Disclaimer: Trollhunters belongs to Guillermo del Toro, Star Wars belongs to Disney.
Drifting into consciousness was a strange feeling for Claire.
She wasn't exactly aware, but something felt off. Attempting to burrow beneath the covers didn't help, and when Claire tried to drag her pillow down with her, she came into contact with a pillow that wasn't hers.
Bolting upright, she opened her eyes, surveying a spartan room with no decorations. The walls were a familiar gray, and the sheets covering her were a stark white. It was not her room. Only when her feet touched the ground did she remember why she was not in her room.
For a few moments, Claire did nothing. She sat on the bed, feeling the depths of the pain and betrayal inflicted upon her. The look on her mother's face was etched in her mind; filled with contempt and loathing, and so much disappointment. Tears pricked at her eyes again, but Claire wiped them away and tightened her eyes.
She had already cried and felt bad for herself, it was time to do something about it.
Claire pushed herself up from the bed and walked over to the door, peeking her head out. There were faint voices coming from the end of the hallway, so she shrugged to herself and walked over to it.
Jim was cooking something with a wonderful aroma at the kitchenette with an apron thrown over his armor, while Toby was seated at the holotable in sleep clothes along with something giant and furry. Claire gasped when she realized that it was a wookie, and that was what drew attention to her. A metallic, four-armed being also turned to her, holding up its arms in a welcoming gesture.
"Ah, you must be the fair Claire that Master Jim has told us so much about." Its voice was echoing, an indicator of an old vocabulator, but it carried an undercurrent of wisdom and knowledge. Its back was stooped over, and it limped in an uneven gait over to her. Six eyes blinked on and off, but it didn't seem to impair the droid at all. Claire took a step back as it approached, questioning as to whether the droid's processors were bugged.
"It might help if you were to introduce yourself," Jim piped up at its sudden halt, flipping something in a pan.
"Ah, of course. I am a Mark III Architect Droid Professor, given the name Blinky by the Jedi that I used to teach." He held out his lower right hand for her to shake, and Claire took it tentatively.
"He might seem a little spacey, but he's one of the smartest droids ever built," Toby said. He paused to yawn and stretch. "Plus, he's accumulated a lot of knowledge over two thousand years. Only problem is that it's hard to find replacements for anything he breaks, since he's so old. Aaarrrgghh! and Eli normally have to cobble something together themselves."
Jim flicked off the stove that he was cooking over, dropping the flat thing he had cooked onto several like it on a platter. He lifted the platter into one hand and three plates in the other, depositing a plate in front of Toby and the wookie and setting the last on the opposite side of the holotable. He deposited three of the flat pastries on Toby's plate, eight on the wookie's plate, and two on the last plate. "That one's for you, Claire."
She looked to Toby and the wookie, who were already digging in. Toby especially was wolfing it down, and she wondered how his short body could eat that fast. Claire slid into the seat that Jim had indicated, asking, "What are you going to eat?"
"I've already eaten," Jim said. He pointed to the wookie and said, "By the way, this is Aaarrrgghh!. We busted him out of a slave ship a couple years back, and he's been the heavy lifter around here since then."
"Hi?" she said, not knowing if he could understand her.
He gave a warbling roar, making Claire look around in confusion. Blinky answered her unspoken question, saying, "He said that he looks forward to working with you."
"Working with me?"
"I told you guys not to assume anything," Toby muttered. "She's an Imperial snowflake, not a hero."
"Excuse me?" she said, disbelief evident in her voice. Was he insulting her?
"Knock it off, Toby." Jim gave him a look, but Toby just shrugged. He sighed, but then said to Claire, "I know it's a bit early, but since Aaarrrgghh! brought it up-"
The wookie rumbled, but Jim waved him off. "No, you're good. Since he brought it up, you've got two choices."
"For what?" Claire asked, taking her first bite out of the pastry. Then she blinked and took a second. "This is really good."
"Thank you," Jim said brightly. "The choices, though, are for your future. You can't go back to the city unless you wanted to hide in the underworld, and you're not cut out for that. No offense."
