The first time you meet Ezra Bridger, you don't even know who he is.
Granted, you'd just spent three days trapped in the ruins of the Relentless, the light cruiser you had just been assigned to less than a month ago, as it drifted without power or artificial gravity. (And you only barely passed the sensory deprivation training at the Academy, which was only four hours. Three days in the dark, in freefall, was certainly going to mess with your head.) So you can be forgiven for not paying terribly much attention to who rescued you. All you really remember of him was the caring look on his face and those blue eyes. Then, you're whisked away by a harried-looking orderly, shoved onto a shuttle, and taken to the infirmary on the Chimaera for a once-over and some rest. You find yourself hoping your rescuer comes by to check in on you.
You also realize that he probably won't remember you as anything other than another faceless, hapless ensign who he had to rescue, and quickly quash the hope of ever seeing him again.
The second time you meet Ezra Bridger, you recognize him... and pick a fight with him.
It had been two weeks since your rescue, and you had finally come to terms with the fact that the 7th Fleet, and by extension, you, were now trapped in the Unknown Regions, on the far side of the galaxy from Lothal. And that one Rebel, Commander Ezra Bridger, was the sole responsible party for this current state of affairs. You fully expected the Grand Admiral to have executed him by now, but for reasons unknown to anyone but his inner circle, Thrawn had not only spared Bridger, but ordered him to be treated with respect. To not try to take matters into your own hands. As much as you disagree with these orders, you figure you'll not have much difficulty obeying them. After all, you're on 3rd watch, and the Chimaera is a big ship. What are the odds of you crossing paths with Bridger?
As it turns out, the odds are quite high.
You'd been having trouble sleeping the last few nights, so you decided to hit the junior officer's gym before you headed back to your new quarters to try and work yourself to exhaustion. You fully expect the gym to be empty, given the point in the ship's sleep-wake cycle you're at. And it mostly is, with only one other occupant. And of course it's kriffing Bridger.
He's in the corner of the room, quietly minding his own business, so you head to the oposite corner and start using the weight machine. You make an effort to not look over at him, even as your mind fills with all the ways you'd like to make him suffer for what he's done... starting with shoving him into a pitch-black, null-grav room for three days, and going to further extremes as your workout continues. After a few minutes of this, you hear a quiet noise from a lot closer to you than you expected, and you snap out of your haze of daydreaming to realize Bridger is right there.
Sadly, you're startled enough that you scream and fall off the seat of the weight machine.
He makes a move to help you up, and you recoil away from him. "Don't touch me, rebel."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." He looks genuinely concerned and apologetic, but you're not interested in his apologies. You get to your feet on your own, and back away from Bridger, eyeing him warily.
"What do you have to be sorry about? You won. You dragged us all the way out here and stranded us on the far side of uncharted space, and you saved your planet!"
Bridger is maddeningly calm about this, even with you starting to yell in his face. "And I am sorry it had to end up like this. If there had been another way, I would have done that."
"Oh, that's krayt spit, and you know it." You ball your fists as you stare him down. "You're a Rebel. Your entire reason for existing is to get rid of the Empire, and to kill us all."
You snap. Hang the orders regarding Bridger, the man has to be taught a lesson. You start to attack him, but he simply dodges or blocks every strike you send his way. Finally, as you get increasingly angry, you shout at him with every bit of rage you can muster. "Fight back, damnit!"
"Why? I am no longer your enemy, Ensign. If we're to make it back to the rest of the galaxy, we have to work together."
You scoff at his declaration. "Really? What do you bring to the table that can help us?" And with one final effort, you take a swing at his head.
Bridger catches your strike with ease, then hits you in the chest with an open-palmed strike with his free hand, sending you sailing across the gym... only to be stopped by an invisible force just before hitting the wall. You realize that the rumors about him being a Jedi survivor are true... and that he probably could have killed you, and everyone else in the fleet, with little effort. Yet he hasn't, despite being your sworn enemy... right?
Bridger sets you back down on the floor gently, and quietly repeats his prior statement. "I am not your enemy, Ensign. We're in this together. And I promised the Grand Admiral that I'd do whatever I can to help get you back home." He then turns and departs the gym without another word, summoning his jacket to him from across the gym with a single gesture.
