UNKNOWN, Deep Core
Darth Tyranus, more commonly known as Count Dooku of Serenno was feeling what could charitably be called trepidation as he stared out from his quarters on the Invisible Hand into the tumultuous hyperspace void before him.
It had been a month ago when he had felt it—when he presumed that all Force Sensitives had felt it—a great disturbance echoing through the force, precariously close to the Galactic Centre—further into the Deep Core than was safe to travel.
The Deep Core was home to some thirty billion of the galaxy's oldest stars, and at its centre was a super massive black hole surrounded by antimatter and clusters of stars that were only a hundredth of a light year apart. In some areas the stars were in such tight formation that they would collide and rip the cores from one another, reshaping and forming into new celestial bodies.
It made Hyperspace travel precarious at best. The Mass Shadows generated from the stars here were unpredictable. Due to the vast number of stars and prominence of dark matter, local space-time was severely warped. Relying on month old probe data was dangerous at best, suicidal at worst. It made progress slow.
Dooku had been in the Outer Rim in the midst of negotiating the withdrawal of several star systems from the Republic when he had felt the disturbance, and yet, even now he could feel the echo of the disturbance growing ever stronger as they approached the source despite the time that had passed.
Whether it was the will of the force or not to seek out the source of the disturbance, Dooku did not know, but his master had made it very clear that it was his will that it be found. Such was the strength of the disturbance.
There was a certain familiarity to with the disturbance, as Dooku got closer to the source it began to remind him of the devastation and death of large-scale battles, of entire star cruisers being destroyed, and their crew becoming one with the force. But though there was similarity it was not the same, it was too concentrated— too focused— and yet, so vastly deeper.
Dooku's musings were cut short as he felt the ship drop out of hyperspace. There was a brief moment of quiet and stillness before an all-encompassing light seared the Sith Lord's eyes. It only lasted for a brief moment before the phototropic properties of the transparisteel took effect and the large viewports that surrounded him became opaque.
Moments later a hologram of a droid appeared before Dooku from one of the many projectors situated around what had once been the sensor pod for the Invisible Hand, before he had occupied it.
"Sir, we have arrived at our destination," a synthetic voice said through the speakers.
Dooku's lips thinned out and an irritated glint appeared in his eyes. "Clearly," he said.
"Modified Ray Shields are withstanding the intense solar radiation with minimal strain," he holographic droid stated. There was a pause and the droid looked to the side. "We are detecting no foreign bodies. With your permission we will begin redirecting power from the particle shield bolster ray shielding and extend the duration we can maintain our presence."
Dooku remained silent for a long moment before turning toward the throne near the middle of the observation deck and slowly walking over to it. "Very well," he said. "Do so, and begin scans to determine the cause of the…disturbance."
"Roger," the Droid in the hologram agreed before it flickered and vanished, leaving the once Jedi alone once more.
Dooku lowered himself upon his throne and laid his head back, resting it as he closed his eyes and began reaching out through the force, seeking out the source of the disturbance.
This matter had long since passed beyond the realm of professional curiosity. His master had been most insistent that he personally locate the source, insistent to the point of sending the flagship of the Confederacy of Independent Systems' fleet, the Invisible hand, into such perilous territory.
Which of course, he understood the need for. Beyond it being a Sith matter, and thus not something that could be relegated to the lesser, journeying this far into the core required a ship large enough, and a power core strong enough to hold back the immense radiation long enough to seek out the cause.
As the Count of Serenno fell into his trance, and his mind began to unfold, he began to notice something out of place. There was a presence nearby, something he hadn't felt before. It was illusive and impossible to catch, like trying to hold a shadow in the light.
Dooku lost track of time as he sat in his chair, trying to unravel the strange mystery set before him. But all too soon, he was stirred from his mediative trance by a synthetic voice.
"Sir, we have been unable to detect any planetoids, structures or ships in this sector. An hour of time has elapsed and our shielding is down to twenty percent." The voice hesitated for a moment. "Once shields drop below fifteen percent we will begin to sustain critical hull damage and be unable to jump into hyperspace."
The grey haired Sith Lord did not open his eyes "Focus scanning arrays on the starboard side of the ship, twelve degrees below the port bow. There is something there that cannot be felt by the force."
There was silence for some time before, "…Scans have returned positive results." Another brief period of silence. "It appears to be humanoid and organic in nature."
Dooku did not respond straight away. His eyes remain closed and his fingers began to rhythmically drum against the arm of his chair as he contemplated the new information.
