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Star Wars Rebels: The Long Road

Chapter Three

Hera had always been a light sleeper. Her childhood on Ryloth, if it could be called that, under the constant struggle of life and death had made such a physiological response a simple necessity, especially after she had grown into a young woman, a time when many Twi'lek females came under the notice of slavers and so called exotic collectors. Her uncle had taught her all she needed to keep her safe. While it had not always been enough to protect the things she had loved, it had nonetheless kept her alive.
 When first she became aware of something being out of place, something disturbing the stillness of early morning around Zaluna's dwelling, Hera's eyes were quickly open, senses focused, her hand instinctively going for the Blurrg-1120 tucked under her pillow, flicking the safety on the hold out blaster. Taking in the room, listening intently, she could see she was alone. Sabine's bed lay empty, the sheets haphazardly tossed aside.
 That she had not woken Hera gave the pilot pause, second guessing the possibility of danger. Sabine, silent and with a dancer's grace when needed, would never have simply left to investigate some disturbance alone. While headstrong, the girl was no fool and knew that, when facing the unknown, one had strength in numbers. Especially trusted numbers at that.
 Relinquishing hold of her blaster, Hera gingerly pulled the sheets aside, feeling the instant chill of Barsoom's morning on her bare arms and legs. When given the chance Hera always chose to sleep as slight of clothing as possible. Hot days and nights on her home world had long since instilled a desire to be unencumbered when asleep.
 On the Ghost she made some sacrifice for the sake of denying Kanan the chance to leer unmaliciously or make some sly observation about her physique. Ezra's arrival had made her desire for any form of modesty while aboard her ship assert itself even more strongly. However Zaluna's home and the promise of a warm bed in a comfortable and uniquely safe environment had left her relaxed enough to indulge. Now however she dressed quickly, pulling on a pair of tan slacks cinched tightly about her waist with a leather band.
 Barefoot she walked to the bedroom door, catching the slightly muffled tones of conversation on the brisk wind that lofted in through the small window. Now more curious than anything else Hera moved down the hallway, hearing only Zeb's snoring as any indication the other rooms were occupied. Coming out into the common area from the hallway, Hera followed the stir of voices until she came out upon the rear patio of Zaluna's home, greeted by a sight that made her smile almost instantly.
 Seated upon the grass and among the bed of flowers beneath Skelly's tree was Ezra, brow furrowed, eyes shut tightly as he struggled with some unseen obstacle. Pacing slowly only feet away was Kanan, brow likewise creased as he scrutinized his young apprentice. The realization of that nearly brought a slight sheen of moisture to Hera's eyes, a reaction she quickly concealed before Kanan, or the others present, could take notice.
 Watching with rapt fascination from the chairs around the small patio table nearby were Sabine and Zaluna, each nursing hot cups of caf or tea as they beheld the spectacle. Hera joined them silently, accepting a cup from the elderly Sullustan who greeted her with silent amusement, waving her into a seat to watch.
 Ezra, taking a sharp breath, stirred as his face softened. “Hera?” He asked. Taken only slightly aback, she answered, “I'm here.” The boy's frown returned.
 “Seriously?” He sighed. “Like this wasn't embarrassing enough...”
 “Concentrate.” Kanan interjected sharply.
 “That would be a lot easier to do without an audience.” The teen bemoaned, opening his eyes long enough to locate his teacher.
 “We're sorry, Ezra.” Hera told him. “We can leave you two alone if...”
 “No.” Kanan answered. “Distractions are good. You need to learn to focus past them. When the heat's flying you need to be able to distinguish between everything the Force is connected to. What it's showing you.” The Jedi rogue waved towards the seated women.
 “We're not always going to be in situations where it's just us and the Imps. Just like back at the Lothal market or on Kessel we need to be able to sift through the white noise of other life, beings that don't pose a threat, and stay focused.”
 “Yeah, but the bad guys kinda stand out don't they?” Ezra asked. “Whenever I was close to Imperials or saw 'em on the street it's like I could taste something...wrong in the air.”
 “But danger doesn't always blaze like a furnace or stain the throat like spoiled milk when it comes to the Force. Some dangers are subtle, all the more difficult to sense when you're in a crowd.” Kanan looked away for a moment, his jaw rigid. “And some dangers can even hide themselves right in front of you. That's why you need to be able to remain focused even when there are distractions.” Stepping back towards Ezra he slid a small earthenware bowl nearer the frustrated teen. “So. Focus.” Kanan added pointedly.
 “Fine.” Ezra answered sourly. “For all the good it'll do...” Breathing deeply, he shut his eyes once more, the small lines on his forehead returning as he tried with an effort none but he and Kanan could comprehend to achieve the task to which he had been set to, by his reckoning, for the last two hours. In the early hours of the morning, before the sun had even begun to peek from behind the range of mountains which encompassed the expansive fertile plains, Ezra had sat beside and listened as Kanan spoke to him of various things. Some troubling, others encouraging.
 He'd told him with some equal parts struggle and hesitation, yet always truth, about his time as a Jedi Padawan, the conflict of the Clone Wars, how the Jedi had been worn away and, eventually, betrayed by those they trusted most. Of everything he had confided in Ezra, only the fate of Kanan's master, Depa Billaba, had been left completely unanswered. The former Jedi had simply asked for Ezra's understanding in keeping those events to himself. Ezra, grateful to finally feel a genuine connection to his mentor, had not pressed.
 From there Kanan had told his young protege about why it was so important for Ezra to learn, to understand as much about the Force, and mastering himself, as was possible for Kanan to teach. He'd told the boy of his concerns, of not having the extensive knowledge, the decades of mastery required to impart true Jedi wisdom to another.  
 The realization of what had kept Kanan at a distance had been sobering, underlying Ezra's own fears about what his gift could mean for the future. Before he'd only seen his abilities as tools or tricks, ways for him to merely survive or get ahead. But as Kanan had told him about the dangers of the Dark Side, of how close he himself had come in the aftermath of the Order's destruction, Ezra could only see the similarities in his own path and his stomach had quickly grown cold at the thought of what might have happened to him had the Ghost and it's crew never found their way to Lothal.
 In that, he supposed, the Force had truly made itself manifest.
 Once the pair had come to an understanding, the rift between them seemingly mended, Kanan had insisted they delay no further, observing that his own recalcitrance had wasted enough precious time. While they had found refuge on Barsoom with Zaluna, Kanan had made it abundantly clear their respite would not last. They had a mission, a greater cause to return to. And the Jedi intended for Ezra to have more than just a few quick reflexes and a satchel full of gadgets to see him through the trials ahead.
 Ezra, for his part, had been eager to proceed. That was until his training had been hindered by a ceramic bowl no larger than his hand.
 “Karking slag!” Ezra exclaimed, exasperated at eliciting not a tremor in the small object. “It's not working.”
 “Language.” Zaluna scolded promptly.
 “Sorry.” Ezra responded apologetically. “I just...I don't get why nothing's happening. I can see this stupid thing. I know it's in front of me. But when I try to see it in the Force, to do anything, it's like...trying to grab wind.” He expelled a long breath. “It's impossible.”
 “Only because you've convinced yourself it is.” Kanan told him patiently. “One of the first things I learned at the Temple is that lack of belief, not in the Force but in yourself, is why you fail.”
 “But it's not me!” Ezra fired back. “I want to do it. If I didn't don't you think I would have gotten up two hours ago when I could still feel my back end?” Student and teacher eyed one another with an increasing lack of patience. After a moment Kanan sighed, then scratched at the patch of hair upon his chin as he reflected back on his own time as a Padawan, a particular lesson suddenly springing to mind.
 “Okay.” He reflected. “Maybe I've been going about this the wrong way.”
 “Could have told you that an hour ago...” Ezra rebuked.
 “Quiet.” Kanan countered. “Let's try this.” Walking briskly over to the patio table, Kanan reached for the beautifully painted tea pot set between the three women. Instantly Zaluna set her hand atop it.
 “Oh no.” She balked. “I'm fine letting you risk the safety of a garden pot teaching the boy, but I'm not going to watch as he smashes my tea service all over the wall. Sabine decorated this for me.”
 “Yeah.” The Mandalorian girl added, staring daggers. “I'm proud of that. You're not letting the kid bust it.”
 “Uh, guys?” Ezra interjected. “Siting right here, you know.”
 “Relax.” Kanan told them coyly. “Don't need the pot. Just what's inside.” Looking curious, Zaluna lifted her hand, allowing the human to step back towards the lesson with teaching aide in hand. “Right. Here's what you're gonna do, Ezra.” He said, pouring the hot tea into the previously empty bowl. “I want you to pour that tea onto the dirt.”
 “Kanan. That's a terrible waste.” Zaluna admonished.
 “I'll pay you back.” He told her.
 “Wait, I don't get it.” Ezra said. “How am I supposed to pour the tea out if I can't move the stupid bowl? What's the point?”
 “Just...give it a try.” Kanan suggested, returning the tea pot to the table.
 “Go ahead, Ezra.” Hera added encouragingly. “Occasionally Kanan actually has a good idea.”
 “Hey.” The Jedi moaned.
 Ezra merely sighed, staring down with annoyance at the waiting bowl and it's liquid contents before shutting his eyes. Breathing in though his nose, he exhaled slowly, repeating the process until he felt his body and his mind were as relaxed as he could manage with everyone watching.
 “Focus on the tea.” Kanan said. “Not the bowl. Just see yourself pouring it out in your mind. Remember all the times you've poured yourself a drink. See it clearly.”
 Ezra did as instructed, seeing the number of times he'd filled a cup full of water or citric juice. He imagined repeating the process with the bowl and the tea, tipping the earthenware over, it's contents flowing out over the rim, splashing upon the dirt at his feet. Nothing seemed to stir and he knew he'd failed again at the exercise, his ire rising.
 Then he heard Sabine make a small noise, one of surprise.
 Taking a risk Ezra cracked one of his eyes open, just slightly enough to see what was happening. He almost jumped when he found the bowl hovering before him, tilting just enough to let the first small stream of tea come running out. While it didn't feel as though he was performing the actions physically, his mind simply held the image, and as he completely opened both eyes he merely accepted that it was happening right in front of him.
 “Wow.” Sabine breathed. “That's...pretty cool.”
 “You've seen me use the Force before and you've never batted an eyelash. Since when are you impressed by all this?” Kanan inquired, looking slightly offended.
 “Yeah, but you act like it's no big deal.” She motioned to Ezra, still looking dumbfounded by what he himself was doing. “This is like watching someone walk for the first time.”
 “Nice work, Kanan.” Hera added, looking satisfied in a manner which suggested she wasn't the least bit surprised by the outcome.
 “Hey, little bit...of credit.” Ezra told them, eyes fixed on the Force manipulation in front of him, hands out to his sides as though he was trying to balance on a high wire. “Although...not really sure how I'm doing this.”
 Kanan resumed pacing around him, studying intently how the eddies and currents of the Force flowed from the teenager, seeing them like ribbons of color. “You did it because your mind accepted what you wanted to see because you've done it a million times before. Utilizing the Force isn't about trying something, it's about accepting that you can without doubt.” The Jedi reached out to give the bowl a slight tap, pleased to see that it remained suspended in the air.
 “Do or do not. There is no try.” He said, sounding both nostalgic and somber all at once.
 “What?” Ezra asked.
 “Just something a very wise person once said.” Kanan answered. “He would have been happy to see this.” At that he offered Ezra a pat on the shoulder, the movement of approval so surprising that the hold on the bowl ceased, the ceramic object dropping to the now wet grass below.
 “Think we're done for now.” Kanan observed. “Why don't you head inside, get something to eat. We'll pick things up later.”
 “Great.” Ezra said, climbing to his feet and wincing slightly as he tried to rub circulation back into his lower extremities. “So, when do you start teaching me how to use a Lightsaber?”
 Kanan's customary scowl returned. “When I'm convinced you won't cut your own arm off with it.” He told the newly minted student, retrieving Zaluna's garden pot from the ground. “Learn to use this first, kid.” He added, tapping Ezra's forehead. “Then we'll see.”
 “Well, I think after all this we could use a nice breakfast. Might as well start now and build up a few plates before Zeb wakes up.” Zaluna said mirthfully, setting the now empty cups about the table onto the waiting tea service.
 “And we better check in with Chopper. See if anything's come over the wire.” Hera told Kanan, standing from table. “Sabine, once Zeb is up why don't you take him and Ezra with you into Carrycot. See if the market is safe to pick up supplies. We need to get the Ghost restocked quickly.”
 “Can do.” Sabine said, pointing Ezra back towards the house with a raised thumb. Still rubbing his backside gingerly, the teen followed.

