A/N: PLEASE READ THIS NOTE.
EDIT: Trolls are still here. I've managed to make peace with a few of them, but that's only made the rest angrier. Can't we all just get along? Why can't we just be friends? All I want is peace...T_T
May the Fourth Be With You! Whoops, little late for that, isn't it? Revenge of the Fifth? Long Live the Sixth?
Eh, lets go with that.
In any case, I'm back, and I'm here to stay. You can thank the Clone Wars and the Mandaolorian for that, else I would've been gone for good. After what Disney did to Star Wars...*shudders*
Kept you waiting, huh? Sorry about that. The movies murdered my inspiration That's right,Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker murdered me to the point that I nearly eschewed all things Star Wars for almost two years. Were it not for the Clone Wars and the Mandalorian I would have given up hope completely. As things stand, I'm still leery as all hell. But I'm willing to try again, if only for the fans and their heartfelt pleas.
Recall the events of last chapter: Ventress went and pressed the "Family" button and paid dearly for it. Because now? Naruto knows the truth; his friends and family have been taken. He doesn't know where they are at all, and he's surrounded by enemies with only a wounded Dooku to help him. You don't press the "Family" button folks. You're gonna have a bad time if you do. Ventress learned that lesson the hard way; I won't say more of her fate for the sake of spoilers. Because you see, as Jango Fett is about to learn...
...a man with nothing to lose is a terrifying man indeed.
Disturbed's "The Night" really got my blood pumping for this chapter.
You don't have to listen to it mind you -I'm not forcing anyone- but its what I wrote this chapter to.
As ever, I own no quotes, references, memes or themes. Though I do pay homage to a certain scene in the Clone Wars.
You know, its funny. I didn't really feel bad for Darth Maul until this last season. Then I saw THAT scene and holy crap the Vader hallways scene has a RIVAL~!
Also, don't mess with man's family. It never ends well.
"You just couldn't stop, could you? You had to keep pushing. You wanted to see me break. Congratulations. You succeeded. And now you have my attention."
"I hope its everything you wanted; because you won't be among the living much longer."
"It wasn't supposed to be this way, kid."
"TELL THAT TO MY FAMILY!"
~Naruto and Jango.
War Never Changes
Everything was wrong.
Wrong, wrong, terribly horribly wrong.
It should have been a simple job for Jango; by all rights it had been until an hour ago. Abduct an old ally on Coruscant, take him prisoner, and allow his new...employer, to have their way with him. Nothing more. Nothing less. Naruto was many things, but he was also soft. Easy to trust, too quick to lend a helping hand to anyone who might be in need. Jango knew that weakness well. He'd ruthlessly abused it to get the drop on him. To keep him contained. Until quite suddenly he wasn't.
Now the Menace was coming for him.
Jango heard it in the way the walls shook around him, knew it by the dying screams of the Geonosians behind them as they died in the dozens, hundreds, then thousands. Such horrible sounds. Living beings shouldn't be able to scream like that. Naruto didn't care about any of them. Didn't care about the bugs or their droids, or the ally he'd left behind. He had one victim. One target. One goal.
But he didn't matter. Boba did. He had to get his son to safety, no matter the cost.
"Dad?" small arms tightened fist clutched at his sleeve as he slammed down another corridor. "I'm scared."
Jango wasn't afraid; he was utterly terrified. If he'd known this would have happened he never would've taken the job, consequences be damned.
An awful crunch resounded somewhere in the hangar behind him and for a moment the old mercenary felt everything shake. Even clad in full armor as he was, the mercenary fought down a silent shudder. It felt like a giant fist had closed around everything, buckling the walls and ceiling alike. Boba whimpered into his shoulder.
Jango kept running. If they could just make it to Slave I then they would be home free...for a time. The galaxy was a big place. Surely there was somewhere to hide.
"Why are you running, Jango?!" his former pupil howled after him as another blast door closed in their wake. "I thought you were smarter than this!" Against his better judgement he risked a backward glance across his shoulder. A blaster bolt raked across his heel and he glimpsed the visor of a helm not unlike his own mere moments before the dursasteel slammed in the face of his pursuer. They both knew it wouldn't stop him. Not for long. It was already beginning to buckle and twist as the blond beat it with his fists. Damn him. He was beginning to see why half of Mandalore obeyed this man.
