A fiery world holding deadly secrets! Though the Jedi have managed to thwart Darth Sidious's plot to bring kidnapped Force-sensitive children to the volcanic world of Mustafar, the Jedi Council has been unable to recover any evidence from the destroyed facilities on the planet. Now, Jedi Master Luminara Undulli, and her Padawan Barriss Offee, prepare to launch an investigative mission to Mustafar, to find answers to these disturbing developments. But with the Jedi ranks stretched increasingly thin, Master Undulli finds herself facing yet another change of plans...
A Change of Plans
The Jedi Star Destroyer Liberator cruised gracefully above the shimmering skyline of Coruscant. In the bridge, Jedi Master Luminara Undulli awaited her Padawan Barriss Offee, who had been tasked with selecting and briefing an elite strike team for their mission.
As Barriss arrived at the bridge, Luminara recognized her with a nod. "Padawan, have all the men been briefed?"
"Yes, Master, just as you requested." Barriss responded quickly, taking her customary place beside her Master, as they both stood before the bridge's central holoprojector.
"Very well - I only hope whatever developments have occurred by now do not force us to postpone this mission yet again," Luminara said, a tinge of irritation in her voice.
"I received another urgent transmission from the Council - it appears new intelligence has been acquired that may affect our endeavors somehow." Luminara explained, gazing at her chronometer. "They should be coming in about now."
Suddenly the hologram table lit up, the blue figures of Masters Yoda, Windu, Plo Koon and Obi-Wan Kenobi rising from the projection screen. The two Mirialan women quickly straightened themselves in their well-practiced public manner. Commander Gree and Captain Devin stood at attention on the other side of the holoprojector.
The small form of Master Yoda spoke first, "At ease, men. Expecting to see us again so soon, you were not, Master Undulli?"
Luminara answered solemnly. "I only fear what ill tidings we may have received this time."
Obi-Wan gave a wry grin at her remark, "Yes, it does seem lately that the only time any of us get to talk is when there is bad news - and I can assure you we won't disappoint you this time."
Luminara grimaced at this. Master Windu shot an annoyed look at his colleague, before getting to the heart of the matter. "The Chancellor has brought our attention to some new intelligence regarding General Grievous," he spoke gravely. "It appears he is in the final stages of planning an attack on the cloning facilities at Kamino."
This was met with quiet sounds of disbelief and indignation from the crew on the bridge. Luminara's reaction was similar. "Kamino?" she asked, almost incredulous, "Coruscant is scarcely better defended than Kamino - how is this attack to be staged?"
"We have no further details on his strategy, but Grievous is not one to strike until he has every possible advantage, " Plo Koon explained. "If he is truly planning such an attack, he must have uncovered a weakness in our defenses."
He nodded to Master Windu, who continued, "Master Shaak Ti has requested the Council perform a full evaluation of the Kamino defense provisions. At this point, only Masters Pl Koon and Adi Gallia are available - and Gallia has already been requested to investigate a reported sighting of Asajj Ventress near Naboo." He paused, then continued apologetically, "We are requesting that you postpone your mission to Mustafar, and join Masters Plo Koon and Shaak Ti on Kamino."
Luminara sighed. "These are disturbing developments - I will join the team on Kamino, but I must insist that this mission be completed as well. We have put this off far too long already." She spoke a little more urgently, "We risk losing any chance at recovering evidence from the Mustafar facilities if we don't make our investigation soon!"
At this, Yoda again spoke up, "Correct, Master Undulli is. Evil are the plots, originating from Mustafar. Assign other Jedi to her mission, we must."
Windu nodded, and addressed Luminara. "What about your Padawan?"
The Mirialan pondered this for a moment, then answered slowly, "I normally wouldn't for us to be separated, but she has taken on the majority of the planning for the mission. She is well qualified, but," she paused, "Our plan calls for two Jedi - if I will not be available, she will need another partner."
"Hmm..." Obi-Wan stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Nearly all capable Knights are either occupied or on much-needed leave - I suppose we could call -".
Suddenly, a hoarse but friendly voice called to the four Masters, "You are in need of a capable Jedi? Send for Padawan Tano - I can assure you you will not be disappointed. Why, I myself was hard pressed to keep up with her..." the voice faded away, the speaker seemingly content to confirm his statement to himself. Barriss leaned in slightly closer at the mention of Ahsoka Tano, though she couldn't recognize the strange voice of her complimenter.
Slightly startled by the unexpected recommendation, the four Masters turned back to the holoprojector. Windu frowned, and glanced at Kenobi, "Skywalker had left his Padawan here to continue her studies - and I doubt she's the right person for a mission of this importance."
Kenobi opened his mouth to comment, but was cut off by Yoda, still gazing thoughtfully in the direction the strange voice had come from. "Correct, Master Sinube is. A wise Jedi, Skywalker's Padawan will be. Spoken with her much of late, I have."
"Ahsoka accompanied Anakin on the rescue mission itself," Obi-Wan added, "She reportedly did very well navigating the facilities."
Plo-Koon agreed, "I heard the same - young Ahsoka has a great heart, and is skilled beyond her years."
Obi-Wan turned toward Luminara, "Do you have any feelings on this matter?"
Luminara, having been silent thus far during the discussion, answered slowly, "She is a unique Padawan, but she is well qualified in my opinion. In fact, I owe her my life," she added, recalling the deadly duel with Ventress aboard the Tranquility. "If there are no objections, I will leave the decision to my Padawan - she will be taking my place as leader of the mission."
Barriss felt a sudden flush of embarrassment mingled with awe at her Master's words. She never had been granted a mission of any significance, and rarely went anywhere except by her Master's side. She knew that her Master was preparing her for the end of her apprenticeship - a fact that both excited and saddened her.