.  .  .

“So, how much stuff do we need for the ship?” Ezra inquired, still growing accustomed to seeing Sabine without her armor and other accoutrements, the Mando girl dressed in a simple tunic and pants combination common to the settlers in the region.
 Zeb, likewise, had slipped into a well worn pair of overalls combined with a hooded poncho to conceal as much of his racial features as possible, looking not completely out of place among the various agricultural workers and traders as they passed through Carrycot's town center among a small throng of assorted humans and non-humans. While the Lasat had left his trusted Bo-Rifle back with their other gear, Ezra had seen Sabine conceal her twin Westar-35s beneath the folds of her tunic.
 “Hera took an inventory before we left the ship.” Sabine explained, pulling a datapad from her belt. “Credits are gonna be tight with the fuel costs for the ship, but here's a list of what he should be able to scrounge up. That's assuming prices haven't gone up since the last time we were here.” She turned slightly to hand Ezra the list, but before he could grab it the datapad was intercepted by Zeb's massive hand. Before Ezra could object the Lasat began to grumble as he scanned the list.
 “Carrebas,” He growled. “We'll barely be able to live off this for a week.”
 “It'll get us to the nearest trade hub. Maybe Taris or Ord Mantel. Anywhere we can get some work.” Sabine observed, snatching the list away and passing it to Ezra.
 “With the Imperials looking for us, how hard will it be to find something?” Ezra asked.
 “Not sure.” Sabine answered truthfully. “We've got a lot of contacts who don't mind sticking it to the Empire, but they also don't need us bringing a Star Destroyer to their doorstep.” She shrugged. “I'm sure Hera and Kanan have a plan. But, guess we'll just have to let the dice fall where they may.”
 “That's reassuring.” Ezra replied cynically.
 “Get used to it, kid.” Zeb huffed. “Life on the Rim ain't all sunshine and rainbows.”
 “Really, I wouldn't have guessed because we've clearly had it easy so far right?” The young human fired back.
 “Please. You haven't even begun to see how bad it can get out here...” Zeb answered darkly.
 Ezra thought to say something scathing back, but the expression on Zeb's face from beneath the poncho's hood made him think better of it. Deciding to let the discussion go, he merely continued to follow his crew mates in silence as they worked their way through the crowds, eventually rounding a corner onto a narrow street lined with small shops advertising various trading groups, commodities, and services on simple hardwood signs.
 “Okay. Dakka's should still be down near the end of the row.” Sabine observed. Seeing Ezra's confusion she explained, “Odus Dakka. He's a quartermaster for one of the independent trade groups working this sector. Nothing major, but he knows the right people. He's been able to rustle up some hard to get supplies before without trying to bleed us dry.”
 “Is he against the Empire to?” Ezra asked.
 “Not really. Some of his trade channels even go through the Imperials. But he doesn't help them put the boot to the little guy as far as we know, and that's good enough for us.” The trio worked their way down the row of stores, finally stopping at a shop with 'Rojjeck LLD' printed on a sign over the door. “Here we go.” Sabine said, stepping through the dust tarp draped over the entryway and into the dimly lit interior. The shop's small exterior was mirrored within, the limited space lined with four rows of supply racks filled with packaged materials of one type or another. Near the door a service counter stood empty, the quartermaster apparently elsewhere in the shop.
 “Dakka?” Sabine called out. “You here?” When there was no response after a moment she turned to Zeb and Ezra. “You two watch the door. I'm gonna have a look in the back.” The Lasat merely nodded, taking a hold of Ezra's shoulder to ensure he stayed put. The teen pulled away unsuccessfully.
 Making her way slowly through the shop Sabine listened intently, hearing only the dull creak of the ventilation system blowing stale air through the space. After a few more steps towards the rear of the shop she could make out the unmistakable sound of hushed voices, speaking quickly and intensely. One of them she recognized as belonging to Odus. The other, a female, she did not. Stepping cautiously around the final shelf nearest the back, Sabine could see the door to the rear office was ajar and was, likewise, the source of the heated conversation. Moving up silently against the left wall adjacent the gap in the door, she listened to the discussion, the voices more clearly audible.
 “ said we'd have more time!” The female voice finished heatedly.
 “I thought you did. But they say you don't and it's out of my hands now. I've already risked too much trying to run interference for you and your father.” Odus insisted.
 “You owe him more than that.” The girl implored.
 “Maybe, but not that much. Not enough to cross these guys.” He answered bitterly. “What good would I be to you two if I end up in a ditch with my shop closed down?”
 “There has to be something we can do. Anything to buy more time.” The girl pleaded. “We just need another month, just one and we can finish enough work to...” The sound of something heavy and metal hitting the duracrete floor sounded from the front of the shop, instantly bringing the conversation in the office to an abrupt halt. Internally, Sabine cursed. She quickly moved away from the door before it could be pulled open, returning to where Zeb and Ezra stood over a metal container which had been knocked loose from it's rack on the shelf. Sabine starred daggers.
 “It was him.” Zeb said quickly seeing her approach, his finger pointed towards the human teen.
 “Oh, what a load.” Ezra fumed. “You picked it up and then you dropped it because you said something moved inside...”
 “Enough.” Sabine hissed. “The next chance I get I'm spacing the both of you. Go outside!”
 “What the?” The voice of Odus suddenly asked from behind them coming up the row. “Who are...Libby?” He asked, seeing Sabine's face. “And Zed? What are you two doing here? And who's the sprat?”
 “Zed? Really?” Ezra whispered to the Lasat.
 “I'll end you.” Zeb growled.
 “Odus. Sorry to barge in out of the blue.” Sabine offered with a well practiced, disarming smile. “We had a bit of a surprise layover. Mechanical troubles.” She explained with as much casual air as she could muster. “And we hoped you might be able to wrangle up a few things. Maybe at the usual rates?”
 Odus eyed the three rebels with what appeared to be suspicion or, at the least, hesitation. Whether this was because they had interrupted the heated exchange or whether it was due to the quartermaster having somehow seen their faces on Imperial bulletins they could not know.
 Suddenly concerned that the older human might seek to contact the Empire to identify them Sabine casually moved her hands comfortably behind her, only appearing to look patient while just beneath the back fold of her tunic those same hands reached for the grips of her blasters. The weapons were set to stun. And then Odus laughed, shaking his head with hands on his hips.
 “Damn it all if I can't resist that smile, girl.” Odus chuckled, waging his finger towards Sabine. “I might be able to pull some strings, even this late in the season. And you're in luck. Trade barge just rolled in from the mid rim. Had some trouble with their hyperdrive I think they said. They were looking to offload some excess cargo to cover costs.” The quartermaster waved them towards the counter. “Why don't you three have a lean while I pull out my books. See what I can part with.” He told them pleasantly, making his way back towards the rear office.
 “So,” Ezra asked once the old man was out of ear shot. “Libby huh?”
 “Aliases are a necessity in our line of work.” Sabine told him. “Easier to disappear when a job goes sideways when you're not using the same name twice to do business.”
 “Wizard.” Ezra said. “So, what do I call myself?”
 “Pain in the a...” Zeb began.
 “Quiet.” Sabine said suddenly. Coming up the row from the offices was someone knew. As they drew closer Sabine could see it was a young woman, around the same age as herself, red hair cropped short with sun kissed freckles across her face. The girl tried to avoid eye contact but looked up curiously just as she neared Sabine. Up close the girl was quite pretty, in a homely country manner, with light green eyes that wore concern in their depths. The mystery girl looked away quickly and moved along, murmuring a pardon as she slipped between Ezra and Zeb.
 “H-Uh.” Ezra observed. “She was kinda in a hurry.”
 Sabine stared ahead silently for a moment. Then she turned and followed in the girl's path. “Wait here.” She told the two of them before she was gone.