It was… unexpected to say the least. He had theorized of many possibilities for what could have caused a disturbance that was felt from the very edges of the galaxy.
There had been detailed accounts of such galactic scale disturbances in the past, and every time one had been felt, it had been traced back to a significant loss of life, the most common form of which resulted from a star going supernova and wiping out the planets within its star system.
The standing theory had been that somehow, a planet had survived and gone undetected since the beginning of the Republic, hidden away within the depths of the Deep Core. It wasn't unheard of for life to appear, though it was extremely unlikely that any such civilizations had ever left their planet of origin.
"Bring it aboard," Dooku finally said, slowly opening his eyes.
There was a moment of silence.
"Sir, any ship we send out will be destroyed within seconds."
Another moment of silence passed, interspersed with the steady drum of Dooku's fingertips against his armrest as he considered the conundrum before him. In retrospect it was an oversight not to bring an advance ray-shielded ship via the docking bay. While it may not have been able to withstand the harmful Deep Core radiation for long, it would have been more than enough to retrieve something. The time it would take to modify one of the droid ships on board to withstand the severity of the solar winds was unfeasible. The ship would be destroyed before the job was finished.
The grey haired sith did not have to contemplate long.
"Manoeuvre the ship as to intercept the body with the hangar bay."
"Right away sir." The hologram vanished again.
It wasn't even a minute later that the hologram flickered into existence and Dooku's eyes immediately came to rest upon the droid depicted by it. "Body has been recovered and is being transferred to Deck 5 Medbay. With your permission we will now vacate the area, sir?"
Dooku remained in his seat, his expression pensive and his fingers absently tracing over the hilt of his Lightsaber. "Permission granted."
The hologram one again vanished and the utter silence in the observation deck that followed was almost as disconcerting as the presence that lingered at the edge of his mind.
The journey out of the Deep Core went significantly faster than the journey into it. It was a comparatively simple matter of retracing the ships path around the winding hyperspace corridors of mass shadows.
By the time Dooku deemed it appropriate to rise from his chair, the Invisible Hand had already departed the galactic core and was enroute to the shipyards of Sluis Van, deep in the heart of the Confederacy controlled space.
A turbo lift later followed by ten minutes of walking through the mostly empty corridors of the spaceship, Dooku found himself at the entry point to them where the droids had brought the unknown entity from the deep core.
The doors let out a hiss as they drew open and revealed the sterile metal interior of the medbay. The grey haired Sith Lord was given pause as he found himself staring into a room devoid of the corpse he had expected. Dooku's gaze swept through the modest sized room, over the various operating tables. His eyes came to rest upon the far end, where a series of large transparent tanks were set.
In front of one such tank stood a 2-1B surgical droid—that bore a striking resemblance to a robotic skeleton—diligently monitoring the apparatus before it, inside of which floated the sole focus of this entire expedition. Dooku crossed the medbay toward the tanks, his footsteps echoing in a room filled with naught but the irregular beeps of medical machines.
As Dooku got closer, and closer, he found himself standing before the source of the galaxy wide disturbance in the force. The sense of foreboding and wrongness that he had been experiencing amplified with each step he took. However, despite his discomfort, Dooku was not cowed.
Throughout his tenure as a Jedi he had seen things, many nightmarish things born of the primordial chaos that spurned the galaxy into being. Creatures that would have brought a lesser mind to ruin. Compared to the eldritch monstrosities he had borne witness to, such unpleasantness was trifling.
Especially when the source was, to put it in simple terms, mundane. The creature before him was decidedly… human in appearance, though, for the galaxy at large that definition was rather broad in its scope, from its pale flesh, to the thick strands of dark hair that floated listlessly atop its head inside the liquid filled tank.
The Sith Lord's eyes roamed over the naked form inside the tank, categorically studying every inch for something odd, or out of place. The largest of which was the distinct lack of evident damage from the significant cosmic radiation it had been bombarded with or the vacuum of space that it had been found in.
An impossibility in and of itself that he contemplated as he began to take note of the scars upon the body before him.
A large round puncture wound on the right upper forearm, no doubt made by the fang of a beast of significant size. A long thin slice upon the other arm as well as more puncture wounds, this time smaller, close together.
Upon the humanoids chest there was another mark, though it wasn't scar as much as it was a burn. The placement set it over the owners' heart, though it, like the others, was faded.
The last two noticeable marks upon the corpses flesh came in the form of a scrawl upon the back of one of its hands—though it had the intricacies of a language, Dooku could not recognize its origin— and the very last, he had almost missed.
