Freaks of Nature
Aurra Sing could not move. She was imbedded in place, watching the flickering golden form with wide, disbelieving eyes. She watched as his head turned, slowly and deliberately, in her direction. She watched as a single golden eye and sickle shaped black pupil glared right at her, right through her.
In that moment the bounty hunter knew that if she stayed she was as good as dead, that it was not a question of her killing him but a question of her surviving him. Just with one eye watching her she felt the weight of a world fall on her shoulders, a chill creep along her spine so cold she felt like ice. She had to get away. She needed to get away.
It all happened in an instant.
She took off running for the nearest exit, even as the golden sentient spun on his heel, a Rasenshuriken forming just above his outstretched hand, spinning with such speed that it's blade shaped appendages were a blur of incandescent death. He threw it just as she dived passed the exit, the destructive construct of pure chakra slicing clean through any sandstone in its path before blasting through the far wall and exploding in such a way that it shook the very superstructure of the palace.
Naruto lowered his hand and looked at it for a long moment before closing it into a tight fist. "She dodged it, huh?"
He flared, golden fire twirling and flickering around him in an explosion of emotion made tangible. The very air became heavy, making it difficult for the remaining denizens of the room to breathe let alone fight. Several were falling to their knees, clawing at their throats, coughing and spluttering. Jabba was as still as a statue, drool and foam flowing from his open maw, eyes wider than dinner plates as the weight of a creature which could level mountains and wipe countries from existence fell on his shoulders.
Aayla felt her breathe coming and going in gasps, the heat Naruto gave off and the very presence he unleashed robbing her of her strength. She looked over to see Celeste fairing little better, on her knees, hands on her throat as she concentrated on the Force to slow her heart and calm her rising sense of dread.
"Naruto." She called, voice raspy and weak as she tried to get his attention.
"Ah well," He responded, but not to her. He seemed to be unaware of those around him as he spoke, eyes glaring at his fist before looking at the ruin which was once one of the entrances to the palace. "I will soon fix that mistake."
"Naruto!" She forced herself to a knee, then on shaking legs as she hopped down from the slab of durasteel which was the Hutt's throne and approached him. Hands outstretched even as her vision blurred and her head throbbed. The closer she got the more crushingly suffocating his presence seemed to become.
She didn't know how she made it to him without blacking out, and she didn't care. She grabbed his arm with both hands, wincing as she felt the solid chakra construct burn her flesh. She bit back a scream, hissing through her lips as a whimper.
His head spun to face her, a murderous set of golden sclera surrounding animalistic sickle shaped pupils glared balefully as her before recognition crossed them and then horror. The golden light surrounding him vanished in a flash and Naruto was in front of her, his hands on hers as wide azure eyes looked at the blackened skin of her palms in horror. "Aayla."
"Calm down," She chastised between pained gasps, holding back a need to whimper in agony, wincing with every miniscule motion her ruined skin made. "You were killing everyone in this room. Calm down."
He nodded, closed his eyes and reactivated his partners chakra once more. It was different this time. The anger and the rage had dissipated, replaced by fierce determination and focus as his golden eyes locked onto her charred flesh. Aayla watched dumbly as the pain vanished, her charred, burned skin reverting back to a healthy cerulean.
He placed a hand on her cheek, a soft gentle caress which made her look into his shimmering pained eyes. "I'm sorry."
She placed a hand on his, and smiled. "Don't be."
The spell broken the remaining sentient beings within the room began to explode into open panic. Women screamed and men shouted as the mob turned and made a dash for the exits, all manner of civility sacrificed and replaced with a primal need to escape and survive. People were thrown aside, trampled underfoot and soon the throne room was empty save for her, Naruto, Celeste, Jabba and what few guards with the mental fortitude to withstand what Naruto had dished out.
Naruto rose to his feet and went to Celeste next, kneeling down beside her and helping her off of the slovenly Hutt's stone slab, catching her when her legs threatened to give out. "Are you alright?"
"I will be," She replied, taking a deep breath before giving him a weak smile. "Warn me next time you do that, okay?"
"Will do." Naruto nodded, then turned to the ruined exit where Aurra Sing escaped. "I need to track her down and end this."
"No," Aayla shook her head, stepping between him and the archway and getting right into his face. "Leave that to me."
He looked at her quizzically, "You?"
"Let me deal with her!" She agreed, glaring at him. "You haven't gotten back up to scratch with that form of yours yet. It's a danger to yourself as well as those around you! That's what Kurama told you!"
Naruto was silent, averting his eyes and scowling. "And what about you?"
"Me?" She asked.
"Your emotions are all over the place," He continued, glaring at her. "I can feel it coursing through you. You want nothing more than to kill her yourself and watch the life drain from her eyes. I know what that type of hatred does to a Jedi, and I will not lose you to that madness! I refuse to lose you again!"
