Chapter 21: Missing Delivery

Sabine was relaxing in the lounge, a data pad in her hands. She was studying up the mission Hera assigned her. She was expected to take lead, and was even permitted to select a crew of up to five individuals. At the moment, she was looking over information they had on the Kamdon system. Within the system was a planet, whose people had been providing materials in support of the Rebellion. Even if they weren't willing to send personnel into the Rebellion's ranks, their supplies and materials were just as important. And those supplies abruptly seemed to have dried up, without any notice or justification.

Sabine's thoughts were shared by Hera and Sato. The Empire was likely the culprit. They always seemed to be when it came to preventing the Rebellion from getting a leg up. Sabine's mission was to investigate the actual cause of their last three supply meetings from the Kamdon system being no shows, and report back. The data pad contained a list of contacts to look for. Any of them would know what happened, but they were spread all over their planet. Thus, the request for a five-man crew.

As for the planet, it was a temperate, forest covered planet. There weren't any major ports, just small establishments spread throughout. And after seeing the layout over the planet, Sabine could clearly see how they could stay under the radar and still help the Rebellion. The planet was also rich in different ores and metals, and unlike the Empire, the Rebellion wasn't trying to rob the planet of every resource. They wanted to defeat the Empire while working with the galaxy's inhabitants.

She needed to decide who she would be taking with her. Ezra would want on the list for certain, and Sabine was a little hesitant about it. Ever since her impromptu strip sparring session, he'd been noticeably more clingy. He kept finding ways to be around her even when he had other responsibilities to deal with. It might be a random passing, or joining her during an inventory update. Regardless, she felt it was beginning to become a little excessive.

That wasn't to say Sabine didn't thoroughly enjoy their more intimate moments. She certainly did. To say kissing Ezra was merely great would be a lie. Whenever their lips touched, it sent chills through her body. Even after they'd been doing it the last two weeks, the thrill was still going strong. In some instances, it was almost too much for her to handle. It made her want to do more. But she wanted those moments to be when they were alone. There was a time and place for everything, and to Sabine, those moments needed to remain behind closed doors when it was just the two of them.

Still, she had to factor in that they hadn't been on a mission since their first kiss occurred. Ezra had always been reliable during previous missions, but he'd always been one to let his guard down when on Chopper Base. She wanted to believe he would maintain that policy and save the romance for Chopper Base, but she was concerned about opportunities where he might try to steal a moment with her. It was a concern she wanted to convey, but not at the expense of losing out on moments Sabine wanted to continue. Which brought about one of Sabine's weaknesses. Talking things through when it concerned feelings.

And as if the fates themselves were against her, she should've guessed he'd show himself now. "Hey Sabine," he said as he continued into the galley.

Sabine placed the data pad down onto the dejarik table as she watched Ezra in the galley scrounging through the cupboards for a cup. "How'd training go?" She asked.

"Pretty good, actually," Ezra said as he poured himself a cup of caf before turning to face Sabine. "Fenn still took me down, but he didn't really have anything negative to say about my approach. Plus, I lasted longer against him than almost everyone else except his favorite student."

"Gavyn?" Sabine asked.

"Is there anyone else he's shown favoritism to?" Ezra asked in response, before taking a sip of his beverage.

Sabine nearly identified herself, but stopped herself from opening that potential can of worms. "That's good though," she said instead.

"Yeah," Ezra responded before changing topics. "What about you? I didn't know you weren't going to be at combat training."

"I was going to go, but Hera grabbed me when I was heading that way," Sabine answered. "She wanted me to attend a meeting about a new mission."

"New mission?"

"Yeah," Sabine responded. "It's just a reconnaissance mission to investigate some supplier that's gone silent. I was named mission lead."

"Wow," Ezra said. "That's awesome. So, when do we leave?"

"Well, I haven't picked the team yet," Sabine replied.

"But you are having me on the team, aren't you?" Ezra asked.

"Whether I should take you or not isn't the question," Sabine offered. "I just have a concern to consider."


"The mission has to be our only priority," Sabine answered. "I need to know that everything else stays here on Atollon, and I don't know if we can still do that after what's happened between us."

"What do you mean?" Ezra asked in confusion.

"How things have changed since our little sparring practice off base. We've been so much closer than I think we should be during a mission."

