Chopper was grumpy. That was his primary logistical setting, of course. Despite CaptainHeraSyndulla's best efforts, being shot down in a Y-wing and exploding in a fireball over Ryloth and being forced to settle for whatever spare or half-broken parts CaptainHeraSyndulla could manage to find would ruin anyone's logic circuits. Things never went his way, and so he had little intention of making life easy for anyone except CaptainHeraSyndulla – the only being in the galaxy who looked after him. Anybody else on the Ghost was an annoyance at best.
KananJarrus entering the equation had ruined everything, because the silly little human kept stealing his Twi'lek's primary function of Chopper's and the ship's maintenance. No amount of subtle hints would drive the stupid human away – not bumping into it, not cursing at it in binary or hexadecimal, not manipulating the temperature on the ship, no even accidentally shoving it off the edge of the ship. The human didn't even have the decency to react normally, it didn't attack him or curse back or allow Chopper to put it in a compromising position. At best it would turn to CaptainHeraSyndulla and ask, "Is this normal?"
CaptainHeraSyndulla always came to Chopper's defense, as she was designed to do, but now there was a new subroutine – talking to Chopper about being nice to KananJarrus. As it if deserved anything other than the droid's contempt. Chopper created several new subroutines to make life even worse for the stinky little human, and even tried to zap it from time to time; but the astromech's logic circuits were strained severely when he realized he couldn't zap the human. It had a preternatural ability to know when pain was incoming and just... not be there.
Finally, after nearly six months of trying to get rid of the stray human, it came over to Chopper in the loading bay and sat in front of him. Chopper cursed at it vehemently, manipulators out and ready for a fight, and KananJarrus raised two hands in supplication. "Whoa, whoa," it said, "I just want to talk."
Chopper had hurled more profanity.
"Geez, look, I get it," KananJarrus said. "You've been Hera's for a long time-"
The cheek! CaptainHeraSyndulla had been his for a long time, not the other way around! Chopper corrected the error message immediately, pulling out his arc welder to drive the point home, but the human quickly backpedaled.
"Okay, okay! She's been yours for a long time, and now she's not as devoted to you as she should be; I understand, okay? A lot of..." it paused, facial output changing rapidly, before continuing its text scrawl. "A lot of us had astromech partners when I was a kid, okay? You guys are reliable and dependable in a fight and great at doing your jobs. I just..." Chopper turned off the arc welder, awaiting new input.
KananJarrus sighed. "Look, when's your next oil bath? Send me a reminder and I'll see if I can get rid of some of the scoring or something."
Chopper cursed at it some more, this time in fractal, and rolled away.
He fixed his subroutines though, when he learned the silly human had a knack for buffing carbon scoring. He had shined for a full hour after that bath, and KananJarrus became... a part of the programing. It was still a stupid human, though.
Seeing it tremble on the floor of the bay was unsettling, and Chopper rolled over its fingers to try and break the infinite loop it was in, but to no avail. CaptainHeraSyndulla gave her orders and that meant Chopper would have to leave the ship. Those subroutines were much more complicated to run and annoying to parse when things got particularly complicated, but with the semi-useful servant out of commission the astromech was forced to do things himself. Humans were so useless. He bumped into the human and threw a few more curses at it before rolling over to the two new annoyances on the ship. Neither of them knew binary or hexadecimal, making them useless, and Chopper rolled over to the data jack to program in the new subroutines.
(IF (KananJarrusHeartRate = HumanMaleHeartThreshold) OR (KananJarrusTemperature = HumanMaleTemperatureThreshold) THEN (Alert (CaptainHeraSyndullaComm, C1-10PComm)); (While (Location(CaptainHeraSyndulla, C1-10P) != Ghost) Security = LockDown AND Surveillance = Maximum)
Most of the subroutines would take care of themselves. The Wookie and Twi'lek were unknown variables, and Chopper rolled over and gave them very explicit instructions, a long whistle of warbles and subwoofs that made his point very clear even if they didn't understand binary, or hexadecimal, or fractal. Chopper found with experience that lower life forms worked best when they knew who was boss.
"Chopper," CaptainHeraSyndulla said, "That's enough. Let's go." She was in darker clothes, goggles down, and some of the less worn armor plated around her arms. Chopper output his affirmative and input a last minute command to the ship before lowering the hangar door. The two exited the ship and the Ghost entered lockdown.
CaptainHeraSyndulla uploaded the space station's schematics to Chopper's RAM and asked if he still had the wand. He did and was irritated that she had even asked, spinning his dome and articulating his manipulators to make his point.
"Okay, okay," CaptainHeraSyndulla said. "I trust you." Her facial output shifted, becoming more serious, lekku subroutines expressing anxiety. "Chopper," she said, touching his dome and rubbing it with affection. "Be careful. I don't want to lose you, too."
… a long, soft warble exited Choppers voicebox, and he wiggled on his mag-locks to reciprocate the output. CaptainHeraSyndulla smiled and nodded, and the pair split up to do their tasks.
Nobody even blinked as Chopper wandered the station, just another droid off to do something. A couple of the other droids paused on seeing him, but he ignored them. Most doors opened to him, and those that didn't he sliced with relative ease. The systems here were ancient, even older than him, and some of them hadn't been updated in decades. The slices were easier in that regard, but talking to the systems was sometimes downright arduous, and Chopper had to write a program just to interpret some of the broken binary. As he rolled closer to the transmission hub more HumanMale and ZabrakMale were in the halls, armed, and all just as stupid as most of their species, ignoring the droid.
Chopper entered a lift and input his coordinates as two WeequayMale entered with a Thing. The Thing was massive, heavy, and an arm was clearly broken, but Chopper didn't have the species in the database, let alone the ability to designate gender.
"-His nose and his jaw. That's impressive."
"There's no way the human did it. There must have been four different sedatives in all that food, all of them strong enough to take down grown banthas. It must have been the Twi'lek."
"All the more reason to be careful."
"I don't want to be careful I want to have her sucking on my-"
"No. Not until we have a chip in her. She won't bow until her life is on the line. She'll be suspicious now, I'm surprised she hasn't left yet. She must need that list very badly."
"If she shows up at the auction, we surround her and drug her and get a chip in as fast as possible."
"And if she doesn't show?"
"Tractor beam will keep them here. Our firepower dwarfs theirs."
WeequayMaleOlder and WeequayMaleYounger kept talking with Thing acting as broken guard, and Chopper warbled low on his soundbox, manipulators out and head spinning slowly. His logic circuits told him to shock the pair and be done with it, but CaptainHeraSyndulla's instructions were clear, and there was a small infinite loop before the C1 droid could make a decision. CaptainHeraSyndulla's current parameters were set to deal with the two Weequay and the list that had brought them to the station in the first place. So Chopper activated C1-10PComm to CaptainHeraSyndullaComm and displayed the whereabouts of the two Weequay. He had his own parameters to fulfill and subroutines to execute. CaptainHeraSyndulla was more than capable of handling these idiotic organics.
