"I need a new saber," Ava finally admitted as she and her partner boarded Waverider.
"I was wondering when you would mention it."
"It kind of hit me when you were talking about the Mandalorian Knights. I want to make a trek to Ilum."
"Woah, Ilum isn't safe. It's swarming with Stormtroopers."
"I need to go there, figure out myself."
"Then I'll accompany you. If we get a call from Snart's crew, though, we'll need to leave right away."
"I can live with that."
"Off to Ilum, then," Sara noted as she searched for the planet.
Ava picked up Sara's saber, popping open the slot where her crystal sat. "Where did you get the red crystal from?"
"I made my own journey out to old Jedi temples and enclaves and I found it buried in the rubble on Dantooine. I almost died, but I found out quite a bit about the old, and I mean really old Jedi."
Sharpe studied the crystal, pulling it from its place to regard it in the light. Her jaw dropped and she gawked, "Do you know what kind of crystal this is, Sara?"
"A Sith crystal that's saved me a ton of times and earned a few intimidation points."
"No, this is not a Sith Crystal, this predates the modern Sith by centuries. This is a Qixoni crystal."
"I thought they were a myth, but here I am, looking at one. These are impossible to find now. They are one of the few naturally occurring red crystals that the Sith synthetically copied or cracked to get," she informed her partner.
Sara carefully took the crystal back and placed it in her saber. "If it's that rare, then we'll keep it safe in here. Get strapped in, we're jumping."
"Don't be so flippant. Those are said to enhance the blade and its user's powers," she continued, as they flipped into hyperspeed. "Not to sound rude, but how did a merc get their hands on such an impossible item?"
"Well, not to sound rude on my end but, mercs actually search in the dirt and pry the saber out of petrified remains…" Sara pursed her lips before asking, "How did you get your old crystal?"
"I traveled to Ilum with my master and I took a kyber crystal. When he realized I had dawned a yellow crystal, my training completely changed. I was meant to be a Sentinel according to him. Because of how you got your crystals, did you ever imbue them with the force?"
Sara thought back to her training, not truly recalling a session after she received her crystals, "I'm not sure. Ben and my previous master didn't have a session. Oh, wait, no! My first master did have me meditate with Dorjander's crystal but I don't think I imbued it with the force." She glanced at the GPS and continued, "When we get there, we might have to do some climbing to avoid any leftover stormtroopers." Ava thanked her partner before escaping to find their gear. "Wait," Sara quickly interrupted as she drew her back. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
They flew low on their descent to Ilum while they scouted a clear place to land. It wasn't until they passed over the former Jedi Temple had now become a cesspool for the stormtroopers. They found a vantage point overlooking the troopers and their seemingly permanent home in the decrepit Jedi Temple. Sara passed the binoculars back to her partner, pulling the covering back over her face to hide from the unforgiving frozen weather.
"I see twelve at the entrance."
"I can confirm. Here." Ava offered her fiancée a thermos of tea while she spied on them. "I think if we scale the side of the Temple, we can find our way inside. So, where would you want to be married?"
"I would assume with our friends on base like everyone else, but with the way things are going, I would also say that we may not have much of a honeymoon."
"We can spread it out. We deserve it, running a ship of hooligans."
"They're not that bad. Either way, I would love to have an extended honeymoon with you. Anything, in particular, you have in mind?"
"Not really, I just want to spend all of that time with you."
Ava pulled Sara in by her jaw, a lingering kiss distracting them enough to tip over the thermos. "Grab it, grab it!" Sara joked with a jesting prod to the obliques. "I'm ready to go when you are. I can see a break for us to climb across the wall."
Ava strapped on her climbing claws and began to scale the sheet of ice that connected them to the Jedi Temple. She pulled herself across the slippery rocks, digging her claws into the thin wall as she tried so hard to not look down. They carefully sidled until they got to the fourth floor opening into the Temple. Safe from the frozen breeze, the couple slipped into the cracked archway that led into the ice-caked room.
From Ava's memory, the place looked the same save for the stormtroopers who paraded around the once sacred ground and the scant weather-torn Empire banners that littered the walls.
