Caleb's head in the process, drawing his attention to the sight of the second gunship falling from the sky. Behind the falling gunship Caleb spotted a familiar and welcome sight. Several Republic fighters dropped through the clouds, spearheaded by a Jedi starfighter, which itself had an open canopy, a tall figure bracing themselves on the exterior hull. The fighter was angled for the roof, it's intent clear.

The fighter wing soared overhead, moving to engage a squadron of vulture droids that had emerged from somewhere. The Jedi starfighter too moved to engage, now without a pilot, clearly being directed instead by an astromech droid.

It was then that someone landed in a roll beside him, before pushing themselves up into a ready stance, blue lightsaber blade ignited in his hand, bathing his creme coloured robes in its glow.

And then the Jedi arrival spoke.

"Hello there!"

"General Kenobi?!"

Caleb could only watch briefly as the Jedi Master moved with ease and fluidity towards the towering cyborg General, cutting a Magnaguard in half in the process before pivoting to meet the four descending blades of Grievous, who snarled aloud.

"I suppose I should have expected you to arrive. Always trying to save the day, aren't you Kenobi?"

"You know me so well General, I'm flattered."

Upon Master Kenobi's unexpected arrival Caleb would almost say that Grievous's entire plan had changed. Whereas before he was more than willing and in a perfect position to execute them all one by one, now he seemed to be completed ignoring the chaos around him, his reptilian eyes solely on Obi-Wan Kenobi.

If Caleb didn't know any better he'd assume there was some sort of bad blood between the two of them.

"Hey! Up on your feet Commander! I could use some help here!" The desperate voice of Commander Grey pulled Caleb out of his observations, his gaze moving to where the Clone was struggling against a Magnaguard by himself. The two were locked in a brawl with one another, both having hands tightly gripped to the droids electrostaff, both attempting to rip it out of the others hands for use.

Vaulting to his feet Caleb reigniting his saber and dashed forward, pivoting the blade in a sharp horizontal maneuver, slicing the droid in two and freeing up the staff for Grey's use. The Clone commander nodded his thanks before turning the staff around and clashing it against another Magnaguard that had approached him.

Caleb was about to help when he saw a body flung across the rooftop, landing beside him. Recognizing the heavily armoured form of Ahsoka he glanced up to see a trio of Magnaguards advancing upon her. Clearly she had been somewhat overwhelmed.

Reaching a hand down he helped her up, dropping into a ready position beside her, saber ready for combat.

The first guard closed the gap, spinning his staff rapidly several times before attempted to sweep Caleb off his feet. Caleb countered with his lightsaber, blade locking with the end of the staff, purple energy fizzing against his blade. The droid reacted to Caleb's defense, bringing the staff upward and away from the Jedi Padawan's feet and attempting to lunge towards his midsection instead.

Evading backwards Caleb watched as the droid lunged and missed, granting the Padawan his own opening in the duel. Seizing his chance Caleb brought his own blade forward, pushing away the end of the electrostaff that crackled with deadly energy, exposing the vulnerable hilt in the center of the staff. the droid stumbled back slightly, allowing Caleb to bring his blade up clean through the centre of the staff, destroying the weapon and leaving the droid defenceless. Not wasting any time, just in case the guard had any more tricks up it's metaphorical sleeve, Caleb sliced through the droids exposed neck, severing the head clean off, before sweeping his saber down and eviscerating the legs.

Smirking at his defeat of the droid, Caleb began to pivot on his heel when he felt something grab is leg tightly and begin to squeeze. Nearly jumping out of his skin in horror, he glanced down at the droid he thought he had just destroyed, only to find it crawling along the roof with its bare hands, one of which was now wrapped around leg, attempting to crush the limb with sheer force.

Acting quickly, Caleb twisted his blade downwards, slicing off the hand that was on his leg, which promptly loosened and fell off, before driving his blade down into the chest of the somehow functioning Magna Guard.

The remains of the guard collapsed to the floor this time, several sparks flashing from the exposed interior in the process, before shutting down for good.

Caleb wasted no time celebrating his victory however. Turing to his right he spotted Ahsoka who was busy in a duel with two more guards herself.

That was until she brought her own blade up in a harsh swing, slicing the guard in front of her into two pieces, before spinning on her heel and impaling the second guard directly in its power cell.

The Togruta seemed pleased with her victory as she nodded over at Caleb, clearly surveying his own destroyed droid behind him. Caleb couldn't help but feel pleased with himself. The fact that she was impressed with his actions meant a lot to him.

"WHERE THE KRIFF IS STYLES?" A loud shout echoed across the rooftop in the midst of the combat around them, originating from Commander Grey, who stood over his own destroyed Magnaguard, staff embedded deep within the droid.

It was a good question, one that Caleb really wished he had an answer for. Styles was supposed to extract them on the roof right? So where on Malachor was he?

"He'll be here Commander. Just keep on fighting!" Depa's voice responded from where she was locked in her own duel with a trio of guards, green blade being forced to move in all directions just to defend herself from harm.

"Go help her Caleb. I'll back up Master Kenobi!" Ahsoka's voice echoed from behind her helmet as she moved towards where Grievous and Obi-Wan were locked in a tense standoff, trading blows but getting nowhere fast. Hopefully with Ahsoka's help they'd be able to take down Grievous at least. That might just turn the mission around for them.

Trusting that Ahsoka knew what she was doing Caleb moved towards where his Master was, delving deep into the Force before thrusting his free hand out, directing the current of Force energy towards the guards, who were pushed backwards away from his Master.

Depa glanced behind her briefly in surprise before spotting Caleb approaching, ready to stand alongside her.

"Glad you here Padawan." She spoke softly to him, despite the ongoing chaos around them.

"Me too Master. Me too."

Both teacher and student watched as the three guards rose back to their feet, staffs twirling menacingly at them, clearly with the intent to kill.

And then they exploded, courtesy of some blaster fire.

Stepping back in surprise Caleb caught sight of Ahsoka's ship, descended before them, back ramp open and ready.

"Hey! You guys coming or what?" Captain Styles stood at the top of the ramp, blaster in hand as he covered them. The ship came to a gentle rest atop the roof, waiting for the team, who promptly broke into a sprint for the ramp, eager to escape this dreadful place.

Caleb couldn't help but agree as he too made for the ramp, turning around once he had arrived at its base to spot both Ahsoka and Obi-Wan, still locked in a duel against Grievous. The two were working in tandem with one another, defending each others exposed areas from the General, allowing them to counterattack and force the cyborg back a step.

Through the Force he could feel their bond gripping tightly to one another, feeding off one another's power. And then suddenly, their bond exploded in a massive discharge of energy, resulting in the cyborg General being flung backwards off the roof of the facility and out of site.

Content that Grievous was disposed of Caleb watched as the two broke into a sprint for the ramp into Ahsoka's shuttle, evidently as ready to escape as the rest of them were.

As the two ran towards Caleb, Obi-Wan reached his arm up to his mouth, a comm link flaring to life in the process.

"I've got them Oddball. Prepare to provide air support so we can get out of here, preferably in one piece."

Caleb couldn't hear if this 'Oddball' replied or not, and right now he didn't particularly care, not as he was herded into the shuttle by Master Kenobi.

Caleb turned to watch as the hatch sealed shut behind them, feeling the effects of the ship lifting off in the process, leaving the dustball that was Hypori behind.

Suffice to say, he was happy to be off such a planet, and hoped he'd never have to come back to such a place again.

Chapter Text

As it turned out Obi-Wan had arrived with more than just a squadron of fighters to back them up. Upon exiting the atmosphere of Hypori the first thing Ahsoka had spotted was the ongoing battle between a pair of Republic Venators and what she assumed was General Grievous' flagship.

And from where she was now sitting in the pilot's seat the Republic ships were fighting a losing battle. No doubt Separatist reinforcements were also on route. If they were going to flee, it had to be now.

Except that both her ship's hyperdrive and stealth systems were offline, damaged thanks to a pair of Vulture droids that had landed a lucky shot when the ship had been fleeing the facility.

That meant they would have to do things the hard way and land on Obi-Wan's capital ship without the benefit of having an invisible shuttle.

"Why can't things be simple, just for once?" Ahsoka questioned aloud, fully intending it to be a rhetorical question as she banked the shuttle to one side slightly, avoiding a barrage of fire from a pursuing Vulture droid.

"The Ahsoka I knew would be relishing this chaos once upon a time!" Obi-Wan's voice came from the co-pilot's seat, clearly trying to keep himself steady due to Ahsoka's flying skills. To the Jedi Master it was clear who she had learned these skills from.

"Yeah well perhaps you don't know me anymore." Came Ahsoka's response. Behind her helmet she cringed slightly at how cruel the words sounded. She didn't want to be mean to Obi-Wan, or make him feel at all guilty for what had happened between her and the Jedi Order. Yes, he was on the Council, and yes he could have supported her more… but in reality what could he have done? If he had acted out of turn it would have been detrimental to both his position on the Council and to the Jedi Order as a whole. In times of crisis the leaders had to be seen as unified, even when they were clearly not.

Through the Force she could feel as despair radiated off of Obi-Wan, before it was promptly replaced with nausea as Ahsoka tilted the ship again, this time to avoid a barrage of fire from Grievous' flagship itself. She would deal with Obi-Wan later. She had to let him know that he wasn't at fault, not at all.

Other Council members however were not so innocent in her mind.

*****************************************************************************************************

It was easier than expected to land on the lead Venator. Despite its sheer size and power, Grievous' ship had been unable to shoot them down, and both Ahsoka's T-6 and the wing of fighters Obi-Wan had led down to the surface of Hypori made it back safe and sound, the Venators jumping to hyperspace moments later, bound for Coruscant.

And so it was that Ahsoka found herself standing in the hangar of Obi-Wan's ship, helmet off and tucked under her arm as she surveyed the crew going about their work. At a distance she saw Depa and Caleb helping the wounded towards a doorway in the back, no doubt heading towards the medical centre for treatment. Despite the lack of casualties, Depa's battalion had still taken a fair few wounds in the fight on the surface.

And then there was Big-Mouth. Ahsoka could only assume that Grievous had gotten to him, taken him down with ease. Ahsoka didn't like thinking it of course, but she had long since learned about the harsh realities of war. People died, sometimes those that were close to you. When that happened you had to go on, honor their memory, no matter how much it hurt.

Ahsoka couldn't help but morbidly wonder if anyone would do the same for her. She had left the Jedi after all, as well as her loyal Clones. Would they mourn her if she passed?

"Commander Tano? It's good to see you so well." A familiar voice drew Ahsoka out of her inner thoughts, turning to greet the scarred face of Obi-Wan's loyal Commander in the process.

"Cody, it's good to see you. Master Kenobi been treating you and your men alright?" Ahsoka inquired. She and Cody had never really bonded, not like how she and Rex had, but she respected him nonetheless. He was a brilliant Commander, and one of the few to put up with Obi-Wan's endless supply of sass and sarcasm.

"As good as always Commander. He's one of the best. Times like this I'm glad I'm not stuck with General Skywalker like Rex. Uh, no offense intended of course." Cody replied, realising what he was saying in the process.

Ahsoka allowed a smirk to come to her face at the mention of Anakin and Rex, and Cody's interpretation of how the two of them led the 501st.

"Believe me, I know how you feel sometimes. Rex may act the part of steadfast soldier but I think Anakin's been a bit of a bad influence on him at times. He sure as kriff has with me."

Cody chuckled at that, the worry that had been present on his face fading away in an instant. Ahsoka couldn't help but return the smile.

"Yes Anakin has certainly been a somewhat chaotic influence on you young one, but I daresay you have been a much better one on him." The voice of Obi-Wan interrupted their conversation, the Jedi Master coming up behind Ahsoka, resting a hand gently on her armoured shoulder. She couldn't really feel the grip through the thick material, but she imagined he was squeezing gently as a form of comfort. Obi-Wan was fond of such subtle gestures, something which he had also passed down to Anakin.

"Considering the trouble we've gotten up to in the past I don't know if I'm a good influence on him or a willing accomplice to his crazy plans?" Ahsoka replied, turning to face Obi-Wan, who glanced at her with a sad smile on his face. Through the Force she could again feel his guilt and remorse over what had happened to her.

"Yes, you two were far closer than most Master and Padawans ever were. In a way I am jealous. I would have liked to have such a bond with Anakin myself, though all we ever seemed to do was argue about trivial matters."

Out of the corner of her eye Ahsoka caught the figure of Cody leaving, clearly understanding that this was a private discussion. Grateful for his absence Ahsoka focused all her attention on one of the two Jedi she considered her closest mentors.

"Anakin looks up to you Obi-Wan, even now. As do I for that matter. Aside from Senator Amidala you are pretty much the only individual in our lives that has even an ounce of negotiating skills. We'd have been long gone without you around."

Obi-Wan laughed at that, his sad smile becoming brighter, his guilt in the Force fading away slightly, for which Ahsoka was grateful.

"In that case I am proud to be of service to you both." Obi-Wan replied, bowing in a half jest, clearing humouring the Togruta for her comments. Ahsoka was grateful for that.

"Well, regardless of what role you play in our bizarre family I'm certainly glad you came when I asked. Knew you couldn't turn down the opportunity to clash against your favourite cyborg General."

"How could I refuse?" Obi-Wan replied, the smirk on his face growing wider.

******************************************************************************************************************************************

Not much more had been said during their conversation in the hangar, and Ahsoka had taken her leave not long after, heading to some quarters that had been reserved for her. Both Depa and Caleb had disappeared to somewhere on the ship, leaving Ahsoka alone once again. Obi-Wan was up on the bridge giving a report to the Council over what had happened. Whether or not he had revealed her presence or even her identity was unknown to her, but she wouldn't have been surprised if he had. She knew that one day it would all come out, and that her new allegiance to the Chancellor would put her at odds with the Jedi Council.

And frankly, she couldn't care less. The Council had done nothing to deserve her loyalty or support. Palpatine on the other hand had.

That reminded her. She had to report in, if only briefly, to the Chancellor. He needed to know what she had seen at the facility on Hypori.

Moving over to a small communication screen on a table in the quarters she had been given, Ahsoka sat down and began to input the Chancellor's frequency. He had given it to her for use on missions, in case she needed to report something important.

It took several seconds for the call to connect before an image of the Chancellor's elderly face appeared on the screen, looking far more tired that he should. Clearly it had been a long day at the office for him.

Upon recognizing the figure calling him Palpatine's eyes brightened slightly, a pleased look forming on his face.

"Agent Tano, I'm glad to see you in one piece. Was your mission on Hypori a success?"

On instinct Ahsoka straightened up in her chair, attempting to look as professional as she could, despite how tired she was. On that note she and Palpatine had something in common.

"To an extent Chancellor. We've recovered the information and learned what the Separatists are up to with this bioweapon. To put it simply the weapon is designed to completely nullify the effects of the Force, severing an individual's connection to it. If this weapon was to be deployed on the Jedi Temple for example…" Ahsoka began to detail, watching as the features on Palpatine's face fell as he began to understand the full extent of the weapon.

"It would remove the Jedi from the war as a whole. We'd lose our greatest advantage." Palpatine finished for her, his eyes dropping as he spoke, a hand coming to rest on his forehead, massaging it gently as if to ward off a headache.

"We need to find the source of this bioweapon Chancellor. Hopefully the data we will be bringing you will help pinpoint the source." Ahsoka continued, trying to be helpful towards the leader of the Republic. In the end it was his decision, but hopefully he wasn't opposed to her making a simple suggestion.

Palpatine did not speak for a while, his hand continuing to massage his forehead before he finally removed it, looking back up at her.

"We must inform the Jedi Council of our findings once you reach Coruscant my dear. I will speak to them directly, and I would like for you to be present at the meeting as well if you feel up to it. If not then I completely understand given the circumstances of your dismissal."

If Ahsoka was being truthful then she never wanted to stand before the Jedi Council again, not after what they had put her through.

But this was not about her and her emotions. This was about the risk posed to both the Jedi and the Republic. As the Chancellor's personal agent it was her duty to be present at this meeting.

"I'll be there Chancellor. You can count on me." Ahsoka replied, a false smile coming to her face as she began to imagine how the situation would go. Hopefully Palpatine couldn't sense her discomfort at it.

"I know I can Ahsoka, which is why I have another urgent mission for you. Whilst you have been away we have had a dire situation emerge, one that is not too dissimilar to your trial."

Now that caught her attention. What could have possibly happened on Coruscant now?

"What's happened?" Ahsoka inquired, her tone curious, a sense of trepidation washing over her. Something told her she was not going to like this.

The Chancellor's eyes moved from side to side for a moment, as if scanning the room he was in for something, before he replied.

"Recently Clone Trooper CT-5555 attempted to assassinate me. We believe he has been exposed to some kind of virus on Ringo Vinda. It has already caused another trooper, CT-5385 to go insane and execute a Jedi General in the midst of battle. Now the same affliction appears to be effecting CT-5555. He is on the run in the lower levels of Coruscant and is armed. Both General Skywalker and his Captain are searching as we speak, as is my personal guard, but neither have had the experience of running or searching in the underworld as you have. I want you to find this renegade trooper and bring him back to us. It may be possible to cure this illness in him before he goes too far. The last thing I want is more people harmed."

All Ahsoka could do was sit and listen. Listen as Palpatine explained how two of her men, two of her friends had gone insane. Tup had killed a Jedi... and now Fives was on the run! What could have possibly caused this?

She had to find him, before someone else did. Something was wrong here, and she knew from experience that not everything was always as it seemed. There was no way Fives would attempt to assassinate the Chancellor of his own free will. Same with Tup killing a Jedi.

"The second we get back to Coruscant I'll head down to the lower levels and find him Chancellor. There's got to be a reasonable explanation for this. Neither Fives nor Tup would ever do something like this willingly." Ahsoka replied, not able to keep the concern off her face this time.

The image of the Chancellor nodded once before smiling at her.

"I hope you are right Agent Tano. Once you have resolved the situation with our runaway Clone I want you to return to your home to rest. I will schedule the meeting with the Jedi Council in a few days to give us time to prepare. It is the least I owe you for asking such things of you."

Ahsoka was grateful for the gesture. Rest sounded good.

But first she would have to find Fives before anything bad happened to him.

***********************************************************************************************************

"So the Jedi escaped?"

"Unfortunately so my Lord. Kenobi arrived from nowhere to extract them. My forces did not stand a chance against such an ambush."

"This does not reflect well on you General. I must discuss this with my Master."

"Of course Count Dooku. I await your commands."

The hologram of General Grievous fizzled away from before Count Dooku, leaving him alone in his palace throne room. No sound, aside from that of his breathing, echoed through the large chamber. There was nothing to disturb him, aside from his own inner thoughts.

Thoughts that now dwelled on what to tell his Master. Sidious would not be happy. Grievous had failed, allowing the Jedi to escape the carefully conceived trap, most likely with some of the data pointing towards the truth behind 'Project Nullify'. Why had his master made such a calculated risk in exposing the facility? Surely it was not worth it?

But despite his inner thoughts, despite what he thought, Dooku was in the end only the apprentice. He would not openly question the wisdom of his Master, at least not yet.

Reaching a wrinkled hand forward he keyed the hologram transmitter to his Master's signal lowering himself to one knee.

Moments later the ever imposing figure of Darth Sidious appeared, draped in his long black cloak, concealing his identity to all.

All except him.

"Lord Tyranus, I trust you have a report on the conflict on Hypori?"

"Yes my Master. Grievous failed to eliminate the Jedi and they have no doubt escaped with data pertaining to 'Project Nullify'."

Sidious did not respond at first, and a sense of dread began to cover Dooku. Whenever something like this happened, Dooku himself would usually bare the brunt of his Master's punishment.

Suffice to say he would make Grievous suffer for it later as well, just as he was about to suffer.

"No matter Lord Tyranus. This defeat is merely an obstacle in our path to complete domination. Soon the galaxy will be ours."

Dooku had not been expecting such a response from Sidious. There was no trace of anger in his tone, aside from the malice befitting his status as a Sith Master, and yet none of it was directed towards him.

Dooku would be lying if he said he wasn't a little relieved.

"As you say my Master."

At Dooku's response Sidious huffed aloud, his wrinkled hands coming forward to gesture to the Count.

"Fear not my apprentice. We are so close now. I am sending you another dossier on an individual I wish you to analyse. They will be a worthy addition to what we have planned for our glorious empire." Sidious spoke, changing the direction of the conversation. This wasn't the first time the Sith Master had sent him such dossiers. Each of the ones he had received so far had specified an individual within the Jedi Order, strong with the Force, but clearly at odds with the Order as a whole, much as Dooku had himself once been.

"Of course my Master. I will study this individual extensively and report back to you with my findings." Dooku replied, bowing his head in confirmation.

Sidious said nothing in reply, his hologram fading seconds later, clearly showing he was done with Dooku for now.

Raising up from where he had been kneeled, Dooku moved to his throne, gently sitting down before opening up a file on a nearby datapad, the information Sidious had sent appearing before him.

On screen was the face of a male Miraluka, details about their name and personality below them, as well as their current position within the corrupt Jedi Order.

Leaning back in his throne, Dooku began his research.

He really hated paperwork.

Chapter Text

Sleep had barely graced Ahsoka with its presence on the flight back to Coruscant, leading to her feeling both tired and concerned, something that was never a good combination. It was bad enough that she had to hunt down Fives, who had apparently gone rogue and attempted to assassinated the Chancellor. Now she had to do all of that whilst being drowsy.

Ahsoka could already feel a headache coming on.

"We're about to come out of hyperspace. It'll be a short flight down to the Temple in a transport upon arrival, though I sense you have other plans?" Obi-Wan's voice interrupted Ahsoka's inner musings, drawing her eyes to his own. The familiar shade of blue radiated only calm and serenity, as well as compassion. All traits of a perfect Jedi Master.

"I've got new orders from the Chancellor. Apparently Fives has gone rogue and is on the run in the underworld. Anakin and Rex are after him but the Chancellor wants me to look for him as well, considering the circumstances and all." Ahsoka replied quietly, her eyes surveying the bridge of the Venator, watching for anyone listening in on her and Obi-Wan's discussion.

"Gone rogue? This is most concerning indeed. We will drop you off near an entrance to the underworld Ahsoka. Hopefully you'll find him in time." Obi-Wan replied, hand coming to lightly stroke his beard, a gesture Anakin frequently playfully mocked him for. Ahsoka had always thought it was somewhat weird. Why did humans stroke their own hair in such a way?

"That's the plan. Considering my own experience on the run the Chancellor is hopeful I will be able to locate him before he does any damage to anyone, or himself for that matter."

Obi-Wan nodded in response to Ahsoka, eyes moving through the bridge in deep contemplation.

"We'll drop you off as I said Ahsoka. Will we see you at the Temple later on?" Obi-Wan questioned, eyes coming back to lock onto hers.

Ahsoka didn't want to outright refuse, but she really didn't want to return to the Temple if she didn't have to. That place had been her home once, until they cast her out. As far as she was concerned she had no right to return.

But she had promised the Chancellor she would be present for the meeting between him and the Council.

"I'll be accompanying the Chancellor. He's going to schedule a meeting to discuss what we found on Hypori. No doubt I'll be welcomed back with open arms." Ahsoka answered, allowing her tone to turn sarcastic towards the end. Hopefully Obi-Wan wouldn't take too much offense to it. He wasn't in the wrong.

Judging from the smirk that briefly covered Obi-wan's face, he wasn't offended, and for that Ahsoka was grateful.

**************************************************************************************************************************************

The underworld was not a particularly nice place to visit, especially in comparison to the surface of Coruscant and its shining spires, each housing a vast conglomerate of species and individuals, all of whom lived in luxury.

The underworld however was much different. Gone was the tall towers coated in pristine materials, instead replaced by dark damp architecture that was illuminated only by various neon signs that signified endless bars and seedy clubs that the people of below frequented.

Ahsoka had been down to these levels many times before, usually on Jedi duty with Anakin or Plo Koon. Never had she ventured down out of her own free will. Perhaps that had been the Jedi in her, forcing her to stay with the elite above, rather than the ones who lived below. They were people too, and frankly they had a much harder challenge in life than any politician or Jedi Master she knew. They had to survive on the very basics, limited supplies and little room to move. They couldn't even see the sun.

Frankly Ahsoka felt sorry for them. If she could help them, she would. Maybe one day she'd come down to these levels again when she was free and just help the people she could see with whatever problems they had, show them that someone out there cared about them.

But right now, despite how much she wanted to, she couldn't. She had to find Fives before someone got hurt.

Stepping out of the train she had caught, Ahsoka reached deep into the Force, trying to find some trace of the Clone. He might not have been sensitive to the Force, being a Clone and all, but she still knew the differences between them, and how to sense them. Each Clone was different, and Fives was among the most unique. He was always happy and joyful, ready for a challenge no matter how dangerous.

And he was always compassionate too. That was how she could tell the difference. Fives more that the others cared about his brothers, about his Generals.

About the Republic. Fives would do anything in his power to protect his friends, to save them from harm.

And if for some reason he couldn't then Fives would get angry. Fives would ask questions. Fives would dwell on every little detail until…

All of a sudden there was a pinprick at the edge of her mind. The feeling of terror and dread. The feeling of someone running from something they didn't fully understand.

The feeling of Fives!

Content that she had some sort of lead, Ahsoka turned on her heels and began to follow the Force, trusting that it would guide her to Fives.

From what she had sensed it was clear that he was looking to escape from Coruscant for some reason.

She had to find out why.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Fives ran. That was all he could do. Run, and escape. Evade those hunting him. Hide from the truth… whatever the truth was?

The Chancellor had something to do with this, he was certain. The old man had all but confirmed it himself, a sinister smile on his face the entire time. Could it be that the Chancellor of the Republic was some sort of spy for the Separatists?

And why was he targeting the Jedi through some sort of diabolical weapon implanted into every one of his brothers.

Whatever was in the chip, whatever it made Tup do had to be studied. Fives had to escape and find out the truth, even if it meant he was branded a war criminal for life.

From where he was hidden within a dark alley in the seedy underworld of Coruscant, Fives glanced ahead. three troopers moved, each clad in white and red armour, looking for him. At the front of them he spotted Fox, blasters in hand, ready to strike.

There was no way he could take them on head to head, but he couldn't stay hidden in a dark alleyway forever. Sooner or later General Skywalker, or some other Jedi would find him. And then he would have no escape.

He had to move, and move quickly.

Waiting until he was sure that Fox and his men were out of sight, Fives moved, dashing from one shadow to another, blending with the dark drab background of the underworld. Those that did notice him were simple civilians, mostly drunk or tired from a long day at whatever job they did. None of them would report him to the authorities.

Moving into another alleyway, Fives caught his breath briefly before moving on. He had a plan, which was something. Having been down to this level of the underworld before, sometimes on patrol, other times on shore leave, Fives knew that there was a docking bay nearby. He would have to steal a ship, but hopefully he could find something space worthy. Even if it only got him to some other hidden place on Coruscant it would do. As long as he was as far away from the Chancellor as possible he could perhaps begin to do some research into whatever this chip was.

Moving from the alleyway he was in once again, Fives broke into a sprint, heading towards where he knew he needed to go.

Several moments later, as well as one more brief evasion of several Clones, Fives found what he was looking for. Beyond the large open hangar door before him was a ship, one that was small enough to be discrete. It was run down yes, not unlike General Skywalker's old freighter, but it would do the job.

Allowing a smile to come to his face for the first time in hours, Fives began to approach the ship.

That was until the hangar bay door slammed shut before him, and a figure emerged from the shadows behind him. The figure was not especially tall, a few inches shorter than him, and was dressed in what looked like a weird amalgamation of Clone and Mandalorian armour. A helmet covered their face, obscuring their identity, but Fives could tell this individual was clearly not human, not with the Lekku that dangled down from beneath the helmet.

Was the Chancellor hiring bounty hunters to find him now?

"Fives? What's going on?" The figure spoke softly, voice distorted by the helmet, but hauntingly familiar to the Clone. The 'bounty hunter' was clearly female, and from the way she spoke she appeared to be a friend to him.

That said, Fives was beyond trusting anyone at the moment, not with both the Chancellor's men and his own unit pursuing him.

'And now a mysterious bounty hunter. Just great!' Fives thought to himself.

"Stay away from me whoever you are! I just want to get through this door and you aren't going to get in my way." Fives finally replied, hostility in his tone. Hopefully this person would back off. He didn't want to hurt anyone.

The armoured figure took two steps towards him, hands outward, palms up. A sign that she meant no harm, at least that's what Fives wanted to believe. He was most likely very wrong.

The figure did not respond to his demands, instead her hands began to move from their palm up position to her head, grasping the helmet gently, before pulling it over her head and revealing her features to him. Fives had to stop himself from crying out in joy.

"Commander Tano?" He asked quietly instead, moving towards her, his hands grasping hers, squeezing tightly, making sure she was real.

"It's me Fives, but I'm not your Commander anymore. The Chancellor told me you were on the run. What's going on Fives?" His old Commander replied, her face soft yet flooded with worry. Worry for him and his predicament. He supposed it made sense. She too had been in this position not too long ago, and he and done nothing to help her.

Yet now here she was, ready to help him when he didn't deserve it.

"I… I don't honestly know Commander. One minute I'm fighting with the General and the boys, then the next thing I know Tup has killed a Jedi and I'm somehow wrapped up in a conspiracy with seemingly everyone out for my head!"

Fives half expected Ahsoka to laugh at him, to tell him he was being ridiculous and that he should just go back to his bunk in the barracks and sleep it all off.

Instead, a sad smile came to her face, one that made Fives relax. His Commander had always had that effect on both him and the others, far more so that Rex or Skywalker ever did.

"I know what you mean Fives. Tell me what you've found out so far." Ahsoka responded, pulling Fives into the shadows behind her, hiding them both from sight.

Fives closed his eyes and took a deep breath, preparing himself. She would either think he was crazy…

Or she might possibly help him. Surely she had no love for the Chancellor and the Clones after they had abandoned her, right? He sure as hell knew he wouldn't in her position.

"Ok. There's this chip in our heads. All of the Clones have it. Rex, Cody, Wolffe, you name it. The Kaminoans said it was some sort of aggression restraining chip, meant to keep us in check so we don't go berserk in the field. Apparently it makes us follow orders better or something." Fives began, watching Ahsoka's face as he described what he could. His eyes studied her as he spoke, seeing every inch of information he was giving being received and thought through.

At last… someone was listing to him!

"I don't know what happened, by somehow the chip in Tup's head degraded so badly that it made him execute a Jedi General in the field, at least that was the excuse I heard. I reckon that the chips have some sort of hidden purpose outside of controlling our behaviour, and that it's got something to do with the Jedi. It could be a weapon or something, designed specifically to eliminate the Jedi!"

That was as much as he had, or at least as much as he could speculate. He didn't want to bring the Chancellor into this, not yet, not until he was completely and utterly sure of every last detail. It would only spell disaster if he falsely accused the old man. He only needed to look at the Togruta before him to see what happened to those who were falsely accused.

Hopefully she believed him, believed that there was something wrong with everything he had been told so far. Surely she would see that, especially considering her own struggles as of late.

Watching Ahsoka's face, Fives waited in trepidation for a reaction. Her expression remained stoney, betraying no outward emotion, but her eyes were a different story. Deep within the blue hue Fives could see her thinking, analysing everything he had told her, coming to her own conclusion on it.

Hopefully it would be one that didn't view him as the problem, as everyone else had.

Several agonizing second later, Ahsoka finally responded, her head nodding slowly.

"It wouldn't be the first weapon to destroy the Jedi that I've heard of that's for sure, and it definitely seems suspicious. I know you Fives. You wouldn't lie about something like this."

"You… you believe me?" Fives questioned back with a tone of quiet disbelief. He felt for certain that she wouldn't believe him. After all why should she? Like the rest he had abandoned her when she was on the run, doing next to nothing to help clear her name, unlike General Skywalker. Why would she help him now?

"It's hard for me to say if you are right without all the evidence Fives, and we can't make any accusations without such proof. You need to get as far away from here as you possibly can and lay low for a while. When the heat had died down then you can begin your research."

Fives struggled to keep the sob that had built in his throat from escaping, joy flooding through him as he understood Ahsoka's words. She was telling him to run, to keep on running. To find somewhere safe to hide.

And to find out the truth. Fives was no detective. He hated paperwork and regulations, constantly mocking his old friend Echo for his love of them.

But if Commander Tano believed in him when no one else would, then he would do it for her.

He would do it for the Jedi.

He would do it for his brothers.

Before he could thank the Togruta for her trust she moved, raising a single hand towards the closed hangar bay door, before grasping it with the Force and opening it. The sight of a ship ready and waiting for him to take was one of pure relief.

"Thank you Commander! You won't regret this, I promise you!" Fives spoke, instinctively pulling the Togruta into his arms, hugging her as if it was the last time he would ever see her. He hoped it wouldn't be.

Releasing his former Commander and friend, Fives made to head towards the waiting ship when he felt Ahsoka grab his hand, balling it up into a fist in the process.

"Commander?" Fives questioning, looking at Ahsoka with confusion on his face. First she was willing to let him go, now she was stopping him?

"Anakin and Rex are close, I can feel them. The Chancellor sent me here to capture you. We need to make it look like you overpowered me. No worries though, I forgive you."

"Forgive me for what?" Fives asked, now more confused than ever. What was she up to?

A smirk covered Ahsoka's face before she yanked on his now balled up fist, angling it directly towards her own cheek. Fives couldn't stop his hand from crashing into the Togruta's face, a sickening crack of knuckle against cheek causing him to flinch in horror as he realised what had just happened. Before him the Togruta tumbled to the floor, one hand cradling her face, the other supporting her fall.

"Kriff! Commander! Why did you…" Fives demanded, moving over to her to help her up.

Rather than accept the help however, Ahsoka pushed him away, mouthing one word to him in the process, the smirk ever present despite the pain she was currently in.

'Run.'

And so Fives ran.

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Ahsoka had felt relief many times when a ship took off. Usually that was because she was on it, and normally fleeing from either an ongoing battle with no hopes of winning, or leaving after a battle had been finished to return to the Temple for some rest.

This time however it was different. She felt relief simply watching as the small cargo freighter took off carrying Fives with it, hopefully keeping him safe from harm, for the time being. Whatever he had discovered was bad, that she could tell. She was too close to both the Chancellor and the Jedi to really be able to help to him, despite how much she wanted to. Hopefully he would find someone somewhere willing to listen and help. If there was one thing Fives was good at it was making friends.

Besides, right now she had other issues to deal with, such as the pair of figures that had just rounded an alleyway corner, spotting her lying on the floor, clutching her cheek. Hopefully neither of them would be angry at Fives for 'assaulting' her. He was only 'defending' himself after all.

And hopefully Fives didn't feel too guilty about giving her a nasty bruise on her face.

"Wait?! Ahsoka? What are you doing here? And what happened to your face?!" Anakin's tone was instantly concerned upon seeing her, and then full of rage at the sight of her face. Clearly the bruise was already visible. Admittedly it was now stinging a bit, but nothing she hadn't had before.

Feigning a struggle to push herself up, something which led to Anakin instantly arriving at her side to help her, Ahsoka replied, keeping her tone professional. She was here on assignment after all.

"The Chancellor sent me to find Fives, and I did. But he overpowered me. Must have knocked me out cold. By the time I awoke he was gone."

It wasn't a complete lie, and hopefully Anakin wouldn't see through it, or worse sense she was lying. Hopefully he was too distracted by the fact that she was hurt to pry.

Rex on the other hand…

"Fives attacked you Commander?! He wouldn't do something like that. Ever!"

Accepting Anakin's help Ahsoka stood back up, her eyes locking onto the visor of Rex's helmet.

"Yeah, well I didn't think the Clones would ever chase me down and stun me but they did Captain. I tried to stop Fives but he wouldn't listen. He overpowered me, simple as that. Now he's gone and I doubt we'll find him anytime soon. I need to report this to the Chancellor right away. Could you give me a lift back up to the surface?" Ahsoka replied, directing the last of her statements at Anakin, who nodded in compliance, a myriad of emotions both on his face and coursing through his signature in the Force.

Frankly, Ahsoka felt much the same as he did.

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"He escaped? This is most unfortunate Agent Tano. Clone Trooper Fives could become a serious threat to us if he has indeed gone mad. I can't say I am pleased with this result." The voice of the Chancellor was stern and commanding, and almost made Ahsoka shrink in on herself in shame for failing, even if it had been her own choice.

But she wouldn't wilt in the face of a reprimand. That was something her younger more innocent self would have done when she was being punished by a Jedi Master during her time as an initiate. She wasn't that person anymore. She was a hardened Commander of the Clone Wars, and personal agent of the Chancellor. She would stand tall and take whatever punishment he saw fit.

