Leia sat up abruptly, her pulse racing. The sheets were sweated and wadded around her legs. Her night garment damp. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat staring at the wall. The chronometer inset showed her it was three hours past midnight. The air in the room smelled like moist soil. Outside, she knew, Yavin IV would be chilly, and she considered opening a vent to allow some of that coolness inside. At the moment, it seemed too much effort to bother.
A bad dream, she thought. That’s all it was, she says to herself.
Looking down at her hands however, Leia can hardly believe how fast they tremble. Closing her eyes, Leia balls up her trembling hands into fists, trying to steady herself. She could still feel it, the lingering emotions that pierced her sleep all at once.
The fear, the sadness but also the rising relief of familiarity - as if she had been returned to a safe place after being in danger for so long.
Looking at the wall, Leia lets out a sigh knowing she’s about to ruin any chances of her getting a perfect night's rest. Summoning her energy, Leia throws the sheets and leaves the warm comfort of her bed.
Within moments, she dresses herself, leaving her hair down as the emotions welling in her chest increase. Hastily walking through the dimly lit corridors, Leia could feel her feet almost taking life on their own as she reaches almost unconsciously, the Surveillance Pit.
However, she pauses momentarily, feeling the urge to turn left in the corridor towards Medical. Guided by feeling alone, turning aside, General Leia proceeds down the hallway to the Medical Bay.
As she approaches, the soft blue light from Medical Bay casts a light on her face. Slowly as Leia approaches the entrance of the room, she senses the intense emotions beat in her chest like a drum. However as she reaches the entrance of the medical bay, she sees the source.
“Well, well.” Leia smirks.
In the middle of the room, Leia’s eyes rest on the tall Bacta Tank bubbling with Ex-filtrator Julia Carpenter floating inside and the small boy staring at the bacta tank as well.
Leia approaches the young boy from behind, resting her hands on his shoulder, “Jacen Syndulla…”
Startled, the young boy jolts, raising his blue eyes to Leia but lets out a relieved breath, “Oh its you. Hi Aunt Leia.” he says awkwardly.
“Isn’t it a bit late for you young man?” Leia asks with a raised eyebrow, “Hera would put me in a turbine if she knew I was letting you stay up this late.” she says.
The on cue yawn makes Leia smirk at the young boy scratching at his green hair that sticks up in every direction, “N-no.” Jacen yawns, “Maybe.” he relents, rubbing his eyes. “But I wanted to see Julia. She was scared, it woke me up.” he says..
“I know Jacen.” says Leia, staring at the Bacta Tank, “I could feel you concentrating on her.”
“Me too.” says a voice from behind.
Glancing over her shoulder, Leia eyes rest on the young Mandalorian fighter, Sabine Wren leaning against the entrance post. Decked in her Mandalorian Armor, decorated with neon pink and bright yellow markings, Sabine points her thumb over her shoulder, “Jacen, your Jedi empathy is gonna wake up half the base. Come on, lets hit the bunks.” she says.
“Alright alright!” Jacen mopes, “Night Auntie Leia.” he says before scampering past Sabine.
Ruffling his hair, Sabine watches his run down the hallway, “And don’t mess with Chopper’s settings again!” she shouts.
“I WON’T!” he yells back with a muffled giggle.
Sabine rolls her eyes, “That boy is every bit Kanan as he is Hera, but he’s sure a Jedi.” she smirks.
Bathed in the glow of the Banta tank, Leia sits on a metal stool, thinking over Sabine’s statement, “I say the same thing about Ben. But Hans convinced the boy will be the Death of him.” she smirks.
Sabine waves at her statement, “One ride in that Millennium Falcon and I’m convinced the only thing that can kill Han, is Han.” she replies while coming to Leia’s side.
Leia smirks at the statement, observing Julia Carpenter floating in the fetal position within the massive Bacta Tank.
“She reminds me of him, Han I mean. Leia comments, “Always leaping before she looks.”