"Follow me," Ava whispered, tearing off on silent steps through the interwoven paths until they made their way to the crystal cavern.
Snow and ice blocked their path leaving Sara to melt the wall with her saber. The blade's start-up echoed through the corridor enough for them to quicken their pace. With a large enough crack melted into the arch, they pulled at the shard until it cracked away. They slipped past to see the place practically empty. With the various boiling or freezing pools of water, it made sense that the clunky armor would put the stormtroopers in danger.
"Where is it?" Sara inquired as she followed her partner.
"If memory serves me right, it's all the way back there, behind the ice wall," Sharpe explained while she pointed to the wall across the open chamber. "If we drop down, we should be able to make a straight shot to the wall and slip through that crack right there."
"Sounds good to me," Sara nodded, getting ready to drop when she was immediately stopped.
"I can feel something dark here."
"Not more of this Force stuff. I got enough of this when I was with Ben."
"I'm not kidding, Sara. We need to move fast when we drop because I sense something or someone sinister here."
They dropped to the chamber floor and silently tore to the wall. Ava tugged her partner behind a cracked pillar, their bodies harshly slamming into the marble. They heard heavy steps echo from the entrance above which they came.
"Was that what you were talking about?"
Ava peaked her head around the corner, spotting a beast of a soldier clad in stark black clothes. "That doesn't look like a trooper."
Sara glanced around, watching the Imperial Soldier encroach upon their position. They hid behind the column again as she waited for them to pass. The moments passed as they desperately searched for an escape. Lance pointed to a cavern for them to slip into. Her partner glanced between their dangerous escape and listening to the decreasing distance between them.
"Come on," Sara whispered by her ear.
Without any response, she glanced around the room for anything that might distract the soldier. She spotted a few chunks of ice on the ground that she could move. Sara reached out and force chucked the shard across the chamber causing the soldier to pull out a disc from her belt, two long red blades coming out of both ends as she slowly approached the source. Lance grabbed her partner's hand and sprinted to the cavern.
"Where's another entrance?" she inquired with one eye still on the soldier.
"Who is that?" Ava gasped.
"It's an Inquisitor. Of course one would be on this planet," Sara explained. "Where's another entrance to the crystals?"
"Later, I promise you. We just need to find a crystal and get out of here."
Ava nodded and led the way again, creeping through the corridor until they came upon a few gaps that led to the crystal cave.
"We're going to have to be quick," she noted as she searched for the Sith soldier. "If we cross we can get to an alternate entrance that has to be open. I can see the light from here."
"Okay, let's go, now. They'd have to cross pretty far to get us." Sara bounded out of reach, coaxing her partner over once she reached the other side. Her eyes went wide and she pointed in her direction. "Ava, Now!"
Behind her stood the eight-foot-tall Inquisitor, scarred to hell with a cracked smirk on their lips. Ava leaped off of the ledge and pulled up onto the edge of the platform. Sara glanced around her environment, reaching out to a teetering rock and force pulling it down. She was whisked through an opening where she came face to face with a room glittering with kyber crystals. Blown away from the beauty surrounding her, Sara gaped at the cavern, taken aback by the sheer power that reverberated from the chamber.
Ava browsed the crystals, searching for a pure contender for her to use. Her heart pounded in her chest at the impending danger and the thought of accidentally destroying this sacred tome. The intrusive thought echoed in her ears even as her Master's voice consoled her through the process.
A sharp shattering broke her focus as the Inquisitor barged through the ice archway. Ava pulled out her blaster and fired off four shots to give her partner time to prepare her sabers. Their opponent dodged the shots, taking the last one in the shoulder, a new look on their face as she continued to approach Sara. Lance sprung from her position and attacked them, sabers and vibrant tones clashing and crashing as they fought.
Sara tried to push her out of position, only met with this immobile wall. She rolled out away from a jab, swerving a slash that nearly caught her arm.
"Ava?!" she tried to call out.
"Almost, I just need another moment," she called back, a few more shots fired off to distract them.
