Chapter 1: Taking the Reins
Ezra is given his first official lead with the Rebellion, and it's the first mission since his self-imposed isolation to train and grow, in order to protect everyone he cares about.
It was just another day in the life of the Rebellion, with various factions moving about in support of individual missions. Each was designed to grow the resistance while simultaneously take from or at the very least weaken the Empire in any way possible. Most mission days revolved around Rebels evading capture, and this day would be no different. On this specific mission, blaster bolts were zooming through the corridors of an Imperial facility, and Rebellion members were fighting to maneuver toward their planned escape. It would have been just another random mission for the Rebellion, but this cell of rebels contained some members of the infamous Ghost crew, who just so happened to sport Jedi and Mandalorian fighters for the cause. The Ghost offered quite the unique personnel for any mission, and even though no one inside rebel command would want to admit it, this crew was vastly important for the Rebellion's growth.
On this mission, one of the Ghost crew's resident Jedi, Ezra, leading the way. He held his trademark Jedi lightsaber in one hand with the brilliant, emerald green blade ignited and deflecting all oncoming shots that threatened to land on their targets. With his other hand, he was returning fire with a blaster. Ezra continued to press forward quickly, separating himself from the rest of his crew. He intended to relieve as much pressure from them as possible, and so far, his plan was working. Most of the Imperial fire seemed focused on him. He didn't allow anything to pin him down and struck down bucket heads with surgical precision shots from his blaster along the way. Ezra also dispatched any remaining stragglers with crisp and decisive lightsaber movements that either deflected shots right back at the Stormtroopers or slashing them with the blade directly. He made sure to do whatever was necessary to exterminate any threat to the mission or his teammates.
One of his teammates was the Mandalorian, Sabine. At that moment, she was following behind Ezra but also ensuring the remainder of their team remained within earshot. The team leader wasn't making this task easy as he continued to push forward rather aggressively. Under normal circumstances, Sabine might have critiqued his pace but seeing the body count left in his wake had caught her off guard. She and the rest of their team had to step around or over them as they tried to keep pace. Ezra was being uncharacteristically brutal, which was hard for Sabine to accept. Not even a few months ago, the young Jedi had been unwilling to take a life unless it was completely unavoidable, but here he was, slashing and firing away and leaving a bloody path in his wake. She wondered if perhaps taking the lead on this mission had brought that out in him, but she couldn't deny that what he was doing seemed to be giving them a decided advantage. Still, it was an odd change in character for a boy who'd struggled with following the most simple directive in the past.
Sabine pressed on, continuing while ensuring that no bucket heads slipped in behind Ezra after he'd cleared their path. Meanwhile, the rest of the team combined their efforts into moving the "liberated" cargo forward and attempting to keep their flank from being overrun. Ezra's efforts so far had kept their front clear for the most part, allowing Sabine to more easily keep track of the rest of the team. By her calculations, they were only a couple more corridors from the hangar bay that Ezra had selected for the extraction point, which meant that he'd likely be waiting on them at the hangar bay entrance. Everything was going according to plan, and that was what worried Sabine. The one thing that the Rebels could usually count on was their plans never ended up the way they were supposed to. Still, Sabine knew that at this point, continuing to the hangar bay and their extraction point was the only logical choice.
She made a final turn and saw at the end of the corridor that Ezra had just reached the hangar bay door, using the Force to slam the last Stormtrooper in his path into a wall. Upon seeing that, she decided to join the last remaining member of the Ghost crew at the rear and perhaps give herself something more to do. It did allow her to account for the rest of the team and their cargo, and when everyone was clear, Sabine tossed a miracle out to hinder any continuing pressure from the rear. It would also give them some time to work on opening the door. She figured that it wouldn't be out of the question to assume that the door was sealed when she noticed Ezra still facing the door, but now with his hand outstretched. There was no doubt that he was once again using the Force and likely using it on the locking mechanism. The Empire seemed to have started learning from experience and improved strategically with things like sealing doors. That meant the Rebels were involved with a time-sensitive situation. Stormtroopers would surely be on them again sooner rather than later, and they didn't have much in the way of coverage where they were.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much to do until Ezra finished with his Jedi magic. At least for the moment, Sabine's miracle had created a nice pile of debris to protect their flank, and the hangar door was keeping them from whatever might be inside. Lulls during missions were always something that Sabine hated. It was too easy to let your guard down, and that was when mistakes would happen. She took that lull to briefly check over her Westar blasters, ensuring they still had an ample charge. Then she turned her focus back onto her Jedi teammate as his hand lowered, and he turned around to face the rest of them.