"But we haven't been on a mission since that happened, Sabine," Ezra pointed out.

"I know," she responded. "But I just have to know that during a mission, you and I can shut that part of our lives off. We can't be close, like on Chopper Base. We shouldn't treat each other differently than the other teammates who will be coming with us. We can't think about sneaking a moment during a mission."

"Sabine, I'd never jeopardize the mission because of my feelings," Ezra stated. "And I know you wouldn't either."

"Not even if I get into a tight spot?" Sabine asked. This was something she'd initially been concerned about, and now that they were so much closer, both physically and mentally, it seemed even more concerning now.

"I…" Ezra started to say before he stopped. Past experience had taught him that he needed to be careful with his approach when Sabine came to him with an issue or concern. If he screwed this up, Sabine would shrink back into the shell he'd been trying to help her come out of. And he wanted to be on this mission with her, just as he would any other. They were a team and always had each other's back. But he'd always prioritized her well-being over other rebels, and he wasn't about to change that. He just had to relay that without directly admitting it. "I promise I won't treat you differently than I did before. And if I do, you have my permission to take me off mission."

"I'll hold you to that," Sabine said. "Okay. You're in."

"Great!" Ezra cheerfully replied, before joining her on the bench of the dejarik table. "So, who else are you thinking about bringing in?"

Sabine picked up the data pad as Ezra scootched closer to get a better view. Sabine waited until he was situated, watching what he did, and pleasantly accepted he wasn't about to try any funny business. Serious Ezra seemed to be in attendance, and Sabine was grateful for that.

"Well," she started. "I was thinking about a secondary pilot, so that I have the pick on the targets based on what we find when we arrive."

The small rebel craft dropped out of hyperspace in orbit of the planet, Talas. Sabine and Mart were at the controls of the ship as they approached, and her co-pilot turned to her. "So," he said, breaking the silence. "What kind of people should we expect here?"

"Well," Sabine responded. "According to our data, there's a group of Quarren smugglers who live there, but also some other humanoids and even the occasional Calamari. The squids and Calamari are supposed to be farther away from the more actively volcanic portions of the planet, but the rest is still pretty dry and rocky."

"Good thing we brought clothes for warm weather," Lissa Manall joked from the back of the shuttle.

"I'm picking up something in orbit," Cerra said from the instrument cluster panel.

Mart squinted his eyes as he peered out the viewing port, trying to spot what their sensors had indicated. Had they exited hyperspace a little closer, he might've spotted it with his eyes, but they were still too far away.

However, Sabine didn't need them to be any closer. "Mart, turn us around," she ordered.

"What's going on?" Cerra asked as he moved closer to the viewing port to see for himself.

"We need to leave now before we're spotted," was all Sabine said before she started punching in coordinates for another planet within the system.

"Is that an Imperial ship?" Cerra asked as Mart began to turn away from the volcanic planet.

"Yeah," Sabine answered. "And there isn't enough cover on this planet for us to slip in undetected."

"So, what do we do now?" Mart asked. "Head back to base?"

"No," Sabine answered. "We don't know enough to give command a good report. I say we head to the forest planet in this system. There's more cover and hopefully less Imperial presence too. Plus, from the intel I received, travel between the two planets is fairly common. Most people come here to work, and then return to the other planet where their permanent homes are."

With no one on board raising any argument, Mart flew their shuttle away from the volcanic planet, and made the short trek over to the other planet within the Kamdon system. It turned out to be a much more open atmosphere, with no Imperial vessels orbiting.

"This looks much more inviting," Mart commented as he began their descent to the planet's surface.

"So far," Sabine added as she continued to scan for anything Imperial.

"What are your orders, Sabine?" Cerra asked

The Mandalorian girl looked out the view port as she considered their options. "We shouldn't risk calling the base yet. We don't know enough about what's going on, and if the Empire is here too, they could trace the signal."

"I say we head down to see how bad things are before we head back." Ezra suggested.

"That's not a bad idea," Lissa replied.

"Alright, "Sabine said. "Mart, take us down to the surface. We'll do a quick recon to confirm the level of Imperial presence. Then we check in with our contacts to gather any information they have about what's going on before we head back out. I know it goes without saying, but everyone needs to keep a low profile with this. We don't want to cause more trouble for the people here than absolutely necessary."

