I have no excuse for why I'm writing this instead of chapter nine of "I'll Leave the Love." That is actually over half done, so please keep being patient with me!
That said, I was a Clone Wars kid. The series came out when I was eight, and I watched it all the way through. Ahsoka was such a pivotal character to me at the time because like me, she's a girl younger than most of her friends and peers and she's very, very small. Short tempered and snippy and unsure of herself, but she still accomplished great things. She was an inspiration to me, to say the least. So when Season 7 dropped...guys, I lost my mind I was so excited. Literally bought Disney Plus just to watch it and cried the entire time.
SO with that in mind:
DISCLAIMER: This is Dave Filoni's sandbox, I'm just hurting his characters for entertainment purposes
SPOILERS: The entire episode 1x19 "Storm over Ryloth. ALSO THE EPILOGUE. THE EPILOGUE OCCURS AFTER THE VERY END OF SEASON SEVEN. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN SEASON 7, DO NOT READ THE EPILOGUE. IT'S IN PARENTHESIS AND ITALICS AT THE END, SO PAY ATTENTION.
WARNINGS: Lots of off-screen character death. Grieving children, and acknowledgement of failure from the authority figure who was responsible for their lives. It's sad.
Lessons Learned (Brothers Lost) It's A Part of Growing Up
Swoop is angry. Swoop is very angry. They've just gotten word that they're being sent out under Commander Tano again, for a second attempt on the Techno-Union blockade over Ryloth.
Kickback hasn't moved from his bunk since they got back from their failed mission. He's sitting on the edge, head in his hands, staring at the floor. He's not talking.
Swoop can't seem to stop.
"She knew we were outgunned," he fumes, stalking back and forth across the floor. "She knew it! She had orders to turn around and she just ignored them! We would be decommissioned for something like that! But no. She's a Jedi. She gets a free pass while our brothers are dead! And it's all her fault!"
"She's a child, Swoop," Kickback finally says, his voice dry and empty. "She's not even fourteen years old."
"Neither are any of us!" Swoop cries, hurling his bucket against the wall as hard as he can. "She got our brothers killed, and now they want us to go back out under her again? So she can get us killed, too?!"
"She doesn't have the advantage of tactical training!" Kickback barks, rising to his feet. "She is a child! She may have more years on us brothers, but we far outrank her in training and experience and you know it! She should not be a soldier yet. Yes, she's a Jedi, but they are trained to be peacekeepers. She was trained to preserve life and settle diplomatic disputes, not lead a kriffing war!"
Swoop falters, feeling some of his anger drain away. Kickback is older. He's spent a lot more time with the Jedi than Swoop himself, but he's…he's never thought of it that way. Yes, the Commander has more physical years, but her mind is much younger. She doesn't have the intense Kaminoan training that every brother has.
She doesn't even have their level of piloting training, and yet she'd been sent out and made responsible for their lives.
"She did the best she could, Swoop," Kickback says heavily, his hands falling onto Swoop's shoulders. He looks up into his brother's face and sees raw grief there. Axe was one of his batchmates, Swoop remembers. Maybe Kickback clings to his faith in the Jedi because if he doesn't, he'll lose what little sanity he has left.
"It wasn't enough," Swoop whispers back, clenching his fists and fighting the burning in his eyes.
"No. It wasn't."
The Commander's voice rings out behind them and both troopers spin sharply in place.
"At ease," she says, and her voice cracks.
Swoop relaxes his posture and takes a hard look at her. She's…she's so tiny. She doesn't even reach his shoulder. Her big blue eyes are so full of innocence, but there are dark shadows in them that he doesn't think were there yesterday. Her thin shoulders are slumped and she's blinking fast.
They stand in silence for a long moment before she suddenly looks up, those deep eyes boring into Swoop's.
"I failed you," she says clearly. She looks at Kickback. "I failed all of you today. I know how close Blue Squadron was, and I am so, so sorry for my part in taking them from you." Her voice cracks again, and tears flood her eyes. She clenches her fist and Swoop doesn't think he's ever seen a Jedi display so much raw emotion.
She looks so young.
"I know there's nothing I can do to make this better," she says. "I don't expect you to forgive me. I certainly don't deserve it. You're right, Swoop. It is absolutely my fault. I should have put Axe in charge as soon as I lost control of the situation, but I arrogantly assumed I knew better, that I could do it. I couldn't, and they paid the price for my pride. I came to say I'm sorry, and I came to tell you that if you want to, I can have you reassigned to another squadron."
One that isn't under me, she doesn't say, but they both hear it loud and clear.
Swoop feels the last of his anger extinguish as the first of the Commander's tears drip off her jaw and splash against the floor.
Kickback sighs. He goes to his knee before the Commander and rests his hands on her shoulders. "Yes, it was your fault," he says gently. "But you tried, Commander. We know you tried. Axe entrusted you with his squadron because he believed in you."
The Commander full-body flinches at Axe's name, a sharp little sound escaping her throat. "He was my friend," she says. "And he was wrong. He shouldn't have trusted me. I got him killed."
And suddenly she doesn't seem like the Commander anymore.