"We need to be ready." He said to the team that was still settling in behind him with what little cover the corridor walls offered.
Zeb kept his bow rifle aimed at their flank but briefly asked over his shoulder. "How bad is it?"
"Sabine, I need you to tell us right before you open the door," Ezra said, ignoring Zeb's question. "Then we toss another miracle behind us, but as soon as the door opens, I want you to toss another one or two into the hangar. You'll need to be ready to shoot as soon as possible too."
"What do you think we're looking at in there, Ezra?" Sabine asked.
"More than fifty would be my best guess." He answered. "We have to get in, lock the door behind us, and clear the bay as soon as we can so that our pickup can land and get us out of here. Zeb, I need you ready to join Sabine and me as soon as your miracle blows. We have to do this all together as quickly as possible."
"Maybe it would be better to find an alternate extraction point." Another crewmate suggested.
"No." Ezra snapped before turning to Sabine. "Everyone else is to protect the cargo and bring it inside the hangar so that Sabine can reseal the door and scramble the Empire's codes to keep them from opening it back up again. That should give us enough time to clear the hangar and call for our pickup. The door opening is going to be my mark. When it does, everyone just follow the plan."
Sabine hesitated for a moment, internally questioning the makeshift plan but then went straight to work. She tossed Zeb a spare miracle and readied two for herself before turning toward the door to await Ezra's signal. However, as she turned, a stormtrooper from their flank managed to break through the rubble behind them and pop off a shot in their general direction. The shot was off-target. He'd merely stuck his blaster out before squeezing the trigger, which happened to be a fatal mistake for him. Hearing the blaster bolt impact close by brought an angry scowl to Ezra's face. He immediately maneuvered around the rest of the crew, back next to Zeb, before reaching out with his hand. Not a moment later, he yanked his arm to the side, which was followed immediately by the scream and the loud thud of the Stormtrooper being slammed straight into a wall. To anyone else, seeing the bucket head sliding to the floor in a crumpled pile would have been enough to assume that he was down and out, but that didn't seem to be enough to appease the rebel team leader. Ezra turned toward the downed trooper, pulled out his blaster, and fired. The one glaring difference between his shot compared to the Stormtrooper was in the precision. Ezra's shot struck true, leaving no doubt that this particular enemy would ever cause an issue for the Rebellion again.
With that threat neutralized, Ezra then returned to the front of the group but noticed along the way how the lot of them were just standing there staring at him, and that frustrated him immensely. In his opinion, no one else was pulling their weight. "Sabine!" He angrily yelled, causing her to snap out of the trance she and the rest of the group seemed to be in. "Are you ready for me to open the door, or do you need some more time to gather yourself? I'm sure the Empire will wait if you need some more time."
"Uh, yeah." She answered as she forced herself to focus back on the mission, but she made a mental note to make sure that Ezra would be sorry for calling her out in front of everyone else. That was uncalled for, in her opinion. She couldn't help but react to the sight of Ezra's lethal actions. "Zeb, as soon as Ezra has the door open, I want you with me to help provide cover so I can lock this door back down."
"That's fine, but everyone make sure you stick to the plan," Ezra ordered as he readied himself for what was about to take place. "We're going to have to be quick here. We can't allow ourselves to get bogged down."
Sabine had her two miracles in her hands, poised to throw them inside as Ezra focused his powers on opening the door. He didn't take long, and she heard the locks snapping open, which caused Sabine to wonder if Ezra had been careful not to break them as he forced them open. If that happened, sealing it back up would be impossible. But then, the door slid open and revealed what was awaiting them. Imperial troopers inside the hangar seemed poised for their arrival as every Stormtrooper was facing the Rebel crew and didn't hesitate in opening fire.
"That's definitely more than fifty!" Sabine yelled over the blaster fire as she and Zeb tossed her bombs before ducking for cover around the sides of the entrance.
Once Sabine's bombs exploded, the Rebels made their move, rushing in with the team lead at the front. Sabine had her blasters drawn and was joined by Zeb, opening fire as she sought out the door control panel and anything that could work for some cover. The rest of the team moved their cargo in quickly, using the containers for their source of protection when the Stormtroopers had resumed firing on them. Fortunately, they'd moved quickly enough to all get inside the hangar, enabling Sabine to close the door again and not have to choose between risking the needed cover for their flank or leaving teammates behind. Ezra, meanwhile, continued charging forward, using the Force with one hand and his lightsaber with the other. He was simultaneously throwing Stormtroopers across the hangar while swinging his emerald blade around in a dizzying pattern, but a pattern that sent blaster bolts either harmlessly away or back into the Stormtroopers.