.  .  .

“Hey.” Sabine called out, catching the mysterious girl before she rounded the corner into the market square. The young woman looked back nervously, then tried to walk faster.
 “Leave me alone, please.” She told Sabine.
 “Look, whatever the trouble is you're having,” Sabine said to her back, trying to keep pace as she spoke. “We can help you!” That brought the young woman up short. She turned back to Sabine, looking only slightly bewildered. She seemed about to speak, appearing to be thinking something over, looking away as she bit slightly at her lower lip. Finally after a few moments she sighed heavily, gazing back.
 “No one can help us.” She said. Then she was gone, rushing into the growing crowd in the market. Sabine tried in vain to locate her for several minutes before determining she wouldn't be able to find her again. Then she paused, realizing that she wouldn't be able to find the young woman again unless she had help. Reaching under her tunic, she returned briskly towards the trade shop.

.  .  .

“There you are.” Odus said, standing behind his counter with several datapads arrayed in front of him. “I was just about send these two to look for you. Not sure they have the right heads for business, you being the smart o...” Sabine's hand reached out, taking the quartermaster by the back of the head, smashing down atop the wood counter with enough intensity to reinforce what came out of her mouth next.
 “Since I know you're afraid of whoever they are, I'm going to make this really simple for you.” Sabine explained, her tone icy. “You're going to tell me everything about that girl who just left. The one practically begging you in your office for help. And, if you don't tell me everything or I think you're holding something back...” She warned, pulling out a blaster where the old man could see. “That smile you love so much might be the last thing you see. Are we clear?” Odus could only simply nod, his cheek grinding against the surface of the counter. “Okay then.” She said, releasing her iron grip on the quartermaster who rose slowly, taking only a slight step back, hands out in front of him. To Sabine's right, both Ezra and Zeb stood wide eyed and nearly slack jawed.
 “So,” Sabine continued, charm back in her voice. “Start talking.”

.  .  .

It was almost late afternoon by the time the trio made it back to Zaluna's homestead, the return trip having been spent mostly in shocked silence. Ezra, usually happy to engage Sabine in conversation, had kept a tentative step or two away, giving the Mandalorian girl ample space as she seethed quietly. For his own part Zeb has seemed about to say something, at several different points along the road, and yet had always found his words stopping just shy of his lips. When Zaluna opened the door for them, it was unsurprisingly she who voiced the first words of concern.
 “What Gundark ate your pet, girl?” She asked Sabine who moved past her without so much as a greeting, her face set in a grim mask. “Young lady!”
 That, finally, brought Sabine to a halt. “I'm sorry, luna.” She offered with genuine apology. “I'm just... I need to talk to Hera.” Was all she could muster, walking quickly into the common room from the short hallway. The Sullustan woman turned to look at Ezra and Zeb. “What in the world happened?”
 “We, uh...” Ezra tried. “We kinda didn't get the supplies.”
 “What? Why not?” Zaluna asked pointedly.
 “Because something tells me we might have trouble shopping in town for awhile.” Zeb huffed, warily following Sabine's path down the short hallway.
 “I'd explain, but something tells me you're about to get a recap anyway.” Ezra told the stout alien woman, walking with her back down the hall in turn. The two reached the sitting room just as Hera came in from the outside, Kanan in tow, having been called in by Sabine who now paced back and forth, looking equally furious and anxious.
 “I messed up.” She told Hera, who exchanged quickly concerned glances with Kanan. “I know I did. But, trust me, it was for good reasons.”
 “I believe you.” Hera told her calmly. “Why don't you just take a minute and tell me what happened?”
 Sabine continued to pace, lacing her hands about the back of her neck, impatience and anger mixed with embarrassment threatening to boil over.
 “We checked out Odus's shop.” She began. “Seemed the best place since he's always given us a fair deal. When we got there, it looked empty so I left these two upfront and checked out the back of the store, looking for old Odus...” What followed was a lengthy and detailed story of everything that followed, including the impromptu interrogation of the quartermaster, a revelation that quickly soured Kanan's mood and left Hera looking equally vexed.
 “What the heck were you thinking, Sabine?!” Kanan exploded, leaning over her with as much anger as he'd ever felt towards the young woman. “You know the first thing he's gonna do is head to the law keeper’s office. They'll search the spaceport landing bays, then they'll search the town and then they'll look outside the city walls, including the homesteads.” He waved about them at Zaluna's dwelling. “It won't take them long to figure we might be here. That's heat we didn't need, especially now!”
 “I get that, alright.” Sabine argued. “I do. And I'm sorry. But, if you'd heard her, if you'd seen how desperate she was I know you would have done the same thing.”
 “If you honestly think that, you're more naïve than I'd ever thought you could be.” Kanan spat, walking away just enough to give himself space to calm down, using what Ezra now knew were breathing exercises taught by the Jedi. In the Force he could sense Kanan burning brightly, but just as quickly the brand that was his aura began to dim as he regained composure. Hera, having taken a seat in one of the common room chairs, merely looked disappointed. However she also appeared interested in Sabine's troubled girl.
 “What details did Odus give you?” She asked. “Who was the girl, and what did Odus have to do with anything. Who's after her and her father?”
 Sabine paused, looking pensive. Then she answered with a long breath. “Black Sun.”
 Kanan, having only seconds before regained some measure of calm, practically blazed once more. “Oh, this is great. This just keeps getting better.” He fumed. “You not only just cost us doing any reputable business in town, but you assaulted a go between for Black Sun!”
 The room fell quickly silent, the looks of worry on nearly every face with the exception of Ezra, who tentatively looked about before asking, “What's Black Sun?”
 “Trouble.” Zeb told him from where he leaned in the corner of the room.
 “I don't...” Ezra began before Hera answered him in advance of the questions.
 “Their a criminal syndicate, Ezra.” She explained. “And a bad one. Not that many are good, but they deal in the type of crimes most other criminals steer clear of. If they have a conscience.”
 “Like what?” Ezra asked, despite the uncomfortable direction of the conversation. “I they kill innocent people?”
 “For starters.” Kanan told him. “Murder. Slaving. Spice. Extortion.” He said, his voice growing cold. “And those are just a few. They've got their hands in pockets all across the galaxy, in and outside the Empire.”
 “But, wait.” Ezra interrupted. “I thought the Empire hated criminals. I mean, they're always after smugglers, and back on Lothal they came down hard on all the gangs.”
 “Because smugglers and small time hoods don't pay the Empire to do business.” Kanan explained. “But back on Lothal you've got types like Vizago and his Broken Horn syndicate. Vizago pays the local garrison commander to look the other way, and he does which usually works out for types like us. Thankfully, Vizago doesn't deal in even half the things that Black Sun does or we wouldn't deal with him.”
 “So.” Hera said to Sabine. “How did this girl get involved with Black Sun? And out here of all places?”
 Sabine finally found a seat, elbows on her knees, head bowed slightly. “Her name is Jennica. Jennica Torv. Her father, Gunther, runs a repair garage out at the spaceport. According to Odus, his family has been on Barsoom for two generations. They helped found Carrycot. He's respected and he does good business keeping the trade ships that pass through in good repair if they need it.”
 “Sounds pretty small.” Kanan observed. “Why would Black Sun even enter into a deal?”
 Sabine sighed. “Because the Torvs are also the senior administrators for the spaceport. Their family built it, and they basically run and own it.”
 “Son of a Hutt.” Kanan said.
 “Well, there you go.” Hera added. “Black Sun is always looking for a strangle hold where they can find it. Barsoom's small, but it won't always stay that way. If they hold control over it's biggest developing spaceport, then when this world becomes an agricultural boom town, they'll be in a prime position to milk the landing and docking fees for everything their worth.”
 “Not to mention this little planet will become a Black Sun way station for every illegal operation in the outer rim.” Kanan observed.
 “But this still doesn't explain how Gunther ended up under Black Sun's thumb?” Hera continued. “Why would he need to even do business with them?”
 “Like you said,” Sabine answered. “Carrycot's growing. And the spaceport needed to expand with it. But this far out on the Rim there aren't too many reputable investors to be had. Bigger ships were starting to come in and half the time the Torvs had to turn them away because the port simply lacked the facilities. It was costing the town millions in credits. People who have their livelihoods built around the trading ships that come through were starting to get frustrated. In the end, I suppose Torv thought he was doing a good thing when he went to Odus looking for someone who would be willing to take the risk.”
 “So Odus takes Torv's deal to Black Sun. And everything's hunky dory at first, I'm sure.” Kanan quipped. “Until later when Black Sun comes back with a new deal.”
 “Nail on the head.” Sabine confirmed. “They tell Gunther after the spaceport work is all done that his payments need to go up. When Torv can't come up with those kinds of credits they make him an offer.”
 “Sell the spaceport.” Hera finished.
 “And, according to Odus, Gunther is too proud to ever agree to that.” Sabine told them. “The spaceport is part of his heritage and he knows what Black Sun will do if they control it.”
 “Makes sense.” Kanan said, rubbing his brow tensely. “But what I don't get is what this has to do with us, and why you'd involve yourself.”
 “What are you talking about?” Sabine asked, looking slightly horrified. “Of course this involves us. It has to. We can't just let Black Sun roll in here to kill a hard working innocent man, steal his family legacy, and do who knows what to his daughter.”
 “I'm not saying we shouldn't care,” Kanan countered. “But we're not exactly in a position to do much good, are we? We're low on fuel, low on supplies and, least we forget, we've got the ISB hunting us across half of known space.” He argued. “Even if we could do something to help, the last thing we need is Black Sun looking to settle scores by either serving us up to the Empire or paying Bounty Hunters to beat Kallus to the punch.”
 “It doesn't give us an excuse to do nothing at all.” Sabine told him sullenly. “We can try to do...something.”
 “Like what?” Hera asked her.
 “Odus said Gunther was too proud to sell to those monsters. But what if we could convince him that what he stood to loose was bigger than what he hoped to hold onto?”
 “You mean you want us to try to get him to actually agree to the deal?” Kanan asked surprised.
 “Like you said,” Sabine replied coolly. “We can't fight Black Sun. Between them and Empire there's no way we'd get out alive.” She weighed the odds silently. “But, if we can help Torv stay alive, maybe we might be able to return, eventually, and help him get back what he lost.”
 “Live to fight another die all around, huh?” Kanan said, mulling it over. The rest of the room was doubly silent, Hera looking somewhat already resolved, Zeb looking like something foul needed to be spat out, Zaluna looking about her surrogate family with concern, and Ezra watching it all with close scrutiny. After a moment, it was he who broke the silence.
 “...then your life is worth nothing.” He whispered.
 “What did you say, Ezra?” Hera asked.
 “Back on the prison ship, when Kallus sprung his trap.” He told her. “I was afraid, remember? You knew I had to warn everyone but I was still so wrapped up in myself I didn't think I could even try. But then you told me that fighting just for myself meant my life wasn't worth anything.” Ezra, hands in his pockets, looked between them all. “If we can keep this guy from getting himself and his family killed than I think it's something we need to do. I mean, what good is dedicating our lives to bringing down the Empire if we're too afraid to jump between innocent people and the other bad guys trying to hurt them?”
 For a moment the room simply starred at the teen without comment, the scrutiny making Ezra, usually pleased to be the center of attention, feeling somewhat awkward. Then he saw Hera smile at him fondly, followed by Sabine who simply grinned, with Zeb slapping him on the back with nearly enough force to knock the wind from him.
 “Ha. Kid's got the right idea.” Zeb told them all. “We can't take these parasites head on, though I know I'd love to crack a few skulls. But we can keep this grease monkey from getting dead on the wrong end of a blaster shot.”
 “So?” Hera asked, looking to Kanan.
 The rogue Jedi merely shrugged. “Saving lives isn't something to sneer at. Question is, how much time do we have?” For that they turned to Sabine.
 “From what Odus told me, not long. Maybe a day or two, tops. Then whomever Black Sun has doing it's dirty work is going to come calling.”
 “Alright then. First thing's first.” Kanan said, retrieving a comlink from his belt. “Chopper. I need you to monitor the HoloNet band. Track down any transmissions coming from Odus Dakka in Carrycot. Try to block them or, at least, reroute them so they don't reach their destinations too soon.” The droid bleated an annoyed confirmation, already slightly overwhelmed monitoring for Imperial transmissions, then killed the link.  
 “That might buy us some time, at least.” Kanan hoped. “Now we just have to figure out what to tell this guy, and why he should even care about what we have to say in the first place.
Star Wars Rebels: The Long Road

