CHAPTER I: ROBOTS INVADE MY VACATION
When a Jedi Master tells you that a mission will be easy, it would be wiser to assume that it should be easy, but things are bound to go wrong, and you had best be prepared – unless, for some bizarre reason, you actually want the Separatists to turn you into ashes. The term "easy" is deceptive. Nothing is ever easy for a Jedi. Anything that can go wrong will – as I had learned during our failed rescue of Master Piel from the Citadel. That hideous monster of a prison warden – Osi Sobeck – had fallen by my blade. The locations of the hyperspace lanes had remained a secret. Captain Tarkaan had been rushed to freedom.
But Master Piel had not been so fortunate.
Of course, I was only a Padawan – hopefully, soon to be a Knight – and the word "easy" sounded pleasant when it was uttered by Master Plo. On the other hand, even Aurra Sing could be pleasant when she wanted to be. But if you trust her for even a moment, you'll be dead before you have time to blink. Bounty hunters are always quick to pull the trigger and slow to negotiate. At least, most bounty hunters. There were always exceptions, I had supposed.
Regardless, Master Plo was no bounty hunter. He was a mentor, a role model… and a friend. Perhaps, too close a friend for a Jedi to have.
Attachment leads to pain. That is a lesson that I have had drilled into me ever since I was a little Youngling. But it a lesson that I may never fully understand and obey.
I had allowed my emotions to cloud my judgment. The term "easy" was a welcome change from the usual warnings that missions would be "challenging", "risky", or even "suicide". So I had listened to Master Plo's instructions with shortsighted contentment.
"It is most... unorthodox... for a Jedi like you to learn under the intense conditions of a war. It is time that you were handed a calmer mission," he had explained. "Take your starfighter and go to Shili. The planet has been a loyal member of the Republic since the beginning, and we owe the people our attention, regardless of whether or not we are fighting a war. Find out what you can and report to the Council if the system is adequately supported. The Togruta tribes may be in need of basic supplies. The people should be particularly comfortable with your presence, since you were born on Shili. And the Togruta will be pleased to see another of their kind, returning to see that they are looked after in the chaos of this war. I will inform Master Skywalker of your assignment, so you needn't be worried. If you are needed at the Temple, I will ensure that you are contacted without delay. But it is due time for you to have a respite, brief as it may be, from the constant fighting."
"Of course, Master Plo," I had eagerly replied. Finally… a vacation.
Master Plo had placed a hand on my shoulder. "Best of luck, Little Soka. This mission should be easy. Enjoy it while it lasts."
Easy. Sure. About as easy as getting Master Yoda to stop talking backwards.
Well, the mission had started out easy. My starfighter had been prepped. My Master had wished me good luck. I had made the jump to hyperspace, unimpeded by anything or anyone. But then, there had been that strange sensation of second-guessing, and the odd ripple in the fabric of the Force, warning me that I was not alone. Not alone in the least.
The single Droid Tri-Fighter had come from nowhere, buzzing in with a barrage of laser fire. If I had even for a moment doubted that the stupid robot had brought friends as well, those doubts were quickly dispelled by the arrival of several more Tri-Fighters – all speedily shifting into attack position as a single, unified swarm. I should have sensed them. I should have been prepared. But I wasn't, and it was by the skin of my teeth that I evaded the droids' assault.
Easy? Hardly. Being a Padawan, it seemed, was harder than I had thought.
But the fighters were an inconvenience, at best. It was rather unusual for them to be present above a Republic system, but all the same – they were probably here for surveillance. I would have to report this to the Council later, but for now, it wasn't much of a concern. Count Dooku's embarrassingly pathetic assault would be quickly reduced to rubble. If the Count wanted to conquer the galaxy, he would need a lot more than a band of dim-witted droids.
One of the droids corkscrewed and fired several shots in quick succession. I deftly dodged the lasers, activating the targeting computer and moving my ship into attack position. The droid, however, saw what I was about to do, and quickly signaled the others to spread out.
I sighed. Jedi couldn't catch a break in this war. But there was no time to complain. Now was the time to fight.
I focused the targeting sight and closed my fist on the trigger for the guns. Immediately, two of the droids went up in flames with a final, mechanical screech of panic. The others regrouped, and then charged, head-on, at my starfighter. The maneuver was aggressive, but thwarted without much difficulty. One more of my laser blasts, and the droids were shattered into space junk.
I grinned in satisfaction. Blowing up the Separatists' droids was… well, it was fun. It was a relatively productive way of releasing my anger, and an entertaining method of taking revenge on my more irritating adversaries. I might not volunteer the information to Master Kenobi, but destroying droids was a pretty harmless activity. At least, it was better than keeping my anger walled in, just waiting to explode at the worst possible time.
The single remaining droid blasted apart.
I found myself smiling again as I deactivated the targeting computer and settled back into normalcy. Chew on that, General Grievous. Maybe this vacation wasn't so bad, after all.
That was when I allowed myself to relax my guard – a stupid mistake. A Jedi is always ready, waiting, watching. I suppose that I am not quite a Jedi yet. Padawan that I was, I allowed my vigilance to drop and my mind to become calm.