The lift dinged and Chopper trundled off and quickly hooked into a datajack. The lift he had been on stalled and he updated CaptainHeraSyndulla.
"Good work, Specter Three. I'm on my way."
Chopper chuckled, knowing the Weequay and the Thing were doomed. Then he headed back to his current objective.
Based off the schematics the communications center of the entire station was down the hall, but Chopper wasn't expecting find the TransmissionHub to be so easy. This station was ancient, overhauled, and made absolutely no sense for efficiency. Still, Chopper rolled along, because what he'd seen in the station's computers indicated the TransmissionHub was still the TransmissionHub. Things just never went that smoothly.
More guards were posted, on this level, indicating that Chopper was at least close to something. So Chopper plugged into a datajack to get more information. The translator he'd written sputtered through the broken and rewritten binary, and a rare thing happened for Chopper. He got a pleasant surprise. The TransmissionHub was indeed on this level like it was supposed to be.
Then reality dropped the other strut, and Chopper learned that someone had reported the stolen deactivator wand and someone had at least a functioning processor and had posted more guards by the TransmissionHub. How the idiots thought a slave with a wand would be able to get to the TransmissionHub was beyond the scope of Chopper's programming, but he had to deal with it now.
Chopper let out a low and extended grumbling opinion on dealing with such idiots.
This was why CaptainHeraSyndulla was the only organic worthy of his time.
And KananJarrus and the oil bathes he could give.
So Chopper wrote a lovely little virus and infected the systems, showing Imperial law approaching from several vectors, intent on doing a "bust". Panic quickly ensued as the guards were scrambling to the outer extremities of the station to either a) run, or b) defend. Chopper watched from where he was jacked in and after ten minutes, he easily rolled into the TransmissionHub and plugged directly into what he needed. The comms were at least somewhat up to date, so Chopper was able to ignore some of the more choppy subroutines he needed in order to communicate with anything. With his chassey blocking the view, he pulled out the deactivator wand and started rigging it into the TransmissionHub he was using.
The computer didn't care for Chopper's rewriting of code and a quick battle of warbles and beeps ensued, but Chopper's programming was far more diverse, both from his maker, and from Hera's additions over the years. Within an additional five minutes, Chopper's wand started clicking so constantly, that it was vibrating with all the unlocked slave chips it was processing.
Chopper let out a gleeful chuckle. Now for an appropriate sign to the slaves that they were now free. No doubt CaptainHeraSyndulla was expecting a broadcast or something of that sort, but Chopper had a far more direct idea in his processor. Since he had already bent the computer to his will, and the computer had been so rude as to fight back, he overloaded it with a virus of his favorite design.
Still chuckling gleefully, Chopper unplugged, leaned forward onto his front wheel and zoomed off.
Thirty seconds later, the entire TransmissionHub blew up.
He came back in pieces.
There were images, fragments of things that sort of made sense and a tangled menagerie of things that didn't make sense: he had a crystal clear picture of his master telling him to run, but he sort of knew that was a long time ago, he could picture tasting food for someone, but he sort of thought that might have been a dream, he could feel burning heat and chill at the same time, and he sort of thought that was a contradiction. He had a song stuck in his head a full volume, all brass and strong chords and upbeat, but he sort of understood that it was woefully inappropriate, but he couldn't explain how, or even what inappropriate even meant. Words meant nothing, images might be something but might not. Sensation was all-consuming.
Rational thought was, at best, in bursts. One sentence would string together and then disappear, instinct was pushing him for... something... action, motion, vision, Force, but the first real thought he had: Why are my clothes so drenched?
More things started to piece together, sounds finally bleeding into his brain, the hum of a ship he knew very well, but the name couldn't come to him. Everything he saw and heard was like through telescoped cotton. Clear and easy to see or hear, but processing all the various stimuli was difficult. Thoughts scattered if anything caught his attention. He had been "with it" for a while – he sort of knew that. What that while was in actual time, he wasn't sure, and "with it" was relative, since he knew he was still unbearably slow. It was almost like watching the world on fast-forward. Everything was happening so fast, and he was still about two or three minutes behind. Or more. He couldn't tell.
Ghost. That was the name. Kanan was on the Ghost. He was in his room. He had an IV line.
Those made sense.
Kanan was drugged. That also made sense, and thinking started to get a little clearer.
The Wookie leaning over him to dab a damp cloth across his head did not make sense. Nor did the lavender Twi'lek girl who was hovering around anxiously.
Where was Hera? Chopper?
The Force was also around him and that wasn't helping.
Or rather it was and that was the problem.
Kanan never used the Force. He avoided it, he pushed it aside, he hid from it. To use the Force was a death-sentence. If anyone learned of just what he was... So he never used it. Not voluntarily. But with all his bodily senses muffled and muddled, the Force, which required nothing of the body, sang, welcoming a lost child into its bosom. It flowed and rippled, basked him in its cool warmth, let him see the interconnected web of life that was everywhere and nowhere. The threads called to him, pulled at him, and it took far too much work to ignore them.
Then he shook.
And Kanan was pretty sure it wasn't one of the tremors that wracked his body from whatever drug or drugs was in his system. Something outside of himself. He saw the Wookie and Twi'lek child stumble to catch their balance.
The Force rippled again, and Kanan saw.
He worked his way upward, sitting and gasping at the effort it took.
He ripped out the IV lines, and the Wookie was trying with more strength than Kanan could muster to put him back to his bunk. But Kanan couldn't.
He dodged around, stumbled out of his room, grabbing a blaster on his way, and started running.
Hera ducked into another hallway, watching as chaos continued to unfold. She had felt the station shake and she had no doubt that Chopper was having fun. Guards were running around with conflicting orders, something about the Empire approaching and the slave revolt. The slave revolt was expected, after all that was the plan. Even as she slipped over catwalks above the pens, she could see that the slaves had taken their freedom seriously. The teal Twi'lek with the prominent scar that Kanan had described, Orgadomo, had clearly organized a number of them and were fighting back in a well-organized manner. Many former slaves had acquired blasters and were in a well-dressed line, pushing back the disorganized guards and gaining ground quickly.
The thought of the Empire worried Hera, however. The Emperor did control his media tightly, and a single controlled raid into Huttspace would be perfect to keep some of the louder voices off the Empire's back to prove that they did handle security fiercely, along with preventing any reforms that said they didn't handle things fast enough. What worried Hera was if the Empire was here because they had tracked the list that Tyr and his brother had copied. That meant that it was even more imperative to get that list and blast off as soon as possible. If it was real...
When Hera and Chopper had split up, Chopper had headed to the transmission hub and Hera had decided to head to the auction. It was only an hour away, and there was no doubt that the Tyr brothers would be there, both waiting or her with whatever level of traps they had in mind, and also because they were selling their stock and wanted to oversee it. Then Chopper had commed her that he had trapped two Weequay in a lift and she'd had to backtrack.
Given the time it had taken to find the lift Chopper had mentioned, she didn't think that the Tyr brothers would be there still, but she now had an area to look instead of waiting at the auction.