Chapter Two

As agricultural planets went, Barsoom did not differ overmuch from similar breadbasket worlds like Lothal or Dantooine. With a relatively small surface ocean and large central continent that wrapped most of the planet in expansive fertile plains and lowlands both north and south of the equatorial belt the fairly sparsely populated rim world had somehow managed to avoid drawing the attention of any major corporate conglomerates or the Empire for development. It was simple and unassuming. And it was exactly what the Ghost and her crew needed.
 “So you said this Zaluna was a close friend, right?” Ezra asked from the far back of the cockpit, standing behind and just the left of Sabine in her color splashed chair, watching the Ghost descend towards the planet's atmosphere.
 “That's right.” Hera answered, her voice only mildly distracted as she concentrated on maintaining a smooth approach vector for entry. “She's like family, really.”
 “Great. But, if she was so special to you guys, why did you set her up on some backwater on the end of space?” Ezra inquired. The question drew Kanan around from his place in the co-pilot's seat.
 “Short answer?” He explained with a slight crease to his brow and a twinge of impatience. “Zaluna ran afoul of the Empire, same as us, same as you. Plus she went through a lot when she could have just left us to our fate. And she didn't walk away unscarred. She needed...she deserved someplace quiet.” At that Kanan turned back to monitoring the approach.
 “Right...” Ezra replied, feeling slightly chastised. Perhaps sensing the tension, Hera looked back long enough to add, “It was her choice, as much as anything. When you meet her, I think you'll understand.”
 Ezra nodded with greater understanding, but remained quiet and contemplative.
 “Eh, besides kid.” Zeb cajoled. “Works out for all of us. No prying eyes, no nosy types and, best of all, no bucket heads to spoil the mood.”
 “And of course by that you mean spoil dinner, right?” Sabine chided.
 “Hey, paying Ol 'luna a visit ain't just about the spread. Like Hera said, she's family.” Zeb countered defensively, feigning outrage. The cockpit, even above the hum of the engines, was suddenly filled with the low gurgling of the Lasat's mostly empty stomach. Sabine raised a smirk and an eyebrow at her oversized compatriot in response. “ ain't a bad thing though.” Zeb murmured looking sideways, small pointed ears slightly dropped.
 From the pilot's seat Hera sighed with mirthful exasperation, then reached out to hit the switch for the ship's intercom. “Chopper, are we secure?” From the speakers the astromech's flat bleats and honks indicated his general distaste for the menial tasks allotted to him and their over-simplicity. “Alright then.” Hera responded dryly. “Here we go.” At once the Ghost began a slow descending list to starboard, taking the freighter down towards the planet proper.

.  .  .

On their previous visits to Barsoom, Hera had arranged for the ship to be hangered in Carrycot, the planet's small service spaceport, albeit more of a town, only a few miles from where Zaluna's rustic property was situated. The convenience had allowed for the Ghost to be close by should a quick departure be required.
 However due to the influx of light traffic to the planet in the form of trading vessels, independent haulers, and the occasional smuggler or roustabout looking for a quick port of call the crew now had to contend with the risk of any of their number as well as the ship itself being recognized from the various wanted posters and HoloNet reports the Empire was broadcasting all across the Outer and Inner Rim territories. Thankfully Zaluna had informed Hera of a small dell ringed by a copse of thick Wooly trees a few hundred yards east of her home. Surveying the topography upon approach, Hera had spotted the location with some ease even in the dim amber glow of sunset. With her usual deft handling and piloting grace she settled the Ghost down upon the valley floor.
 “Nicely done.” Kanan offered in his usual complementary yet overly familiar tone.
 “Thank you.” Hera replied with well practiced deflection. “Right then. Zeb, Kanan, and Ezra, you three are on camouflage netting. Let's make sure no one can spot our girl from the air.”
 “Fun fun, kid.” Zeb told Ezra with a push towards the cockpit door. “Better work fast.”
 “Hey, watch it furball...” Was the only rebuttal Ezra could manage as the Lasat shoved the teen down the passage ahead of him, Kanan trailing behind.
 “Sabine, get us sliced into the local com stations and set the ship's computer to flag any keywords. If anyone breaths even a whisper about us or Lothal, Chopper should be able to alert us at the house.”
 “Copy that.” Sabine answered with a short two fingered salute. Leaving the young Mandalorian to her work, Hera set about powering down the Ghost and seeing to the ship's security.

.  .  .