His voice had been calm and in control at first, then rose an octave every moment until he was roaring into her face. At that moment the immortal and unbeatable Naruto Uzumaki showed his true weakness to everyone in the room including her. She was his weakness. He loved her beyond rational thought, and he was terrified he would lose her.
Aayla saw this, closed her eyes and took a deep breath before opening them and levelling her beloved with a glare which matched his own. "Let me handle her. Don't you trust me?"
"More than anything." He replied without a moment of hesitation.
"Then trust me now!" She replied resolutely. "I will deal with her. I have done it before and under your training I am twice as strong as I was then. I can beat her and I will not lose myself while doing it. This isn't my first time fighting the darkness Naruto, I know what I am doing!"
"And so do I." Celeste added as she came to Aayla's side. She fixed Naruto with a smile. "We are two of your three students. Trust us, we'll take care of this."
Naruto eyed the two of them for a moment, then glared at those still in the room. Jabba was beyond rational thought. His entire form was glistening with sweat, eyes were wide and mouth was moving but no sound escaped until now. "Monster, he's a monster. Kill them, kill them all now! What do I pay you for!?"
The last few hunters did indeed draw their blasters, much faster than the ones from before. Not all of them did. Boba Fett looked up at the skylight, then grabbed his lover and activated his jetpack, ignoring her surprised protestations. Naruto's eyes narrowed as he reached out with both hands, grabbing both his students and pulling them right up to him. "Bad move, slug!"
Suddenly he was sheathed in golden light again, but it wasn't just him. Aayla and Celeste, held flush against him were also covered by the same light, and as the remaining hunters fired their blasters their crimson bolts simply deflected and ricocheted off of them. He raised one hand, a fully formed ball of pure chakra forming, glimmering with light and power.
The Mandalorians jetpack finally activated with enough force to take flight, a once complaining now screaming Sintas in his arms as he smashed through the skylight and out into the open air of Tatooine. Naruto released his power then, and there was a flash of light before the skylight exploded in a mass of flame and debris, the aftershocks knocked Fett off of his trajectory, but all the while he wrapped his arms around his lover as she screamed and held her close, trusting in his armour to protect them both.
There was nothing within the main chamber other than Naruto and those he shielded from the blast. When he released the form there was nothing but the three of them standing in the middle of a blackened chamber. There was no sign of the Hutt, his men or any piece of furniture other than burning pieces. Even the walls themselves had only just borne the brunt of the sudden and powerful strike, burned back to just a few inches of stone which crumbled with each passing second.
"No one threatens my family." Naruto said into the destruction. "No one."
Aayla and Celeste looked around the blackened remains of the main chamber of the palace, wide eyed and disbelieving before forcing themselves to calm down. There was many questions floating through their minds, but for now they were glad that Naruto was on their side and not the Empires.
"I'm guessing you don't want to go into battle with those on." Naruto began, reaching into the folds of his longcoat and producing a small scroll, using his teeth to tear open the tag and force it open. A small flash of chakra and clothes appeared before them, clothes worn by ninja of his home planet, black pants and jackets, leaf green flannel vests and small armbands with the symbol of the Shinobi alliance imprinted on it. "Go ahead and get dressed. I promise I won't look."
He turned and walked towards the exit, golden glow once again fading away back to his usual persona. Aayla and Celeste quickly changed, removing the scantily clad articles of clothing and replacing them with the more suitable things which Naruto had provided. When they had finished changing they looked like Shinobi of his home planet and when Naruto returned after their call he smiled.
"Yeah, that's more like it." He said appraisingly, smiling at them both. "Go, and be careful you hear?"
"You too." the two of them replied in unison and were about to go, but Aayla stayed, watching him as Celeste remained by the door.
"I made three rules when I remembered what I could do, three terms which would need to be fulfilled for me to use this. The first was when I was sure I would die. The second was when my friends and family would die, and the third was when I fought an enemy I hated alone with no one else to get caught in the middle. This was the power which made me respected but also feared on my home planet." He looked at Aayla, a sad smile on his face as if he had been told a heartbreaking truth. "Do you fear me, Aayla?"
"No." She replied, without a moment of thought, smiling a smile which lit up his world.
"That's enough." Naruto replied, smiling himself as he meant every word. Only Hinata had truly accepted him after seeing what he could do in this form and by her doing the same he thanked the powers that be that he had met her. "Just as I trust myself to hold onto this power I trust you to do what you need to do and come back to me as you are, as my Aayla."
"I will still come back to you as your Aayla, I swear it."
"And I trust you, now go." Naruto replied, looking at the ruined skylight. "We both have things to do."
Aayla nodded and moved across the ruined remains of the crime lords throne room, Celeste stayed for a moment, watching him.
Naruto smiled at her, "Make sure you both come back."