Just the sheer number of combatants before them was staggering to witness. Ezra's guess of around fifty wasn't even close, and it felt more like 500 they were facing. Not a single Rebel would ever have guessed that so many Imperials would be waiting for them inside a hangar bay, yet there they were, and there was no turning back. Still, while they were heavily outnumbered, for the moment, their enemies were all out in front of them instead of having them surrounded, and Sabine was working diligently to ensure it would remain that way as she focused on the access panel. All of her years in the academy had a way of paying off for her with the Rebellion, and this instance was no different as she quickly hacked into the panel and reset the door lock codes. By the time she was finished, the Empire would have to blow the door to get into the hangar, and that would hopefully buy them enough time to be long gone.
Satisfied that her work was complete, Sabine turned around, expecting to be in quite the gunfight, but found that was not the case. Ezra had once again drawn the attention of the Imperials by separating himself from the rest of the Rebels. If she hadn't known better, she might've believed that he was attempting to get into the very center of all the action without any help whatsoever. Sabine didn't want to think that Ezra would be so reckless with his own life, but seeing it with her own eyes left little doubt about what he had and was continuing to do. He disregarded sound military strategy by marching himself right into what would be termed a kill zone by any form of combat strategy she could recall. Any level of military training taught to avoid these areas at all cost or court death, but that was where Ezra was heading. Still, Ezra continued pressing forward, deftly dodging or blocking blaster bolts along the way until he reached the very center of the hangar bay. Sabine's first instinct was to go in after him, but she knew the odds. As much as Sabine didn't want to lose her friend, she knew that she would never survive. It was a miracle Ezra hadn't gotten himself killed when he'd so foolishly walked into the kill box of the hangar. The only thing she could do to help him was to try to draw some attention away from Ezra and not expose the rest of the rebels in the process.
Meanwhile, Ezra was brimming with confidence. He'd successfully drawn fire away from his friends and crew even though he knew that he had willingly walked into a precarious position. Rex would have a coronary if he'd been there to see what Ezra had done. The only form of cover Ezra had was what his lightsaber training provided him and his Jedi abilities. As the amount of gunfire he was taking on continued to increase, it became clear that he wouldn't be able to deflect every blast forever. Ezra knew that he would have to something else, or eventually, he would fall. Failure wasn't an option. He wasn't going to allow this mission to fail or his friends to be hurt either. He thought about Sabine and Zeb and how they'd put their trust in him to lead the team safely through, and the Empire was in his way. Ezra needed to remove them from this situation. So, he began tapping into his hatred of the Empire. He focused on how it had taken so much from him and everyone close to him. The Empire had taken his parents, taken Zeb's homeworld, taken Sabine's family. He was going to make them pay, and it was at that moment where a higher level of focus struck him.
Time seemed to slow down as Ezra sensed a shot from behind him coming. He instantly knew that his blade wouldn't make it in time to deflect, so instead, he simply stepped out of the way. Ezra continued to watch as the blaster bolt flew past him before striking another stormtrooper square in the chest. They may have had him surrounded, but he knew in that moment that he could use their aggressiveness against them. He then tried influencing the Force to help "alter" some shots and found success with that, which brought a smile to his face. These bucket heads were about to serve as their own demise. Ezra remained laser-focused and began dodging, deflecting, and readjusting each shot aimed for him. The Empire was then unknowingly assisting him in his efforts to thin out the crowd around him. He was so focused that he didn't realize his eyes were closed until no more blasts seemed to be coming at him, and when he opened them again, the battle had ended.
Sabine almost couldn't believe what she saw. She helplessly watched as Ezra closed his eyes, almost making her think that he might be sacrificing himself, but then he seemed to move in a speedy blur. Sabine didn't want to blink for fear of missing something as blasts zipped by Ezra before impacting another Stormtrooper. She'd seen him deflecting blaster bolts before, and until now, that had always been an impressive feat to witness. What she saw now was something else altogether. Sure, he was still deflecting blasts with his saber, but when he also dodged shots. Still, other blaster bolts seemed like they were almost bending away from him at the last instant. Before she even knew it, Ezra had taken down every Stormtrooper who fired at him. His every move was precise, with no wasted movement. It almost looked like everything had been choreographed, and the Empire's Stormtroopers were predetermined to fall based on some script. Either by his blaster, lightsaber, or friendly fire, they all fell while Ezra remained standing. Kill box, indeed.