The trek from the Ghost's secluded landing zone proved, thankfully, more pleasant than harrying as the crew made their way, each carrying a small bag, up a narrow animal trail Zeb had rooted out among the foliage and up into the valley side. The humidity from the day had already begun to the recede in the early summer evening leaving a cool breeze wafting down into the dell. Ezra, for his part, looked about the terrain wide eyed and thoroughly enamored. Looking behind her to where he had stopped to gaze back down the trail and out over the valley, Sabine couldn't help but find the sight of the moon-blinked younger crew mate equally amusing and just slightly adorable. “Never seen trees before?” She asked him.
 “Not like these.” He told her, still clearly captivated. “It's Everything back on Lothal was just brown and grays.” He took in the air on a deep inhale. “Even smells so different. It's...pretty wild.”
 “Well, you'll see it all again on the way back when we leave. Come on nature lover. We've still got a bit to walk.” Sabine prodded gently. Giving the dell once last look, Ezra obligingly followed.
 The rest of the walk was spent mostly in silence, Kanan taking the lead once the group had reached the lip of the small valley, stepping onto the plains proper and quickly finding a small road which snaked it's way west towards Carrycot and, subsequently, Zaluna's homestead. Less than twenty minutes later, the entire sojourn having taken less than forty minutes from start to finish, Zeb bounded to the front at the first site of the short sylvan road which lead right up to Zaluna's front door.
 “Well, come on you lugs. Rude to keep the old girl waiting,” He exclaimed with a throaty laugh.
 “Like a kid at a sweet shop...” Hera murmured.
 “And just as costly.” Kanan replied. “Zeb, wait up.” He called out.
 With enthusiasm the Lasat beat the party to the simple hardwood door facing the road, either side lined with potted plants and a sculpture painted a dazzling array of colors which mirrored the deep purple and vibrant orange splashes lovingly arranged on Sabine's own breastplate and leg-guards. Zeb's large knuckles rapped eagerly against the door. When their wasn't an immediate answer Zeb lifted his hand to knock once again, but failed to connect when the door swung quickly open, leaving the Lasat to stare down, fist raised, into the deep black eyes of a squat Sullustan female, her face and dewflaps lined with age and, at the moment, annoyance.
 “Garazeb Orrelios! Does my front door look like a sparring dummy?” The woman asked sternly.
 “” Zeb answered sheepishly.
 “Then why are you putting dents in it, hmm? Do you think I've gotten so old I couldn't hear the first knock even with these ears?”
 “No.” He answered, drawing out the last syllable.
 “And?” She waited.
 “Sorry.” Zeb added, slouching slightly.
 “Alright then. That's better.” She observed, hands on her hips. “So, are you going to come in and eat all this food I've been slaving away on all day or just stand there like a lummox?!”
 “Lunie!” Zeb exclaimed with a laugh, lifting the short woman into his arms as though she weighed nothing at all, squeezing the matronly Sullustan in a meaty hug.
 “I'm not made of durasteel you overgrown bull,” Zaluna winced. “Put me down.” Zeb quickly set the woman back on her own two feet.
 “Sorry.” He told her, looking quickly over her shoulder excitedly.
 “Well, go on.” She told him, slapping the Lasat on the hindquarters as he bounded past and towards the small dining room adjacent to the short hallway. “And wash your hands!” She hollered after him, turning to regard the motley crew standing on her doorstep.
 “Well, aren't you all just the saddest site these old eyes have ever seen.” She observed wryly, shaking her head. “And that's saying something considering what I used to do for a living.”
 Hera was the first to step forward, leaning down to embrace the shorter woman in a warm, yet far more gentle than she had just previously been given, embrace. “It's so wonderful to see you, Zaluna.” Hera said.
 “You two.” The Sullustan matron cupped Hera's chin in her hands, studying her face with an open, motherly concern. “You look like you could use a good night's sleep.” Had it come from anyone else, Hera might have taken offense. However, coming from Zaluna, the observation merely made her smile.
 “Pretty sure we all could.” Hera told her.
 “Well, there are bed's aplenty.” Zaluna said. “Even for two.” She added with a wink, gazing over the pilot's shoulder at Kanan. Hera merely looked subtly horrified, than stepped aside to allow her second to move up and offer his hand.
 “How's life been treating you lady?” Kanan inquired coyly.
 “Clearly better than it's been treating all of you, it seems.” She shot back, pulling the former Jedi down into a hug. Kanan, slightly abashed, hastily returned it.
 “Hey luna,” Sabine approached with a smile bigger than anything Ezra had seen outside of her exploding something with multiple incandescent colors. “We've missed you.” She added, her voice muffled slightly as she wrapped herself about Zaluna.
 “Me two, little bird.” She told Sabine. “And you better have something for me in that bag. My garden needs the color.” That prompted another smile from the Mandalorian artist, who stepped into the house with the aforementioned bag already being opened. With the familiar faces accounted for that left Ezra, still standing just a bit back from the doorstep looking only slightly out of place and anxious. Zaluna studied the boy with a critical eye.
 “Zaluna,” Hera said warmly. “This is Ezra, our new addition from Lothal.”
 “Hmm.” The Sullustan woman observed. “Well, boy, these eyes aren't getting any younger. Come here so I can get a look at you.” Ezra, feeling as though he was being presented for inspection, walked tentatively towards the aged woman. “Well,” She said. “Aren't you a handsome one.” Zaluna told him with a small smile.
 “Uh...thank you. Ma'am?” Ezra replied awkwardly.
 “Ma'am? Do I look like a ma'am to you?” Zaluna balked.
 “Little bit.” Ezra fired back, more smartly than with any hostility or intent to insult. Kanan frowned at the comment while Hera merely sighed. The Jedi rebel opened his mouth to admonish before Zaluna burst out with a laugh. “Oh. Oh, I like this one.” She chuckled. “He's a keeper.” She added, taking Ezra's arm.
 “Welcome to my little sanctuary, Ezra.” Zaluna told him fondly. “Now, why don't you tell me all about yourself while these two shut my door before the summer flies come in.”
 Hera walked past Kanan with a small laugh, leaving him to shut the front door to the night.

.  .  .

“And, so, I'm watching on the monitor as this giant of a Gammorean, so deep into his cups I'm sure he stopped seeing straight hours before, is belting what turned out later to be Huttese poetry to the bar patrons, all of whom were less than thrilled at the spectacle.” Zaluna described with a laugh, the rest of the Ghost's crew, with the exception of Kanan, sharing in the levity. “Then this particular rogue,” She continued, pointing to the former Jedi with a wrinkled finger. “Wanders over and, being the bar's impromptu bouncer, tried to ask this drunken behemoth to settle down.”
 “I imagine with much more colorful choices in words.” Hera teased.
 “When am I ever not the very picture of civility?” Kanan asked.
 “Never.” Came an almost unanimous reply around Zaluna's dining table.
 “Traitors.” Kanan rebuked dryly.
 “Anyway,” Zaluna continued. “Kanan is doing his best not to let things get messy. He wasn't a stranger to throwing a punch. I'd seen him do it lots of times. But when you're dealing with those hog-men, well, the last thing you want is a brawl.”
 The Sullustan woman paused just long enough to take a zip of wine, refilling Hera's own empty cup to her left. Sweet, the home fermented liquor was not terribly inebriating, else Hera, never eager to dull her senses or effect her flying, would have politely refused.
 “So, there's our handsome rogue, trying to persuade the Gammorean to take his show on the road when the louse spins around on Kanan, ready to spew some Huttese obscenity, when all that drinking finally catches up with him. And down he goes, right on top of our Hero.” The table erupted into deep, hearty laughs and calls of “Oh my gosh,” from the likes of Sabine who tried to conceal her laughs behind a cup of her own.
 “Yeah. Wasn't that funny at the time.” Kanan grumbled. “Guy smelled like the fresher after a Hutt's used it. And he weighed about as much as a speeder.”
 “Why not use the Force to lift him off or something?” Ezra asked.
 “Believe me. After the first shove, I thought about it.”
 “Thankfully.” Zaluna said. “He didn't have to. Okadiah, who owned the bar, rushed over with some of the other miners to help roll the drunk off.” She laughed once more. “You've never seen a more grateful human in all your life.”
 The crew applauded the story as Kanan raised a cup. “To Okadiah. And to old friends. There in a pinch.” Cups around the table went up, each person there offering their own silent prayers of thanks.
 “Well, enough of that.” Zaluna said, leaning back in her comfortable chair at the head of the table. “Zeb, how about you do an old lady a favor and take all this to the kitchen.” Zeb, still polishing off a leg of meat belonging to one of the local indigenous poultry, looked about to complain when the Sullustan woman added, “I think I've got a box of Yuma cakes around here somewhere. Might be able to find them once everything is put away.”
 That got the Lasat's attention. “That's just low, Lunie.” Zeb growled, already getting up from the table.
 “Come on, Zeb. I'll help.” Sabine offered diplomatically. The pair began clearing the table, the furry brawler still picking morsels off the serving dish as he went, Sabine smacking his hand as he did so.
 “Well, how about we head outside? The nights during the summer are just lovely. I think you lot have only ever been here in the spring or just after the thaw.” Zaluna told them, getting up spryly from her chair. The remaining group moved out to the small patio, affording them a view of Zaluna's closely tended garden. Summer flowers native to the region bloomed, a wash of colors vibrant even at night, all of them arrayed around a single tree. Hanging from that tree were glass chimes and streamers, both swaying in the light breeze, filling the garden with a sound like bells and running water.
 “Oh, Zaluna.” Hera said, looking both saddened and pleased. “Skelly would have loved this.”
 “I'd like to think so.” Zaluna said, strolling beneath the branches of the bough she'd tended to honor the troubled miner who'd given his life to help them prevent the destruction of Gorse. “Pity he couldn't see the great work you've all done.” She told them. “I think he would have loved to see what you did to that Imperial and his ship.”
 Over the course of the evening Ezra had listened and even added to the story of everything which had happened after Kanan, Zeb, and Sabine had hijacked the Imperial supplies from the market square in Lothal's capitol district. Their search for the Wookiee slaves, the trap and the Lawbringer, Ezra's capture and rescue and finally the escape from Kessel.
 To Ezra's surprise Kanan had even openly revealed the teen's connection to the Force. Given the level of secrecy the team worked under, the level of trust Ezra could see they had for Zaluna was incredible. It was a kind of trust he'd never have imagined showing himself. At least, not before he had joined the rebellious crew.
 “So,” Zaluna said, seating herself on a small bench beneath the tree. “Now that you've found Ezra does that mean you'll begin searching for other people with the Force? Rebuild the Jedi to fight the Empire?”
 Kanan, looking just a bit pale at the idea, took a long pull of his wine cup before answering. “Yeah...that's not likely to happen.” Trying to conceal the level of discomfort Ezra could feel radiating off of him, the former Jedi leaned casually against the same tree, looking up at the menagerie of spun glass baubles.
 “I think we've already got enough heat without drawing the attention of the Emperor or that mass murdering enforcer of his by running around the galaxy trying to build a Jedi army.” Kanan shook his head, gazing off to a place no one else but him could see. “No. That time's done.”
 “But you are going to teach Ezra, aren't you?” Zaluna inquired. Hera, seated across from Zaluna on the patio, tried to subtly warn the matronly Sullustan away from the line of questioning with a slight shake of her head. If Kanan noticed, he showed no indication of it.
 “I...yeah. At least enough where he can prove an advantage while on the job.”
 “As opposed to what?” Ezra asked suddenly. “The burden that I am right now?”
 “That's not what I said.” Kanan rebuked. “Don't put words in my mouth kid.”
 Ezra appeared ready to fire back when Hera, getting to her feet, reached out to place a hand on Ezra's shoulder. “Why don't you give Zeb and Sabine a hand finishing up, okay?” The look Hera gave him, gently imploring, was enough to defuse Ezra of his ire. Exhaling what frustration he had left, Ezra walked back into the house. Once she knew he was out of earshot, Hera spun on Kanan.
 “What is the matter with you?” She asked heatedly.
 “The kid's impatient. He's not ready to learn anything from me. I can't help it if he's too headstrong to see that.” Kanan told her defensively. “Give him some time and he'll mellow enough that he might actually listen.”
 “Listen to what? You've barely said three words to him since he agreed to come with us.” Hera, setting her cup down on a small patio table, folded her arms as she glared. “You were the one that said you knew he had to be trained. That if he wasn't all that fear and anger might get the better of him. By alienating him all you're doing is making that worse.”
 “What do you want me to do, Hera?” Kanan asked. “I'm not a Master. I wasn't even Knighted when...” He trailed off, looking haunted for a moment before regaining his composure. “I don't even know where to start.”
 “You're afraid.” Zaluna observed casually.
 “What?” Kanan asked, thrown off balance.
 “You're afraid of getting it wrong, right?” Her words were like chill water, reminding him of the same conversation he'd had with Hera the night before their arrival. “I mean, you said it yourself. There's no training new Jedi. No grand return. Ezra, for all you know, might be the only person to ever be trained like you were trained. And, if you got it wrong, that would be it. No second chance to keep all that wisdom alive.”
 Kanan said nothing, mulling over the same thoughts he'd put on hold up till that point. “Yeah. I suppose.” He leaned back against Skelly's tree, feeling the breeze on his face, feeling the flow of energy that wound through the trunk, through the roots and into the earth underfoot, the flowers, even the insects moving through the garden.
 “Then start there.” Zaluna told him.
 “Start where?” He asked her, looking down at the diminutive woman with confusion.
 “With the truth, you fool.” She said with a huff. “Instead of keeping that boy at a distance without telling him why, take a minute and tell him that this isn't easy for you. Tell him why it's important. You already have a sense of who he is, not just what he can do with your Force.” Zaluna stood, moving through the garden, listening to the chimes and to the distant sound of Zeb and Sabine, now likely with some help from Ezra, cleaning up their evening revelries.
 “The trouble is that you keep seeing that young man as a child. You keep treating him like one. Bothered by why he's so impatient.” She turned to look at him. “If it's one thing this fight against the Empire should have taught you by now, and you especially, is that, in this struggle against everything they've done, no one's a child anymore.” With that, Zaluna walked back into her home, looking for the first time that evening like an old woman who'd seen too much, and grown more than a bit tired from it.