"I apologise profusely Chancellor. I didn't expect Fives to ambush me in such a way. I thought I could talk him out of it, convince him to come home. But it's like you said he was too far gone to even consider coming in peacefully." Ahsoka responded, hands clasped behind her back, back up straight, hoping she was appearing as a professional.

The Chancellor moved away from where he had been staring out the window of his office, overlooking the endless skyscrapers of Coruscant and replied.

"I appreciate your attempt at ending this peacefully, and I don't blame you for his escape. After all you had just returned from a dangerous mission yourself. No doubt you are tired if the reports you sent me are anything to go by. I will handle this problem from now on. Return to your home and relax for the rest of the night. Get some sleep. Our meeting with the Jedi Council is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, assuming you are still willing to attend?"

"Of course Your Excellency. It'll be my pleasure to attend." Ahsoka answered, bowing her head in a sign acceptance, seeing a small smile come onto the older man's face in response.

"Good my dear. Thank you. Now go get some rest my friend. I'll contact you in the morning."

"Thank you Chancellor."

With the debrief over for now, Ahsoka reached down and picked up her helmet that was currently resting on a chair, before bowing again to the Chancellor, and turning to leave his office.

Right now, she needed some sleep, and it was times like these that she was glad she had a very comfy bed to rest in.

Chapter Text

The Jedi Temple was a sight to behold on Coruscant. It's tall spires dominated the landscape around it, even more so that the numerous skyscrapers surrounding it, as well as the Senate building, the central place of power for the entirety of the Republic.

To the people on the outside the Temple was a place of worship and of strength, of safety and of power. It was the home of the very people who wanted to do nothing more but protect the entire galaxy from even the smallest of threats.

But right now, standing at the base of the Temple steps that she had walked down no so long ago, all Ahsoka could feel was a harsh chill. There was something not right about the Temple anymore. It wasn't a warm comforting place, but one that was mired in politics and war, far more corrupt that she had ever anticipated.

In an odd way, it reminded her of the Senate building, just in a different guise. Perhaps there wasn't really much difference between the Jedi Council and the members of the Republic Senate. Even with the Force the Council members had proven that they could easily be fooled.

Still, as much as she really didn't want to ascend the steps she had to. The Chancellor had asked her to come, so here she was, about to ascend the steps that she had not long since walked down, away from what had been her life for sixteen years. Standing before them now, Ahsoka realized just how imposing the Jedi Temple was to outsiders. This was going to be harder than she had originally thought.

Lifting her foot forward, she placed it on the first step, swallowing beneath her helmet. She had opted to come dressed in full armour as opposed to out of it. Hopefully the Council would take her a bit more seriously like that.

As Ahsoka continued to slowly climb the steps, memories began to flood back to her. For years these steps had been a welcome challenge for her. Returning home from a mission meant all she had to do was climb these steps and then she would be safe, that she could rest.

Now they were an unwelcome path into her past, a past she no longer wanted anything to do with. The Jedi had all but betrayed her. She owed them nothing! That was what the Chancellor had said to her earlier in the morning over the comms. He had given her one last opportunity to pull out of this meeting, stating that he knew she didn't want to return.

Ahsoka had refuted the Chancellor's claims. He was right, she didn't want to return. But she had to, to prove a point. The Jedi may have kicked her out, but she was not done yet. She had plenty more fight to give, just that it would be beside the Chancellor this time.

After what felt like forever, Ahsoka found herself at the final step, ascending it onto the large stone floor that led towards the Temple entrance. Glancing around, she spotted the two familiar statues of Jedi long since dead, ominously shrouding the way with shadows, blocking the sunlight.

And there, standing in the shadows, speaking to what looked like a Temple Guard was the Chancellor.

Ahsoka found a small smile come to her face beneath her helmet. At least she had one friend here, if she could call the Chancellor a friend that was.

Approaching the man, Ahsoka saw him turn to glance behind him, evidently hearing her footsteps. His face broke out into a wide smile as he ushered her toward the Temple Guard that was waiting for them both.

"Ah my dear, so glad you could make it. I was just having a wonderful discussion with this gentleman about the role of the Temple Guard within the Jedi Order. Quite a story indeed. What was your name again my friend?" Palpatine spoke, directing the last part at the temple guard himself.

"I no longer have a name. I surrendered it when I became a member of the Guard. It is a lifelong occupation to ensure the protection of those that protect the galaxy, and one that requires great personal sacrifice." The guard spoke, his voice familiar to Ahsoka, despite being hidden by his own mask.

"No name? That is a great tragedy my friend. Could you change your role if you wished? Perhaps become a member of the Council one day?" Palpatine continued, his face falling in despair at the Temple Guard's comment. Ahsoka too felt some despair at the comment. This guard was, admittedly by his own choice, denied any real personality. Yes, she too had made great personal sacrifices in being a Jedi, but at least she had kept her name and who she was intact. This guard had seemingly lost it.

"Not without great difficulty Your Excellency, and not without being looked down upon by many in the Order. I am content where I am for the time being. Now come, the Council will be expecting you." The Guard finished, standing tall and turning to lead the way. Glancing at the Chancellor, Ahsoka spotted a small sad smile on his face, before he made to follow.

Having no other alternative, Ahsoka too followed, falling in beside the Chancellor.

The three walked in silence towards the entrance of the Temple, passing by several more guards in the process. Upon entering the central atrium, Palpatine spoke once again.

"What made the Jedi construct a temple of this size on Coruscant? I thought they preferred to remain on outer colony worlds."

It was a peculiar question, one that Ahsoka had never really considered. The temple she knew of was thousands of years old, built before the lifetime of anyone who currently lived in it. Was there even an answer to the Chancellor's question, or was it all pure speculation?

"Most of the truth has been lost through time Your Excellency, as much of history has. There are ancient stories of this temple being constructed over the top of a Sith Shrine in an attempt to drown out the darkside of the Force. How much truth there is in this story and how much of it is myth is unknown however." The guard replied, directing the two towards another flight of stairs, one that Ahsoka knew led to the elevator to the Council Chambers.

"A Sith Shrine? Fascinating." Palpatine spoke in barely a whisper beside her, clearly captivated by the story. Ahsoka was glad that someone had an appreciation for the history of the Jedi and Sith, even a non Force sensitive such as Palpatine. The Chancellor seemed to be a well educated man who was always willing to learn more. It was no wonder he was such a good leader.

"Indeed. The history of the Jedi and the Sith stretches back many millennia. There are even myths of our two opposing sides once being allies against a greater threat, though again, much of the truth has been lost through the annals of time." The Temple Guard continued, turning another corridor and leading the Chancellor and Ahsoka towards a turbolift in back, one that Ahsoka knew would lead directly to the council chamber.

As the trio approached the lift however, its doors opened, and a pair of figures strode out deep in conversation.

"I keep telling you they won't listen. We may have gotten the information we needed but the fact they they do not approve of your method only means they will likely ignore any proof we turned up."

"When do they ever listen to proof anyways? The important thing is we got the evidence. Screw what Windu and his cronies think. Besides, he's one to talk about being on the verge of the darkside."

"True, but he is a Council member for a reason. Just try to be a bit more patient next time yeah? You did practically destroy that woman's mind with your probing after all."

"She was a Separatist spy! She deserves it! Who does Windu think he is anyway? Thinks he's so special cause he has a purple lightsaber."

"You're gonna be the death of me one day Bil."

"What is going on now?" The voice of the Temple Guard interrupted the ongoing discussion, the heads of the two individuals turning away from one another and towards the guard instead. One was a tall Dowutin woman who easily towered over the likes of anyone Ahsoka had ever met, perhaps including General Grievous. She seemed to have an air of confidence about her, as well as frustration at the actions of her partner.

The other individual was a male figure of as species that Ahsoka could not discern. He was tall as well, about the size of Anakin, and had grey skin, his face being covered in what looked like yellow tribal tattoos. His demeanour was different from the Dowutin's, his posture rigid and clearly upset about whatever had happened up in the Council chamber.

Upon being called out by the Temple Guard, the male figure's face light up in a smile, his posture relaxing in an instant before he spoke.

"Well look what we have here. Mister super important Temple Guard is escorting the Chancellor of the Republic to a meeting with the Jedi Council? I'm not worthy of your presence my lord!"

The male's tone was obviously sarcastic, and Ahsoka got the distinct impression that the Temple Guard was likely rolling his eyes beneath his helmet.

"By the Force Bil, what have you done this time to warrant yet another Council reprimand?" The Guard spoke, suddenly adopting a personality despite his earlier claims to losing his identity to his position within the Jedi. Ahsoka was glad to see that at least some of whoever he was remained.

"He used underhanded tactics against a Separatist spy again. Pretty much ripped her mind apart looking for information. We got it, but I doubt the woman will be leaving the insane asylum anytime soon." It was the Dowutin woman who responded for the male, whose name appeared to be Bil. Upon hearing her rather simplistic explanation, Bil scowled, shaking his head before offering up his own explanation.

"Ok, that much is true, but we recovered the information we needed, and the woman was a member of the Separatists for Force sake. Windu pretty much condemned my actions and put me and Masana on mandatory meditation leave for a month! He's a kriffting hypocrite!"

"Hey, meditative leave might do us some good. Just pick a nice planet to go to and relax for a bit. The Council won't know if your really doing mediation anyways." The Dowutin, who Ahsoka assumed was Masana, replied, shoving Bil's shoulder with her own, a large smirk on her face, one she also shot at the Chancellor.

"Yeah, but surely it doesn't matter how I got the proof right? Only that I got it?" Bil pushed on, adamant that he get some sort of approval for his actions.

Ahsoka could see what he was talking about. On one hand the fact that he had got whatever it was he needed was important, regardless of how he had done it. There had been times when she and Anakin had done the same.

That said, the last thing Ahsoka wanted would be to lose herself and become what she was fighting against. Sometimes you had to bend the rules. Other times the rules were there to stop you going to far, and from the sounds of it Bil had gone just a tad too far.

Still, it wasn't her place to judge, and she doubted her opinion would matter anyway.

Before the Temple Guard could reply to Bil however, the Chancellor stepped forward.

"I would be inclined to agree with you there my friend. Whilst your actions may have been morally questionable, you did achieve results that will benefit us greatly. In times like these we must do all we can to garner the truth. Do not despair. I predict there are great things in your future."

From the look of complete surprise on Bil's face he had not been anticipating such a response from the Chancellor of all people. Ahsoka could understand why. Palpatine was not a Jedi, and thus did not look at things the same way the Jedi did. He offered an outside opinion, one that could shape the galaxy for better or worse, as well as people's lives.

And clearly the opinion meant the world to Bil, who stood up straight and bowed in deep reverence.

"Thank you Chancellor. I wish someone with your pragmatism was on the Jedi Council. Maybe then we'd actually get something done."

"Perhaps one day my friend." Palpatine replied, offering a hand to both Bil and Masana in the process, both of which accepted it with surprise and gratitude.

Once the handshakes were complete, Masana bowed her own head and spoke.

"Good day to you Chancellor."

With that both Masana and Bil moved passed the trio, heading down the hallway and falling back into their prior discussion about the Council members.

A loud sigh pulled Ahsoka's attention back to the Temple Guard, who had one hand resting on his helmet, clearly annoyed with the discussion that had just occurred. The guard did not move from that position for a few moments, clearly trying to wrap his head around what had just happened. When he did finally remove his hand from his faceplate, his head focused entirely on Ahsoka, addressing her rather than the Chancellor.

"Those two are enough to make me want to become a Sith Lord. They never learn."

Beneath her helmet Ahsoka smiled. Despite his grievances with Bil and Masana it was clear he was worried about them. His body posture pretty much gave away the fact that he wanted to go after them and stop them getting into any more trouble.

And then, just as quickly as that, his demeanour shifted again, back towards the rigid Temple Guard he was trained to be.

"Now, if you will both follow me. The Council will be expecting you next."

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The ride up the turbolift had not been a pleasant one for Ahsoka. The last time she had been here her mind had been so warped by emotion and distrust. The Jedi had outright betrayed her, and then rather than apologise as any decent being would the Council instead had the gall to state that everything that had happened to her had merely been an extension of her Jedi training!

What part of the Jedi Code stated that one had to be subject to immense betrayal and experience the corruption evident in order to graduate to Knight!?

What part of the Code stated that one of your best friends had to betray you?!

What part of the kriffing code stated that you would have to be put on trial for treason, and quite possibly executed!

A gentle nudge on her arm drew her out of her internal struggle, the calm, kind and compassionate eyes of the Chancellor relaxing her instantly. If even he could tell how stressed and apprehensive she was about being back, then she was surely doing a terrible job at hiding it in the first place. She wouldn't have been surprised if the Jedi Council themselves had sensed her coming thanks to her sporadic emotional state.

Beneath her helmet she closed her eyes, focusing on her connection to the Force, centring herself and her emotions. Several deep breaths later she opened her eyes, before nodding at the Chancellor as confidently as she could.

A small smile came the Palpatine's face in response before the turbolift promptly stopped, doors opening before them, leading towards the Council chamber itself.

Taking the lead, the Temple Guard moved forward, approaching another pair of guards who stood flanking the doorway into the chamber itself.

"Chancellor Palpatine and his personal agent are here to discuss the recent mission to Hypori, as scheduled." The Temple Guard addressed the other two guards, who both nodded in response, stepping to the side to allow them access.

Content that his role was completed, the Temple Guard that had been leading them turned on his heel, bowing to the Chancellor slowly, before moving past the both of them, back towards the turbolift.

As he passed by Ahsoka he nodded his head once, a gesture that she returned. She had suspected that the temple guard was the same as the one who had tracked her down on Coruscant's streets. His face may have been obscured but his voice was similar, and it was clear that he was one of the more open minded of the Order as a whole.

Perhaps she really did have allies in the Temple that weren't Anakin and Obi-Wan. That thought was a welcome one, and perhaps the first positive emotion she had felt since returning to her former home.

A positive emotion she was almost certain was about to be ruined by those in the room before her.

Steeling herself, Ahsoka moved to follow Palpatine as he entered the Council chambers.

Chapter Text

The Council Chambers never changed, at least not physically, and certainly not mentally. There was always a sense of foreboding in her mind whenever she had visited the Council in the past, which Ahsoka had always found odd. Surely, when in the presence of the leading members of the Jedi she should feel calm and collected, at complete peace? Instead, all she had ever felt was tension, and dread, as if the Council themselves were all hanging by a mere thread, ready to snap at a moments notice.

She supposed in war time it was understandable, but then for as long as she could remember she had always felt this way before them. The first time she had been brought before the Council by Master Plo Koon, all she could do was stare into the eyes of Master Windu, who had stared back with steely resolve, and a hint of mistrust. Looking back, what reason did he have to mistrust a three year old?

The Council had seemed so monolithic back then, entities that could do no wrong, whose wisdom was supreme.

Now however she knew better. They were flawed, just like everyone else, but they still tried to maintain their image. In a way, she respected and admired that. In another however, she couldn't help but wonder if it was egocentric, a trait unbecoming for a Jedi, especially the Council members.

'Just another example of them being hypocrites.' Ahsoka thought to herself as she strode into the centre of the room by Palpatine's side, catching a glimpse of Obi-Wan nodding his head in her direction, a simple greeting from perhaps the only Council member who currently knew her true identity. She had worn her helmet for a reason after all.

"Chancellor Palpatine. Good to see you it is. Ready to discuss our joint findings we are." Came the first voice of a Council member, one that was easily recognizable. Ahsoka had never asked why Yoda spoke in such a manner, in fact she was fairly certain that no one had ever worked up the courage either. Sure, it was bizarre, and at times difficult to understand, but it was what made Yoda, Yoda. She had no issue with it. Besides, many different species in the galaxy spoke in different manners. Images of Jar Jar came to her mind, a small smile appearing on her face at the thoughts of some of his antics. Ahsoka liked the Gungan, even if many couldn't stand his company. She supposed in a way she could relate to that.

"Master Yoda. Esteemed members of the Jedi High Council. You do me great honor by agreeing to this meeting. Your Temple is a marvel on an already incredible horizon." Palpatine responded, bowing gracefully to Yoda, clearly trying to get into their good books. It was odd to see the most powerful man in the Republic bowing before someone else for a change. To Ahsoka it just felt… wrong.

The look they got from Master Windu didn't help ease her discomfort either. It was cold and full of mistrust that was directed both at the Chancellor and especially at her.

"Appreciate your kind words we do. Do you credit they do. Welcome here, you are, Chancellor." Yoda replied, bowing his head in response to the Chancellor's words, a gesture that was evidently done with equal respect. Ahsoka was glad to see that at least one Council member was willing to be polite.

Before the discussion could go any further the door behind Ahsoka opened, admitting two more individuals to the meeting. Turning her helmeted head, Ahsoka grinned broadly beneath it at the sight of Caleb Dume and his Master walking towards them, clearly no worse for wear, despite the previous mission.

"Ah, Master Billaba and Padawan Dume, welcome. I am glad you could come to this meeting. Your first hand experience will be paramount in discussing our course of action." Mace Windu spoke this time, his stern voice never wavering, even towards his own former apprentice and her own student. Ahsoka was glad that Obi-Wan and Anakin didn't treat her that way, even after all the trouble she had caused them.

"Thank you Master Windu. We will help however we can." Depa replied, bowing her head, a gesture which Caleb copied.

It occured to Ahsoka that she was the only one who hadn't bowed before the Council yet… and she had absolutely no intention of doing so whatsoever. Why the kriff should she after all?

"Hey." The young spirited voice of Caleb drew Ahsoka out of her inner thoughts, for which she was grateful. His greeting had been addressed directly at her, his teal eyes locked onto her helmet, trying to see her face beneath it, a warm smile on his face.

"Back at you pal." Ahsoka replied, forgetting protocol for a second, allowing herself to interact with her friend. Was he even her friend?

"Who are you?"

It was Windu that chose to interrupt them, his tone accusatory and borderline aggressive. Ahsoka's covered head snapped round in an instant, eyes locking onto Windu's a slight scowl on both of their faces. Trust Windu to be the one to start a confrontation.

Luckily for her, before she could reply, Palpatine came to her aid.

"This is my personal agent, codenamed 'The Huntress'. She was the one who located Master Billaba and her team, as well as the one who assisted Master Skywalker in his mission to Manaan. She also procured the original data on this new bioweapon. Without her it would have never come to our attention. She is thus vital to this meeting."

The various heads of the Council members, both physical and holographic, nodded in confirmation, clearly accepting of Palpatine's explanation.

Windu however was not.

"Then why does she feel the need to conceal her face behind a helmet. Does she have something to hide?"

It felt almost like the entire room had dropped several degrees in temperature, and judging by the look on Palpatine's face, she would almost say he was the cause of it.

"If my agent wishes to keep her identity a secret that is fine by me. Her missions often work better if no-one knows who she truly is. If that is a problem we will just leave you all to your own devices. The Grand Army of the Republic can handle this situation with or without you Master Windu."

The words from Palpatine's mouth were cold and harsh, a clear test of how far Windu was willing to take this. If he didn't like the Chancellor's answer, he could very well force them to leave. Then this entire meeting would have been utterly pointless and would have achieved nothing. Ahsoka couldn't let that happen, despite her feeling for the Jedi now. The Jedi needed to know about this bioweapon, and if that meant she had to unveil her identity to ensure the meeting would go ahead, then so be it.

Besides, she was kind of interested to see just how Windu would react to seeing her face. No doubt he'd be outraged… at least that was what Ahsoka hoped for in a dark way.

Before the disagreement could get any further out of hand, Ahsoka held up her hand, drawing the attention back to her. Out of the corner of her eye she could see a smirk on Obi-Wan's face, who was clearly enjoying the standoff to some extent. That was unusual for him.

"Wish to say something, you do 'Huntress'?" Master Yoda's voice echoed around the room, silencing any further protest from Windu. Just by glancing at Yoda's pensive expression, Ahsoka could tell he had figured something out about her. Realistically that shouldn't have surprised her, considering who he was . One didn't become the Grand Master of the Jedi Order without first proving their skill as a Jedi, both physically and mentally, and despite Yoda's advanced age, she knew he held both.

"I do not wish to cause an argument Master Jedi. I will remove my helmet if it will grant you more incentive to listen to what we have to say." Ahsoka responded to the diminutive green creature, trying to sound as diplomatic as possible.

"Please do." The reply from Windu was short and sharp, his mood clearly sour from Palpatine's earlier comments.

'Then again, when isn't Windu grumpy?' The voice in Ahsoka's head echoed in jest, something that nearly made her laugh.

Choosing not the reply to Windu's remark, Ahsoka lifted her hands to her helmet, grasping hold of the unique shape of it, before lifting it over her montrals, exposing her face for all to see.

The mixture of reactions were exactly what she expected.

Obi-wan's face remained stoic, though through the Force she could feel his presence brighten in joy and pride. Ahsoka was glad he still thought highly of her.

Shaak Ti's expression was almost holophoto worthy. Her eyes widen in surprise, her jaw practically dropping to the floor at the sight of the younger Togruta, now clad in custom Mandalorian armour standing beside the Chancellor of the Republic when not long ago she had been by the Jedi's side.

Master Mundi seemed indifferent, his eyes only briefly flashing in recognition before returning to his default expression. Ahsoka wasn't especially surprised by that. She and Mundi hardly knew each other after all.

In quite the contrast, Plo Koon's expression was one of despair, even through the holographic image that currently represented him, wherever he was in the galaxy. It was clear to Ahsoka that he felt some level of guilt for what had happened. She had known him long enough to pick up of the expressions of a Kel Dor, and understand them all.

Glancing at another Council member, Ahsoka had to again refrain from laughing at the expression of his face. Whereas everyone else, Kenobi aside, seemed to be confused or worried by her unexpected appearance, Kit Fisto's face was one of a bright smile, pristine white teeth showing behind his lips. Ahsoka was glad that he was at least happy to see her again. She had always liked Master Fisto, as had many of the younglings. He had always been described as the 'fun' member of the Council.

And then Ahsoka saw Windu's expression, one that was quite simply an over exaggerated roll of his eyes.

In that moment she wanted nothing more but to wipe that look of his face. A solid punch should do it.

'Now's not the time though.' Her own voice whispered to her in her head again, despite the mental image of Windu on the floor cradling his cheek in pain being an amusing one.

"Young Ahsoka, good to see you well it is. Warms my heart it does." Yoda finally spoke after what seemed like an age, his expression welcoming to her, despite the recent past.

He may have been welcoming to her, but Ahsoka had no intention of expressing a similar emotion back. This was a Council that had expelled her from the Order. They would have to earn her trust again if they wanted to be treated with any real semblance of respect.

All except for Obi-Wan of course. He had already proven himself by willingly coming to her aid against Grievous.

"Thank you Master Yoda. I wish we had more time to reminisce, but we must get back to the purpose of this meeting. During my recent missions for the Chancellor I have stumbled across a bioweapon in production by the Separatists. To cut a long story short, they have developed a weapon that is capable of completely severing a Force user's connection to the Force, rendering them vulnerable. It is our belief that the Separatists intend to use this weapon on the Jedi directly. I'm sure you can see the consequences of this weapon being deployed easily." Ahsoka answered, bypassing any more formalities the Council wished to discuss, heading instead straight into an explanation of what she had found out thus far. This was of dire importance after all.

The bombshell she had just dropped led to a variety of reactions from the Council members. Obi-wan's face became alarmed before he adopted his familiar hand on chin posture that indicated he was deep in thought. Anakin had always mocked him for that posture.

Master's Fisto and Ti glanced at one another, their own faces mired with concern and dread, as if they were worried about the future of the Order. In truth they had every right to be.

Yoda had leant back in his chair, clawed hands gripping the sides of it with considerable strength. Ahsoka could almost imagine the fabric of the chair ripping under the strength of his claws.

And then Windu spoke, choosing to voice his opinion. Ahsoka wasn't surprised.

"Sever our connection to the Force? Don't be so preposterous! The Force exists all around us Padawan Tano, or have you forgotten that aspect of your training?"

Now Ahsoka wanted to do far more than just punch Windu in the face. It was almost as if he needed some common sense shaken into him instead!

"I'm afraid it's very much true Master Windu. I saw the research logs in the Hypori facility myself." Depa Billaba chose that moment to make herself known, coming up to stand beside Ahsoka, nodding in her direction in the process, offering her own testimony.

"Yeah, me too Masters. They were experimenting on some kind of lizard creature that has some weird ability to block the Force. I think they are trying to copy it." Caleb's youthful voice backed Ahsoka up too, coming to stand beside his Togruta friend, posture tall and proud, as if he was trying to help.

"But to block the Force would be to destroy a Jedi in the worst possible way. This must surely be a deception on the Separatists part? A clever ploy to draw our attention away?" Windu continued, looking towards Master Yoda for some semblance of guidance.

"Not unheard of this is. The Force unknowable at times. Same too can be said for the galaxy as a whole. If true this in, in grave danger we are." The elder Jedi Master spoke softly, addressing each Council member in turn.

"Very well. What proof do you possess then?" Windu continued, clearly frustrated with the turn of events, but willing to go along with it regardless.

Palpatine took a single step towards Windu after that, handing him a small data drive, which the Jedi took, thumbing it over in his hands, brows raised.

"This data drive contains a copy of all of the information Agent Tano and her allies were able to extract from the Separatist facility. Between my own data slicers and yours we should be able to determine exactly where this weapon is being developed, as it is clear that the facilities we have seen so far are mere outposts."

"I see. We will do our own research and collaborate with you then Chancellor. Thank you for the report. You are dismissed." Windu replied, storing the data drive in a pocket inside of his robes.

Ahsoka couldn't help but widen her eyes in surprise, something that she felt through the Force emanate from Caleb too. That was it? The meeting was already over? That quickly?

"Wait… are we done?" Caleb questioned, eyes darting between his own Master and the various Council Members. Clearly he was surprised at just how short this apparently vital meeting was. Ahsoka was too, but then she had experienced such meetings before with Anakin, and they had usually lasted only several minutes. No doubt the Council would privately debate on the issue at hand.

"Yes Padawan, we are. You are dismissed. Master Billaba, will you please stay with us?" Windu answered, tone of voice stern, his expression mirroring it.

"Of course Master." Depa replied, bowing her head, before gesturing Caleb to follow the Chancellor, who was heading back to the turbolift doors.

Clearly unsure about what to do, Caleb looked back at his Master once again, before lowering his head, his signature in the Force disappointed.

Smiling sadly, Ahsoka moved towards her friend, grasping his arm lightly with her hand and gently pulling him towards the door.

Despite his disappointment, Caleb followed willingly.

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The ride in the turbolift was fairly silent, save for the whirring of the machinery around them. Neither of the three occupants spoke, each lost in their own thoughts.

That was fine with Ahsoka. The meeting, despite how short it had been about as mentally taxing as she had imagined it would. The Council, Windu in particular had not been too happy to see her, especially not by the Chancellor's side. It was no secret that the longer the war went on, the less and less the Jedi Council trusted the Chancellor, and more than likely by extension the Senate itself.

Once upon a time Ahsoka would have agreed. Politicians couldn't be trusted. They only sought to manipulate and twist things for their own desires, most of the time under the guise of helping the majority.

But ever since her 'trip' to Raxus, ever since she had met Mina and Lux Bonteri her views had altered. Not all politicians were bad people. Individuals like Padmé, and Riyo, Lux and even Palpatine only wanted to help the galaxy. They didn't give a damn about their public appearance, about what others thought of them. They only cared about serving the needs of the many selflessly.

And they certainly didn't sacrifice people to maintain a public image!

Bringing a free hand up to her forehead, Ahsoka massaged her temple lightly warding off a headache she could feel growing. Why did everything have to be so complicated?

"I find it perplexing that Master Windu was so unwilling to believe in the existence of this weapon when he himself is able to manipulate and control a power that I could never begin to fathom. What is your opinion of him Agent Tano?" Palpatine's voice interrupted Ahsoka's thoughts, as it seemed to fairly commonly. Did Palpatine have some sort of sixth sense that allowed him to tell when someone was conflicted about something?

"Windu is a Jedi through and through Your Excellency." Ahsoka began, speaking her mind, though fully aware of Caleb's presence in the turbolift. She could tell he was actively listening to what she had to say.

"So you are saying he is dogmatic then? Unwilling to compromise?" Palpatine questioned, turning to face her, a contemplative look on his face.

"In a way. If Master Yoda is the voice of reason on the Council, then Master Windu is the voice of action. He will only believe what he can see with undeniable proof." Ahsoka answered honestly. At least, that was how she saw him.

"A dangerous way of thinking." Palpatine responded, shaking his head slowly, his face falling. Ahsoka had to agree.

"But we gave him proof didn't we? Surely he had to believe that?" Caleb's timid voice inquired, clearly scared about asking such a question in the presence of the Chancellor. Ahsoka could understand why. When she was younger Palpatine had been an intimidating figure to encounter.

Now that she had gotten to know him however she could see that his reputation as a hard individual was merely a facade. He was a kind man at heart, something that he instantly proved when he replied to Caleb.

"Indeed we did Padawan. The data you and Agent Tano recovered should be enough to convince him, though I get the distinct impression that Master Windu would not believe it unless he saw it for himself."

"So we need to make Master Windu go on these missions from now on?" Caleb continued, eyebrows raised as he looked up at the Chancellor, who chuckled lightly in response.

"Indeed young Padawan. Indeed."

**************************************************************************************************************************************************

The remainder of the trip in the turbolift was relatively short in comparison, and upon stepping out of the lift Ahsoka felt a wash of relief flow over her.

Frankly, she was glad the meeting with the Jedi Council had been so short, even if they had hardly discussed anything important. Hopefully Master Billaba was able to get through to the Jedi Council, when she and the Chancellor could not.

Following the Chancellor back down a staircase towards the exit of the Temple, a voice called out, drawing both of their attentions.

"Chancellor? Ahsoka?"

Turning on her heel, a wide smile came to her face as she spotted Anakin jogging towards her, his own expression warm and welcoming, clearly pleased to see his old apprentice again.

"Hey Skyguy!" Ahsoka couldn't help but quip back, waiting for her former Master to catch up to them, pleased to see him looking well despite recent events. No doubt he was shaken up at what had happened with Fives and Tup. The last thing she needed was him worrying about her.

"Anakin my boy it is wonderful to see you. How are things?" Palpatine spoke next, moving forward to greet Anakin, who had finally reached them, panting slightly from the jog.

"I'm doing as well as I can Your Excellency, all things considered. What are you doing in the Temple. The Council haven't done anything because Ahsoka's working for you now have they?" Anakin replied, tone and demeanor changing slightly as he trailed on, clearly misunderstanding the situation, not that Ahsoka blamed him. After the way she left the Order, tension between herself and the Council was almost a given.

"Do not fret my boy, lest you give yourself a headache. Ahsoka and I were merely here to discuss our latest findings on the Separatist bioweapon she had been investigating for me. The Council is deliberating on our findings as we speak."

Palpatine's answer seemed to placate Anakin, for which Ahsoka was grateful. The last thing she wanted was him getting angry at the Council again. It wasn't good for his health. She was glad that he listened to the Chancellor as a voice of reason.

"Anyway my friends, I shall take my leave from you now. I have many reports that need filing and there are not nearly enough hours in the day to do so. Agent Tano, I will be in touch when I need you next. Take some time for yourself for a while. You've certainly earned it." The Chancellor continued, smiling gently towards both Anakin and herself, before bowing his head at Caleb, who was standing behind Ahsoka looking rather nervous and unsure of whether or not he should still be following them.

"I will Chancellor, and thank you." Ahsoka replied to the elderly man who had taken her under his wing. Palpatine simply nodded his head again before he turned away and continued towards the exit.

Rather than focus on the Chancellor's retreating form, Ahsoka turned her own attention back to Anakin, who was now staring at Caleb with a confused look on his face.

Ahsoka figured that now was probably a good time to introduce them, if they hadn't met already that was.

"Caleb Dume, this is my former Master, Anakin Skywalker. Anakin, this is Caleb Dume, Jedi Padawan to Depa Billaba."

The expressions of the two males before her were vastly different, and almost made Ahsoka want to bash their heads together. Anakin's face was one distrust and confusion, an expression he had once held on Christophsis.

Caleb however was clearly excited at meeting the so called 'Chosen One'. Ahsoka could only hope that he didn't try to treat Anakin as some sort of divine figure. She knew that the Knight hated when people did that.

"Hi Master Skywalker. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Ahsoka nearly winced at the enthusiasm in Caleb's voice. She really didn't want to have to deal with an overly grumpy Anakin who hated hero worship.

"I'm sure Padawan. You know Ahsoka?" Anakin replied, glancing at the Togruta briefly before his attention focused solely on Caleb. Ahsoka half expected the Padawan to wither under Anakin's steely gaze.

However, rather than cower, Caleb stood strong, meeting Anakin's eyes with his own, the smile never leaving his face. Ahsoka had to say she was impressed.

"Yes Master. She saved us on Hypori. We fought General Grievous together. You trained a brilliant duelist Master!" Caleb replied, nearly bouncing on his heels in excitement.

Anakin's expression changed in an instant, his stern expression becoming a bright smile at the complement of both Ahsoka's skill as a duelist, and his own skills as a teacher. He would never admit it aloud, but Caleb had clearly won him over.

"I know." Anakin said in response, nodding his head towards Ahsoka, clearly pleased at her choice in friends, not that it was any of his business.

The again, considering what her last so called friend had done, she wasn't surprised that he was overly cautious for her sake.

An awkward silence set in between the three of them after that, no one sure what to say next. Anakin was clearly basking in the compliments Caleb had given him, and Caleb was too busy bouncing on his heels, head glancing between both Ahsoka and her former Master.

When it became clear to Caleb that neither of the other two were going to speak, he did so instead, this time directed at Ahsoka.

"I think I'm going to go do some meditation now. Master Billaba always says its important to centre yourself after a long mission. But can I give you something first?"

The request caught Ahsoka off guard. What did Caleb want to offer her? Anakin too was clearly confused, judging by his expression.

"Sure Caleb, what is it?" Ahsoka replied, smiling at the younger Padawan.

Rather than reply verbally, Caleb reached out a grabbed hold of one of Ahsoka's arms, his other hand coming to the comm link that was attached to it, entering a new code in the process.

"There! I've just put in my comm link code so we can talk sometime. Now I have a cool friend outside of the Jedi Temple!"

Ahsoka smiled at the gesture, more than happy to accept his offer. Caleb was a good person, one she got along with easily. Maybe having another person in the Temple that she could easily talk to was a good idea.

"Thanks Caleb, I'll call you sometime. Enjoy your meditation." Ahsoka replied, feeling Caleb release her arm glancing down at the code he had inputted briefly, before bowing her head in a sign of respect. She may no longer be a Jedi, but she would still offer them the level of respect they deserved.

Certain Jedi that was. Not all of them.

"Awesome! I look forward to it. Bye Ahsoka. Bye Master Skywalker."

"Yeah… see ya kid." Came Anakin's response, his expression having suddenly changed again, this time to one of deep mistrust and suspicion, but about what Ahsoka didn't know.

Watching Caleb's retreating form as he jogged away, being briefly berated for 'running' in the Temple, Ahsoka considered what to do next. She had no current mission, only orders from Palpatine to enjoy her time off.

Maybe she would go and buy an expensive speeder or something for transport. She would need it eventually, and beside, she certainly had the credits for it nowadays. Why not indulge?

Turning her attention back to Anakin, who still seemed to be angrily staring at where Caleb had disappeared to, Ahsoka moved towards him, snapping her fingers in front of his face to draw him out of his internal thoughts.

"Hey, what's up? Why are you staring at where Caleb like he was Count Dooku?"

"I don't like him."

The words surprised her. Anakin had seemed more than pleased when Caleb was complimenting him. Now he suddenly didn't like him? What was that about?

Opening her mouth, Ahsoka asked that very question, but the answer she received was not one she anticipated.

"He's a boy Snips. A boy who just gave you his number!"

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"Boys don't just give out their numbers to random girls for no reason Ahsoka."

"Wait, are you saying… he's just being nice Anakin."

"Sure he is Snips."

"You're unbelievable sometimes."

"Same goes for you."

Shaking her head at Anakin's antics, Ahsoka couldn't help but smile. It was times like these that she missed being Anakin's padawan. Yes, he could be a bit much, and at times stupidly overprotective of her, but he was her friend, and she would never give that up, despite walking away from the Order.

"So, you up to much? Sneaking out to see Padmé by any chance?" Ahsoka inquired, lowering her voice at the mention of Anakin's secret wife.

"Got a few days off after Ringo Vinda. Unfortunately Padmé is away on a diplomatic meeting of some kind with Senator Organa so visiting her is out of the question. Guess that means I'm staying alone in the Temple doing Jedi stuff." Anakin replied, his expression falling at the mention of Padmé being away. It was clear that he missed her dearly.

With that knowledge, Ahsoka decided that it was her duty to cheer him up, and luckily she knew how.