"None taken," Claire said around a full mouth. Wordlessly, Toby handed her a bottle of a brown substance. She took a curious look at it, then saw that Toby and Aaarrrgghh!'s pastries had it drizzles over them. Shrugging, she followed their lead.
"So, the first choice is that we let you off here."
"Where is here?" she asked, swallowing the last bite of her first pastry. She quickly moved onto the second.
"Defiance. It's a makeshift village of various rebels and revolutionaries, hidden in the Ganthel outback. Probably the best hidden settlement out there, to be honest."
Toby rolled his eyes. "What he always forgets to say is that we're the only reason the place is still standing."
Claire looked over to Jim, silently asking for elaboration. A small grin stretched over his tusks, and he said, "We do supply runs and fill out bounties to keep the place running."
"Y'know, we could always just ask Mary to fund it."
"Mary already does more than she should to not risk exposure. I don't think she can throw around the kind of money to keep the life of a village together without being noticed, Tobes." Jim slipped his apron off, folding it and gently placing it in a compartment.
"Mary?" Claire repeated with disbelief. "You don't mean-"
"Princess Mary, first cousin to the crown prince of Ganthel?" Toby said. "Yeah, we do."
"She's a rebel?"
"Unlike most, she's both not blind, and not corrupt enough to ignore injustice when she sees it. Even if she's only half Twi'lek, she still holds to her roots, and the slavery of her people appalls her. Really, though, everyone should be angry at the slavery of another sapient, no matter what species they are," Jim said narrowing his eyes at something far away.
Claire swallowed thickly. "I had no idea."
Toby burped and wiped his mouth, his plate empty. "Yeah, most don't. The Empire has very good censors and complete control of the media. How do you think they got the word about you out so quickly?"
She shook her head, pressing the heels of her hands into her temples. "I'm sorry, it's just – I was raised on the belief that the Empire was necessary, especially after the corruption of the Republic. To think that the institution I've supported all my life has been doing all this behind the galaxy's back… It's sickening."
Aaarrrgghh! roared loudly and slammed his fist into the holotable, making the lights on the table flicker. Claire jerked up, more than slightly intimidated by the giant being more than capable of pulling her arms off. Blinky warbled something back at him in his own language, and Aaarrrgghh! drew back, pulling his arms around himself and groaning softly.
Toby ran a hand over the fur on his neck, scratching carefully. It seemed to calm him down, and Jim quietly said to her, "The wookies are the main slave species of the Empire. They have lots of children and a reputation for strength and endurance, making them the ideal spice miners. Aaarrrgghh!'s tribe is almost completely gone, taken to various places over the galaxy. He took an oath of non-violence, swearing that he would never do to another being what was done to him. Sometimes, he gets a little worked up, but he would never hurt you."
Taking in the scene before her, the wookie crumpled in on himself and the short boy trying to comfort him, Claire's heart broke. She nodded to Jim, then asked, "Can I see Defiance?"
"Of course," he said. He grabbed his helmet, tucking it under his arm, and moved to the door. "Follow me, I'll show you around."
Looking around, Claire wasn't sure what she expected from a village of rebels, but it wasn't this.
Barely-held-together shacks made of scrap metal were the buildings of the village. Claire shuddered to think about living in them, but as she watched, a laughing child ran out of one of the houses, closely followed by an exasperated mother holding a much younger child on her hip. They both stopped when they saw Jim, but a second later, the child hollered, "Mando'ad! Mando'ad is here!"
Jim rolled his eyes, but the smile on his face betrayed his true feelings. "Well, there went the plan of a quiet tour," he said.
Several more children opened their doors, their eyes lighting up when they caught sight of the giant next to her. They all started making their way over, and Claire caught sight of one holding a blue doll with horns. Her eyebrows rose, and she looked over to Jim, who had knelt down to get down to their level. He was still much taller than any of them, though.
"Good pronunciation, Tulan, but it would be haar Mando'ad. Otherwise, you're just saying Mandalorian is here."
"Mom said you dropped off supplies last night and you probably wouldn't be coming back out!"