With that settled, Mart brought their shuttle down to the surface. There was a small town with a space port on the outer edge where he landed. The first thing the group noticed was how sparse everything appeared. There was nearly no one to be seen, and certainly no one out in the open. It was somewhat unsettling to witness, as they would surely stand out with so few to try blending in with.

"Where should we go first?" Lissa asked.

"I think how we should head out might be the better question," was Sabine's response. "Let's split up and quietly investigate what's going on. Lissa and Cerra. Head to a nearby cantina. See if you can't drum up some information there. Ezra and I will head to our contact's location and see what they know. Mart, you stay with the ship and make sure it's ready to take off. We need to be ready for a quick getaway if things turn south. I have a bad feeling about this situation. Lastly, everyone meets back up at the

With their orders, the two pairs of individuals headed off, leaving Mart to check over the ship and ensure it was fueled up. Cerra and Lissa headed east toward the lone cantina of that town, and Ezra followed Sabine north toward the rebel sympathizer's home. Periodically, Ezra reached out through the Force, searching for anything amiss, and Sabine kept her eyes ever vigilant. They each had a cloak covering their normal garb. Sabine's to hide her artistic side, and Ezra to hide his lightsaber along with his customary orange. Cerra and Lissa didn't have such high priority tied to them, so they could more easily blend in with their natural attire.

Every so often, Sabine would check their proximity to the sympathizer's home, wanting to ensure they didn't get off track. If it weren't Ezra next to her, she would've thought her partner was being lazy in his approach, but her years spent next to Jedi had taught her to know differently. He may have looked like his guard was down, but she knew what he was actually doing.

"Feel anything off?" She asked.

"Not sure," was his response, before pausing and closing his eyes to give more concentration to what he was doing. "I'm not sensing anything, but I still have a weird feeling."

"We should just get to the sympathizer's location and get out then." Sabine suggested, before moving forward again.

When they arrived, the building was much like the rest of the town. There was little activity around it, and no signs of anything awry. Sabine still approached the front door cautiously, looking for signs of foul play and finding none. Ezra kept his eyes searching around them as Sabine investigated the entrance, but he too found nothing concerning.

So, Sabine moved to the door access panel, only to find the door was left unlocked. It slid open to reveal an empty area within. Sabine reached for her blasters as she slowly made her way inside. As soon as she was inside, Sabine scanned the room for any blind-spots. She remained on high alert as she continued canvasing the interior.

The building had a small hallway off to Sabine's right. To her left was what appeared to be a small kitchen area with a dining table to the corner farthest from her. In the entry room were a few chairs and a couch, sorted to face a powered down holo projector. With Ezra covering her back, Sabine turned to the left first. There was a counter between her and that far wall where someone could potentially hide that she wanted to check out before heading down that hallway. But that was only until she heard a quiet thump in the opposite direction.

Ezra must've heard it too, because he held his lightsaber in the ready position. Igniting the blade was the only remaining step left before the weapon would be ready for use. Sabine allowed Ezra to take the lead this time, since he was closest to the hallway. As they continued moving, no other noises were made, but that didn't cause either rebel to let their guards down.

The first room turned out to be the fresher, and there was no sign of anyone or anything there. Sabine waited for Ezra to signal the all clear, and then she took the lead onto the next room. It turned out to be a simple looking bedroom with a single cot in the center. There was a dresser against the near wall, and a closet to the outer wall adjacent to the fresher room they'd already checked. Ezra moved in after Sabine, and checked under the cot, finding nothing.

Sabine gave him a look, and they both approached the closet. Ezra clipped his weapon to his belt as Sabine aimed her blasters to the door. She nodded to her partner once, and he engaged the access panel, causing the door to slide open.

"Don't shoot!" A man cowering inside the closet called out as soon as the door was fully open. "I surrender!"

"What are you doing in there?" Sabine asked in a demanding tone, still aiming her blasters at the perceived intruder.

At that moment, the man spared a glance to find the rebels standing before him. "Oh thank the Force, you're not Stormtroopers."

"Answer the question," Sabine once again demanded.

"Hiding," was the man's simple reply, as he slowly moved out of the closet until the door slid shut behind him.

"And why were you hiding?" Sabine continued to question, ever so slightly relaxing her arms from the hard aim she'd been maintaining.