"I'm sorry," she anxiously rushed, searching through the crystals to find one that drew her in.
Sara let out a deep grunt as she force pushed the Inquisitor into the wall, the unrelenting attacks finally postponed for a brief moment. She pulled apart her sabers and began duel-wielding against them. Her heart raced as she tried to keep up with this Sith Inquisitor, at a point only being able to dodge and roll out of their reach. A few more shots were fired, catching the inquisitor's helmet and knocking her back a few steps.
"Let's go!" Ava called, continuing to blast the ice wall to hopefully dislodge anything.
Sara chased after her partner as they tore through the ice wall, jumping over and lunging around the obstacles. She was tugged back by the collar as she nearly slid into a boiling pit before siddleing past it to the wall they had originally leaped from. They heard the distinct sound of a lightsaber buzzing to life. Sara glanced over her shoulder, seeing the saber swing towards them. She ducked under the blade, losing her grip on the wall as newly melted ice shifted under her hands. Lagging behind her partner, Sara quickened her pace, hearing the lightsaber fly towards her again. Aimed at her back, Sara flipped around and pushed it away, the blade only a few centimeters from her eyes. She felt the harsh heat against her face.
Ava hoisted her up onto the ledge and began sprinting back to their ship. Sara watched as the Inquisitor bounded to her saber, she leaned over the ledge and tried to pull the saber up, sweat finally dripping from her brow to the icy air. She felt the saber at the tips of her fingers, trying to pull it up as quickly as she could while she heard the Inquisitor nearing. The saber flew across the icy ground to the rightful owner.
"See you around, Jedi," they called as Sara scrambled to safety.
She tore across the wall to the Waverider and rushed on board.
"Where were you?"
"I'm fine. I almost got that saber, but I lost it." She glanced at her fiancée's notebook. "What's that?"
"Just a list of things I need to make a new saber."
"May I see your crystal?"
"Sure," she noted, presenting her new Kyber Crystal up.
The crystal reflected a horizon of colors, muddled still from not having been properly imbued yet. She handed it back and sat at the pilot's seat. "Back to Tatooine? I know a few vendors who helped me get my supplies."
"Sounds too good to be true," Ava noted.
"Hey, they're scummy, but they love their customers more than any credit the Empire gives them."
Ava escaped to the back of the ship and meditated, the kyber in her hands just buzzing with life. She focused as she tried to imbue it with the Force. With only one chance, Ava felt a deep pressure in the back of her mind, her heart rate increasing when the crystal seemed to fight back. She took another deep breath and started again, feeling it vibrate and warm in her hands until it finally connected with her. Being completely detached from her original crystals made it almost impossible for her to recall how alive these holy items were. She held it to the fluorescent lights, twisting and turning it until she found the color. Amber and gold.
Tatooine seemed the same as they had left it four years ago. Even from their bird's eye view, Mos Eisley was swarming with people. Landing in a well-trusted dock, the Rebels disembarked to the main square in their best mockery of modern desert garb. The deserts swept up sand only to their knees, a beautiful day by red planet's standards, and the suns only slightly boiled their backs with the scant clouds that passed overhead. Sara felt a rush of nostalgia pass over her when they approached the suburbs of Anchorhead which was now the temporary base to the Empire, the only thing about the planet to change. They sped walked around the base, spotting a few troopers in the tents and playing games in the shade, even one sunbathing. It shocked Sara just how normal they looked under all of the menacing gear. She could hear them laughing and playing music even with the knowledge of the deplorable acts they committed. It made her sick to her stomach that these kids, really, were able to follow through on their leader's commands and still have such delightful demeanors in their spare time.
They eyed Sara as she stared at them, one of them spitting in her direction. Ava took her by the arm and led her into Mos Eisley. "So, which direction is the Tosche Station?"
"It's over here," she nodded, steering her to the wall for them to safely proceed to the eclectic side of the black market.
With Jawas and other scavengers amuck, there had to be devices that would suffice in a DIY lightsaber for the time being until they could order parts. Tosche Station is a two-building market with stalls in concave slots to protect their belongings. Sara pushed her way through the crowd to find the stall where she got her saber parts. She spotted a familiar seller by the exit and approached them.