"I thought you'd be dead by now!" he growled as he resumed his flight. "Why won't you die?!"
The muffled roar that followed only made Jango run all the harder.
Blast this kriffing job. The Credits hadn't swayed him. Now, the threat of what would happen if he refused? That had. He was in too deep now to ever get out. His "employer" owned him. Body and soul. Any attempt on his part to rat them out would put Boba in peril. Peril he wasn't prepared to face. Jango did no far the corporate guilds or the techno union. No, he feared the man who backed them. More than he feared this monster hunting them down...or so he tried to tell himself.
Jango obeyed without thought; a blazing red saber swept pat where his legs had been not a moment before to carom harmlessly off a wall. He fled before its owner could use the Force to fling it after him again, stumbling through a second door as a fresh wave of droids and geonosians moved to intercept the berserker. He wasn't trying to kill them; every attack until this very moment had been aimed to maim. Cripple. Capture. He wanted to take them alive. Good he could use that.
When the next door crashed open, he was ready.
He glimpsed his former student in the corridor for the merest of moments before he moved; armored fingers flexed and a panel pried itself loose to form a makeshift wall between him and the blast bolts. Another twitch of his fingers ripped a second panel free, then a third, fourth, fifth, more and more steel standing between him and the oncoming tide as he advanced.
All the while, the Mask of Mandalore gazed impassively back at him. When had he managed to get that back from his captors? Blast it!
"Where are they?!" Naruto's voice howled over the blasterfire. "Tell me and all this stops!"
No one answered him and so The Shinobi Menace roared. Roared, All those armored plates shot forward in a blistering wave of molten metal. Behind it golden light burst from his entire body, turning his impromptu shields into whirring discuses of death. He needed them alive. Not the droids. Not the bugs. No one else. He had to hold back, preventing himself from bringing the entire complex down on their heads.
Jango saw his moment and took it.
Sweeping his son tightly into his arms the Mandalorian tightened his shoulders and ducked, causing the upgraded missile in his jetpack to roar to life. Naruto saw it, his helmet snapping towards him. Behind it, he swore he saw golden eyes narrow. Rather than retreat he all but scoffed and waved his right hand in a lazy arc. Just like that the missile it sailed right back at them like an angry boomerang. Jango jumped, jetpack flaring as he retreated. Even then, the explosion scorched his boots and seared the air in his lungs.
Not so the missile.
A dozen different thoughts raced through Jango's head like treacherous rats as another door slammed behind him. This one crumpled far faster than the last. His family. Damn it all. Those stupid fools had really done it, hadn't they? He hadn't wanted to believe it at the time. Was that why his employer wanted to send him to Umbara? It must be. If his family was there...if Naruto found them...if he realized who was responsible...well. Heads would roll.
You didn't mess with a man's family. It just wasn't done. No wonder the kid snapped.
The horrible screech of another sundered droideka whirled past him, its corpse propelled by an explosion. Right. Run faster.
It wasn't so much that Jango wanted to run; but rather, he no longer had a choice in the matter. Naruto was well and truly after him now-no. Not Naruto. This abomination man wore his face, walked like him, talked like him, but it wasn't him. He'd seen those horrible golden eyes burning in the hall. Even if it was him he had no desire to face him head on. He didn't have a choice. Didn't the kid see that?
Then again, he probably couldn't see much of anything now. Other than the color red.
An invisible fist crumpled the space he'd just occupied and ruptured the floor.
Point taken. Jango Fett fled.
Through shadow and flame, through smoke and ruin, until finally, he found their hangar. Slave I awaited them beyond, its hull gleaming silver and blue despite the dust raining down from the ceiling. Even then the deadly vessel stood fast against the arid air of Geonosis. Quiet and pristine, just waiting to be launched, utterly unaware of the horror descending upon it. There wasn't enough time. Damnit. Never enough time. He slipped a pair of mobile mines from his belt and slapped them against the main door, hoping against hope that they would be enough.
Another explosion rattled the world behind them. Jango stepped back, dropped his son to the floor, and thrust him forward. "Get in the ship, Boba."
The boy's face turned anguished and he tried to squirm free. "But dad-
Jango rounded on him. "GET IN THE BLOODY SHIP!"