.  .  .

The house was quiet. After having spent most of his life living on the city streets, then in the weather station out on the Lothal plains and finally having spent almost a week traveling in a starship surrounded by the constant hum of engines the silence of Zaluna's dwelling was almost unnerving. Only somewhat bitterly he could tell that no one else seemed troubled by the change.
 After spending another hour or so late into the night, listening to Zaluna's tales of her time watching the lives of hundreds if not thousands of sentients through the lenses of security cameras going back decades, the crew had finally each settled into the rooms their host had readied for them. Hera and Sabine had been given a room to share, as had Kanan and Zeb. Ezra, alone, had been given his own place to sleep, a small room at the end of the hall. And he had tried to sleep, feeling a sense of exhaustion.
 But, despite the comfort of the bed, all he had managed to do was toss from side to side, unable to find respite from his troubled thoughts and frustrations. Kanan's hard words and sense of detachment and distance continued to ware away at him. Ezra had felt overwhelmed with hope for the future when first he had agreed to come aboard the Ghost, to learn about following the Jedi path and becoming...well, he didn't know. Just something better, fighting for something more, as Hera had once told him, than himself.
 But in the following days all he had felt was a growing sense of abandonment. Where once Kanan had seemed willing to take on the teen as his apprentice, the former Jedi had instead grown cold. Disconnected. Even after Ezra had begun to see the haunting image of the molten eyed man in his dreams Kanan had made no attempt to address it. The fact that Hera had confirmed that Kanan had known about the nightmares only made it worse. And now that they had found some solace, just a small break from the strain of being on the run for days Kanan still seemed unwilling to follow through on his promise to teach Ezra what it meant to use the Force. To be a Jedi.
 The entire thing had left Ezra with a sense of inferiority. A fear that he simply wasn't what Kanan had thought him to be. But he simply didn't know. That realization was what kept him awake now. Growing even more annoyed at the malcontent welling up inside, Ezra rolled from the comfort of his bed and dressed. The crew had, on previous visits, left changes of clothing and other supplies, turning Zaluna's rustic dwelling into a glorified safe house. Something which the Sullustan woman appeared to take nothing but pride in.
 The plus side of having a cache of alternate apparel meant, for the first time in years, Ezra had been given something to wear other than the maintenance worker coveralls he'd sported for so long. Now wearing just a simple tunic and slacks only slightly too large, their having once belonged to Kanan, Ezra slipped from the room and down through the house, careful to be as quiet as he could. Zaluna's floor, made mostly from tile and stone, made no sound as he walked barefoot through the house and out into the garden.
 The heady smell of the plants and cool air helped clear his head. So lost was he in the peace of the place that he didn't immediately realize that he wasn't alone in his pursuit of a clear head. Sitting crossed legged beneath the tree that had been named for the man called Skelly sat Kanan, looking troubled yet determined as their eyes met. Ezra, feeling his anger returning, turned to move back into the house when Kanan cleared his voice, drawing the teen's attention back around.
 “How about you take a seat.” He told Ezra, as calmly and patiently as he'd ever heard the Jedi speak. “I think we've got a lot to talk about.”
 After a moment Ezra simply answered. “Okay.”
(*Author's Forward/Disclaimer: For anyone reading this, something important that needs to be mentioned before we start down this fan fueled road of mine. First and foremost, I love Star Wars Rebels. In some respects I've come to already love it slightly more than Clone Wars. However, that being said, there are some things which have begun to frustrate me about the series. Small things, but they are there. Elements like the show blatantly avoiding some mature themes even when they would make perfect sense to the story or characters. Plot holes that the series doesn't address because the main target audience of the series -namely kids- likely wouldn't notice or care. And, lastly, some narrative threads that, for folks like me that have read every kind of novel and have watched every kind of film, can already be seen being set up that even in their early stages feel more than bit cliche and forced for the sake of keeping the story in a certain traditionally Star Wars place.

For me, these things feel as though they will hold the show back from it's full potential. Being that this is the case, and seeing as that it's somewhat unlikely Disney will alter the format of the series overmuch, I decided to, in essence, work around that. How? Well, by taking this series and these characters -much as I did with my Transformers Prime series- that I enjoy down the path of alternate time-line storytelling. Simply put? Rebels: The Long Road -and all subsequent stories to follow- takes place in an alternate course of events beginning at the end of 'Spark of Rebellion' but deviating from that point onward. So, every episode of the “canon” series will never have occurred in my continuity. Likewise I will endeavor to not retread on as much as I can, e.g. my stories will always try to be very different from what we see on the show, minus some of the tone which can be pretty great. In this I feel I can tell the story of these characters in a capacity I'd personally enjoy over choices being made in the show.

Now, with that said, here's my first attempt at Fan Inspired Fiction set in the Galaxy Far, Far Away...*)