You slump to the floor and let your head roll back to rest on the wall, mind spinning at the exchange... and wondering what exactly you were supposed to think of Bridger.
The third time you meet Ezra Bridger, you realize he actually cares about the fleet making it home.
It's been nearly three months since the fleet was stranded, and although scouting missions have been successful in navigating the fleet a few hundred light years, you're still a long ways from home. And now, the fleet was running low on fuel. Fortunately, one of the scouting missions stumbled upon an inhabited system, and not only found out where to get some fuel, they found out that you could get it for nearly free.
You just had to clear the pirates out of the fuel refinery station first.
Ordinarily, this wouldn't have been noteworthy for you. After all, you work in the support division, not in a combat role. But somehow, the Grand Admiral has learned that your parents ran a similarly sized fuel refinery, and wants your help in planning the mission to clear it out. So, you head up to the command tower and to the conference room Thrawn has selected for the planning meeting.
To your surprise, Bridger is among those present for the planning. He sees you in the doorway, nods once, then turns back to the holo of the refinery. "Look, Major, I'm not saying your plan is wrong. It's a textbook breach and clear. But, that's precisely what's wrong with it. You're thinking like a stormtrooper, and in this case, there's a better, faster, and less destructive way."
"And what do you suggest, then, rebel?"
Bridger looks at you, then gestures to the holo. "Ensign, where do you think the control room would be?"
You slowly walk around the holotable, taking in the design. "Okay, here's your intake docks, your raw ore storage... initial processing, precursor storage, and secondary byproduct utilization... Primary refinery chain is here... intial product storage here, and final refinement is these tanks, and that's your offloading docks. So..." You point to a module high above the rest of the refinery complex on the station. "There. You're central to the complex, can see everything, but are far enough away that any accidents won't kill your crew instantly."
Bridger zooms in on the command module. "See that emergency airlock? Slice in to the controls, send a small team, say... squad size? Send them in through the airlock and take the control room first. Then, dispatch small teams through the station to hunt for any stragglers. Worst case, we just depressurize the station from the command deck and space the pirates on patrol."
You can't help but smile at the elegance of the plan Bridger has proposed.
The stormtrooper commander eyes Bridger warily. "That's decidedly non-standard, Bridger."
"In case you hadn't noticed, Major, we're in a situation that the Navy couldn't possibly have anticipated. The rule book can be set aside on occasion, especially when it's going to cause as many problems as it solves." Bridger turns to you. "How similar do you think the refinery is going to be to what you're used to? You obviously recognize what stuff is."
"Physics and chemistry don't change, so for the same process, things are going to work the same way. And for something utilitarian like a refinery? Why spend time and money making it different just because you can?"
Bridger nods. "So... do you think that, if we can translate the controls, you can make sure they're not going to blow up the facility beneath us?"
You blink for a moment, as you realize Bridger's implying you'd be on the strike team. "Uhm... Yeah, shouldn't be a problem. But... I'm not very good at combat."
"No worries. I think we can deal with that." He turns to the Major. "Since you're not comfortable with this... any reasonable objections to me heading the team to take the command center? And remember... I'll be surrounded by Imperials, so there's no need for you to say you can't trust me."
The Major sighs. "No. I can't think of any reason you can't. I'll be picking out the team to go with you, though. Ensign, you're obviously on it. The slicer may be hard to find, though."
Bridger's smile is a knowing one. "Oh, I think you may be surprised. Everyone has hobbies." He turns to you, and the smile stays there. "I'll see you tomorrow in the EVA suit room, 0800."
"I'll... be there." You nod to Bridger and leave the room, your mind already fixated on the mission tomorrow.
The fourth time you meet Ezra Bridger, you realize he's a man of many surprises.
As you suit up in a combat EVA suit for the first time, you realize that this is the first time you'll have actually ever seen a Jedi in combat. Granted, you've always heard the rumors, and let's be honest, who hadn't? Even at the Academy, the Jedi were the stuff of myth and legend. But... to see one up close would be both a treat... and a terrifying experience. Even though Bridger doesn't seem like the official stories about the Jedi, you remember that time in the gym where he threw you across the room without breaking a sweat. And actually? You feel kind of bad for the pirates who commandeered the refinery.