"Hey, Labria!" she wholeheartedly greeted. "I have a special request. Do you think you could hook me up?"
"I don't sell death sticks anymore," he grunted.
Sara glanced at her fiancée before uncomfortably answering. "Oh, hehe, no. I mean- good joke. I'm looking for something else. I need some tech."
Labria grunted under his breath and beckoned her behind the till, pulling out a wide drawer for Sara to rifle through on the ground while Ava blocked them. "If I get caught, I am sending you straight to Jabba. You know he's been looking for a new slave."
"What, did he choke his last one already?"
He chuckled grimly and nodded, "Over twenty since you've been gone. He's been all over you Coruscant stock recently, too bad you're so fragile."
"Pfft. Do you happen to have an energy gate?"
"What are you making down there, Gasha?"
"I thought we had a pact, no questions unless it killed one of us."
"That may have been our pact when you were one of Jabba's goons, but not anymore."
"Do you have an energy gate and a blaster arc tip?"
"In the normal stock. Show me what you have there."
Sara slid back out and beside her partner as he appraised her findings. "250 credits."
"Don't you think that's a little much?"
"Don't push it, Lance. We aren't friends anymore."
As Sara pulled out her credits, she jibed, "So am I just another dirty customer to you?"
"Yes. Whatever you're doing with that stuff, do not pin it on me, Jedi."
"Woah, no need to throw names around, Labria. Have a nice day and tell Jabba I said hi."
Sara briskly led her out of the busy station and back to Mos Eisley where they wove through and between the flow of the crowd. They found the on-duty stormtroopers lining the storefronts, blasters in hand. They were periodically stopping residents and visitors at a concerning rate as they approached Chalmun's Cantina. Sara pulled her hood up and took Ava's hand, narrowly avoiding a few stops before they arrived.
"Hold on there," they heard a trooper command. Sara closed her eyes then whipped around to face them. "Papers."
"We've had word of Rebel Scum on Tatooine, so papers," he explained away.
His partner glanced around before curiously turning their attention back to their current subjects. Sara took her partner's card and had them scan their ID. A red blip reflected on the trooper's visor, sending a dreadful shot of adrenaline down her spine.
She waved her hand before the trooper's face and said, "We're Galactic Spies, we're supposed to be here. Glory to the Empire"
The stormtrooper nodded and handed back their cards. "They're Galactic Spies, they're supposed to be here. Glory to the Empire."
"Thank you," she nodded, turning to the cantina.
"What was that?" Ava whispered.
"A little trick I learned to get out of a stitch. Choose a place to sit and I'll grab us some drinks."
Ava found a free spot in the corner, to play Deia's Dream. She placed the pieces around the circle while she waited, flipping the pieces momentarily. Sara placed their drinks on the edge of the game board.
"So, once we get this thing together, where do you want to start on those droids?" Ava inquired once they were settled.
"Cracken sent an update stating they were in this vicinity, system. Or that they had already passed from what they were able to track before the ship was destroyed."
"How do we find them in the desert?"
"I have absolutely no idea. He added that they know there's a C3 and an R2, and it's the R2 that has the plans."
"Is there any reason she would send them here of all places?"
"We should start by asking around-"
"You'll be dead!" they heard a patron yell, punctuated by the crashing of a few tables and chairs.
A blaster discharged and the all too familiar sound of a lightsaber buzzed to life. A few people screamed as people scattered around the bar. A three-foot-tall alien backed into their game board, sending their drinks sliding and sloshing around and the table to become disconnected from the wall. Ava bent over to plug it back in while Sara steadied their drinks, cursing to herself and the small creature until it buggered off.
"Let's head out," Ava whispered.
"I agree." Sara chugged her drink in time to get a message from their superior. "Wait, we're being reassigned."
"So early? Did they find the droids?"
"... It doesn't seem like it, but it says that-" A sudden hush fell upon the Cantina again as three stormtroopers entered. Sara hid her head until they meandered back to the front of the bar then out of the establishment again. "An old contact had been sent the droids and they got a ping off of the R2 unit that confirmed their arrival. So now we're being reassigned to active duty."
