After the wind, an earthquake... after the earthquake, a fire... and after the fire, a still, small voice.
I opened my eyes slowly. Where was I? The room - or cavern - was dark, dimly lit by the pulsating red glow of a large Genosian power generator. Geonosian. The factory! We were sent to blow up this factory! And we were all set and ready to leave when that tank -
Oh, that tank. That tank that was directly ahead of me, giving me a front seat view down it's main blaster cannon. I've got a bad feeling about this.
Too slowly I lifted myself onto my forearms, still too weak to take any evasive action, Force or not. The tank was easing towards me. What would be worse? Being disintegrated by the cannon? Or being crushed under that thing?
The tank came to an abrupt halt. Probably for the best. I'd prefer the cannon.
Suddenly the forward hatch sprung open, revealing a somewhat sweaty Barriss Offee.
I didn't know how she got control of that tank, but I wasn't about to wait till I found out. Taking a calming breath, I vaulted towards the hatch. Barriss lightly stood aside as I landed in the cockpit, pulling the hatch shut behind me. I appreciated the change of scenery - the ominous red glow now replaced with the more familiar light of diagnostic displays and viewing screens.
"The bugs took the bombs!" Barriss told me urgently. I didn't think the normally calm, collected Mirialan could look so distraught. She was like her Master, in that way.
"What do we do?" I responded anxiously, as much to myself as to her.
"I don't know what to do, without the bombs." she replied, defeat in her voice.
Well, that won't do. There has to be some way to take this place out. Our Masters are depending on us! Our men, Rex - the entire invasion team is depending on us!
I scanned the cockpit, searching for something that could be useful. There had to be another way. There always was another way. My gaze fell on the main targeting display, with the spot I had been lying a moment ago still locked.
Suddenly I knew I had found the other way.
"Well, this tank could destroy the power generator..." I paused somberly, before adding the obvious. "And probably us along with it."
If Barriss was at all unnerved by my statement, she didn't show it. "I guess, that's our only choice."
So this is how it ends, I thought grimly. I always knew that there was a good chance I wouldn't make it back from a mission someday. Even in times of peace, a Jedi was often called to places where survival was not guaranteed. And now with an all-out war on our hands, that possibility was far more probable. I had been prepared for this since I was a youngling. It was part of the Jedi way.
But this? I had always figured that I'd go down fighting, with my lightsaber alive and humming, my men fighting beside me, with a final shout of triumph before it was all over. Or maybe at the controls of my fighter in a blaze of glory, sparks slowly spreading out to join the stars I had left behind.
It looked like I was going to go out sitting - inside a hulk of a Separatist clanker-shover for good measure. Buried along with whatever bugmen where still inside. Small comfort, I thought grimly.
I raised my commlink to my face. "Master, do you copy?"
No answer. "Master, come in," I repeated.
"Ahsoka!" His voice was strained and distorted. We must be near the max range for this link. "Set off the bombs! We're trapped!" he shouted back. I could barely hear him over the whine of hundreds of blasters, broken only by what may have been the hum of a lightsaber.
Trapped? Let me show you 'trapped'... "I'm sorry Master...," I paused, half wondering if another option would present itself. I knew it wouldn't. "We can't make it out."
I can't bring myself to say goodbye. He'll figure it out. I glanced at Barriss. She nodded slightly. Somehow I felt this was easier for her to accept than for me. I also felt her Force presence touch mine, sharing strength, determination. Courage. I thanked her silently, turning towards the targeting panel.
My commlink buzzed. "Can't make it out?" Anakin sounded confused. Then in a panicked voice he shouted back "Ahsoka! Wait!-"
If I scream, I don't want him to hear it. I cut the link.
Time stood still. It seemed to take hours for the cannon to charge and open up for the last time. It seemed I could watch the charge make it's way toward the reactor, glowing, pulsing like a living being's heart. Contact. A direct hit. The reactor's glow went from red to blinding white. The heat penetrated even the thick armor of the tank. I had hoped it would be quicker than this.