She nodded and moved to follow Aayla. With the two of them gone Naruto took a deep breath and sat on the charred remains of the Hutt's throne, looking at the spot where the slovenly Hutt sat and placing a hand on his face. This was not how he wanted to explain Kurama's full strength to any of them.
His comlink beeped and Naruto pushed the button. "Yeah?"
"Naruto, we finally got in touch with you." Rex's voice came over the comlink. "An Imperial shuttle has just landed. The guy in charge wants to fight you himself. We tried to take him out but he called some sort of black form that blocked our weapons fire. He's demanded to face you."
"Did you catch his name?"
"Sasuke Uchiha," Rex replied. "He said it was time you two settled an old score."
Naruto sighed as he got to his feet. "Yeah, I figured as much. Tell him I'll be out in a few minutes."
"And Rex." Naruto added, memories of a time which felt like another life flashed before his eyes. Memories of blood and flame, of his best friends betrayal leading to the deaths of his friends and all he held dear. He remembered HInata's face at the time of her death, chest caved in by a Chidori, blood spatter across her face. "Don't antagonise him."
At last they had assembled.
The entirety of the Rebel navy had come together for this one make or break offensive.
Dozens of capital-ships formed up into squadrons from Confederate Providence Carriers, Recusant Cruisers, Lucrehulk Battleships and even the huge eight kilometre humpback form of a Mandator Star Dreadnought to hundreds of smaller escort and support vessels including Munificent Frigates, squid-like Trident Assault Ships, Dreadnought Heavy Cruisers, Acclamator Assault Ships, Carrack Cruisers, CR-90 Corvettes, Consular Cruisers, Republic Light Cruisers, Strike Medium Cruisers and even modified civilian vessels like GR-75 Medium Transports and a menagerie of Freighters.
It was a ragtag mass of vessels and warships, not worthy of a navy under most circumstances and yet Admiral Swell found himself glad that he had so many ships considering how badly his forces had faired since the inception of the Galactic Empire. He was glad he had enough manpower to crew them let alone so many ships at his disposal.
He had decided to take the Mandator on as his flagship, the vessel being the largest and most powerful his fleet could muster, renaming it as the Freedom and declaring it the centre of his battle-squadron of core Separatist Carriers and Cruisers. It was fully armed and operational, and he hoped its presence at the head of the fleet would sap whatever strength the beleaguered defenders had left.
After being overwhelmed by their strike teams and vanguard ships of course. He thought that as a single Delta-7 Aethersprite swept past the viewscreen of his flagship with a dim hum of its engines, followed by two hundred other small hyperdrive enabled fighters including ARC-170s, Z-95 Headhunters, Eta Interceptors, H-60 Tempest Bombers, V-wing Bombers, BTL-B Y-Wings and several other individually modified Aethersprites all racing ahead of the vanguard and forming up into their assorted wings.
"All Wings report in!"
"Red Wing, standing by!"
"Green Wing, standing by!"
"Blue Wing, standing by!"
"Gold Wing, Standing by!"
Swell waited until each wing, each numbering fifty hyperdrive enabled fighters and bombers strong, reported in before he bowed his head and whispered words he had never thought he would ever hear again.
"May the Force be with us. Jump!"
He said those words, followed by an innumerable amount of clicks as his vanguard jumped into hyperspace away from the fleet and towards the make or break battle which awaited them. He didn't need to speak to his confidantes or his bridge crew or his fleet and fighter commanders. They all knew what needed to be done.
"Half an hour," He called into the gloom, making the order anyway. "And then we jump!"
Rex took a look at what was before him and decided, without a doubt, that this was going to be a bad day.
There was an uneasy truce both on the ground as well as in the skies, the Jedi interceptors and the black hulled TIE fighters were circling each other like rival pairs of vultures sizing each other up yet not willing to attack.
On the ground was much the same, with him, his chosen troopers and Ahsoka knelt behind a semi-circle of hastily assembled steel crates, rifles held to attention. The Imperial shuttle had landed on one of the undamaged landing pads. Its wings folded up, and standing on the interconnecting walkway was a man, tall and imposing, black robes and hood fluttering in the warm breeze. Behind him were two women, also dressed in tight black clothes and six black armoured stormtroopers in a column two across and three deep.
Rex ground his teeth together, feeling something about this man, something familiar yet distant. He had approached with a hand raised, and said in a slightly accented yet firm voice that he was here to face Naruto and only Naruto. He was not interested in their little Rebellion or the Empire or the business with Jabba the Hutt.
All he was interested in was settling the score.
He saw Tano tense, and placed a hand on her shoulder, expecting her to jump into an attack but instead felt her shivering. He looked over, seeing her watching the black robed figure with wide eyes full of fear, skin turning deathly pale. "Ahsoka?"
"He feels like Naruto," She whispered, voice hitching. "He feels like him, but without the restraint. It's suffocating."