Star Wars Rebels: The Long Road

Chapter One

Advancing across high orbit over the planet Lothal the Imperial class Star Destroyer Lawbringer parted the small yet steady stream of inbound and outbound traffic from the agricultural world before it, the captains and pilots of the various transports and passenger ships giving the massive triangular vessel and it's Turbo Laser adorned white hull a wide berth.
 Poised at the observation windows on the Lawbringer's bridge, Kallus watched it all. With quiet intensity he studied the planet far below, trying to unravel the mystery of it's significance. Nestled among the various isolated systems of the outer rim, Lothal had until recently been of little importance to the Galactic Empire. Settled by only a few thousand colonists eager to escape the crush of life in the core worlds Lothal possessed no strategic value which could be immediately identified.
 However, in his charge to bring stability to the lawless systems of the rim, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, Governor to the vast number of planetary sectors, had selected Lothal to serve as an example of how quickly the presence of the Empire on any world could quickly bring it's population to compliance for the sake of peace and productivity.
 While the arrival of the Emperor's armed forces had quelled any minor objections the experiment had, thus far, not proven wholly successful even after the establishment of an Imperial training academy and production facilities of Sinear Fleet Systems. Had it been otherwise, Kallus would have not been where he was now, mulling over the events of the past 72 hours. Absently he ran fingers over the still tender flesh beneath his uniform where a blaster shot, his own in fact, had been deflected back upon him by a weapon he had thought never to encounter again outside of museums or the private collection of a wealthy senator.
 As a boy and later as an agent of the Imperial Security Bureau he had watched with rapt attention Holorecordings of lightsabers being wielded by Knights of the Jedi Order against various enemies of the Old Republic. When Emperor Palpatine, formerly the Supreme Chancellor, had exposed the plot of the Jedi to overthrow the Galactic Senate in a bid for power those weapons, while glorious, had been unable to save them from the brutal hand of justice and authority. The Clone armies of the former Republic has swept the Jedi aside and into the dusty tomes of history. Or so most believed. But some, like Kallus, knew better.
 Across the galaxy, hidden amongst the sentient races of a million worlds, some Jedi still remained, hoping to pass unnoticed and to live out their remaining days free from Imperial hands. While the ISB was tasked with protecting the interests of the Empire in all things, Kallus had never been called to actively hunt for any of the Jedi survivors, regardless of the threat their lasting existence posed. Instead the Emperor's most powerful enforcer, Darth Vader, had seen to hunting down and destroying the last of the Jedi. But, in that duty, the Dark Lord was not alone.
 “Sir?” The voice of an Imperial Ensign inquired from the operations well below. “Receiving a priority return message for you, coded urgent on red channel.”
 “Transfer the call to the ready room.” He ordered. “Yes sir,” the young officer complied, keying the signal through. Kallus was already in motion, collecting the remainder of his thoughts in anticipation of the forthcoming communication.
 For weeks he had followed reports and various leads, all of which concerned the activities of a highly active and increasingly problematic group of smugglers, privateers and saboteurs operating in the near Rim. Over the course of nearly two years the same group had been linked to a multitude of thefts and insurrectionist activities on dozens of worlds. Hijackings and wanton destruction of Imperial property had quickly become their modus operandi. Mounting imperial casualties had quickly garnered the attention of the Security Bureau and Kallus, noted for his efficiency and dedication, had been tasked to identify and terminate the rebellious activities before word of the group's success could spread.
 The mission had progressed with few if any real obstacles. Known underworld fences and black market dealers had been leaned upon or bribed with eyewitnesses interrogated thoroughly for any clue or scrap of information. Tracing patterns among the mounting intelligence gathered had eventually led him to a more narrow grid in which to search for his query. When a report of a VCX-class freighter, which matched various other descriptions he had received, blasting it's way clear of pursuit just outside of Lothal's capitol city had crossed his desk Kallus had known in that moment that his search was over. Once the Imperial agent had arrived on Lothal it had taken only a matter of hours to devise a stratagem for ferreting out the rogue group and goading them into a trap.
 Civilian contacts under the thumb of the Empire had passed along information concerning a local black market dealer, a Devaronian named Cikatro Vizago, who was thought to be the most likely fence for smugglers conducting business on Lothal. Kallus had arranged for those same contacts to offer information to the syndicate boss at a price which would lend the unknowingly false data an air of critical imperial secrecy. Then it was only a matter of setting the trap and waiting for his query to bite.  
 Based on previous reports Kallus knew the rebel band would find the prospect of rescuing Wookiee slaves impossible to ignore. With the Lawbringer laying in wait, Kallus patiently waited for the rogues to board the Gozanti-class cruiser functioning under the guise of a prison ship. As expected the insurgents had arrived promptly, making their way deep into the heart of the freighter while, unbeknownst to them, Kallus and his strike team arrived in the Lawbringer to board behind them. Victory had been so enticingly close before a well timed explosion, something which Kallus should have anticipated familiar with the group's MO as he was, had thrown he and his troopers of balance, leaving them unable to effectively prevent the entire rebel cell from escaping.
 The mission, however, had not been without some success.
 In the final moments of the rogue group's escape Kallus had managed to apprehend one sole member, a young human male of around 14 years. At first it had appeared as though the boy's confederates had abandoned him, giving Kallus a small window in which to interrogate the teenager. The boy had, however, proved difficult to intimidate, likely having to do with what Kallus assumed was a troubled upbringing. Scans taken of the boy's face and fingerprints had revealed no matches with any records in the Imperial database.
 Had Kallus been given more time he was sure some chink in the boy's armor could have been found and exploited. Alas he had only given himself one advantage over the young human's inexperience and naivete before the child had escaped custody in time to be retrieved by his fellow rebels in a nearly suicidal incursion on the Lawbringer herself. The escape had left the ship damaged enough to prevent immediate pursuit, allowing the enemy to jump to hyperspace.
 While Kallus had been foiled in his initial attempts he knew one last opportunity remained when one of the Troopers revealed his former prisoner had managed to intercept an internal transmission on the ship detailing where the real Wookiee slaves were being transported. Pushing the Star Destroyer, Kallus had set course for the prison mining world of Kessel. The agent had arrived just in time to once again clash with the same enemy cell, the four man team plus their ship having overwhelmed the Troopers handling the Wookiee exchange. Kallus had quickly joined the battle, with his success seemingly assured due to the overwhelming force he had brought to bare against the rebels.
 However all the intelligence he had acquired on his targets had failed to reveal one crucial element which had, still to his fury, turned the tide against him. From the among the combatants an adult human male had revealed himself to be one of the hidden Jedi survivors, brandishing a laser sword with a skill that had thrown his strike team into disarray. In the frantic, pitched battle which followed the Wookiee prisoners had managed to escape along with the insurgents.
 During the fight Kallus had spied the young human who had escaped him previously attempting to rescue one of the Wookiees, a youngling, from being recaptured. The boy had just managed to incapacitate the Stormtrooper set against him when Kallus arrived, undaunted and determined to prevent the boy's escape a second time. However the arrival of the rebel ship, and it's Jedi, had proven too much. Kallus had tried in vein to shoot down the Jedi, only to have his laser shot deflected into his own shoulder. The wound had healed under bacta treatment well enough, but the scar of that defeat still festered within him.
 Almost immediately he had begun to devise knew plans for rooting out the threat posed by a rebel Jedi, but not before he had submitted his report on all which he had discovered to Imperial Center on Coruscant. It had, as he had known it surely would, roused the attention of a higher authority. Stepping into the Communications suite within the Lawbringer's ready room, Kallus now stood face to face with that same authority.
 Clearing his voice he spoke with more deference and respect than he allowed for any individual save for the Emperor and Lord Vader himself. “Excuse the intrusion, Inquisitor.” He began slowly, trying as best he could to mask the anxiety his superior provoked. “But as you've no doubt read, I have, over the course of my investigation, encountered a Rebel cell, the leader of whom made proficient use...of a Lightsaber.”
 Before Kallus, veiled in the blue semitransparent glow of the Holoprojection transmitting his ghastly, imposing image, Vader's Jedi hunter, known only by his moniker of The Inquisitor, allowed a small, disconcerting smile to come to his face, his eyes remaining shut as though he was speaking internally to some presence Kallus could not see or hear. Then he spoke, the voice as darkly melodic as it was chilling. “Ah, Agent Kallus. You did well to call.” Eyes of molten gold opened sharply to regard the ISB officer. “Indeed I have read your report. Now I want you to tell me everything...”  

. . .