"Yes, well, this time I brought a new friend." Jim stood up and gestured to Claire. "This is Claire Nuñez. Welcome her to the town."
"Welcome to Defiance, Claire!" many tiny voices chorused. Jim laughed, then tried to shoo them away.
"Are you Jim's girlfriend?" a small voice asked at her ankle. Claire blinked down at the little girl with the Jim doll, her face growing hot.
"Um, no, we're just… friends." If she could even call him that.
"Good. Jim's my hero," the girl said, cradling the doll.
Claire knelt down to get on the same level as the girl. "And why is that?"
"He didn't let the bad men who took my parents away take me away."
At that statement, Claire frowned. She looked closer at the child and was alarmed to find burn marks covering the girl's left face and arm. As she turned her attention to Jim, she found a sight that she wouldn't forget for a long time.
The children were using him like a miniature playground, laughing and hopping all over him. There was a boy sitting on his shoulders and clinging to his horns like handles, while another tried to knock him off. The Mandalorian lifted an arm, pulling up three giggling children like they weighed nothing. The way they clung to Jim as parents stood on their porches and laughed gave rise to something in Claire. Something she had never felt before. These were families, just trying to live their lives. They hadn't done anything wrong.
A resolve formed inside Claire. She would help these people, or she would die trying.
"Alright, alright, that's enough," Jim said, taking the boy off his shoulders and setting him on the ground. "I've got to show Claire around the village now. You kids be good to your parents, okay? Keep an eye on everything for me."
As they all went back to their parents, Jim held a hand out to her. Claire took it without hesitation, coming to stand at his side. "They really like you."
He rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, I'm the only one who really leaves this place nowadays, so I guess I'm a breath of fresh air."
"That's not what I heard," she said as Jim began to pull her along. "I had one girl tell me that it was good that I wasn't your girlfriend, because you were her hero."
She was happy to notice that his eyes flicked about rapidly, and he stuttered, "R-really? Which one was that?"
"Aw, can the big, bad Mandalorian not handle a little girl with a crush?" Claire purred, squeezing his hand.
"Hah hah," he muttered. "I remember handling yours just fine."
"You stared at me every time I turned around."
Jim grumbled something under his breath. Claire took another breath, pleased that they could talk about it with minimal awkwardness so far. "About that… whole thing. Um, what do we-"
"Cin vhetin," Jim said, cutting her off.
"What does that mean?" she asked, grateful that he hadn't left her stuttering.
"Uh… white field? I mean it like, start over, try again with old notions left behind."
"You mean a blank slate?" A tiny smile formed over Claire's face.
"Probably," he said. "I'm better with Mandalorian proverbs. Never learned the Basic ones. Toby's usually pretty good at translating them.'
They had stopped in something akin to field, facing each other. Claire had to look far up to get to his eyes, and holding each other's hands was difficult, but they still managed. "I think I can do that."
"Great," Jim smiled at her. He held up one of their conjoined hands, saying, "Hi. My name is James of clan Ordo."
"My name is Claire Nuñez," Claire said, staring at their hands. "It's nice to meet you."
Once they were back on the ship, Claire caught Jim's hand again. "I've made my choice."
"I haven't even given you your other option," Jim said, amusement clear in his tone.
"Well, if it's not staying aboard the Havoc, then I don't want it. I think I've found something here, something important. It's like I'm being called. I just… I have to be here and help. It's the least I can do."
He quirked an eyebrow. "I thought you were going to med school to become a doctor."
"That was before I knew about all… this!" Claire waved her hand towards the hatch leading to Defiance. "It's sick and wrong, and I supported it! I've got to do something to make up for it."
"Claire, there are more ways to help than with a blaster," Jim said. "You were learning to be a doctor. A rebellion without access to standard medical facilities can always use a doctor."
"How much use would I be without those standard medical facilities, though? Besides, I don't think they need another mouth to feed. I think that you need help aboard the Havoc, being able to get supplies for these people."
For a second, he just stared into her eyes. Claire felt like he was examining her soul, looking for something that she wouldn't understand. Then he nodded. "Alright."
"Alright?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips.
"You can join the crew."