Suddenly a deafening roar filled the cavern. Instinctively a hand flew to my montrals, trying to dampen the excruciating sound reverberating in my head. We were moving. The tank was being flung backwards through the passageway, twisting and turning as it went. I lost all sense of up or down, pinned to the seat by the inertia of the vehicle. The roar outside somehow became even louder, causing my head to feel like it was splitting in two. The sides of the tank buckled and screeched as metal was sheared away. I should have left the hatch open, I remember thinking. I didn't expect it to take so long. The strain was too much, I couldn't last any longer.
Everything went black.
I opened my eyes, and was greeted with the same darkness I saw with them closed. Strange. I always thought it would be, I don't know, bright. Shouldn't all the dead Jedi be welcoming me or something?
Suddenly I realized someone was lying next to me. Barriss! Well, we should have gone at the same time. But... the tank. We're still inside? "Barriss?" I called hesitantly. "Are we... dead?"
"I sure don't believe so", she answered, serious as ever. "But I fear our plight is far worse."
Well, that answers that question. Now, where exactly are we? I groped the area around me blindly, trying to get a sense of my surroundings. Sure enough, we were inside the same tank, although it was now laying on it's side, and the armor on the opposite side had been sheared loose and was jammed above us like a very low roof. We were both laying on our backs - the seats we had been occupying had both been flattened by the pinched front armor.
Yet, we were alive! No Republic armor could have survived a reactor blast like that, even in this condition. This was astounding. "Whoa..." I said softly, with near-admiration in my voice, "this tank must be strong."
"For all it's strength, it appears it has also become our tomb." Barriss responded plainly.
Oh - I forgot about that part. My surprise and near-excitement at having survived the blast shrank to nothing as I realized we were just as trapped as before.
I tapped my commlink. Dead. No signal at all. Figures. I guess the combined mass of the whole factory on top of us is too much for these units. "Well, this wasn't part of the plan," I said glumly. As much as I disliked the idea of dying in a demolition job, I'd gladly exchange being sealed underground for that.
Okay, get a hold of yourself, Ahsoka. You can't just give up already. What would your Master tell you to do? I need to see what my resources are. "Can you reach your lightsaber?," I asked Barriss, as I felt my belt for my own. "I need a look around."
She did, and our blades ignited almost simultaneously, bathing the shattered cockpit with soft shades of blue and green. The familiar hum they generated was comforting, and I began searching the space for something useful.
The first thing that came to my mind was to use my lightsaber to cut through the walls. I dismissed it almost instantly. Those walls could be the only thing keeping us from being buried alive in sand and rubble. If we were going to get out, someone needed to get to us from outside. I need to contact someone, somehow...
"How deep do you think we're buried?", Barriss asked, in a near whisper.
"It's probably best not to think about it." I responded, still taking in my surroundings. All powered systems have been shot. There's no bringing anything online. I looked past Barriss. Ah! The ceiling sockets! They still have powercells plugged in. "Hand me that powercell, would you?" I motioned towards the nearest undamaged unit. She quickly disengaged it and passed it to me
"Thanks." I took the cell, then offered her my lightsaber. "Mind holding the light?"
She took it, and spoke up again. "Whatever your doing, I hope it works, because... I'd sure rather have died fighting up there than starve to death down here."
"Don't worry", I assured her, my voice dripping with irony. "We'll run out of air long before we starve." The grim humor helped to distract me from thinking to seriously about our predicament. I can't start fretting yet - I've got to at least give this a try...
"That's a comforting thought. Thanks!" Barriss responded. I was amused. She almost made a joke! I guess she does have a lighter side.
I cracked open the casing on the comlink, removing the mic and vocalizer chip along with it. It sparked lightly as I tossed it aside. "My master has taught me a trick or two." I explained, still looking hard at the open device. "I think I can get this communicator working again."
Ok, now hotwire the transmitter to the internal powercell... I continued to tweak the small unit that was our only hope for escaping this prison. I grew puzzled. I knew the locator beacon had to be wired into my new circuit as well, or our Masters would have no idea where our signal was coming from. Sigh. I should have paid closer attention when Master did the full teardown. But it's so close, I can't give up now -
Barriss must have been reading my thoughts. "Ahsoka," she spoke softly, "I know this is difficult to hear, but you must realize that it is quite likely you and I will never leave this place."