The elder Fett took the merest of moments to watch his son clamor up the ramp and slam into the cockpit beyond. In that moment, Jango found himself glad for his helmet. His son hadn't been able to see the fear in his eyes. He never would. With a sputtering whine, the ships engines flickered to life...and didn't move. Slave I shuddered in place, as though held by an invisible fist, and it was with a pang of dread that Jango realized why his son hadn't been able to escape, with or without him. Slowly, agonizingly, he turned and drew his blasters. So that's how it was. It had to be him, then. Someone else might have-
With a hot rush of boiling steam, the door crashed open before him and the mines detonated. A startled grunt greeted him...
Jango opened fire into the smoke; knowing he was shooting blindly, knowing he had no other choice. His flamethrower barked explosively, spewing napalm at the hunched silhouette in the smoke.
...and the crumbling remains of Super Battle droid buckled beneath the bolts. Nothing more.
A soundless shadow detached itself from the ceiling and alighted behind the mercenary. No. Not quite soundless; the faintest rustle of cloth betrayed him. Too late, Jango felt the hand clamp down on his shoulder. Too late did realized what was about to transpire. Too late, he tried to turn around. Said hand all but crunched down on his collarbone, rendering his right arm useless.
"You seem to have forgotten something." a harsh, angry voice hissed over his roar of pain. "Before I was your student? I was a shinobi. Now clench your teeth."
Then he struck him hard enough to make his helmet ring.
He'd had him dead to rights; a single shot in the back or a swing of his saber would've been enough to end it. But the fool wanted to take him alive. Interrogate him. Why else would he bother to slug him in the head and fling him over his shoulder like a bag of wheat? Jango should've been able to use that weakness. Turn it to his advantage.
He was too busy writhing in pain.
Breath burst from Jango's lungs in an explosive gasp as his spine struck the floor; but not for long. By the time he scissored his legs and bolted upright, Naruto was on him again in a whirl of gold. A boot cannoned into his chest before he could even think to try and fly away, denting the older man's armor and slamming him against Slave I like an angry rancor. The entire ship gave a ponderous groan as its metal hull buckled and warped beneath his back. He felt rather than saw his jetpack shudder against his shoulders. Blast it. There went the aerial option.
"Get up." a low snarl dragged him back to reality. "I'm not done with you yet."
Slowly, painstakingly, his old friend stalked forward. He'd lost his helmet somewhere in the blast, or perhaps he'd simply removed it. Regardless, it didn't change what -who!- he was looking at. Vicious eyes of venomous gold blazed back at him, wide and pulsing with apoplectic fury.
"You just couldn't stop, could you?" the words were a snarl as he advanced, cracking his knuckles. "You had to keep pushing. You wanted to see me break. Congratulations. You succeeded." his entire being seemed to pulse with golden light before he got himself back under control. "And now you have my attention. My anger. My hate. I hope its everything you wanted; because you're about to suffer for it."
"It wasn't supposed to be this way, kid." the words tasted bitter in his mouth.
"TELL THAT TO MY FAMILY!"
Jango drew and found the blaster ripped from his hand in the same moment.
"I'll admit, you got the drop on me last time." Naruto continued, idly turning the pistol end over end in his hand. His gauntlet tightened and ground the pistol into a shattered mast of metal, one he cast over his shoulder without so much as a backward glance. "I'm not perfect by any measure; I let my guard down on Coruscant and you took full advantage." Abruptly, those golden orbs narrowed to poisonous slits upon him. "Not this time, old friend. Either you come with me willingly and tell me what I need to know, or I beat your smug ass into the ground and drag you back to Mandalore in chains. Your choice."
For a moment, Jango almost considered his offer. Perhaps they could work together. Perhaps...no. Something hardened in him.
"Bite me." he spat.
Naruto blew out a sigh. "Unfortunate."
Escape was no longer an option; leaving him no choice but to stand his ground. Worse still, Boba was behind him, prepping the ship. In his fevered rage, he wouldn't put it past him to go after him. His arm snapped up in a fit of pique and flame burst from his wrist, ready to roast the blond where he stood.
Then the world flipped itself on its axis all over again.
Jango tried to rise but a torrent of angry lightning leaped from the man's fingers and struck him head on. Every muscle in his body clamped down like a live wire, forcing him to a knee. He tried to raise his remaining his blasters and fire but the stream of light cut off and an invisible fist smashed him onto his back, leaving him groaning.
