The world they'd landed on was hot, dry, and had a pair of stars glaring down – with a third that would come into view in just a few hours. After the darkness of the smuggler's hold, Ahsoka was half-blind as she staggered out, stiff-limbed and sore. A bit of creative cursing told her that Ventress was just a few steps behind.
The two force-users staggered-ran across the loading bays, finding a measure of shade in the first door way they could find, before a group of dockworkers pushed them out of the way and back into the light. A painful look around from between the fingers over their eyes found the stream of passengers and pointed them towards the terminal proper. There were no lights and it needed none, filled with milling sapients and dirty children hawking patched-together eye-shields.
"Well, this is a wretched place."
Ventress was succinct as always, even with her voice distorted by her helmet.
"It's also the best place to find the minerals we need. Not just any kind of crystal will work for what we need."
"And how much are they going to cost us?"
"Why? How are we doing for credits?"
"I am nearly broke. I was actually counting on your bounty to keep me going for some time."
"So…we'll look for a bounty here?"
"You don't really think it's that easy, do you?"
"Well…it couldn't hurt to check, right?"
Ventress turned away in a huff, picking and shoving her way past the bodies in the terminal. Ahsoka followed in her wake, stepping up to her side as Ventress found a holonet panel and began scrolling through the menus. What she saw offered for the petty offenders thought to be somewhere on the planet amounted to little more than what the Jedi Order gave her as a stipend when she needed to travel.
Ventress' idea of 'something' was the last and newest entry. The information was clear. He'd be arriving on-planet in a little over two weeks. A name, face, and even a description of his ship were listed clearly.
Total bounty: 5 million credits.
"What did he do to get a bounty like that on his head?"
"…It doesn't say. Strange. But there aren't many things a person can do to get a listing like this. Not many people who'd be willing to pay out that much, either."
"So…what does that mean for us?"
"It means that every bounty hunter for a hundred light-years is going to show up with all the weapons they can carry and a brilliant plan to grab the mark before every other bounty hunter launches their plan."
"It's no good, then?"
"Not really. We don't have to be the ones who catch him. Just the ones who turn him in."
"…You don't mean, we wait for a bountey hunter to grab him, and then steal him from them? Isn't that a little, I don't know…dishonest?"
The helmet swung towards her. Ventress said nothing, and Ahsoka couldn't see whatever expression she might have been making.
"What? Hey, come back! Where are you going?"
Ahsoka had endured hardship before. She could live with the dingy accommodations Ventress had found. She took the hint when Ventress threw a blanket at her. They were her credits, so Ventress got the bed. She could even ignore the looks she'd received when two women had checked into the small, single-bed room together.
But she had left the Order. Knew it. Knew she knew it, though it hadn't sunk in completely, yet. She wasn't exactly on her own, but trusted her companion only about as far as she could throw her. But when Ventress had come back with a slightly-larger pile of credits, she felt as if she should have been at least a little upset after hearing 'because he tried to rob me first' as the reason why.
She toyed with a crystal coin between her fingers. She'd been taught about the illusion of wealth. Looking out the window, she saw the reality. Outside of the Temple, people lived and died by the credits to their name. Someone had tried to rob, possibly kill, Ventress for whatever she might have been carrying. Now, they had nothing. Would they survive the loss? Would she survive her own poverty? The Jedi were supposed to live apart from others, and be above such things as greed, but even Jedi had to eat. Who handled the Jedi's finances? Was there a senator, a committee, a Master who counted coins?
A part of her wanted to just ignore the contradictions life had showed her and go back to the certainty she'd enjoyed as a part of the order.
Another part of her just wanted a bigger pile of credits.
The train of thought ended when the silver chit dropped and hit the table. Her comm had chirped and told her that the database search was complete, and had located the facilities and materials she's searched for.
At least there was no room for ambiguity when it came to building a lightsaber.
Ventress would go looking for money. Ahsoka would find the equipment they needed to make new lightsabers, and tried ignore the tiny voice in the back of her mind that wanted to know where the credits came from. That was the deal.
Ventress promised her, with a sigh and a mocking tone, that she wouldn't do anything bad to get the credits, and Ahsoka believed her. After being betrayed by her closest friend, she felt desperate to trust someone.
It was one more issue she shoved to the back of her mind and she stepped into a machinist's shop and began selecting the mundane parts they'd need. Diatium power cells. Casings – wait, Ventress used curved hilts. Maybe she should consider some kind of custom grip for her own lightsabers? Rivets, rings, high-capacity wires…
It took her all of ten minutes. This was the easy part.
Next, she took a flyer to the rim of a partially-active volcano, where cables and drills dangled from floating foundries above a sea of lava. Like jellyfish feeding on passing sealife, they drew minerals up through the cables and into their guts to be processed and shipped out.
Ahsoka knew enough to be sure that the crystals they harvested here were completely unsuited to what she and Ventress needed. Their structure wouldn't be uniform, or there would be impurities that would crack the crystal under the strain of channelling a plasma charge, or any of a hundred other factors. Only a crystal formed in places where the force was strong would be pure enough for their needs.
But she couldn't go to such a place. She'd have to fake it, through meditation and force of will while the minerals she purchased here baked in a geological compressor. The foreman she talked to was surprisingly helpful in that regard, asking far less than the hefty price she expected for the use of his equipment, in exchange for the prestige of helping to create a Jedi's weapon.
That was one issue settled.
Yes. Even if she had left the order, she was still a Jedi.
Make that two.