"Wow, Ezra," Sabine said as she approached where he was still standing and decided that some chiding might be in order if only to keep him in check. "You could've saved some for the rest of us, you know."
"Let's just get the supplies in position to load." He replied without even a hint of a smile. "It won't be long before reinforcements arrive."
Sabine opened her mouth to say something, but Ezra's seriousness had been the next thing from him to make her pause. She'd anticipated a snarky or cocky response, but here he was, being nothing but serious. Where had the playful kid who'd joined the Ghost crew just a few short years ago gone? He'd just taken out a platoon of bucket heads, and he didn't even want to say anything about it. All he seemed interested in was completing the mission. And Sabine loathed to admit it, but he did have a point. Maybe the time for joking needed to wait until they all were safely back aboard the Ghost and not in the middle of a hostile environment. But, if he refused to joke with her at that point, she was going to have him checked over because this wasn't the Ezra she'd knew.
With the coast temporarily cleared, Hera arrived quickly from low orbit. Ever the leader, she'd correctly anticipated that time would be short for them to load the cargo and make a hasty retreat. No sooner had she touched down than was the first crate awaiting the ramp to open. At that point, Zeb took the lead in assuring that they loaded everything taken while Ezra chose to remain vigilant and ensure that the crew didn't come under fire again. They were so close to completing the mission that he didn't want to leave anything to chance, but Sabine couldn't help the concern from etching its way into her thoughts. She stood at the ramp as the final crate was being loaded, watching the young Jedi. Ezra seemed to be pacing like a predator instead of patrolling, and his demeanor was only growing her worry. Ezra wasn't even looking back to check on their progress, which meant that someone would have to retrieve him too, and she didn't wait for someone to volunteer her, marching over to fetch him.
"Time to go," Sabine said, laying a hand on Ezra's shoulder to halt his pacing.
"Then you should already be on board the Ghost." Ezra snapped at her.
"I came to get you, di'kut." Sabine fired right back before spinning around and heading back toward the ship. What in the kark was wrong with this boy?
Ezra's eyes momentarily widened as he realized what he'd done. "Sabine….I." he started to say but stopped when he felt a shimmer in the Force. Ezra didn't hesitate, but he still wasn't fast enough as a blast was fired and struck Sabine. It had reached the time to leave with reinforcements beginning to arrive.
Sabine groaned as she fell to her knees while Ezra ran toward her. Gone was the confident leader, and in his place was the Ezra she'd known. He deflected another couple of shots with his saber while helping her get up and stagger up the ramp of the Ghost, but another Stormtrooper caught up to them, jumping onto the ramp with them. It was a poor choice with only himself and a bunch of Rebels pointing their blasters back at him, but the trooper didn't get much chance to regret his decision before the Stormtrooper felt the heat of a lightsaber blade piercing him through the chest. He managed to look up at the person holding the hilt and saw a facial expression that oozed pure rage. He knew that he was dead where he stood, but neither he nor anyone else could anticipate what happened next as Ezra swiftly yanked the blade out before removing the trooper's head from his body. With the ramp nearly closed, Ezra kicked the severed head off the side of the ramp while also using the Force to toss the body out as well.
By the time Ezra had dispatched the Stormtrooper, Sabine was already back on her feet. Fortunately for her, the blast ended up striking one of her pauldrons, so she wouldn't have a critical injury. But she didn't take time to truly assess her shoulder after witnessing what Ezra did to the Stormtrooper as the Empire chose to blow the previously sealed inner hangar door.
Hera's voice filled the ship's cargo bay just as the Ghost turned toward the exit before beginning its ascent. "Spectre's 5 and 6. It's time to go!"
"Everyone's aboard," Ezra responded and readied himself as Hera shifted into high gear, closing the ramp and putting as much distance between the Imperial facility and them as she could. As always, Hera expertly avoided TIE fighters and ISD destroyers before skating through hyperspace. Once they could see the brilliant streaking lights of hyperspace, most of the crew sighed and let their shoulders droop, finally able to let their guards down, the mission completed. But that ease was short-lived as two members began to shout at one another.
"You shouldn't have come back for me, Sabine," Ezra yelled in a barely contained rage. "I had everything under control. What were you thinking?"