"Haven't you heard?" he asked as though it should have been obvious. "The Empire came and arrested most of us."

"Us?" Ezra asked.

"A group of people here who were assisting the Rebellion with supplies," the man explained.

"Used to?" Sabine added, continuing to not give their hand away.

"Until the Empire came in and took over," the man continued. "The people of Kamdon don't have the means to defend our planet from the likes of the Empire. They took complete control of our planetary system and resources in less than a day. We were forced to go into hiding, but somehow, they still found most of us. The ones they captured are being held in a temporary holding facility the Empire constructed."

"What's your name?" Sabine asked as she finally lowered her weapons, but didn't holster them. "I don't recognize you."

Sabine's words caused Ezra to look in her direction, as she'd been studying the mission details almost obsessively. Surely she wouldn't have missed an individual who knew of this location.

"I'm, I'm no one important," the man eventually said. "Just part of the delivery crew. When the Stormtroopers ambushed us, I hid for cover. I'm lucky they didn't catch me like the others."

"So, your crew was compromised?" Sabine questioned.

"Almost all of us," the man answered. "I haven't heard from anyone since a group of us tried to rescue the captives."

"Captives?" Ezra asked.

"Yeah," was the response.

"But your group isn't part of the Rebellion," Sabine pointed out. "Why didn't you contact us if you wanted to attempt a rescue mission?"

"No one thought there would be enough time," the man answered. "But we should've waited. They didn't even get to the facility before the Empire took them out."

"That's not good," Sabine said as she took this new information in.

"Where was the rescue team trying to get into?" Ezra asked.

"They took a shuttle and tried to fly into the new prisoner holding facility," the man explained. "We received word that our people who weren't immediately executed were set to be transported off the world. We knew that if we couldn't get to them, we'd never find them. So, we moved on the facility, but our shuttle was shot down. That was three days ago, and I've been hiding here ever since."

"Have the prisoners been transported yet?" Ezra asked.

"The rumbled we heard was that a supply ship is expected to pick them up tomorrow."

Ezra turned to Sabine, looking at her the way he always did when his Jedi upbringing of wanting to help others rose within, but Sabine shook her head at him. "I'm not sure we can do much to help them."

"They're prisoners because of helping us," Ezra said, pointing out the obvious.

"Don't act like I don't know that, Ezra," Sabine responded. "But we still have to account for the information we have right now. We already know that one rescue mission was a total failure, and we don't know anything about this prison. Our information is outdated because there wasn't even supposed to be an Imperial facility on this planet. We'd be flying in blind, and they'll likely expect us on top of that."

"Isn't that the same scenario we faced when you rescued me, or when we rescued Kanan?" Ezra argued.

"That was before we had so much heat on us," Sabine replied. "Aside from the fact that we had some type of diagnostics plans to go over, and plan out an entry and escape route BEFORE we go in."

Ezra wanted to continue arguing, but recognized that Sabine had made some good points. "Alright," he said. "What do you think we should do?"

"Well, we should head back to our rendezvous point and see what intel the others have. If they've found anything else that corroborates with this story, no offense," Sabine added as she looked over to their new companion. "Then we can determine the next approach."

"You mean, you're not going to contact your commanding officers for direction?" The man asked, seemingly not happy about the direction they were choosing. "I thought you guys were supposed to be more official and organized."

"Command allows us to make our own determination when out in the field," Sabine explained, before focusing back onto Ezra. "I know it's not ideal or what either of you want to hear, but it's the right decision with what information we have."

"But, my friends are…" the man began to argue before Sabine stopped him in his tracks.

"Are going to still be shipped out unless we can come up with an actual plan that has a chance of success. I'm sorry about your friends, I really am. But I'm not risking my friends on a suicide mission, and right now, that's what this would be."

"Okay," Ezra said, accepting Sabine's decision. "Let's head back and see what the others found out."

"What about me?" The man almost frantically called out.

"We'll be back," Sabine offered. "If there isn't a way to get your friends out, then at least we'll come back to get you out of here."

Not wanting to accept being left behind, the man attempted to follow them as Ezra and Sabine began for the main entrance until Sabine pulled out her blaster and aimed it at him. "You're staying here," she said in a tone, announcing she wasn't about to be swayed or allow him to follow. "If you want to leave on your own, then we won't be able to help you or your friends. I give you my word though, that if you stay put, we will come back for you."