"I have no idea, we haven't been active since our first year."
Another shot rang out in the bar, this time lacking the sound of a saber. Sara took Ava's hand and pulled her out of the cove, hugging the wall until they could escape. She caught a glimpse of the fight, spotting a Rodian now slumped over the table. They partially followed the perpetrator out of the Cantina until they could begin their trek back to the ship.
"I forgot how seedy that place was. How did I survive there when I was younger?"
"You were just as shady and crafty as them?"
Back home on Dantooine, Lance and Sharpe disembarked, greeted by a flurry of young Rebels and their droids going to work on their ships. While the Waverider was being docked and cleaned, Sharpe peeled off to find their crew, leaving Sara to search for their superior officer. She glanced around the docks, pure chaos, and pandemonium that ensued with the capture of their leader. Sara found Cracken outside of the war room speaking to a squadron of lieutenants, all asking him dire questions while he tried to keep up. Spotting his freedom, Arin approached his recruiter and pulled her into a private area.
"What was all that about?" Sara inquired.
"Trying to figure out a way to get the Princess back without killing ourselves. I'm not in charge of that mission, but everyone seems to think I have the answers. My guess is that my Commanders informed them that I was their HR rep."
"So, what's this about Ava and me being put on active duty?"
"With plans to destroy the Death Star, we'll need our best on-site to fight."
"We are not in fighting shape, not like that, at least."
"I know, but you're also what we have left after Scarif."
"And the others?"
"They're picking up the recruits in your ship while you get conditioned."
"May I request a few things before I'm all reassigned? I need you to assign Waverider to Snart. Also, would you happen to have contact with Kestis, I have a Jedi interested in journeying with him."
"I'll be sure to log that, but you might want to just do it yourself. As for the Kestis situation, we have no idea where he is, but he does come to home base at the beginning of the year, so if you can bring the Jedi here, then they could try to hop on board."
"Thank you. So, what's my new job?"
"Follow me, and call your partner over to the Gold Squadron's Y-Wings." Sara quickly messaged her while Cracken continued. "Your new Commander will be Lt. Jon Vander. He will also be guiding you in your training."
"Wait, so you're not going to be my superior?"
"Sadly not. You're not going to miss me, are you?"
"Never," she joked.
After weaving through a rainbow of squadrons, they came upon the grand Y-Wings where an irate Rebel was speaking with his droid. He glanced up at Cracken and Lance's presence. They spotted a few more of her new squadmates eating on top of one of the crafts. Ava arrived a few moments later and the introductions began. Their commander, "Dutch" as he liked to be called, was much nicer than he initially seemed, just high-strung at times. Their second in command, Dex Tiree, looked like he had a less than inviting demeanor towards the newcomers. Keyan Farlander was a nervous-looking young man. "Pops" Krail reminded Sara of a big teddy bear. Finally, Keyan Torsyn seemed extremely preoccupied with his droid to even acknowledge anyone.
It seemed weird to Lance how quickly things had changed. Once open to the thought of doing more than their recruiting, Sara felt ever-increasing anxiety of whatever it was they were preparing for. After Cracken left them, they really got to see their crew in action.
"This is your ship and droid, Lance," Dutch introduced, pointing to a Y-Wing marked with 'G-4'. "Sharpe, you've got 'G-6' over there. I plan to put you through some tests. I know you have used these bombers before, but I know it's been a while. Luckily these drive like your Waverider."
"If memory serves me right, these things are a bit slower than my ship."
"But they pack one hell of a punch when put into overdrive. They also handle sweeter. Have Pops over there show you the ins and outs of your droids. You do speak droid, right?"
"Enough to give commands."
"And hopefully take them, too. These guys do a lot of important work for us in battles."
"When do we begin training?" Ava inquired.
"0600 tomorrow. At this point, we're using practice gear and mostly just flying around adjacent obsolete bases. Empty, of course. Do you have any questions?"
"So until we get a plan, we're just training?"