Disclaimer: As always, I do not own Star Wars Rebels. Hope you enjoy the story! Reviews are always appreciated. Thanks!
Ezra hadn't expected a placed called the "Smuggler's Moon" to be so...colorful. He knew Sabine was impressed. He watched her eyes go wide as Hera brought the Ghost down toward the spaceport. Out the main viewport they could see an impossibly enormous city awash with lights of all colors. It was daytime on this hemisphere, but underneath the thick cloud of pollution permeating the atmosphere, it looked like a lively night. As the ship descended farther onto the landing platform, the buildings all around them seemed to grow taller. They looked like buildings on top of buildings, progressing ever upward. Kanan had told them this was a city world, much like Coruscant. (Not that Ezra had ever been to Coruscant, but of course he knew what it was; everyone knew about the Imperial capital planet.) As such, Ezra guessed that they had no more land left for constructing outward, and instead built on top of existing foundations every few years. But what use they had for so many structures was beyond him. Did that many people really live here?
Sabine gazed at the bright signs hanging off the walls all around them. Most were advertisements for various products, but they were meticulously eye-catching. Some of them even looked like enormous, moving holo recordings. "It's beautiful!" she breathed.
"Nar Shaddaa is a Hutt controlled world," Hera said as she powered down the Ghost's engines. "So when it comes to entertainment or advertising, they're willing to spend the money."
"Yeah but trust me Sabine, this is not a place to get comfortable in," Kanan warned her sternly. "This is the seediest place in the galaxy. It's a haven to pirates, smugglers, and all kinds of other criminals. Any kind of trade that's illegal elsewhere in the galaxy comes through Nar Shaddaa. There are several gangs that have control of different parts of the world. I wouldn't go looking for any great artistic masterminds stationed here."
"Right…" Zeb growled, arms crossed. "So remind me why we're here again?"
"We're here," Hera answered, "because this moon is not only highly populated, but highly overlooked by the Empire. They don't really care what the hutts do here, so long as it doesn't interfere with Imperial business. It's the perfect place to hide a fledgling rebel cell. And that's exactly who Senator Organa asked us to connect with. They're bigger in number than we are, but they're comprised mostly of refugees from worlds overrun by the Empire. They don't have much in the way of equipment."
"If Nar Shaddaa is such a center for trade, why do they need us to bring them supplies?" Ezra asked. When he imagined a refugee community, he thought of Tarkin Town-a group of people in a sparse, desolate place with no way of providing for themselves. But the Smuggler's Moon seemed to teem with life and opportunity, even if business here was less than legitimate.
"One word," Hera said, holding up her pointer finger. "Credits. Nothing is cheap on Nar Shaddaa. They don't have a way to pay for the weapons and other things they'll need to defend themselves here. So the senator is going to help them get going, complimentary of Alderaan. We're going to deliver a few crates of supplies, and then be on our way."
Sabine rolled her eyes. "By 'a few' I assume you mean the mountain we currently have stacked in our cargo hold."
"It has to last them for a while. There may not always be someone available to reach them. Now. Anyone have any questions about your part of the plan?"
Chopper rolled forward and waved one mechanical arm, babbling in what sounded to Ezra like a frustrated tone.
Hera frowned. "I said questions Chop, not complaints. And no, you're not going with Kanan and Ezra and Zeb, you're staying on the ship with me and Sabine. The Phantom's going to be crowded enough with three people and a half dozen crates without having to make room for an astromech."
The droid did not relent. He launched into another series of unintelligible arguments.
"I know you'd be helpful, but I need you here, guarding the ship. This place is swarming with lowlifes. If anyone tries to put a tracker on us, I'll need you to let me know. Besides, there's a couple things I want you to check before we take off again."
With a defeated pout he waved his wrench-hand half-heartedly and then rolled away.
"We'll go prep the Phantom then," Zeb said, lumbering off in that direction.
"You three be careful," Hera told them.
"We'll be fine," Kanan answered. "Keep the comm open. We'll keep you updated on our status."
"Will do, Love. See you soon."