She had crawled into the lift shaft and, sure enough, the hatch had been opened. Hera had pulled out a cliplight to look around at what disturbed the dust and dirt of the lift shaft that nobody ever saw, let alone cleaned. The tracks showed that the Weequay had climbed up a level, then forced the doors open. And they had someone with them, but Hera didn't know what species had hands that big.
Looking at the schematics again, Hera had concluded that they were heading somewhere other than the auction hall. Either they were going to take control of the station and start organizing the chaos that was unfolding everywhere, or, and Hera smiled to herself if this was the case, they were going to get the list.
So she was ducking in hallways, occasionally going up into vents that she could squeeze into and didn't look electrified. It wasn't easy, ducking around so much, and she would never have been able to manage it if it wasn't for all the panic and conflicting orders going on. Comms seemed to be down, and runners were trying to find someone to communicate with, but orders were conflicting.
She hopped down to the hall, well behind the Weequay and edging to a corner. A Togrutan was there, her clothes making it obvious what her function was, and she sucked in a breath to scream but Hera covered her mouth and ducked into a door frame. "Stay calm," she said gently but firmly. "The slave chips have all been deactivated, you're free." Wide, black eyes of hope. "I'm after the station owners. Can you tell me what's on this level?"
The Togruta nodded fiercely. "This is the training level, they take the girls up here and train them to be pleasure slaves. No one is allowed up here except them or the beast guards, I don't know their species."
"There's talk about an attack by the Empire, why would they come here?"
"Because their secrets are up here," the Togruta said. "The data cores are up here, beyond the training rooms. Every client, every slave, everything they have ever come across they have there to use against others."
Hera's grin was feral. "Get everyone out of here," she said, "I'll take care of the Weequay."
The Togruta disappeared and Hera pulled up the schematics again. These were originally staff quarters, now turned to something seedy, and now that she knew she was looking for a data core she was able to orient herself quickly. Those are the two most likely locations, and they're right next to each other. Good. Hera moved – not down the hall the Weequay had gone, but a different one, slowly filling with flimsily dressed girls – some younger than even Gobi – filing out in confusion and then hope and then desperation, running to the nearest lift and nearly oblivious to the fully clothed Twi'lek that was about to take care of those Weequay bastards. Down another hall and a quick right, a left, and then down another hall, Hera judged her location again on her map and stopped at a corner. She adjusted her goggles, pulling them back up to the crown of her head and letting her green eyes soak in the details. Her dark jumpsuit hid her in the shadows, as did her armor – now more than just a breastplate and shoulder pads – and she gave herself a moment to breath before she stepped on silent feet.
The first room she palmed open was dark, only emergency lights. Binders of several types adorned the walls, as did whips and stunners and tasers. Rings were on the ceiling and the floors both for chains, and another Togruta girl was there, this time on what passed for a bunk, Gobi's age; her lekku barely passed her shoulders, and her montral were but tiny stubs. It was the wrong room but Hera entered anyway, eyes roving everywhere, wary of a trap. One shot took care of the chains and the girl looked up in shocked confusion.
"The slave chips are no longer functioning," Hera hissed, looking up to the vents and dragging over a chair to start pulling the ceiling apart. "The slaves are revolting and winning. Run. Find a ship and get out of here. Grab as many slaves as you can. Get to a medcenter and get the chips removed."
The child was still staring, wide-eyed, and Hera stopped what she was doing to look at those large scared eyes that dared to hope. "Go," she hissed. The fewer around the better. At last, the Togrutan nodded and ran. Hera returned to looking at the vents.
Ah, finally! The datacore was in a room with a main trunk of vents parallel to it. It was a tighter squeeze than Hera would have preferred, but she was able to squish herself into the vent and easily pass through to the ceiling of the room next door. Peeking through the grating, she squinted to see.
It was… not what she expected. The datacore of any area or station was usually behind a hatch of some sort of communication room or server hub, which may be a little cramped, but gave you rows upon rows of data, cubes, chips, whatever file storage had been in style at the time. Since dust was often the enemy of semiconductive material, such data cores were always kept in the dark.
The datacore wasn't small and cramped, but massive. Easily the size of some sort of command center, shelves of data went from the ceiling where she was down to the floor, easily two stories down, if not three. Catwalks littered the space for easier navigation and the room was absurdly white. White floors, white walls, white shelves, even the various data storages were cast in white. The lights made it so bright that there were almost no shadows, and the core was littered with guards. Hera easily counted six within her sight, and she didn't want to guess how many were hidden among the tall stacks of data.
And, standing above it all, were the Tyr brothers. The older one was shouting into a microphone of some sort, likely not a part of whatever Chopper had done. The younger was pacing in irritation, a whip now hanging from his hands, as well as a blaster at his hip.
Hera frowned. Her darker clothing would be useless once inside all of that white, and she couldn't finesse her way around so many guards. She knew her abilities, and fighting wasn't her strongest asset. Oh, she knew she could handle her own against a couple of opponents, and she was a master of using her environment to her advantage to turn the tables. Anything from a serving tray to words could change the flow of a fight. But those options weren't available to her at the moment. They knew she wouldn't be taken, she couldn't use words, and she wouldn't even be able to get close enough to use something else.
Still…. Hera narrowed her eyes and kept crawling along the vent. The branching offshoot that got her to a better shot was an even snugger fit, but she could still move, which was what mattered. Coming to another grate, she pulled out some clippers and cut aside part of the grating, just enough to stick her blaster through.
The younger Tyr, with the shorter cut jacket was pacing in irritation, his every line vibrating energy that was begging to be released, so full of tension that even Thal, the big brother turned to bark at him, in actual words, to settle down, as he kept trying to organize his own forces across the station that didn't have fully functional comms. The younger brother's pace was set and steady, for all the tension clearly set in every step. But it made the younger Tyr's pattern predictable. So Hera stayed quiet, took her time to aim. Back and forth. Back and forth. And as Hera exhaled, she shot her blaster, the bolt going straight into one of the younger Tyr's eyes, leaving him screaming and writhing on the ground. Hera didn't stick around for much more as she worked her way backwards and back to the trunk of the vents that gave her more maneuvering room. She could hear movement below her, the guards swarming to the Tyr brothers and likely trying to figure out where she was.
But Hera wasn't there any more. She was back in the vent she'd started in and was moving in another direction now. At another piece of grating, she studied the results. The younger Weequay was clearly down, screaming in agony and flailing. Thal, the older Weequay was kneeling by him, and Hera had to wonder if they were speaking through pheromones again. Both were occupied with each other, and surrounded by a tight circle of thick-build guards a mix of races. She counted six but not all of them were the six she had seen before. Another half dozen were circling around under where she had been positioned before, some even trying to climb the datacore to get to the vents.
Well, Hera gave a grim smile. She couldn't have that now, could she?
Rather than just taking one shot, she took several, taking down half of the group surrounding the Tyr brothers, and all the idiots who thought climbing the core and making themselves easier targets was a good idea. That cut the forces in half as she backed away from the grating and headed for another vent. She could hear Thal Tyr shouting orders, but she couldn't make it out in the echoes of the vents over the sounds of her own motion. She found a third grating, and the angle was horrible, but she took a few shots anyway, taking down another two of the guards. Then it was back to crawling.