She pumped a fist in the air. "Yes!" she squealed. "I won't let you down, I promise!"
"And in light of that, you need some training," he continued. "It wouldn't be good if you died on your first mission because you didn't know how to use a blaster. But right now, we don't have enough time to start on that. We're about to enter the window for catching the ship transporting the Bodach'i slaves, and I can't delay that."
"That's fine," Claire said. "But I refuse to be useless. If you give me data on them, I'll do my best to figure out how to treat them."
"That would be fantastic, Claire. Blinky!" Jim called as they entered the living area.
The droid turned around from something he had been doing on the counter. "Yes, Master Jim?"
Jim motioned to her. "Can you help Claire here learn how to treat Bodach'i? It would be great if we had medical assistance ready for the ones that are undoubtedly injured, and I find that liberated Imperial slaves do not have a high opinion of droids."
"Absolutely. Come this way, fair Claire. Master Jim likely needs to prepare for his part in the mission." The ancient droid pulled her down a hallway, opposite of the one Jim went down.
Claire was confused. "What does he need to do to get ready? He's already in his armor, and he has his weapon."
"Yes, but Mandalorians have a plethora of extra equipment that prepares them for nearly anything. Master Jim is likely selecting what he would like to take with him and attempting to calm himself before we get there."
"Alright boys, and recently acquired girl, brace for liftoff," Toby's voice sounded over the comms.
She and Blinky grabbed onto whatever they could as the ship lurched under them, lifting them into the air. As soon as they could, they continued into a room that was filled with dataslates on one side and had mechanical parts neatly organized in boxes on the other. "This room belongs to Aaarrrgghh! and I," Blinky said. "I have already selected the dataslates with the relevant information and was ready to peruse them. I would be glad to share them with you."
Claire smiled in thanks. "Then let's get to work."
In the cockpit, Toby flipped a couple switches as they broke through the atmosphere of Ganthel. He heard the door open behind him, and Jim sat in the copilot's seat. His face was blank, as it always was before a mission.
"We're really taking Claire on, then?" Toby asked, letting the navicomputer calculate the jump for him.
Jim shrugged, not looking at him. "What else are we going to do? Besides, I've got a feeling. I think she's supposed to be here."
"Mh-hmm. And would this feeling be coming from the heart, or the great beyond?"
The deadpan look his best friend shot him was almost enough to make him laugh. "That's the weird part," Jim eventually answered. "For the first time in a while, I actually did get 'that' feeling. I think it's what drew me to her originally, even if I didn't know about it."
"And it definitely wasn't your eyes." Toby did laugh at the next look his longtime friend gave him. "But seriously, you think she was brought here by the cosmos?"
"Yes." The one word held so much conviction that Toby nearly stopped in his tracks.
After measuring Jim up, to see if he was serious, Toby shrugged. "Alright," he said. "But if this blows up in our faces, you know what I'll do."
Grabbing the lever between him and Jim, Toby tapped a button on the console and said, "Prepare for jump to hyperspace in three… two… one…" he pushed the lever forward, turning each star into a streak of light.
Turning to Jim, he said, "We'll be there in about an hour. If anything happens before then, I'll come tell you."
The Mandalorian nodded, staring out into hyperspace. Eventually, he stood up, grabbing his helmet. Without a word, he turned and left, leaving a bemused Toby behind him.
An hour later, Jim found himself in front of the airlock, ready to advance. All he was waiting for was Toby to find the ship and dock with it. "Toby, the ship should be here by now."
"I don't know what to tell you, Jimbo. There's nothing here," Toby said, sounding worried. "Do you really want to stick around? This has set-up written all over it."
"We stay until we know that there are no slaves beyond a shadow of a doubt, Tobes. We're not going to leave innocent people to slavery just because their transport was late," Jim growled into the comm.
"Alright. But if this does turn out to be a trap, I am so saying 'I told you so.'" Toby's exasperation was clear. A second later, he said, "Hold on, a ship just popped up. It's not Imperial, though. An Aurore-class freighter. Jim, that's a Zygerrian ship."