"Look what you made me do, Jango." a pair of golden eyes swam into his vision as he lay there, sprawled out on the deck. They looked almost sad. Mournful. "Why did you run? I didn't want it to come with this. Why do you think I've been holding back-
He spun suddenly, sensing danger.
Under Boba's fevered ministrations Slave I had finally managed to pivot in place. No further. Mighty laser cannons tracked downward and took aim, yet never found their target. Naruto raised his right hand to form a cruel claw and they buckled with a horrid squeal of tortured steel. Boba still tried to fire and only succeeded in blasting the cannons apart. Had that been the end of it, had he simply stayed in the ship where Naruto couldn't get at him, young Boba Fett might have emerged from the ordeal unscathed.
Alas, he made the mistake of confronting him.
All the world slowed to a crawl as Slave I's hatch irised open and the boy stepped out, blaster in hand. Eyes wild, he charged.
"Get away from him, you!" he cried, firing wildly as both men looked on; one in horror, the other in utter disbelief. "You bastard! Get off my dad!"
Naruto slapped the first shot aside, ducked under the second, and made a fist against the third. With a startled yelp Boba flew forward from his feet and hung before them, suspended in the air like a puppet dangling on its strings. His sole saving grace was the blond's mercy; he wasn't choking him, merely holding him aloft with his will.
"Is this your son?" his voice suggested that mercy wouldn't last.
Jango's blood turned to ice in his veins. "He's innocent. Leave him out of this!"
"Oh?" Those burning golden eyes narrowed upon him, rimmed now with a hint of furious red. "Innocent, you say?" He knew at once that it was the wrong thing to say; but it was too late to take the words back. "My family was innocent, Jango. Did that save them when they were taken? No?" his head tilted, eyes ablaze. "Where's the justice there?"
Spirits, he'd cracked, hadn't he? He was going to kill them. Both of them. And there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it now. Naruto had been pushed too far, too fast. If he hadn't fallen then he was dangerously close to doing so, danging on the very precipice of madness.
"And another thing." the whiskered warrior scowled, his lips peeling back to expose pearly white teeth. "Where is he?"
"Sidious, you dolt!" When he didn't respond the blond roared at him. "Palpatine! This has his bloody fingerprints all over it! Where is he hiding?! Where did he take my family?!"
"He's dead." Jango said as much.
"Is he?" A high, wild laugh burst out of the blond as he flung himself into his face. "Is he?! I thought so too, at first. After all, I killed him. But this...no. There's been too many coincidences. Why kidnap me? Why bring me here, to this place? Why ambush me again after the fact? No." his smile shattered like brittle glass, replaced by a scowl. "Someone's behind this; if not him then another. Someone has to be pulling the strings."
Someone was. Not that he'd ever speak of them. "I won't tell you anything."
"Oh, I think you will." his old student leaned away, favoring Boba with a melancholy look. "You'll tell me everything. Or I'll take your son. Your family, as you took mine."
"No!" Jango tried to force himself upright but an iron boot crunched down on his chest. "You can't!"
Lightning took him dead in the chest and he gasp, spine arching as it ended.
"Can. Am. Will. Talk and the both of you can walk away from this." the blond offered, lowering his hand. "Refuse, and...well." he hefted his stolen saber, its ghastly crimson light casting Boba's face in cold relief. The boy whimpered, but the blond didn't waver. "I really don't want to do this, Jango." once again, that miserable smile graced those whiskered cheeks. "I really don't. But we're out of time, I'm out of options and I am so very tired of this game. That Sith girl said as much. They're going to die, Jango. Tell me where my family is. NOW."
Jango surged upright and was struck down again.
"Monster! Craven!" he ground out. "You're not fit to rule Mandalore!"
"Monster, am I?" A golden brow rose in mild consternation. "That's rich, coming from you! Perhaps you should speak more softly to me then; because I frankly don't give a fig what you, this world, or even the galaxy at large thinks of me." the boot ground deeper, cracking his ribs. "So long as my fiends and family are safe I couldn't care less. Makes you a bit of a hypocrite, no? Still, I'm going to give you one last chance."
"Chance? What chance?!" He didn't flinch when Jango spat in his face, didn't even deign to turn his face aside. "I'd sooner die than-ack?!"
