Author's note: This tale is the companion piece to 'Small acts of Defiance'.
Ahsoka's thoughts swam as she struggled to take in her bearings. Somewhere in the back of her mind she could hear the ship's computer warning her that they were entering Coruscant's atmosphere. Auto pilot would soon shut down and she would have to manually land the ship. Had it not been for her wounds it would have been a simple task, one completed many times before. But now, even forming a coherent thought took all of her strength.
Sian Jeisal remained by her side, unconscious and deeply wounded. Though bandages covered her broken body blood had slowly begun to leak through. The youngling too, had wounds of her own, haphazardly patched and temporarily healed. She didn't need to be sensitive to the Force or skilled in the healing arts, to know that she had torn some of the stitches during their journey back to Coruscant. There had been no to time work out a plan, tend to wounds or even make contact with the Council.
If there was one thing Ahsoka had learned in her short years was that relying on one's instincts could mean the difference between surviving and falling prey to one's enemies. If only her training could have prepared her for dealing with betrayal.
Ahsoka Tano was not naïve when it came to effects of war. Her earliest memories had been shrouded by the violence of war. She was only too familiar with its effects, both on a culture and the people that made up its society.
The clone's betrayal caught her entirely off guard. A part of her cursed herself for not sensing the shift in loyalties. A greater part of her couldn't blame them for their sudden turn. Given how both the republic and the jedI order had treated them, Ahsoka could understand their frustration. In the end it wasn't their treason that hurt. Knowing the numbers of innocents who were paying the price for it, did.
She wondered who Anakin would blame for the betrayal; if he'd turn with the clones or would he use it as excuse to unleash his endless fury upon them. The thought just made her feel tired and she fought back a soft sigh. Master Skywalker was no longer the man she once knew. Gone was the surrogate brother Ahsoka looked up to and admired. In his place now was a shadow, a darkness that was both Anakin, yet not.
Suddenly the sound of children's screams flooded her mind causing the youngling to stiffen in response. Her fingers clung to the controls as she drew in a sharp breath. Through the Force she could hear the haunting echo of a lightsaber being activated and the sound of a hundred souls crying out in requiem. The emptiness that followed held a weight of its own. Ahsoka couldn't say why but she knew that something terrible had just happened to her master. Their Force bond had just been severed.
Tears came to her eyes as she forced herself to focus on landing the ship. The ship was rapidly approaching the secluded hanger bays that overlooked the upper regions of the jedI temple. The landing was not an easy one and was considered difficult to master by even the most skilled pilots. For this reason Ahsoka buried her emotions and focussed on the task ahead.
"We're almost there Master Jeisel," she said softly, knowing the young knight couldn't hear her. Hearing her own voice eased a little of her nerves. It reminded her that she could do this, that there was no need to lose herself to fear.
You must go before they find you,"
As the ship slowly descended onto the hanger bay, she could almost hear soft whisper of Sian's voice echoing in her thoughts. It was the only words that Sian had spoken to her. Ahsoka could still remember the blood bubbling from the corner of her mouth as she went into a fit of coughing.
The young togruta had always known her skills in healing were limited. But when she found the young woman lying half dead amongst the rocks and debris the youngling knew she couldn't stand by and do nothing.
At the time, Ahsoka had received her orders to return to the temple, not to remain or look back. But the young togruta couldn't just leave her behind.. Master Luminara -her mentor in Anakin's absence- had been killed when their ship fell under attack by the clones. Had it not been for their ship's timely demise, Ahsoka knew that the clone soldiers would have removed her by other means.
It was out of desperation and the need to find a field kit that Ahsoka stumbled upon the young knight's broken form. Sian Jeisel had used the Force to set off a thermal detonator, and had been caught in the explosion. The young knight's actions had enabled her comrades to make their escape, but didn't ensure her own survival.
Fortunately the jedI knight was conscious enough for Ahsoka to scan her surface thoughts. It was from them that she had been able to locate Sian's ship. Though it was also damaged-having been shot down by troops-it was still repairable. It had been the first time in her life that Ahsoka found herself grateful for Anakin's ramblings on ship repair.
Their escape had been both awkward and timely. Though Jeisel's ship was nearby -crash landed in a canyon a short distance from where Luminara's ship had been- it had felt a million light years away. It had taken all of Ahsoka's skills to mask their Force signature; a trick Anakin unwittingly taught her.