Resigned to not getting shot or stunned, the man relented and dropped into a chair before Sabine and Ezra made their exit. Sabine kept an eye out for him until well after the building was out of sight. She didn't like leaving him behind, but he simply wasn't listed as one of her possible contacts on the mission reports. And because of that, she couldn't risk putting the rest of her team in danger because of blindly trusting someone.

Ezra, meanwhile, remained quiet as he focused on the man's signature. He could sense the man was moving about within the building and not following, and that allowed him to release some of the tension he felt at the mini confrontation they experienced before leaving him behind.

"Did anything feel off to you?" Sabine asked, breaking the silence.

"Not really," Ezra responded. "Something still feels weird, like I felt before we went inside, but I'm not sure what it is. As for the guy we found, he seemed afraid and then angry, but I can't say I blame him. He is on his own back there, and probably believed we were his only chance at surviving too much longer."

Sabine nodded in understanding, but didn't comment any further. Instead, she focused on their surroundings as they made their way back, but found the path remained as it was on their way in. Limited number of people on the streets and no real signs of bucketheads anywhere, and that was now giving her an uneasy feeling.

"Something wrong," Ezra asked, sensing her.

"Yeah," she responded slowly, and paused for a moment before continuing to explain. "That guy said his friends were captured, but you and I haven't seen a Stormtrooper anywhere yet. That makes me think something is up."

"I didn't sense any kind of deception from him, but that doesn't mean you're wrong," Ezra said, agreeing with her.

And as though their timing couldn't be more precise, Sabine's communicator chimed, grabbing their attention. With that, Sabine and Ezra darted off into an alley before Sabine opened the channel, allowing the blue hollow projection of Mart to display before them.

"Hey guys," he said, seeming fairly casual.

"What's up?" Sabine asked.

"Might want to refrain from meeting up at the ship unless we're leaving," Mart answered. "I've seen a few patrols marching around the space port for the last ten minutes or so. They've been stopping anyone approaching any ship, looking for credentials."

"I can get us past that," Ezra confidently said.

"But what about the other group?" Sabine questioned, pointing out the flaw in Ezra's words. "What's your status, Mart?"

"Still on our ship," was his simple reply.

"Okay," Sabine followed. "See if you can discreetly figure out what's going on without compromising yourself or attracting attention to our shuttle. We'll meet with the others, and come up with a plan of extraction."

As soon as the comm was shut off, Ezra turned and looked directly at Sabine. "What about the captive people? Are we just going to cut bait and run now?"

"Ezra," Sabine frustratingly called out. "You know I don't want to leave anyone behind, but you have to admit, something doesn't feel right here. Even your Jedi powers have told you something is off."

"I know, but I just don't want to give up on these people." Ezra replied. "If it were one of us, we'd be going in regardless. I just don't want to give up without even looking into it at all."

"I don't either," Sabine admitted. "But I'm not going to let our team go into a situation blind. So, let's just go and find the rest of our team before they run into any bucketheads. Then we can reassess what to do next."

Ezra was about to argue further, but before he could, Lissa called out to them. "Hey guys, who invited the party crashers?"

"The Empire apparently caught wind of sympathizers, and moved in on them." Sabine explained. "They were mostly captured and imprisoned."

"I guess that would explain the whispers we heard about some shuttle explosion." Cerra added, which caused Ezra and Sabine to look at each other. "What?"

"We came across a lone sympathizer," Ezra explained. "He said something about a group attempting to break everyone else out, and that they failed."

"He said they took a shuttle, and were shot down before they even reached the facility three days ago." Sabine detailed.

"Sounds like it could be the same shuttle," Lissa commented.

"I don't suppose you heard where this shuttle was shot down?" Sabine asked.

"Yeah," Cerra answered

"Then let's go check it out," Ezra said.

"I agree" Lissa added.

A/N: I feel the need to apologize, as real life has been a repetitive donkey punch to the giblets this year. Things have become exceedingly difficult, and pretty much all my spare time became non-existent. This chapter was mostly complete months ago, aside from proofreading, and I didn't do much of that here. Just wanted to post it, and see if I can get some creative juices flowing again as we approach my favorite holiday. So, here's hoping for a better last quarter of the year.