Because deep down, you know that Bridger won't let this mission fail.
It's a surprising realization, given the history between him and Empire. By every right, he shouldn't be helping the 7th Fleet. Yet here he was, leading the charge into the fight, willing to lay his own life on the line for people who probably would love nothing more than to see him dead.
Your musing is interrupted by Bridger walking in, knocking on the doorway. "Hey. You ready?"
"Almost." You finish strapping on the life support pack, then pick up your helmet. "Okay. Let's do this."
He nods, and looks at you with a soft smile. "Okay. Just stick with me, and you'll be fine. Probably won't even have to fire your blaster if we play our cards right."
You follow him out into the corridor, and before you can stop yourself you ask him the question that's been bothering you since the meeting yesterday. "Why are you helping us?"
"Because I want to get home, too, just like everyone else here. And working together makes it that little bit easier."
Before you can ask any further questions, you arrive at the hangar where you'll be launching the mission from, and you focus on the task at hand as you board the shuttle.
As the shuttle approached the refinery complex, you slip your helmet on and seal it, then look to the hatch. As the air gets pumped out of the hold, the only sound you hear is that of your own breathing. I can do this. The fleet is counting on us, but I can deal with that. Just stick with Bridger, and I'll be fine. The hatch slides open, and the slicer springs across the gap between the shuttle and the airlock. (The airlock isn't compatible with the shuttle's interfaces, of course. Why would it be, this far from the Empire?) There's a few moments of tension, then a thumbs up from the slicer and the doors slide open. Bridger and the others start to pile across the gap, and you follow along, right behind Bridger.
Then Bridger holds up his hand in the "hold" signal, gesturing everyone to the sides of the airlock as he puts his helmet against that of the slicer. You realize exactly what he's doing: He's using the contact between the helmets to transfer sound, so he can talk with the slicer without using comms. But why... Oh, kriff. Has the plan gone south already? Bridger again gestures everyone to the side of the airlock, and he grabs hold of the airlock interior and locks his boots down. You hurry to do the same, and look up as he gives a signed countdown from 3.
As the count reaches zero, the inner airlock doors snap open and three pirates sail through the airlock and into space before the outer door slams shut. You blink, trying to proccess what just happened, and almost miss Bridger surge forward with inhuman speed, using the Force to rip a section of the corridor wall out and using it as a shield from incoming blaster fire from some of the smarter pirates. Two of the stormtroopers who had been selected to be a part of team pop out of cover and start firing back, thankfully with respectable accuracy.
You, however, hunker into a corner of the airlock and pray that whatever higher power is listening will keep the blaster fire from hitting you.
As quickly as the firefight started, though, it's over, as the pirates get cleared out by the stormtroopers, assisted by Bridger yanking them out of whatever cover they tried to find. It's an impressive display of the Force, and the stormtroopers are glad to have been on the side being aided by it for a change. As the team advances down the corridor, you hear the 'troopers even complimenting Bridger for the work he's done so far.
His response is an almost-dismissive "It's nothing." That's not nothing, you think. I
You have to drive these thoughts from your head, though, as you arrive at the command center. Bridger waives his hand, the door slides open, and the 'troopers make quick work of the two pirates inside. He waves his hand at the controls. "Alright, let's see what we've got."
The fifth time you meet Ezra Bridger... you see him as a friend.
The mission to the refinery had been a spectacular success. The fleet had been topped off with all the fuel it would need for the next several months, and the Empire had actually earned a good reputation in the region as a force for peace and stability. Local governments were beginning to approach the fleet with open arms, especially after word got out about being stranded far from home.
Not that you cared much. After your exciting mission to the refinery, you'd been returned to your normal department, where you happily settled back into maintaining the Chimaera's power grid. You fully expected to never see Bridger again after the mission... something you found to be disappointing.
Not only were you were wrong... you found yourself delighted to be so.
Three weeks after the mission, a familiar voice asks if he can join you at your table in the mess hall. You surprise yourself with how quickly (and energetically) you tell him yes.
As he settles into his seat, a lunch tray in front of him, he smiles at you again. "I don't think I've properly introduced myself. Ezra Bridger." He extends his hand.
You smile back, give him your name, and shake his hand.