Sabine looks at Julia, unconscious in the water, wearing on black undergarments with an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth, “She’s reckless and out for revenge.” she states.
“Speaking from the point of view of someone who witnessed their own planet getting destroyed...” Leia sighs, recalling Planet Alderaan exploding from the Death Star’s main cannon, “...joining us out of revenge against the Empire, isn’t the worst thing.” she states.
Sabine folds her arms, “It isn’t but we need more finesse than this.”
Looking at Julia in the Bacta Tank, Leia sighs, “Luke once said, those who desire revenge need guidance.” she recalls, “With our guidance Julia and Miles have saved more of our friends behind enemies lines than anyone to date. She saved Wedge.” she says, “Their loyalty is enough for me.”
Reaching into her utility belt, Sabine pulls out a data stick and holds it up to Leia, “I get it. But pardon me if I doubt. Someone Sliced us.” she says, “An hour ago.”
Leia’s face firms as she stands on her feet, looking eye to eye with Sabine, “What did they get?”
Sabine sighs, “Enough. I have a source two systems away that knows of every Slicer job in the Quadrant. I can go see’em and he’ll tell me who did this or tell me if we have a traitor.”
Leia arches her eyebrow at Sabine, saying nothing and turning away.
Placing her hands on her hips, Sabine looks at Leia’s back, “I can be back before the next moon rotation. I’ll be safe but our informants, our undercover spies, our sympathizers; won’t be.”
“I know Sabine.” Leia abruptly replies, “Sometimes though, an enemy does just enough damage to bait you out into the open to kill you - its a Sith methodology.”
Sabine pulls out a blaster, “I have a Mandalorian Methodology.” she nods, “Hasn’t let me down yet.”
Leia arches her eyebrow, “Now who sounds like Han?” she quips.
“So what’ll it be General?” Sabine asks, “You’re leaving here for Hoth in two days. Let me do this.”
Leia stares at Julia, shaking her head, “Fine, but not you..” she concludes, looking to her wrist gauntlet.
“If it’s not me it has to be someone we both trust.” Sabine states.
Leia nods in agreement, “I know, if Luke wasn’t on on Dagobah I’d send him, so I’ll send the next best person.”
STARS WARS - THE CAMPAIGN: A WAR OF EMPIRES
Chapter 1 - The Mission
MOLLY HAYES - PADAWAN
MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE ON THE PLANET
Sitting under the starry night, Nico Minoru sits up against a boulder lodged in the dirt. A blanket with wooden plates and crumbs by her feet, Nico simply stares into the flames as the warm glow illuminates her face. The meal Ahsoka had brought was satisfying as well. Always something new and somehow, not to unfamiliar from Earth food. However silence had lingered, and the ‘spirited’ ale Ahsoka always brought her, managed to relax her even more.
Slumping down against the boulder, her sore hands and aching back now relaxed, Nico lays her head down on the dirt with her feathered hair bunched up like a plumb of black feathers.
Ahsoka sipping her hot drink in the clay cup. their visits were always brief at the beginning, but only until recently had she opened up for some reason. Maybe it was her friend persistence, maybe it was because Molly was with her always. Who knew
“Something on your mind?” Ahsoka asks.
Pointing upwards the starry sky, Nico looks at Ahsoka.“These stars, make everything feel like a million years ago.” she says, “I ran away from my family when I was fifteen, joined up with other Runaways, saved the world.” she says, with slight laugh.
“I thought…” she sighs, her face turning serious, “...I was allowed some semblance of peace, you know? How ironic then that whole world literally blows up in my face in reply.” she huffs, taking another swig of the ale. Sitting on a small rock, Ahsoka Tano looks over at Nico, propping herself up.
“Fair or not Nico...” Ahsoka sighs, recalling the distant words of Jedi Kit Fisto, “...when the sea changes and one must fight the tide, either you drown, or swim to reveal the best part of yourself.”