"Well then, I guess you are in luck. I bought some of those really juicy nerf burgers last night and haven't had a chance to eat them yet. What do you say to lunch at my place? Be nice to have you around. Maybe we can watch one of those trashy holomovies like we used to?"

Ahsoka was internally overjoyed when Anakin's expression brightened instantly, a broad smile coming to his face at the offer.

"Sounds good Snips. I'm in. Though no poisoning me with undercooked food."

"How dare you!"

Chapter Text

Anakin would never outright admit to being a food lover, lest he be mocked by his peers for his appetite, but growing up on a desert planet with little in the way of decent food left much to be desired. Nine times out of ten all he had ever been able to eat on Tatooine was samples of dry bread given to him by Watto, or perhaps, if he and his mother had been lucky, some sort of soup amalgamation that may as well have been gruel.

So suffice to say, when an orange hand passed him a plate with a sizable nerf burger sat in a roll coated in thick sauce, Anakin couldn't help the way his mouth watered. It was times like these that having one of your best friends be a member of a carnivorous species really paid off. He loved these sorts of meals.

"Here you go, one totally not undercooked nerf burger for one totally uncool Jedi Knight. Did you pick the holomovie yet?" Ahsoka quipped from beside him as she sat next to him on the surprisingly comfy couch that sat in the centre of her apartment, facing towards the holoscreen. Upon entering Ahsoka's home Anakin was struck with two feelings. Pride, and jealousy. He'd of loved a place like this when he was her age.

That said, he would never trade it for his place at Padmé's, not ever. That was his true home now, just as this place was Ahsoka's.

"Sure did. Do you remember those really awful movies that they make about the adventures of the Jedi?" Anakin replied, a smirk on his face.

"Oh yeah! 'Heroes of the Republic!', or something?" Ahsoka replied, running a finger along the edge of her own juicy nerf burger, acquiring some sauce on said finger before liking it off.

"Yeah, that's the one. They released a new one about a week ago. Guess who the main character is?"

"Oh for the love of... it's not us again is it? I still can't get over the fact that the actress that played me was not only the wrong skin colour but also obviously much older than you!"

"Yeah that was pretty funny. Not to mention the fact that they assumed we were sleeping with one another as well. That scene still haunts me to this day!"

"I couldn't stop laughing throughout it!"

"Yeah, I remember that as well. Anyway, it's not about us, though I imagine we might reappear again all things considered." Anakin calmed himself, the laughter in his voice fading as he attempted to adopt a more serious tone, even if the movie they were about to watch was nothing more than a bad parody of their lives.

"Who's it about then? Don't keep me in suspense like this Skyguy!" Ahsoka's voice too shifted towards a faux seriousness, clearly playing along with the situation.

Inclining his head towards the large screen, Anakin reached across to where a datapad sat next to him on the couch. Tapping the screen several times, Anakin watched as the holoscreen turned itself on, displaying an image of an actor dressed in familiar creme robes, sporting a fake ginger beard, clearly posing in some sort of heroic fashion, pretending to be a Jedi.

"Oh man! This is gonna be hysterical!" Ahsoka spoke, struggling to contain her laughter at the image on the screen.

Anakin couldn't agree more.

**************************************************************************************************************************

'Hi there. My name is Oby-Waon Konobi. The Jedi Council sent me to help you deal with these pirate robots.'

'Oh Master Konobi, you timing is perfect. These pirates have captured my daughter and intend to sell her to Count Duuku for some nefarious reason. You must stop them!'

'Have no fear madam. I will save your daughter. It is the way of the Jedi after all.'

'Oh thank you Master Jedi.'

----

"Wow… this is perhaps more ridiculous than the last one. They couldn't even get Obi-Wan's name right!"

"That and he's not flirting with everyone he meets."

"True. Their depictions suck! Who is playing Obi-Wan again?"

"Some guy name Yuwan. No idea what else he's done."

"Well let's hope he improves over the course of the movie. He's a bit wooden at the moment."

"Here here."

******************************************************************************************************************************

As expected by both Anakin and Ahsoka, the movie did not get much better, not that either were complaining. They had just as much fun mocking a bad movie than they would watching and enjoying a good one, perhaps even more.

Said movie continued on, featuring various scenes of various natures. One had 'Oby-Waon' speaking to a pair of dignities that were apparently associated with the villains of the story, and another featured a section involving a series of careful jumps from roof to roof, making 'Konobi' look like some sort of action hero. Having experienced what Obi-Wan was capable of first hand, Anakin had to give some credit to the movie. They had managed to get Obi-Wan's flair for the dramatic right.

Continuing to 'enjoy' the movie, Anakin watched as the scene changed again, this time focusing on what looked to be an upcoming battle. The onscreen version of his former Master approached a group of 'pirate robots', a badly designed prop of a lightsaber hilt in his hand.

---

"Freeze Jedi scum!"

"No."

---

"Obi-Wan would have a far wittier response than just 'no'." Ahsoka quipped from beside him, her legs pulled up underneath her, leaning against Anakin in the process, using him as a pillow.

Before Anakin could respond, the sound of a lightsaber igniting drew his attention back to the screen, and his eyes widened in outrage at what he saw.

"OH COME ON! THEY COULDN'T EVEN GET HIS LIGHTSABER COLOUR RIGHT! HE DOESN'T USE A GREEN ONE YOU MORONS! IT'S BLUE! BLUE!"

Beside him he could hear Ahsoka burst out laughing, burying her face in her hands in the process, tears leaking from her eyes as she struggled to contain herself.

Red in the face with anger, Anakin watched as the onscreen adaptation of his Master charged forward, saber in hand towards his foe. The scene transitioned into battle, droids firing blasters towards the 'Jedi Master', who in turn was shifting his lightsaber in frankly rather over the top motions in an attempt to deflect. If Obi-Wan tried such things in real life he'd have never made it past being a Padawan.

"This is ridiculous! Jar-Jar fights better than this!"

"Yeah that's cause Jar-Jar can actually fight when he needs to. Plus he's not an actor in a stupid parody of a film of our lives!"

 

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

The film continued, much the same as what had preceded it. One over exaggerated fight scene after another dragged on, each featuring more ridiculous blade work than the last.

"Ok, I've counted at least twenty seven different times in which he should have been killed by these droids. Obi-Wan would never be that sloppy." Anakin commented, rolling his eyes in response as he continued to watch the movie, wondering when he would be blessed with the ending.

"Looks like we're about to see number twenty eight." Ahsoka responded, pointing at the holoscreen as a tall man dressed in regal looking attire entered the same room as 'Konobi'.

"Hang on a minute… is that…?" Anakin began to question, eyes widening in surprise.

------

'Master Konobi, what an unpleasant surprise.'

'Count Duuku. Your reign of terror ends here today on this moon.'

'You are all alone this time Konobi. Skywalker and his plaything will not save you this time.'

-------

"PLAYTHING!?" Ahsoka all but screamed in outrage, making Anakin jump in surprise.

------

'I do not need their help Count. I have the Force.'

'So do I Master Jedi.'

--------

The scene before them shifting again, the two on-screen versions of Obi-Wan and Dooku suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a lightsaber duel. Green and red clashed against one another, arcs of colour spinning around their bodies as they attempted to replicate the way Jedi dueled.

-----------

'You should of joined me Master Konobi. Que-Gone-Jan would have.'

---------

"Really? 'Que-Gone-Jan'? I think I've just lost faith in humanity." Anakin commented, lowering his head into his hands again as the duel continued.

"Lucky you. I never had any faith in your species to begin with. At least you had it to lose" Ahsoka replied, nudging Anakin with her elbow in response.

"Now who's being racist Snips?!" Anakin said, remembering their discussion when they had arrived back from Manaan.

"Just saying Skyguy. Togruta are vastly superior to humans in every respect. Example, we have passive echolocation thanks to our montrals. Meanwhile, you lot have a mass of dead fuzzy stuff on your head instead."

"That's offensive! My hair is great!"

"Sure thing. Whatever you say."

*************************************************************************************

After what felt like forever, the movie began to enter what Anakin assumed was it's epilogue. The pirates had been defeated, the daughter safely returned, and Dooku had been forced to turn tail and run.

All that was left, at least Anakin hoped, was one scene.

Watching the screen, Anakin witnessed his 'Master' step out of a shuttle and onto a landing pad, only to be greeted with two individuals.

"Oh god its us." Ahsoka muttered from beside him, shaking her head in despair as the image focused on the two individuals, one a youthful human male with blonde hair who was apparently supposed to be Anakin, and another a taller blue Togruta who was clearly in her thirties playing the role of Ahsoka.

-------

'Master Oby-Waon. We were so worried. Are you ok? Did you defeat the bad guys?'

'I did Padawan Tano. Thank you for asking.'

'Did you manage to defeat Duuku this time Master?'

'Unfortunately not Anakin. He escaped once again, but we will get him one day. We are Jedi after all, and we protect the Republic.'

THE END

--------

Neither Anakin nor Ahsoka said anything as they stared at the holoscreen, credits running before their eyes. Several moments passed before either of them could even begin to understand what had just happened, or even make sense of their own thoughts about the movie as a whole.

And then Ahsoka spoke, voicing what both of them were thinking in a simple statement.

"Well that was a load of poodoo."

"Took the words right out of my mouth Snips. That was even worse than the one about us!"

"Yeah! So… what do we do now?"

"I've got an idea. Be right back!"

*************************************************************************************

'Be right back' turned into a far lengthier trip than Anakin had intended, and that was mostly due to the fact that he couldn't find what he was looking for. He knew that somewhere hidden within the walls of his personal quarters in the Jedi Temple was what he sought.

Rifling through a stack of flimsi that he kept on his desk, Anakin found what he was looking for. Reaching a hand out he picked up the holopad, one that he had heavily customized for purely entertainment purposes, one that belonged to him alone.

Smiling to himself, Anakin braced for what was next. Moving across his quarters he approached a doorway, one that had in the past led to Ahsoka's own chambers. Where once they would have housed an enthusiastic Togruta Padawan, now they were empty, devoid of any of the life and energy that Anakin had found oddly comforting. He prefered to stay with Padmé most of the time, but when she was away and he was forced to stay within the Temple walls it had always been nice to have someone around for him to talk to, someone he got along with.

Now the room was nothing more than a stark reminder of what had happened to Ahsoka, and what the Council had both done and not done.

Shrugging off the thoughts, Anakin entered the room. Everything inside was how Ahsoka had left it. Her bed was freshly made, having been fully expecting someone to sleep in them.

His eyes moved away from the bed to a small desk Ahsoka had kept in her room, one she had used for her studies mostly. Numerous times he had caught her half asleep, stuck in the middle of writing some sort of dreary essay the likes of which he had struggled with in his youth.

But, like the bed, it was empty now, devoid of any work that Ahsoka might have been doing. Anakin couldn't help but wonder if she had any outstanding essays when she had walked away. Part of him hoped she did, and that she had left them unfinished as a final insult to those that betrayed her.

Continuing his survey of his former Padawan's private quarters, Anakin found what he was looking for. Another holopad, likewise customized for entertainment purposes sat on a windowsill, as untouched as the rest of the room.

"No reason for this to remain here anymore." Anakin whispered to himself softly, picking up the device and moving to leave the room, allowing the door to slide closed behind him without a second thought.

*************************************************************************************

"Hey Snips! Look what I got!" Anakin's voice was full of enthusiasm as he entered Ahsoka's new apartment, waving the two holopads around for Ahsoka to see. Upon realization of what he held, and what he was intending, Ahsoka's face lit up with a bright smile.

"Oh you are so going down this time Skyguy!"

*******************************************************************************************

It only took a few moments to fully set the datapads up, connecting them to one another as they had been many times in the past. When Anakin had first begun teaching Ahsoka he hadn't wanted to be the usual Jedi mentor to her. After all in many ways she was still just a child, one who needed to have fun now and then.

At the same time however, she was a military commander, and thus had to learn such techniques, both on and off the battlefield.

It was thus that he had found a game for them to play together, one simply called 'Colonization'.

The object of the game was simple. Build and maintain an Empire of any kind through the galaxy. There were many ways to win, each unique and challenging, but rewarding in the process, and there were many Empires to choose from. The two of them had lost many hours to the game, both on and off duty, and yet neither seemed to grow tired of it. Sure, some would probably criticise them both, mainly Anakin, for playing such games, but Anakin cared little for their opinion.

Ahsoka deserved to have fun and relax, and if she was doing so in this way then that was good enough for him.

"So, who you playing as this time? And don't pick someone you've been before." Ahsoka's voice brought him back to the virtual reality before him, drawing his gaze to holopad screen before him, where the game was now loaded and waiting for him to make a series of choices to begin the game.

"Dunno. 'The Naboo' look pretty powerful but I might give the 'Togruta of Shili' a go. Thoughts?" Anakin relied, hand swiping on the screen before him as he deliberated his choices.

"The Shili Togruta are good for war if that's what your doing for. Not sure about Naboo. I imagine they focus on culture and such." Ahsoka replied, her own eyes lost in the small screen of her holopad.

"Who are you being then?" Anakin inquired, still undecided on who to pick. Waging war was his strong suit, but maybe he should play nice and peaceful for once.

"I'm being the 'Nightsisters'."

With the knowledge of who Ahsoka had picked Anakin made up his mind instantly. He had played as the Nightsisters once before, and knew exactly how powerful they were. It was likely that Ahsoka was fully intending on attempting to conquer the galaxy this game. He couldn't allow that to happen.

"Togruta of Shili it is then."

**********************************************************************************

The game continued on for a while, and before either of the two participants realized it three hours had passed by.

And neither of them were any closer to in game victory. In fact, pretty much half of the simulated galaxy had burned under the strain of an ongoing war between 'The Togruta' and the 'Nightsisters'.

The game had started rather peacefully, with simple expansion and trade between empires leading to an era of prosperity and growth.

And then Ahsoka had led to 'Nightsisters' to war, burning the planet Naboo and it's people to the ground.

Suffice to say Anakin did not take it too well, declaring his own war on Ahsoka's empire in response, leading to the ongoing conflict that threatened to destroy all life in the galaxy.

And right now he was backed into a corner, Ahsoka's army of 'Nightsisters' surrounding several of his planets, threatening to take over unless he surrendered, which he had no intention of doing.

"Give up yet Skyguy?"

"You'll never take me alive Snips!"

"Good, cause I don't plan to!"

Ahsoka attacked and conquered one of his planets immediately thereafter, forcing him to retreat from her armies might.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

Another hour of endless in game war passed by before both players began to grow bored of the game. Luckily for them they could save their progress and return at a later date, not that Anakin particularly wanted to return to this specific game. Living in a galaxy ruled by Ahsoka Tano of the Nightsisters was downright scary!

With the game over for now the duo found themselves simply enjoying the time they had together, both knowing full well that eventually they would have to part ways again.

"So how are you doing Anakin. Anything you want to talk about?" The soft gentle voice of Ahsoka flowed through the air, drawing his attention to her warm expression. Had anyone else asked him such a question he would have lied, told them that he was fine.

But Ahsoka knew him, perhaps better than anyone else did, maybe even better than Padmé did. He'd only been freshly knighted when he had her forced upon him as his Padawan, and in a weird way he too had grown up alongside her. Sure, she had matured in a much more obvious way, but he felt as though he had too. He wasn't as rash as he once had been, mainly to ensure the protection of Ahsoka from forces that would see her harmed.

But not only that, he also felt as though through knowing and teaching Ahsoka that he had become a better Jedi, a better person. She had guided him as much as he had her.

And for that reason alone he knew he couldn't lie to her. Even if he did she would see straight through it, just as he would if the situation had been reversed.

Obi-Wan was right about one thing. He and Ahsoka had become far more alike than perhaps anyone realised they would. As far as Anakin was concerned, that was their greatest strength, and one of the many reasons why they worked so well together.

"Honestly… I'm tired of all of this. I just want this damned war to be over. I want to go to bed at night knowing that when I wake up I'm not going to be dragged into another war meeting, or find myself in the midst of a battlefield worrying about the safety of my men, my friends. I just want everything to be ok again. Is that too much to ask?"

He didn't want to burden Ahsoka, but at the same time he felt as though she would be the only one who would truly listen to what he had to say, truly understand exactly what he was saying. Just once he wanted someone to understand.

"I know Anakin, this whole war is horrible. If I could end it tomorrow I would, but we can't. We just have to see this thing through to the end and then everything will return to normal. Have faith Master."

"I'm not your Master anymore." Anakin's reply came a bit snappier than he had intended. Hearing her call him 'Master' only stirred up bad memories for him, for more than one reason.

"I may have left the Order, but you will always be my Master, just as I will always been your Padawan." Ahsoka took no offense to Anakin's tone, instead coming to embrace him gently, a gesture that Anakin gratefully returned.

"I know Snips, and I can't even begin to describe how proud I am of you. I just wish everyone else could see in you what I could."

Pulling back from the embrace, Ahsoka smiled, bowing before him as she might have once done in her days as a Jedi. Despite everything it was clear she still respected him. That filled him with hope, something he was sorely lacking these days.

Before he could say anymore a chiming sound distracted him. Looking down at his wrist, Anakin discovered that his commlink was beeping, indicating an incoming call.

Gesturing to Ahsoka that he would return, Anakin moved a distance away and connected the call.

"General Skywalker here."

"General, it's Jesse. Me and some of the boys are heading down for a drink at 79's to remember Tup if you feel up to it?"

Hearing Tup's name mention brought the sense of despair back to Anakin. He had lost another of his men, another of his friends to this war. Perhaps it would do him some good to spend some time with those he had left.

"I'll be there Jesse, but don't wait on me if I don't show up." Anakin replied through the commlink, hoping the answer pleased the Clone.

"Sure thing General. Hope to see you there."

And with that the commlink flashed off, indicating the call had been ended.

Perhaps it would do him some good to reminisce with his men, to remember all those that had fallen in this war. Maybe then he would finally remember why he was fighting it in the first place.

Turning back around, Anakin glimpsed at Ahsoka, who was now over in the kitchen area of her apartment, washing up the plates that had been used for their burgers. Approaching the kitchen worktop, Anakin cleared his throat, gaining Ahsoka's attention, who turned to look at him with inquisitive eyes.

"So… the boys have just invited me out for drinks. Feel like coming along? I know they'd love to see you."

Chapter Text

"I'm not so sure about this. I mean, what if they don't want to see me? I did sort of abandon them after all." Ahsoka spoke with trepidation in her voice as she stood beside Anakin outside the brightly illuminated bar that was popular with the Clones. All around them stood groups of people, many with the same face, chatting and discussing amongst themselves, enjoying what free time they had.

In a way Ahsoka envied them. For their free time they had somewhere they could all go and interact and just generally have fun with friends. She had no real equivalent. Sure, it was nice to spend some time with Anakin or Padmé, but she wished that she had a place like this to go and relax with friends.

Hopefully the Clones still wanted to be her friends, despite her concerns. She hadn't exactly treated Rex with much compassion when they had briefly seen each other the previous day.

"Don't worry so much Ahsoka. The boys will be more than happy to see you. I had to talk Fives and Jesse out of decorating their armour with orange stripes after you left. They missed you that much." Anakin encouraged, nudging her arm with his elbow gently, a warm smile on his face. The thundering sound of music from inside the bar almost drowned his voice out, forcing him to shout slightly.

"Well… guess we'll see." Ahsoka shouted back, gesturing to Anakin to lead the way, who in turn did so.

Upon entry into the bar itself Ahsoka found that she should probably consider it more of a club that a bar. During her time as a Padawan she had been to some seedy cantinas and downright obscene clubs before, filled to the brim with alcohol and dancers.

This one however was different, in an oddly familiar way. Sure, there was loud music playing, with a wide variety of drinks being served all around them, as well as a stage where several performers of several different species and genders were currently performing, but it was different to the other places like this. 79's had a far more positive atmosphere. It felt welcoming, and it felt as though even the Force was encouraging her to enjoy herself.

And who was she to ignore what the Force was telling her to do?

Content to allow herself to enjoy her free time, Ahsoka followed Anakin through the crowds of people, many of which were Clones suffering from varying degrees of intoxication.

After a minute or so of weaving between the crowds, Ahsoka found herself coming across a table where a group of Clone troopers sat, each with a small glass in their hands. Upon glancing at their faces, names came rushing back to her, as well as a sense of nostalgia, if one could call it that. Had she really missed them that much?

"General! What took you so long?" Jesse spoke first, shifting across in the seat he was in to allow Anakin room to sit beside him.

"Sorry Jesse just had to convince someone else to come along first. Thought you boys would want to see her."

"See who sir?" Jesse replied, clearly having not caught sight of Ahsoka yet. In a way Ahsoka wished he had. Now she had to deal with the awkwardness of making herself known to them again.

That was until another voice spoke up, one that Ahsoka instantly recognized by the tone, despite the fact that he shared it with several million brothers.

"Commander Tano? Is that you?" Commander Wolffe spoke, his voice gruff yet full of hidden joy. His one good eye widened in surprise as he took in her form. No doubt she looked different from the last time he had seen her. Mind you, that last time she had been on the run and he had stunned her.

"Hey Wolffe, how's things? Not with Master Plo?" Ahsoka replied, hoping to stir up some friendly conversation with the Clone to show that she held no grudges against him for his actions.

"Ah, got wounded on a mission and the General told me to stay on Coruscant to recuperate. 'Mandatory leave' he said. 'Bored out of my mind' I say." The Clone Commander replied, flashing a smile at Ahsoka in response.

"Hang on a minute… did Wolffe just smile? Now I've seen everything." Jesse spoke up from beside Anakin, a smirk on his face, one that was replicated by the Clone next to, whom Ahsoka could identify as Kix.

"Guess the Commander has some sort of magical charm that works on wolves." Kix quipped, eyebrows raising in Wolffe's direction, who rolled both eyes in response, before moving to the side slightly to allow Ahsoka to sit down beside him.

"You're kriffing hilarious Kix. You're just jealous that your charm is about as appealing as a naked rodian." Wolffe snapped back, taking a gulp of his drink in the process, earning a chuckle from both Anakin and Jesse, as well as a shudder from Kix who was clearly dealing with the mental image Wolffe had just presented.

Despite only arriving at the table moments ago, Ahsoka already felt like she had been welcomed back with open arms. Her men had missed her, even Wolffe it seemed.

Ahsoka was about to make a comment in response to Wolffe however when her eyes were drawn to the face of the other Clone at the table. His expression was slightly solemn, as if he was in deep thought about something that weighed heavily on his mind.

Had it been any other Clone Ahsoka might have considered leaving them to their internal thoughts, but this Clone was different. This Clone she would always help, even if he hadn't helped her earlier.

"Rex? You ok over there?"

The Clone in question immediately raised his head, his eyes locking onto hers. His posture was tense, as if he had just received an order that he was going to go through with, despite the noise around him. Ahsoka realized just how stuck in his own thoughts he had been.

"Oh, sorry Commander. Just lost in my own thoughts. I'm good. Want a drink? Kix is buying." Rex replied, his posture relaxing as he recognized who was speaking to him, as well as the situation he was in. In a way Ahsoka was glad she had come. Would Rex have been stuck in his own thoughts like that if she hadn't asked.

"Sure, thanks Rex. You know what I like." Ahsoka replied, throwing a compassionate smile at Rex in response, who returned it before standing from his seat and beginning to move over to the bar, several empty glasses clasped in his hands, evidently intent on having them refilled.

"I'll come to. See if they have anything I would like." Anakin joined in, standing from his seat and following his Captain, leaving Ahsoka alone with Kix, Jesse and Wolffe.

Ahsoka watched as the duo disappeared amongst the crowd headed for the bar, intent clear. Hopefully whatever they brought her back was something nice, and preferably non-alcoholic.

"So where have you been Commander. You vanished after your trial. Fives and I tried to find you but there was no trail to even follow!" Jesse spoke first, directing his attention at Ahsoka, joy in his eyes at seeing her again. Ahsoka was privately glad that they had missed her as much as they had.

"Just been around Kix. Worked at Dex's for a while to pay rent on a place before the Chancellor came and spoke to me. I'm his personal agent now." Ahsoka replied, hands clasped together on the table before her as she briefly summarized her story. Ahsoka doubted they wanted the long version full of her internal conflict and woes. She certainly didn't want to revisit them.

"Personal agent? What, like a spy or something?" Wolffe's gruff voice carried a hint of confusion over the loud music around them, his expression much the same.

"In a way. I've been infiltrating secret Separatist facilities as of late. They've been building a bioweapon to use on the Jedi." Ahsoka answered, allowing the seriousness of the situation come through to the Clones. They would understand better than nearly anyone why it was so serious.

"A bioweapon? Kriffing hells!" Kix's voice was infuriated at Ahsoka's statement, not that Ahsoka blamed him. As the 501st's resident medical chief Kix often had a lot to deal with. Knowledge of this new weapon would no doubt only lead to further strain on him. Hell, he'd probably try and personally find a cure to the weapon himself, not that they ever would be one. How could you give someone the Force back if it has been stripped from you?

"Well, sounds like you've got your work cut out for you Commander. Glad I'm not in your position." Wolffe shouted over the volume around them, nudging Ahsoka in the process, who in turn nudged him back gently.

"Drinks are here!" Jesse called out suddenly as both Anakin and Rex reappeared from the crowd, glasses in hands. The two moved swiftly over to the table, retaking their previous seats whilst placing six glasses down on the table and distributing them to their owners. Whilst it was clear that the Clones and Anakin had some sort of alcoholic beverages, Ahsoka realized that her drink was different, thanks to Rex. Hers was an odd concoction of fruity smells blended together into a fine liquid, something that would suit her just fine.

"Wait a minute?" Wolffe however clearly had other ideas, his eyes locking onto Ahsoka's drink in the process. "Why has she got a fruity drink? She's old enough to join us now, right?"

Before Ahsoka even had a chance to explain, Anakin spoke, his tone bordering on seething.

"No, she isn't. Leave her alone."

Ahsoka had to refrain from sighing aloud at Anakin's obvious attempt to protect her. It was true that she was old enough now to legally drink alcohol if she so desired, but that didn't mean that she had to. Why were humans so obsessed with the idea of a 'coming of age drink'?

"It's fine Wolffe. I asked for this. Someone's gotta make sure you all get home in one piece after all."

Ahsoka's comment earned a few laughs around the table, as well as what looked like a proud smirk from both Anakin and Rex.

"Well, in that case I'm glad you're here Commander. Nothing like being carried home after a long night."

Wolffe's response was teasing, which Ahsoka appreciated, though she herself was not done just yet.

"Who said I was going to help you? You pass out from getting drunk and I leave your rear here."

Another round of laughs echoed across the table, setting the pace for the rest of the night.

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Much of the night passed by as Ahsoka expected it to. Drinks after drinks were ordered, jokes and jibes passed around, and friends spent what little free time they had together reminiscing. The war had taken its toll on everyone, Ahsoka could see that. Underneath the expressions of joy and happiness on the Clone's faces was a sense of despair, of anguish. They wanted this war to be over just as much as she did. They wanted to be able to wake up everyday knowing that they were safe, that they were not going to go headlong into battle and either die, or watch those around them fall.

The Clones, despite the way they had been created and grown, were just as human as the rest of the species. They had emotions, they had hope, they had dreams.

If there was anyone in the galaxy who deserved to live in peace, it was the Clones, though how peace time would treat them all was a complete mystery to her, just as how it would treat her former Master. Anakin was not like other Jedi. He flourished in conflict, allowing it to mold him into a warrior of legend. How would he cope when there was no war to fight.

Hopefully Padmé would be able to talk some sense into him. Ahsoka wouldn't put it past Anakin to leave the Jedi Order for her once the war was through. In his position Ahsoka would probably do the same.

"Well guys and girls, I'm out of here. Got someone who needs my special attention." Jesse's voice was slightly slurred, a clear indication of the effect the alcohol he had consumed was having on him. Glancing up at where he now stood, Ahsoka spotted Jesse arm in arm with a female dancer, a Twi-lek to be precise. Ahsoka didn't need any time to figure out what Jesse had meant by the previous comment.

"Enjoy." Anakin's voice was laced with humour as he took another sip of his third drink. He wasn't showing any outward signs of intoxication yet, unlike Jesse and Kix, the latter of which was leant up against one of the many bars in the club, speaking with one of the waitresses. Clearly he too intended on having a night of 'fun'.

"Oh, I will General." Jesse spoke, eyebrows wiggling several times at Rex, who rolled his eyes in response. Before he left Jesse's eyes moved over to Ahsoka, addressing her. "Want me to find you someone as well Commander? A nice guy or girl to spend the night with?"

"Jesse. Leave. Now." Rex's stern voice was one that would incite fear even in the likes of General Grievous, and Anakin's expression wasn't much different.

Ahsoka however didn't mind. She knew that Jesse was under the heavy effects of alcohol, and was most likely not thinking about what he was really saying. No doubt he'd apologize for the remark in the future, embarrassed beyond belief.

"Ha, no thanks Jesse. I'm good living the life of the single loner." Ahsoka quipped, raising her glass to Jesse in the process, who bowed dramatically in response before being pulled away by the Twi-lek dancer into the crowds beyond.

"Remind me to put Jesse on latrine duty for a while." Rex's voice sounded across the table, earning an eye roll from Ahsoka in the process.

"Forget latrine duty. Just put him in the brig for a bit." Anakin spoke next, expression still stern, signature in the Force boiling slightly with anger.

'Talk about overprotective.' Ahsoka thought.

"Um, I don't know if you two noticed, but Commander Tano is a woman now. She can do whatever she wants… even whomever she wants." Wolffe's exclaimed from beside her suddenly, drawing twin looks of fury from Anakin and Rex, though Wolffe didn't seem at all fazed by them.

'Well… at least someone is on my side.' Ahsoka thought to herself, nodding slightly to Wolffe in appreciation for his support.

"Show respect Wolffe. She's still your superior." Rex's anger was palpable at best, something that was rare from the usually composed Clone Captain.

"Oh come off it Rex! She's not that little Padawan that you met years ago anymore. She's the personal agent to the Chancellor of the Republic! She outranks all of us here, even Skywalker! You two might not be able to appreciate her, but I damn well do, and I am showing respect to her by showing her that I think of her as a grown woman and not some child playing war!"

"I do treat her with respect Wolffe, far more than you currently are." Rex practically snarled back, his eyes boiling with barely contained rage. Beside him Anakin was looking much the same, his signature in the Force sporadic.

"That didn't stop you issuing an all bulletins capture order on her did it!" Wolffe spat, his head beginning to sway suddenly, causing Ahsoka's eyes to widen in surprise. The Clone Commander began to speak again, his words coming out slurred before the inevitable happened. Plo Koon's Commander slumped down onto the table face first with a resounding thud, clear evidence of just how intoxicated he was.

None of the three still situated at the table said anything, each choosing to take in Wolffe's now snoring form in a different manner. Ahsoka couldn't help but feel pity for the Clone. No doubt he'd live to regret his words in the morning, especially if Anakin had anything to say about it.

Rex's expression had softened instantly upon seeing Wolffe pass out, his own head shaking in despair as he gently reached across the table to move Wolffe's head into a more comfortable position, no doubt hoping to ensure Wolffe didn't suffer from any neck pains.

"Well… that was interesting to say the least." Ahsoka decided to quip, hoping to lighten the mood. Even with the constant drone of music and laughter around them the atmosphere at their table had taken an uncomfortable turn.

"Don't even joke about that Ahsoka. He had no right to say those sort of things about you." Anakin replied, head snapping to lock eyes with hers.

"Why not? He's not wrong. I'm not technically a minor anymore by either Coruscant or Shili's laws. I've been fighting a war since I was fourteen. I can look after myself, both in public and private."

"You're still too young to be thinking about... that!" Anakin interrupted, clearly uncomfortable about speaking about what Ahsoka could get up to in her private life.

"Technically not, but I'm not at all interested in that sort of stuff yet Anakin. Stop being such an overprotective dad. If I wanted that I'd go to Obi-Wan or Master Plo."

Ahsoka's didn't mean her words to sound so harsh, especially when Anakin had all but raised her the past few years when he didn't have to. She pretty much owed him everything.

Now though, as she watched how his face changed as he examined her words, she could see that it worked both ways. Through him she had had a father figure, or more like an annoying big brother figure. And through her he too had had a similar experience. She was a daughter or a sister to him in all but blood. Ahsoka hoped he knew how much that meant to her, how much she treasured that bond between them.

"I know Snips, I know. I forget that you've grown up so quickly. I just can't help but worry about you, you know?" Anakin replied, all the rage and hurt leaving his face instantly, his head lowering in shame.

"Yeah, I get it Anakin. Walking away from the Temple and your guidance was the hardest thing I have ever done. But here we are, still together, till the end of time." Ahsoka replied, throwing a warm smile in his direction, one he eventually returned.

"Yeah, I suppose we are."

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Anakin had chosen to take his leave not long afterwards, pausing to help Wolffe up, who had recovered thanks to a brief nap. No bad blood seemed to exist between them, for which Ahsoka was grateful. The last thing she wanted was for either of them to get hurt over defending whatever honour she had left.

"So… personal agent to Chancellor Palpatine huh? How'd that all come about?" The voice of Rex, the only other person left at the bar with her questioned, hands gently grasping what was only his second drink of the night as he inquired.

"Thought I'd told this story already?" Ahsoka replied, taking a sip of her third fruity drink, one Rex had bought for her as an apology. As it turned out he had been beating himself up for not helping her with her trial for some time, especially in regards to placing the hunt order on her himself.

Ahsoka had forgiven him easily however. Rex never meant any harm to her, and he was only doing his job. Plus, unlike some others she knew he had actually apologized for his behaviour. That alone was enough to warrant her trusting him again.

"You did, but only the abridged version. I'd like to hear every last detail of your story." Rex continued, taking a small sip of his drink before returning his focus solely to her and her story.

Ahsoka knew that there was no refusing someone like Rex. He loved to hear stories of her time in the Temple, training to be a Jedi. It only made sense for him to want to know what else she had been up to since leaving that life behind.

"I swear Rex, one day you're gonna write a biography on me, aren't you?" Ahsoka commented, smiling at her former Clone Captain.

"Doubtful, I'm not the best writer. That sounds like something Echo would have done." Rex replied, chuckling lightly in response, his face also coming out in a smile, one that warmed Ahsoka in joy.

"Too true Captain. Too true," Ahsoka answered, taking another sip of her drink in the process before beginning to recite her story thus far. "Anyways, it all began when…

Chapter Text

Much to Ahsoka's surprise an entire week managed to pass by before she got another call from the Chancellor. In a way she was glad for the distraction. Ahsoka had never been very good at sitting still, especially during times of war. She preferred to be training or fighting, or learning from her teachers.

Now however she had none of those, aside from her frequent visits to the nearby gym, and even those paled in comparison to Jedi training or sparring with the Clones.

Even Anakin had pretty much radio silent the past few days, most likely spending time with a certain Senator who had arrived back from his conference the day after their trip to the club with Rex and the others. Ahsoka wouldn't begrudge Anakin spending time with his wife. He deserved to have some time off more than most, and she was happy that he had someone to go home to.

So yes, she had been bored without a mission of some kind, or without anyone to really spend some time with, thus she all but jumped for joy when her comm link pulsed early in the morning and the Chancellor's voice came through asking her to meet him at his office.

Assuming it to be another mission Ahsoka quickly armored up, before heading over to the Senate building in her newly purchased speeder, one she had spent a vast amount of credits on. She had the money to spend after all, so why not treat herself?

It only took several minutes in her speeder to reach her destination, and a short brisk walk through the halls of the Senate building that had become a frequent locale for Ahsoka before she entered the Chancellor's office, finding him staring out of the large window planes at the city below.

Moving over to his desk, Ahsoka reached up and removed her helmet, gently clearing her throat to alert the elderly man that she was present and ready for her new orders.

The Chancellor reacted as she expected, his body turning away from the window and towards Ahsoka, a warm smile coming to his face as he gestured towards the chair opposite his desk, taking his own in the process. Ahsoka knew by now that that was his invitation to sit, so she took it.

"My dear it is good to see you. I trust you have been enjoying your time off? Something that was no doubt rare during your time as a Jedi as I understand it?" Palpatine spoke, his tone soft and patient, an air of compassion about his as he referred to her previous life. He was evidently trying not to remind her of the past too much, something that she appreciated.

"I'm doing well Chancellor, thank you for asking. I've kept as busy as I can but I'm looking forward to getting back to doing some good for the galaxy." Ahsoka replied, hoping her enthusiasm would please the Chancellor.

Across the desk Palpatine chuckled, reaching under his desk to extract what looked like a small slip of paper with eloquent writing on. It was rare to ever see such material these days. Nine times out of ten everything was written either on flimsi or on a datapad. Whatever this was was important.