Kanan turned to his apprentice. "Oh, and Ezra: if we run into trouble out there, no lightsabers. Not unless absolutely necessary. This might not be an Imperial world, but there are probably still sympathizers. No need to go announcing ourselves."
Ezra nodded. "No lightsabers. Got it."
"And no obvious uses of the Force."
Ezra couldn't fight a crooked smile from twisting his lips. "Define 'obvious.'"
Kanan frowned and gave him a small punch in the shoulder. "You know what I mean. Don't let anyone see you throwing things around with your mind."
"Okay, okay!" the boy relented, rubbing his shoulder. "No lightsabers, no Force. I get it."
"And don't mention the Rebellion where anyone might hear you. ...In fact, it's probably better if you don't say anything at all."
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Geez you really don't trust me, do you?"
Kanan turned for the door to the cockpit. "It's not a matter of trust," he muttered before heading out.
The plan was not complicated. Ezra, Kanan, and Zeb would be making a series of drops at different points around Nar Shaddaa where small groups of rebels were waiting for them. Separating the shipment into multiple locations would help to throw off anyone who could potentially be interested in their activities and help hide the rebels' true numbers. Not to mention that the Phantom could only hold a few crates at a time. But the Ghost was simply too large to safely navigate through the towering city.
Kanan piloted the small ship as Ezra sat with his feet up on a passenger seat so as to make room for two of the crates. Zeb stood by the back door, one hand on another pile to keep it from sliding. The odor secreted by his fur was a bit stifling in these close quarters, but luckily Ezra had grown accustomed to it in his time sharing a room with the lasat.
The first drop went off without a hitch. The Phantom landed heavily and Ezra helped push all of the crates down the ramp. As soon as his feet hit the paved street, he had to stop and stare. To his surprise, they were not on a landing platform, but instead in the middle of an elevated highway that was swarming with people and various other sorts of vehicles. He had never seen so many sentient life forms in one place before. He had always thought Lothal was a fairly diverse planet, but it was nothing compared to this place. He quickly lost count of the number of species passing by. Many of them he couldn't even identify. Some stood only half his height while others loomed taller than Kanan. A group of humans with blasters strapped to their hips chatted in a circle a few meters away. Two ugnaughts seemed to be carrying on an argument in their porcine language. A togrutan male stifled a yawn as he followed after a stern looking female. Everyone milled about the streets like insects in a hive, each going about his own business, and paying no special attention to the two humans and lasat.
Except for a group of six twi'leks. They were watching Ezra's group with wary eyes. This put him on guard, but surprisingly Kanan approached them. He spoke quietly to one blue skinned male, who eagerly shook the jedi's hand.
"Stop starin'," Zeb growled beside him, making Ezra jump. "We're supposed to be actin' casual."
Ezra gave his head a little shake and calmly proceeded to bring his crate to the twi'leks. As far as any passersby were concerned, they were just paid transporters making a delivery. One of the twi'leks, a woman, took the hovering box from him with a big smile. "Thank you!" she said softly in a thick Huttese accent. He could not help but return her smile. It was moments like this that made constantly being shot at by the Empire worthwhile. Helping people who couldn't help themselves. Making a difference.
Each of the twi'leks took one of the crates, again expressing their gratitude. With this done, the crew returned to the Phantom and headed back to the Ghost to restock with more supplies.
Four more drops were completed in a similar manner. The groups of rebels who met them at their rendezvous points were varied. Several were twi'lek, but there was also a smattering of humans, mirialans, and couple duros and rodians. All of them looked a little worse for wear. Like they hadn't had a proper meal or a shower in quite some time. Ezra could certainly understand that. He admired them for their interest in joining the Rebellion when they clearly had so little to begin with.
On the way to the fifth and final drop off point, Ezra marveled at how smoothly this mission had gone. He had never experienced a world that had no Imperial presence. It was such a relief to not have to be constantly looking over his shoulder for storm troopers. And although he had noticed several seedy-looking sentients milling about, none had bothered them. That was probably why Hera insisted Zeb come along for this part of the mission. A lasat was an imposing figure to most races.
"Alright, almost done," Kanan announced as he landed the Phantom once again. "Stay sharp. Just one more to go then we're out of here."