"Ahsoka," Swoop says, not particularly caring if that's inappropriate. "The only ones responsible for this are the Seppies."
She looks up at him, big, teary blue eyes all confused. "But you said—"
"I know what I said," Swoop says, pretty ashamed of himself. He kneels next to Kickback. "But…no offense, kid, but…you are, in fact, a kid. You shouldn't be out here, blaming yourself for fallen soldiers. You should be running around your Temple, playing games with other kids your age. You did the best you could in an impossible situation you were never trained for." He hesitates, but she's staring at him like he's the only thing keeping her upright. He takes a deep breath and stands.
He salutes, and it's only a couple of heartbeats before Kickback is, too.
"Commander Tano, sir!" Swoop barks. "Respectfully requesting permission to remain in Blue Squadron under your command, sir!"
Her mouth drops open. "What—?" she stars.
"Commander Tano, sir!" Kickback repeats. "Respectfully requesting permission to remain in Blue Squadron under your command, sir!"
Her lip trembles. "Permission granted, troopers," she says shakily. "Thank you."
Swoop relaxes his parade stance and squeezes her shoulder. "I forgive you, sir," he says softly.
"As do I." Kickback pulls the little one into a tight hug, and she clings to him. "We forgive you, Ahsoka. You're our Blue Leader. We're happy to fly under your command from now to the end of the war."
"Little Blue," Swoop grins, tugging lightly on her Padawan braid.
She grins back up at them, her eyes mercifully free of those dark shadows. "I'm not that little!"
"You don't even reach my shoulder," Swoop scoffs, throwing an arm around her and leading her out the door.
Kickback heaves a dramatic sigh as he collects Swoop's bucket, pulling his own over his head. "If you two are gonna be like this all the time, I think I'm gonna wish I'd just let you keep fighting."
Ahsoka grabs Swoop's bucket and leaps up into the air just enough to plonk it down on his head. "Too late now!"
Kickback drops his hand on her left shoulder and Swoop squeezes her right as they walk out into the hangar.
"We're with you, Little Blue," Swoop says firmly.
"Let's go bust this blockade," Kickback is grinning, they can hear it.
Ahsoka seems to grow three inches, her confidence visibly increasing. "Alright, boys, let's load up!" she shouts, and there's an explosion of activity as all the troopers bolt for their fighters.
"Sir, yes sir!"
When they fly out of the hangar, Kickback is to her right and Swoop is to her left and they believe in her with all their hearts, just like Axe did.
She proves them right to do so.
She comes back to their bunk that night, after the battle is long over. She pulls off one of her synth-leather gauntlets and flips it over so they can see the list of names burned into the inside. She's holding a little stylus that she's rigged a red-hot piece of wire to the tip of, and she offers it to them solemnly.
The three of them burn the names of every single member of Blue Squadron who fell that day into the leather.
"Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc. Ni partayli, gar darasuum," she says in flawless Mando'a. She reads out every name, one after the other, and then she buckles the gauntlet back on with a smile that hurts to look at.
"Nu kyr'adyc, shi taab'echaaj'la," Kickback says gently, squeezing her shoulders.
Swoop can't say anything, but he's not ashamed of his tears. She takes his hand and holds it tight and they sit there, together, for a long time.
And they remember.
(They've left the snowy moon far behind them.
There are no more Jedi. The Republic is gone. It's an Empire now. They're fugitives. If they get lucky, everyone else will think they're dead.
They land at the first space station they can find. They have to get rid of the y-wing.
Rex doesn't understand why Ahsoka is so desperate to find a burner. They need so many more things right now that are so much more important.
He doesn't understand until she manages to get her hands on one. She pulls one of her old gauntlets out of her pack and unbuckles it. There, on the interior of the synth-leather, Rex sees a list of names burned into the material.
His heart breaks all over again as she doubles over it, burner cradled in her hand as though it's made of kyber and starts to burn in the name of every single man who died on that blasted moon.
Finally, she reaches the last two:
This is where she drops the burner, fingers clamping down on the synth-leather like it's all she has left in the world and cries as though her very soul has been torn away.
Rex goes to his knees beside her.
They cry together.)
For you heathens who don't speak Mando'a:
Ni su'cuyi, gar kyr'adyc. Ni partayli, gar darasuum - I am still alive, but you are dead. I remember you, so you are eternal; Followed by a list of the names of the dead
Nu kyr'adyc, shi taab'echaaj'la - Not dead, merely marching far away.
Whoosh, yeah, I'm pretty proud of this thing.
I wrote it in 38 minutes straight, and I promise all you die-hard Clone Wars nerds: I did my research. Check it out, and I promise you will find that Kickback and Swoop's articles on Wookieepedia do not tell us when these two pilots die. So I took a little creative license, yes, but they were definitely still alive by the end of this episode. So yes, I was careful about that.
So there is that! I hope you guys enjoyed this little drabble. I am currently two and a half seasons deep in re-watching Clone Wars start to finish, so you can expect a lot more SW themed stories coming your way!
Reviews are life! The more reviews I get, the more stories I write.
Till next time!