"As much as I appreciate your services Agent Tano I'm afraid this is not another mission, but merely an invitation for you. The Office of the Supreme Chancellor is hosting a charity ball in hopes of raising funds for the orphans of this forsaken war. Many wealthy and influential Senators from across all of Republic space will be present, and I managed to secure an invitation for you as well. I thought that perhaps you might like to attend and enjoy yourself for a night. You are still a young lady after all if you don't mind me saying." Palpatine detailed, handing the paper slip to Ahsoka in the process, who took it and began reading what was upon it.

The writing was joined up and in Ahsoka's mind rather pompous, but it was still easy enough to read.

'You are cordially invited to the Republic Charity Ball, hosted by the Office of the Supreme Chancellor.'

'Invitation reserved for: Ahsoka Tano, plus one.'

'Black Tie mandatory.'

Upon realization that the invitation was specifically aimed at her, Ahsoka's eyes widened in surprise. Was she really important enough to the Republic to warrant an invitation to what seemed like a prestigious ball?

"I.. don't know if i should accept this Your Excellency? I'm not exactly a politician with any sway in the Republic." Ahsoka explained, placing the invitation back on the Chancellor's desk.

"Perhaps not my dear, but you are still a welcome addition to the event. You would not be there to play politics, but to simply enjoy yourself. You deserve that much after all." Palpatine spoke softly, reaching across his desk to gently push the piece of paper back towards her, a clear encouragement for her to take it anyways.

"I'm not sure Chancellor. I'm not really a formal person." Ahsoka answered, picking up the invitation again and beginning to fiddle with it. She could do small parties with friends, or a night out with her men.

But an entire charity ball attended by hundreds of Republic Senators? That might just be too much for her to handle, especially in light of her last interaction with them.

That said, she couldn't very well turn down the Chancellor… could she?

"Do not worry about making your decision right this second Ahsoka. The ball is in three days time. Think about it and I will either see you there or not." Palpatine said, standing from his chair and moving round the desk towards Ahsoka, a hand gently resting on her shoulder. Even through the armor she could feel the gentle squeeze. It was oddly comforting in a way.

Rising from her own chair Ahsoka smiled at the Chancellor, her mind not fully made up, but grateful for the time to think things over.

"I'll think it over Chancellor."

"Good, that's all I ask. It would be nice to have a friend there, especially one who isn't a Senator looking to depose me." Palpatine's reply as instant, a touch of humor in his tone as he finished.

She didn't show it, lest it reveal some part of unproffessionalism that Palpatine would not want to see, but Ahsoka was happy that the elder man considered her a friend. She hadn't had many growing up, and had very few it seemed even now. In fact she could almost count the people she would call friends on one hand.

Now though it seemed she had more, as well as the support of the most powerful man in the galaxy. If the Chancellor of all people called her his friend then clearly she was doing something right.

"Anyways, I have an important meeting with Senator Chuchi that I must attend. Enjoy the rest of your day Agent Tano. I hope to see you at the charity ball."

With that, the Chancellor led Ahsoka out of his office, bidding her farewell before leaving alongside his Senate Guard escort, headed to his meeting.

Have little else to do, Ahsoka tucked the paper invitation away in her armor, before taking her leave. She would admit to being a little disappointed that she didn't have another mission, but grateful to the Chancellor nonetheless.

Not everything could be explosions and adventures after all.

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Upon arrival back to her apartment Ahsoka still hadn't made up her mind about attending. She wasn't really one for big formal events, usually only tagging along if she had guard duty for some Senator like Padmé or Riyo. Even then she hadn't really socialized or allowed herself to enjoy the party, mainly sticking to her position as bodyguard instead, watching every corner with both her eyes and the Force to determine if any threats were present. Most of the time there were one, but once or twice there had been. Those had been eventful parties to say the least.

Reaching her hands across the various sections on her armor, Ahsoka began to remove the protective layer, placing it neatly upon an armor stand that she had purchased from a local scrap metal dealer. It wasn't much to look at, but it did the job.

Content that she wouldn't need the armor for the rest of the day Ahsoka moved across to the kitchen, opening a drawer to extract a small sachet of powder, one that when combined with water would turn into a rich creamy soup. It wasn't the most fancy of meals, but it would do for a later breakfast. She had forgotten all about eating in her rush to get to the Chancellor's office.

Tearing the top off of the sachet, Ahsoka emptied the powder into a saucepan, placing it upon a cooker and adding water to it, before beginning to mix the water and powder together.

When the powder began to fold into the creamy substance she desired she turned the stove on, beginning to heat it. Luckily it would only take a few moments the heat up to the temperature she desired, something that appeased her suddenly growing stomach. Ahsoka hadn't realized how hungry she was.

A few minutes past before the soup began to bubble, indicating it had reached the temperature desired and was ready to serve. Smiling to herself, Ahsoka removed the saucepan from the stove, slowly pouring the soup into one of the bowls she had brought herself.

Content that her breakfast was nearly ready, Ahsoka moved across the kitchen to slice a piece of bread off of a loaf she had stored, fully intending on dipping it into the soup whilst she ate.

Placing both the slice of bread and bowl of soup on a tray, as well as a spoon, Ahsoka picked the tray up and moved out of the kitchen and towards her living room. Sitting down on her couch Ahsoka turned on the holoscreen, hoping she'd at least be able to catch some sort of morning holovision that wasn't clichéd junk.

Eventually, she found something, a simple program about insects across the galaxy hosted by an elderly Besalisk names Divad who traveled the galaxy to study various creatures.

The thought of what to do regarding the ball was still on her mind, but for now she could relax. She had plenty of time to decide after all.

*********************************************************************************************************************************************

Two days passed by and Ahsoka still had not made her decision.

Her gut instinct told her not to go, not to bother attending a ball that would not doubt include many Senators who had no doubt taken part in her unjust trial, who as far as she was aware had judged her for crimes that she had not committed, and were fully willing to let her be executed. Why should she attend a ball and socialize with those people?!

But then she would remember who had invited her, and what she owed him. The Chancellor had come to her in both his and her time of need, offered her help and support, just as he had to Anakin numerous times. And now he had clearly gone out of his way to secure a ticket for her to attend what sounded like a rather prestigious event. That couldn't have been easy to do!

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka glanced down at the small slip of paper in her hands, reading it to herself for what felt like the one hundredth time.

'Black Tie Mandatory' would be easy… if she knew anything about formal wear. Ahsoka had only ever worn a dress once on her life, and that was to pose as a slave. Even she would admit that dress had been a bit too revealing. No way she wanted a repeat of that.

Perhaps she could ask Padmé for some advice… but then again she didn't really want to distract her, especially if Anakin was with her. They deserved some time alone after all.

And then there was another part of the invitation that was causing her mind to spin. 'Ahsoka Tano, plus one.'

Why had Palpatine gotten her an invitation that included a plus one? Who was she supposed to bring?

Throwing the invitation on the floor Ahsoka growled aloud, frustrated by the situation she somehow found herself in. It shouldn't be as hard as it was to decide what to do. What was wrong with her?

Taking a deep breathe, Ahsoka made herself comfortable on her couch, crossing her legs and delving deep into the Force. Perhaps some meditation would help calm her senses… and maybe help her make a decision.

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As it turned out, meditation did not help in the slightest. For some reason Ahsoka was on edge, as if all of her senses were trying to tell her something. What, she was unsure… but it had been enough to disturb her during meditation, forcing her to pull out. The Force had just seemed darker as of late, and whilst she was use top the feeling of being alone and isolated, recently it had begun to feel like something in the Force was trying to consume her.

Ahsoka couldn't tell if it was light or dark, and frankly she didn't want to find out. Whatever it was made her feel like someone who wasn't Ahsoka Tano, something that terrified her.

But for now, all she could do was ignore it. There was no point chasing ghosts, not until they were real, if they even were. Whatever it was would be revealed in time, that much Ahsoka was sure about.

Choosing to forgo any more meditation, Ahsoka had instead grabbed a small bag she used for the gym and set off for her daily workout. She felt the need to spar with something or someone, the innate need to hit something. Perhaps that would expel some of her inner stress that seemed to be permeating her recently. And while she knew she would find no willing sparring partner at the gym, she did know that they had several punch bags ready for those who needed them. Hopefully one would be free today, or else Ahsoka might very well snap!

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Meditation had not worked, but punching the kriff out of a punching bag had. Ahsoka had earned several concerned looks from other gym members as she had taken out her frustrations on the poor punch bag, as well as one or two inquiries about why she was so stressed. She had brushed their concerns off, merely throwing them a small to indicate that she was ok. Hopefully that had appeased them.

Once her workout had been completed, Ahsoka returned home, mind calmer, but still undecided on what to do regarding the invitation.

Bending down, Ahsoka picked up the slip of paper, eyes surveying the words once again.

If she went, she'd have to get a dress… and she would need a plus one.

That seemed like a good place to start. If she could get a plus one, then she would go. It might have been somewhat mean, but if she was going to go and suffer at this party, then so was someone else.

The only issue was finding someone who would go with her. She didn't have many friends left after all, much less ones who would want to attend a political event such as this. Padmé no doubt had her own invitation, and no doubt Anakin would be there to protect her. Obi-Wan would be an interesting choice, but he wasn't the biggest fan of politicians in general.

It was then that the face of a young Padawan came to mind, someone she had met and befriended recently, one who was always ready to learn.

And what better way to learn about the politics of the Republic then to attend a charity event.

He might say no, but it was worth a shot at least.

Standing up from her seat Ahsoka moved into her bedroom, picking up her wrist comm and finding the number that Caleb Dume had given her. If he answered, then good. If not, then oh well.

Sitting on her bed, Ahsoka waited as the call rang out, waiting to be connected on the other end. For all she knew he could be out in the field with his Master, or in the middle of a lesson within the Temple. There was no guarantee that he was going to…

"Hello?"

'Never mind.' Ahsoka thought to herself as a small hologram of Caleb sprang to life on her wrist comm interface.

"Hey Caleb, you busy at the moment?" Ahsoka inquired, ensuring that she wasn't disrupting him from doing something important. She might not have been a Jedi anymore, but the last thing she wanted to do was ruin the young Padawan's chances of becoming a knight, especially if he was busy.

"Oh! Hey Ahsoka. You called me!" Caleb's tone of voice indicated surprise, which was nice to hear in a way. Clearly he had not expected her to call.

"I said I would, didn't I? How's things in Temple? Been up to much?" Ahsoka continued, hoping that Caleb would respond in kind.

"Yeah, that's true, and no I'm not busy, just reading a really boring essay on politics." Caleb replied, sarcasm dripping off his tongue, something that made Ahsoka smirk.

"Why's it boring?" Ahsoka questioned, wondering if perhaps asking Caleb to come along with her to a politicians ball was a bad idea. If he found politics boring, the last place he'd want to be was at a formal event.

"Just reading about it is boring. I'd rather be out their experiencing it in person, if that makes any sense whatsoever?"

Caleb's response was not what Ahsoka had been expected, but worked perfectly for what she had planned.

"In that case I've got just the thing for you Caleb. You up for attending a Senatorial Ball tomorrow?"

Chapter Text

As it turned out, Caleb had definitely been up for attending the ball as her plus one. In fact, Ahsoka would dare say he was excited about the prospect of spending the night at a party hosted by the most powerful man in the galaxy. Whether that was down to genuine interest in politics, or more of a desire to spend a night away from the strict rules enforced at the Jedi Temple was unknown, but Ahsoka cared little.

All that mattered was that she had someone with her that she'd actually enjoy spending time with, as opposed to simply being alone at the party, surrounded by Senators and other political figureheads.

Once she had secured Caleb's agreement to come along, the two had finished their discussion. No doubt Caleb would have to convince his master to allow him to attend, but Ahsoka doubted that would be too difficult. Depa Billaba struck her as a woman of action, one who was willing to go above and beyond to ensure the safety of the galaxy, as well as the happiness of those around her. If she truly valued her Padawan's learning experience, which from what Ahsoka had seen so far she did, then it made sense for Caleb to attend an event where he might gain hands on experience, especially with something as complicated as galactic politics.

With their call ended Ahsoka had been forced to move onto the second part of planning her night out. She needed some formal wear.

Thankfully, it hadn't taken her long to find somewhere that sold something that would suit the situation. Choosing what to purchase had been a slightly more difficult challenge, mainly due to the constant interruptions from staff members suggesting what she wore. She didn't mind the fact that they were trying to help, what annoyed her was that they assumed what she would like. A pair of the assistants had suggested she go for some sort of revealing dress that would turn heads, something that Ahsoka had never intended to do in her life, and never really wanted to do either. Yes, she had worn some ever so slightly revealing outfits in her life, but she had been young and rebellious, even as a Jedi youngling.

Nowadays she preferred something that didn't stand out, something that put her on a normal level with the rest of the denizens of the galaxy. She wasn't some aristocrat or Senator, she was simply Ahsoka, Palpatine's personal agent.

Plus, the less she stood out, the less chance she had of being recognized by someone from her past, or worse still, by someone who had voted against her innocence.

Eventually, the assistants had gotten the message that she didn't want something that stood out too much, and had instead allowed a third colleague of theirs to take over. This third individual, who was a Togruta like herself, had seemed to understand what she was after instantly. With only a few instructions from Ahsoka the Togruta had found what she was after, a long dark blue dress that covered her entire body from neck to ankle, leaving nothing too exposed aside from her arms, but looking stylish enough to attend a charity event hosted by the Chancellor.

The gown had been slightly expensive, but it made no dent in the several million credits Ahsoka currently had stored in her account courtesy of her work for the Republic. Returning to her apartment with her new purchase, Ahsoka had little else to do but wait for the next day.

That was how she found herself standing before the entrance to the Senate building, the cold breeze of the night beginning to settle in as the sun set in the distance, her gown lightly flowing around her as she waited patiently. She and Caleb had agreed to meet here. After all, he would need her invitation to get into the ball in the first place.

Several minutes passed by and there was still no sign of Caleb. With little else to do Ahsoka simply watched those around her. Groups of individuals of varying species meandered around, enjoying themselves. Whether or not they were invited to the ball was unknown to Ahsoka, thought judging by the lack of formal wear she doubted it. Perhaps they were simply leaving from a hard day at work at the Senate building. No doubt thousands of people worked here.

Continuing her survey, Ahsoka found herself watching out for threats. She wasn't doing so on purpose, but after being trained in the midst of a galactic war some things had just become pure habit. You never knew when there was some assassin or battledroid, or maybe even a bounty hunter out to get you. On instinct, her right hand went down to her leg, gently grasping hold of the hilt of her lightsaber, one that was carefully concealed under her dress. She was being overly cautious, she knew. After all, what could possibly happen at a charity ball that would mean she would need her lightsaber?

Still, she felt better with it on her than not. Again, one might consider it a habit.

"Ahsoka?" The youthful voice of Caleb Dume brought her out of her inner thoughts, drawing her gaze to his form as he approached her.

It only took her a moment to recognize the fact that he was wearing his Jedi robes, as opposed to some other formal wear. Ahsoka only wished that such a thing had been possible for her.

"Hey Caleb. Jedi robes huh?" Ahsoka answered, pulling the young Padawan into a half embrace, one that he returned.

"Yeah, figured it made sense. Not everyday I get asked to be someones security guard at an important ball, much less the personal agent of Chancellor Palpatine!"

"Hang on a minute… do you really think the reason I invited you was to be my bodyguard?" Ahsoka questioned, surprised by Caleb's comment. Had she not explained why she wanted him to come along?

"Well… yeah. Was it not?" Caleb replied, confusion in his eyes as he seemed to shrink before her, as if he thought he was in trouble.

"No! I invited you because I thought it'd be a good learning experience for you about politics. That and if I'm going to be stuck suffering at some Senatorial ball for the night then I at least want someone there to keep me sane." Ahsoka replied, chuckling lightly as realization dawned on Caleb's face.

"Ooooh… so your saying I shouldn't have brought my lightsaber with me?" Caleb's response nearly made Ahsoka laugh aloud, something that was not as common as Ahsoka would have perhaps liked these days.

"Don't worry about it. If anyone asks you are my bodyguard on loan from the Jedi. You'll be allowed to keep your weapon if I vouch for you. Besides, you're not the only one armed." Ahsoka finished, tapping the concealed hilt of her lightsaber whilst throwing a smirk at Caleb, whose eyes widened again in realization.

"Wait… really? You've got your lightsaber on you?"

"Yep. Never know when you might need it."

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

Having finished their discussion outside, Ahsoka had led Caleb into the hall of the Senate building, following the signs that had fortunately been put up for the guest's convenience. Without them there was a good chance they would have gotten lost in the endless halls.

As the two proceeded to follow the signs it occurred to Ahsoka how quiet it actually was. There were a few people around the various halls, mostly night workers and the occasional messenger, but no one of any real significance. Chances were that all of the important members of the Senate were already at Palpatine's ball. That meant that they were most likely late.

Not that Ahsoka really minded. The less time she had to spend at this thing the better.

Continuing to follow the signs, both Caleb and Ahsoka eventually came across a large set of double doors guarded by two members of the Senate guard, clad in their pristine blue armor. Standing beside them was a well dressed human male, who watched as she and Caleb approached with narrowed eyes, as if suspicious.

"No access is allowed without authorization. I suggest you two kids run along now." The man spoke, his tone annoyed and facial expression sharp. To Ahsoka it wasn't the best first impression.

"I have authorization, from the Chancellor himself." Ahsoka replied, stepping forward to hand the man the piece of paper that was her invitation. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Caleb smile, his signature in the Force bright with excitement. She wished she had the same enthusiasm.

The man practically snatched the invitation from her with a suspicious glare, no doubt expecting it to be a fake. It was clear to her that he thought they were just some children looking for a way to sneak into a high profile event.

Of course that couldn't have been further from the truth… in fact Ahsoka was almost willing to bet that she was of higher standing in society these days than he was. Was he the personal agent of Chancellor Palpatine, one who owned a prestigious apartment at the 500 Republica and had several million credits in the bank for her own use? She very much doubted he was.

"Hmmm, very well. You may proceed, but no funny business. The guards will be watching you." The man spoke, stepping aside with a roll of his eyes to allow the two Senate guards to open the double doors, permitting the guests access.

"Thank you." Ahsoka replied, nodding to the guards in the process, biting the inside of her cheek in order to prevent the snippy comment she so desperately wanted to say from escaping.

The man said nothing back, refusing to even make eye contact as Ahsoka and Caleb strode past him, entering into the large room beyond.

Upon crossing the threshold of the doorway, several things caught Ahsoka's vast senses. The large central chamber they now found themselves in was filled with people of various species, all mingling with one another, endless voices echoing throughout the room as dozens of conversations went on at once.

In the background a soft gentle rhythm of music was being played by a band that was upon a stage, various instruments in their hands as they worked. A smaller clearing was also present before the stage, where several people danced slowly together, no doubt enjoying the night. Beside her she heard a quiet gasp come from Caleb, who was clearly in awe at everything around him.

Continuing her survey, Ahsoka eventually found someone she recognized amongst the crowd. Chancellor Palpatine stood with his back to a large open fountain, quietly talking to some dignitaries with a strained look on his face. From where she was standing it almost looked like he was bored.

As if he had sensed her arrival, Palpatine's eyes glanced over at her, a small smile coming to his face as he excused himself from those in his company, moving through the crowd towards her.

"My dear I am so glad to see you decided to come along. You deserve a night of relaxation after everything the Republic has put you through recently." Palpatine said, his tone warm and welcoming, reaching forward to grasp hold of her hand, squeezing it gently in comfort.

"Thank you Chancellor. It's an honor to be here, even if I'm not too sure I'll fit in." Ahsoka replied, bowing her head in a sign of respect. It may have been her night off, but she would still show the Chancellor the respect he deserved.

"Nonsense my dear, you will find some friends here no doubt. Senator Amidala is around somewhere, I'm sure she will be pleased to see you." Palpatine replied, bowing his head in response to hers, before he turned to address Caleb, who stood beside Ahsoka looking downright terrified.

"Ah, Padawan Caleb Dume was it? A pleasure to see you again. I trust you are well?"

"Yes Sir… I mean Your Excellency, I am. Are you?" Caleb replied, bumbling through his words in a way that almost made Ahsoka laugh.

"I am well young Jedi, thank you for asking. Come, my friend, let me introduce you to some of my fellow colleagues. Ahsoka, do enjoy your night." Palpatine responded, gently wrapping an arm around Caleb shoulder to direct him to a group of fancy dressed people that were no doubt powerful Senators. Having no choice but to obey, Caleb followed.

Watching as Palpatine and Caleb disappeared among the crowd, Ahsoka turned her attention back to finding something to do, or someone to talk to. In a situation such as this she was really out of her depth. Put her in a position where her life was at stake and she was right at home. But put her in one where she was standing with a group of the most powerful people in the Republic and expected to mingle and she had absolutely no idea what to do.

Why had she even come in the first place?

Knowing full well that she couldn't leave moments after she arrived, much les leave Caleb all by himself, Ahsoka decided to simply find someone she knew to talk to. The Chancellor had said that Padmé was here after all.

Slowly moving through the crowd Ahsoka kept her eyes open for anyone that looked remotely like Padmé. Knowing the woman she would have her hair in some sort of weird shape that made it stand out. That would be her telling sign.

At least it was until she saw someone else she recognized, standing over by a long table that had copious amounts of food and drink on it.

A tall man stood with her back to him, obscuring his face, but revealing enough that she could identify who it was. After all, there weren't that many people who towered above practically everyone and wore dark colored Jedi robes that would be in attendance at a party such as this. Chances were he was present as a 'bodyguard' for a certain Senator from Naboo.

Deciding that her best course of action was to sneak up on him, Ahsoka began to move through the crowds, approaching her target in time to see Padmé herself come to stand next to him, her voice speaking to him softly as he picked at the food on the table.

"If you keep stealing the food here, people will think the Jedi don't feed anyone in their temple."

"That's because they don't Padmé. It's all processed rations that taste like nothing, not like the food here."

"But you ate a big exquisite meal last night when I cooked! How can you say you've not eaten well for the past few days when I was the last one to feed you!"

"Hey! I've got to make up for all the time I'm away in the field with Rex and the boys. Besides, I still prefer your food to this. Party food never has any tang to it."

"But you just said…"

"Yeah, it's still better than rations though, hence why I'm eating it. Now if you had cooked everything here yourself I might not be able to stop myself from devouring it all single handedly."

"Oh Anakin… sometimes…"

"Sometimes what…?"

Taking that as a perfect cue to make herself known Ahsoka stepped forward and spoke, a smirk on her face.

"She means that sometimes you can be an incredibly convoluted man who doesn't really know what he wants and just keeps speaking to make himself sound smart, when in actuality he's really dumb."

The sheer speed at which Anakin's head whipped around to face hers nearly made Ahsoka break down into hysterics, especially considering the way his cheeks bulged outwards thanks to the food he was halfway through chewing. Through the Force Ahsoka felt a jolt of surprise at seeing her, followed by one of relief and happiness at her presence. The feeling was mutual.

"Ahsoka! What a pleasant surprise. How are you?" Padmé exclaimed joyfully, coming towards the Togruta with her arms open for an embrace, one that Ahsoka welcomed and returned briefly, before pulling back.

"I'm good Padmé, despite somehow finding myself at this prestigious ball full of people I don't know. How are you?" Ahsoka replied, grateful that her interruption wasn't being considered too rude. No doubt both Padmé and Anakin understood.

"Same here Ahsoka, though it warms my heart to see you so well. I haven't seen you so happy since you left the Jedi Order." Padmé said, her words cautious over the mention of Ahsoka leaving, something that she appreciated. Leaving had been hard, but she was happy now, just as Padmé had said. That was something that Ahsoka had never expected to feel again.

"Since when did the Chancellor invite brats like you to charity balls?" Anakin quipped, his tone teasing, even as he insulted Ahsoka, something that Padmé either did not realize was a joke, or did but still took it seriously.

"Anakin! That's a horrible thing to call Ahsoka. You should apologize right now!"

The way Anakin's eyes widened in surprise at Padmé's statement did make Ahsoka laugh this time, even more so when his mouth began to open and close like a fish.

"What… but I… I didn't mean… It was just a joke Padmé, Ahsoka knows that… right Snips?"

Deciding that it was too good of an opportunity to resist taking revenge on Anakin for his comment, Ahsoka answered, her tone despondent.

"You called me a brat! Why would you do that? I thought we were friends Anakin?"

"What?! No Snips we are… best friends even. I didn't really mean it. I'm sorry, ok?"

"Alright, but you still hurt my feelings Skyguy."

The look of sadness of Anakin's face was something that would usually in turn upset Ahsoka. The fact that it was caused by her teasing however…

"Oh Anakin you take things far too seriously. We were just joking with you." Padmé chose that moment to break the tension, no doubt having figured out what Ahsoka was up to. For someone who wasn't Force sensitive, Padmé had an uncanny ability at sensing what people were thinking. Whether that be from her time as a Queen or a Senator, or from some other experience, Ahsoka didn't know. Still, she was glad that were was someone in Anakin's life aside from herself that could outwit him.

"I swear you two are going to be the death of me one day." Anakin grumbled, annoyed, yet a pleased look on his face, a small smile attempting to stay hidden but failing and emerging on his lips.

"Maybe, anyways to answer your earlier question the Chancellor was kind enough to secure me a pair of tickets to this event on the condition that I enjoy myself and relax for a night. Figured I'd come and see what all the fuss was about. Nice change of pace from my day to day life I must say." Ahsoka explained, moving over to the table of food to examine what was there, and see if anything took her fancy.

"Well it's good to have you here. I hope you enjoy yourself tonight." Padmé spoke first, moving to join Ahsoka at the table, gesturing towards a large plate full of small bite sized pieces of some sort of glazed meat. Taking Padmé's suggestion, Ahsoka picked one up in her hands and popped it into her mouth, chewing gently as she enjoyed the sudden explosion of taste in her mouth.

'Kriff these are good. I can see why Anakin wants to eat all of it.'

"Wait a minute… you said two tickets. Who did you bring with you?" Padmé questioned suddenly, looking at Ahsoka with something in her eyes. It was an odd look, one that bordered on interest and concern, as well as an undercurrent of teasing.

"Oh, just a friend I made from the Temple recently. He's currently been abducted by the Chancellor to be shown around." Ahsoka replied, picking up another piece of the glazed meat, popping it in her mouth in the process before turning to face Anakin, who had an equally odd look on his face.

"It's not that Dume kid is it? I don't like him."

Rolling her eyes for all to see Ahsoka swallowed the chewed up meat before replying.

"Yes actually it is. Caleb expressed an interest in seeing how the politics of the Republic worked, so I thought I'd invite him along. Figured it'd be a good place for him to learn about politics as opposed to being taught in a classroom."

"As long as that's all he gets from this outing then." Anakin's reply was sharp and swift, his head shaking as he moved off to another part of the table to find some more food that was to his liking.

"What did he mean by that?" Padmé inquired as she watched Anakin leave, confusion in her tone. Sighing aloud, Ahsoka explained.

"Anakin's basically going into overprotective dad mode because I'm friends with Caleb. He's under the impression…"

"That you like him, or that he likes you, I see. Do you?" Padmé finished for Ahsoka, her tone light and far less confrontational than Anakin's had been both times this sort of subject had arisen so far. Ahsoka was grateful that there was at least one person who wasn't going to be overly protective and let her go her own way.

"No, not really. He's cool and all but Caleb's got a lot to learn, and I'm still trying to find myself in the galaxy. I'd rather we just be friends. Besides, I'd hate to ruin his chances of being a Jedi Knight in the future… uh, no offense intended." Ahsoka replied truthfully, worried that Padmé might mistake the last part as a quip about her and Anakin's secret relationship.

"None taken Ahsoka. I worry about it too sometimes, but Anakin always says I'm the most important thing in his life, and it's hard not to believe him. He's so passionate about those he cares for… too passionate sometimes." Padmé explained, a soft look on her face as she watched Anakin continue to survey the food along the table.

"Tell me about it. He nearly attacked Wolffe and Jesse the other night for suggesting that I was of age to find a boyfriend or girlfriend! Sometimes I don't think he realizes that I'm not that little girl he met on Christophsis. I'll be eighteen in a couple of months. According to law, I can do whatever I want, within reason of course."

Padmé had a look of understanding on her face as she listened to Ahsoka's words, wrapping an arm around Ahsoka's shoulders, pulling her into a side hug.

"I'll admit that there have been a few times he's come ranting to me about you being reckless and that you're growing up too fast because of the war. While I agree with him on that, I do think that he should let you be your own person, now especially. If that means going out on dates and maybe one day starting a family, so be it. Don't let him stop you."

Nodding her head in appreciation of Padmé's words, Ahsoka replied. "Thanks. I'm certainly not thinking about the whole family thing anytime soon, or ever for that matter, but still, thanks."

The smile on Padmé's face was comforting to Ahsoka, the Force resonating comfortably between the two despite one lacking sensitivity.

And then the atmosphere suddenly changed, all thanks to the voice of another arrival.

"Messa thinkin yousa a grown lady Miss Ahsoka. Yousa re one da messa favourita Jedi."

To most people in the galaxy, the mere sound of Jar Jar Binks' voice was enough to put them on edge. Ahsoka had seen Clones enter a borderline blood-lust state at even the mention of his name. Ahsoka could understand why though. Jar Jar could be a bit much, and rarely ever failed to leave a lasting impression upon people. He was loud and at times obnoxious but he meant well.

She could relate to that in a way. Frankly, if more people in the galaxy were like Jar Jar Binks then the galaxy would be a much happier, if not slightly noisier place.

"Thanks Jar Jar, I'm glad someone other than Padmé realized that I'm not a little kid anymore. How are you doing these days?" Ahsoka questioned, bowing to the Gungun in a gesture of respect, one that he had taught her.

"Missa m bombad. Missa ve been try to negotiata some goody trade relations with da Naboo." The Gungun replied, practically bouncing on his feet in the process.

"Any success?"

"So so. Some progress been made. Not mui though. Me think people hair no liken mesa."

"Ah, who cares what people think about you. At least you are trying to help the galaxy, unlike a lot of other politicians."

In hindsight, that was perhaps not the smartest thing to say aloud, especially in a room filled full of Senators and other dignitaries, but Ahsoka found she cared little. What would they do to her if they heard her anyways? Put her on trial again?

"Tanken for dha support. Mesa goen to get some food now. Bysye byes."

And with that the enigmatic Gungun disappeared, bound towards Anakin, who was still in the midst of trying various foods that were amongst the collection before him. Beside her, Ahsoka heard Padmé sigh, before she too moved to follow Jar Jar and Anakin, her posture one of concern. Ahsoka could understand why. Jar Jar could be a bit of a menace sometimes, especially when he was paired with Anakin.

Deciding that the best course of action was to follow and assist Padmé, Ahsoka began to move forward.

"Ahem."

The sound of someone clearing their throat behind Ahsoka halted her in her tracks. It wasn't a voice she recognized, as much as one could recognize the way different people clear their throats, but whoever it was evidently sought to gain her attention.

Turning on her heel, Ahsoka face the new arrival, a figure who stood far taller than her and was dressed in a pristine looking Republic naval uniform. Upon first glance Ahsoka did not recognize the figure, that was until her examination reached the persons face.

His skin was blue, and his eyes were a bright glowing red, dark black hair covering the top of his head, only just peeping out from underneath the cap her wore.

"Thrawn? Is that you?" Ahsoka doubted herself for a brief second, until the tall Chiss nodded his head. She hadn't seen or heard anything of him since she and Anakin had brought him back from Manaan. Clearly he had been doing well for himself.

"Yes, it is me. Your name was Ashoka, wasn't it?" The Chiss spoke, his words slow and precise, a clear sign that he was still trying to get to grips with Basic as a whole.

"It's Ahsoka, but you were close enough. How are you?" Ahsoka replied, reaching a hand out in a gesture of acceptance, hoping Thrawn would take it.

The Chiss did not respond immediately, his eyes focusing on something distant. Ahsoka could almost see the metaphorical gears turning in his head as he figured out what to say and do next, and how to say it.

Eventually, he reached his own hand forward to clasp around Ahsoka, shaking it lightly before releasing in.

"Close enough is not good enough. I will endev… endevo… try to articulate your name correctly in the future. You were able to pronounce mine correct the first time after all. I should return gesture."

Nodding her head in appreciation, Ahsoka listened as Thrawn continued.

"To answer your question, I am fine. Chancellor Palpatine helped me find a place in your navy, learning from a man named Yularan. He's good teacher."

"Yularen's one of the best. Taught me a few tricks during my time aboard his ship. I likely wouldn't be here without him." Ahsoka said, watching Thrawn's face as she detailed her own experience with Yularen.

"Yes, he showed me a holo… um, a hologram of the Battle of Ryloth. You invented a whole new military tactic?" Thrawn inquired, his eyebrows rising in the process, a contemplative look on his face.

"Oh, the Marg Sabl. Yeah, didn't think much of it at the time. Just sounded like the right thing to do. Yularen gives me too much credit for that one. Anakin too." Ahsoka replied, remembering the blockade above Ryloth. That had been her first real taste of command, and she hated every second of it. She had lost so many pilots that day, and she would never forgive herself for it.

"It was an ingenious move, especially for one so young. Facing the heaviest armor of your ship towards fire whilst protecting your fighters and command deck was inspired. Many of my people would do well to learn from such a tactic."

While it was clear that Thrawn was still struggling to master Basic, Ahsoka had to give him credit where it was due. He had picked up the universal language with ease, and from the spirited way he was analyzing the Marg Sabl tactic Ahsoka could tell he knew what he was talking about. Thrawn had said he held a position in the Chiss military after all.

"Well, at the time I was desperate. I just got lucky really." Ahsoka continued brushing off the praise as best she could. When she was younger she had revealed in being praised, and shrunk away at being reprimanded.

These days she didn't care. Kriff what people thought of her and her actions. She did what she thought was best, damn the consequences. Anakin had taught her that, and Palpatine only seemed to encourage it.

"Do not be so mod… modst… modes…"

"Modest?"

"Yes, modest. You earned that victory, so you should celebrate your success." Thrawn finished, his hands clasped behind his back as he stood tall, bowing before her in what Ahsoka could only assume was a sign of respect.

"Good day Miss Tano. Enjoy the festivities."

And with that Thrawn moved off, heading towards a group of people in the back of the chamber, no doubt to spur up more conversation.

"He is a peculiar fellow isn't he? Fascinating too. I had never heard of the Chiss before meeting him. One wonders how many other undiscovered species there are out there in the galaxy." Palpatine's voice came from behind her, drawing her attention away from the retreating Chiss and towards the man who was the employer. Beside him stood Caleb who had an overwhelmed look on his face as he surveyed everything around him. Through the Force she could tell he wanted to ask so many questions, but was hesitant to do so in the presence of the Chancellor. Ahsoka couldn't blame him. At first the Chancellor had seemed like some sort of monolithic figure to her, untouchable and someone who you could never approach under any circumstances. His friendship with Anakin had always been something of an anomaly to her.

But now, as she had gotten to know Palpatine she realized that her earlier perception couldn't have been further from the truth. He was approachable, and open minded, and always willing to talk, especially if it distracted him from some tedious paperwork. Therefore Caleb had no reason to fear speaking his mind, though Ahsoka could understand why Caleb was hesitant. She wouldn't push him to trust Palpatine until he was ready to.

"He's certainly unique, but if he's learning from Yularen he'll make a fine officer one day." Ahsoka replied, glancing towards Thrawn's retreating back as he moved towards the long table of food, engaging in a discussion with Jar Jar over something. Ahsoka would almost pay to see what they were talking about.

"Indeed he will." Palpatine responded, his own eyes surveying the now animated discussion between Chiss and Gungan.

"Chancellor?" A new voice, one Ahsoka recognized as belonging to the Senator from Alderaan, hit Ahsoka's montrals, drawing the attention of both herself and Palpatine, as well as Caleb who nearly jumped in surprise. Turning to face the new arrival Ahsoka spotted the well respected man moving through the crowd with his wife in tow, both with warm smiles on their faces.

"Senator Organa, how are you my friend?" Palpatine asked, moving forward to clasp hold of the man's hand, before bowing to Queen Breha.

"Very well Your Excellency, I wanted to congratulate you on a successful charity ball. The funds raised will make a tremendous difference for the future of the war ravaged worlds of the Republic." Bail spoke, his tone calm and directed, clearly in politics mode. It didn't escape Ahsoka's attention that his body language was one of deceit, as if he didn't really mean what he was saying.

But… why wouldn't he mean it? Bail Organa was a well respected Republic Senator… wasn't he? He wouldn't work against Palpatine in any way!

"Thank you my friend. If it helps the citizens of the galaxy in this dark time, then I'll gladly host more." Palpatine responded with a smile, one that Bail returned. Once again though, Ahsoka could feel the falseness of it in his eyes. Something wasn't right.

Bail's attention was then drawn to Ahsoka his eyes, widening briefly in surprise as he recognized her. In the pit of her stomach Ahsoka felt like throwing up. This was exactly why she didn't want to come in the first place.