Just then, a torpedo soared into view. Caught off guard, I panicked and swung the ship sharply to the left – only to be struck by a series of shots from some laser cannons.
I rapidly shifted into panic mode. I thought I'd killed them all. What the –?
Suddenly, a vulture droid fired another round of lasers. Vulture droids… above a Republic system? Something was wrong here. Something was very, very wrong.
More vulture droids began to circle my starfighter. One of them – was it the fifth, or sixth, already? – launched a torpedo.
There was no time to react. The blast struck the rear of my starfighter with an explosive crash. Alarmed, I brought up the ship's stats with fearful speed. The vital systems were intact, but the shields were down. One more hit like that, and I'd be ground into the surface of Shili.
Another pair of vulture droids approached, their laser cannons taking aim. My heart jumped into my throat. There were too many of them!
Backup. I need backup!
I activated the ship's internal comlink without hesitation. "Master? Master, can you hear me?"
"Snips? Is everything alright?"
Thank goodness, the comlink still worked! I wasn't dead yet. My Master would put a swift end to this.
"There are droids here," I explained in a rush. "I don't know why. My shields are shot, and I can't take them alone. I need–"
I froze in mid-sentence, rolling the ship to the side in order to dodge yet another torpedo. You're kidding me, right?
"Ahsoka!" The concern was obvious in Anakin's voice. "Ahsoka, what was that? Are you okay?"
"I – I'm fine, Master. But I need backup. Right away. I'm outnumbered, and without the shields –"
"Snips, do you think you can hold them off long enough for me to get a team together? I'm not sure how fast I can get to you."
"I... I don't know," I admitted. "I'll do my best, Master. But this isn't exactly a walk in the park. Can you just–"
A horrible, piercing blast rocked the ship. Two more vulture droids had attacked – and succeeded.
"AHSOKA? Are you–"
Sparks scattered. The comlink went dead. The whole starfighter went dead. I screamed as the ship descended into a rapid nosedive towards Shili. Sirens blared, belatedly sounding the alarm. At this speed, it would be only moments before I struck the planet's surface. How long did I have? Fifteen seconds, at the most?
Fifteen seconds… fourteen seconds…
The ship started to corkscrew, slamming me into the windshield. Desperate, I struggled to reach the controls. Would they even work?
Twelve seconds… Eleven seconds…
I seized the controls with sweaty palms. Dang it! They were shot. I slammed the buttons with my fists, unable to obtain a response. The alarms blared louder. Was I really going to die?
Some vacation, Master Plo. Great idea!
Nine seconds… Eight seconds…
The corkscrew became a wild spiral. I shrieked again. I felt nauseated. What to do now? The ship was going down. If I was going to survive this, I would have to bail.
Six seconds… five seconds…
I punched the EJECT, but the starfighter wouldn't respond. I was trapped. I was going to die here! No, wait… my lightsabers. I still had my lightsabers. I could carve my way out! Igniting the twin blades, I thrust them at the glass overhead.
Three seconds… Two seconds…
In a flash of emerald light, the glass shattered, sending a gust of wind into the cockpit. I fought back, leaping to my feet, drawing in the Force, letting the energy flow through my hands, my arms, my legs…
With all of my strength, I back flipped out of the cockpit, arching my back, still fighting the intense wind as it battered my face. I was free-falling, now. I could see the meter-high, red and white turu-grass just below.
Inches away, my starfighter burst into brilliant, blinding flame, like an enormous firecracker. Sparks flew past me. I felt heat on my exposed back, fierce even from a distance. A deafening boom sounded, ripping through the sky.
As I landed squarely in the grass, the remnants of the ship crashed just behind me, sending a column of smoke out from the warped and charred heap of rubble that remained.
I slowly stumbled to my feet, breathing hard. I was trapped. Trapped on Shili. The planet's affiliation was supposed to be the Galactic Republic, but if the Confederacy had droids in the system… It seemed awfully unlikely that Jedi would be welcome here. I needed a transport. I had to get out of here. If the Separatists managed to capture me, I would face torture, interrogation, and perhaps…
No. I wouldn't die. I couldn't die. Anakin would come for me. He always had, and he always would. But… how could I contact him?
I nervously activated the comlink on my wrist. The device was intact, but a wild static blocked any and all transmissions. Shoot! I thought. It must be a jamming signal. The Separatists were definitely here.
And this was going to be an interesting vacation.
Author's Note: Hopefully, you are enjoying this. If so, please review! :) Just please refrain from outright rudeness: "You suck", "This is stupid", etc. Helpful criticism is always welcome. With any luck, I will have Chapter II up soon. I'm planning to call it "I Play Hide-and-Seek with the Ugliest Animal Alive". Wondering what it is? Well, watch for the update lol! :D
I'm doing the chapter names in the style of the Percy Jackson series, if you haven't noticed that. I just thought that it would make the chapters seem more interesting.
Does the narrator sound like Ahsoka? And did Plo Koon sound like Plo Koon? I'm trying hard to make sure that everyone is in character, so please tell me what you think! TTYL – you are all EPIC!
Update: I fixed a few typing errors. Hopefully this is even better now! :)