Author's Notes: This was inspired by a dream I had some months ago. I had written this tale up in an entirely different fashion but was not satisfied with the end results. However after reading Karen Traviss's tale 'No Prisoners' I found just what I needed to finish what I had begun.
The first thing he noticed was how much younger the togruta looked in person than the images he had seen of her on the holo-news. She could not have been older than thirteen, if that.
The second thing he noticed about the jedi commander was her eyes. They lacked the innocence of a child, and held a weight that came only from experiencing horrors that defied all reason, or words.
His brother's never openly spoke of it-doing so would only tempt fate-but they knew it as the slow death.
Slick had seen it before in all of his colleagues at one point or another, and as of recent, even in himself. It was not nearly as disturbing as witnessing it a youngling, certainly not one as young as the one who now watched him intently. Her silence was deafening.
"Why are you here kid?"
Slick asked as he watched her closely. The words sounded harsher than he would have liked but he did not take them back. She was a soldier and was used to straight up orders and demands.
The fact she was a child-soldier did not help his views of the Republic or the Order she served. No child should ever witness or endure what they had faced.
Ahsoka's fingers fiddled nervously with the edges of the leather akul skirt. Her eyes were wide and dangerously empty as they flickered from her hands to his face. Her lips parted as though about to speak, but soon closed again.
This was not the confident; chipper if not outspoken padawan who served the infamous General Skywalker that Slick had often seen on the holo-news. She was a frightened, confused child, one who clearly was a lot younger than the holo-news claimed her to be.
She opened her mouth as though struggling to speak, but the words did not come out. Slick did not pressure her. It was not the first time he had seen another struggle to put words to their feelings, the realization that some times there were just no words.
He knew she would speak when she was ready.
"I think—I think I know why you did what you did."
Her voice was quiet, filled with emotions that Slick was very familiar with, sorrow, fear and confusion. Slick did not need to ask why or how she came to the realization. The guilt and desperation in her eyes said it all.
"You were right—about us, the jedi using you—I never knew, I never understood, till now."
The words were carefully chosen, yet Slick could tell it was not the rehearsed message she had wanted to share. He remained silent waiting for her to continue. For a moment she spoke not a word, her gaze grew distant as they drifted to the back wall.
She reminded him of Jester, the way he used to get whenever he was cleaning his gun. Slick tried not to think about his brother had been through, never mind the youngling who watched him intently.
He was no longer in a position to help her, never mind his brothers. At least he had tried.
Suddenly her eyes snapped back to him. They were focussed, pleading and filled with unshed tears. He did not need to have her heightened abilities to know what she was feeling. Guilt was something Slick understood far too well.
"Rex says 'we follow orders because those who make them know the bigger picture—they have information that we don't'—My master also says 'some things are better left unknown'--but I can't, I don't—' she faltered as her eyes fell to her hands. They were clutching the edges of her skirt so tightly that her knuckles had turned beige.
"You doubt yourself because everyone tells you what you're feeling is wrong. But deep down you know what they are doing to us—what they are doing to you, is wrong."
The words came without anger, hatred or even disgust. In fact, Slick surprised himself at how calm his voice was, as though he were stating a mere fact. It was the truth.
"What am I going to do?" she hoarsely whispered.
Slick could still remember-as though it were yesterday-how terrified he had been when he came to that very realization.
It was the fear of the unknown, the knowledge that there was no turning back. Moreover, the horrifying possibility that he was the only one who understood.
Slick did not know what he could possibly tell her. The youngling was trapped in this war, just as they all were. Like them, she had no income, no real connections to the outside world, and no easy means of escape. As much as he wanted to encourage her to run and not look, back Slick knew better than to speak such things.
His experiences with children were non-existent, yet from what little he had observed he knew they were easily impressionable. He presumed that it was for this reason that the Jedi chose to make soldiers of them. Give them a few good words of encouragement, make the war out to be a game-with them as the heroes-and send them on their way.
It worked for his brothers and him, why would it not work for the jedi.
Slick forced himself not to remember the destruction of Kessia, the charred remains that were far too small to be adults, or the lifeless horrific expressions of those who were not completely razed by the fires.
It was not the first time he had seen children on the front, but he never imagined that the self-righteous jedi would stoop so low as to employ younglings to their army.
What could he say? He had no contacts, not anymore, no credits to give her to aid in her escape, no safe-haven for her to hide, never mind heal from the horrors she had seen and been through. There was one thing he could offer and so he did.
"Trust your instincts kid; even when everyone else is telling you otherwise, trust them. Because it knows, what is real and what is not. It will keep you safe, sane and alive."
Ahsoka stared at him in confusion. For all of her mystical abilities she was still a youngling, one who had much to learn about the galaxy around her. Furrowing her brow the youngling commander studied him intently trying to fathom his words and the weight of them.
"Thank you Sergeant Slick," she said in polite, yet sincere tones as she stood up. Her expression softened turning thoughtful; her eyes once filled with fear and confusion was now calm if not determined.
As Slick rose to his feet, he gave a small nod in reply.
Turning towards the door Ahsoka gave a flick of her wrist causing it to open. The simple gesture reminded him of the pale faced assassin and the final message she had given him.
The togruta paused to give him a curious glance.
It was a great risk; one that he was certain would be worth it. His life may have been over, but hers was not. Ahsoka deserved to have a chance to make her escape and so he told her exactly what Asajj had told him.
The youngling blinked in reply, she did not know what to make of the numbers he had told her or what they represented.
"Tell me that you will not forget them," Slick said in almost fierce tones. Ahsoka weakly nodded, though it was clear she was not convinced of their importance.
"When the time comes you will know what they mean," Slick explained.
The child tilted her head slightly in response before politely thanking him once more. Without another word, she stepped out of his cell and disappeared down the hall.
He could only hope that she would find her way out before it was too late.