"Padawan Tano? I wasn't expecting to see you here." Bail spoke, offering his hand towards Ahsoka a warm smile on his face. Ahsoka wanted to remind him that she was a Padawan no longer, due in part to the Senate he served.

Palpatine however, beat her to it, and for that Ahsoka was grateful.

"Young Ahsoka has been serving as my personal agent since leaving the Jedi Order, Senator. Surely you have heard of her departure in the aftermath of her being falsely accused of treason?"

Bail's expression was one of surprise as he glanced between Palpatine and Ahsoka, a sense of bewilderment around him as he took in this new information.

"Oh, I hadn't heard. Such a shame, but I am glad you are well Miss Tano. That trial should never have happened."

Rather than waiting for Palpatine to respond for her again, Ahsoka took the initiative.

"Thank you Senator. I'm just glad it's over so I can move on."

"As am I. I always thought you would go far. You remind me of Master Kenobi in a lot of ways."

"A strong compliment considering Master Kenobi's nature." Palpatine spoke again, his tone crisp and polite.

With that Bail and Breha took their leave, moving across the room and towards the front of the stage arm in arm, no doubt intending to dance.

Beside her, Ahsoka heard Palpatine make a noise under his breath, one that she would associate with confusion.

"I find it most peculiar that Senator Organa was treating you with the respect you deserve."

"Why's that?" Ahsoka questioned, now equally as confused. Was the Chancellor implying something about Bail?

"His behavior towards you confuses me because he was one of the Senators to vote you as guilty in your trial. Had Anakin not presented the last minute evidence, Senator Organa would have been partly responsible for you being convicted of treason."

Palpatine's words hit Ahsoka hard. The Senators that had been present during her trial had found her guilty? They were willing to let her be executed?

Bail Organa of all people had found her guilty?

A rush of anger flowed through Ahsoka suddenly, her hands tightening into fists. She wanted to hit something, preferably Bail Organa, but she restrained herself. Getting angry and making a scene would not do her any good.

"Wait, you mean that man thought Ahsoka bombed the Jedi Temple? I don't like him very much." Caleb's voice suddenly broke through Ahsoka's mind, reminding both her and Palpatine that he was present and listening.

"I'm afraid so my boy, in fact many of the Senators here tonight voted against her in the trial. Aside from Senator Amidala, the only Senators who campaigned for her innocence were Riyo Chuchi and Lux Bonteri. They are around tonight my friend. Perhaps you should speak to them?" Palpatine continued, addressing Caleb first with sadness in his eyes, before diverting to Ahsoka for the final part of his comment.

The anger that Ahsoka had pushed down rose back up in an instant. The thought that the room she was standing in was full of people that had wanted her executed made her feel sick. She knew she shouldn't have come to this event.

Taking a deep breath, Ahsoka reached into the Force to try to calm herself down. Getting angry wouldn't help anyone. Maybe she should do as the Chancellor suggested and find either Lux or Riyo to talk to. Hopefully they would be more welcoming than the rest of the room currently felt to her.

Chapter Text

Being surrounded by so many people she didn't know, so many people who would have willingly convicted her of a crime she did not commit and have her sentenced to death was not a comforting thought to Ahsoka. She wanted nothing more than to turn and leave, retire to her apartment for the night and try to get some semblance of sleep, not that she would. The thought of her trial would be on her mind, that she knew.

Glancing around the crowd, Ahsoka watched as various figures moved around, talking to one another about something. Everyone seemed to be leaving her alone, which was probably for the best.

Anakin and Padmé were off to one side talking about something Ahsoka was sure she didn't want to hear, and Palpatine had once again taken Caleb to one side to show him around. The young Padawan had not objected to the Chancellor's behaviour, whether out of fear of offending the older man or actual desire to mingle with the crowd Ahsoka did not know. At least Caleb was learning something from all of this.

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka decided that if she was going to stay at this ball, despite not wanting to, she should probably mingle with the crowd. Palpatine had said that both Riyo and Lux were around somewhere, and had stood by her during her trial. If she could find them…

Now with a purpose, and a fake smile on her face, Ahsoka began to move through the crowd. No one paid much mind to her as she moved, aside from the occasional glance or nod of the head as she passed by. Whether or not they recognized her like Bail Organa had, or assumed she was some dignitary from Shili, Ahsoka did not know, nor did she care. As long as they weren't hassling her for being a 'wanted terrorist' then all was fine.

Before long she spotted the familiar purple hair of the Senator from Pantora held up in an eloquent style. Unlike most of the other women present at the ball, Ahsoka included, Riyo wore her standard outfit, albeit with a few more accessories attached. Clearly Riyo either hadn't had time to get changed, or didn't want to stand out.

In a way Ahsoka was jealous. She really didn't like wearing dresses like the one she was in. Give her her armour any day.

That said, she would have drawn a lot of attention in a custom set of Mandalorian gear.

Allowing her fake smile to morph into a real warm one, Ahsoka began to move towards Riyo, who as it happened turned out to be standing beside the other person she was looking for.

Lux Bonteri stood with his back to Ahsoka, dressed in a far more regal outfit than normal, one that Ahsoka assumed had Onderonian influences on it. From what she had heard so far he had taken well to the position of Senator of Onderon. No doubt his mother would have been incredibly proud of him, even if he had sided with the Republic in the end.

Ahsoka continued to approach the two senators until Riyo spotted her over Lux's shoulder, her eyes widening in surprise as she recognized the Togruta all dressed up.

The Pantoran broke off her discussion with Lux to move towards Ahsoka, gently embracing her in the process, a gesture that Ahsoka returned.

"Ahsoka? What are you doing here?" Riyo asked, shock in her voice, her expression equally confused. By now Lux had also turned around, his face too adopting a look of pleasant surprise at seeing his old friend alive and well. He too moved towards Ahsoka, offering his hand to her once she was free of Riyo's embrace, a gesture that Ahsoka again returned, squeezing his hand once before releasing it.

"Oh, you know me, I love gatecrashing Republic charity balls." Ahsoka replied to Riyo's earlier question, her tone light and happy. Lux scoffed once at her statement, a smile on his face as he considered her words.

"It's so good to see you Ahsoka. You look well." Lux spoke for the first time, his expression barely hiding the worry he had, an expression that Riyo shared.

"We tried to find you and speak to you after that shambles of a trial, but we couldn't find you. What happened? Did the Jedi reinstate you?" Riyo questioned, eyes desperate for answers, answers that Ahsoka was more than willing to give.

"They did offer, but I refused. Walked away even. Ended up in the lower levels for a bit before another job offer came along."

"You… you left? But all you ever wanted was to be a Jedi?" Riyo replied, shock in her voice at Ahsoka's revelation. Even Lux seemed surprised, though he didn't say it aloud.

"A better question would be how could I stay? The Order abandoned me when I needed them most. They lost faith in me, so I lost faith in them. Knowing how quickly they could turn on me I knew I couldn't stay, so I left. It all worked out in the end." Ahsoka replied, hoping that her answer would ease the concern that was radiating off of Riyo in droves. The senator almost looked like she was going to go mad right there and then at what had happened. While she appreciated Riyo's support, she really didn't want to cause a scene.

"I suppose I can see why you left, but you still should have come to me or Lux, or even Padmé for help. I'm sure we all would have willingly taken you on as a bodyguard or something." Riyo replied, eyes full of worry over what had happened to her friend.

"Thanks, but the last thing I wanted was to be in someone's way. I needed to escape and think things over for a while till I found my feet again. Turns out ex Jedi doesn't really help you out very much employment wise." Ahsoka continued, hoping her words calmed Riyo down. The young woman had always been caring for those she considered her friends. It made her a good person, and an even better politician.

Lux chose that moment to speak, drawing the conversation back to an earlier topic.

"You mentioned you got another job offer. What exactly have you been up to then?"

"Chancellor Palpatine head hunted me for a job as his personal agent. I mainly run high risk missions for the Republic. Not much different from my time with the Jedi really, but it's something I can do and do well, plus the pay is awesome." Ahsoka replied, eagerly revealing her new position. Hopefully Palpatine wouldn't mind her revealing it to Riyo and Lux. He had encouraged her to talk to them after all.

"You work for Palpatine now? That's… interesting? Not what I expected." Riyo replied, an odd look about her face, one that Ahsoka would almost call concerned. Why was Riyo concerned?

Lux however seemed happy for her.

"Ha, knew it would take more than a phoney trial to keep you down Ahsoka. Anyone who can decapitate three Death Watch terrorists at once is going to make a mighty fine secret agent of the Chancellor."

"It was four Death Watch actually, but thanks. I appreciate your vote of confidence Lux." Ahsoka replied, a warm smile on her face.

Riyo's expression however seemed to shift from concern to happiness, before finally settling on one that Ahsoka would call content.

"I'm happy for you Ahsoka. Just be careful out there yeah? I'd hate to lose you to your career."

A smirk came to Ahsoka's face in response.

"Says the politician."

Riyo's laugh was all Ahsoka needed to hear.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************

The night went on as Ahsoka expected it to. Various Senators and other Republic officials wandered around, engaging in deep conversations about things Ahsoka barely understood. She had never been very good at politics, even with Padmé's tutoring.

She had spent most of the night with Lux and Riyo, catching up with what few old friends she had left. She could have gone back over to speak with Anakin and Padmé, but part of her felt she should leave them alone to enjoy their night. Even if they couldn't outright show their affection for one another, she knew they wanted to be together.

At some point during the night Caleb had managed to finally break away from Palpatine's grasp, coming over to speak to Ahsoka. The Togruta had promptly introduced Caleb to Riyo and Lux, both of which had been warm and welcoming to him, happy to meet another Jedi.

The four of them had pretty much stayed together through the night before Riyo had left towards the dance floor of all places, which was now expanded to cover half of the room up to the fountain, dragging a complaining Lux behind her, who was too busy making comments about having two left feet.

Watching from a distance Ahsoka couldn't help but laugh as Riyo attempted to teach Lux how to dance, only for the senator from Onderon to constantly step on her toes, earning an ever steady stream of scowls from the Pantoran.

Nonetheless, Riyo seemed determined to teach Lux and persevered. Just when Lux seemed to finally be getting the hang of it everything went dark.

All the lights switched off suddenly, the music being played throughout the room ceasing in an instant. The room became not only deathly silent, but also pitch black. No one could see a thing.

Instinct kicked in for Ahsoka. She rooted her feet firmly on the ground, taking care not to move anywhere in case she bumped into someone, or worse, fell in the fountain.

A loud splash echoed throughout the room seconds later, signifying that someone had indeed done what Ahsoka was worried about.

Ahsoka barely had enough time to wonder who had fallen in before a voice followed the loud splash.

"LUX!"

"SORRY!"

A dull thud then echoed through the room, a sound that Ahsoka would associate with a backup power generator coming online.

Sure enough, moments later the hall became illuminated in a dull red emergency lighting. It still wasn't easy to see, but it was bright enough to make out the spectacle before them all.

Naturally, everyone was looking towards the fountain, where both Lux and Riyo had fallen in, sprayed out and soaked to the bone. Ahsoka couldn't help but laugh aloud at the sight before her, something that appeared to be contagious. Soon enough the entire hall erupted into laughter, including the Chancellor himself, who had an amused look on his face.

"Don't laugh! This is my favourite suit!" Lux exclaimed, clearly frustrated at not only his lack of dancing ability, but also the fact that he had fallen into the fountain in the process.

Despite Lux's request, the individuals present in the room, Ahsoka included, continued to laugh.

By now Riyo had adjusted to her unfortunate situation, and unlike Lux wasn't letting it upset her too much. She too was laughing at the situation, something that earned a scowl from Lux.

"Oh have a sense of humour Bonteri. At least we all know you can't dance." Riyo quipped, flicking some of the water towards Lux's face in the process, causing him to block his eyes. Ahsoka could have sworn she spotted a hint of a smile on the males face for a brief second, before he hid it.

"Yeah, I'd still rather have not fallen in a fountain at a charity event! And will you stop flicking me with water!"

"Nope! Not like it's gonna change much. You're already wet."

The laughter throughout the room began to die down, though practically everyone in the hall save for Lux had a smirk on their faces. Still, Ahsoka could tell he wanted to laugh at his own predicament.

Deciding that she should be a good friend Ahsoka moved towards the edge of the fountain, offering a hand towards Lux.

Knowing full well the possibility of him pulling her in as well, Ahsoka grounded her feet hard. She wasn't going to fall for that one.

Upon seeing the offered hand, Lux reached out and took it, allowing Ahsoka to pull him out of the fountain. Thankfully he didn't try to pull her in, leading to Ahsoka releasing her grounded stance.

With Lux now safely out of 'danger', Ahsoka offered her hand back to Riyo, the Pantoran accepting it readily.

As Ahsoka began to pull Riyo out however, the Senator's face shifted to one of pure evil.

If Ahsoka was being honest, she hadn't expected Riyo to be the one to do it to her. She had expected it from Lux, since she had laughed at him and all. In hindsight however, considering how Riyo had reacted to the situation in the first place, Ahsoka really shouldn't have been surprised.

Ahsoka had barely managed to pull Riyo to her feet before she suddenly felt the Pantoran put all her weight in her arms and pull Ahsoka towards her.

"Riyo no!" Ahsoka barely managed to yell in surprise before she too was pulled into the fountain, crashing against the water with a large splash, some of which erupted over the side and hit Lux again, causing him to groan in defeat.

Once again chuckles filled the room as Ahsoka steadied herself in the fountain, soaked to the bone much like her two friends.

"Got ya!" Riyo said, deviousness rolling off of her. It was clear she was enjoying being the cause of such mayhem.

"If we weren't friends you'd live to regret this." Ahsoka quipped in response, knowing full well that Riyo would see her statement as a joke, just as she intended.

"Oohh, I'm so scared!"

Riyo's response was coupled with another splash of water towards Ahsoka, something that the Togruta in question batted away with ease.

Glancing up from the fountain she saw several people watching her, though not as many as before. Most were crowded around the Chancellor in deep conversation with him.

Another hand suddenly extended itself before her eyes, blue skin standing out before her eyes. Following the length of the arm the hand was attached to, Ahsoka found its owner staring at her with a barely concealed grin on his lips.

"Do you require assistance Miss Tano?"

"I appreciate the offer Thrawn." Ahsoka replied, grasping the Chiss' hand with her own, allowing him to pull her to her feet and out of the fountain. When he had successful 'rescued' her Thrawn turned back to Riyo, offering a hand to her as well.

"I would not ad.. advi… do not pull me in please."

Riyo merely smirked in response, but did not attempt to pull Thrawn in as well, unlike what she had done with Ahsoka.

Now safely out of the cold water Riyo threw yet another smirk at Ahsoka as she attempted to wring the water out of her clothes. Ahsoka too decided that would probably be a good idea. She really didn't want to get hypothermia all things considered.

Just as she finished removing the excess water from her dress, Ahsoka felt a soft fabric wrap itself around her shoulders, encompassing her in warmth.

Turning around she found herself face to face with Anakin, who passed a second towel to Riyo, who gratefully accepted it.

"Enjoy your swim Snips?"

"Yeah, bit cold though."

"Poor little Togruta."

"Careful, or I'll push you in too."

"You wouldn't dare!"

"Ladies and Gentlemen, if I could have your attention please?"

The sound of Chancellor Palpatine's voice echoing across the dimly lit hall immediately put a stop to the banter between former master and apprentice, drawing the attention of everyone to the leader of the Republic.

"Now that our aquatic entertainment has finished I am afraid I must be the bearer of bad news. Our unexpected power outage was due to an unprecedented explosion at a nearby energy grid plant. At this time we cannot be sure if this was a tragic accident or the work of more nefarious forces, but for your own safety I must ask you all to return to your homes. Again, the office of the Supreme Chancellor extends its greatest apologies for this but promises all funds earned tonight will be put to good use. Please have a safe journey home."

No one protested Palpatine's words, though murmurs of discontent could be heard sparking up, many of which Ahsoka shared. Could this possibly be some sort of terrorist attack? Or was it an accident?

Moments later members of the crowd began to depart, both Riyo and Lux among them, both still wrapped in towels.

Ahsoka knew she should leave as well, but something stopped her. Maybe she could help somehow? She was after all the Chancellor's personal agent.

Moving towards Palpatine, she spoke.

"Chancellor, is there anything I can do to help?"

Palpatine turned and looked at her, his eyes weary and tired, a stark contrast to the bright humour she had seen in them earlier.

"My dear there is little you can do until we know more. Rest assured I will contact you if you can help. For now go home and dry off. Thank you again for coming."

Taking that as her cue to leave, Ahsoka bowed her head and moved back towards where Anakin and Padmé stood. Caleb was also there, watching nervously.

"What's happened?" Padmé asked, voice expressing the concern that was on Caleb's face. Only Anakin remained stoney faced, though through the Force Ahsoka could feel that he too had a bad feeling.

"Not sure, but something is up. General Skywalker I'd suggest you get Senator Amidala back to her apartment and watch over her tonight. If this was indeed not an accident then I fear something worse could be coming." Ahsoka replied, eyes locking with Anakin's in the process as she put extra emphasis on 'ensuring Padmé's safety'.

Judging from the way Anakin's eyes lit up briefly, he understood exactly what she was trying to do.

"Sounds like a good idea. I'll keep her safe Agent Tano. Enjoy your night."

"You as well."

It was odd speaking so formally with Anakin, and they both knew it. It was, of course, entirely for show. If anyone other than Caleb or Padmé were listening they would be duped by it.

Not only that, but a part of Ahsoka enjoyed being able to pull rank over Anakin, if only briefly.

With that Anakin nodded his head a Ahsoka, before gently taking Padmé's arm arm and gesturing towards the way out. The Senator nodded in agreement, shooting Ahsoka one last grateful smile, before making her way towards the exit.

"Guess we should leave too." Caleb spoke from beside her, nearly making her jump.

"Yeah, I guess so. Come on."

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Suffice to say the hall of the Senate building had been eerily creepy without any main power. Much like the main hall the various corridors and side rooms were bathed in a red hue of emergency lighting.

Luckily however it seemed that the vast majority of the occupants of the building were keeping calm. Ahsoka was glad that there were no riots or scuffles.

Upon exiting the building and stepping into the warm air of the Coruscant night time, Ahsoka saw that much like the Senate building, the surrounding districts were also without power. The likelihood was that her own apartment would be dark as well.

Caleb had already left her side, bidding her a good night and thanking her for the invite. Ahsoka was glad he had come along, even if she had barely managed to spend any real time with him. Chancellor Palpatine seemed to have taken quite a liking to the young Padawan.

With Caleb safely making his way back to the Jedi Temple, Ahsoka decided that her best option right now was to return home, even if she would be without power.

Pulling the towel she still had wrapped around her tighter against her body she began to head towards where she had parked her speeder a short distance away from the Senate building. She had been afraid that with all the important guests and their security details it might be hard to find a spot at the building itself, and it also gave her an excuse to enjoy a walk as well before the ball.

Strolling through the darkened streets of Coruscant, Ahsoka kept her wits about her. She didn't expect anyone to attack her, but she was always prepared, especially at night. If someone did try something then they would be in for a nasty surprise.

The lack of people present on the streets themselves, likely due to the power cut, was also somewhat unnerving, but Ahsoka tried to pay it little mind. If this was the work of someone like Dooku and Grievous, and she wouldn't be surprised if it was, then it was likely that most people were hiding away from possible danger.

Those that weren't had a very high chance of being an unsavory individual.

"Hey you! Freak! What ya doing about this time of night?"

'And there it is.' Ahsoka thought to herself. The voice was high pitched and feminine, and had a tone of self superiority about it, like the owner thought themselves the best thing in the galaxy. Ahsoka couldn't stand people like that.

Choosing not to respond, Ahsoka continued walking, turning another corner in the vast streets of Coruscant.

"Hey look! She's running away from us!"

"What do you expect from a freak like her!"

The second voice was a different one from before, this one masculine, but again, it held the same sense of superiority about it.

Rolling her eyes to herself Ahsoka continued walking.

That was until she felt a hard grasp hold of her elbow tightly, pulling her backwards, spinning her around.

Ahsoka suddenly found herself face to face with three human youths, ones that looked roughly around the same age as her. Two were female, whilst the other was male. All three had a satisfied smirk on their faces, as if they had just accomplished something difficult.

"What do you want?" Ahsoka snapped, patience dwindling for people like this. They called her a freak, and she suspected she knew why. She really didn't want to deal with this right now.

"Ooohhh, listen to her, getting all angry." One of the girls spoke, giggling to herself in a way that just sounded fake. What was up with that?

"Not surprising really considering she's a freak." The male responded, sneering at Ahsoka in the process.

"Yeah!" The second girl replied, leaning back into the male in the process, obviously trying to show some sort of relationship between them to Ahsoka. "Why don't you go home! No one wants you here."

"What?" Ahsoka replied, trying to keep her voice steady, and barely succeeding. Where they seriously…

"Go back to your home planet you disgusting creature. Just looking at you makes me feel sick."

"Yeah, go and hunt some beasts like the savage you are."

"What even are those things on your head?"

Ahsoka felt her stomach drop, feeling just as sick as the foul girl before her apparently did. She had experienced racism before, both in and out of the temple, but she had never been confronted with a situation such as this before.

How should she react? Should she ignore them and walk away? Should she try to make them see the error of their ways?

Should she cut them down with her concealed lightsaber? No! That would just prove their point in some respect. As much as she wanted to harm them, Ahsoka swore she would leave this situation with the moral high ground.

She would only defend herself if things got violent. Hopefully they didn't.

"Why is your dress all wet? Too poor to afford a swimming outfit?" One of the girls quipped, giggling again in the process.

"Maybe she was trying to appear attractive to some boy. Who'd want her though?" The other girl responded, also descended into giggles as she nudged her male companion.

"Not me that's for sure. Poor poor freak." The male responded, eyes traversing Ahsoka's form with a mixture of disgust and lecherousness.

Tired of standing there and taking their verbal abuse, Ahsoka decided to strike back the best she could.

"Actually I'm not poor. Got several million credits in the bank that were given to me by the Supreme Chancellor himself. In fact, I've just come back from being invited to a charity ball hosted by him. Fell in the fountain, but at least I was there."

Ahsoka couldn't help but mimic the fake and snotty attitudes of the three humans before her, hoping that they felt just as disgusted by it as she did. Maybe it would teach them a lesson

"Bantha poodoo! The Chancellor would never invited an alien freak like you to such an event." The girl who was resting in the arms of the male snapped back, her temperament changing to anger in an instant.

"Don't be so sure." Ahsoka replied to the taunt, reaching out into the Force to read the emotions and thoughts around her. The girl was getting angry now, and clearly wanted to attack her. Ahsoka very nearly smirked at that. As if she would stand a chance.

"You aliens come to Coruscant thinking you're so much better than us. Well guess what freak, humans have always run the galaxy and always will. Go back to your backwards planet!" The girl sneered again, venom practically seething at her lips. Frankly Ahsoka thought it was pathetic that she was behaving this way.

Not only that, but she had also given her more ammunition to use against her.

"Humans have always run the galaxy? You do realize that the Chancellor of the Republic two terms ago was a Togruta like me right? Or are you really as stupid as you sound?" Ahsoka replied, remembering her history lessons in the Jedi Temple about Supreme Chancellor Kirames Kaj, a Togruta female like her who had once been the Chancellor of the Republic.

"Yeah and look at the mess that's caused us now! We are stuck in a war because of alien freaks like her and those Neimoidan weirdos!" The male snapped now, smugness radiating off him as he tried to undo Ahsoka's words.

"Wow you really are stupid! Count Dooku is a human! He started this war… not an alien!" Ahsoka countered yet again, seeing the look of anger worsen on the male's face.

"Oh shut up you tailhead freak. Think your so special with your money and your dress and kriff like that. One day we're gonna join the Republic military and when the Clone War is over we are gonna make all the aliens pay for what they did. You'll be our servants!" The girl snapped again, anger radiating off of her worse than a Sith Lord.

"Oh go kriff yourself you racist piece of poodoo!" Ahsoka replied, momentarily falling into the same behaviour as the teenagers before her.

That was the last straw for the first girl. Upon the words leaving Ahsoka's mouth she moved forward and shoved Ahsoka backwards with all her might.

If Ahsoka was being honest, the shove barely had any momentum behind it.

"Freak!"

The girl shoved Ahsoka again, and once again the Togruta did not go anywhere, not that she needed to. Her feet remained exactly where they were. She wasn't going to run from people such as this.

"Bitch!"

Another shove, followed by another insulting name, and Ahsoka began to lose whatever minimal patience she had left.

"Touch me again and you'll regret it." Ahsoka said coldly and harshly, her eyes locking onto the girl's to reinforce the threat. The fool was not taking her seriously, and thus she would no doubt pay the price.

"What you gonna do you alien freak! Rip me apart with your bare teeth."

The girl began to move forward again, hands out to shove Ahsoka backwards. This time however, Ahsoka allowed herself to snap.

She hadn't made a threat. She had made a promise, and now she was going to act on it.

As the girl's hands reached her body Ahsoka reached out with her own hands, grabbing a hold of the girl's arms and pulling her suddenly towards her.

The girl yelped as she was pulled away from the male, who yelled in surprise and shock at Ahsoka's actions.

As she pulled the girl towards her Ahsoka pooled all of her anger and reserve energy into her arms and legs and lifted the girl up and over her head, bringing her down face first into the hard surface below.

The resulting crack that echoed throughout the street, followed by a wail of agony that was more than enough satisfaction for Ahsoka.

However, before she could turn to admire her work, the male moved as well.

"You alien whore! I'll make you pay for that!"

Focusing all her attention on the fist that was suddenly being thrown towards her face, Ahsoka reacted again with lightning speed, evading the incoming blow and bringing her own hands up in the process, wrenching the males arm behind his back and pulling it out of place.

Once again the sound of a dislocating bone was music to Ahsoka's montrals.

Much like his girlfriend, the male collapsed to the floor screaming and crying in agony. Ahsoka had never seen such a pathetic sight in her life.

Turning on her heel, Ahsoka faced the third and final member of the gang of hostile youths. The girl had dropped her stance into a horrific interpretation of a ready stance, and was practically bouncing all over the place in some ridiculous attempt to look like some sort of championship fighter.

Ahsoka very nearly rolled her eyes in response until she saw a glint of silver held in the girl's hand.

A knife.

Instantly Ahsoka felt her body tense. The other two had been no real threat, and from the way this other girl was overreacting to the situation Ahsoka could already tell she too would be a pushover. However, she was armed, and that made her dangerous even to someone as skilled as Ahsoka. All it would take was for Ahsoka to let her guard down and that knife would be embedded in her gut. She had to end this quickly, and she already knew how. A little display of power would work wonders.

Glancing down at the knife in the girls hand, Ahsoka spoke.

"Put the weapon down now!"

"Or what you alien bitch! What you gonna do! I'm gonna cut off those tentacles of yours and feed them to a rancor! How does that make you feel freak?"

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka acted. Reaching to her leg she grasped hold of the concealed lightsaber hilt, removing it from it's position and bringing it out before her with lightning speed, igniting the blade in the process.

The girl barely had time to react before a golden blade careened towards her, catching the knife in her hand and destroying it, forcing her to drop the now molten slag that was left.

The once overly confident girl began to back away in fear as Ahsoka began to approach her, fangs bared as she was bathed in a golden glow.

"You… you're a Jedi? But I thought Jedi were merciful?"

Before she had a chance to back out of range Ahsoka shot her free hand forward, grasping hold of the girls neck with her hand, applying pressure. Part of her wanted to squeeze the life out of her, but she relented.

She had another option anyway, one that would cause just as much pain.

Snarling at the girl now held firmly in her grasp, Ahsoka spoke.

"I'm no Jedi!"

With those words ringing in the girl's mind, Ahsoka extinguished her lightsaber blade, rotating the hilt in her hand and brought it towards the girls head.

A resounding crack, followed by the girl falling limp in her grasp was the result Ahsoka had expected. Through the Force she could tell the girl was still alive, but that didn't stop her from casually allowing her unconscious form to slip out of her grasp, crashing to the hard ground.

Content that the threat was neutralised, Ahsoka glanced around her. Three collapsed bodies lay strewn, each alive, but each in agony thanks to her actions. What she had done should have scared her, but for some reason Ahsoka found that it didn't. If anything she felt better for teaching them a lesson. She doubted it would be one they easily forgot.

Looking back down at the girl before her, Ahsoka sneered, before turning and beginning to walk away.

She'd had enough for the night. If any more rampant racists got in her way tonight, she wasn't sure what she would do to them, because she really didn't have any patience left for filth like that.

Right now all she wanted to do was go home and sleep.

Chapter Text

When Ahsoka awoke the next morning she was still without power. The explosion at the nearby power grid facility had knocked out a large section of Coruscant's main power. The buildings that were lucky enough to have emergency backup generators, such as the Senate building and 500 Republica were ok. There was enough power to run the lights, but that was about it.

That meant that there was no way for Ahsoka to make a hot drink this morning, outside of perhaps using warm water, which was frankly disgusting to Ahsoka. It also meant that she wasn't cooking for breakfast, which was just as bad for her. She could have really gone for a nice slice of cooked nerf meat this morning,

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka sat up in bed, pushing the covers off of her in the process. There was a distinct chill in the air this morning, making it clear that the heaters were not functioning either.

What wasn't helping was the weather. Outside her bedroom window she could hear the heavy downpour of rain, along with intervals of thunder and flashes of lightning echoing throughout the sky.

"Gonna be one of those days." Ahsoka murmured to herself as she rose from her bed, stretching her legs and back in the process. Glancing around the room she found her dress from the previous night haphazardly discarded on the floor alongside the towel she had been given.

Remembering the events of the previous night, Ahsoka bent down to scoop both items up, feeling the dampness that was still in them from the night before.

Shaking her head as she recalled Riyo's behaviour, Ahsoka moved both items over to a nearby clothes bin she had bought. She would have to wash them both later, once the power was restored.

Moving out of her bedroom, Ahsoka set to work preparing a breakfast of some kind. Luckily for the residents of 500 Republica it was not only the lights that were powered by backup generators, but the fridges as well. At least none of her food would go off.

Extracting a bowl from the cupboard, as well as a box of cereal, Ahsoka set to work combining the ingredients.

Moments later she found herself sat on her couch, legs tucked beneath her as she slowly ate her food, staring out the window, watching the world go by. Despite the power cut life seemed to proceed as normal. Skycars drove past in organised lanes, no doubt full of people desperate to get to work on time. Even with the rain thundering down around them, Ahsoka found the morning oddly peaceful. She didn't expect it to last very long of course, not with the possible threat of a terrorist being responsible for the explosion looming over their heads.

Palpatine had said that he would call if he needed her, so for now all she could do was wait and see. No doubt Anakin was feeling much the same. Hopefully he had 'protected' Padmé well last night.

Chuckling lightly at her own joke, Ahsoka took another mouthful of her cereal, her mind turning to other topics.

"I wonder what happened to those idiots last night?" She questioned aloud, knowing that no one was going to respond.

Truthfully she didn't really care what had happened to them. Perhaps no one had found them and they had died there. If that was the case then Ahsoka felt no guilt over the part she played. They had deserved what she had given them.

Taking another bite of her breakfast, Ahsoka returned to her window observations. There wasn't much else she could do this morning and that was fine with her.

If anything, it felt a lot like it was just the calm before the storm.

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An hour later, Ahsoka's assumption was proven correct.

The sound of her commlink beeping drew her attention away from the book she was reading about the history of the Pau'an civilization. The Chancellor was calling her.

Reaching over to the device, Ahsoka accepted the incoming call and spoke.

"Tano here."

"Agent Tano, a dire situation has arisen. Please come to my office immediately."

"Of course Your Excellency, I'm on my way."

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By now Ahsoka was used to traversing the halls of the Senate building, even when it was restricted to the low level lighting produced by the back-up generators. Even in the dark red hue of the lights it was easy for her to find the path to the Chancellor's office. Several other Senators moved through the corridors as well, no doubt going about their day despite the situation. Ahsoka was glad to see that the wheels of the Republic continued to turn despite the possible danger that was present.

'No, not possible danger, actual danger. Why else would the Chancellor say the situation was dire?' Ahsoka thought to herself as she turned a corner, her heavy armor rustling around her in the process. She had taken the time to armor up, as well as attach the Akul fur cape to the back of her shoulder pieces as well for extra protection, mainly from the harsh rain and wind outside. The weather was quite a contrast to what it had been the past few days, almost as if it knew something was wrong.

A few moments later Ahsoka found herself approaching the Chancellor's office. Stopping briefly to ensure she looked presentable, a feat that was harder than usual in heavy Beskar armor, Ahsoka moved towards the door to Palpatine's office. The door opened automatically to her presence, admitting her without any trouble. Palpatine had known she was coming after all.

Moving into the centre of the room Ahsoka spotted three figures clustered around Palpatine's desk. One was the Chancellor himself, who sat in his chair, analysing a holomap that was displayed before him.

The second figure turned his head upon hearing Ahsoka enter, immediately locking his glowing red eyes with Ahsoka's blue ones, a welcoming smile on his face. Why Thrawn was here was unknown to Ahsoka, but she could tell it was important.

It was then that the third figure glanced over his shoulder, resulting in Ahsoka very nearly seizing up with anger.

Part of her wanted to attack Wilhuff Tarkin, to disembowel him, or capture him and feed him to an Akul on Shili for entertainment for the role he had played in her trial.

But he too had been deceived by Barriss, and the evidence against Ahsoka had been overwhelming at best. If the Jedi Council could not sense that Ahsoka was innocent, what chance did Tarkin have?

Locking eyes with the Admiral, Ahsoka was surprised when he nodded his head in greeting to her, before turning back to survey the holomap before the gathered individuals.

Ahsoka had to say she was surprised to see Tarkin treating her with any real respect. Maybe he, like the Chancellor, felt guilty about his role in her trial. She would watch him carefully, but she was willing to give him a chance.

One chance.

"Ah, Agent Tano, thank you for coming so quickly. We have quite a predicament on our hands." Palpatine spoke up as he noticed his agent's arrival, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk, between Thrawn and Tarkin.

Accepting the offer, Ahsoka sat down, her own eyes running over the holomap before them. Various star systems on the map were highlighted for some reason, as well as the hyperspace routes between them. There also appeared to be a steadily blinking red light on the map, one that was slowly moving. If Ahsoka were to guess, she'd say it was a tracking beacon of some kind.

"How can I help Your Excellency?" Ahsoka inquired, diverting her attention back to Palpatine. The older man had a tired and fed up expression on his face, almost as if he had been up all night worrying about whatever had happened.

Rather than answer himself, Palpatine instead gestured for Tarkin to explain.

"As you are no doubt aware, Coruscant experienced a major power outage last night due to an unexpected explosion at a nearby power facility. As it turns out this explosion was merely a diversion." Tarkin began to explain, his hands moving towards the hologram before them, the map changing to an image of a burning power facility.

"A diversion? So it was a terrorist attack?" Ahsoka replied, surveying the damage on the hologram. Hopefully no one had been hurt, though she very much expected otherwise.

"A Separatist attack. We found remnants of destroyer class battledroids within the burning refinery. Somehow they had been outfitted as suicide bombers as opposed to the usual blaster cannons." Thrawn answered this time, his grasp on basic shockingly good in comparison to last night. Perhaps it was because he was speaking about something he understood.

"Suicide droidekas? What was the diversion for though?" Ahsoka continued on, a shocked expression on her face at the thought of such dangerous droids being equipped differently. She hoped she would never encounter one of those machines in the field. She wouldn't stand a chance.

Tarkin took that opportunity to swipe his hand on the hologram once again, the image changing from the burning facility to a towering fortified structure that was very familiar to Ahsoka.

"The Republic Centre for Military Operations? It'd be suicide to attack that place even during a blackout!" Ahsoka said, remembering her own escape from the building during her time on the run. It was where she had been held prisoner when she was a suspect, and it was also where…

Oh… on no.

Suddenly it all made sense to her, The attack on the facility was a diversion meant to draw support away from the military base, a military base where several high ranking members of the Separatist Alliance were being held prisoner for war crimes.

It had been a prison break.

"I assume by the look on your face that you have figured out what happened." Tarkin said from beside her, a grim expression covering his face.

"Who got away?" Ahsoka asked, beginning to understand why the Chancellor had called for her. No doubt she had to recapture a prisoner or two.

"Both Poggle the Lesser and Wat Tambor escaped and have since fled the planet. Admiral Tarkin is working with the Jedi Council in hopes of tracking them down before they get too far. However, they are not your concern Agent Tano. Another escaped prisoner is." Palpatine took over from Tarkin, reaching across to the hologram of the military base and swiping it to one side, bringing up the image of the map again.

"Who am I looking for?" Ahsoka asked, dread beginning to set in. If she wasn't being sent after a Separatist general… then who was she being sent to find?