"It might not be an Imperial cargo ship, but I don't think there'd just be an innocent Zygerrian ship floating along an Imperial trade route. Take us in."
Claire's voice crackled over the comms. "I thought the Zygerrians weren't allowed to practice slavery anymore."
"The Empire is notorious for getting others to do their dirty work for them," Jim answered. He checked his Thunderer, making sure that it was in optimal condition for the tenth time. "They're all too happy to let slavers practice their trade as long as they get a share. It's only when they start getting selfish that the Empire cracks down on them."
Toby came back onto the comms, saying, "Alright, I fed them a line about how we were going to sell them Aaarrrgghh!. We'll be docking with them in a couple minutes. But Jim, I still don't like this."
"What choice do we have, Toby?" Jim asked, patting his sheathes to make sure he had all his vibroblades. "Just warn me before you open the door."
A minute later, Jim had started breathing exercises. He agreed with Toby; something felt off. But there was nothing that he could do about it. All he could do was prepare for whatever would come at him aboard the freighter.
"Opening the door in five. Give em' hell, Jimbo."
"Ib'tuur jatne tuur ash'ad kyr'amur," Jim muttered to himself.
The door opened, and two yawning Zygerrians were greeted not with a wookie but with a seven and a half foot horned Mandalorian warrior.
The first got a knife directly through his face, instantly falling. The other was able to get off a short yell before Jim wrapped an arm around his neck, leaving him gasping for breath and feebly jerking his limbs into Jim's armor until his movements gradually ceased.
Jim pulled his knife from the Zygerrian's skull with a wet schilnk, whispering into the comms, "Two down."
"That was fast," Claire said, surprise evident in her voice.
Toby sighed, saying, "There's a reason people fear the Mandalorians, Claire."
Jim ignored the both of them, creeping into the freighter. Greeted with darkness, he tapped the side of his helmet, bringing up thermal vision. "The lights are off, Toby," he muttered. "And I don't hear anything living."
The ship shuddered underneath his feet. "Shab!" He yelped. "Toby, did they just-"
Sighing, Toby cut him off, saying, "Disconnect and pull away? Yes, yes they did. I'm following them, but with you on board, I can't really do much."
The lights flicked on. Zygerrians jumped out of their hiding places behind various crates and walls, each one pulling out a blaster.
Leaving Jim in the center of a room with no cover and about ten blasters trained on him.
Slowly, he reached up and flicked off his thermal vision and flicked on his speakers. Another Zygerrian appeared on the catwalk above the cargo hold, and from his ornate clothing, it was obvious he was the leader. His face was stretched with a smug grin. "Well, well, well," his nasally voice grated on Jim's ears. "What do you know? A lone Mandalorian, just like the Imperials said. You know, you really should surrender. We could always use another slave, but it doesn't mean much to us if we deliver the Empire a smoking corpse to go along with the armor we promised."
Jim snorted. Then started chuckling, which became full blown laughter coming from his belly. The Zygerrians glanced at each other, puzzled and some looking more than a little nervous. "Stop that," hissed the leader. "Do you know who we are?"
"Do you know what you've done, di'kut?" Jim responded once his laughter had subsided. "You just trapped yourselves in a confined space with a fully armed Mandalorian. You're going to die, and I'm going to laugh at your stupidity."
The Zygerrian growled and yelled, "Open fire!"
Jim let the first volley strike him, only feeling mild discomfort at the way his armor heated up. The first shot he took was at the leader, vaporizing the right side of his with a crack of blaster fire.
He was moving before the body could even fall, leaping forward before they could target him for another volley. He pulled his vibroblade into his left hand as he charged forward, almost immediately driving it into a Zygerrian's chest. Jim threw the corpse over his shoulder and took his cover. He ducked down for a second, took a note of everyone's position, and began to act.
The next Zygerrian to pop up was the one closest to his own cover, but before he could fire, Jim blasted his head off. He sheathed his vibroblade and pointed his left fist at where he knew the next closest one was and pulled the fist down to activate the flamethrower.
The furred mammals began screaming, some trying to put the flames off, while others popped out of their positions, trying to get to the fire control systems. Jim blasted the two that tried before they could get near, watching dispassionately as their bodies skidded across the floor.