Her altruistic words ring in Nico’s ears, making her bristle and raise an eyebrow at Ahsoka.
“And if the best part of yourself was never good to begin with?” Nico asks, taking a swing from a small clay bottle, “Then what?”
“Remember when you came last year, with the other refugees?” Ahsoka recalls, “First day, all of them signed up for the Rebellion to pull a trigger. They didn’t care about our cause, they just wanted to shoot what blew up their planet. But you, you pulled Molly away. You pushed her into my arms, and you told me, ‘save her from this.’”
Tossing aside her bottle, Nico looks at Ahsoka, “I refuse for Molly to be made into an instrument of death like my mother did to me.” she retorts, “Train her to be a Jedi or whatever you call it. Its better than whatever I can offer her.”
“That selflessness…” Ahsoka says, “...tells me your trying to swim in a sea of change.”
“Is that what you see?.” Nico scoffs, “Well I saw people die Ahsoka. The Avengers, the Police, REGULAR people - snuffed out by a giant ball in the sky - right in front me.” she says.
Nico clenches her jaw, choking back tears, “Sometimes, when it's quiet I see them. Bodies all around me. The scent of Death in the air. Skeletons grabbing at me in the looming shadow of the Death Star.” she says, rubbing her eyes “That’s what I see. Everyday. Every night. Again an again.”
Ahsoka slowly approaches Nico resting her hand on her shoulder, “Nico, you should meditate with me sometime. You were confident I could help Molly find peace through ‘The Force’. I can help you.”
Nico shrugs away from her, walking closer to the fire.
“I don’t wanna meditate.” Nico spits back, “I don’t want help. I want....” she pauses, starting into the campfire flames reflecting off her pensive face as if she was searching for the answer in the fire, “I don’t know, forget I said anything.” she relents.
~Deet Deet~ Goes her wrist gauntlet.
Snapping herself out of her thoughts, Ahsoka looks at Nico looking at the gauntlet.
“Gonna answer it or what? Or are you rebelling in the rebellion?” Nico smirks.
“You wish.” Ahsoka huffs, tapping on the wrist gauntlet, “Hi Leia.” she answers.
~Get back to base. Something came up. I need you and your apprentice.~
The concern in her tone of voice made Ahsoka look at her wrist gauntlet as if something was wrong with it. Any feeling she had on the matter was only validated as Nico looked at her wrist gauntlet as well with equal curiosity.
“That didn’t sound good. Either something bad happened or she killed Han.” Nico quips.
Ahsoka rolls her eyes at the statement, “Yeah, I better go.” she says, turning aside but pauses, looking to Nico in front of the fire, “But we should talk more, when I return.”
Nico smirks at the statement, “Sure…” she says, dangling the empty clay bottle between her fingers at her, “...as long as there’s some drinking.”
Ahsoka smirks, “Very well. Force be with you, Nico.”
Nico holds up her hand and parts her fingers into a ‘v’, “Yeah you too.”
NEXT DAY YAVIN IV - Rice Fields
You’re horrible at this you know that right? Twenty four months of this and you haven’t gotten any better, you should give this up.
The criticism makes Nico Minoru take a pause. Standing up straight, stretching her back, Nico had been harvesting for at least six hours straight. Sweat drenched her baggy linen clothes. Her black feathered tied back like a bunched up Eagle feathers. Nico pulls out a worn rag, wiping her face.
“I wouldn’t say that.” she replies, wiping her sweaty brow.
Of course not but everyone knows it. They just don’t want to hurt your feelings.
Lifting up eyes to the sunny sky, Nico holds up her hand blocking the sun’s glare.
“All I care about the two suns around this planet making what I plant grow.” she counters. “It grows in a week, I harvest. People eat, I earn my keep. Simple.” she shrugs, looking at the sprouts peeking over the surface of the muddy ankle deep water.
The real truth is that you’re meant for other things in life, great things.
Nico rolls her eyes, leaning up against the waist high grass wall, “Here we go again.”