A thin, faded, jagged scar reminiscent of lightning upon its temple that seemed otherwise innocuous.
"Why did you put the body in a Bacta tank?" Dooku asked suddenly as the thought occurred to him. His gaze drifted from the body in front of him to the surgical droid in front of it.
The motor servos of the droid whirred as it turned its skeletal head toward him. "To heal," it responded.
There was little to no point in putting a dead body inside a Bacta tank. Bacta was a panacea, certainly and was capable of curing any type of ailment or injury—even ones that were potentially fatal, if administered in time. But it did not have the ability to cure death itself.
Dooku looked down to the medical display outlining the various biometrics of the body inside the tank. A prominent part of the display included a very obvious, very flat heartrate of zero.
Yet, Dooku found himself given pause. It wouldn't have been the only impossibility that the body presented, a far lesser one than the others. While there were not many, there was a few species who did had no need of a heart to function and live. As far as the Sith Lord knew, however, none of them were humanoid in nature, much less distinctly human.
"Is it alive?" Dooku asked finally, turning his gaze to the droid beside him.
"It is dead."
Dooku felt a spark of impatience. "Why is it in the Bacta tank if it is dead?"
"It needs to heal."
"How can it heal if it is dead?"
The surgical droid froze as it attempted to process the question and failed. The lights in its eyes flickered and then died away as it shut down, only to turn back on as it rebooted. "I apologise, I seem to have suffered an unexpected malfunction," it said. "What was the question?"
Dooku found himself perturbed by the droids response to his question. There was a brief moment where Dooku considered repeating the question, before deciding against it. Clearly, there was something wrong with the droid and yet… something was fundamentally wrong with the body before him. The force told him that it was not there, and did not—should not—exist.
"What has the medscan revealed?"
The surgical droid was still for a moment, before it turned toward the Bacta tank and brought up an array of information on one of the displays.
"Subject is base human, male—biological age indeterminate. Genetic markers do not match any known planet within planetary database."
Dooku frowned once more. That the body could not be traced to a planet within the known galactic community, was not a surprise. He had suspected as much. Once more his gaze was drawn to the pale body before him. That the droid could not determine the age was a curiosity at best.
Dooku would surmise that the body was barely beyond the age of responsibility of some of the core worlds. There was a certain youth about it, even in death.
There was a sudden stillness within the tank. The body's hair, which floated listlessly, froze, and as it did, there was a sudden sense of all-encompassing emptiness as the sense of foreboding and wrongness that permeated the corpse suddenly vanished.
The heart monitor attached to the tank began to beep.
A pair of vivid green eyes stared out at him from within the tank.
For the first time in a long time, Ahsoka Tano could say she was almost content. It had been a month since she had been put on trial before the galactic community for treason and sedition against the Galactic Republic, and it was only thanks to a timely intervention by her once master—Anakin Skywalker, that she had survived.
A month since the Jedi Order had turned its back on her in her darkest hour. A month since they had striped her of her rank and offered her up to the Senate as a sacrificial lamb to which she, after being exonerated, turned her back upon them and left the only life she had ever known.
She had thought that walking away from the temple had been the hardest thing she would ever have had to do.
To date, it still was.
Unfortunately, surviving on Coruscant had quickly proven to be a challenge in and of itself.
It had never occurred to the young Togruta how much the Jedi Temple had provided for her. It had never been something to consider. However, outside the temple, nothing was free. Everyone wanted something, and if you didn't have what they wanted, they had no time for you.
For some silly reason, Ahsoka had assumed that her being acquitted of her trial would have lent her some credibility, or some sympathy. She had been wrong. No one had been willing to ferry her off planet. The excuses had ranged from the simple to the ludicrous, but the message was clear.
Ahsoka Tano was persona-non grata. No one wanted to be the person who had to list her on the passenger manifest. Likewise, any hint to smuggling her off planet was quickly met with closed doors.
There was a single person on Coruscant that Ahsoka trusted, and that person was in a place she refused to ever step foot.
No reputable passenger ship would take her, which meant she had to turn to those of ill repute who were found below the surface of Coruscant, far, far down. Criminals who would sooner drug her and sell her into slavery, than give her a free ride off the planet. She knew that for a fact—they had tried.
To get free of Coruscant, she needed to speak their language, and the only languages the underworld understood was credits and violence.
Neither were languages she could speak at the time.
