Star Wars Rebels: The Long Road
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.
“...you 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 mean...do 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.