"The convict you are looking for Agent Tano is none other than the one who framed you for treason. I believe that you will be the right person to find her and bring her to justice. After all, who knows her better?" Palpatine spoke again, his eyes full of concern for Ahsoka, even as he explained what he needed of her.

Barriss. That was who she was being sent to find. One of her closest friends, and the one who had betrayed her. The one who had been more than willing to let her get executed just to send a message! The one who had bombed the Jedi Temple and killed dozens of innocents!

Fury built up inside of Ahsoka. Was she with the Separatists now? Did she escape with them? Or had she just seized the opportunity and ran like a coward rather than stay and face her crimes!

Ahsoka wanted to find her, wanted to hurt her the same way Barriss had hurt her! She didn't care that it was unlike her… she wanted Barriss to pay!

But she also didn't. She wanted, no, needed to understand why Barriss had done what she had. If she could just find her, talk to her... then maybe, just maybe…

Ahsoka didn't know… all she did know was that she had to find Barriss. She'd make the rest up as she went along.

"Where can I find her?" Ahsoka spoke at last, her expression becoming steely and determined. Right now her past friendship with Barriss meant nothing. She had a job to do, and a criminal to catch.

'Besides, it's not like your friendship with Barriss meant anything to her… why should it for you?' The quiet voice in Ahsoka's head whispered vindictively. As much as Ahsoka agreed with her subconscious, now was not the time to argue with herself and wallow over a broken bond.

"That's the problem Agent Tano, when Offee escaped she stole a Republic shuttle and jumped to hyperspace before we could stop her. She is far out of reach at the moment." Tarkin replied first, frustration in his tone at the thought of an escaped prisoner. She knew firsthand that he would take Barriss escaping badly.

"Yes, she did indeed escape, but she did not anticipate one thing." Palpatine spoke next, gesturing to Thrawn, who leaned forward in his seat, glowing red eyes locking with Ahsoka's blue ones.

"All Republic shuttles have a tracking device built into them for recovery purposes. Offee has since disabled the one in her vessel, but not before jumping to hyperspace. Through careful analysis of the shuttle she was in, as well as fuel supply and direction she was headed in I believe I have extrapolated a possible destination for her." Thrawn explained, his hands pointing towards the holomap before them, indicating a path along a hyperspace route that the blinking red light had been following.

"And where do you think she's headed?" Ahsoka asked, already expecting to not like the answer."

"There are numerous planets along the hyperspace route that she could be on, but the one that seems most likely is Nal Hutta. Said planet is a perfect place to disappear, or at the very least acquire a less conspicuous ship to allow her to move more freely." Thrawn finished, leaning back in his chair, a contemplative look on his face. He wasn't second guessing himself, merely running through his own evidence in his head again to find out how he came to the conclusion. Ahsoka hadn't known Thrawn long, but she could already tell that while he was a bit of an enigma, he was damn good at what he did.

"Nal Hutta? I would not put it past a snake like her to hide on a festering rancid hole such as that." Tarkin quipped suddenly, disgust in his tone.

Despite the way he had said it however, Ahsoka found herself nodding in agreement. If someone wanted to disappear and hide from the law, Nal Hutta was the place to do it.

"I'll head to Nal Hutta right away Chancellor and see what leads I can turn up. She may have a head start, but Togruta are renowned hunters. I'll find her." Ahsoka said with confidence, standing up from her seat and bowing before the assembled group in a sign of respect.

"I have no doubt you will Agent Tano, but there are two things to discuss before you go. Firstly, I want Lieutenant Thrawn to accompany you. His analytical skills will be best put to use tracking down Offee, and he can more than hold his own if the situation calls for it." Palpatine replied, nodding to Thrawn in the process.

The Chiss stood from his own seat, moving to stand beside Ahsoka, tilting his head to one side as if asking a question.

Understanding the Chancellor's reasons for sending Thrawn, Ahsoka nodded back in acceptance. It would be nice to have the company.

"Sounds good, what's the second thing?"

At that, Palpatine hesitated. Rather than answer immediately he instead glanced towards Tarkin, the two acting as if they were having a silent conversation. Clearly whatever the second thing was about was not good.

Several tense seconds of silence passed by before Tarkin slowly nodded his head in affirmation, before turning in his seat to face Ahsoka. Rather than speak however, it was Palpatine who continued to deliver the news.

"Agent Tano, your mission is to find, and if possible, detain Barriss Offee. She is known to be an extremely dangerous individual who will willingly put the lives of innocents at risk, and if the past is anything to go by, will not come in quietly. If you can capture her then by all means, but if you can't then I am authorizing you to use lethal force to eliminate this threat once and for all."

Ahsoka couldn't help the way her eyes widened at the Chancellor's words. Did they really want her to… really expect her to do that? Yes, she had killed people before, but never someone she cared about, or had cared about. Barriss didn't deserve death… did she?

'She would have left you for dead. Consider this a way of returning the favour.' The darker portion of her mind whispered again, causing Ahsoka to flinch before she finally managed to find her voice.

"You want me to kill her?" Ahsoka asked, unable to keep the shakiness out of her tone. She really hoped it didn't come to that.

"It would be preferable if you left her alive for interrogation." Tarkin spoke first, his tone oddly somber, as if he knew the effect the Chancellor's words were having on her.

"Yes, but if the need arises Agent Tano I trust you will make an informed decision. You know how dangerous she is. Whatever you decide we will support you my dear." Palpatine said, his own tone soft and caring.

The very idea of Barriss being dangerous was never something Ahsoka would have considered before she bombed the Jedi Temple. Barriss had always been a soft spoken individual, one who wouldn't harm even an insect. She cherished all life in the universe, no matter how small.

Or at least she had. Clearly, somewhere along the way that part of her had been lost. Whoever she was now was not the person Ahsoka remembered. She was a threat to the Republic, and it was her duty to take her down.

Resolute in her orders, Ahsoka bowed again.

"I'll find her."

With that, she turned on her heel and began to leave the Chancellor's office, Thrawn following behind her, her mind a storm of conflicting emotions.

Chapter Text

Stepping out of the Senate building's hall and onto the landing platforms, the first thing Ahsoka noticed was that it was still raining. The ground beneath her and Thrawn was slick with water, enough to create a thin layer on the walkway that would have soaked through any standard boots. Ahsoka was thankful for the armoured ones she had instead. Thrawn however was not so lucky, but only mildly irritated as evidenced by the dejected sound that escaped his throat.

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka moved out of the cover of the doorway and into the rain, Thrawn following without hesitation. Ahsoka normally didn't mind the rain, but right now she really couldn't be bothered to deal with it. She just wanted to get to her ship, get to Nal Hutta, and get this mission over with.

Thrawn had said nothing to her during their journey through the red hued corridors of the Senate building. Whether this was down to not having anything to say or understanding that something was bothering her, Ahsoka didn't know, but she had appreciated the silence nonetheless. It had given her time to think.

What was she going to do when she found Barriss? Capture her? Execute her on the spot?

'Well you certainly can't let her go… not after what she did to you!' Her mind whispered in her head again, further fueling the doubts she was having. She really didn't know what to do. At times like these she wished Anakin were with her.

But he wasn't, so she had to handle this alone. The Chancellor trusted her to make the right decision at the end of the day. If he had faith in her, surely that was what mattered most?

"We are using the same ship from our last encounter?" Thrawn's voice disturbed Ahsoka's thoughts at last, drawing her out of her mind. Despite his earlier silence, this distraction was a welcome one.

"Yeah. The Huntress is fast and reliable, and small enough to go unnoticed, especially with its stealth drive. It'll be perfect for the job." Ahsoka replied leading the way to the landing platform that had been set aside by the Chancellor for her shuttle. She was after all his personal agent, and thus more than deserving of a reserved spot.

"Yes, she is a fascinating ship. Though it appears we will not be alone on this trip." Thrawn replied, his focus on something other than Ahsoka's shuttle.

"What do you mean?"

At Ahsoka's question, Thrawn merely inclined his head towards the ship in question, or more specifically, the person standing beside it waiting.

Following the direction of Thrawn's head tilt, Ahsoka saw the person he was referring to standing beside the shuttle, oblivious to the rain pelting his armoured mask and robes.

Many questions began to run through Ahsoka's mind at the new arrival's appearance, or more specifically what he or she was doing here. From a distance Ahsoka could not discern a species or gender, but she knew that armour design anywhere. She had grown up around it after all.

But why was one here now?

Upon approaching the figure, Ahsoka and Thrawn stopped, each eyeing the armoured person with suspicion until Thrawn spoke.

"A Jedi Temple Guard?"

The Temple Guard nodded their head in affirmation before turning his attention solely to Ahsoka.

"Is it true?" The voice was masculine, and very familiar. If she wasn't mistaken, this was the same Temple Guard that had tracked her down to talk on the streets of Coruscant, as well as the same guard that had escorted Palpatine and herself through the Jedi Temple.

But why was he here now… and what had he heard?

"Is what true?" Ahsoka replied with evident suspicion. Was this some attempt by the Jedi Council to interfere in a mission that wasn't any of their business.

"That Barriss Offee escaped her cell last night?" The Temple Guard spat in response, anger and hate for the Mirialan in his voice, even behind the modulated helmet. It was a surprising amount of emotion from someone who had sacrificed his individuality, but not the first time she had seen it from him. His encounter with the two Jedi that had been placed on reprimand in the Temple was proof of that.

"It might be. What's it to you?" Ahsoka pressed on, eager to get out of the rain that was pelting her montrals and into the dry interior of her ship.

"You are going to find her. I can sense it in the Force. I want to help you." The Temple Guard replied bluntly. He had made it clear in the past that while he believed that Barriss' words have relevance he still saw her as a traitor that must be brought to justice. Still… there was a chance he wasn't doing this of his own free will.

"Did the Council send you? Are they worried that I'll do something they don't like again?"

At that the Temple Guard shook his head. "No, they are unaware that Offee escaped in the chaos. Their focus is on finding Poggle and Tambor. I only know of Offee due to a vision through the Force."

"And you want to help us find her. But then what? Do you want her dead?" Thrawn joined the discussion suddenly, a hand coming up to wipe the water from his hair and out of his eyes.

"I want her brought to justice, no matter what it takes. I believe you Tano will be the one to do it." The Guard spoke again, helmeted face solely on her exposed one.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to bring the guard along, unless of course he was some sort of spy for the Jedi Council. Ahsoka wouldn't put it past Windu to try something like that.

Still, she felt no ill will, and no attempt at deception coming from the Temple Guard. He was being honest and genuine with her, something that she greatly appreciated. Plus if the situation arose he would certainly be helpful in a fight. Temple Guards were masters of lightsaber combat, and Ahsoka doubted this one was any different.

"In that case, all I need to know is what to call you. I can't keep calling you 'Temple Guard' during the mission. Bit impersonal." Ahsoka said, offering the guard a smile, hoping that would get him to trust her.

"'Temple Guard' will do for now. I sacrificed my name when I became one, and we do not have enough time to revisit the past. Offee already has a head start on us."

Knowing that was all she was going to get out of him, Ahsoka nodded her head and began to lead the way to the Huntress, Thrawn following beside her, and their newly acquired ally in the rear.

It was time to head to Nal Hutta… and for Ahsoka to face her past.

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Even in a ship as fast as the Huntress, the trip to Nal Hutta would take over a day, as well as several different hyperspace jumps. The route, as it turned out, was not as direct as Ahsoka first thought. Despite the Republic having access to Hutt hyperspace lanes they could not travel directly from Republic territory to Hutt territory. For political reasons that Ahsoka didn't fully understand they first had to jump to a neutral system before heading into Hutt space.

That made the journey one more hyperspace jump long, adding several additional hours to their trip time, assuming they didn't encounter any unforeseen interferences.

Still, that gave Ahsoka plenty of time to think, just as it gave Thrawn plenty of time to ask questions.

"I have noticed in studies that the Togruta culture is vastly different depending on the planet of origin. Does it not strike you as odd that your people are not unified under a single cultural banner?"

A small smile came to Ahsoka's face as she looked out of the cockpit window at the whirling blue vortex of hyperspace. Thrawn had been asking numerous questions regarding Togruta culture throughout the past hour, with topics ranging from the meanings of individual names to dietary habits, and oddly enough at one point the sexual activity and preferences of the Togruta race as a whole.

Despite having not lived on Shili since she was three, Ahsoka had done her best to answer the inquiries the Chiss had made, as well as brushed off the questions regarding sexuality. That was something she really didn't understand very well, and she very much doubted that the Togruta species as a whole had a specific set of preferences. Despite the close knit nature of Togruta society, each Togruta was still a unique individual. What one liked and preferred might have been different to another.

"I've never really given it much thought to be honest. I know that Kiros is famed for its art and architecture, and Shili for it's hunter based society, but beyond that I've never really noticed much of a difference. End of the day we are all Togruta. We share the same biology, but we each have different needs and desires."

Thrawn seemed to analyse her words in depth in his head for a few moments, his glowing red eyes a sea of emotion.

"I would like to visit Kiros one day. There is much that can be learned from art." Thrawn finally responded, his hands running across the screen of a datapad he had brought along. From where she was sitting in the pilot seat Ahsoka could only briefly make out that he was researching the Togruta species. Perhaps he was hoping to get to know who he was working with.

"I've been there on a mission once. Nice place, when it isn't crawling with battledroids and slavers." Ahsoka replied, remembering her previous trip to the Togruta colony. That had been a hard mission, both physically and mentally for all of them. Seeing her people enslaved on Kadavo the way she had… she understood now exactly why Anakin hated slavers so much.

If he ever wanted to lead a campaign to end slavery once and for all she'd be there in a heartbeat.

Still… that was a goal best saved for later. One war at a time.

"What is the significance of the Akul in Togruta culture? There are many references to them in this text." Thrawn spoke again, putting forward another question, this time one Ahsoka could answer with confidence.

"Akul are the apex predator of Shili. Many view them as the true owners and guardians of Shili's grasslands, but that doesn't stop them from being a dangerous threat to our people. Hunting Akul and harvesting their teeth for jewelry is common practise on my homeworld. In fact many see it as a right of passage. Slaying an Akul is no easy feat, no matter what sort of Togruta you are. I can speak from experience in that."

"You have slain an Akul? I see no teeth adorning your head?" Thrawn questioned back, his eyes widening in surprise at Ahsoka's comment.

"Yeah, just before I became a Padawan I was taken back to Shili by Jedi Master Shaak Ti, a Togruta like me. The trip was supposed to be a visit to a small village to honour my heritage, but whilst we were there an Akul decided to attack. Somehow I ended up being the one to slay the beast after it knocked Master Ti aside. First thing I ever technically killed. The villagers were so grateful that they harvested the teeth and helped me create an Akul headpiece as a symbol of my victory. One of my proudest days, aside from the animal murder part of it."

As Ahsoka recalled the story, Thrawn simply sat and listened, his eyes never leaving her face. Through the Force she could tell he was fascinated by her description of the events that led to her attaining such an important piece of jewelry.

"But where is it now? You do not seem to have it on you anymore." Thrawn asked when Ahsoka had finally finished her story, and in response Ahsoka felt her spirit drop as she remembered what had become of her prized headpiece.

"When I left the Jedi Order I had nothing but the clothes on my back and the Akul headpiece atop my head. I needed money to survive, so I sold it to a collector of rare trinkets. It got me enough credits to survive. An acceptable sacrifice, all things considered."

"You do not sound so sure of your decision." Thrawn's reply was instantaneous, and was full of the truth that Ahsoka had tried to deny. She missed having her headpiece. It had been a symbol of something successful of her past, unlike the Padawan braids that were once attached to the same headpiece.

She had entertained the idea of trying to find the headpiece and repurchase it, but the chances were it was long gone by now, lost to the seedy underbelly of Coruscant. It could very well still be in the possession of the collector as well… though again, the chances of them giving it back were next to none.

"It doesn't matter anymore. What's done is done. I can always make a new one if I miss it that much."

"Very true." Thrawn replied, his red eyes returning to his text once again.

Turning back to face the vortex of hyperspace before them, Ahsoka settled into what remained of the journey, fully expecting Thrawn to ask yet another question along the way.

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It had taken one and a half standard Coruscant days to reach their destination, but upon leaving hyperspace Ahsoka was oddly pleased to see the swamp infested planet before them.

Nal Hutta was an unpleasant place, one befitting the species that was indigenous to it. The air, whilst not nearly as polluted as the lower levels of Coruscant, still possessed a damp dirty stench, one that Ahsoka would easily call rotten at the best of times.

Sure, there were likely some nice places on Nal Hutta… but Ahsoka hadn't been to any of them yet.

Descending the Huntress through the thick musky clouds of the planet, Ahsoka began to plan their operation in her head. If Barriss had come to this planet, or if she was even still on it, then she would have left clues. Someone somewhere must have either seen her, or interacted with her. Despite its reputation as a place to disappear, surveillance on Nal Hutta was of high quality, no doubt thanks to the ruling Hutt clans wanting to keep a close eye on everything that was going on in their criminal empire.

All they had to do was look in the right spot and they would find something.

Ahsoka's first thought was to try and earn an audience with the Hutts, but she quickly dismissed that for multiple reasons. That would take too long, and there was no guarantee that the information they would give her would be genuine.

Luckily, Ahsoka had a backup plan, one that both Anakin and Plo Koon had taught her. The best place to get information was from the people, and the best place to find the people who would talk was a bar or cantina, of which Nal Hutta hand plenty.

Glancing out of the cockpit window, Ahsoka's eyes searched around for a place to land in Bibousa, one of the major cities present on Nal Hutta, if one could call it a city. Compared to Coruscant or Naboo it was little more than a refuge for all sorts of criminals.

"Look! Over there!" The voice of the Temple Guard made Ahsoka jump slightly, even though she had been fully aware of his presence behind her. Following the Guard's extended arm she looked out of the cockpit window once again to see what he was pointing at.

There was a collection of landing pads, some occupied, others free, a perfect spot to land.

However, that was not what the Temple Guard was pointing to.

What he was pointing to was another ship, this one clearly of Republic military design.

"Thrawn, does that ship match the description of the one Barriss stole?" Ahsoka asked, wondering if they had already found their first clue by chance.

"Yes, it does match. Offee has been here."

"She could still be here."

The dark tone of the Temple Guard's response to Thrawn would have unnerved Ahsoka if she too hadn't been feeling the same way. Was Barriss really stupid enough to leave a stolen ship exposed like this? Had she not anticipated that someone would come looking for her?

"It's a step in the right direction. Let's get down there and see if anyone knows anything about that ship." Ahsoka continued, grasping hold of the Huntress' controls with renewed purpose, angling the ship towards one of the free landing pads in the back of the makeshift spaceport.

The landing was one of the more gentler experiences that Ahsoka had endured, mainly because Anakin hadn't been the one flying, but Ahsoka knew that what was likely to come would be far less gentle for her.

Standing from her pilot seat, Ahsoka gestured for her two compatriots to follow her as she led the way out of her ship and down onto the makeshift spaceport.

Upon armoured boots meeting the soft ground, Ahsoka decided that the first thing they needed to do was confirm that the ship they had seen from above was indeed the one Barriss had stolen.

As she began to approach the ship however, a human male stepped in front of her, his face worn and tired.

"Welcome to Bilbousa. It costs five credits or four wupiupi to park your ship here a day."

His tone was dull and bored, something that Ahsoka imagined was down to spending his time collection payment for the Hutts. Managing such a small spaceport couldn't have been a fun job, especially not when Bilbousa had many different ones.

"Sure, no problem." Ahsoka replied, almost feeling sorry for the man as she reached into a pouch she had attached to her waist. She had taken to carrying some spare credits around with her at all times just in case. You never know when you might need them after all, and she had plenty to spare.

"Thank you. Have a nice day." The man spoke again in a monotonous tone, one that was clearly the result of forced habit.

"Actually, before you go, can I ask a question?" Ahsoka interrupted, holding up a hand to stop the man from leaving.

"Ummm.. sure?"

The hesitant tone was enough to convince Ahsoka that hardly anyone ever spoke to him. Again she couldn't help but feel sorry for him. He seemed like a nice person.

"That ship over there, where did it come from? And do you know who owns it?"

The man's head followed Ahsoka's hand as she pointed towards the stolen ship, his eyes widening in surprise before recollection seemed to set in.

"Well… it doesn't belong to anyone at the moment. A Mirialan woman sold it to the spaceport in exchange for credits. Why, are you interested in purchasing it?"

Upon hearing mention of the species, Ahsoka felt the Force around the Temple Guard shake suddenly as he stepped forward.

"No, we are not interested. The woman who sold you this ship is an escaped Republic criminal. We must know where she went immediately."

At the Temple Guards revelation, the man's eyes widened suddenly.

"A Republic convict? But the Republic has no authority in Hutt space. Is this a Jedi mission?" The man replied with fear, obviously recognizing the weapon on the Guard's belt as a lightsaber.

"No, we are operating of our own accord to bring this traitor to justice. Now where did she go?" The Temple Guard borderline snarled, causing the man to cower slightly in fear.

"I.. I don't know. No one tells me anything. You could check the local cantina. She had money… maybe she went to get a drink or something?"

Ahsoka had to hold her hand up to the Temple Guard to stop him from snapping at the man as he finished speaking, before turning focusing entirely on the man himself.

"Thank you for your help. We'll check the local cantina." Ahsoka spoke, offering the man another handful of credits for his help, which he took with gratitude before moving off back to wherever he came from.

"So… we have confirmed that Offee has been here." Thrawn spoke for the first time since leaving the Huntress, one hand coming up to gently caress his chin in a very Obi-Wan like fashion that nearly caused Ahsoka to laugh when she saw it. Just before they arrived Thrawn had changed his outfit so as to fit in with the natives of Nal Hutta. Showing up in a Republic navy uniform would have no doubt attracted attention, and fortunately the Chancellor had thought ahead and sent a change of clothes to the 'Huntress' specifically for Thrawn.

Ahsoka's other companion however had no change of outfit available, and his armour no doubt made him stick out like a sore thumb.

"We should check out that 'cesspit' he mentioned. It sounds like the sort of place scum like Offee would hide in." The Guard spoke again, hands clenched together.

"Agreed, but not all of us. I need you to stay behind and monitor the ship. Thrawn and I will fit in more than you will… unless you are willing to remove the armour." Ahsoka answered, gesturing her head to the Huntress I the process.

The Temple Guard did not respond for a few seconds, before he finally nodded his head.

"I will remain with the ship. Should Offee return for some reason I will inform you."

"Excellent." Thrawn joined in, standing tall with his hands now behind his back. The Temple Guard seemed to analyse Thrawn for a few moments before turning around and heading back towards the Huntress.

When the Guard had disappeared up the ramp, Ahsoka turned back to Thrawn and spoke.

"Right then Thrawn, let's go meet the locals."

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The cantina had been easy to find, not that it shouldn't have been in the first place. On a planet such as this, cantinas could be found on practically every street corner. There was very little in the way of discretion on Nal Hutta, at least on the outside.

On the inside it would be completely different. People would be hiding things whilst mingling, discussing their plans for the days to come, most of which would be unlawful in both Republic and Seperatist space.

Hutt space was different however. As long as a person's actions didn't impede on the ruling Hutt clans then they could do as they wished. That included disappear.

Still, Barriss had left a trail of some sorts, and Togruta were natural predators. Ahsoka would find her, even if the Mirialan led her on a chase throughout the galaxy.

Stepping through the threshold of the entrance of the cantina, Ahsoka was hit with a sudden wave of sound and smell. The air was thick with the stench of alcohol, and likely spice as well. At first glance the cantina wasn't that different from the Clone bar 79's. Both had long sweeping tables from which to order drinks, and both seemed to possess the same level of 'entertainment' present in the dark corners of the room.

Resisting the urge to scowl at the sight and smell around her, Ahsoka inclined her head to Thrawn, who came to stand beside her, his own eyes surveying the cantina with varied levels of interest.

"We should split up. Make your way round the room and see what you can hear. I'll go speak to the barkeep." Ahsoka suggested to the Chiss, who nodded in acceptance, disappearing into a nearby crowd suddenly.

Ahsoka barely had time to register his disappearance. The Chiss had moved as if this was natural for him. If she, a former Jedi powerful in the Force could no longer sense where he was then it was very unlikely that anyone else would notice him either.

Accepting that Thrawn was gone for now, Ahsoka began to move through the cantina, careful not to draw too much attention to herself. Despite wearing a full set of customized Mandalorian armour, Ahsoka doubted she stood out too much. Places like this had beings from all walks of life within them. The people that had seen her probably thought she was some sort of bounty hunter or something.

'Not a bad idea for a cover story Snips.' Ahsoka heard a voice that sounded like Anakin's in her head mutter. He wasn't there with her of course, likely off with Obi-Wan and the other Jedi trying to find the escaped Seperatist leaders, but that didn't stop her imagining he was there by her side.

Shrugging off her inner thoughts, Ahsoka approached the bar and rested her hand on the table edge. If she could, she would try to get what information she could out of the barkeep. They were always the best sources of information in places such as this, especially if you had credits to spend.

"Huh… don't see many Togruta this far out, especially not ones in armour like that. What can I get ya?" A male voice interrupted her thoughts, drawing her attention to a figure behind the bar that was now approaching her.

"Something non-alcoholic for now. Got some business I need to take care of and I'd rather not be intoxicated for it." Ahsoka replied, placing down several truguts she had obtained at the currency exchange in the spaceport on the bartop, pushing them towards the man who she assumed was the barkeeper.

"Ha, here on Nal Hutta that's everyday business. You a bounty hunter or something?" The man inquired as he slid the truguts towards him, before reaching under the bar to pick up a small empty glass and placing it before Ahsoka.

"Something like that. Know of anyone who might need one?"

The man chuckled as he turned around to retrieve a rather elegant looking pair of bottles filled with glowing liquid inside of them. If Ahsoka didn't know any better she'd of thought they were alcoholic merely by sight. Surely this man wasn't stupid enough to give her alcohol when she specifically asked for something non-alcoholic?

Then again, most people out this far had rather low morals. She wouldn't put it past the barkeeper to be the same.

"I'd offer you something, but this place is pretty much clean of a need for a bounty hunter. Already got a pretty prominent one who frequents this place. She might be here tonight. Perhaps she'd have some work for you?"

Ahsoka had no interest in meeting with some legendary bounty hunter, but for the sake of getting information she had to play along.

"Might be a good idea once my current job is done. You seen anyone unusual come in here lately?" Ahsoka replied, gently trying to shift the discussion to the information she needed.

"You mean aside from a heavily armoured Togruta teenager? No, not really. Nal Hutta is full of odd people. Frankly if someone normal came in I'd be more suspicious of them." The barkeeper replied, throwing a casual smile in her direction as he began to tip the two bottles of glowing liquid into the glass before Ahsoka, mixing the substances together.

"This drink is one of our rarer served beverages made from plant and fruit extracts from Shili. Perfect for a Togruta who is looking for a pick me up without wanting to get wasted."

Glancing down at the drink now before her, Ahsoka couldn't help but admire the way the two different liquids seemed to swirl around in the glass, not quite mixing together, but not staying apart either.

"Sounds good to me." Ahsoka replied, trying not to sound unsure as she picked up the glass and gave it a slow sip, allowing the liquid to touch her lips and tongue.

Much to her surprise the taste of the drink was exquisite. She had tasted fruit from Shili before, and despite being a carnivore had always loved the taste.

The drink that had been made for her was no different. Perhaps she had been wrong to be suspicious of the barkeep. Maybe not everyone on Nal Hutta lacked morals.

"It's good isn't it? Slightly toxic to any other species, but Togruta go mad for it. Always good to have a customer that can actually drink it." The barkeep spoke again with enthusiasm, practically bouncing on his heels.

"Yeah, it's good. Thanks for this." Ahsoka replied, smiling back at the barkeep, who merely nodded his head in response.

"Let me know if you want another."

With that the barkeep moved across to the other end of the bar, dealing with another customer who desired a beverage of some kind.

Taking another gentle sip of her drink, Ahsoka's eyes surveyed the area around her, looking for anything that might give her a clue. The barkeep had been right about one thing. Nal Hutta was full of strange and suspicious things, so much so that they all blended in together making it impossible to follow one suspicious lead from another.

What she needed to do was find something that wasn't suspicious, or at least hear about something that seemed normal compared to the rest of Nal Hutta.

That or she had to get extremely lucky.

"Hey, 'Sister', great to see you again. Will it be the usual?" The barkeep suddenly shouted across the noise of the cantina, pulling Ahsoka out of her thoughts as he moved past her towards the new customer that had evidently arrived. Through the Force she felt a presence slide up beside her, taking the seat to her right before talking.

"Oh my dear favourite barkeep, that would be splendid. I need to unwind for the night."

The voice was harsh yet feminine, one that had a seductive bite to it when speaking, but one that could easily morph into a cruel tone as well.

Ahsoka felt all her muscles lock up in surprise as she recognized the voice, followed by the sudden realization through the Force as she identified the signature of the new arrival.

"Of course, of course, coming right up my friend." The barkeep spoke again, moving into his bar to prepare another drink just as he had Ahsoka's. The Togruta in question did not move, let alone speak. If she was lucky, maybe, just maybe the new arrival would not recognize her.

Moments later she was proven wrong.

"Well then, what exactly is Skywalker's little brat doing this far out of Republic space?"

Chapter Text

"I should have known you'd be crawling around these parts Ventress." Ahsoka said, watching her tone carefully, but allowing herself to fall into a bit of banter, even as the former apprentice of Count Dooku narrowed her eyes, before a smirk came to her lips. It wasn't a sinister one like the kind Ahsoka has seen from her before, but one of shared humour.

"These sorts of places are my hunting ground, little Jedi. Surely an apex predator such as yourself would know that?" Ventress spoke in response, leaning against the bar facing the Togruta with an air of superiority about her.

"Yeah, dank, dark and downright creepy cantinas sound exactly like you. And I'm not a Jedi, not anymore." Ahsoka replied, turning her attention back to her drink, taking a small sip of it.

Ventress didn't appear to respond to Ahsoka's comment for a few seconds, clearly contemplating what the Togruta had revealed. Ahsoka didn't know why she had just outright told Ventress she had left the order. Perhaps it was because out of anyone, Ventress would understand.

"You left? Truly?"

Ventress's voice was soft and shocked, something that caused Ahsoka to face her again, seeing a look of bewilderment on the Nightsister's face in response.

"Yeah, I did. Couldn't very well stay when the Council outright abandoned and left me for dead now could I? If Dooku came crawling back after he tried to have you killed what would you do?" Ahsoka explained, watching Ventress' expression as she listened to the story being told.

"I'd kick his ass is what I'd do… so good on you. Jedi don't deserve you anyway." The Nightsister's reply was quick, and once again full of a sense of mocking.

Through the Force however, Ahsoka could feel that whatever Ventress thought about Ahsoka no longer being a Jedi was genuine. Despite their previous conflicts, the Dathomirian held no ill will towards Ahsoka, which was a relief to the Togruta. The last thing she needed right now was an angry bounty hunter coming after her, especially one she had promised to gain amnesty for and then failed to do so.

"Here you go, your favourite. Usual cost." The barkeep returned finally, pushing a tall glass of a rather pungent drink towards Ventress, who smiled in response whilst she began to reach down to a pouch by her waist, no doubt to give him credits as payment.

Seizing the opportunity to repay a favour, Ahsoka extracted some of her own money first, placing it before the barkeep.

"I'll pay for hers. I owe her one or two as it is."

The barkeep did not refuse the offered money, taking it away and moving off to the next customer before Ventress could object to Ahsoka paying for her.

The Dathomirian seemed surprised for several moments, before reaching for her glass and downing a sizable gulp of the drink, turning her head to face Ahsoka when she was done.

"Since when do you go around buying people drinks? Anyone else out here would thinking your propositioning them for something, but I know you better than that Tano."

Ahsoka merely shrugged in response, taking a small sip out of her own drink before replying.

"I promised to get you amnesty. I failed. Figured this would be a good way to pay you back… at least somewhat."

"Heh, no need to. Didn't really want the amnesty anyways. More fun being on the run."

"Wish I could say the same." Ahsoka replied, memories of her escape through the sewers flashing in her mind. The last time she had seen Ventress was when she had been on the run due to Barriss' crimes. Was it the will of the Force that they suddenly encountered each other yet again, this time when Ahsoka was pursuing Barriss?

Ahsoka didn't know anymore. The Force was messed up, more so than usual these days. Something was wrong with it… but it seemed that no one could figure out what.

For now, all she could do was trust her instincts, and something about them was telling her that Ventress would be able to help, or at least point her in the right direction.

"Still, the gesture is appreciated. Here's to being away from a controlling organization and being two badass independent women." Ventress replied, bringing her glass towards Ahsoka's gently tapping the two together without waiting for Ahsoka to reciprocate the gesture.

'I'll drink to that!' Ahsoka thought as she took another sip of her drink, Ventress taking another sizable gulp of hers at the same time before returning her now half empty glass to the bar-top and turning her gaze back to Ahsoka.

"So… what are you doing this far out then? Looking for some bounties or something? Not really your style if you ask me."

Shaking her head, Ahsoka decided on how to approach Ventress's question, Being a Force user of considerable powerful, Ventress would know if she was lying.

Not only that, but Ventress could very well be a potential ally for her mission. She too might have a vested interest in finding Barriss. The Mirialan had after all attacked and stolen her lightsabers, and had attempted to impersonate her too with a surprising ease.

"Hunting. Barriss Offee, the Jedi who framed me for the terrorist attack. She escaped her prison cell and is on the run. I've come to find her and bring her to justice."

Through the Force Ahsoka felt a spike of anger emit at the mere mention of Barriss' name. What worried her was that she wasn't sure if said anger had come from Ventress or herself. Was the Force really so clouded that she could no longer discern her own thoughts and feelings from someone's sitting next to her?

"Offee was locked up? They were gonna execute you… but they locked that bitch up instead? Damn the Council and politicians. Can't even make their mind up about the right sort of punishment. You'd think they'd be consistent." Ventress responded, further distracting Ahsoka with another sudden thought. Why had Barriss been locked up… especially when the Republic Senate and Jedi Order had been so willing to execute her?! Where was the justice in that?

Making a mental note to ask either Palpatine or Padmé for answers, Ahsoka shifted the discussion back to her target.

"That doesn't matter at the moment. What does is finding Barriss before she harms anyone else. Have you seen or heard anything suspicious around the area recently? I've already tracked the ship she stole here. She can't have gotten far."

Several moments passed by before Ventress responded, the Nightsister having a look of concentration on her face, as if she was trying to remember something that wasn't actually there. If Ahsoka didn't know any better she'd say that Ventress was actually trying to help her!

"Nothing off the top of my head, though there's this woman you could speak to. Twi'lek. Comes to the cantina every night. She's pretty renown for knowing what's going on round here."

"Well, it's as good a lead as any other. How will I know who to speak to?" Ahsoka replied, glancing round the cantina briefly. There were multiple female Twi-leks already present. What made the one Ventress spoke of stand out?

"Oh no worries Tano, she'll come find you, assuming you make yourself interesting of course. Mind you, I hear she had a bit of a preference for Lekku, so you might be in luck."

Ventress' comment was coupled with a smirk, as well as raised eyebrows that emphasized the smirk.

"What do you mean? How will I stand out?" Ahsoka replied, confused by the way Ventress was acting.

"I don't know. Start a fight with someone or something. Just be warned, once you are noticed, and she will notice someone like you, you may have to get a bit touchy feely with her."

"Are you implying that I'm going to have to flirt with her or something?" Ahsoka questioned, horrified at the idea of doing such a thing to get some simple information. Couldn't she just try a mind trick instead?

The smirk on Ventress face got even wider as she listened to Ahsoka's inquiry, taking another large gulp of her drink before responding.

"Something along those lines. If you're lucky, and she's feeling generous, you won't have to get into bed with her. Depends on what sort of mood she's in really." The Dathormirian replied, taking a final gulp of what remained of her drink before placing the now empty glass on the bar-top.

"Great, just great." Ahsoka responded dejectedly, finishing off her own drink as well, placing the empty glass beside Ventress'.

"What's the problem Tano? You're not a Jedi anymore. You should be making up for lost time. Normal girls your age would probably be on their second or third partner by now."

"It's still weird. Can't say I feel comfortable with the idea of flirting with someone to get information." Ahsoka replied, placing disgusted emphasis on the word 'flirting' in the process.

"Yeah well, that's part of life." Ventress responded, rising from her seat. "She usually shows up towards the evening, when the rabble starts to arrive. Best chances of drawing her attention are then. Thanks for the drink Tano."

"No problem… and thanks for some sort of lead, no matter how weird it is." Ahsoka replied, watching as Ventress stood from her stool at the bar, a smirk on her face.

"Whatever. Hey Tano, if you ever get bored of doing whatever it is your doing these days, I wouldn't mind a competent partner now and then."