Once upon a time she had been a Jedi Padawan with the full force of the Order behind her. That had meant she could get away with things like appropriating aircars, breaking things and intimidating suspects. She no longer had her lightsabers, which by themselves had been a measure of visible authority. No one messed with someone with lightsabers. Either they were a Jedi and you'd get locked up for impeding an investigation, or they weren't, and were more likely to use them.
When she used to do those things no one batted an eyelash. These days, not so much. The first time she had tried to intimidate someone into helping her, well. Suffice it to say the law enforcement in the area hadn't been impressed.
Violence was a language she could no longer speak.
Credits on the other hand…
A month ago Ahsoka had only the clothes on her back. These days, not so much.
It had been tough at first, getting enough credits to survive. Everything cost credits; food and accommodation especially. She'd never really had to worry about them before, it had been an abrupt realization that they were going to become a mainstay of life.
There had been one small mercy. They had taken her lightsabers, but they couldn't take the force from her.
Ahsoka was too proud to mind trick someone into giving up their lifesavings so she could get off world. She wasn't that cruel or callous, as much as she wished she were.
Convincing someone to give her a job however, that much she didn't have an issue with.
A month ago she had been a Jedi, a sworn protector of peace and defender of justice. A general amongst the largest army the galaxy had ever seen. She had been adored throughout countless star systems, heralded as a hero and someone to look up to.
These days, not so much. But things were going to change soon, she could feel it. For the first time, in a long time, she was almost content.
Ahsoka found herself intently focused on the cocktail in front of her that she was meticulously mixing. One slip up and the blue skinned Rodian in front of her would be on his back before you could say anaphylaxis.
"Here you go, one rancid rancor," the Togruta said with a forced smile as she set the noxiously fuming fluro orange beverage in front of the customer. "That'll be two credits."
She collected the credits without any complaint from the patron in front of her, who took the drink and scurried away to a dark corner of the cantina. She deposited the credits that the Rodian had paid with and turned her attention out into the dimly lit, smoke filled cantina.
The orange skinned former padawan didn't even twitch as a particularly potent waft of acrid smoke found its way to her. It had been a few weeks since the unpleasant sting of the toxic fumes had managed to make her flinch. She probably would have been concerned for the health ramifications in any other situation, but it was unavoidable.
It was the entertainments night off, which meant the normal musical cacophony that would muffled the drone of the various whispers and conversations of ill repute were hard to block out. Her lips curled slightly as she forced herself to block out the murmurings of a smuggler and what appeared to be a black market weapons dealer.
Once upon a time that would have brought her to action. But now she had more important things to worry about—like the pair in the back of the cantina that were beginning to cause a ruckus over what looked to be a game of pazaak.
On closer inspection, Ahsoka realized that one of the pair was a cantina regular—A Duros called Tarla De Maal—a cardshark who made her money off the drunk and disorderly.
Tarla was very prototypical of her race. She had smooth, blue-green skin, large red goggle-like eyes, a long, thin, noseless face and a lipless mouth that was currently curved ever so slightly in a self-amused smirk.
Across the table from her was a Weequay that Ahsoka didn't recognize, though she could never tell them apart. They all looked the same with their thick leathery skin, spikey jaws and all that. The only difference she could ever tell was the shades of brown their skin ran through.
Either way, she wasn't a fan. She'd never met a Weequay she liked.
From the way this one was shouting, she doubted that was going to change today.
Officially Ahsoka wasn't supposed to get involved in customer disputes, and to date she'd never been caught doing so. She glanced up toward a holo sign that hung above the bar, it read;
'25 Days since Last Fatality.'
She wasn't particularly interested in seeing it reset to zero.
The orange skinned girl took in a slow breath before softly exhaling and reaching out through the force. With a soft twist of her wrist and curl of her fingers she acted.
Across the cantina, the Weequay who was causing a commotion let out a shout of surprise as his feet seemed to slip out from beneath him and he banged his head upon the edge of the table, rendering him either unconscious or… probably unconscious.
Ahsoka briefly caught sight of Tarla collecting her paazak deck from the floor where it had been scattered, before she turned back to another customer who called for her attention.
"Thank you for your timely assistance once again."
Ahsoka looked up to find Tarla standing at the edge of the bar and smiled in faint amusement. "You know I won't always be here to deal with those thugs you rip off, right?" she asked as she polished a crystal flask and set it upon one of the shelves behind her.
The Duros' large red eyes regarded her for a moment in silence. "You're leaving," she stated, rather than questioned.