Hera was just reaching a fourth grating, when there was the sound of blasterfire that wasn't hers and she was surrounded by smoke, squeezing a free hand around her mouth to prevent coughing and then she was falling ,the white almost blinding her, before she landed on a catwalk. Her shoulder was jarred, and sending a constant pulse of pain along her nerves like fire, but she knew it wasn't broken or dislocated, so she could still move, move, move!
"Greetings," Thal Tyr called up to her as she quickly ran down the catwalks away from him, get behind a datacore! Change directions! Keep him off balance! "You are a wily one! And I will make sure my brother, if he lives, has as much time with you as he wishes. Then it will be my turn. And that, you won't survive."
Hera, being on a higher level than the guards below, took a risk and jumped to a datacore, scrambling up to the narrow space between the core and the ceiling, hoping the nonexistent shadows there would hid her as she started to shuffle forward. Down below, doors opened, and more guards came pouring in.
Ten. Twenty. Thirty.
She started thinking in less than polite language.
"I must thank you for your predictability, however," Tyr continued calling up. "So desperate for a list of data that even the most dire of circumstances happening to you and you still won't leave. I knew you'd come here."
Hera didn't rise to the bait, still shuffling around, trying to keep herself hidden and away from what they were predicting.
"I give you credit. You're shrewd. And you keep your slave well trained and sharp." Thal laughed. "I wonder what training you use to get such loyalty from someone who could so easily overpower you. I doubt your bed is enough. No woman could be enough to hold a man down."
A blasterbolt hit the ceiling right above Hera, and she instinctively rolled, falling off the datacore down to the catwalk below.
The guards were on either side of her, no catwalk below to jump to.
Hera wondered how she was going to survive this.
Kanan was... well, he wasn't well yet, but he was getting better. His frantic dash out of the Ghost and the two fuzzy blurs had cleared a lot of his brain. His attention finally snapped to an acceptable level with a gasp. He was still in his drenched clothes (needed to ask what he was dunked in later) and shivering as it chilled his body; he still had tremors but they were manageable; and most importantly he had his trusted DL-18 in his hand. The world was fuzzy, it was a blur from the Ghost to... wherever he was, but when he rounded a corner he saw a crowd of humans and Zabraks and the much taller creatures he didn't have a name for, and in the middle of that crowd was Hera, her presence a beacon in the Force, and that was all Kanan really needed to know.
His first shot didn't hit the guy he was aiming for, but it did hit the creep next to him, and three shots later Kanan figured out his aim was worse than an overclocked protocol droid's walk cycle. One of them missed and the other two clipped instead of stunned. His feet had covered the distance, though, and he had been trained in close-quarters combat, and even still half drugged these guys were all jokes; they weren't battalions of droids and hails of heavy artillery, they weren't clones that had betrayed everything, they weren't anything that would challenge him.
Kanan was a fifth of the way through the guards before they really understood they were being assaulted. He ducked under a massive swing and tucked into a tight roll, he was dizzy but his motions weren't his own as he swept his legs out in an impressive split and then twisted, tripping three more sets of legs and giving himself enough momentum to lift up on his hands and then snap back to his feet – long enough to adjust his balance in a hair's breath and kick out, shoving his foot into the chest of a Zabrak and sending him clattering into the guards behind him. Foot still extended he lifted his DL-18 again and fired point blank at a human that sent him skittering over the edge of the catwalk.
He straightened and took a breath. Twelve of somewhere around thirty down. It'd be half again as much if he were in full form.
Then his eyes locked on the Weequays. Passed Hera, passed the gobsmacked guards, at the central terminal of the catwalk.
Kanan swayed slightly on his feet as tremors riddled across his body, but he focused and fired. One Weequay was already writhing on the floor – had that been him? Everything was so blurry... - but the older brother was still standing and Kanan wasn't going to let that travesty be maintained. He marched forward, occasionally ducking under a strike or a measly little blaster bolt, answering to his every instinct without thought or concern. The humans and Zabraks were easy, he'd trained with them both as a youngling, understood their balance and their weaknesses, and these guys didn't have the training that he did – and he wasn't even fully trained!
Four more fell over the catwalks and he had finally made it to Hera, that beautiful Twi'lek was on her feet and firing her blaster, orange bolts connecting where Kanan's aim was not nearly as accurate. He covered her back as the ones he had disabled or tripped started to get back up, and they were back to back, firing their blasters, slowly spinning around and catching everyone, seven more fell over the catwalk and some just crumpled to the ground, and finally some realized the danger they were in and just ran away.
Kanan breathed a sigh of relief. His hand was shaking. His body was shaking, but he could hardly feel it because he was one with the-
Kriff. The Force. The drugs in the food, they had messed with his body chemistry and his sensory perceptions so badly that he had instinctively called on the Force to help him. That was bad, that was bad, and he quickly tried to replay the fuzzy events in his mind. He hadn't levitated anyone, right? He hadn't pushed or anything? He couldn't remember. Kanan tried to clamp down on himself as he realized his mistake, tried to cut off that piece of himself that was to intimately tied to him, to sever the bond and push all the feelings away. The effects of the drugs came back, no longer held off by the Force, and he shivered with both tremors and the cold of wearing wet clothing. He shook his head and swayed, and he turned to look at Hera.
That moment of inattention was all that was needed.
A hand big enough to encase his entire shoulder grabbed him and spun, what must have been a knee barreled into his abdomen and shoving all air out of his lungs. Kanan saw a near-human guard with an arm in a sling – the grabby guy from earlier that day – and as he tried to suck in a breath a punch rattled into his temple, sending him twisting to the ground. Stunned, Kanan struggled to see past the dazzling of his eyes and get recycled air in his lungs at the same time. Everything was white and he couldn't tell if it was from the walls or from the blow to the head.
Presence was looming over him, menacing and painful and ugly. Aw, kriff, so much for helping Hera...
And then he perceived blaster shots, sensed they were over his head, and something warm touched his icy bicep.
Sight returned slowly, and he looked up to see Hera crouching down on one knee, green eyes laced with worry and smoke coming from her Blurgg-1120 in her hand. She had saved him once again, and it somehow struck him as funny, that he kept trying to be helpful to her, useful, and she was the one who always ended up saving him. He smiled and collapsed back to the catwalk, a mess of limbs that didn't respond correctly, and let out a soft laugh. "Big damned hero," he said, and his voice was as blurry as his perception.
Hera had presence of mind to look offended. "Says the man who started this mess," she retorted.
"You still think this is my fault?" he asked, incredulous.
"It was your plan, remember?"
"Which part?" he demanded. "The getting drugged? The surrounded by five squads? The..." he frowned, focus disappearing for a moment before he put himself together. "Where are we, anyway?"
"Central data terminal," Hera said, getting to her feet and offering a hand. Kanan took it and needed more help than he wanted to admit in getting to his feet. He swayed, he felt somewhere between drunk and fevered, and he was so cold.