The ramp lowered and the three crew members brought out the cargo. Except that there was no one waiting for them.
Ezra looked around. There were plenty of people nearby, to be sure, but none made themselves apparent as before. He waited for them to appear, glancing up at Kanan. The jedi's eyes were narrowed as he considered a currently empty corner of the street. "Something's not right," he muttered.
Ezra felt a warning through the Force a split second before he heard the whine of a blaster bolt. Kanan must have felt it sooner, because he reached behind him and shoved Ezra out of the way as the shot hit the pavement in the exact spot he had been standing.
Ezra stumbled into a roll and ducked behind one of the crates. Kanan and Zeb quickly did likewise as additional blaster fire rained down on them from at least four different places.
"Karabast!" Zeb growled as he clutched his rifle. "Where's it coming from?"
"Up there!" Kanan shouted as he aimed his blaster at an upper window of one of the nearest buildings. He fired a precise shot, and suddenly a bulky body came tumbling down onto the street. It was not a species Ezra was familiar with. It was humanoid, but its skin appeared to be scaly, like a reptile, and it sported spiky protrusions in a ring around its eyes and cheeks.
Suddenly five more of them materialized from shadows and windows and converged upon the rebels. They were enormous; they towered even over Zeb. Any other being in the area quickly went running at the sight of them.
Coming from all sides, the crates no longer provided adequate cover. Ezra yanked his lightsaber hilt off of his belt, but did not activate it. Instead he fired a blue ball of energy at one of the thugs closing in behind him. The alien convulsed as the bolt hit him and then fell limp. Kanan picked off a few more in between evasive, almost graceful movements. Zeb roared as he narrowly avoided a shot to his chest and responded by gunning down the offender.
All of a sudden a group of a least a dozen of them came thundering out of the alleyway. Ezra saw about ten more swarm in from the opposite direction out of a grate in the street floor. The rebels drew close together in a back-to-back circle. They were about to be surrounded.
Zeb swore again. "How many of these things are there?!"
"Get back to the Phantom!" Kanan yelled. "Now!"
The three made a mad dash, firing over their shoulders as they went. Zeb reached the ramp first with his long legs and then turned to offer cover fire for his companions.
Ezra wasn't sure exactly what happened after that. One minute he was at Kanan's heels, and then the next minute pain exploded in his right calf and his face got an up close and personal look at the pavement. His vision flashed white, but he could still hear the barrage and Zeb shouting his name.
Suddenly he was hoisted up roughly by his collar. A green, scaled arm pressed against his throat as he was shoved against a body that felt hard as a rock. Ezra struggled to breathe, looking around wildly. The alien that had him in a death grip shouted something in a different language and all at once the firing stopped.
Kanan and Zeb froze, but did not lower their weapons. The hot rim of a blaster barrel was pressed against Ezra's temple. He could hear the rest of the attackers filing in beside him and saw several of them hurry to flank the Phantom. One of them bent down and retrieved Ezra's lightsaber from where he must have dropped it when he fell.
"Stand down or boy dies!" the alien holding Ezra yelled in heavily accented Basic.
Kanan didn't move, his eyes boring into the speaker. "What do you want?" he demanded.
"Kanan Jarrus," the alien answered. "Escaped jedi. Empire large bounty."
Ezra gasped for air. His head was getting light.
Kanan lowered his blaster just slightly. "You're after a jedi for Imperial bounty? You must be stupider than you look. There are no more jedi, and the Empire never pays it debts."
The leader rattled off something else in his native tongue and one of his associates produced a data pad. Ezra caught enough of a glimpse of the screen to see that it had Kanan's picture, along with the bold headline, "Convicted Imperial Criminal Confirmed to be Jedi. Armed and Highly Dangerous. Wanted Dead or Alive." The alien held it up for Kanan to see and the leader insisted, "You Jarrus. Jedi. Come with no fight, boy live. You fight, boy dies."
Kanan slowly holstered his blaster. "Well then. As long as you know who I am."