"What was I thinking?" Sabine snapped and got right in Ezra's face. "What you did nearly the entire time in the hangar bay was beyond idiotic! First, you intentionally put yourself at risk by moving right into an obvious kill box, and then you don't even pay attention when you're the only thing or person left to get on board the Ghost so we can leave!"
"What I did was draw the fire away from the rest of the team!" Ezra shot right back, refusing to back off from his position. "And I can handle being in a position like that! Others like you can't. You should have just comm'd me when the last crate was loaded. You needlessly put yourself at risk and got shot because of it!"
"If you don't want me to move into ill-advised positions, then you shouldn't go there in the first place!" Sabine countered. "The only reason I was there was to get you out!"
"And YOU got shot in the process!" Ezra yelled.
"What's going on back here?" Came Hera's voice from the platform above the cargo hold.
Ezra took a couple of deep breaths, trying to rein in his emotions. "I did what I had to do to ensure the mission was a success." He said while still looking directly at Sabine's still visibly angry face. "I knew the risks, and you should have respected that because I was the lead. You got shot because you altered your position instead of following my orders. I did what I did to keep the rest of you all safe, and you compromised that."
Having spoken his peace, Ezra instantly spun around and climbed the ladder, storming past Hera on his way to the cockpit. Hera stayed quiet and waited until he disappeared before turning back to Sabine. "You were hit?"
"My armor took the brunt of it, Hera," Sabine responded, hoping to avoid Hera's concern before it turned into the usual mothering she was known for when it came to members of the Ghost crew. Sabin was never in the mood for coddling, and that was especially true in this case. At the moment, she was still so angry with Ezra that she didn't even feel any pain from the bolt's impact just under her pauldron. In fact, she wasn't finished yet with that Loth rat, and if he thought walking away was going to save him, he was sorely mistaken.
Ezra knew who it was before hearing the door to the cockpit slide open. "I don't want to hear it, Sabine."
"Well, too bad because you are going to listen to me." Sabine fired back and stood so that he would have to go through her to get away if that would still be his strategy. "I get that you have special Jedi powers and that it can and has helped you to come out on top in some sticky situations in the past. But I'm a Mandalorian, Ezra. I've trained in combat and battle strategies since before I even learned to walk. Not to mention the training that I received at the Imperial academy. Plus, I've learned from what Rex has been training everyone with from his time in the Clone Wars. What you did was stupid. Plain and simple."
"Sabine." Ezra interrupted.
"NO." Sabine forcefully said, stopping Ezra in his tracks. "I'm not done. What you did, regardless of the outcome today, was incredibly stupid. You put yourself in the worst possible position in that hangar bay. They could've killed you, Ezra. In fact, they should have. For the love of the Manda, you're a damn Jedi!. What do you think we would've done if they killed you? What do you think I would have done?"
At that, Ezra's eyes found the floor. He hadn't thought about what would happen if he hadn't made it out. All that mattered was keeping everyone else safe at the time, but Sabine had made a good point. He was able to protect them this time. But if things hadn't turned out as they had, then who would be there to protect his friends the next time? He had to make sure that wouldn't happen. Just being there to protect his friends on current missions wasn't going to be enough. He needed to be smarter, faster, stronger. He had to learn even more. "I'm only trying to keep everyone else from getting hurt, Sabine." He said as he stood and walked over to the doorway, and in essence, to her. "If you're going to keep following me when you think I've made a bad decision, then I'm going to have to worry even more about you."
"Do I need to remind you again that I'm a Mandalorian, Loth rat?" Sabine said, finally starting to let her anger trail off.
"Well, this Loth rat can't let anyone else get hurt because of me," Ezra somberly replied as he managed to worm his way around Sabine and through the doorway. "I guess I just need to train harder to make sure I can."
Sabine allowed Ezra to leave. She'd gotten what she wanted to say off her chest. But Sabine didn't need Ezra worrying about her. She didn't want it either. Sabine was a warrior, and he needed to accept that. She just needed to convince him that as a warrior and soldier, she knew which risks to take and which not to. And he needed to do the same.
Notes: I actually meant to have this ready for posting on May the Fourth, but I was trying to get more than a single chapter ready, so Revenge of the Fifth it is. That said, the next few chapters will go around some of the episodes in seasons 3/4 and beyond as Ezra and his powers grow. There will be jumps, mainly to avoid duplicating dialogue from the actual episodes, although there may be parts that cannot be avoided. So please bear with me as I'll try my best to avoid if it fits well with where I'm going to go with this story. I do have an outline of where this story will lead, and I hope that you all enjoy the ride.