"Who dunked me?" he asked, thoughts scattering before he remembered his previous question. "And why are we in the central data terminal?"
"You weren't dunked," Hera said patiently, walking passed him and calmly stepping over the array of bodies. "You lost five pounds of sweat for all those drugs were doing to you – and how are you even standing? Let alone coherent?"
"Coherent is relative," Kanan said, following the Twi'lek. "I feel like I've been run over by Okidaiah's old bus. Twice."
The two Weequays were dead by the terminal, one bleeding heavily from an eye and the other with a smoking hole in his chest. "Was that me?" Kanan asked, staring at the bodies.
"Only half," Hera replied, pushing a lever and opening up a console. She grabbed her comm. "Specter Three, I'm in a central data terminal, download everything you can and then fry the circuits. We'll see if the list was actually here later. If it's not I'm sure there's other data here we can use."
Kanan made a face. "Not sure if I want to be the one to sift through that."
"We can sell it to Fulcrum," Hera replied. "Might find something useful."
Kanan nodded, but that little motion sent his head swimming. Still drunk. He took a deep breath and tried to focus. "What else did I miss while I was out?"
"Well, internal comms say the Empire is raiding this station, Specter Three took down the transmission hub, and there's a revolt on almost every level. How did you even get up here?"
That caused Kanan to blink, trying to think back through the fuzz. "I don't remember," he said, a little surprised. "The last thing I remember clearly was walking back to the quarters and feeling my body fall apart. There are pieces of things, but..." He shrugged his shoulders. "What now?"
"We get back to the ship," Hera answered. "Tractor beams are down so we just take off. Hopefully Gobi's family is there already and waiting for us." She waved her comm. "Chopper says he's already halfway there."
Kanan nodded, feeling light-headed again and swaying on his feet. He caught himself though, and took a deep breath, centering himself. "Lead the way, Captain."
Hera hopped her way down the catwalk, over all the bodies – some of which were starting to stir, and Kanan followed suit at a significantly slower paced. Beyond the endless expanse of white that was the data core terminal, the halls seemed to plunge to black, Kanan's eyes dilating slowly to compensate for the rapid change. He followed Hera more out of sense than sight, and for a moment everything lurched to the side and he was certain he was going to eject everything he had eaten for the last month. He stumbled, banging his knees against the floor but was able to scramble back to his feet quickly enough that he didn't lose pace with Hera. The Twi'lek moved expertly through a series of halls, many doors open to reveal what could only be described as perverted sleeping quarters, and Kanan slowly absorbed exactly where he was on the ship. Shower. He needed a kriffing shower.
His vision swam again, but his eyes were adjusting to the dimmer light. Alarms were blaring here, a loud wailing sound that was murder to Kanan's head but he just put one foot in front of the other, ignoring the shivers and the wet clothes and following the love of his life. She stopped once, at a lift, and only then did she turn to see if he was still with her – her trust in him strong enough after only a year that she never worried about him having her back. Something about that thought put an absurdly happy grin on his face.
Then his world lurched again, and he just about fell onto her and into the lift. "Sorry," he mumbled, the two syllables slurred. "I feel so drunk right now."
"That wasn't you," Hera said, looking up. "That was the station."
"Great," he quipped, "More good news." Maybe if he just stayed prone for a few minutes the galaxy would stop spinning. Hera was already on her feet, and the angle of her from the floor made him think the world was upside-down. That would only confuse his drugged mind more than it already was, and Kanan forced himself to sit up, not matter how pleasant the view was. No sooner was he upright that everything shuddered again, Hera jerking a hand out to the wall of the lift to steady herself. The lights flickered ominously, and it finally started to dawn on Kanan that there was more going on than getting data from a terminal. What had Hera said earlier? Chopper blowing things up?
"Is this Chopper?" he asked.
"Or the Empire?" Hera wondered.
"Either way, we need to be moving." He pulled himself up to his feet and the change in elevation made everything black out for a second, but it passed almost as quickly. "What level do we get off?"
The lift shuddered again, and the gears fell silent. They had stopped. That answered that.
"Give me a leg up," Hera said, and Kanan offered his body as a ladder. She climbed up his back, one foot on a hip and one knee on his shoulder, reaching over her head and pulling at an access panel. The lights went flickered again, and this time went dark for several seconds before emergency lights clicked on, casting the space in a dull orange. "Got it," she said, and the panel dropped to the floor and she lifted herself up. Kanan steadied himself for a moment before following suit, the dark colors of the shaft hard to make out. "We're not on the level we need," Hera said, looking at the navigation markings on the shaft. "We either need to find another lift or figure out how to get to the docks from here."
"Let's get on a floor and see where we are," Kanan said, half climbing up the shaft to the nearest lift door. His muscles were shaking again, and he fought more shivers as he slowly forced the door open.
Beyond was another hallway, doors replaced with view panels, and each room had the same collection of hoses and brushes. These were the cleaning pens on the old livestock heritage of the station. That meant...
"I know where to go," he said, lifting his DL-18 and firing at the duraplast. Three shots and it shattered, and he swept into the cleaning pen, Hera at his heals. The door into the pen took some jury-rigging, but the two were able to force it open, and they entered a narrow hall. It got bigger and bigger as other halls entered into it, until it was one big herding channel. "This will lead us out to one of the pens," he told Hera, "We can find our way from there."
The station lurched just as they pulled open the gate, and Kanan stumbled enough to walk into a bare-knuckled fist. "Hey!" Hera shouted and he went down almost immediately, and his stomach jumped up into his throat. He rolled to the side as the nausea hit him hard, his vision swam and his entire body tensed in preparation for the havoc that was about to be wrecked. He coughed, a hard, dry noise and he was seconds from triggering something worse when he was finally able to fight it down. Stars above, those drugs were doing a number on his body. Just what had he ingested at that crazy dinner?
He was shaking again as he pulled himself off the floor, and his eyes immediately sought out Hera. She was shouting at a Twi'lek, teal, what was his name... Orgadomo.
"Just what were you thinking?" Hera was saying. "Do you have any idea what he's been through in the last four hours? Who were you expecting to come out of there?"
"I was blocking the escape!" the male Twi'lek said, several spans taller than Hera and his face twisted in a snarl. "He never said the signal was gong to be an explosion!"
"He didn't know! Look, chatter says the Empire is here, we need to leave, now! Kanan, get up!"
Kanan grunted. "Working on it," he slurred. He'd at least made it to his knees, and he finally got one foot under him and staggered to his feet. "Be real happy when all the drugs are out of my system..." Everything swayed, and he was having trouble telling if it was him or the ship. He forced himself to take a slow, deep breath, half-closing his eyes and centering himself. He exhaled, and breathed in again, and found the focus to push on.