Don’t sass me young lady. I know what I’m talking about. Look at you! Your potential is wasted in the dirt and roaches. They call themselves Rebels. They’re all pawns to die.
“Stop it.” Nico snaps.
It was bad enough that the heat was oppressive this time of day on Yavin, but Nico draws in a deep humid breath, struggling to keep her patience in spite of the aggravated nagging.
“They’re brave men and women…” Nico defensively replies, “...least I can do is feed them.”
Least you can do? As if you owe them. We should kill them.
“Don’t, don’t do that.” Nico pleads, rubbing her temples, “Don’t start.”
Their Leader, with the honeybuns on the side of her head? We could slit her throat at midnight, let everyone find her by daybreak and let this place descend in the chaos.
“Stop i’m begging you.” mumbles Nico, rubbing her temples harder and harder.
Then we could go in, pick them apart. Kill them all in different ways. There’d be no suspects...
“STOP IT MOM!” Nico screams.
Her high pitch scream, echoing over the grassy landscape.Covering her eyes, Nico shakes her head, drawing a deep breath trying to calm herself.
Slowly lowering her wet dirty hands, Nico balls up her fists, glaring at her mother. The Japanese American woman, decked in a glittery black form fitting dress with a plunging ‘v-neck’. Her short cut asymmetrical haircut stopped just short of her sharp jaw and slicked along the side of her cheekbones to a fine point. Her fine lips, coated in thick black lipstick remain pressed together firmly. Her razor sharp eyes coated in black mascara, narrow at Nico with disapproval.
Get over yourself.
“Once I do mother.” Nico spits, “A bullet goes in my head.”
Nico’s mother crosses her arms, leaning back like a praying mantis toying with its trapped meal.
I’ll never let you kill yourself. That’s a promise.
Nico kicks over the wicker basket in the watery mud and glares at her mother angrily. “Leave me alone, why can’t you just LEAVE ME ALONE!” she screams. Tilting her face, as if unable to understand the raw emotion in her voice, Nico’s mother smirks at her.
Are we done with the tantrum? Because I was when you were three months old. Until you give up this humble servitude phase, and do as I say, i’ll be here always to torment you!
Nico’s eyes turn red, welling with tears as her lip quivers, “I hate you.” she mumbles.
You don’t hate me. You don’t have the guts to hate.
“Oh no?” Nico smirks, wiping her nose.
If you hated me, you wouldn’t be talking to me.
“Lonely people will talk to anyone mother.” Nico chuckles, picking up her basket, “Even a murderous hateful ol’bat hallucination like you.”
See, through the quote on quote hate, there is love.
“Really?” Nico smirks, “Then why did I kill you?”
I don’t know. Why do you still keep me around?
Nico face turns white, gulping at the question.
Immediately Nico eyes open wide, hearing the familiar voice. Turning around, Nico arcs her head upwards to the familiar voice coming from the top of the grassy hill field. Holding her hand over her eyes to block the glare, Nico sees Molly Hayes, decked in a tan robe with a lightsaber hilt strapped to her side.Leaping off the side of the hill, Nico watches as Molly drift down like a bird before landing softly in ankle deep water.
“Hey.” greets Molly Hayes,
She had grown. Nico expected it, but it was another to see it. Gone was the wide eye child who seemed to wonder at everything. Gone was the fidgetity Cali-girl who said the first thing on her mind. Her face had matured. Her eyes no longer looked upon everything in wonderment or in rapt readiness to please. They were equals. Standing on the same ground.
Molly remains quiet, wondering why she was so anxious to leap down to see her, she should’ve been more composed.
“So…” Molly starts awkwardly, “How have…
Immediately Nico throws herself into Molly’s opens her arms. Resting her head on her shoulder, Nico hugs her tightly, overwhelmed by her emotions.
Molly squeezes back, relieved, “Missed you too Nico.”