"I've saved up enough credits that I should be able to buy my way off this rock," Ahsoka admitted. "It's taken longer than I would have thought, but if all goes well, this will be the last night I spend on Coruscant."
Tarla looked at Ahsoka, her gaze pensive. "I wish you well, Ahsoka Tano," the female Duros said, drawing a hand up onto the bar top and setting it down.
When she moved it, Ahsoka found herself staring at a neat pile of credits. "What's this for?"
"For services rendered," Tarla said, an almost affectionate note to her voice, before she turned, and left the cantina.
Ahsoka wordlessly stared after the blue skinned woman, watching as she drew up her cloak around herself and vanished outside. "Don't even think about it," Ahsoka said, turning her gaze down to a furry hand that was slowly creeping toward the pile of credits.
Its owner recoiled at being caught and scampered away.
Ahsoka scooped up the credits, not bothering to count them as she pocketed them and returned to her bartending duties.
It wasn't until the early hours of the morning that Ahsoka's shift replacement arrived. She didn't waste any time in collecting her wages for her work and vacating the cantina, her proverbial purse, that much more full.
Her next stop found her at the tiny closet of an apartment she had been renting, collecting the few meagre possessions she had managed to accumulate. On the way out she stopped in to talk to the manager of the building and collect the security deposit that she had been required to leave with them.
A quick Jedi mind trick later and she found herself that much more financially comfortable. She pulled out a thick hooded cloak from her bag and pulled it on. She hailed down the first airtaxi she saw and instructed the driver to take her to Terminal 24 which connected to the Coruscant Underworld Portal.
The Portal scaled all the from the glimmering spires on the planet's artificial surface—Level 5127—all the way down to the inhospitable lower levels on a sliding scale of bad to worse, the closer you got to the planets natural surface.
As the airtaxi rose up into the air, Ahsoka couldn't help but look out over the dark expanse of Level 1313, or what she had reluctantly called home. It was a dark facsimile of Coruscant's upper level, filled with all manner of crooks and criminals.
As well as those who had nowhere else to go or had never known anything else but the darkness, filth and artificial light that were the lower levels of Coruscant's underworld.
The orange skinned togruta lost track of time as she stared at the sea of neon lights that swam below the taxi as it took her to her destination.
Terminal 24 was all but empty when she arrived—which suited her fine. Ahsoka drew her cloak around her, the thick dark material doings its best to stave off the cold as well as disguise her features from any prying eyes as she made her way toward one of the various computer terminals that lined the walls leading toward the massive ventilation shaft that lead up to the surface.
Seeing the grime covered surface, Ahsoka grimaced and bunched up a handful of her cloak to wipe it clean—at least enough to see what she was looking at. Ahsoka began to navigate through to the proper transport menus and began to go over the logged planetary departure logs, sending through passenger requests to the legitimate ships and sending through a request to 'expedite the delivery of live cargo for a modest fee' to those who weren't.
By the time she finished submitting requests most had been declined and the few that hadn't, asked for fees high enough that she could have bought her own ship—not that she'd have probably gotten off world with it, the way things were going.
"You seem lost."
Ahsoka was startled as a young, cultured voice spoke from behind her. She had been so engrossed in what she had been doing that they'd managed to sneak up on her. Her master would have scolded her for her lack of spatial awareness. She maintained her composure and managed not to react physically, continuing to stare down at the terminal in front of her.
"Is that so?" Ahsoka asked, her voice holding a dry quality to it. "If you can see that much with this cloak on then it isn't doing its job properly."
"It's doing its job well enough, but then, I'm not looking at you with my eyes."
Ahsoka's hand absently drifted down from the console to her waist, only for her hand to clench as her fingers touched upon nothing but fabric. She frowned and mentally chided herself for forgetting that she no longer had a Lightsaber.
She took a faint breath and forced herself to relax, her hand unclenching at her side. She couldn't sense any outward hostility in the voice, nor through the force. All the same, she began to erase the requests she had sent out through the computer terminal.
"That's quite the trick," Ahsoka said as she turned around. "You'll have to…"
The former padawan had no idea what she had expected to see, but it certainly hadn't been a young man with bright green eyes and a pleasant smile.
She had been so disarmed and distracted by how benign he seemed at first glance, that she almost glossed over what he was wearing.
The young man was covered by a silvery cloak, the material of which Ahsoka couldn't determine, beneath which he was dressed in a black, belted tunic over a pair of matching trousers and leather boots. The outfit bore a striking resemblance to the one worn by Count Dooku.