The three of them took off at a sprint, Kanan clumsily keeping pace with Hera and Orgadomo taking point. The Twi'lek explained how the impromptu revolt was going but Kanan couldn't focus on that and stay standing at the same time. They moved through the pens and out the doors, three guards either unconscious or dead on the floor. Orgadomo stopped only long enough to pick up a blaster. Emergency lights were fighting with alarm lights, making a red and orange and white swirl of color that was decidedly not helping Kanan keep his stomach in one place, and nausea was coming at him in stronger and stronger waves, but he pushed it down fiercely. He'd wretch once he was on the ship.
They climbed up onto the catwalks and it was a near straight run to the docking bays. Bodies were everywhere, of several species but mostly the human and Zabrak guards. The freed slaves had been vicious in their bid for freedom. The docking bay was filled with more bodies, these ones upright and mobile and fighting bitterly. They'd found the revolt.
Hera cursed. "This plan of yours was terrible!" she shouted.
Not this again. "At least I had a plan!" he shot back. He lifted up his DL-18 with a shaky hand and fired, but missed by feet instead of inches. He growled. "I can't see straight, my aim is poodoo."
"You were drugged out of your mind, of course it is! Stop thinking this is the time for a Twenty-Two Pick-Up and just let me handle this!" Hera fired her Blurgg-1120, the tiny weapon packing a heck of a punch at two Zabraks and then ducking down while simultaneously grabbing Kanan and throwing him down as well. Orgadomo gave an impressive bellow, charging into the fight and firing helter-skelter before launching a shoulder into a guard and tackling him and two others to a ground. Kanan slowed his breathing and focused again, waiting for his hand to stop shaking. He had just lined up a shot when a hand shoved him back to the floor and Hera curling down on top of him as several blasters shots exploded where his head had been seconds ago.
Right. Totally leaving this to Hera.
And he did not think this was the time for a 22 Pick-Up! They'd made that protocol but he had no intention on ever actually using it. He wanted to live, thank you! He was about to ground out a retort but Hera shoved his head down again, firing twice before reaching for her comm.
"Specter Three, where are you?" she demanded. "We're at the bay doors but the firefight here is pretty heavy. We're pinned with the slaves by the air lock, we could really use that nose gun!"
Nausea swept over Kanan as a reply filtered over the comm, and this time he couldn't hold it in. He rolled out from under Hera and pulled himself up. His muscles locked and all he really understood after that was that any second his shoes were going to come out of his mouth. The smell of his sickness was foul and he was sweating again and every muscle was shaking under the strain before it finally finished. He gasped air greedily and dimly became aware of a hand between his shoulder blades.
Hera was offering comfort. Force, he would die for that woman.
He turned to her and gave a shaky nod. "Chopper?" he asked.
"Says he left a command in the ship to take care of it," she answered in a bitter tone. "We have to get closer."
Kanan looked passed the air lock to the firefight going on in the docking bay, guards and slavers firing at one end and the Twi'lek and Wookies and Togruta either hiding or firing back on the other, cargo crates everybody's only defense. Orgadomo was with the guards, creating a distraction but was slowly being overpowered. Hera lifted her blaster up to aim and then fire two shots before ducking back down. Just what command had Chopper input to fix a situation like this?
"How good are you at dodging blaster fire?" he asked, his voice raw.
"About as good as you coming up with plans," Hera said derisively.
He was not going to live this down. He rubbed his face. "Okay," he muttered. "Town drunk it is."
He stood and then deliberately staggered out into the firefight. Hera stuttering in surprise. "Woohoo!" he whistled. "Did you see the explosions! That was kriffing amazing! And the Stardestroyers!" He moved over to the slavers, grabbing one and slinging an arm over his shoulder, seemingly oblivious to the blaster fire. "It was like that live transmission of Empire Day a few years back, do you remember?" He slurred his words and leaned into the guard, into the fire of one of the Twi'lek across the bay. "Huh, you fall asleep? That's okay, I'll grab a drink with somebody else." He reached for the next guard, stepping a little closer to the Ghost. "How 'bout you, huh?"
The Zabrak turned and Kanan saw an enormous bacta patch on his nose. The Zabrak recognized him in an instant and immediately wrestled out of his grasp, backing up and closer to the ship. Perfect.
"Hey," he drawled, staggering further, "Where are you going? The fun's over that way!"
And then he crossed whatever invisible line Chopper had programed into the ship. Its alarms blared over the speakers and the nose gun swivels and shot right at – no, behind – Kanan. The line of slavers went flying as the turret started blasting in a set line at everything behind Kanan, leaving a neat row of scorch marks on the metal plating of the docking bay floor. Slavers that survived the outburst quickly scattered, the slaves pushing forward with the clear advantage. Kanan let the motion flow around him, a little to woozy to do anything other than stay perfectly still.
Not that that worked once the station rocked again. Kanan collapsed to the ground, both due to lack of balance and to the desperate need to once again empty the non-existent contents of his stomach. All that mattered was dry-heaving, barely breathing, as he tried to control his body enough to actually get a decent chunk of air between his body's need to expel everything.
It felt like an eternity.
Then he finally had the will to focus to control his body enough to clamp down on the choking response. Once he exercised his will, controlled the hacking enough to start getting breath, he started to calm down his body. With his body under control, he was finally able to just sag down to the ground, exhausted.
"Kanan," came a soft voice, and he was able to finally look outside himself enough to realize that Hera was by his side, tugging at an arm to get him up and moving. There was still a firefight going on in front of the Ghost after all, even with the slavers fleeing in terror, and Chopper was rolling up from a hallway leaning fully on his front wheel, warbling something that Kanan couldn't make out at this distance, let alone with his inability to focus strongly.
"Hera," he replied.
"Can you stand?"
"You've already asked me that."
She gave a small chuckle. "Still working on it?"
"We need to get onto the Ghost."
"No arguments from me," Kanan replied. He tried to stand, his knees weak and body aching. And shivering. And trembling. "Not one of my better days."
"Not for either of us," Hera agreed.
Chopper came zooming up, garbling something, and paused by Kanan's side, letting the former Padawan lean onto a strut to help him get up. "Thanks, Chop," Kanan said softly, his throat feeling raw after all the gagging. He could already feel the nausea building again. With Hera on one side and Chopper on the other, they headed to the Ghost.
"Did Gobi's family come?" he asked.
"I don't know," Hera replied.
Hera couldn't blame Kanan. Gobi had been a help and like everyone else, she deserved to be safe with her family. Hera, herself had known far too many families that had been broken apart by slavery and she refused to let one more family be destroyed.
But Kanan wasn't well. It was clear that he was only holding on by force of will and that leaving the Ghost and the IV drip of medicines they'd set up, had cost him. His normally well-tanned skin was sickly white, he was still sweating profusely, and his sopping clothes left him clearly chilled. And even outside of the shivers was the outright trembling. She started to guide him back to his bunk, past an upset Gobi and frantically explaining Yarua. Hera couldn't understand what Yarua was saying when he was speaking at that speed, and Kanan was her priority at the moment.
Kanan saw what she was doing right away, though.
"No, Hera. Cockpit. If the Empire is here, we need to move."
"I can still co-pilot," Kanan said, standing straighter. "Once we're in hyperspace, then you can worry about pumping me full of more drugs to counteract the drugs already working their way through my system."
