"I…ah…yes. Though I wasn't expecting…"
After everything that had happened lately, Ahsoka could only babble while her brain tried to pull itself together. In the flesh, Admiral Nelson cut quite the figure. Tall, broad-shouldered, square chin, and bright, clear eyes. He wore the uniform well, pressed and starched, every bit of metal polished to mirror sheen. All-in-all, the perfect poster-boy for propaganda holocasts.
"It was getting a bit stuffy on board. These sorts of affairs are never very exciting, but the food alone makes the trip worthwhile."
"I…know the feeling."
"Quite. I took a moment to look up your service record before coming down. Quite impressive. Your actions on Geonosis alone were of great aid to the Republic."
"It's a shame you chose against re-enlisting. We could always use more Jedi on the front lines, though you've proven to sometimes be less than reliable at times. The incident with the traitor-what was his name…Krell? He managed to make things a bit difficult for us on Umbara."
"The war has been difficult on everyone." Ahsoka said neutrally. "One person in particular that I wanted to ask you about."
"Ah, yes. Ms. Offee. The two of you had served together."
It wasn't a question, and Ahsoka mentally tripped as she tried to read the Admiral's emotions. Pride when he mentioned the Republic. Distain for traitors. But there was a…a flatness to it, something she's normally feel from actors or card-players. Projected emotions that were ultimately shallow.
"We were as close as two Jedi could be, and in all the time we spent together, I never saw anything to make me think she would go so far as to kill innocents to make some kind of political statement."
"Well, that just means she'd kept her true allegiances hidden from you. And you really should have reported her objections to Republic policy as soon as possible. We might have avoided this whole mess had her true feelings been known earlier."
"What? That's not what I meant at…I never knew that she had any-"
A comm-beep interrupted her.
The Admiral turned away as a hologram flickered to life and relayed some tidbit about cargo transfer. The Admiral acknowledged it and gave Ahsoka a perfunctory nod before turning and leaving Ahsoka to watch him leave. It took a server droid offering her a drink to snap her out of it. Maybe it was one thing or just everything that had happened, but she just couldn't process the conversation properly in her mind. There was something off about the man, and failing to understand it had left her confused in a way she had rarely experienced before.
When her senses returned, one thought sounded out clearly.
She caught up with him and his escorts quickly. He turned on her with something like resignation on his face, and a nod put two troopers between him and her.
A gesture from Ahsoka sent those two troopers flying down the hall.
The other officer reaching for a weapon was ignored. He was simply beneath her attention.
"Barriss isn't the only one with something to answer for. I read about the chaos you caused on Chromistro. Well, what little I could read, I imagine the reality is far worse. Is having war crimes covered up a privilege extended to all Republic Admirals, or is there bribery involved?"
"War is won through decisive action, young lady. Every action I took during the Chromistro campaign was absolutely justified, as the inquiry board will no doubt agree with. And I point out to you as I did for them that the campaign was won despite Offee's interference. My only regret is not seeing the first signs of her disloyalty for what they were."
The two clone troopers had picked themselves and were running back to the Admiral's side. Both suddenly veered away and slammed into the wall. Nelson didn't even seem to notice, and the scent of fear pouring off his attaché only intensified the bizarre sense of detachment the Admiral projected. It made her completely miss the approach of a squad of clone troopers until they had rounded the corner and raised their weapons.
Ahsoka shifted her glance to the attaché, the little rat withering under her gaze. He hadn't been reaching for his weapon, he'd hit a panic button. At least one person here still had the sense to fear her.
"Now, unless there was something else, I have a great deal of work to do, which includes undoing Senator Chuchi's meddling in military affairs."
Looking at the Admiral, Ahsoka could only think about how easy it would be to-
The troopers tensed as Ahsoka raised a hand to her brow and winced. There was a throbbing in her skull, a heavy, smothering sensation crawling down from her scalp and digging towards her eyes. Darkness swam at the edge of her vision...foreign sensations, unbidden thoughts…
Ahsoka shook her head as the scratching behind her eyes intensified. Killing Nelson would make problems for Chuchi, and she couldn't do that. She wouldn't betray her the way Barriss had. But that meant she couldn't help kill Dooku, either. What? She had promised. To help Ventress. Ventress? Ventress was evil. Ventress had tried to kill her.
Ahsoka turned and stumbled away, trying to remember what she had come here for.
Ventress had saved her life. Ventress was her friend. Chuchi was her friend. Not like Barriss. Barriss was her friend, but had betrayed her. Betrayed her. They had been friends and allies and both were Jedi and had fought and laughed and Ahsoka had loved her…
The pain became unbearable, and she couldn't stay on her feet.
In another part of the estate, Chuchi kept a respectful distance behind Ventress, and stopped when she did. She saw the Dathomirian turn, her eyes unfocused in the way that force-users did when they abandoned the physical to reach out with other senses. Their eyes briefly met as Ventress saw things Chuchi could not, and there was a strange cast to her features.
"Ventress? What is it?"
Chuchi spoke quietly, not wanting to draw too much of her attention for several reasons.
"I…feel something. It's…Ahsoka."
Ventress spoke with an odd inflection, a bit of novelty and confusion, as if she'd ate something new and wasn't sure if she should like it or not.
"Something is wrong..."
Ventress moved, and Chuchi followed without question. Steps became strides that flowed into a sprint, and the Senator fell behind as Ventress began moving faster than she even thought possible. Her breath caught in her throat when the chase ended. Ahsoka was sprawled on the floor, half-lifted in Ventress' arms, who looked up at her with an expression that was rapidly shifting between confusion and fury.
Chuchi called for a medical team as she knelt down. Ahsoka was alive, seemingly unhurt, but didn't respond to any attempts to wake her.
The world swam into view and brought a dull ache with it. Before it was even solid, a blue blob filled the sky and there was pressure on her hand. Ahsoka groaned in fatigue, and pain, and an entirely new kind of feeling that she couldn't name but felt strangely familiar. It was curled around her brain, dull and warm, but was quickly forgotten as realization struck.
"Don't try to get up, Ahsoka."
Chuchi had a hand on Ahsoka's shoulder the moment she began to shift. but Ahsoka didn't settle back down until she'd taken in her surroundings, the sterile smells and featureless white walls of a medical bay.
"We don't know. We found you unconscious, but the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with you."
"I was…speaking to Admiral N-"
A spike of pain lanced through her forebrain in an instant, and passed just as quickly.
"Nelson. He…he was…strange. I couldn't sense him clearly. Didn't get a straight answer. Covering himself, only gave the…usual…political…"
"Shhh…try to rest."
"Yeah. Rest is good…"
Ahsoka remembered her limbs, and squeezed the hand holding hers before once again looking around as best she could.
Ventress appeared after a moment, her face once again the stony, unreadable mask. The pale woman approached at a gesture from her free hand, and Ahsoka coughed out a laugh as Ventress rankled when Ahsoka held it out. Just when she thought Ventress would back away, Ahsoka felt a sudden shock when pale fingers lightly brushed her wrist. If she had the strength to sit up, she would have done so – if just to be sure that it had actually happened.
But she couldn't even raise her head. After less then a minute more, she couldn't even keep her eyes open.
Chuchi didn't move until a medical droid appeared to confirm that Ahsoka was sleeping normally and that her vitals were stable. She only stood when a messenger came in with a summons demanding her immediate presence. Chuchi looked back to Ventress, who had already seated herself in a meditative posture in the corner of the room.
Certain that Ahsoka would be well-protected, Chuchi gave her friend one last look before following the messenger out.