"That's… an interesting outfit you have there," Ahsoka said. "Where'd you get it?"
The young man smiled and brought a hand up, idly brushing his fingers over the tunic. "Do you like it?" He asked and grinned. "I permanently borrowed it from a rather irate fellow."
Ahsoka's brow furrowed. "Permanently borrowed it?"
The figure opposite her shrugged a shoulder. "It sounds so much better than 'I stole it' doesn't it?"
"I suppose," Ahsoka said slowly. "What do you want?"
The young man's eyebrows rose. "That's a rather open ended question isn't it?" He looked to actually consider it. "I'm a bit hungry honestly, and I don't particularly feel like any of the poodoo that they consider food down here. But if you meant out of life, well I hadn't really considered that question in—"
"I meant with me," Ahsoka interrupted. "Why did you talk to me? What do you want?"
The figure blinked. "No particular reason," he said. "I was just passing by and noticed that you looked lost."
"I know exactly where I am, thank you," Ahsoka said heatedly.
"I did not mean physically."
Whatever it was that Ahsoka was going to retort with died on her lips and her stomach twisted upon itself and she swallowed a lump that had formed in her throat.
"Maybe I am lost," she finally said, allowing herself a rare moment of honesty with herself. "I've had purpose and direction my entire life, I've never been alone and I've never been without guidance. I don't know where I need to go, but I know that getting off this misery heaped planet is the first step."
The figure in front of her was silent as he regarded her with his green eyes. After a few moments, he finally spoke. "Have you considered that you don't need to go anywhere?"
Ahsoka snorted. "I'm not staying here. I'd rather jump in a sarlac pit."
The figure smiled again and waved a hand dismissively. "You misunderstand, let me put it this way. Maybe you need to stop trying to determine where you need to go, and consider where you want to go?"
"Who… are you?"
The young man's smile widened.
"Harry Potter, pleased to meet you."
Ahsoka hadn't expected him to answer, she certainly hadn't expected such a peculiar name. "Ahsoka Tano," she said after a moment. "Likewise."
A stretch of silence followed as Ahsoka stared at the now identified 'Harry Potter', trying to figure out what his game was. "You said that I needed to consider where I wanted to go," Ahsoka finally spoke. "I already have a destination in mind, it's called 'anywhere but here', but I can't find any ship willing."
Harry blinked and lifted a hand, pointing over his shoulder toward one of the various starships docked at the terminus. "How about that one?"
Ahsoka followed his finger and found herself looking at a rather angular ship. It's wings were currently raised into an upright position and stood tall at what appeared to be fifty meters both from side to side and top to bottom, tapering into sharp points near the top. Both wings appeared to be connected to the fuselage at the back of the starship on what appeared to be rotors.
"What's special about…" Ahsoka began to say, only to trail off and turn back toward Harry. "That can't be your ship."
"I permanently borrowed it as well," Harry said, before adding on. "From someone else."
Ahsoka would have laughed in any other circumstance. "Are you a thief?"
"I wouldn't consider myself a thief."
"What would you consider yourself then?"
Harry took a moment to consider the question. "I don't feel comfortable labelling myself," he finally decided. "I'm a very complex person, you know? Stealing underwear and spaceships is just one facet of who I am."
Ahsoka stared at the odd human for a few long seconds and decided not to consider the ramifications of what he had just said, assuming he had taken the clothes from who she thought he had, and had not simply been given them.
"Was that supposed to encourage me to go with you?" Ahsoka asked skeptically.
"No of course not," Harry said. "You've already decided on coming with me."
Ahsoka's eyebrow rose up. "Have I now?"
Harry nodded. "Of course," he said easily. "The only question is whether you want to come with me now, or wait until I get back from the lower levels."
"Why would you want to go down further?" Ahsoka asked, finding herself more and more sceptical of the young humans' mental health with every word he spoke.
Harry grinned. "I consider myself a sort of cross between a historian and archaeologist—a histologist, if you would. I'm interested in finding out about the past, and as far as the galaxy goes, Coruscant's bedrock is as close to ground zero as you can get."
Ahsoka stared at Harry for a long moment. "I don't think that word means what you think it means. In fact, I don't think you have a clue what you're doing. Don't you know how much more dangerous it gets the closer you get to Level 1? No one willingly goes down there."
Harry gave Ahsoka an affronted look. "Of course, nothing worthwhile is ever easy."
Somehow Ahsoka doubted he really understood what he was intending to do. No one that easy going and relaxed when talking about the lowest levels of Coruscant knew what they were getting into.