I didn't want to hear that. I knew it was true. I was nowhere near the technician my Master was, I had never used this model of commlink before, and it was a longshot my method would work at all. But I couldn't think about that now. As long as there's a chance, I have to try, I thought to myself. "I'm not dead yet." I replied, stubbornly.
Barriss continued, gentle but firm. "I know that Ahsoka, but if this doesn't work we must accept the fate allotted to us." She paused looking at the walls above her. "That is the Jedi way."
She was right, and I knew it. And if I'm sure there's no other way, than I'll do just that. But not when there's a chance... I paused and looked at the unit with surprise - a weak pulse glowed between the built-in powercell, locator, and transmitter!
"What happens to us now doesn't matter." Barriss was continuing. "By destroying this factory we've saved countless lives elsewhere."
Still a bit giddy at my small success, I responded, quiet but confident, "Well, I'm about to save two more..."
I touched the larger powercell's terminal to the leads on my new circuit. The unit buzzed and sparked as the excess power surged through the components. I touched it again, and again.
Each time, my crude connections weakened.
Each time, my hard clung hope drained away.
I spoke plaintively, my confidence vanishing. "Master, I know you're up there. And I know you're looking for me."
With a final touch with the powercell, my handiwork flickered to nothing, the overloaded terminals giving off tiny wisps of smoke. The small commlink, our only hope of survival, lay dead in my hand.
I let it fall to the ground, closing my eyes to keep the tears in. I felt Barriss raise her hand, offering it to me. I raised my arm, and gripped her hand tightly. I felt ashamed. Barriss was so brave. She was a true Jedi. Jedi didn't cry when facing death. I knew that.
I tried to calm myself, to expel the fear. I even tried to meditate. But it was too painful. It reminded me of my Master, as he coached me through my lessons. Of Master Plo, the kind Kel Dor who had brought me to the Temple, the closest person I had to a father. I'll never see them again.
Then I thought of the clones, the brave men of the 501st, of Captain Rex. I'll never see them again either.
Barriss was still holding my hand, eyes shut serenely. She's so calm. Yet, as I lay there, I felt a tinge of nervousness from her. Of regret. She knew what I was feeling. She wasn't afraid to die. And I wasn't either, really. I was the one who fired the cannon, after all. But this wasn't the way either of us wanted it to happen
We'll run out of air long before we starve. My own words taunted me. Run out of air? Suffocation? Could I endure that?
I didn't think I could. I opened my eyes again, and looked at my lightsaber, lying deactivated on my lap. My trusty weapon had saved my life countless times. Had saved others' lives. Could I... no. No! I wouldn't even consider it. I glanced at Barriss - she was following my gaze. She met my eyes, with a look that was meant to bring reassurance, but that chilled me to the bone. She thought of it too, I realized.
I closed my eyes again. I just need to stop thinking for a while - I'm going to lose my mind. I can't lose hope yet. I can't, I -
A rumble sounded through the small enclosure.
The wreckage was shifting. For a moment I thought the armor was finally giving way to the tremendous weight of rubble above it. Maybe being crushed won't be so bad after all.
Then I realized the armor was moving - away from us!
"Someone's digging!" I gasped.
The groaning, creaking continued, trails of dust pouring from the shattered wreckage and coating us with gritty powder.
Suddenly light began to shine between the remains of the armor. Sunlight. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it.
A huge section of floor was being lifted skyward by invisible hands. Barriss moved beside me as we both stared at what was in both of our minds the most beautiful sky we'd ever seen.
We crawled out of the crushed tank, moving slowly towards the blinding light. The dust was choking me. I didn't notice.
I heard our Masters calling our names.
I saw the dirty white armor and blue pauldron of Captain Rex, lowering himself towards us.
Disclaimer: Few things do I own. One of them, Star Wars is not. From this, I gain nothing.
A/N: This is meant to be sort of a missing scene/first-person (Ahsoka) POV look at what it would have been like being trapped under that factory. I wanted to account for some interesting mood changes I noticed in Ahsoka specifically. I also like to contrast her with Barriss, since Barriss tends to represent a more "traditional" Jedi. It came out a little bit darker than I expected. I hope it doesn't sound too unbelievable. But if it does, *let me know!* Please review!