However, the chance to again work with Ahsoka was a particularly pleasant prospect. Other than the handful of times they happened to be at the Temple between missions with their respective Masters, she hadn't seen Ahsoka since the invasion of Geonosis. At the Temple, she had found to her delight that Ahsoka shared her fondness for working with the younglings, but that was hardly a time to visit. A minder's position was a full-time one for good reason. A chance to work with her again was very welcome, although it was tempered by the seriousness of the mission.
But Ahsoka was more than qualified for this mission - all the points raised by the Masters were certainly true, and Barriss had first-hand experience with Ahsoka in the field. Her resourcefulness and flexibility could be invaluable if something didn't go according to plan - an occurrence that seemed to be happening far too often for comfort lately.
Luminara turned and nodded towards Barriss. She quickly cleared her mind and stepped abreast of her Master. Turning towards Luminara, she bowed slightly. "Thank you, Master." Then to the figures on the holoprojector, she again bowed, somewhat lower this time. "Masters, I would be glad for Padawan Tano's assistance for this mission. I have worked closely with her in the past, and I believe her abilities will be most valuable." With a nod towards her Master, she finished, "I also owe her my life."
"Very well, it appears to be decided," Obi-Wan declared. "Masters Undulli and Plo Koon will join Master Shaak Ti to begin the Kamino investigation. Padawans Tano and Offee will continue the mission to Mustafar as previously planned."
"I shall inform Padawan Tano of the developments," Plo Koon volunteered. "Padawan Offee, is there anything of particular importance I should inform Ahsoka before she departs?"
Barriss pondered this for a moment. "Thank you, Master Plo Koon, but I believe everything necessary is aboard the Liberator. If we have any further requirements we will address them when we rendezvous with Knight Skywalker at Christophsis."
At that, Obi-Wan excused himself. "Which reminds me I'd best be going - I need to see what trouble my former Padawan has cooked up by now. I'll see you and Ahsoka at the rendezvous, Barriss," he nodded.
"Thank you, Master Kenobi."
"Mindful of young Padawan Tano, you will be," Yoda admonished her. "Wise, and good-hearted, she is, but Padawan of Skywalker, she is as well." The old Master chuckled knowingly.
Barriss felt slightly uneasy at laughing before such venerated Masters, but she managed a small smile. "Of course, Master."
At this, Master Windu concluded the meeting. "A shuttle will depart shortly with Padawan Tano, and take you back to the Temple." Looking towards Barriss, he added, "May the Force be with you."
Barriss stood gazing ahead of her where the figures had just been for a moment, coming to when she realized she was staring directly into the eyes of Commander Gree, who was returning her gaze with a questioning look. She blushed slightly, and quickly turned to her Master.
Luminara was also staring at the empty holoprojector, but upon noticing her Padawan she nodded and turned towards the two officers. "My Padawan will brief you on any changes to the mission plan when Commander Tano arrives. In the meantime, continue preparations for your departure." She and Barriss turned and exited the bridge, taking a turbolift to their quarters.
"Are you uneasy, my Padawan?" Luminara asked, not unkindly. The two women sat upon the lower bunk in their cabin.
"No Master, but I am honored you believe me capable enough to lead this mission," Barriss answered, meeting her Master's gaze.
Luminara smiled, "You have been more than capable for a long time, Barriss. You have shown great restraint by remaining a faithful follower when many would be pining for freedom." She paused, then continued in a softer tone, "I know Master Yoda possesses a sense of humor, but you will be mindful of Padawan Tano. She is a good Jedi, but I fear her Master's training is lacking in some of the more structured aspects of the Code."
She paused, again, somewhat uncomfortable with what she wanted to say next. "She saved my life by disobeying my orders. I still do not fully know what I would have wanted her to do, were it to happen again."
Barriss, wanting put her Master at ease, spoke up, "Ahsoka is one to follow her instincts above most other instructions. They do her credit, but I too am concerned for the unintended consequences." Barriss inwardly winced at talking like this about Ahsoka, whom she regarded as a friend, but she intellectually at least understood her Master's concern. Ahsoka had actually saved her own life in a similar manner, risking the mission while attempting, and eventually succeeding, to save her. It was a philosophical dilemma that neither Master nor Padawan had fully settled.
Sighing, Luminara continued, "Well, I suppose she gets it from her Master. Barriss, if you have opportunity to impart wisdom to Ahsoka, do not hesitate to do so; but you know as well as I that nothing should come between a Master and an apprentice," she said, almost severely.
"Of course, Master," Barriss answered quickly.
"I know you do, Padawan," she placed a hand on Barriss's shoulder. "I have complete faith in you, and in Padawan Tano. You will both learn much from each other. You are the next generation of the Jedi, remember that."
With another smile, Luminara rose from the bunk, dismissing her as she began to collect her few belongings from the cabin. "You will want to go over the mission plan once more with these new developments in mind. Padawan Tano will need to be briefed as soon as she arrives, as well."
"Yes, Master," Barriss replied, her dark skirts trailing behind her as she exited the room
Disclaimer: I own very few things. Star Wars is not one of them. I gain nothing from this.
Author's Note: This story is set shortly after TCW (S2) Episode "Cat and Mouse", during the 'No-Ahsoka' spell between "Lightsaber Lost" and "Bounty Hunters". Hence the references to the blockade of Cristophsis and Master Sinube. Barriss was last seen (in TCW) with Ahsoka and a few younglings in "Grievious Intrigue". This is meant to be as canon-compliant as possible, but I am not factoring in the EU material on Barriss (MedStar series, etc), at least as far as her personality (I reference one mission from an EU book later). I don't read the books, and I don't put much weight on them. Please review!
Thanks to Queen for pointing out my sloppy formatting!