"Stubborn, stubborn man."
"That's why you love me."
Hera arched a brow, but dragged him to the cockpit anyway. She could see him settle heavily into his seat, but Hera was quick to take her seat. Gobi and Yarua followed behind as Hera quickly went through the pre-flight protocols. "Gobi," she said, booting up the guidance systems as Chopper plugged in to start calculating lightspeed, "has your family arrived?"
"Yes," she replied. "They waited outside. But they were unable to come aboard, and we didn't know how to unlock the systems."
"There's Gobi's family," Kanan said, pointing out the window. "By the hanger doors."
And sure enough, there was a pink Twi'lek with a family of easily five or six huddled together.
And pinned down.
"I'll go get them," Kanan said, already standing. Or trying to.
Hera knocked him back to his seat. "No, you keep the preflight going. I'll go get them." She moved to the back of the cockpit and to the ladder that lead down to the nose guns. She booted up the systems, deleted Chopper's program to fire five meters behind a running Kanan or Hera, and switched aiming over to manual. There were maybe a dozen guards left after the beating Chopper's program had unleashed. Her aim was careful, eyes narrowing and calculations floating through her head and... there! She fired the cannon, three bursts and watched as the slavers exploded up to the air. Satisfied, she left the nose gun and went down the lower hall, sliding down the ladder to the hanger and opening the bay door. She held her blaster in her hand, walking down the lowering ramp, and waved her free hand to get their attention. "Over here!" she shouted. "Now! Hurry!"
The family needed no other prompting, running full tilt to the freighter and up the ramp. Hera punched the comm. "We're set! Take off!"
Kanan said nothing, but Hera felt the hum of the ship. The ramp locked into place and Hera checked the family quickly. "Is everyone okay?" she asked.
"We're safe, alive!" said a pink Twi'lek.
Hera nodded. "We're not out of this yet. I've got to get to the cockpit. Do any of you know how to man a turret?"
Two of the men raised their hands, and Hera pointed them to the nose guns and the turret. One of the Twi'lek followed her up the ladder and she darted back down the hall to the cockpit. Kanan was still in his copilot chair, steering them out of the bay and into space. He looked terrible, and didn't even quip when Hera took over the controls. She flipped the comms on. "Hang on everyone," she ordered. "Things might get a little bumpy."
Space had never looked sweeter after the mess on the slave station. Hera felt a rush of energy from toe to lekku as she saw the dark vacuum of space open up before her; her eyes dilated and she finally felt like she was home. They pulled out of the bay and her sensors fed her a stream of data: there were no Stardestroyers, the transmission hub was destroyed and setting off a string of explosions throughout the station, hence the constant rocking of the station as she and Kanan had been making their escape. The entire station was going to blow, and Hera knew it had something to do with Chopper. That C1 droid was going to get the oil bath of a lifetime for this.
Other data started to come in as well. Several of the slavers had managed to escape as well, as did slaves who knew how to fly ships. It was an areal dogfight of chaos, everyone firing at everyone else and everyone too panicked to bother to check transmission codes or actually ask who was who. That meant a long string of unnecessary casualties and Hera wasn't going to have any of that. Her people had suffered enough.
She broadcasted on all frequencies. "Attention everyone," she said in her lightest tone of voice. "This is the Twi'lek that just blew up that crate of a space station and freed everyone there. If you want to come get a piece of me, try and take it!"
Kanan sputtered. "Hera, what...?"
"The 'town drunk' doesn't get to talk right now," Hera ordered. She didn't need snippy quips and one-liners while she was concentrating.
There must have been over two dozen ships in the air, most cargo freighters like hers but also some smaller, faster, and more heavily armed models. All of them turned to the Ghost, but only the small armed models started firing right away, giving themselves up as slavers. That was all she needed and she spun the ship into a tight aileron roll and moving towards the enemies that were firing. Kanan swayed in his seat at the sudden increase in gravity but held himself steady, manning his position as co-pilot. The two Twi'lek at the guns fired, their aim wasn't as good as the Jedi's but he was in no condition to fire and Hera wasn't nearly as worried as she might have been.
The ships kept firing, of course, but the other freighters had changed trajectories and were closing in.
"Hera...!" Kanan slurred, voice cracking.
"I do, it's them I don't trust!"
"Well," she said with a grim smile, "You should!" And no sooner had she said so than the freighters opened fire on the smaller gunships, a massive barrage of artillery that couldn't miss. Three of the fighters blew up, five more were critically damaged, and suddenly there were only two left. "Like the odds better now?" she asked, a little coy.
"Much," Kanan said weakly. Hera glanced over, but the former Padawan had a large, stupid grin on his face.
"Send our hyperspace jump coordinates to the freighters that fired at the slavers, we'll rendezvous there and figure out what to do."
The jump lasted six hours. Hera stayed awake long enough to shove Kanan to his bunk, reinsert his IV and watch him give a tired smile before sinking back into unconsciousness. She gave the briefest of tours to all her new passengers ("Here's the fresher, here's the galley, we don't have enough bunks for everyone so forgive us if we make do..."), told Chopper to man the cockpit, then collapsed into her bed. Sleep was a dreamless oblivion for which she was grateful.
Her alarm went off a half hour before they would exit hyperspace, and she dragged herself out of sleep, feeling filthy, desperately needing a shower of water, and remembering that there was far too much to do. Hera first went down to the cargo hold, and found all of the freed slaves still asleep. Gobi was encircled by her mother and the rest of her family, Yarua was stretched out with a pair of Twi'lek children using him as a warm fuzzy pillow.
Good, guests were managed.
Next stop was Chopper. He updated her on the Ghost, fuel levels, incidental repairs that were never ending, and finally submitted a full report on his part of everything that had happened at the station. Hera smiled and patted Chopper's spinning head. "Very good," she complimented. "You did excellent work back there and everything worked out fairly well." She then scolded him. "But next time, Chopper, you let us know when you've decided to broadcast that the Empire has arrived so that we know it is a ruse."
Unsurprisingly, Chopper was completely unrepentant, offering a long and extended opinion on communications and what was a need-to-know and what wasn't. Hera couldn't quite stop the chuckle, and patted his head again. "Just because it worked out this time doesn't mean it will next time," she replied. "We need to be kept in the loop when we're out in the field."
Standing, Hera stretched, still wanted to be either back in her bunk or a proper water shower. "Can you man the cockpit a bit longer? I want to check in on Kanan before we land."
Chopper gave an grumbling affirmative, and Hera patted his head again.
Kanan was still out of it when she came into his room, breathing in a deep, steady rhythm that indicated deep sleep. She sat beside him, and took his hand, an unpleasant feeling toiling in her gut. At the outset, Kanan had said that they couldn't save both the slaves and get the data. That slavery was so much bigger than what they could accomplish at one station. And he wasn't wrong. The Tyr brothers, or whatever their true name was, were dead, along with a large number of slavers and thousands of slaves had been freed. That was good. A clear victory. But Hera wasn't happy with it. Slavery was still out there, massive and seemingly unstoppable in the dark underbellies of the galaxy. They hadn't even made a fraction of a dent.