Pulling away, Nico gathers herself, smoothing out her clothes, “Oh i’m sorry…” she says, apologetically, brushing the dirt off her own clothes, “Oh man i got her dirty.” she fusses.
Quickly wiping her hands, Nico pats Molly’s clothes, “I’m so sorry…”
“Its fine its fine.” Molly giggles.
Her laugh was the same. Nico steps back, looking at her, trying to adjust in her mind that her friend was not longer a little girl anymore.
Molly smiles, looking at her friend trying to contain her emotions so horribly.
“Oh my gawd you’ve gotten...fit.” Nico gushes, “I mean like, what is Ashoka doing with you? Lifting rocks or something?”
Molly giggles, “Actually yeah.” she replies to Nico’s stunned expression. Looking around for something suitable, Molly narrows her eyes at a wicker basket floating in next rice field below, “See?” she says, outstretching her hand.
Nico turns and watches as the wicker back flies up in the air. Turning to Molly in shock, Nico looks at her, stunned.
“Keep watching.” Molly giggles. Nico turns back, astonished as the wicker back descends out the air rapidly before slowly coming between them, landing gently between her feet.
“Freakin’ blow me over.” Nico gasps, looking at Molly holding her hands behind her back, blushing, “That’s freaking AWESOME! You’re telekinetic now?”
Molly nods side to side, “Yes and no.” she replies, “More like, I learned to tap into the Force. Its…” she pauses, searching for the right words, “...very enlightening.” she says.
Nico, rendered speechless folds her arms, “Well…” she sighs, content at the sight of her, “...I take it you didn’t come to show off your powers huh?”
Molly nods, “Yeah I didn’t.” she says, her gaze shooting downwards.
Sensing her nervousness, Nico places her hand on her shoulder, “You know you don’t have to ask me for permission or anything right? I mean...you never had to.”
“You’re not gonna like it.” Molly says.
Nico arches her eyebrow, “What’re you pregnant or something? Please don’t tell me he has eight arms?”
Molly bristles at the thought, shuddering, “Oh no and NO.” she exclaims, giggling at the thought. However her face becomes serious once more. Her gaze meets Nico’s confidently, “I’m going on a mission.”
The statement echoes in Nico’s ears loudly as if a thousand mirrors cracked all at once.
Nico draws a breath, reeling from the weight of the statement as Molly looks at her, waiting. She could see it now in her eyes, the weight of her words matter now. She turned into a little girl once more, looking up to the only ‘big sister’ figure she had, only mother figure she had known - waiting for an answer.
“I uh…” Nico stammers, clearing her throat with a short cough, “...um, wow, okay.”
“General Leia asked me to go.” Molly explains, watching Nico anxiously run her hands through her thick hair, “I’m going with Ahsoka. Its like, reconnaissance. We’re going to meet someone who has something we need, something like that.” she says with a hint of disinterest.
“I see.” Nico says, straining not to say more, looking at Molly, hoping for more assurances.
Molly sighs, “What do you think?” she asks, “I mean, Ahsoka told me to ask you. Like, didn’t ‘tell’ me, she doesn’t tell me, she suggests. Yeah. She suggested it because you know….”
Nico draws a deep breath, covering her face with her hands before staring out to the landscape.
“...she knows how you feel about fighting in the rebellion.” Molly explains, “And she felt it was - respectful, to ask that is.”
Nico keeps her gaze to the horizon, suddenly wishing she had saved one of the Ale’s from the night prior or had one of those liquors from Coruscant.
Molly could see the stress in her. Nico never showed her emotions to people unless she was drinking or with her. What moment was for some, was a parade for Nico - and she was having her own tantrum.
“I uh…” Nico says mumbles, as an unexpected but frustrated laugh comes out, before looking to Molly “...can’t answer.” she answers.
Molly arches her eyebrow, “I’m sorry what?!” she replies, “Who are you and where’s Nico? Are a Force Spirit? Because last I checked i’m not in cave?”
Nico lowers her face, smiling at the statement.