One Zygerrian screamed and vaulted over his crate, making a mad dash at Jim, firing his blaster every step of the way. Emboldened, the remaining slavers popped out of cover and started firing, giving out their own cries despite the fire raging around them. Jim snorted, popping a grenade out of a hip pouch and tossing it behind the crates.
He heard a scream of terror before the sound of sustained electricity reached Jim's ears. He was glad he packed the non-explosive grenades, given that this was a starship and he didn't want to blow through the hull.
The final Zygerrian vaulted over his crate, being met with a beskar covered fist to his face. He vomited on the floor, falling to the ground, and Jim simply held up his Thunderer and pulled the trigger. He surveyed the area, and once satisfied that there was no one other than him still alive on the ship, walked over to a panel and turned on the fire suppression systems. Into his comm, he said, "Toby, I've cleared out the ship. You're right, it was a trap, but I'll be going to the cockpit in a second and bringing the ship around. Hey, we could give it to Defiance so they finally have their own ship!"
He was answered with static. "Oh, shab," he muttered. Trying the other channels, he quickly found that they were also all filled with a jamming signal.
The ship shuddered, throwing Jim off balance for a second. As soon as he was stable again, he dashed for the cockpit. Once he was there, he slapped a hand over his faceplate. "Oh, Toby's never going to let me live this down."
Above him was a Star Destroyer, its belly drifting closer and closer as he watched, helpless in its tractor beam.
"We're leaving?! Why are we leaving?! Jim needs our help!" Claire screamed at Toby as he piloted them away from the Imperial capital ship that had just emerged from hyperspace.
"Claire, I'm good, but I can't take on an entire Star Destroyer by myself. Besides, Jim's a kickass Mandalorian with way more tricks up his sleeve than they're ready for, including a tracking device in his helmet. We'll follow him with that whenever he manages to escape." Toby tried to ignore her as he spun the ship around, trying to get away before the Star Destroyer noticed them.
He cursed when the computer alerted him to a squadron of TIE fighters on his tail. "Okay, Claire, I'm going to need you in the turret. Down back there, climb up the ladder." He tapped a button, "Blinky, need you in the bottom turret. We got a squadron of TIEs incoming."
Claire grumbled, but she ran over to the ladder anyways. She pulled herself up, finding herself in a swiveling turret. She found the TIEs quickly but wasn't sure what to do. "Toby, how do I do this?"
"Wha – really? You point at them and shoot when the computer tells you! Look at the screen in front of you and start blasting!" he yelled.
"Engaging," Blinky said over the comms. "And may I recommend that we not argue with each other as we try to escape death?"
Red bolts streaked towards the TIE fighters, forcing them to break formation. They retaliated quickly, though, with green blasts flying towards them. Claire yelped as the ship spun, avoiding the bolts, but she quickly grabbed hold of the sticks and jammed her thumbs on the triggers.
Her seat shook slightly as the cannon encasing her fired, grazing a TIE's wings and forcing it to pull away before it could score a hit. Determined, Claire leaned forward, keeping up her assault until she scored a direct hit on the cockpit, obliterating the fighter in a blaze of shrapnel.
She whooped, screaming, "I got one!"
"Great job, Claire, now don't get cocky!" Toby yelled back.
The ship shuddered, setting off flashing red lights in her turret. Claire refused to be distracted, though, and swung her turret around, firing at the first TIE to get in her sights.
"Entering hyperspace… now!" Toby yelled, and the stars around her stretched until they were white lines of light and the TIEs were nowhere to be seen.
Claire let go of the sticks, sitting back heavily in her seat. A giddy feeling arose within her. She helped protect her new crew, not hesitating when her target was in front of her.
She could do this.
And then the other feeling crashed into her. The feeling of, oh force, she just killed someone. An actual, living person, with friends and family that will now miss them. She just ended them completely and utterly.
She wanted to throw up. And the only person that she would even feel okay talking to about this was stuck aboard a Star Destroyer, fighting for his life, while his friends ran away.