And it had cost them. Kanan, in particular. Thinking back on everything, if they had focused on Tyr from the start, there wouldn't have been such a hullabaloo, they might have been able to sneak in and sneak out, unseen with none the wiser. But that would have been fruitless. Chopper had gone through the files of the station, there was no list. And while the tantalizing snippet they had received as proof was probably part of something larger, that was all they were going to get, if it was even everything it was advertised as.
No, they may have been able to sneak in to the station, get the list and leave undetected and with Kanan in a healthier position that what he was, but it would have been useless. A complete bust and all of their credits spent on meaninglessness. Saving the slaves... That did have meaning. To Gobi and Yarua and all the others now finding a new path in the galaxy. But the cost...
Her thoughts were still spinning in circles when the hand she was holding squeezed her.
"Hey," she said softly, looking up to Kanan.
Kanan's eyes weren't as fevered, and while he still looked terrible, that was more from a desperate need of a shower than it was from illness.
"Hey," he replied. "What's our status?"
"Leaving hyperspace soon. Then, landing at a medcenter to get everyone a proper check-up and remove the slave chips. They don't know that yet." She looked him straight in the eye. "And getting you checked out. Your system needs to be purged of whatever concoction of drugs invaded your system yesterday."
Kanan sat up easily, still holding her hand, and she was surprised to note that he had taken off his shirt at some point in the past six hours. How had he done that without jostling the IV? "Sorry, captain," he said as he adjusted himself to his seated position. "No medcenter for me. Ever. Especially for bloodwork."
"Kanan," Hera replied just as firmly. "You were drugged. Drugged out of your mind. You'll need countermeasures-"
"Any blood-test will test for midichlorians."
Hera raised a brow. "And what does that mean?"
His thumb ran over her knuckles, staring at their joined hands. "They'd know I'm a Jedi. Or at least Force-sensitive given the amount of midichlorians, there would be an interest."
Her eyes widened.
"You'd have to tell them that I was drugged yesterday. And they'd be left wondering why I'm basically healthy and in desperate need of a water shower today instead of catatonic or seizing or hallucinating."
"The Force makes its children resilient," he continued, still rubbing her knuckles with his thumb. "And when I lost all my faculties, the Force stepped in to help me heal. It was the only thing keeping me upright yesterday."
It was like she had been punched in the stomach. She knew that Kanan had been affected by some sort of combination of drugs, but he hadn't been affected for long and had made it to functioning within two hours to come and help her. But this... That the Force had stepped in to purge his systems, on top of a natural resilience to things... Would he have survived if he hadn't been a Jedi? The consequences of her choosing both getting the list that hadn't ended up existing and rescuing the slaves suddenly slammed down around her shoulders and she was left winded. She had almost lost Kanan. She had almost lost him because she tried to do both.
"Why should I have to choose? Why can't it be both? Why can't we – I – help everyone I see?"
"Because it will destroy you, just like it did us."
There was a cost to this rebellion she was helping to build. If she truly did try to help everyone, she'd spread herself so thin that anything would pierce her. She had reacted at that station, instead of planning and that wasn't her. She went against type. Instead of being cautious and calculating, she had acted more like Kanan, reckless. Kanan, instead of flying by the seat of his pants, had been the planner. They had reversed their roles and it had almost ended in disaster.
Hera squeezed Kanan's hand.
She needed to be better. So she would be.
"You may not go to a medcenter, but you are going to get a shower," she said, leaning back and wrinkling her nose. "Preferably with water. And a great deal of soap."
Kanan gave his usual cocksure grin and raised an eyebrow suggestively. "You're no flower yourself at the moment. Want to join me in the shower to save some water?"
"That would be a no," she said primly, standing. "And I get first dibs on the shower anyway," she said heading out the door. "After all, it was your plan that went awry."
"There we go," Kanan smiled. "I knew this was all my fault."
"Of course it is."
Author's Notes: Annnnnd we're done. With this fic.
One thing we've noticed while combing through the pitifully small amount of Rebels fanfics that currently exist is that people tend to forget Chopper. One the one hand, we understand. He doesn't speak comprehensible dialogue and, like with Chewbacca, that makes quite the challenge when figuring out how to write him. Does a character translate? Do you translate? If so how do you know if the voice is correct or not? Etc, etc. But just because Chopper is challenging doesn't mean one should forget him. He's an important member of the crew with his own personality that interacts and bounces off everyone else. New Dawn doesn't mention Chopper at all, but the two of us are under the head-canon that Chopper was simply with the Ghost, looking after it. So when we approached this fic, we knew that Chopper would need to be at least mentioned so as to not forget him. Instead Chopper, being Chopper, insisted that he'd have a scene and be a complete badass droid. Well okay. And since the two of us have a background in computer programming, we could look at what type of variable names and protocols he'd use and start figuring out how Chopper likely saw the world. Our most favorite line from Chopper was the line of code, because it makes us nostalgic.
But you're not here for us to talk about how Chopper is fun, if difficult to write. Nope, you want to read about the rest. Honestly, there wasn't much left at that point. We were in finale mode at any rate. And after spending the past two parts with both Kanan and Hera playing against type, this chapter was about them reverting to type. Hera to covert-spyishness and Kanan reverting first to Jedi, then town drunk. Once they're back into the roles they usually do, things go much smoother. Because that's the version of each other that they're used to working with.
More importantly, however, Hera comes to understand, truly understand, why Kanan is so careful and hidden with his abilities. To our minds, he'd never go to a med-center willingly. Of course, we wrote this before we learned of that one time Kanan got stabbed in the back, left bleeding to die, and ended up in a bacta-tank at a med-center. *sigh* we can't always keep up with everything Star Wars. We'll call that instance extreme duress and a friendly rebel-aligned med-center until we actually find and read the comic. But the point of the scene was that Hera had started the fic convinced she could do both at once. And both were important. One for the rebellion, one for her people. And yes, there are bound to be times on the Ghost where two or even three objectives are on the agenda that they need to get done and balance and prioritize. But this was Hera reacting instead of thinking. It was the major point of her going against type. And she's learned her lesson. When we meet Hera in Rebels, she's cautious and careful, almost always staying with the Ghost, but adaptable. Here she was more rigid and unbending and she learned the cost by what had happened to Kanan.
To our minds, both Hera and Kanan save each other when they meet. Kanan is the most obvious, he was a total mess when Hera found him and by working with her, he's straightening himself out and getting back to what he believes he should be. But Hera starts off in New Dawn as very distant and professional. She needs to learn from Kanan how to let down some of those barriers and reach out. She's the heart of the team in Rebels for a reason, and Kanan was the impetus for that as far as the two of us are concerned.
We hope you enjoyed. We have a LOT more Rebels fics and ficlets beta-read and ready to go. Wednesday seems to be working out for a good posting day for these, so next week, feel free to check our profile for another Rebels fic.
Thanks for reading.