Leon sat on the floor of his room his legs crossed and his eyes closed as a crimson crystal hovered in front of him. He had recently returned from a short mission to Felucia along with Obi-Wan and a squad of five clones they had gone to Felucia in search of Thalia a girl Leon met during his mission to Hoth. Thalia contacted Leon through an unknown means sending some kind of ghost or spirit to him and pleading for him to help her. In a vision he had Leon determined that she was on Felucia and enlisted the help of Master Kenobi to help him search for her. Although they never found Thalia they did find something interesting a hidden cave with a furnace inside used to make synthetic lightsaber crystals, but that wasn't all they found.
Asajj Ventress Count Dooku's former apprentice and assassin appeared to them informing them of a rumor that Count Dooku had a new apprentice. Ventress herself came to Felucia to investigate the rumor and determined it to be true upon seeing the furnace. Leon found an incomplete synthetic crystal and kept it hoping to find another clue if he meditated on it.
The dark side energy within the crystal made it difficult to focus, but Leon persisted through its oppression reaching inside it with the Force and guiding its secrets to the surface. Please let it all be coincidence, that was the thought in his mind as he continued reaching inside the crystal he was praying that Thalia wasn't Dooku's new apprentice maybe she was running from him or his apprentice. She would never willingly ally herself with him.
Leon's brow twitched as he focus began dwindling it felt like the crystal was trying to resist him, but his persistence paid off. An image began forming in his mind he could see the fires of the furnace he found on Felucia and the incomplete red crystal within it surrounded by stones that burned to the point of glowing. There was someone kneeling in front of the furnace their face obscured by the intense heat. Focusing more Leon tried to reveal the face of the person he saw pushing aside the embers and enduring the heated air slowly recognizing features of the person in front of him, but the vision faded his mind going blank as a stern voice called his name.
His concentration lost the synthetic crystal dropped to the floor and Leon opened his eyes as someone knocked at his door and called his name.
"What?" Leon growled furiously.
The door slid open showing his master Mace Windu standing in the hall. The Jedi Master looked down at his padawan and the synthetic crystal narrowing his eyes into a curious glare.
"So this is the synthetic crystal Master Kenobi spoke of".
Leon was panting from the forced meditation, "I…was hoping to find a clue as to who made it".
"I see" Master Windu said grabbing the crystal with the Force and bringing it to his hand to examine it, "Master Kenobi said you had a vision about a girl you met during your mission to Hoth. You think she's in trouble and needs help".
Leon nodded, "I know she is and I'm hoping to find out where she is so I can help her".
"How close are you to this girl?" his master asked not even trying to hide his suspicion.
"As I said Master Windu she's my friend and she's in trouble".
Master Windu turned the crystal in his hand, "And you think she has something to do with this crystal?"
"Maybe" Leon sighed, "I'm hoping not, but it is possible that she made it".
"Master Kenobi informed us of the rumor of Count Dooku taking on a new apprentice. Do you think it's your friend?"
Leon shook his head, "I don't see how it would be possible. Why would Dooku take her on as an apprentice?" he was lying of course when Leon found out that Thalia was Force-sensitive and not aware of it he taught her how to use the Force. Although he only taught her what he knew of it, it could be possible that her connection to the Force is strong and if Dooku somehow found out why wouldn't he try to take her as his apprentice?
Master Windu continued to examine the crystal, "If your friend has joined Dooku then she is an enemy of the Republic".
Leon jumped to his feet, "No!" he snapped pointing his finger at his master, "It was the Separatists who captured and threatened her people. She would never ally herself with Dooku and if she did it wasn't willingly" he took the crystal back from his master, "If she did make this then I'm going to find out then I'm going to find her and save her from whatever trouble she's in".
Seeing the look his master gave him Leon apologized for his outburst, "I'm sorry master it's just…Thalia is loyal to her people and thankful to us for helping her. I just don't see any reason why she would voluntarily join Dooku".
The stalwart Jedi Master's eyes continued to bear down on him, "Let's say she is being forced to be his apprentice what would you do? Let's say you found her and she is his apprentice what would you do to handle the situation?"
Leon had to think carefully on his answer he was being tested, "When I find her and if she is being forced to serve him then I will save her no matter the cost. She's an innocent being forced into this and it is the duty of the Jedi to protect the innocent".
Master Windu raised an eyebrow, "And if it turns out she willingly joined him, what then?"
Leon's eye fell to the floor, "I don't believe she would ever join him by choice, but if that turns out to be the case…I won't fight her I will bring her back to the light without fighting her".
"There is doubt in your mind Leon" Master Windu said, "You say you are certain she would never join him, but the fear of her being allied to him by choice or not is haunting your thoughts. Are you sure you're priorities on this are properly sorted?"
Leon looked up to him, "They are I have no doubts about that".
Master Windu turned around, "Then continue your meditation and inform me of anything you find".
"I'm going to save her" Leon whispered to himself after his master left, "Nothing will stop me".
Grun the gizka croaked at him from his tank catching the young Jedi's attention. Leon smirked at the small reptile and walked over to its tank. He reached his hand into the tank and scratched the gizka's had watching it nuzzle his finger.