"You know that people rarely come back after going below Level 50?" Ahsoka asked. "That there are things without names down there? That you're asking me to come with you on a suicide mission, or wait here for you, when you're never coming back?"
Ahsoka couldn't help it. She let out a bark of laughter and shook her head. "You're insane," she informed him.
Harry blinked. "Does that mean you're not coming?"
Ahsoka shook her head. "No, it means I'm crazier for even considering going with you."
Harry let out a laugh. "If it makes you feel better, some of the greatest people I've ever met were off their rocker."
"That doesn't make me feel better at all." Ahsoka sighed as she realized she was genuinely considering the offer. She couldn't help but wonder when it was that she became so reckless. Probably around the time she became Skyguy's padawan.
When in doubt, blame Anakin.
Ahsoka licked her lips. "If I go with you—and we make it out alive, you'll take me where ever I want to go?"
Harry's smile never wavered. "You have my word."
Ahsoka finally made her decision. "Alright," she said. "I can't in good conscience let you go down there by yourself, and if I can't stop you, then… you have a much better chance of survival with someone to watch your back."
Harry chuckled. "And you have a much better chance of getting off Coruscant?"
"That too," Ahsoka admitted without shame and shook her head, unable to believe what she was agreeing to. "Let's get going before I change my mind."
Harry nodded and turned around, the shimmering liquid silver material of his cloak fluttering briefly before settling back down as he made his way toward his ship.
Ahsoka didn't move for a few seconds as she internally wondered why she had agreed to go with him. Surely there were other options available to her aside from a detour down into the depths of Coruscants underworld.
The simple truth was that there wasn't any other better option.
Ahsoka followed after Harry, acutely aware of how screwed she was, and missing her lightsabers more than ever as she thought about the various creatures, mutants and monsters that were rumoured to dwell in the furthest depths of Coruscant.
Ahsoka picked up the pace and soon fell in step with Harry as they approached her ticket off of Coruscant. "So," she began. "You said you permanently borrowed the ship?"
"I did," Harry acknowledged. "For the life of me I can't remember from who though."
"I recognize the model," Ahsoka said. "It's of mandalorian make, and I've only ever seen it used by a terrorist group called the Death Watch."
Harry looked at Ahsoka. "You know, now that you mention it, that name does sound familiar. They weren't too interested in exchanging pleasantries at the time, so it wouldn't surprise me—I've never exactly gotten along well with groups whose name started off with Death." He reached down to his wrist and pressed a button.
Ahsoka watched as the back of the ship opened up and a ramp dropped down to the platform in front of them. "Get many of those, do you?"
"More than you'd think reasonable," Harry said as he walked up the ramp and entered his ship. "Welcome aboard, Ahsoka," he said.
Ahsoka didn't quite smile as she boarded the spaceship. Her eyes flickered around, taking in the sparely decorated cargo hold. There were boxes here and there, steadily fastened to cargo racks on either side, and at the far end there was a door leaving through to the next section.
The walls of the compartment were covered with various displays, outputs, buttons and diagnostics, along with a few chairs that were currently collapsed against the walls, providing more walking space. At the other end there was a staircase leading up into the cockpit. There was a door on each side of the stairs, though they were both shut.
Ahsoka drew one of the seats down and set her bag on it. She hesitated for a moment before pulling off her cloak, folding it up and slipping it under her bag.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the ramp draw up from the platform and the rear hatch shut, followed by the cargo bay door behind her.
"When you're ready come join me in the cockpit," Harry said to Ahsoka with a smile.
Ahsoka watched as the human vanished up the stairs, leaving her to her thoughts. "Out of everything I thought I'd do today, this certainly wasn't on the list," she murmured to herself and made her way up the stairs leading to the cockpit.
The cockpit itself was fairly spacious leading up to the front where two chairs sat side by side, each possessing its own set of controls.
Ahsoka found Harry sitting in the left seat, going through what looked like the standard pre-flight checks. For the briefest of moments she considered waiting for him to finish before asking for permission to sit down, but dismissed the thought a second later.
"You know those aren't mandatory, right?" Ahsoka said as she dropped down into the co-pilot's chair beside Harry, only to blink as she found it to be surprisingly comfortable—so comfortable that she couldn't resist the urge to bounce a few times in it.
"I know, I just like the routine," Harry admitted as he took hold of the flight controls and brought the ship into the air. Another few buttons pressed saw the large angular wings on either side of the ship shifting down and becoming parallel to the body of the craft.