"I'll think about it." Ahsoka replied with hesitation, unsure if she really wanted to take up bounty hunting at any point in her life. She was more than happy serving the Chancellor, and doing good in the galaxy.

"I'm sure you will."

With that, Ventress disappeared from sight almost as quickly as she had arrived, her signature in the Force blending in with the area around her. Were it not for the second empty glass on the bar-top, Ahsoka could have sworn Ventress' presence had been a figment of her imagination.

Still, she had no time to wonder about what Ventress was up to… or if she had even been present in the first place. She had a lead now, albeit a rather uncomfortable one for her. She really didn't like what Ventress had suggested, but it was all she had to work with.

That was unless Thrawn had found some other lead.

****************************************************************************************************************************************

"Your telling me you found no leads whatsoever?"

"Regrettably, no. Offee left no visible trace for me to follow, and there was no obvious or dis... discr… discrete discussion regarding possible sightings either. I apologize for my failure Agent Tano."

"It's no worries Lieutenant. Can't win them all. At least we have one lead, even if it's somewhat dubious in nature." Ahsoka replied, reclining in the pilot's chair of the 'Huntress', watching as the Chiss' expression went from solemn to grateful. Clearly he felt bad about his failure, expecting himself to be able to do better.

Ahsoka knew firsthand how that felt. She had failed a fair few times in her life before, especially during her time as Anakin's Padawan.

But, she was still alive, and still confident they could win. One defeat didn't mark the end of all things. It merely acted as a stepping stone onto the next conflict.

"Where did this information of yours come from again?" The voice of the Temple Guard broke Ahsoka's thoughts, his deep tone laced with suspicion, as if he was sensing something. The chances that he knew who Ahsoka's contact was, or that he would be able to figure it out were moderately high, mostly due to his strong presence in the Force. Temple Guards were some of the most formidable Force users in the Jedi Order, outclassed usually by the Council Members alone. If Ahsoka wasn't careful, the guard would likely sense Ventress somehow, a possibility that Ahsoka wanted to avoid. She owed the Nightsister several dozen favours for her help during her time on the run on Coruscant's lower levels. If she could keep her hidden, that would be payback enough. The last thing Ventress would want was Jedi coming after her.

"The barkeep in the cantina divulged some information to me at the cost of some credits. He said the best person to speak to regarding new arrivals would be this mysterious Twi'lek woman. I've just got to find a way of attracting, and keeping her attention long enough to get the info she may have on Barriss." Ahsoka lied in reply, hoping that neither Thrawn nor the Temple Guard caught onto the deception.

"This is assuming this Twi'lek has any information in the first place. This could end up being a colossal waste of time." The agitation in the Temple Guard's voice, even behind the modulated helmet, was obvious. He was dying for some action, for some sort of direct conflict, a behavior Ahsoka had not seen in a Temple Guard before. Whoever this Jedi with them was, he was an outcast, much like Anakin, and at times herself.

"It could be, but we've got the risk it. It's a few hours before nightfall. We wait here until then. I'll head back to the cantina and see if I can find this Twi'lek. Thrawn, I want you to investigate around the streets themselves. She if anyone at the market has heard anything. 'Temple Guard', I need you to…"

"Stay with the ship. How entertaining."

"Exactly. For now let's just rest." Ahsoka finished, resisting the urge to smirk at the way the guard had spoken in an overly sarcastic voice. If she could see his eyes she would place money that he had rolled his eyes as well.

Content that both of her companions understood the plan, Ahsoka stood from her seat and left the cockpit, destined for the small room on the 'Huntress' that she had made her personal cabin.

There wasn't much in said cabin. Merely a bedroll and a crate for supplies for long trips. Enough for her to survive in some semblance of comfort. It wasn't quite her apartment, but she had made do with worse before.

Reaching over and opening the crate, Ahsoka selected a bag of fried bites made from Bantha loin. She wasn't overly hungry, mainly just peckish.

Moving over to her bedroll, Ahsoka sat cross legged and reached under the pillow, pulling out a comm pad she also had hidden aboard.

Logging onto the pad, Ahsoka was surprised to see she had a message waiting for her to read.

Reaching over to tap the icon, Ahsoka watched as the message feed loaded up, displaying the message to her before she even had a chance to check who it was from.

'Hey Snips! Came by your apartment earlier but you not home. :( Padmé and Obi-Wan gone on missions and I've been left at the Temple all by myself. Where are you?'

A small smile came to Ahsoka's face as she recognized the nickname, as well as the style of speech, even in an electronic message. Anakin was clearly bored, lonely, or both if he was sending her messages.

Spotting a small green icon attached to the message, one that indicated Anakin was also on his own pad, Ahsoka typed her reply.

'Yeah, sorry about that Skyguy. The Chancellor sent me on a mission. Surprised you not been sent after the Seppie leaders.'

A few moments passed by before Anakin sent his own response.

'I wanted to go… believe me, but they sent Obi-Wan instead. If anyone can catch them it's him, just wish I was there to watch his back. What about you? Want me to come help you on your super secret mission? I can hop in my fighter and fly to where you are right now. Where even are you?'

Ahsoka didn't know if she should tell Anakin. Would the Chancellor be angry if she revealed where she was, or who she was hunting. Anakin would be angry no doubt, not at her, but at the mere thought of Barriss escaping.

But then Anakin had been the one to originally foil Barriss' scheme. Surely he should be involved?

'Super secret like you said, but I'm on Nal Hutta at the moment. Trying to track an escaped prisoner. Thrawn is with me so no need for backup.'

Anakin was silent for a few moments, no indication that he was typing a reply evident. Either something had distracted him, or he was thinking of what to say in response.

Shrugging her shoulders at her friend's sudden silence, Ahsoka took a pair of the Bantha bites out of the bag and stuffed them into her mouth, crushing them beneath her teeth and enjoying the flavour.

Then Anakin replied.

'Escaped prisoner? Not a Seppie leader I take it as Obi-Wan's hunting them. Who was it?'

She shouldn't tell him, she knew she shouldn't, but she wanted to. Wanted to so bad. He out of everyone would understand why she was going after Barriss rather than leave it to someone else.

But that still wouldn't stop him from freaking out.

'Got to promise me two things. One: you won't get angry. Two: you won't come and help. Need to do this by myself.'

Anakin's response was quick, and if she had heard him actually voice it, would have sworn his tone would be flooded with concern.

'Ahsoka? Who are you looking for?'

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka typed her response.

'Barriss Offee.'

Bracing herself, Ahsoka waited for the inevitable fallout of her revelation. There was no way Anakin was going to take this information well.

Suffice to say she was proven right.

'WHAT?! How did she escape? That sleemo! I'm coming to Nal Hutta! We'll find that bitch together and make her pay for what she did to you, I promise!'

Despite being on the other side of the galaxy to him, Ahsoka could almost feel his anger radiating through the Force. She could picture him now, angrily stomping round his quarters in the Temple, looking for something to throw against the wall. Usually it was a pillow or something that would not break.

Deciding that she had to stop him before he did something stupid, Ahsoka typed a reply.

'I know I know, I'm angry too, but I need you to stay away and let me handle this Anakin. I need to talk to her, face to face. Don't worry, she's not going to get away with this. The Chancellor told me to bring her in alive, or if the situation calls for it, use lethal force.'

Ahsoka still didn't know how she felt about that last part. She didn't want to kill Barriss, not if she didn't have to. A peaceful resolution would be beneficial for all, even those that wanted Barriss' blood like Anakin or her new Temple Guard companion. She didn't want either of them to stoop to the level that Barriss clearly had.

Still, something told her that whatever resolution did occur, it would not be a peaceful one. The Force was too clouded for this to have a happy ending, no matter how much Ahsoka wanted one.

'Snips I… I understand. Just… if you need me for anything, anything at all, call me. I won't let her hurt you again.'

Ahsoka didn't hesitate to reply.

'Thanks Skyguy. I'm glad you understand. I'll call you if I find myself out of my depth.'

':)'

Chuckling to herself, Ahsoka took another handful of bites from the bag, before deciding to shift the conversation away from Barriss.

'Anyway, you'll never guess who I ran into out in a cantina on Nal Hutta?'

'Not Dooku was it? Or Hondo? Seems like their sort of place.'

'Ha! No, but close with Dooku. Here's a clue. She's bald.'

'Ventress! Seriously. Makes sense I guess. She didn't attack you did she?'

'Nope. Bought her a drink as thanks for helping me when I was on the run. She even pointed me towards a possible lead in finding Barriss.'

'Oh really? What lead?'

A wide smirk came to Ahsoka's face as she contemplated the kriff-storm she was about to unleash with her reply. She almost wished that Anakin was in the room with her so she could see his face.

'Oh right, about that. Need some advice from you buddy. How do you flirt with girls?'

'WHAT!?'

Chapter Text

After explaining the situation she had found herself in, and understanding that she had meant the comment in jest, Anakin had given in to Ahsoka's request and offered what he had called 'the best advice to woo a woman of all time'!

Ahsoka herself was no expert on romance, or even how to flirt, but she was fairly certain that Anakin's 'advice' was perhaps the most useless set of suggestions he had ever offered anyone. In fact, she was stumped as to how he had managed to win Padmé over with the things he suggested. Was floating a fruit of some kind towards someone considered romantic in human culture?

In the end, despite her former Master's advice, Ahsoka had decided to do what she did best.

Wing it.

Evening had fallen across that part of Nal Hutta, and just as Ventress had stated, the cantina practically tripled in popularity. People from all walks of life came to unwind from their no doubt busy day serving their Hutt overlords. In some ways, Ahsoka was disgusted by just how many people were in one cantina. In another way, she was envious. Groups of people were clustered together, most of them obviously friends or co-workers, all enjoying their free time together.

Ahsoka didn't have that, at least not in the same way. Sure, she had Anakin or Padmé, or even Caleb, but nine times out of ten they were busy when she was not, and vice versa. She enjoyed her career as Palpatine's personal agent, but it didn't half leave her lonely some of the time.

Still, there was little she could do about that right now. She had a mission to complete, and that involved drawing the attention of some mysterious Twi'lek woman.

Stepping through the threshold of the door and into the cantina, Ahsoka decided that her first port of call was to order a drink. She had to blend in after all.

Upon approaching the bar where she had met Ventress hours earlier, Ahsoka ordered herself a drink, this time from a different barkeep. Evidently the one from before was either busy, or off shift. In his place was a Mon Calamari female, who smiled at her and gave her the same drink as she had had before.

Graciously accepting and paying for the drink, Ahsoka turned away from the barkeep and surveyed the room.

The cantina was jam-packed, and whilst there were many Twi'leks of both genders present, none of them seemed to be on the prowl for a conquest the way Ventress had described before.

Then again, the Nightsister had also said that she would have to make herself stand out somehow to draw her in.

Continuing to survey the room, Ahsoka found her eyes were drawn to a six seat table, in which only five of the chairs were filled. In the middle of the table was a set of Sabacc cards.

Smirking to herself, and mentally thanking both the Clones and Obi-Wan for the lessons they had secretly given her one day, Ahsoka approached the table and sat down in the empty seat.

Her sudden appearance gained a few interested looks from the other competitors, but none of them demanded that she leave. No doubt they assumed someone dressed in a set of fully customized Mandalorian armour was not someone they wanted to mess with.

"Heh, another victimmmmm! You sssssure you wanna playyy!" One of the competitors, a Trandoshan who clearly had a knack for being overly dramatic inquired, his eyes boring into Ahsoka's with hidden glee.

"I wouldn't have sat down if I didn't." Ahsoka replied, smirking back at the reptilian alien.

"Ha! I like youuu. Let'sss playyy."

Taking his acceptance at face value, Ahsoka gestured for another competitor, a Cerean male, who was holding the cards, a bored expression on his face.

Rolling his eyes at the antics of the Trandoshan, the Cerean dealt the first hand.

"Usual rules apply. Everyone puts one wupiupi into the Hand pot, and another into the Sabacc pot at the start of each round. Game lasts twenty pots. Whoever wins the round becomes the dealer." The Cerean explained as he finished dealing the first round out, scooping his own cards into his hands

Accepting the rules as given, and glad she had chosen to bring along extra money this time around, Ahsoka picked up her own starting cards and placed her first set of coins into the respective pots. Around her the other players did the same.

Glancing down at her first two cards, Ahsoka smirked inwardly. A two and a three to a new player would seem like a bad start in a game of Sabacc. Ahsoka however knew differently.

Watching her fellow players draw their third cards, Ahsoka waited patiently for her turn, before drawing a card of her own.

Ahsoka had to refrain from laughing aloud when she saw what she had drawn.

Gesturing for the next person, Ahsoka waited. With the first set of drawing and standing over, the bets began to build.

The Trandoshan seemed the most confident of the other players, adding several more wupiupis to the hand pot, before leaning back in his chair, trying to conceal a smug look on his face. Try as he might however, Ahsoka could sense his excitement. Clearly he had a winning hand.

At least, so he thought.

When the betting came back to her, Ahsoka added an amount of wupiupis to the pot equal to what the Trandoshan had bet. Another of the players, a Zygerrian male, huffed in response to her action, clearly unimpressed. That was fine with Ahsoka. She didn't care what he thought.

Play continued as normal, with Ahsoka choosing to stand with the three cards she had rather than take anymore. The Trandoshan seemed to be the most enthralled with the game, offering smirks and laughs when two of the other players bombed out of the round. One of them had been the Zygerrian, and judging by his cursing he had not been best pleased.

Eventually the round was called, and the remaining players revealed their cards.

The Cerean had managed to acquire a value of twenty two, one under the goal and limit of Sabacc. In doing so he had just managed to beat another of the players, a Zabrak woman who upon defeat shrugged her shoulders good-naturedly.

However, both of those players had been beaten in turn by the Trandoshan, who laid down a value of twenty three.

"Ha ha… Ssssabacc! I win."

"Not so fast friend." Ahsoka took that moment to interrupt, watching with a small smirk on her face as the Trandoshan's head snapped up from the pothe was about to claim, his eyes locking with hers, confused.

In response to his confusion, Ahsoka laid her three cards down upon the table one at a time for others to see.

A two of Sabers, a three of Coins…

And the Idiot.

"I believe this is what they call an Idiot's Array."

Knowing full well that Trandoshans didn't typically take defeat too well, Ahsoka braced herself. The Trandoshan before her still seemed to be contemplating Ahsoka's unexpected victory, his beady eyes shifting back and forth between her cards and his own in an almost desperate hope that hers would vanish.

A few tense moments later where Ahsoka was sure he was going to attack her, the Trandoshan instead pushed the pot towards Ahsoka, sitting back in his chair in the process.

"Ha! Good game Togruta. It'sssss about time someone of sssskill joined."

*****************************************************************************************************

The game of Sabacc continued much as Ahsoka expected it to. Despite her early victory she ended up losing the next three rounds, one of which she bombed out on, not that she particularly cared about winning in the first place. She was only here to hopefully draw the attention of this mysterious Twi'lek woman that Ventress had spoken of. So far she doubted she had done so.

"You play well for someone so young." The voice of the female Zabrak drew Ahsoka out of her inner thoughts, the next hand being dealt in the process.

"I had a good teacher." Ahsoka replied with a smile, gently picking up her cards to analyse her hand. A seven and a nine. Not a bad start, but not exactly a winning hand.

"Parents teach you?" The woman inquired again, placing her bet into the two pots available, before drawing a third card from her hand.

"Adopted dad, brothers too." Ahsoka replied, taking her next card in the process as she mentally weaved some sort of cover story in her head. She couldn't very well tell them the truth, though she did wonder what they would think about a Jedi teaching another Jedi how to play Sabacc.

"Well he taught you well." The Zabrak spoke again, turning her head to watch the next player take a card from the stack.

"KARABAST!" The player, a male of a species Ahsoka had never encountered before, yelled out what Ahsoka assumed was a curse, before slamming his cards down on the table before them all, revealing he had a total of twenty four, one over the limit.

"You suck." The Zygerrian spoke from beside him, clearly pleased at the mysterious individual bombing out.

At least that was before he picked up his next card, his facial expression shifting from smug satisfaction to borderline hatred.

"I hate this kriffing game!" The Zygerrian snarled, slamming his own cards down on the table, revealing that he too had bombed out.

At the Zygerrian's expression, Ahsoka couldn't help but chuckle, something that didn't please the angry Zygerrian.

"Something funny little girl?" The Zygerrian challenged, eyes burning with rage. He was clearly restraining himself, which surprised Ahsoka. Normally Zygerrians would attack on sight if angry.

"Only the irony of you mocking him for bombing out only to bomb out yourself. Don't mean anything by it." Ahsoka replied, trying to remain as diplomatic as possible. Whilst she was sure a fight would get someone's attention, she didn't want to fight if she didn't have to.

"Ha ha! Yeah. You sssssuck!" The Trandoshan interrupted suddenly, leaning forward in the process, drawing the Zygerrian's ire towards him. Ahsoka was grateful for that, and honestly surprised. Trandoshan's didn't typically have the best reputation.

In the end, it was the Cerean who won the round, passing dealership of the cards to him. Ahsoka wasn't any closer to drawing out the Twi'lek, but she didn't care. She was actually having fun playing Sabacc with some mostly decent people.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************

"Ssssoooooo, Mandalorian armour and a lightsaber as well? How did you get thossssse?" The Trandoshan asked when the game entered it's seventeenth pot, Ahsoka having claimed nine victories in the process. In fact, everyone, aside from the Zygerrian, had achieved a victory up to this point, a fact that was agitating the feline humanoid to no end.

"Got the armour custom made. Stole the lightsaber from a Jedi I defeated in combat." Ahsoka replied as she bet her next set of credits, hoping that her cover story held. The armour part was true. The lightsaber part, not so much.

"Nicccceeee!" The Trandoshan replied, picking up his cards to look at them, something that was repeated by the other players round the table.

Taking a moment to glance around the cantina, Ahsoka's eyes wandered, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone who looked like the person Ventress had described.

Thinking back to what Ventress had told her, Ahsoka realized just how little information the Dathomirian had given her. She hadn't even told her what colour the Twi'lek she was looking for was!

Mentally sighing, Ahsoka turned her attention back to the game. Perhaps it would be best if she just let the Twi'lek find her rather than hunt herself.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

When the final pot of the game began, Ahsoka knew she was onto a winner. Her first two cards consisted of an eleven, and a card known as a Commander, which was worth twelve points. That meant she already had a winning score of twenty three. All she had to do now was wait and see if anyone matched it.

Play proceeded as expected, with Ahsoka deciding to raise the stakes as best she could, adding several wupiupis to the pot, a feat that was unexpectedly replicated by the Zygerrian, who once again had a smug look on his face.

Both the Cerean and the mysterious individual bombed out, the unknown curse again being yelled aloud before play reached the end.

Both the Zabrak and Trandoshan revealed an equal score of twenty, leaving them tied in the final round, but not victorious.

Ahsoka revealed her cards at the same time as the Zygerrian, surprised to find that they both had twenty three as their total.

"Ohh, a tie. This will be good." The Cerean spoke with unusual enthusiasm. He had seemed incredibly bored through most of the game. Ahsoka didn't even know why he was bothering to play if he found it boring.

"Take an extraaa card. Highest number winsssss." The Trandoshan spoke, fanning out the Sabacc cards in his hands, concealing the values to the two players.

Trusting her instincts, Ahsoka reached forward and picked the card furthest on the left, bringing it close to her and looking at the value.

A two.

'Kriff kriff kriff kriff!' Ahsoka cursed in her head, damning her luck. No doubt she had lost this round. Still, at least the Zygerrian had finally…

"OH COME ON!"

The shout from the Zygerrian, coupled by the way he slammed down his card onto the table, revealing a value of one, could be heard throughout the cantina, drawing the attention of several patrons.

"Wow! What are the chances of that?" The Zabrak woman spoke up, a smirk on her face as she glanced between Ahsoka and the Zygerrian's tiebreaker cards.

"Just lucky I guess." Ahsoka replied, shrugging her shoulders, trying to appear humble, even as she began to pull both pots towards her. As the overall winner of the game she was rewarded with the stash of money within the Sabacc pot as well. The amount within was insignificant to how much money she currently had in her private account, but she wouldn't say no to collecting her winnings. She had earned them fair and square after all.

"It's not luck! She rigged the game! She's obviously a damned Jedi!" The Zygerrian snarled as he rose from his chair, knocking it over in the process as he moved around the table to stand behind Ahsoka, anger radiating off of him through the Force.

"I'm not a Jedi." Ahsoka replied, careful not to antagonize the Zygerrian too much. The last thing she wanted was a fight, though if push came to shove, she would defend herself.

"Only Jedi carry lightsabers! And you must have used your Force stuff to tip the game you filthy cheater!" The Zygerrian continued, baring his teeth in threat to Ahsoka. Around the table she could feel the discomfort of her fellow competitors, each unsure on how to react. By now most of the cantina was listening to the argument as well.

'I suppose this is one way to get some attention.' Ahsoka thought to herself as she stood from her own chair, stretching herself to her full height to confront the angry Zygerrian. She only just came up to his neck, which dampened the effect she was hoping to have. Several chuckles echoed throughout the cantina at the sight of a Togruta girl standing up to a towering Zygerrian man, clearly underestimating what Ahsoka knew she was capable of.

"More than Jedi carry lightsabers you knucklehead! I take it you've never heard of General Grievous?" Ahsoka replied, adding a sarcastic edge to her words, something that infuriated the Zygerrian even more.

"You tailhead bitch! You should be in chains like your people on Kadavo!"

Suddenly Ahsoka felt the anger rise inside of her. Memories of her time on Zygerria, and later her mission to Kadavo and the reports regarding the place flooded her mind. It was then that Ahsoka understood why Anakin hated slavers so much, a sentiment she had come to share.

And whilst she would never judge a person by their species, it was clear that the Zygerrian before her was one that lived up to the stereotype of being a slaver.

"What are you talking about?" The voice of the Trandoshan was sharp and cold, his beady eyes suddenly locked onto the Zygerrian as he too rose from his seat, towering above both Ahsoka and the slaver confronting her.

On Nal Hutta, Ahsoka would honestly be surprised if anyone cared that the Zygerrian was a slaver. In fact, she'd be willing to bet that several of the patrons in the cantina had some sort of tie to the slave trade or other nefarious schemes. This was Nal Hutta after all.

However, something made her want to reveal everything about Kadavo, just to see the reaction of those around her. The Force for some reason sang in agreement, encouraging her.

Taking that as her cue, she spoke.

"Kadavo was a Zygerrian slaver base where they captured thousands of people of various species to work as slave labour. They tortured and murdered, and even drove their slaves to suicide all for their own pleasure. I hear they got wiped out by the Republic, but clearly some of them survived."

It occurred to Ahsoka in that moment that the cantina around her was silent. No one spoke. No one moved. Even the music that had been playing in the background had stopped. All of the focus was on her and her words. Part of Ahsoka was glad to be the centre of attention for such a reason as the one she had.

Another part of her was embarrassed, but there was no going back now.

"You work for the ssssslave trade?!" The Trandoshan spoke, moving around the table to stand beside Ahsoka, his clawed hands clenched into fists.

"So what of it? It is our culture, just as yours is to hunt those beastly Wookiees." The Zygerrian responded, a smug look on his face, as if he thought he had found an ally to stand with.

If he had access to the Force however, he would know very differently.

"Yessss, it is our culture… but not mine. I walked away from those savagesss because I deplored what they did, just as I deplore youuuu."

The Trandoshan's body language shifted instantly towards one of a challenge, something that Ahsoka had seen during her time on the run from Trandoshan hunters.

This time however, it was not aimed at her, but at the Zygerrian.

Faster than she could blink, the Trandoshan lunged forward, grasping hold of the Zygerrian and picking him up, vaulting him over his head and crashing down onto the Sabacc table, shattering it in two in the process. The yell of surprise and pain from the Zygerrian reminded Ahsoka of her altercation with the three human teenagers on Coruscant's streets a few nights prior, but she pushed the thought from her head, too focused on the scenes before her.

Around the bar a few people were cheering the Trandoshan on. It surprised Ahsoka to see how many of them were hostile to the slaver, rather than defending them.

That said, some of them could have just been cheering on in hopes of a fight breaking out. She knew that some patrons of cantinas and bars were like that.

"Sssssorry about the table." The Trandoshan spoke aloud, his words aimed at a nearby barkeep, who only shrugged his shoulders with a smirk on his face, enjoying the scene around him just as much as his patrons.

Continuing to watch, Ahsoka's expression remained neutral at the way the Trandoshan bent down to grasp hold of the Zygerrian's ankle, before beginning to drag him towards the exit, intent clear. Both the Zabrak and the mysterious individual present left to table to follow, clearly intending to join in on whatever the Trandoshan had planned. Ahsoka hoped that they wouldn't kill him, despite his behaviour. She didn't want to be responsible for that, even indirectly.

When the Trandoshan and his new allies had left the bar with their captive Zygerrian, the barkeep spoke up.

"Ok everyone, show's over. Go back to enjoying your drinks and whatnot. I gotta go order another damn Sabacc table."

Moving across the cantina and towards the barkeep himself, Ahsoka placed down the winnings that she had accumulated in the game of Sabacc as an offering.

"Here. Use this to buy a new one. Sorry about that as well. Didn't expect a fight to break out."

The barkeep took the offer with a warm smile, thanking her in the process and giving her a free drink to replace the one that was now splashed on the floor by the ruined Sabacc table.

"Don't worry about it. Here on Nal Hutta, it'd be weird if there wasn't a fight going on. Just glad a sleemo like that is out of my establishment."

At that the barkeep left his post to deal with another customer, leaving Ahsoka alone again with a drink, and no closer to her goal.

"You and me both." Ahsoka spoke to herself as she sipped her drink, enjoying the taste of the fruity liquid.

"Count me in as well. That guy was a right nerfherder."

The voice caught Ahsoka by surprise, as did the sudden appearance of an individual leaning against the bar beside her, blue eyes focused entirely on her. Turning her head, Ahsoka found herself face to face with a female Twi'lek, skin as golden as the sun above Coruscant.

The Force sang to her suddenly in victory, pointing out the conclusion that Ahsoka had already come to herself.

It appeared that her goal had somehow been fulfilled after all.

Chapter Text

If someone had told Ahsoka that, one day, she would be involved in a highly important missions involving the gathering of intel via the use of her charm, she would have never of believed them in a million years. As far as Ahsoka knew she had no charm… at least none that she used on purpose!

And yet still, somehow she had ended up in just such a situation, one where she would now have to use all of her supposed 'charm' to win over this Twi'lek and hopefully extract enough information from her to point her towards her objective!

It was times like these that Ahsoka really wished she had Obi-Wan around to help. He'd of charmed the whole damn cantina by now!

"I don't think nerfherder is cruel enough term for someone like him." Ahsoka replied, wincing internally at the bitter tone of her voice.

'Are you trying to scare her off?' The voice in her head whispered, tone sardonic.

"Yeah, you're probably right. That's the sort of person that not even a Sarlacc would digest. It'd just throw him up instead." The Twi'lek spoke in response, humour in her own voice as she signalled to the bartender with a wave of her hand, eyes never leaving Ahsoka's face, a wide smirk present all the while.

Glad that her response hadn't scared her best lead away, Ahsoka returned the smirk, hoping that whatever she was doing was right.

"I gotta say though, that was a nice game of Sabacc you played, even before that little incident at the end. Not very often I see a Togruta in here. Your people are usually more reclusive than most."

"Yeah, well I'm a special sort of Togruta. Not like the rest." Ahsoka responded to the Twi'lek, pleased to see the way her smile brightened suddenly, if not flirtatiously.

'Showtime Ahsoka.' Her mind whispered again. Despite Ahsoka wishing she didn't have to, she knew from Ventress' words that the only way to get the Twi'lek to divulge any information would be the play the game of seduction, no matter how uncomfortable it made her.

"That much I can see. Custom Mando armour huh? Looks good on you. Bet it cost a fortune?" The Twi'lek continued, shifting closer to Ahsoka until she was standing side by side with her. Whether or not that was so she could hear Ahsoka better over the sound of the cantina music and patrons, or for some other reason, Ahsoka didn't know, she was just glad the woman wasn't all over her personal space.

At least not yet. Ahsoka shuddered at the thought. Hopefully it wouldn't go that far.

"It cost a fair amount, but worth every credit." Ahsoka replied as the bartender approached with a drink that looked a lot like her own, offering it to the Twi'lek.

Seizing the opportunity to hopefully get into her good books, Ahsoka payed for the drink herself, throwing another smile at the Twi'lek in the process.

"Well then," the Twi'lek spoke, gently picking up her glass with nimble fingers and bringing it to her lips to taste, "Aren't you a sweetheart. Got a name? Mine is Iena."

Glad that she had thought ahead and planned to not use her real name if asked, Ahsoka replied.

"I'm Ashla."

"Ashla huh? Doesn't that translate to 'The Light' in various cultures? Fitting really." Iena replied, moving her glass towards Ahsoka and gently tapping them together, the liquids within gently jostling at the contact.

"So I've heard. Does 'Iena' mean anything in Twi'lek culture?" Ahsoka inquired, hoping that the line of questioning would be one that kept Iena around long enough for Ahsoka to get the info she needed.

Iena shook her head, looking around with a scowl on her face before leaning close to Ahsoka. The Twi'lek was only slightly taller than the Togruta, unless you counted the Montrals, which would have brought them to even height. Even so, Iena seemed to have no issue with speaking face to face.

"It's too noisy over here. I've got a private booth in a side room. Come join me and I'll answer all of your questions, that is if you answer all of mine."

Ahsoka had to stop herself from freezing up or jolting in any way. She hadn't expected it to be that easy to gain the favour of Iena.

"Sure. I'd appreciate the quiet. All this music is making my montrals ache." Ahsoka answered, smiling at Iena in a way she hoped was friendly and welcoming, though not too welcoming! She didn't want Iena to get the wrong idea.

"Tell me about it, The vibrations do my lekku in!" Iena raised her voice slightly as she pulled back from being close to Ahsoka, gesturing for the Togruta to follow her.

Seeing it as her best option, Ahsoka followed, weaving through the crowds as she followed Iena, watching her lead the way.

The golden skinned Twi'lek sauntered in a way that suggested superiority over the rest, or was she flaunting her physical form to attract admirers? Ahsoka wasn't sure, and glad for that. Judging by the way some of the patrons in the bar where reacting when Iena passed them by, it was evidently the latter of Ahsoka's original inklings. The Togruta was glad that she wasn't having similar thoughts. She could see why people would deem Iena as attractive, but didn't feel anything like that on her end.

Ahsoka didn't know if that was a good sign or not… at least for the mission's sake.

Still, that didn't stop a rush of uncomfortable emotions flooding over her as Iena led her to a two seat couch in a private booth, one that was secluded enough from the rest of the cantina that no one would overhear anything, or see anything either.

Iena sat down first, motioning with the hand not holding her drink for Ahsoka to follow and sit next to her on the couch.

Seeing no alternative, Ahsoka moved to sit next to the Twi'lek who was slouched on her side, one leg tucked beneath the other, free hand fiddling with her glass in some sort of weird deliberation.

Sitting down in the free space next to Iena, not that there was much room left, Ahsoka brought her own drink to her lips to taste, her mind running through any possibility she could think of to get info from her. She supposed she could try a Jedi mind trick as a last resort. Until then all she could do was get her to talk.

"So, you live around here then? Not really a sort of place I'd associate someone like you with?" Ahsoka asked, hoping Iena wouldn't be offended by the sense of familiarity that Ahsoka was trying to get across. Ahsoka was of course fully aware of how unfamiliar she was with the Twi'lek, but if what Ventress had said was true then this was exactly the sort of behaviour Iena liked.

"Oh, I live nearby, and this place isn't that bad, especially when there's company like yours around." Iena replied, an evidently flirtatious smile on her face, one that made Ahsoka cringe internally. She really didn't like this part of the mission.

"What about you? Come from Shili? Kiros? Somewhere else?" Iena countered before Ahsoka could press her own line of discussion. Ahsoka supposed that was for the best. If she could make this whole thing as natural as possible then it would up her chances of getting the info she needed.

"Shili originally. Got captured by slavers when I was younger though. Escaped of course, and have been living life to the best of my abilities since then." Ahsoka explained, calling on memories of her childhood, from a time before the Jedi Order when a slaver posing as a Jedi had come to take her away. Who knew that one day such a thing would be a good cover story for her?

"You must be pretty skilled to escape from slavers, not that I'm surprised. There's a powerful aura about you Ashla." Iena replied, leaning forward ever so slightly, placing her glass on the table in front of the couch in the process. Ahsoka breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment then she thought that Iena was going to…

Ahsoka shuddered again at the thought. The sooner this was over the better.

"I'm sure you've met more interesting people than me in this cantina." Ahsoka replied, employing a despondent tone to see what Iena's response was.

"Oh I've met plenty of interesting people, but there is something different about you. Something familiar."

At that Ahsoka tensed. She was sure she had never encountered this woman before in her life, yet something about Ahsoka was familiar to her. Perhaps she had heard of Ahsoka's trial. Her mugshot had been all over the news. Or perhaps it was her war exploits that had reached the ears of the cantina.

Either way, there was a good chance that Ahsoka's mission was now compromised.

Throwing caution to the wind, Ahsoka brought her free hand up in front of Iena's face, palm facing towards her eyes and spoke softly.

"You will tell me if you have spoken to a Mirialan female recently."

Ahsoka hadn't wanted to use a Jedi mind trick, not if she didn't have to. But with the chance that her disguise had been rumbled, she had to take the last possible chance she had to learn any information she could, or else she would be back to square one.

"That's not gonna work on me I'm afraid. Can't mind trick another Force user."

The words from Iena's mouth couldn't have been more surprising to Ahsoka. She had known there was a chance Iena could resist the mind trick, but not for the reason she had stated!

"I take it then that you are the mysterious ex-Jedi that the 'Nightsister' warned me about. She said you were looking for some information." Iena continued, smirk not leaving her face despite Ahsoka's attempt at mental influence.

"You can use the Force? How come I couldn't sense you?" Ahsoka inquired, forgetting about the mission and mention of Ventress for a brief moment.

"I was a Jedi once too, but the Council don't like the advertise their failures." Iena replied, leaning back on the couch and nursing her drink once again, eyes lost in thought, clearly reliving a painful past.

"What happened?" Ahsoka couldn't help but question, suddenly finding herself connected to the Twi'lek in a way she hadn't previously envisioned. It sounded like they were both Council rejects.

"Broke the code. Got exiled." Iena replied, shrugging her shoulders in the process, head lowered slightly, a small smile on her face in a nostalgic way.

"What were you exiled for?" Ahsoka continued, hoping she wasn't being intrusive. She was genuinely interested in why Iena had been removed from the Jedi Order, and how she had ended up out on Nal Hutta of all places.

Iena laughed suddenly, the smile on her face faltering briefly before she lifted her head and locked eyes with Ahsoka.

"My Master and I, we were inseparable. Together we made one hell of a team, fighting pirates, solving crimes in Coruscant's underbelly. When we weren't out of the Temple on missions we spent all of our time together, be it day or night. The Council called it attachment, but we didn't care." Iena began, eyes again lost in memory's that warmed Ahsoka in an odd way. Iena's description of her Master reminded Ahsoka of Anakin in a way, and the way they had bonded.

"And then one day it all went wrong, and I… I couldn't save her. In my grief I told the Council everything. Everything we had done together, everything that we were, all things that we should never have done… and they expelled me for it. I left willingly. Never looked back because there was nothing left for me to look back to." Iena finished up surprisingly quickly, skipping over the more painful details of what sounded like her Master's demise. Ahsoka knew that such an event must have been hard to experience. She was glad nothing like that had ever happened to her and Anakin.

"I'm sorry for your loss." Ahsoka said, hoping her offer of simple platitudes was enough. She no longer cared about extracting information from Iena in any way. The woman was clearly broken inside, yet surviving by sheer willpower. Ahsoka didn't want to hurt her more.

"What about you then? Why'd you leave?" Iena's expression changed from despair to interest in a blink of an eye as she leaned slightly closer, resting her weight against Ahsoka's. It wasn't an uncomfortable position for Ahsoka, but she was still wary.

Still, the woman had expressed her reasons for leaving without hesitation. Ahsoka felt like she owed the truth in return.

"There was a terrorist attack at the Temple. A bombing. I was framed and put on trial. The culprit turned out to be one of my closest friends, but when push came to shove no one aside from my Master believed in me. The Council offered to reinstate me, but I couldn't trust them anymore. So I walked away and abandoned my Master."

Iena didn't reply instantly, but instead considered Ahsoka's words, as if trying to put herself in her boots. Looking back now, Ahsoka was sure that leaving had been the right choice for herself. Whether or not it was the right choice for Anakin was still up for debate. She had left him in a nest of deceit and distrust. She wanted to be there for him, but she couldn't have stayed. Anakin said he understood; that he supported her choice.