She was Force-sensitive, so if Rex could feel this sense of foreboding it must have felt ten times worse for her. He gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze, hoping that it would bring her comfort in some small way. "Stay calm, deep breathes."
Rex would have opened fire on him right there and then had Naruto not asked him to stand down. The words from the boss reverberated through him. This was not a man they could face and beat in a fight. In fact they would be extremely lucky to escape with their lives.
It happened suddenly, a flash of heat which made him flinch even with his body covered head to toe in armour. One moment there was nothing between them and the Imperials then the next there was a single man, back to them, form glowing gold and arms folded. It took a moment for Rex to recognise the spiky blond hair, the long trenchcoat and the height as Naruto.
No words were spoken, yet within moments the man in black stepped forward and continued walking until he was face to face with the Boss. He shrugged out of his robes, revealing a pale face with spiky raven black hair and piercing onyx eyes. He wore dull silver armour with black underlay, a curved sword sheathed to the utility belt tied around his waist.
Then he changed, suddenly wreathed in flickering black flame, eyes morphing to a glowing crimson which Rex could see from where he stood. The flames encompassed him, writhing as if they were sentient with a life of their own. The two encircled each other, golden eyes locking onto crimson. Naruto grinned, a toothy grin of sharp teeth which was mirrored by his opponent. It was a pair of smiles full of bloodlust and aggression.
Words were exchanged, impossible to hear over the roaring in his ears.
Then they both vanished in flashes of black and gold, both them and the Imperials blinked, the women and stormtroopers heads turning right and left in search of their master and his boss. His ARC troopers were much the same, either blinking in surprise or heads snapping right and left.
A boom, sudden enough to make them all flinch, brought their attention to the distant sand dunes beyond the canyon and out into the Dune sea. Sand rose in a sudden hurricane which spun madly and unpredictably before exploding, throwing a shockwave of wind and sand in every direction. When it hit their walkway it was with the ferocity of a sandstorm, nearly threw them off their feet. ARC troopers gripped their makeshift barricade while the Imperials on the walkway either hit the deck or grabbed onto the railings.
"So those are Shinobi, huh?" Rex asked, mostly talking to himself.
Ahsoka, still looking sick and winded managed a shaky smile. "Not even close. Naruto explained to us early on that when it came to his people he and Sasuke were freaks of nature. Most were barely as strong as your average Jedi Knight."
"So that's his name, Sasuke?"
"Yeah," she nodded as another sonic like boom resounded all around them. "Sasuke Uchiha, from the same home as Naruto. They were friends once, but Sasuke left his village and his people for revenge. He was twisted by madman after madman, fed lies and convenient truths until he was turned into a killing machine."
"So he's one of the men who wiped out the bosses people?"
"Bad blood there."
She nodded, as another thunderous boom resounded from the endless desert. "Only one of them will be walking away."
And they were powerless to help...
The fighting started the moment they traversed across the chasm and into the dune sea. Naruto spun in midair, a Rasenshuriken already leaving his hand while at the same time a long arrow of black flame left Sasuke's hands. The two struck with the power of a hurricane, causing a sudden funnel of sand and debris which exploded moments later.
Sasuke hit the top of a tall sand dune, skidding to a halt before encasing himself in flickering black flames. His eyes, immediately morphing into the ultimate form of his Mangekyo Sharingan, snapped left and right as he waited for his hated foe.
He did not have to wait long.
Three Rasenshuriken soared towards him, bladed edges spinning as Sasuke jumped high, hands raised as if he were stringing back a bow and released another three spears wreathed in black flame. They each struck the spiralling constructs head on, calling forth more exploding tornadoes of sand and lashing wind.
The force of the blows threw Sasuke through the air, spinning madly before he righted himself and landed in a crouch, skidding across the dunes before rising to his feet and looking around. His features morphed into a scowl.
"I do not remember you as a coward, Naruto!"
Hands exploded from the sand, just a hairsbreadth away from grabbing his ankles before the Uchiha jumped high with a chakra propelled leap. Naruto was already moving. He exploded from the sand, another Rasenshuriken coming into existence which he threw. Another black arrow left his fingertips, and another explosion as the two powerful forces collided.
Yet this time Sasuke was not thrown away with the explosion. His body suddenly weighted down by the overwhelming wait of his Susanoo before unleashing a full blast of Amaterasu's black flames. The flames reached out like writhing, flickering tendrils, moving faster than any normal man could see before swallowing the golden form of his nemesis whole. His screams of agony were music to his ears.
Only there were no screams.
The golden form vanished in a puff of smoke. A Kage Bunshin. Sasuke frowned, eyes widening in realisation before turning in midair to see Naruto above him, hand reeled back and a Rasengan within his hand. Sasuke snarled, a Chidori forming to life in his outstretched right hand which he shoved forward just as Naruto did.
The two techniques, mainstays in both their arsenals, collided like the opposite ends of two magnets, crackling lightning and lashing winds fighting for domination before the inevitable happened. The two techniques exploded in their faces, throwing both of them back to the sand dunes below at breakneck speed.