The gun pointed at Ezra suddenly went flying into Kanan's outstretched hand. Then in the same swift motion, he made a gesture like a shove, and it was the alien himself who went flying. Ezra stumbled to his knees as chaos erupted around him. He took several gulps of air, commanding his vision to clear. He looked up to see Kanan's lightsaber blazing through the air in a propeller motion as blaster fire converged on him from all angles. It created a solid shield before him that deflected the shots away. Many found their mark and the aliens fell. Ezra stared at his master in awe. He had never seen him perform this particular move before. When had he learned to do that? More importantly, when would he teach Ezra to do it?
Zeb sprinted to Ezra's side and yanked him up by his arm. "C'mon kid! We have to move!"
The boy got his feet under him, but as soon as he took a step he crumpled again with a yelp. Only belatedly did he remember that he had been shot in the leg. He glanced down and noticed red liquid staining his orange jumpsuit. Zeb saw it too. Without preamble, he lifted Ezra up by his belt, swung him over his shoulder, and turned back to the ship.
"Put me down! I can walk!" Ezra insisted, embarrassed despite the desperate situation.
"Shut yer mouth and keep your head down!" Zeb replied gruffly. He shoved one of the aliens out of the way as he ran.
From his awkward position, the young padawan caught sight of something that made him jerk. "Wait! My lightsaber!"
He wriggled out of a very angry Zeb's grasp, ignoring the "Kid!" and the string of curses that followed. He hobbled quickly, practically hopping on one foot, over to the alien that still held his lightsaber. The brute had two companions splayed on the ground beside him. With flashing eyes, he was focused on landing a hit on the jedi with his one-handed weapon as he tightly grasped the saber hilt with his other hand. Ezra took advantage of his distracted state. Reaching out with the Force, he called the lightsaber to himself.
At least, that's what he meant to do. The weapon did rise up into the air, but it did not leave the alien's clutches. Instead it strained against his hand, causing him to start. His attention snapped to Ezra. With a scowl he turned his blaster on the boy.
A primal cry shook the air, accompanied by a whir of violet-shaded electricity. Zeb planted the end of his bo-staff squarely in the alien's chest. The brute jerked for a full three seconds before going limp. The lightsaber clattered to the ground. Ezra hastily limped in and scooped it up.
"You are gonna be the death of me!" Zeb roared.
"Sorry, but this is kind of important!" Ezra insisted, hugging his unique weapon to his chest.
A sudden chill shot down his spine. He powered up his saber just in time to whip around and bounce a shot off of its blue blade that had been aimed at Zeb's back. The attackers nearest to them were shouting to each other in their rough language. Surprisingly, three of them broke from the main group and ran off. Ezra had no time to wonder where they might be headed. About half of the remaining force switched their fire from Kanan to Ezra and Zeb.
"C'mon then!" Zeb cried, swinging at the closest alien.
Ezra's heart pounded. Focus! he commanded himself. This was just like practice with Sabine and Chopper. Only instead of blocking stun blasts and small electric shocks he was deflecting full powered blaster bolts from enormous ambushers that wanted to kill him… Had there only been one or two, he would have taken the chance of rushing them with his lightsaber. As it was, there was no way he could mount any sort of offense.
Feel, don't think. Feel, don't think. Ezra repeated the phrase as he frantically tried to empty himself and let the Force determine his movements. It was working so far. He slashed his blade right, then left, then horizontal, each in time catching a shot. He did not worry about trying to direct them back at their targets. For now he did well just to stay alive.
He felt Zeb elbow his back. The lasat began taking slow steps toward the Phantom, brandishing his weapon all the way. Ezra kept facing the crowd, but mimicked his crewmate's steps. Slowly, they edged toward their means of escape.
They went several crucial paces before Ezra felt Zeb jerk suddenly against his back. With a grunt that sounded more like a growl, the lasat went down on one knee, clutching at his neck.
"Zeb!" Ezra couldn't help but let his focus falter. A red bolt whizzed just centimeters from the side of his face as he glanced back at his companion.
A shadow fell over them. Ezra looked up in time to see Kanan sail overhead with a Force-infused jump. He landed between his friends and the main part of the horde, lightsaber flaring. "Get him to the ship!" he shouted without looking back.