Was he telling the truth? Or merely saying he accepted for her sake?

"Were you and your Master close?" Iena finally spoke, eyes soft and welcoming, a far cry from the seductive gleam that Ahsoka had seen radiating out of them earlier.

"Yeah, he's my best friend. He taught me how to survive."

"Good. More Jedi need to teach their students to survive rather than follow some strict code." Iena replied, taking another small sip of her now half empty glass. "And for what's it's worth I think I would have made the same choice."

Glad that someone else supported her decision, even with the bare minimum context of what had happened, Ahsoka nodded her head in appreciation, taking a sip of her own drink.

A peaceful companionship settled in between the two as they watched the cantina, surveying the patrons as they wandered around and mingled with one another. Ahsoka found it odd that a cantina on Nal Hutta seemed to have a better atmosphere than the ones on Coruscant. Perhaps the centre of Republic power was not as civilized as she thought.

"So, I take it you are here looking for your friend then? The one that framed you? She escaped didn't she?" Iena spoke softly, understanding on her face, something that confused Ahsoka. She had never said anything about looking for someone.

It was then that Ahysoka realized. She had said something about looking for someone! She had tried to mind trick Iena ... and in doing so had revealed her hunt for Barriss.

'Good one Ahsoka. Getting a bit forgetful in your old age are you?' Her mind mocked, causing Ahsoka to scowl at her own foolishness.

"A Mirialan female yes? Greenish skin? Diamond tattoos on her face? Blue eyes?"

The effortless description that Iena gave only demonstrated to Ahsoka that she had seen Barriss. That meant there was a good chance she was still nearby.

"Yes, that sounds exactly like her. Can you tell me where she is?" Ahsoka replied, choosing not to tell Iena about the fact that she worked for the Chancellor, and that her mission was to bring Barriss in, or eliminate her if necessary.

"Yeah, I can, but first things first, I want to know what you plan to do. Are you going to kill her?" Iena spoke, expression serious for the first time since Ahsoka had met her. Ahsoka could tell Iena was challenging her, trying to force the truth of her intended actions out of her before deciding whether or not to tell her Barriss' location.

The only problem was that Ahsoka herself was unsure what she was going to do. She didn't want to kill Barriss, or even harm her. She was better than that. She wasn't Barriss Offee.

"I just want to talk to her, find out why she did what she did. I've got no ill will against her despite everything she did." Ahsoka replied, partly telling the truth. She did want to know why Barriss had done what she had done rather than come talk to her about her problems. Perhaps all of this could have been avoided.

Perhaps it wasn't too late to help her.

"If you just want to talk then I understand. Once again, in your shoes I'd want answers. She's renting an apartment two blocks away. Three story building. Can't miss it. Bit of a dingy place but cozy enough. Good place to disappear." Iena replied, hesitating at the start before committing to the explanation. Ahsoka was glad Iena wasn't going to stop her.

But still, she did have one more question she wanted an answer to.

"How do you know where she is? Did she come speak to you?" Ahsoka asked, finishing off her drink after speaking, awaiting Iena's response.

"She was here, in this cantina. Like you I thought she was interesting, a lonely soul unsure of what to do next, in desperate need of comfort and reassurance. I took care of her for the night. That was only yesterday so chances are she is still at her rented room." Iena explained, a sad look on her face as she recalled the night.

"How exactly did you look after her?" Ahsoka asked, confused by Iena's explanation. It sounded an awful lot like…

Iena's risen eyebrows only confirmed Ahsoka's suspicions over what had happened. Ahsoka wasn't sure what to make of the new piece of information she had acquired. That didn't sound like Barriss at all!

Then again, maybe she had never really known Barriss to begin with.

"It's not as bad as it sounds Ashla. She just needed some comfort for the night. I know what that's like." Iena's explanation didn't help clear Ahsoka's mind either. Barriss was not acting like the person Ahsoka had once admired and had aspired to be like.

Instead she was acting as a lost soul of some kind, a soul that was perfectly willing to harm others in the process.

Pushing aside her internal conflict, Ahsoka returned her thoughts to the mission at hand. Finding Barriss.

"You said a three story building. What room number am I looking for?"

"Room 212. At least that's where she was the other night. Unless she's already left she should be there or in the area." Iena replied as Ahsoka pushed herself up from the couch, Iena moving to join her.

"Thanks. I appreciate the help." Ahsoka replied, allowing a genuine smile to come to her face, one that was reciprocated.

"My pleasure. Good luck with your friend. Try not to do anything rash. We may have both left the Jedi Order, but we should still strive not to become what we hate most, especially in dark times like these." Iena replied, her voice suddenly soft and wise, a far cry from the tone earlier that Ahsoka would have called seductive. It was as if she had suddenly reverted back into being a Jedi.

"I'll keep that in mind. Good luck Iena." Ahsoka said, watching as Iena began to move into the crowd of the cantina, her persona shifting back to her prior one.

Seconds later she had vanished from sight, leaving Ahsoka with little to do but begin to head towards the cantina's exit.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Rather than head straight to the apartment block that Iena had mentioned, Ahsoka detoured back to the 'Huntress' first instead. If she was going to face Barriss, and bring her in for questioning, or worse, get into a fight with her, she could very well use some help.

Luckily for her, she had someone with her who would more than hold their own in any sort of fight against Barriss Offee.

"Um… 'Temple Guard'?" Ahsoka called throughout the interior of her ship, cringing at the use of a title as a name. Why couldn't he just tell her his true name and save them both the hassle and awkwardness?

"Tano. You have something?" The Temple Guard appeared from nowhere, startling Ahsoka briefly before she regained her composure. Behind him Ahsoka could also see Thrawn, who had evidently returned from his scouting trip through the markets of Nal Hutta whilst she had been in the cantina. Judging by the despondent look on his face, Ahsoka assumed he had again found nothing of use to them, and was disappointed in himself for it.

"I have. Apparently Barriss was seen renting an apartment in a nearby three story building, likely with the money she got from selling that shuttle. You and I are going to go and pay her a visit whilst Thrawn stays with the ship. If she runs we might need to follow her." Ahsoka explained, nodding towards Thrawn in the back, his red eyes brightening suddenly with glee.

"I will have the ship on standby Agent Tano. Good luck to both of you."

With that Thrawn retreated to the cockpit of the 'Huntress' leaving Ahsoka alone with the Temple Guard, who was shuffling from side to side, impatience pulsating through the Force.

"You ready?" Ahsoka asked, unwilling to wait any longer, both for her sake and to keep her temperamental ally on her side as well.

"I have long since waited for this."

The Temple Guard's response did not fill her with much confidence in his mental stability, but nonetheless she turned around and began to lead the way to the building where Barriss had apparently been staying.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

It only took a few minutes before Ahsoka and her companion found the building in question. Just as Iena had said it was hard to miss, being the only three story building around. The Force gently hummed to Ahsoka, pointing her towards the entrance, willing her to go in and confront what she knew would be a difficult situation. It wasn't everyday that you ran into the person that tried to frame you for terrorism after all.

Still, the last thing she wanted was for the confrontation to turn violent. That meant she had to play this slow and diplomatically, something she was only partly used to. Being Anakin Skywalker's Padawan didn't leave much room for negotiation after all.

To make matters worse, her companion was clearly set on drawing blood. If he hadn't been wearing a helmet Ahsoka was sure she would see his teeth bared in rage, if he even had teeth. What species was he anyway?

"I assume an all out assault is out of the question?" The Temple Guard spoke first from where he and Ahsoka stood concealed in a dark alleyway across from the main entrance to the apartment complex. His tone was evidently sarcastic, but also testing, as if he was trying to see what sort of response Ahsoka would give to his borderline bloodlust.

"It is. Innocent people live in that building. We don't want them harmed." Ahsoka replied, glancing over at the Temple Guard's concealed face, hoping she was meeting his eyes.

"Offee has shown little consideration for innocent life recently. I suppose it would be best to maintain the moral high ground in that regard. What did you have in mind?" The Temple Guard's response was considerably less sarcastic this time around. In fact, it sounded almost sincere, as if he was beginning to doubt the brutal nature of his own attitude. It was clear he held some sort of personal vendetta against Barriss for her actions for some reason. What that was Ahsoka didn't know.

What she did know however was that if the situation did turn nasty and a fight did indeed break out then the Temple Guard would stop at nothing to eliminate Barriss. Having such a powerful ally on her side was both a relief to Ahsoka, and a concern. If he hurt innocents in the process…

"I do have a plan, and you aren't going to like it." Ahsoka answered before she could continue her train of thought any longer. Now was not the time for internal debates. They had a job to do, and every moment they wasted outside was one where Barriss could escape.

"Explain." The Temple Guard's voice was stern, something that Ahsoka fully expected. He wasn't going to like this plan one bit, but it was what she had to do. Se had to… no, needed to talk to Barriss.

That meant the Temple Guard couldn't be involved, not unless things turned violent.

"I'm going to go in alone and find her. Hopefully I'll be able to convince her to come with us peacefully. If not, and she makes it past me, I'll need you to wait outside and intercept her when she makes an escape attempt. You'll stall her long enough for me to catch up and apprehend her."

"And if she makes it past you but threatens innocents in the process?" The Temple Guard inquired, tilting his helmed head to one side, a clear challenge to Ahsoka's plan.

Taking a deep breath, and hating herself for her decision, Ahsoka replied.

"Then you've got my permission to do whatever is necessary to stop her from escaping again. Only kill if you have no other choice. I'm hoping to avoid bloodshed here if we can."

"Hmm, far more mercy than I would grant her in your place, but we shall do things your way Agent Tano. Comm me if she escapes." The Temple Guard responded, slinking further back into the shadow of the alleyway, hidden from view but able to see everything.

Content that he understood that Ahsoka had to handle this herself the Togruta took a deep breath and began to head towards the entrance of the three story building.

The interior of the building was nothing too grad, much like the exterior, but Ahsoka could see what Iena had meant when she said it was in some ways 'cozy.

Still, she wouldn't turn down her exquisite apartment for a place like this anytime soon.

"Can I help you?" An elderly voice, one belonging to a Rodian who sat behind a desk as she entered said, eyes wide at the sight of a heavily armoured Togruta before him.

Since she already knew where she was going, thanks to Iena, Ahsoa simply raised a hand gently into the air, palm facing towards the Rodian, and spoke.

"I know where I am going."

"You know where you are going."

With that the Rodian returned to whatever menial task he had been doing before Ahsoka arrived, leaving the Togruta to move towards a flight of stairs unopposed.

The building itself was almost like a labyrinth, with endless hallways leading to multiple dead ends, and on occasion, a window to the outside world.

Despite the maze like structure however, Ahsoka soon found her way, the Force gently humming around her as she proceeded.

Despite only being feet away, Ahsoka still wasn't sure what she was going to say to Barriss. Should she just outright arrest her without discussion? Should she listen to whatever it was Barriss had to say to justify her attack on the Temple and Ahsoka herself?

Should she turn back now and pretend she had never found a lead of any kind? Tell the Chancellor that Barriss had escaped?

No idea seemed like the right one, and before Ahsoka could mentally deliberate any further, she found herself in front of the door to apartment 212.

The humming in the Force was the only clear thing in Ahsoka's head, the only thing guiding her as she gently reached a hand out towards the worn wooden door, before knocking three times.

'No going back now Ahsoka.' The voice in her head whispered, reminding Ahsoka of exactly what was about to happen, about who was possibly on the other side.

Ahsoka wanted to run! She wanted to turn and leave, pretend she never found Barriss at all. She could tell Palpatine that she felt she was too close to this task to complete it without her personal feelings getting in her way! Barriss was her friend… it wasn't right that she was the one hunting her. It should have been…

The door opened slowly, and Ahsoka found herself face to face with tired blue eyes, ones that flooded her with all manner of emotions.

And then she spoke.

"I knew you'd find me eventually."

Swallowing the air that had built up in her throat, Ahsoka replied.

"Hello Barriss."

Chapter Text

Anger?

Confusion?

Rage?

Despair?

Hatred?

Sorrow?

Pity?

Ahsoka didn't know which one she should feel. None of them seemed right, at least on their own, especially not when confronting the person who had caused her life to change in such a dramatic manner.

One one hand, Barriss Offee's actions had led to the shattering of any trust Ahsoka had in the Jedi Order, leaving her alone for the first time in over a decade.

On the other hand, Barriss' actions had also led her to a comfortable place in her life, serving Chancellor Palpatine, whilst owning an apartment in the most prestigious building on Coruscant, with plenty of credits to back it up.

How should she feel about that? Barriss had simultaneously ruined her life and put her on a new path to success and happiness. Should she be angry with Barriss? Want revenge for her crimes against her?

Or should she be grateful for it all? Ahsoka really didn't know, even as Barriss sighed softly, turning away from the threshold of the doorway and entering into the small apartment she had rented, leaving the door open for Ahsoka to follow.

Taking a deep breath Ahsoka moved into the small apartment, keeping her senses heightened in case of a trap. After their last encounter Ahsoka wouldn't put it past Barriss to try and ambush her again. This time she would be prepared.

"Nice place you're living in." Ahsoka quipped as she glanced around the apartment. It was nothing more than a single central room with a bathroom and bedroom attached to it. Nothing as spacious like Ahsoka's own apartment, but a good place to retreat to if needed.

Surveying the room Ahsoka spotted a small stove in one corner with a sink next to it. It wasn't exactly a great kitchen, but it would do for preparing small meals for one. In a way it sort of reminded Ahsoka of the small apartment she had rented on Coruscant while she was still working for Dex.

The central room was also home to several pieces of worn out furnishings. Several chairs sat around a wonky table only had three legs, and in the back sat a small holovision facing towards a badly torn leather couch.

All in all it was not a patch on her Coruscant apartment, something that Ahsoka was sorely missing right now. She'd give anything to be back in her bed enjoying the warmth and softness of it rather than be here confronting the person who made everything go so wrong.

"It's a far cry from the jail cell I was locked up in." Barriss' response was bitter, but not towards Ahsoka. It was as if her anger was directed elsewhere. Ahsoka could guess at who with ease.

"A jail cell that you escaped. You could have stayed put." Ahsoka countered, trying to keep her tone level, so as not to outright challenge Barriss. She was telling the truth when she had told the Temple Guard that she wasn't looking for a fight.

"I was going to. But then a squad of Commando droids showed up. They were going to execute me. The only way to survive was to run." Barriss explained, offering more detail to the events of the prison break than Ahsoka had beforehand. Barriss' words explained how Poggle and Tambor had managed to escape. Commando droids were not to be trifled with.

Still, that didn't justify stealing a ship and fleeing to Nal Hutta of all places.

"Why didn't you stay put after you'd escaped the droids then? Why'd you steal a ship and make off like a wanted fugitive rather than stay and face justice?" Ahsoka questioned, trying again not to sound too hostile. She didn't want to fight.

"I… I don't know why. It just didn't feel right."

"And bombing the Jedi Temple did? Framing me for a crime that nearly got me executed did?!" This time Ahsoka couldn't help the anger in her voice, especially not at the way Barriss had nonchalantly responded in the first place.

"You wouldn't have been executed. They didn't execute me. Besides, I'm sure Master Skywalker and his men would have broken you out if they'd found you guilty." Barriss began to reason, more with herself than with Ahsoka.

"We both know that neither of us believe that Barriss. Despite my years of service with them the 501st did nothing to help me during that sham. Rex even put out a damn order to hunt me down and capture me. Only Anakin and Senator Amidala believe in me, and despite his strength not even Anakin could have broken me out of such a heavily fortified facility. You left me there to die Barriss, and from the sounds of it did so without remorse."

Ahsoka knew her words were harsh, especially in relation to Rex and the 501st. She had forgiven them for their lack of support, just as she had forgiven Obi-Wan and Chancellor Palpatine as well.

But that didn't mean she had forgotten.

Barriss however had done nothing to help. She had in fact done the opposite and made everything worse.

And now she was trying to justify her escape… and convince herself that Ahsoka would have been ok if found guilty?!

Ahsoka didn't want to fight her… but the urge to knock Barriss out and take her back to Coruscant like that was beginning to grow inside of her.

"No I… I would have come and rescued you again!"

Again, Barriss' words were an attempt at self convincing. She didn't believe her own words, but it was all she had to go on. It was that or accept that she was a monster.

"Why did you do it Barriss? Why did you frame me of all people?" Ahsoka asked after taking a deep breath, pushing aside her desire to attack the Mirialan and take her back through force. She really didn't want a fight today.

"I, I didn't mean to Ahsoka. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If Letta had called someone different to her cell to talk it would have been them." Barriss began to reason, pacing back and forth in front of Ahsoka, hands writhing together in discomfort.

"Wrong place at the wrong time?! Are you seriously telling me that you'd have framed someone else as well? What if it had been Master Luminara that went to the cell? Or Master Windu? Would you have framed them as well?" Ahsoka replied, struggling to keep her voice level. The very idea of someone framing Master Windu for a murder, let alone the bombing of the Jedi Temple was absurd. No one would have believed it in a million years.

The same went for framing Luminara Unduli. Despite her strict adhesion to the Jedi code, the Mirialan master was kind and gentle, and would never do anything as obscene as murder innocents to send a message.

'But you were nothing but an outspoken Padawan to a mentor that was reckless himself. It would have been far easier to frame you!' Ahsoka's mind whispered to her darkly, sending a rush of anger through her body upon realizing how true that statement was. Ahsoka had been an easy target to frame, and she would have never predicted Barriss was the one setting her up.

Barriss had planned this to the very last detail. She knew exactly what she was doing all along, and exactly who she was framing.

She had to pay.

"I don't believe you Barriss. I think you saw an opportunity to use our friendship as a tool for your schemes."

"No! I didn't mean to hurt you Ahsoka. I was trying to show you…"

"Show me what Barriss?! That I couldn't trust you? That I couldn't trust anyone?"

"YES!"

Barriss yell in response was enough to make Ahsoka stop with her statements. Whereas before all of Barriss' words have been filled with hesitation and uncertainty, her outcry was vastly different. She was resolute, something that the Force backed up. Barriss had been trying to show Ahsoka something.

"I... I thought that…," Barriss began, moving across the apartment floor before leaning against a wall on the opposite end of the room to Ahsoka, one hand resting on her head, eyes looking everywhere apart from at Ahsoka.

"I thought that if I could show you what the Jedi had become... what the Republic had become…, I thought that I could save you before it was too late. Help you get away from the corruption and hypocrisy. I was just trying to help you." Barriss continued, words slow and despondent, clearly disgusted with her actions taken against Ahsoka.

"How does framing me for terrorism help me Barriss?" Ahsoka countered, voice calm once again, this time choosing to listen to Barriss' words rather than get angry. She didn't want to fight!

"I needed you to see Ahsoka! See what the Republic has become! They wanted to execute you! A teenage girl! That alone should show you what the Republic and the Jedi have become!"

If Ahsoka was being entirely honest with herself, she could see what Barriss meant, and she agreed that the Republic and the Jedi were failing not only the people they set out to support, but failing themselves as well. Ahsoka was no expert on history, nor did she have a strong grasp on politics, at least not enough to make an informed decision, but from where she was standing, from what she could see, Ahsoka would say that the days of the Republic and the Jedi Order were numbered unless they underwent some sort of radical change. Both entities had let the war change them to a point where they were unrecognizable to Ahsoka.

She only hoped that the Republic would be salvageable at the end of the conflict. With someone like Chancellor Palpatine in charge they at least stood a fighting chance at restoring things to the way they were.

But in the end it mattered little what Ahsoka thought. Her trial and abandonment by the Jedi Council had shown her that. For now she had a job to do, and it was a job given to her by one of the few people left who had given her a chance.

Sighing to herself, Ahsoka spoke, her voice calm and patient.

"I understand what you were trying to do Barriss. I just wished that you would have talked to me. Maybe we could have sorted this before it went too far."

"Talking wouldn't have helped Ahsoka. The Council, the Senate, all they do is talk all day and nothing gets resolved. I had to take action. I had to show them what they were, to show you what they were. I never meant you to get hurt Ahsoka. I was trying to protect you."

"Be that as it may Barriss, you still committed a heinous crime and people were killed. You can't run away from this. You're coming back with me to Coruscant whether you like it or not."

Barriss' demeanor shifted in an instant, the air around her feeling like it had dropped several degrees in temperature. Her eyes hardened suddenly, boring into Ahsoka's with a look she had never seen in the Mirialan before, one that chilled Ahsoka to the bone.

Her presence in the Force also changed, a rush of anger emerging suddenly, but held in restraint by a thin barrier, threatening to spill over at any moment.

Ahsoka knew she would have to choose her next words carefully, lest she lose control of the situation.

"I can't go back, Ahsoka. I won't!" Barriss spoke slowly, hands slowly clenching as she turned to face Ahsoka, all signs of shame and regret gone from her body. Her posture was one of confrontation, a sign that she was prepared to fight.

Well, so was Ahsoka.

"It's non-negotiable Barriss. By order of Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine, you are under arrest. Surrender peacefully."

Barriss' lips began to curl, exposing her teeth in a way that reminded Ahsoka of a predator. It was not something that she had ever expected to see from a Mirialan, whose race was more often than not known for being peaceful.

Then again, it was clear now that she didn't really know who Barriss was.

Reaching down to her belt, Ahsoka grasped hold of her lightsaber hilt, but didn't ignite it. She didn't want to resort to violence. She would only do so as a last resort.

Barriss remained motionless except for her eyes, which slowly followed the way Ahsoka's hand moved to grasp her lightsaber hilt, before raising her eyes to meet Ahsoka's once more. The normally peaceful blue eyes of Barriss Offee were a storm of emotions, emotions that Ahsoka had seen before in people like Anakin. He however had never meant harm to innocents, only those that deserved it.

Both Togruta and Mirialan stood, each waiting to see who would make the first move. Ahsoka was certain that Barriss was going to try and escape. All of her body language suggested so. If she did, then Ahsoka would pursue her. Nothing was going to stop her from bringing Barriss to justi…

In a split second Barriss moved, thrusting one hand forward, palm facing towards Ahsoka, whilst the other made a gesture to something on the far end of the room.

Ahsoka felt the Force crash into her as directed by Barriss, sending her body careening backwards into a nearby wall and leaving her slumped on her floor.

Groaning to herself, Ahsoka managed to raise her head fast enough to see Barriss vaulting over a table towards her, a sudden flash of blue light erupting from something in her hand.

Recognizing the blue light instantly, Ahsoka barely managed to grasp hold of her own lightsaber hilt to ignite it in time, bringing her golden blade up to block Barriss attempted lethal strike.

"Where did you get that?!" Ahsoka snarled, shocked to see that somehow Barriss had acquired a lightsaber.

Then again, she shouldn't have been surprised. Out here deep in Hutt territory, all sorts of things were sold on the black market, including lost lightsabers apparently.

"Mind your own business!" Barriss hissed in reply, bringing her blade back from the saberlock before twirling it in her hands and bringing it back down towards where Ahsoka was still sat on the floor.

Knowing that she didn't have the strength or the position to block such a strike, Ahsoka instead extinguished her own blade and threw her weight to the side, evading out of the way of the strike whilst simultaneously using the momentum from her movement to push herself to her feet.

Spinning on her heel, Barriss advanced towards Ahsoka with her blue blade in hand, poised to strike. Ahsoka knew that there would be no more negotiation. That meant she was going to have to do this the hard way, even if it hurt her to do so. She didn't want to fight… but it seemed she had no choice.

Igniting her own saber, Ahsoka entered into her favoured ready position, lightsaber falling into the familiar reverse grip she was comfortable with. The last time she had dueled Barriss she had been unprepared. Her opponent had been an unknown and she had been tired and sore.

This time however she was not, and she knew who she was dealing with.

Barriss clearly recognized this as well. Rather than attack, the Mirialan once again used the Force.

Several objects around the room, ranging from small plates and vases to larger items such as the holovision and even a spare chair suddenly came flying towards Ahsoka, forcing her to break off her focus on Barriss to find a way to evade.

The plates and vases were easy. The chair, less so.

Try as she may, once again Ahsoka found herself knocked back by Barriss' manipulation of the Force. However this time things differed.

Rather than attempt to strike at Ahsoka whilst she was down, the Mirialan spared a brief glimpse at Ahsoka as she began to push the chair off of her, before bolting out of the door.

"Damnit!" Ahsoka spat as she rose to her feet to follow Barriss. As she exited the now trashed apartment, Ahsoka brought her wristcomm up to her face.

"Temple Guard? Are you there? Barriss is making a run for it!"

"Copy." Was the only response she received, but that was good enough. Between the two of them they could hopefully take Barriss.

Still, it wouldn't hurt to have a backup plan.

"Thrawn? Do you copy?" Ahsoka spoke again as she rounded a corner, trusting her instincts that she was following the same route as Barriss.

"I am here Agent Tano. Have you encountered compl...copl...difficulties with your mission?"

"I had her cornered but she ran Thrawn. I need you to prep the 'Huntress'. For all we know she might have another ship hidden somewhere. This could turn into a bit of a pursuit."

"I have been trying to find an excuse to test my piloting skills in such a situation. I shall warm up the ship now." Came Thrawn's reply, an edge of excitement in his tone. Ahsoka wished she felt the same. There was nothing exciting about pursuing one of your closest friends turned traitor.

Following her instincts, Ahsoka ran through the hallways of the apartment complex, hoping that she was on the right track. Barriss had a headstart for sure, but she was outnumbered.

Turning another corner, Ahsoka saw a blur edge round another corner up ahead. The Force sang encouragement to her, so Ahsoka pushed on.

"Barriss! Stop running!" Ahsoka called out, knowing that it was in vain but trying nonetheless. Barriss wasn't going to stop for her, not by choice.

As Ahsoka dashed round the corner she had seen Barriss disappear at, she finally saw just how close she was to catching up to the Mirialan.

Barriss stood at the end of a long hallway, in front of a large window that overlooked the streets of Bilbousa below. She was at a dead end.

Slowing to a walk, Ahsoka reignited her own lightsaber, moving the blade to protect her body just in case Barriss tried anything else.

The Mirialan glanced back and forth between Ahsoka and the window, clearly contemplating what the best course of action would be.

It didn't take long for Barriss to decide, as evidenced by the way her own acquired lightsaber flashed into existence, bathing her in a bright blue hue of light.

"Don't follow me Ahsoka. Turn back now."

With that, Barriss pivoted on her heels and slashed at the window, cracking the glass to allow her to pass through it easily.

By the time Ahsoka's legs had carried her to the now broken window, she was able to catch a glimpse of Barriss landing in a perfect roll, before sprinting off down the street.

Bracing herself, Ahsoka too vaulted out of the now open window, landing comfortably thanks to the Force cushioning her fall, before breaking into a sprint after Barriss, not caring if anyone around her saw. Her goal was to catch Barriss. She didn't care what others thought she was doing.

The streets of Bilbousa were like a maze to the unprepared, and made even worse by the fact that Ahsoka was currently involved in a high speed on foot chase through the streets. Every corner she turned, every alleyway she slipped through made her feel more and more lost. Were it not for the Force guiding her, Ahsoka would have given up by now.

But the Force pressed her on, encouraging her to take a specific route to find Barriss. If the Force thought she was on the right course, who was Ahsoka to argue with it.

Another minute of seemingly blind pursuit later and Ahsoka finally caught a glimpse of Barriss, as did another individual.

From the rooftops a figure pounced, twin yellow blades erupting from the saber staff he held as it was thrown through the air towards where Barriss was headed, hilt rotating with terrifying velocity.

The Mirialan clearly sensed the incoming attack, pivoting on her heels mid run, her own blue blade coming up to deflect the thrown saberstaff, knocking it harmlessly to the ground.

"Barriss! Stop!" Ahsoka called out as she spotted the Mirialan once again break into her own run, this time headed towards a large set of doors, one that by the looks of it led to a set of landing pads.

Barriss darted through the doorway, before turning and raising her hands, channeling the Force.

Seconds later the large doors slammed shut, sealing out both Ahsoka and the newly arrived Temple Guard, who had summoned his own saber back into his hand, one side ignited.

Understanding what his intentions were, Ahsoka ignited her own lightsaber, plunging it into the door before her. Beside her the Temple Guard did the same, the two of them working in unison to create an entrance. It reminded Ahsoka of her time with Anakin. They had done similar things in the past after all.

Half a minute of precision cutting later and a rectangular section of the doorway broke off, falling backwards and creating an opening for them both, one that the Temple Guard immediately seized upon.

Having no choice but to follow, Ahsoka stepped through the hole and continued the pursuit.

Upon passing through however Ahsoka could see she was already too late.

A pair of Rodians lay sprawled on the floor clutching stumps of their arms, a clear sign of lightsaber wounds likely inflicted by Barriss. Ahsoka felt a rush of disgust build up inside her at the thought of Barriss hurting more people, possibly even killing them!

She had to be stopped.

"YOU COWARD!" A roar of anger came from the Temple Guard, drawing Ahsoka's attention to the unexpected situation that was before her.

The Temple Guard was stood with both arms out, his signature in the Force one of fury and concentration as he tried to keep something in place with great difficulty.

What he was trying to keep in place turned out to be a small one person shuttle, one that Barriss had clearly stolen.

And one that now had a pair of cannons pointed directly at the Temple Guard.

"No!" Ahsoka cried as she darted towards the Temple Guard, barrelling into him and forcing them both to the ground just as the cannons fired on the spot where the Temple Guard had previously been stood. Had he still been standing there when the shots hit their target…

Despite the sudden impact, the Temple Guard recovered quickly, vaulting back to his feet and reaching for a small device on his belt, before reaching his arm back and throwing whatever it was towards the shuttle Barriss had stolen.

Ahsoka glanced up in time to see the small device latch onto the shuttle before it began to gain altitude, no doubt headed for orbit. Chances were the shuttle had a hyperdrive, and that could lead them to losing their target.

The Temple Guard however seemed remarkably content with that, as evidenced by the way he turned his attention towards Ahsoka instead of the now departing shuttle.

Gloved hands came down to offer Ahsoka a hand up, one that she happily accepted.

"Thanks." The Togruta said, a small smile on her face despite the defeat.

"I should be the one saying that. You likely saved my life."

Nodding her head, Ahsoka brought her commlink up to her lips and began to speak.

"Thrawn! Barriss made it to a shuttle and is trying to escape!"

Thrawn's response was instantaneous.

"I spotted." The Chiss replied as the sudden presence of the 'Huntress' hung over the landing pad, rear ramp lowered to allow the two Force users to jump aboard. Reaching into the Force, both Ahsoka and the Temple Guard pushed themselves off of the ground, landing on the tip of the ramp with ease before heading inside, both headed towards the cockpit.

Traversing a ship this small whilst the pilot sharply pulled it upwards into the sky was never an easy task, and more than once Ahsoka felt her balance wobble and nearly falter. The Temple Guard too appeared to be struggling to move through the small hallway of the shuttle during Thrawn's evident pursuit of Barriss, his hands held out to grasp the bulkhead as he moved.

Despite the struggle, both Force users made it to the cockpit without injury, and just in time to witness Thrawn bring the 'Huntress' out of Nal Hutta's atmosphere and into orbit.

Taking her place in the co-pilot seat, the Temple Guard moving to stand behind her, Ahsoka spoke.

"Where is she?"

"Up ahead. I am in pursuit as we speak Agent." Thrawn replied, gesturing with one hand out of the window before them. In the distance Ahsoka could see the small ship that Barriss had stolen, heading further and further away from Nal Hutta with each passing moment.

She couldn't be allowed to escape! Ahsoka wouldn't let her! Not when she had been so close!

"She is powering up her hyperdrive!" The Temple Guard's voice boomed from behind Ahsoka, nearly making the Togruta jump out of her skin. Focusing her eyes on the small ship ahead, Ahsoka saw that the Temple Guard's words were true.

A low blue pulsating energy was emanating from the rear of the stolen ship, a telltale sign of an aftermarket hyperdrive, one that had been installed on the ship in a hurry. There was just as much chance that it would explode as it would be successful. In a way, if it did explode, Ahsoka's mission would be resolved.

Still, she didn't want that, not if she could avoid it. Barriss might have attacked her and tried to kill her again, but she hadn't lost hope of her friend coming in peacefully, not yet at least.

'What sort of friend tries to kill you more than once… or at all for that matter!' The voice in Ahsoka's head whispered. The Togruta knew that it was right of course. Barriss wasn't going to come peacefully… not anymore.

It would require force to bring her in. Ahsoka just hoped it wouldn't have to be lethal force.

"She is going to escape! Shoot her Chiss!" The Temple Guard roared again, fury in his voice.

"Patience my friend. Perhaps the hyperdrive will malfunction." Came Thrawn's response, his beady red eyes staring out the cockpit window with great focus.

Moments later, there was a shudder where the stolen ship floated in space, before it promptly vanished before them.

"Ah… clearly not then. Blast."

The Temple Guard's response to Thrawn was nothing more than a guttural growl from deep within his throat, before he turned and began to move towards the terminal in the back of the cockpit, taking a seat and inserting something into a socket in the process.

"You are lucky that I was able to attach a tracker to the ship then." The Guard responded, finally explaining his earlier actions. Ahsoka had a suspicion as to what the small device had been, but there hadn't been time to ask for an explanation.

Now however it looked like the Guard had saved the day with his forward thinking.

"Yes, I suppose that is lucky. I was going to extrapolate her possible destinations through fuel and flight plan data. Besides, we will not know where she is going until she exits hyperspace." Thrawn spoke, a hint of ire in his tone.

"Yes but for now we can follow her. If we waited and analyzed we would not be able to follow the trail immediately!"

"True, though if we can isolate her possible destinations based on ship design and fuel consumption then we can predict where she will end up and arrive ahead of her. This ship is more powerful than the one Offee has stolen."

"But again, your plan leaves us with multiple options. What if you chose planet A, but she goes to planet B! We will have lost the trail completely!"

"Then it is a good thing you have put a tracker on the ship as well, unless she discovers and removes it, of course."

"Why you….."

"Hey! Focus you two! If you're going to argue like this I'll leave you both on Nal Hutta." Ahsoka chose that moment to interrupt, tired of the argument that had seemingly arisen from nowhere. The Temple Guard was clearly frustrated that Barriss had escaped once again, and wanted to take immediate action, a direct contrast the Thrawn's more reserved and thought out approach.

"My apologies Agent Tano. What plan should we follow?" Thrawn apologized first, his red eyes focused on her blue ones in a calm and collected manner, another stark contrast to how the Temple Guard was currently feeling.

Both plans had their strengths and weaknesses, most of which had already been revealed during the argument between her companions. Both plans could lead to them finding Barriss. However both could equally lead to the trail going cold.

Whatever they were going to do, they had to do it fast.

"Temple Guard, can you upload the data on the tracker to the 'Huntress'' systems?" Ahsoka inquired, formulating a plan in her mind that would hopefully appease both of her companions.

"Of course I can!" The Guard's response was one that sounded affronted by such a question, frustration rolling off of him through the Force as he fidgeted in his seat.

"Then do so. When the data comes through Thrawn I want you to plot a course that follows any trail she leaves. Extrapolate what information you can and where she could possibly go. It might just give us an edge over her."

"It will be done Agent Tano." Thrawn replied, turning his attention back to the screen before him as the data from the tracker came through. Instantly his hands began to move across the consoles before him, inputting flight plan data into the nav computer and powering up the hyperdrive.

Content that everything was in hand Ahsoka rose to her feet and approached the Temple Guard, gesturing with a hand to follow her. The Guard tilted his head to one side in a questioning look before he stood from his chair and followed her.

Exiting the cockpit and leaving Thrawn to his own devices, Ahsoka moved through the shuttle with the Temple Guard following her.

Moving through the ship they eventually reached a small cabin that Ahsoka had claimed as home for longer trips such as this one. She needed somewhere to rest after all.

Entering the cabin, Ahsoka turned to watch the Temple Guard move inside as well, before she closed the door and spoke.

"Look, I get that you're angry that she escaped, but we need to work together here. I won't have a fight on my ship between allies."

At her comment the Temple Guard chuckled, his voice modulated underneath his helmet, but full of humour nonetheless. Clearly whatever anger he had been feeling at Thrawn had already vanished. Surely that was a good sign?

"It's not everyday that someone younger than me chastises my actions. You've got some courage Tano, but in this instance you are correct. I apologize for my behaviour, and will do so to the Lieutenant as well."

"I'm glad to hear it. Sorry if that came across as a bit lecturey." Ahsoka replied, taking a seat on the cot she had laid out for herself.

"No need. My anger at Offee's actions and escape should be reserved for Offee alone." The Guard spoke, leaning back against the wall opposite the cot where Ahsoka now sat, one hand coming up to brush some unseen dust off his shoulder pads.

Ahsoka had to admit that the Temple Guard before her was a bit of an enigma. During the brief visit Palpatine and herself had made to the Jedi Temple earlier he had seemed like a levelheaded, if not slightl