Naruto hit the ridge of a dune, bouncing off the sandy surface before landing on his feet and skidding to a halt as Sasuke just managed to right himself at the last moment, using his chakra to slam feet first into a near vertical wall. The force behind his inertia causing the ground beneath his feet to crater, exploding in sand on the sloped end before the whole thing collapsed on top of him.
Naruto got to his feet, golden flames flickering around him as he traversed the distance between the ridge to the collapsed sand dune in the blink of an eye, golden eyes narrowing as his flame wreathed face turned into a predatory snarl.
"I did not think you so easily beaten, Sasuke!"
There was a moment of silence, followed by a sudden bulge of sand as a huge black body slowly made its way free. Naruto would remember Sasuke's Susanno until his dying days. That huge humanoid chakra construct made off purplish black chakra. Only members of the Uchiha clan who had achieved the ultimate Sharingan could perform such a technique. It's appearance, dressed in Samurai armour, helmeted face distinguishable by a long Tengu like nose, its great feathered wings unfurling and spreading.
And in its centre was Sasuke, glaring at him.
Naruto whistled, "Now there's something I haven't seen in a long time."
Sasuke's response was to unsheathe Susanno's huge Odachi longsword and bring it down in an overhead swing. It was quick, faster than the human eye could see, but not fast enough to catch Naruto who flashed to the side, reappearing as it collided into the sands, leaving a long, wide and deep crevice as it was raised.
"Not much for a warm up, huh?" Naruto asked, arms folded.
"I think we're well past the point of warm ups." Sasuke replied.
Naruto's form pulsed and exploded in bright flame, "I suppose your right."
Nine huge tails of burning golden chakra exploded from the sand, unfurling as they lashed out to wrap around the huge hulking form of Sasuke's Susanno and squeezed. The chakra construct seemed to creak, then broke and shattered into thousands of black shards, yet instead of vanishing the shards turned into black flames, consuming the barren wasteland around them like a wildfire in a forest.
Sasuke ascended high above his shattered construct and the writhing tails, spreading his arms and legs to try and slow his fall. Susanno reappeared around him, smaller yet still fully formed. The Uchiha once again raised his hands as if stringing a bow and Naruto watched with wide eyes as a bow of black flames appeared in the constructs hands, a long black arrow appearing.
The arrow was loosed.
Naruto vanished in a huge explosion of black fire, turning the entire valley between two colossal sand dunes black with the apocalyptic flames. Sasuke hit the highest dune, looking down at the destruction with a frown. "Another Shadow Clone."
A flicker of power, and he looked up, flinching as the intense rays of the binary suns blinded him for a brief moment.
It was a very important moment.
Naruto was high in the air, mimicking the same spreading arms and legs, mouth open and a small ball of crimson light spinning at the tip of his tongue. Sasuke's eyes widened, recognising the form of a Tailed Beast Ball when he saw it.
The ball was released from his enemies open maw, falling upon him like a comet. The explosion which followed removed the sand dune he had been standing on from existence, leaving a huge crater over a kilometre wide and half a kilometre deep. In the centre of the crater was Susanoo, but it's purplish black chakra was bubbling, almost seemed like it was melting, revealing chakra created bone underneath as it slowly began to dissipate into the burning hot air.
Sasuke was within, on his hands and knees, breath coming and going in ragged gasps as Naruto landed with a loud thud in a crouch and rose to his feet. He eyed his enemy for a long moment, watching as he got to a knee and then stood upright.
The Uchiha looked winded, in pain even. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth as he spat a crimson ball onto the sand
"You've learned a few new moves there." Sasuke smirked.
"You as well, I like the whole arrows of Amaterasu thing you have going." Naruto replied, memories of better times flashing before his mind. He remembered their time together as Genin alongside Kakashi and Sakura and for a brief moment he felt a need to reach out to him, his first true friend, one last time. It seemed to overrule his judgement for all of a heartbeat before being fiercely locked away and placed into the deepest, darkest depths of his subconscious.
Sasuke wasn't going to be weakened by sentiment and neither should he. He should know this by now, and he would not lose the ones he loved again.
Sasuke was suddenly right in front of him, hands gripping tightly onto his shoulders as their eyes met. The Uchiha smiled a grim smile before uttering a single word. "Tsukuyomi."
It took Naruto all but a split-second to realise that he had let his guard slip and in a fight such as this a split-second was all that was needed. "Ah shit."
One would expect to feel safe, in a cockpit of a snubfighter many miles away from the nearest sentient being.
Sia-Lan Weiss did not feel safe. She saw the technical readouts of the power being dished around down there in the Dune Sea, and even if she remotely considered it to be a glitch in either the ships or her Astromechs systems there was no denying what she was feeling through the Force. Two huge powers, beyond anything she or perhaps anyone else had ever felt, were at war down there.