Ahsoka looked out of the cockpit in time to see the beginning of their descent down the gargantuan ventilation shaft. A display near the middle of the control board showed their current level of descent and after a few seconds ticked down to Level 1312.
"What's the actual reason you want to go down there?" Ahsoka finally asked. "Can't you just find out whatever it is you're looking for on the Holonet?"
Harry glanced over at Ahsoka briefly, before punching a few more buttons and setting the ship onto autopilot and swivelled his chair to face her. "What do you know about Coruscant's history?"
"Just the basic stuff," Ahsoka admitted. "It was the origin world for humanity and all the sub-races that have descended from them—and that it's been the centre of the galactic community for twenty five thousand years."
"That's about as much as most people know." Harry said. "What most people don't know, is that Coruscant isn't the planets original name. Originally it was called Notron, and was originally home to two races, the Zhell, who were the ancient ancestors of modern humans, and the Taung, a grey skinned humanoid race."
"Really?" Ahsoka asked dubiously. "I've never heard of the Taung before."
"That's because two hundred thousand years ago, the Zhell and the Taung went to war, a war that the Taung lost. The Taung fled the planet for the stars, leaving the Zhell the victors."
Harry waved a hand. "Now the masters of the planet, the Zhell began to urbanize everything, and over the next hundred thousand years their cities grew and grew until they covered every inch of the planet at which point they renamed their new ecumenopolis; Coruscant."
Ahsoka for her part, while she found it mildly interesting, couldn't quite get a grip on why the young man in front of her was so interested. It was truly ancient history.
Harry chuckled, oblivious to her thoughts. "To be honest, I think they originally named the planet spanning city itself Coruscant, and the name eventually came to be synonymous with the planet."
Ahsoka found him looking at her expectantly. "That's… fascinating, really it is." She said. "But, it doesn't explain why you want to go down to Level 1."
Harry blinked. "Didn't I say?"
"No, you didn't."
"Oh," Harry shook his head. "Well, you see, I have a rather unpopular theory that is considered, depending on the historian to range from outlandish to outright heretical."
Ahsoka thought he was exaggerating. "Alright, I'll bite," she said. "What's your theory?"
"I believe that human race did not originate on Coruscant."
Ahsoka let out a bark of laughter. "Is that it?" she asked. "From the way you were talking it up I expected something crazier."
Harry smiled in faint amusement and swivelled back toward flight controls. "Like I said, it's just a theory."
"A theory you want to prove by heading to Level 1 and seeing what's down there," Ahsoka said with a slow nod. "Doesn't it seem unlikely that you'll find anything that'll link with your theory? You just said that Coruscant was finished a hundred thousand years after the Tang—"
"Taung," Harry corrected.
"Right, the Taung, got kicked off the planet. I can't imagine anything that could still be intact after all that time."
"You're right," Harry agreed. "Any proof of my theory would be impossible to find down there. The only places that would potentially have any information would be something like a museum, and considering Coruscant spans the entire planet, finding one would be like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Not to mention that a lot of the lowest levels have probably decayed and entire zones have probably collapsed."
Ahsoka's brow furrowed as she looked across at the messy haired human beside her. "Then why?"
"Because I'm not looking for proof of my theory," he stated. "I'm looking for something else."
"If you're not looking to prove your theory, then what are we going down there to find?"
"I don't know."
Ahsoka stared at Harry for a long moment before she exhaled slowly. She closed her eyes and wondered why she had agreed to go along with him. "If you don't know what you're looking for, how do you expect to find it?"
"I'll know it when I see it," Harry said confidently, looking aside at Ahsoka and flashing her a smile, before he turned his attention back cockpit window.
She wished she shared his confidence.
Ahsoka turned her gaze outward and found herself watching as the lights that lined the walls of the ventilation shaft climbed up and out of their vision, and the world outside the cockpit steadily became darker and darker as they entered a section that was no longer being serviced.
She really wished she shared his confidence—or that she had her Lightsaber again. Either would have been fine as far as she was concerned.
Generally shy away from doing 'author notes' since I think they inflate wordcount pointlessly, but I figure, what the hell, am I right? Shout out to kathryn518 for their great story 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' which this opens in similar fashion to. This is a break from my usual style of staying firmly inside the main characters head, and is told from other peoples POV. It will be mainly Ahsoka's, barring certain things, such as the prologue.
As always, I'm open to suggestions and criticisms, so if you have them, hit me with 'em.