With an explosive snap-hiss, a second lightsaber ignited against his neck, bathing them in ethereal azure glow. The flinch that followed was barely telegraphed, scarcely noticeable at all unless one knew what to look for in their victim. Nevertheless, the warrior did notice and locked onto it with with frightful intensity. His saber rose a fraction of an inch in response, searing their neck. A pained hiss greeted him.
"So that's how it is, huh?' Blank eyes the color of poisoned honey gazed back at Jango Fett, wholly devoid of any semblance of emotion. Defiance blazed high in his gaze once more, but the words that followed soon doused those flames. "Stubborn to the end. Fine. I'm no fan of torture, but I have my ways. Now, then...
Indeed, they proved themselves almost chilling by comparison.
...you can tell me where the hell you've stashed my family...
Naruto leaned forward, lips peeled back in a scowl.
...or your son can die screaming with them."
"We'll die." Jango spat back. "He'll kill us."
"Who?" Naruto's retort was instant.
"I don't know their name!"
Jango grit his teeth against the words, to no avail. No matter what choice he made here, he lost. If he held his tongue, Boba died. If he spoke, then his "employer" would kill him. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. Either way his death was all but assured, or so he told himself. But only one option ended with Boba dead. He could tell all, or nothing at all. Yes, the choice was his. The bitter irony of it tore a laugh from him and Boba gasped at it. What choice did he have? None at all.
"If I tell you what I do know," Jango ground the words out, "You'll let us go? Just like that."
"Yes." Naruto leaned closer. "You have my word."
Jango Fett sang like a canary.
A/N: Yeah, sorry Jango, there's just no way you were winning this one.
And remember folks, even in Canon Jango didn't know everything either. Not the entire plan.
Has Naruto fallen? I suppose that depends on your point of view. If your family was in peril, would you become a monster to save them? Make no mistake, he doesn't want to hurt Jango or Boba. But they've left him no choice by this point. Anger and desperation make monsters out of all of us, don't they?
Boy, is he going to regret this.
At present he's angry as all hell and desperate to find/save his family. Anger leads to fear. Fear means missteps. Mistakes. Shortcuts. In his anger, he's left Dooku behind to recover from his wounds and pursue the Separatists. That may well allow Nute Gunray and others the chance to escape as he hunts down Jango.
But where oh where are his friends and why where they taken? The plot thickens~!
I ain't saying jack about Sidious. Perhaps our boy is being paranoid in assuming the old geezer survived. Perhaps he isn't. Regardless, something out there is actively trying to screw with him and all he holds dear. Now, I wouldn't be a very good author if I gave all the juicy plot details away now, would I?
So...in the immortal words of Darth Vader...
...Review...IT IS YOUR DESTINY!
And enjoy the previews!
Speakin' a which:
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
"Fool! You have fallen so and yet learned nothing at all. Love. Kindness. Empathy. These are tools of weakness. Shackles, limiting your potential! Discard them and become all that you were meant to be."
"We all feel that pull from the dark side sometimes. Its part of the Force. Part of all of us. But it doesn't control you unless you let it." A pale green hand closed around his trembling fingers. "The Force is a part of all living things. That you feel tempted doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you human. Come with us. Let us help you-
"No." he shook her off. "I'm not a Jedi. I refuse."
...very well, then. I'll help you myself."
"There's a war on, Luminara."
"And you have a family to find." she gave him a shove. "Be off with you."
"You cannot be serious."
"Of course I'm serious!" she shoved him again and he actually stumbled a bit. "This is a rescue mission, not just for your family, but to recover missing Jedi. You need help. As a representative of the Jedi, I am offering my aid and that of my padawan. Now get on the bloody ship!"
Bo Katan scowled.
"You're weak. Soft. Unfit to rule."
Naruto actually laughed. "Try and kill me then, squirt."
Jango had told him more than he expected.
Now Naruto found himself looking at man with Jango's face. Well, now. That was...awkward. No. Beyond awkward. This felt wrong and that was coming from someone who used shadow clones in combat. Still, he couldn't bring himself to disparage the man before him. He was above that. So it was that he removed his helmet forced himself to smile.
"Nice to meet you, Rex." he offered his hand and the clone clasped it immediately. "I understand we'll be working together today."
"Its a pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Please don't call me that." this time his grin felt genuine. "It makes me feel old."
EDIT: No, I'm not trying to steal Rex! This is simply a meeting, nothing more.
Though I'm not above trying to spare the clones the horrible fate they suffered either...