Her hands danced as she tapped the runes and keys on her main control panel, narrowing down where the readings were coming from and seeing with worry that they were dangerously close to Jabba's Palace. She made a decision, and activated her fighters comlink system, hailing Rex.
"Major Rex, can you hear me? What's going on down there?"
The comlink crackled, and the clones voice was just audible through the static. "We're not sure, Master Weiss. Naruto and a man in black went off in that direction and it's felt like a series of earthquakes ever since!"
"The Commander is doing this?" Weiss asked, awe and fear filling her in equal measure.
"It seems so."
She paled at the news, everything in her being rallying against it and yet she knew it was true through the Force. This was not a natural disaster nor was it a manmade weapon. It actually was a battle taking place between Naruto and another being, and it was terrifying to witness even from the apparent safety of low orbit.
Her Astromech screeched a warning, and Sia-Lan forced herself away from the readings and to the information her droid was giving her. The Jedi Masters eyes widened before her head snapped to the right, knowing in her bones that their situation had just gone from bad to worse.
Another Star Destroyer had just jumped out of hyperspace, not far away from the other one and settling almost serenely into its own orbit without a care for a spectacle taking place on the surface. Like the other one it was an Imperial-class. A mile long dagger shaped behemoth bristling with the latest armament and weapons.
"Another Star Destroyer has just jumped out of hyperspace, an Imperial." She called into the comlink.
She just heard a curse from the other end, "Great that's just what we need. Anything feel strange about it?"
Weiss took a breath, forced herself to calm down and opened herself up to the Force, careful not to dwell on the powers fighting miles below her as she concentrated onto the Star Destroyer and felt for anything which would give her pause, any signature of a fellow Force-sensitive being or Dark-side user or...
An inky blackness reached out, attempting to swallow her whole.
She released her hold on the Force, feeling herself break out into a cold sweat and gasping for air as she remembered that presence. She felt like she had been dragged underwater, suffocating. The just recently healed lightsaber burn on her chest, which shortened her life and damaged her organs burned as if somebody had stabbed her with a red hot iron poker.
"Master Weiss," The Clone Majors voice called over the comlink. "Can you hear me?"
"Vader," she gasped, hand reaching to grab the cloth around her chest and her burning wound, fist grasping clumps of her tunic. "Vader is here."
Another curse over the line, "He felt your presence?"
"Get out of there now!"
"No," she refused, hand still clutching her chest, nightmares of a black mask which invaded her dreams rushing through her mind. "You still need eyes up here."
"Don't use that suicidal Jedi bravery on me, Master Weiss." Rex all but roared into the comlink, making her flinch. "I took more than enough of that during the war and I refuse to take it ever again. There are too few of you left to go around making heroic sacrifices!"
"He knows your there." He cut her off. "And if he decides to come for you personally you'll be no match for him, let alone two Star Destroyers! Get out of there now!"
There was a shuffle and then Ahsoka Tano's voice filtered through. "Master Weiss."
"Padawan Tano." She replied, grimacing as the pain returned anew.
"You're not fully healed, are you?" She asked, and the Jedi felt her body grow cold. "We all felt it when you volunteered but didn't have the heart to reject it. You're not fully healed, and with the wound you took you likely will never be the same. The healers told you this didn't they?"
She had a lie at the tip of her tongue, but couldn't find the words to speak it, instead she shut her eyes tightly and ground her teeth together as another spasm struck her."Stang."
"Get out of there, now." Ahsoka pleaded, not ordered like the Major did but pleaded with her. She felt it in the Force, a near desperate need to make her understand that she could do no further good here.
She didn't have the heart to reject, and instead began fighting back tears. Tears of pain, helplessness and anger, not at them but at herself. It was true. She hadn't fully recovered from the duel on Kessel. Vader's blade had sunk deep, burned her lungs, shortened her life, another millimetre and he would have run her through. She would never be able to fight like she used too ever again, most times she found it hard to just breathe.
"Don't be." Tano replied, voice soft and soothing. It was supposed to make her feel better, but it just made the Jedi Master feel worse "Get back to the fleet. They need to be warned."
She nodded, wiping back tears before gripping onto the control yoke of her fighter and bringing her about, making a beeline for open space. "Don't you dare die, any of you!"
"We'll see you back home."
She heard nothing else, static overtaking the comlinks signal.
"The Jedi is escaping."
Tremayne turned his head to eye his master, organic half of his face turning down into a frown. Darth Vader didn't seem to pay the least bit of attention to the fleeing Interceptor. His whole demeanour was focused straight ahead, arms folded as he looked down the command deck, passed the central walkway and surrounding crew pits to the viewscreens and the yellow orb dominating their field of view.
"Shall we pursue, My Lord?" The Inquisitor asked.