In his dreams he saw the same face which had been haunting him for days now. Hazy, as though he was looking upon it through an oiled lens, the face and it's molten, glowing eyes still seemed to bore into him, radiating a fury and malice that turned the blood in his veins to ice and left his heart racing with fear.
 The unknown enemy drew closer and he could see the hand reaching out for him, trying to pull him into darkness. He screamed, trying to run yet unable to do so as his legs tangled beneath him. Then Ezra was falling away from the hand and the nightmare, both of which vanished in a painful explosion of light and sound before his eyes as his body hit the hard metal floor below the bunk he had been given aboard the Ghost.
 Momentarily dazed and disoriented Ezra tried to shake the stomach churning fear that had maligned his sleep. Absently he realized his legs had become tangled in the blankets his roommate had begrudgingly tossed him days before. As if merely thinking about the unruly Lasat had prompted some reaction even Ezra's fall to the floor seemingly had not, the purple furred behemoth named Zeb grumbled something guttural and unintelligible before turning from his side and onto his back, deep snoring immediately filling the small cabin space.
 Shaking his head at the sight, sound, and even smell Ezra sighed then slowly untangled himself, rising to his feet and throwing the blankets back atop the bunk above the Lasat's. He knew sleep wouldn't be possible now, and remaining in the small cabin wouldn't help calm his nerves. Pulling on the orange coveralls and dark tan boots that were his only change of clothes, Ezra slipped out of the cabin and into the central corridor beyond.
 Across from the room he now shared with Zeb the door to Sabine's cabin was shut, the Mandalorian girl likely asleep at such an early hour or, he wondered, possibly immersed in one of her artistic endeavors. He'd met his share of street artists while growing up on Lothal, but none who somehow managed to add explosives and destruction of property to their work like Sabine took pride in doing.
 He had to admit her talents and striking good looks had nearly bowled him over when he'd first seen her without her Mando helmet on, but in the days since the events which had thrown them all together she'd made her disinterest well known and, not wanting to offend her, Ezra had kept his attraction muted. He knew following her around the ship like a love struck puppy wasn't likely to endear him to her anytime soon.
 Passing her room Ezra walked quietly down the corridor towards the galley, wondering if he'd find anything decent to eat in the pantry besides slightly expired blue milk and ration bars. Since escaping the Imperial Agent Kallus and returning the captured Wookiee slaves from Kessel to their kin on a refugee ship near Sullust, the crew of the Ghost had been moving, trying to stay ahead of the patrols searching the local systems around both Lothal and Kessel for ships matching the Ghost's description. To make matters worse, security cameras aboard the Star Destroyer Ezra had escaped with the crew's help had made it possible to ID most of them, their faces now appearing on nearly every Holodisplay and terminal screen from Lothal to Tattooine.
 The difficult situation had prevented them from obtaining supplies and even fuel for nearly three days, and the ship's food stores were becoming noticeably light. From the pantry Ezra managed to scrounge up a small pouch of di'll pyckkles, washing the tart produce down with water from the ship's tap. As a meal it wasn't much, but he'd survived on less. Much less in his life on the streets. Despite the growing concern about their current situation, Ezra happily admitted that life aboard the Ghost was the greatest luxury he'd experienced since before his parents had disappeared when he was only seven, leaving him to fend for himself.
 It wasn't something, given his current state of mind, that he cared to think about. Looking for a distraction from the lingering troubles of his dreams and thoughts of his past Ezra wandered back out into the corridor, barreling right into the four foot astromech droid coming down the passage in the opposite direction. Indignantly the C1-10P unit bleated, honked, and buzzed at him, producing a small pincer arm that waved and pointed at him accusingly.
 “Hey!” Ezra shot back, understanding enough binary language to suss out what Chopper, as the crew called him, was saying. “You ran into me, rust bucket. If anything you should apologize.” Shaking with what approximated annoyance and anger for the droid, Chopper produced another arm, this one tipped by a shock prod which now sparked in Ezra's direction. Eyes wide, Ezra jumped back, hands in the air. “Okay, okay. My fault. Bygones, alright?” Retracting the arm, Chopper honked a laugh, then rolled past down towards the ship's cargo hold. Biting his tongue, Ezra rolled his eyes at the droid's back wondering if he had been better off staying in the cabin with the foul smelling Zeb.
 “Still making friends?” A friendly voice, light and just slightly smokey, asked from behind. Standing in the doorway to the cockpit was the Ghost's Twi'lek pilot and captain, Hera, her light green skin bright against the slightly yellow coveralls she wore under a simple vest. Her lekku, the twin headtails which jutted from the back of her head, swayed slightly as she slowly shook her head at him with bemusement.
 Blushing slightly, Ezra ran a hand through his blue black hair. “Sorry. Guess I stepped on his toes. Or something.”
 “It's okay. You should have seen how he treated Kanan once upon a time.” She confided with a smirk, taking a quick sip from the mug of Caf she had in her gloved hands. “Trust me, Chopper likes you. He just has a...unique way of showing it.”
 “You're telling me.” He replied, thinking on the number of times the droid had given him a shock or knocked him over with a modulated laugh.
 Watching him silently for a moment Hera asked simply, “Can't sleep?”
 “What gave it away?” He answered wryly.
 “You have nightmares.” She told him openly. “I've heard you. Even over Zeb's snoring.” Ezra avoided her eyes with a shrug. “And Kanan's felt it too. Guess it's hard to hide that kind of thing when the two of you have the Force connection.”
 Ezra didn't know how to answer, wondering just how much Kanan had felt through the Force, and maybe even somehow seen. The energy which, as Kanan had described, connected Ezra and all life was still a concept he was having trouble getting his head around. And Kanan, for his part, had yet to prove much of an instructor aside from the odd quote from his mysterious Jedi past. If anything Hera had proven to be more of a mentor and sympathetic ear during the course of Ezra's stay on her ship. As if to reinforce that the Twi'lek woman asked him gently, “Do you want to talk about it?”
 “Not really.” He answered, hoping he didn't offend her. Being open about his feelings was still something he wasn't remotely used to. While Hera had been easily the most warm and supportive figure on the ship there were still walls Ezra didn't feel comfortable letting down.
 “Well,” she said next, clearly trying to lighten their discussion. “I'm sure you'll feel better once you get off the ship for a bit.” That brought Ezra's head up quickly, eyes slightly narrowed in confusion.
 “I thought it still wasn't clear for us to head back to Lothal, or any spaceport.” He observed.
 “It's not, as far as I can tell from the HoloNet broadcasts Chopper and I have been monitoring.” She explained, moving into the cockpit proper and slipping into the pilot's seat. “But, our situation is getting dicey enough that I'm making good on a standing invitation. Though I wasn't keen on doing so until we were pretty desperate.”
 “So,” Ezra inquired, taking the co-pilot's chair next to her. “What's the invitation?”
 “Back when I first met Kanan, he and I had some help preventing a catastrophe on a mining planet called Gorse. We lost some good people.” She told him, distant and melancholy for a moment, remembering comrades long past. “But,” she continued, eyes bright once more like shining emeralds. “We also made some true friends.”
 “And that's where the invitation is from?” Ezra asked. “These friends on Gorse?”
 “No. Just the one. And, thankfully, she's not on Gorse.”
 “Wizard.” Ezra remarked. “So...where are we going then?”
 “Just be glad it's not space sector the middle of nowhere anymore.” Answered a firm, deep male voice from the cockpit door. Standing there looking as somewhat stoic and slightly dour as he always did, at least to Ezra, was Kanan, the crew's resident rogue Jedi and Hera's defacto second in command. Scratching at his goatee, Kanan looked to the Ghost's pilot as he asked, “You get in touch?”
 “Yeah. She'll be expecting us. Said she'd keep the kettle on. And that she decorated the tree.” She told him with a knowing smile, which Kanan reciprocated. The sudden warmth on Kanan's face took Ezra aback, prompting him to observe, “Wow. This lady must really be something huh?”
 “She's a rare one.” Was the only answer Kanan offered. “We need to get things settled on the ship. What's our ETA?” He asked Hera.
 “Should come out of Hyperspace in a little over an hour.” She looked across to Ezra. “I'd hoped to surprise all of you when you woke.”
 “Hey, if it means a hot meal and some fresh air, I'll fake all the surprise you want.” He offered.
 “Fake what surprise?” A new voice grumbled from just behind Kanan. Rubbing the sleep from his face with a massive furry four fingered hand, Zeb looked to the trio standing around the cockpit interior. “What's going on?”
 “Shoot.” Hera said, showing genuine disappointment. “Remind me to do a better job at surprises for Life Day.”
 “How are you actually awake?” Kanan asked. “Short of the ship being attacked, didn't think you rose early for anything.”
 “Guess I've gotten used to the kid's mumbling while he's out.” Zeb explained dryly. “When the room was actually quiet for a change, worried he was up to something.”
 “Sorry. Guess the noxious gases in there wreak havoc on my brain...” Ezra shot back.
 “Oh? Let's see what effect my knuckles on your head have instead!” Zeb growled.
 “Enough you two.” Hera chastised sternly. “Today's actually brought us some good news. If either of you do anything to ruin it I'll personally lock you both in the storage closet. On the Phantom.” She warned, indicating the Ghost's small shuttle. The two fell quiet.
 “Now, how about everyone finds something productive to do while I make sure we don't have any unwanted guests waiting for us on this course.” She patted Ezra briefly on the knee. “I'll tell you more later.” She promised. Giving her a nod of thanks, Ezra rose from his chair, begrudgingly following Zeb back out into the corridor as Kanan took his place beside Hera.
 “Wait. You never told me what the surprise was?” Zeb called back towards the Ghost's pilot.
 “Zaluna's.” Was all Hera answered. It was all, apparently, Zeb needed. The Lasat whooped, laughed, than smacked Ezra on the back hard enough to put him down on the deck.
 “Come on, kid!” Zeb cackled. “Tonight we eat like kings!”
 “Really?” Ezra asked, rubbing at what was certainly now a bruise on his back. “Awesome.”
 “Hey?!” Sabine spat, leaning out of her now open door. “What's with the fan fair out here? Someone kill the Emperor or something?”
 “We're heading to Zaluna's!” Zeb hollered. Sabine, amber eyes only slightly still rimmed with sleep, nearly jumped at the mention, looking up towards the cockpit. “Hera?!”
 “Yes.” She confirmed.
 “Stellar!” Sabine exclaimed, disappearing back into her cabin. “I've got so many new pieces for her to see. She's going to love 'em!”
 Listening to the dramatic mood shift Ezra merely stood in the middle of the corridor, mouth slightly agape, thoroughly confused. Rolling to a stop beside him, Chopper bleated.
 “Let me guess.” Ezra told him. “You're also excited about this person I know nothing about, right?” Chopper simply spun his concave dome slightly, letting out a long drawn out raspberry.
 “Well.” Ezra said. “That's something at leas...Gah!” Was all he could managed as an electric shock knocked him over. Chopper chortled, then rolled away.

. . .

“Well, least their in a good mood.” Hera observed mirthfully. Her look sobered as she glanced in Kanan's direction. “Which is more than I can say for some people.”
 Kanan favored her with his usual sardonic expression. “Hey, I'm plenty excited. It'll be nice to get some R&R and something other than rations slightly past their expiration date.”
 “But...?” Hera interjected.
 “But, waiting at Zaluna's for the heat to die down won't solve our bigger problem.” He observed.
 “Which is?” Hera asked him pointedly. At that, Kanan gestured absently behind him, using the Force to key the switch for the cockpit door which promptly slid closed.
 “Because of the kid the Empire knows our faces now. Most of our faces, anyway. Means from here on out the jobs are going to get a lot tougher to get done, let alone find.”
 “People like Vizago won't care what our troubles are as long as we keep to our word. That hasn't changed.” She told him. “And neither has the mission. If anything, Ezra's reminded us why this is a fight we have to continue. You should get that better than anyone.”
 Kanan sighed, trying to feign detachment but, as was nearly always the case, he knew she was right. “I know.”
 “So then what's this really all about, love?” She asked him, her expression making it clear she didn't have the patience for his usual deflection. She expected the truth.
 “You wanted me to teach that kid. And I know it's the right thing to do. He's got as much anger and fear coiled up inside him as I had when...when I was on my own.” Kanan said quietly. “His dreams. I can feel something dark in them. I can't tell what it is. But with his connection to the Force, strong as it is, there's so much risk of him making the wrong choices, heading down a bad road. Last thing the galaxy needs is another Force user playing for the Dark Side of the team.”
 “Okay. Then teach him.” She said simply. “You know what you have to do.”
 “And that's the problem.” He answered. When she looked back at him inquisitively, he continued. “I don't know if I have what it takes to do it.” Kanan gazed back out at the swirling blue and white tunnel of hyperspace. “And what happens if I fail? What happens to that kid, to the galaxy, if I can't keep him on the right path? Or keep him safe?” He left those questions hanging in the empty air between them.
 “Well,” Hera finally answered after a moment's thought. “We might not all be Jedi or have the Force. But,” She continued, reaching out to place her hand atop his own, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “What I do know is that we're a family on this ship. We look out for our own. All of us. Whatever Ezra needs to help him realize his potential, we'll all do our part. That's a promise.” She told him. “And we never break our promises.”
 Kanan nodded, looking only slightly less weary about everything weighing on his mind. “Right.” He said. “Well, then let's get this beauty to Zaluna's. I want to get a crack at all the grub before Zeb eats the table.”
Oct 30, 2014
:iconroguewriter3201:RogueWriter3201 has changed their username (formerly glenboy26)
I don't normally do anything like this (not because I'm oblivious or selfish or anything...) but an animation project was recently brought to my attention and the scope and magnitude of it's awesomeness is so massive that I can't not share it in the hope of getting it out there via Internet word of mouth to as many people as possible. So, if you can spare a buck, please take a peak and crack open that wallet with a crowbar please. Let's make this happen people!… 
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HydraEvil Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for the watch!
I wish you the best of everything!

Llama Emoji-23 (Shyness) [V1]
NJValente Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2015  Professional
Thanks a lot for the fave!
NJValente Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2014  Professional
Thank you for the fave! 
JasonVoorheesfurry Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2014
Hi! :3  I'm re-reading and reviewing your stories on Have you ever thoght of continuing? :3
RogueWriter3201 Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2014
Think I mentioned to you before after a similar question that it isn't likely. I just lost my passion for it. Working on new things not Transformers related. If you follow me here and at you'll likely see them before long. 
JasonVoorheesfurry Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014
Ah right sorries :3  I have a short memory my bad ^_^

I had forgotten you were glenboy26 on DA :D

Sorry again :-)
RogueWriter3201 Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2014
Hey, no worries :manhug:
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NJValente Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014  Professional
Thanks for the fave! 
RogueWriter3201 Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014
NJValente Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014  Professional
And thanks a ton for the watch!!
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