“Look Molly…” Nico continues, “...I didn’t want to do to you, what my mother did to me and that’s make decisions for you.” she says to Molly’s surprise, “So, if you wanna go, go.” she tell her, cursing herself for even saying the words, “If you wanna stay, stay. Its your choice. Do you wanna go?”
Molly smirks, folding her arms, “Man I was hoping you made the decision for me.” she says, turning aside from her, staring out into the distance.
Nico arches her eyebrow, “Why?”
“Because you always helped me with the hard stuff.” Molly says, glancing at her from the corner of her eye, “Because secretly, i’m scared to be without you because, let’s face it. You’re all I got.”
Nico kneels down in the water, staring out into the distance beside her, “You can’t…” she pauses, smirking at the words coming to her mind, “...when the sea changes and one must fight the tide, either you drown, or swim to reveal the best part of yourself. You don’t need me for that.”
Molly looks at Nico, “Where you get that from?”
Nico winks at her, “I’m a genius, didn’t you know?” she smirks.
Giggling, Molly sighs, mulling over her words, “I wanna go. I wanna, make a difference somehow.”
Nico nods. Feeling herself sad for some reason. “Than I respect your decision.” Nico says, “And if anything should happen, I’ll come for you. No matter what. Because you’re all I got too.”
Looking at her, Molly throws herself into Nico, “I love you. Thank you.”
Hugging her, Nico sees from over her shoulder, Ahsoka walking through in the ankle deep water of the rice fields afar, her Staff in hand with a ship sitting in the waters behind her.
“No problem kiddo.” Nico says, “Looks like you’re ride is here.”
Pulling away, Molly turns around, spotting Ahsoka Tano.
“Guess its time to go.” Molly sighs before looking to Nico, “When I come back, can we like, eat or something. I miss that. I miss you.”
Nico pats her on shoulder, “Sure thing. That is if your not busy having a celebration party or whatever with all your cool friends.”
Rolling her eyes, Molly dismissively waves at her “Oh whatever.” she says, walking away, “And thanks Nico. Really.”
Nico simply nods as Molly runs past Ahsoka to the ship waiting for them. Coming up to Nico, Ahsoka sees Nico’s face turn firm, “Thank you NIco, I know that wasn’t…”
“Screw you Ahsoka, freakin’ screw you!” Nico spits acidly to Ahsoka surprise.
Ahsoka face firms, not expecting her to get upset so quickly, “Nico what…”
“You promised!” Nico snaps, her eyes livid with anger, “No mission. None!”
“Leia asked her personally. ” Ahsoka says reassuringly.
“I don’t care if the frickin’ creator asked her personally!” Nico snaps, “I told you, YOU, to keep her OUT the fight.”
Ahsoka holds her hands out, “Nico…”
“This is a gateway mission…” Nico snaps “...she starts this, she does another and another and each more dangerous until they’ll see how much more capable she is, then Molly’s obligated to do whatever mission is asked of her!”
Ahsoka sighs, seeing Nico is in no mood, “Look…” she sighs, motioning towards her pauses as she steps back.
“You better go.” Nico demands, balling up her fist, “Before I listen to the devil in my head.”
Ahsoka winces at her statement, but relents, “Okay. Okay Nico.” she says, backing away, “We’ll be back in twenty four hours. I promise.”
Nico narrows her eyes, clenching her jaw tight, unwilling to say a word more simply nods her head.
Watching them leave, Nico watches Molly enter the reach of a ship sitting on the waters of the Rice Field as Ahsoka rushes to the ship. Staring at the ship as it lifts off and soars in the air, Nico gulps.
I could feel you wanted to kill her.
Glancing at her Mother standing beside her, Nico sighs, returning her gaze to the ship flying into the upper atmosphere, “I did.”
And why didn’t you?
“Because i’m not you.” Nico says.
Nico's mother turns her, narrowing her sharp mascara eyes as a devilish smiles comes across her face.
To be continued...