"Do not lose sight of the prize, Tremayne." The Dark Lord contradicted between the harrowing inhale and exhale of his breather. "Our prize is down there."
The Inquisitor took a step back, bowing his head. "Yes My Lord, I apologise for my lack of vision."
Vader did not reply, did not even move to show he had heard the Inquisitors words. Instead he turned his head and raised his hand, summoning the Captain to his side. The man stood out smartly in his grey uniform, professionally snapping to attention and saluting. "Yes, My Lord."
"Begin scans of the planet captain, concentrate on the Dune Sea."
"At once, My Lord." The man replied, standing to attention before moving to the task, barking out orders to those within hearing range. "Begin scans of the planet. Concentrate on the stretch of land known as the Dune Sea!"
"What are you hoping to find here, milord?" The Inquisitor asked, eyes turning to glare at the familiar form of the Star Destroyer holding in high orbit nearly a hundred kilometres away, recognising it to his chagrin as the Usurper. Sasuke Uchiha's presence here certainly peaked his interest.
"You do not feel it?" Vader asked, turning to look at Antinnis. "Stretch out with the Force, and see what I see."
Antinnis Tremayne frowned and after a moment closed his eyes and dived into the Force, delving deep into the stream of life and focusing on the Dune Sea. The power radiating within was enough to throw him back to himself, immediately cutting off his connection to the Force with an involuntary gasp least the backlash harm him. He had never felt such power before, not even from the man standing beside him nor the Emperor himself.
"Impossible." He breathed.
"You see?" Vader asked.
"Yes." The Inquisitor replied breathlessly, looking at the planet with a dark glimmer in his one organic eye. "Such power."
"Contact the Usurper." The Sith ordered. "Find out what they know."
"It seems to have died down."
"Good thing it has," Aayla replied, flashing her sister in all but blood a smile which she hoped was confidant.
The sandstone and asphalt had stopped shaking but the dust was still falling. Whatever was going on out there Naruto and Kurama were in the middle of it, and if they were unleashing enough power to make the ground shake and to make the Force scream like this then they were facing one being.
She looked over to Celeste, seeing the worry reflected in her friends eyes and only just remembering that her fellow pupil didn't know the same that she knew. She didn't know about Kurama or Naruto's power beyond his own chakra network. She felt guilt for a brief moment, that if there was anyone else who deserved to know it would be Celeste Morne. Something she would rectify once this was all over.
"Aayla," Celeste asked, frowning. "What was that?"
"You felt it too?" The Twi'lek asked.
"How could I not?" Her friend replied, surprised. "It feels like I'm in the middle of a hurricane. I've never felt the Force like this."
"I'll explain everything once we get out of here." Aayla said, grasping her friends hands and making her lock eyes. "Me and Naruto. We will tell you, and Rex and Ahsoka what only me and Master Yoda know."
"It's Naruto, isn't it." Her friend asked, looking at her. Memories of what happened in the throne room a short time ago flashing across her mind."This is coming from him."
"Once we are out of here we will tell you everything." Aayla repeated, looking at her friend and begging for her to understand. "I promise, but until then we need to focus, okay?"
A long moment of silence, a thousand emotions travelling across her friends features before she finally spoke. "You definitely owe me an explanation."
Aayla looked up at her friends worried features, nodding her head before turning back to the aftermath of their own struggle. Jabba may be dead but his men obviously didn't get the memo. They had been set upon by a trio of Gamorrean guards wielding vibro-axes.
They were no match for lightsabers.
They had chased Sing down the lowest levels of the palace, well beyond where the Hutt's guests and clients were allowed to go. This was a place where Jabbas true links to the underworld became crystal clear. Even from where she stood, at the precipice, even with all of the madness driving the Force haywire she could feel so much down here. She could feel so much pain, and agony and hopelessness.
There were people down here.
A simple wave of her hand snapped the padlock and forced open the barred doors. She exchanged a look with her friend before pushing the door aside and venturing into a place filled with such despair and pain that she felt it screaming through the Force.
They entered a long corridor, no, not a corridor, a prison and as they ventured further into this prison and looked into the dim cells they saw those who were within. The cells were filled with sentient beings, and as the two Jedi strained their eyes through the gloom they saw that within was not criminals or threats to the Hutt's sovereignty.
The cells were filled with women and children. Aayla and Celeste studied them as they lay huddled in little groups, trying to hide from those who watched them from beyond the bars with fear. They saw Humans, Zeltrons, Togruta, Bothans, Twi'leks, Rodians, Mirialan, Mon Calamari and even less common peoples that Aayla sadly did not recognise.
"It's all women and children." Celeste frowned, looking at the cells in horror. "We can't leave them here."
"Agreed." Aayla nodded, looking down at her unlit lightsaber before turning her attention back to the people behind the cells, eyes falling on a youngish woman caked in the same dirt and grime of those around her and yet was familiar. It took her a moment to recognise her. "Senator Breemu?"