"Right!" Ezra shifted his weapon to one hand. He bent down and shoved his other shoulder under Zeb's arm, pushing with his legs until the heavy lasat was on his feet. Zeb blinked several times and gave his head a shake. He leaned heavily on Ezra, still clutching at his neck. Ezra's leg sent stabs of fire throughout his whole body with each step he took. But he would just have to worry about that later. They were going to make it out of this together!
The two trudged as quickly as they could to the ramp of the Phantom as Kanan held their enemies' attention. He took slow, backwards steps after them.
Ezra had one foot on the ramp when he felt it. A sudden loss through the Force. Kanan let out a choking noise an instant later. Ezra whipped around, dragging Zeb with him.
He saw his master, somewhat silhouetted against the bright lights of Nar Shaddaa, stagger in place as a pointed dart stuck out from his thigh. One of the aliens shouted. Almost as one, they all stopped firing their weapons and instead stood and watched the jedi go down. Kanan's lightsaber deactivated as it fell from his hand. His body seemed to methodically lose strength, limb by limb, until he crumpled onto his side.
Ezra felt the blood drain from his face. He knew what it felt like when Kanan was asleep, or even unconscious. As long as they were in close enough proximity, he could always feel his presence as a sort of heartbeat on the edge of his mind. But now… Nothing. Like a light shutting off, there was a gaping emptiness in the Force where Kanan's signature was supposed to be. This was no tranquilizer.
"No…" His mouth felt dry. "No." His heart hammered against his ribcage. "No!"
Ezra untangled himself from Zeb and sprinted forward. The stunned lasat still seemed a little sluggish, but kept his footing. Ezra cleared the last few steps in one long leap. He had no idea exactly how he did it, but as his feet reconnected with the ground in front of Kanan, he sent out a blast of Force energy. A powerful wave pushed all of the startled aliens back several yards. Before they could get up and start shooting at him again, Ezra snatched his comm off of his belt. "Hera, we need an evac, now!"
"Copy Spectre Six, what's your location?" Hera's replied.
A blaster bolt narrowly missed Ezra's ear. One of the aliens had recovered faster than the rest. Ezra racked his brain trying to remember if Kanan had told them the name of the street before they landed here. "I don't know, but Kanan is down! Zeb's hurt!" Two more blaster bolts came at him and he barely got his lightsaber up in time. The head alien was yelling something at the others as they all scrambled back to their feet.
"Just hang on Spectre Six! We'll be right there! Are you at the last drop sight?" Hera's voice took on that hard edge that often characterized her worry.
Ezra never had a chance to answer her. The attackers were all aiming their guns squarely at him now. He backed up until he had one foot on either side of Kanan's body. Remembering Kanan's battle with the Inquisitor, Ezra replaced his comm on his belt and called his master's lightsaber into his left hand. He ignited it and held both sabers up in front of him. Not that he had any idea how to successfully dual wield, but the aliens didn't know that. "Stay back!" he shouted at them.
"Spectre Six?" Hera tried again, desperation creeping into her tone.
Suddenly the stupor Zeb had been forced into by the sudden loss of blood seemed to lessen. Ezra heard him clamoring toward him. "I'm gonna give you horn-faced freaks two seconds..."
Another warning from the Force shook Ezra. He knew what was about to happen. He whirled around and thrust both hands towards Zeb. The lasat was pushed off his feet and went flying backwards straight into the Phantom. With another sweep of his hand, Ezra brought the ramp up with a clang, successfully sealing the vessel shut. A split second later, a dart clinked off the metal and fell harmlessly to the ground. There. At least he could save one of his friends. He hoped he hadn't made Zeb's injury too much worse.
As he turned back around to face the crowd, he noticed that everything looked rather fuzzy. Only then did he register the pain blossoming from a pin prick on his shoulder. That arm quickly went numb.
He heard both lightsabers shut down as they slipped through his fingers. He stumbled back, tripping over Kanan. His jelly legs wouldn't support his weight. All of his thoughts became muddled. He vaguely acknowledged that he was supposed to be protecting someone.
"Spectre Six! ...Ezra!" Hera's voice was the last thing he heard.