The ship landed softly and Ahsoka gave a soft, but tired sigh of relief. She could still hear the requiem of the dying and feel the violent pull as their spirits were torn from their bodies. Suddenly she wondered if there would come a time when she'd be able to close her eyes and not see the bodies of the dead.
Sian moaned in pain, causing Ahsoka to snap out of her disturbed thoughts. The bacta pads she had wrapped around the warriors wounds were now soaked in blood. Ahsoka barely noticed that her own bandages were now blood soaked as well.
"It's going to be okay---Just hang in--" Ahsoka began. The elder warrior didn't respond, as her eyes grew wide in shock. The youngling didn't need to ask why, she could feel it too. The strange sense of dread consumed her thoughts warning her of impending danger. Nevertheless given young woman's condition the togruta knew the temple was Jeisal's last best hope for survival.
Ahsoka fumbled with the ship's field kit and gave herself another hypogun shot of stimulants. It wasn't her first choice, but given the situation there was little option left. Another shot was given -a mix of antibiotics and vitamins-to Sian who looked as though she were about to collapse once more. The jedi knight only shuddered and coughed violently in reply.
Slipping out of the damaged cockpit Ahsoka tried not to wince in pain. Quickly she buried the pain knowing that her wounds were the least of her worries. Ahsoka was about to help Sian out of the cockpit when the comm on her wrist chimed to life. Uttering a soft curse the youngling was about to ignore it when something deep within warned her to answer it.
"Padawan Tano--" Sian began. She fell silent as the young togruta ordered the comm to activate. In stunned confusion, Ahsoka listened to the encrypted, but hastily recorded message.
The security codes used in the message was unique to Torrent company. Captain Rex had spent many hours teaching it to her as part of her training. She never understood why it was necessary. Her Force sensitivity had always ensured she'd be able to sense if security had been breached. Tonight she was never more grateful for the long frustrating hours of study.
Yet between the sound of static and laser shots much of the message was lost.
…Do not return to the temple…trap…General Skywalker…gone…Do no return…
A chill ran down her spine as Ahsoka stood frozen, her eyes fixed on the entrance to the hanger. She could hear the distant sound of laser fire and feel the floor beneath her feet vibrate with the wieght of boots hitting the metal. Ahsoka knew the clone soldiers were coming; their presence had alerted the alarms. Yet she couldn't bring herself to respond.
The echo of the children's screams haunted her thoughts as she suddenly imagined their bodies falling lifeless to the floor as the troops turned their guns on them. Swallowing hard she struggled not to think of who was involved in the massacre. To her the men of 501st weren't nameless, faceless clones, they were her friends and in many ways, her family. Now they were her enemies, and worse they were butchers of children.
Jeisal cried out her name just as the youngling felt the heat of a laser shot burn past her tchun. Ignoring the pain of her wounds Ahsoka quickly scrambled back into the ship. The clone soldiers were soon rushing out onto the hanger bay. The accuracy of their attacks left little room for mistakes and Ahsoka couldn't help but gain a new found respect for them.
Re-activating the ship Ahsoka began to fire shots at the approaching soldiers with the sole operational gun turret. She didn't allow herself to think about what she was doing, or who she was now firing at.
Laser shots continued to hit the side the hull, as their ship took to the night sky. Her fingers danced across the controls as Ahsoka sought to dodge the onslaught. Sharp pains tore through her body warning Ahsoka that she had tore more of her freshly stitched wounds. All the while the calm voice of the computer warned her that shield levels were growing steadily weaker.
Upon leaving Coruscant's atmosphere, Ahsoka's thoughts return to the encoded message. The weight of its meaning had begun to settle in, leaving her struggling to contain her emotions. Master Skywalker was gone and so were all the others she called friends. Though independent by nature, Ahsoka was used to having family or at least friends to fall back on in times of trouble. Not anymore.
Suddenly it felt as though the entire galaxy now weighed on her shoulders. Glancing over Ahsoka took note of Sian who had slipped into a deep sleep. While the wounded knight was still in desperate need of medical help, her wounds had since stopped bleeding. The medicine was finally taking effect, leaving the wounded knight's in a critical, but stable state.
Returning her attentions back to the ship's controls, Ahsoka set the ship into auto pilot. She didn't need to be sensitive to the Force to know who had just saved their lives. Ahsoka wondered if she'd ever have the chance to thank him.
With a sad smile she softly sighed before setting the ship's course for Alderaan. Perhaps they would survive the night after all.