The woman looked up, a pale face framed by raven black hair which would have been considered pretty but so covered by grime. "Yes?"
"Senator Bana Breemu of the Humbarine Sector?" Aayla continued.
"that is me, or was me." The woman replied.
"Do you not know my face, Senator?" Aayla asked, kneeling down to her level.
The woman looked at her for a moment, eyes widening and focusing. "Aayla Secura, Jedi Knight Aayla Secura. I had thought you dead."
"Many do," Aayla replied. She did not know the woman personally, only that she had been one of the key signatures in the Delegation of two thousand senators who opposed further powers to the Chancellor. "What are you doing here, Senator?"
"Death wasn't enough for me, it seems." Breemu replied, managing a weak smile. "The Emperor wanted me to suffer for being one of the core members of the Delegation, and for refusing to renounce my opinion once he declared his utopia. He sent me here."
"Are there any others?" Aayla asked. "Any other senators sent here like you?"
The woman's brow furrowed as she thought. "Senators Jar Jar Binks, Shea Sadashassa, Tanner Cadaman and Tendau Bendon were originally sent here with me but I am the only one left now."
"What happened to them?" Aayla asked.
"Jabba killed them all." the woman replied, eyes glassy as she remembered. "He took Shea as a dancer but became unhappy and fed her to one of his pets, a Rancor I think. Everyone else he had executed in front of the prisoners to make sure they remained compliant."
Suddenly all of her doubts about Naruto's sudden destruction of the throne room and everyone within it were quashed. If Jabba was capable of all this then she would have loved to bring him back from the grave just so she could throw him to his pets herself, or maybe have Naruto do it if she couldn't lift him.
"We need to get these people out of here." Celeste said, looking at the long corridor and dreading to think of how many more there were.
"Yeah," she replied, before looking at the senator. "Can I ask you to help me keep these people calm Senator? We will free them but with what's happening outside we need them to remain in the palace and calm."
Senator Breemu nodded, "Yes, I will help you."
"What about Sing?" Celeste asked.
What about Sing? Aayla wanted nothing more than to hunt her down and make her pay for her crimes, both against the Republic, against the Jedi as a whole and against her friends. She wanted revenge for them, yet she knew what revenge did to Jedi and although she was a Shinobi now she still considered herself a Jedi. These people and their safety took precedence over her personal desires for revenge.
"She will need to wait." Aayla replied at last.
Celeste nodded, a ghost of a relieved smile on her face. "Okay."
Aayla nodded, even as Celeste raised her voice so that everyone can hear. "Alright everybody listen up. We're going to get you out of here but we will need you all to remain calm. There is a battle taking place out there and the last thing our guys need is a lot of people running around. You all get me?"
Those within the cells seemed to agree, at least until their words echoed through the long corridor. Just the promise of getting these people out of their cells and to freedom had whipped them into a frenzy. The Senator managed to keep those within her own mass cell calm but the others were crowding around the cell doors, shouting and begging to be freed, raising young children in their arms.
Aayla and Celeste freed Senator Breemu's cell first, keeping the senator with them to explain to the other cells down the corridor of what they were going to do, what was going on outside and what they needed to do once they were free. Thankfully the message got through, and most remained calm as Aayla and Celeste used their lightsabers to break the iron bar locks and open the cell doors.
Nobody panicked, especially when they saw the lightsabers and recognised their rescuers as Jedi. It seemed that her former Orders reputation hadn't been completely destroyed after all.
Before long they reached the end of the corridor, coming out into a large circular room filled with torture devices and generators to power them. Aayla looked at the room in shock and horror, even though she supposed she shouldn't have been surprised. It was dark and unused, nobody had been here recently. She looked back to see Celeste and the Senator at the far end of the corridor, ferrying people through the doors.
There was a sudden snap-hiss behind her, and Aayla spun on her heel to see a crimson blade lighting up the room and Aurra Sing standing on one of the devices, looking down at her with a smug smile even as she activated her own azure blade in response.
"Hello little dove," the pale hunter smiled, revealing pointed teeth filed to a razors edge. "looks like it's just you and me, huh?"
Just finished this there now, if there are any glaring grammar issues let me know.
I have not updated in roughly a month. I apologise for that. A new Star Wars time travel story had taken over my muse for a little while and I wasn't able to write much about this until now. If you're interested in it have a look. It's called the Chaotic Three and about Rey, Finn and Poe from Episode 7 going back in time to episode 1, without knowing how they got there.
So what happened so far. Sasuke and Naruto are in the middle of their titanic rematch from the beginning of the story (47 odd chapters later, wow), the offensive on Dac is starting, Darth Vader and his troops have arrived on Tatooine and Aayla Secura finally faces off against Aurra Sing. What will happen to our heroes? Will the offensive succeed? Find out in the next chapter of The Good Left Undone.