"I'm going to save her" he said again, "I swear on my life I will save her".
Stepping away from the tank Leon sat on the floor again and crossed his legs using the Force to levitate the crystal in his hands as he closed his eyes. He dug his thoughts into the crystal returning to the vision he had before staring into the obstructed face of whoever was kneeling in front of the furnace. Through his persistence the heat and flames were pushed aside and the hidden person's face was revealed confirming what Leon feared.
It was Thalia kneeling in front of the furnace tirelessly working to craft the synthetic lightsaber crystal. She ran her arm across her forehead wiping the sweat away as she reached into the flames with the Force and retrieved her first crystal. The crimson crystal gleamed from the light provided by the furnace. Thalia stood up and picked up a lightsaber hilt from the nearby table using the Force once again she dismantled the hilt and slowly placed the synthetic crystal inside. With the crystal set she pieced the hilt back together, but hesitated as she reached for it there was a look of fear and sorrow in her eyes.
Grabbing the hilt she fell to her knees and began crying, "Why...Why is this happening?" she hugged her hands against her chest, "Leon help me…please. I need you".
Once again the vision faded returning Leon to reality as the crystal dropped to the floor. Thalia made the crystal and constructed a lightsaber with it whatever her and while Leon still wasn't sure why he knew she needed his help. Rising to his feet Leon left his room with the crystal in his hand making his way back to the council chambers.
"Thalia is in danger. I can feel it" his mental voice was bold despite the conflicting thoughts running through his head, "I'm coming Thalia just hang in there".
Arriving at the doors to the council chambers he reached out his arms to push them open, but stopped when he felt his chest tighten. His chest felt like it was closing around his lungs and heart becoming tighter and tighter with each passing second until he felt like he couldn't breathe anymore. He clenched at his chest as he dropped to his knees as everything around him began spinning and tilting to the side.
"What's happening?" he grunted before he began coughing. The coughing quickly became worse he felt like the inside of his throat was being scratched as each breath was violently expelled. He struggled against whatever was happening to him trying to force himself back to his feet only to find he had lost all sense of balance. The hall around him continued to spin and tilt as his coughing became rough and he started wheezing between them before he finally fell forward landing on his hand. Holding himself up with one hand he covered his mouth as the coughing continued growing worse.
He felt his back arch and something rise into his throat and then mouth as his head snapped forward coughing up whatever flooded into his mouth. The pain was crippling and all he could see through his squinted eyes were small drips of something dark red running between his fingers and on the floor under him and each time he coughed more drips of red appeared. Eventually he couldn't take anymore whatever was happening to him was too much; his eyes rolled back and he fell to the side his face hitting the floor with a soft impact followed by a curtain of cold falling around him.
The sound of blaster fire echoed hundreds of clones were fighting against a large battalion of droids. One after another the clones began falling as their enemy's superior numbers became too much. The clones fled from their burning barracks many being gunned down before they could raise their weapons. In the communications room of the Republic base a trio of clones had locked themselves in and barricaded the door attempting to send an emergency message out to the rest of the Republic, but everything was offline.
"Dammit" one of the clones yelled, "They cut the power and their jamming us not even our emergency systems are going through".
"Sir they're cutting through the door" another clone yelled as the edges of the door seemed to be melting as something cut through them.
The melting lines made their lap around the door and it fell to the ground the clones immediately began firing even though they could not see through the smoke on the other side.
"Sergeant, try to contact Coruscant again" one of the clones yelled.
"Its no good" the one at the console yelled back.
The clones felt something pull at their guns and in an instant their weapons flew from their hands landing at the feet of a hooded figure.
"Separatist scum" the clone sergeant growled running over to the hooded intruder, jumping over the center console he reared his fist back, but stopped in mid air as something grabbed at his throat.
Feeling a light squeezing at his throat he quickly grabbed at the invisible hand struggling against it before he was thrown back into the communications console. The other two clones watched as their sergeant was thrown back slamming the back of his unprotected head into the console knocking him out.
"Excellent work" a T-Series Tactical droid said as it entered the room, "The Republic base on Ord Mantell is ours and the Republic is none the wiser" the tactical droid looked at the three clones and aimed its blaster rifle at them, "No survivors".
The defenseless clones glared at the droid sure that they were about to meet the same fate as all of their brothers until the hooded figure stepped in front of the tactical droid.
The hooded figure's face could be seen, but the voice was definitely female, "No, take them hostage I want to interrogate them".
The tactical droid argued, "Count Dooku's orders were clear raid the weapons storage and leave no survivors".
The hooded figure pulled her arm out of her robe igniting a red lightsaber and cutting down the tactical droid, "Count Dooku's orders were clear, but I just changed them" she looked to the squad of battle droids in the hall, "Take them to the detention block I want them alive for interrogation understand?"
The droids acknowledged their new orders and rounded up the trio of clones taking them to the base's detention block as everything went black and a name was whispered, "Leon".
Leon's eyes flew open he was in the infirmary again. Flying up to a sitting position he turned to the side and jumped off the bed feeling the monitor patches tear from his chest as he moved past their each.
"Leon are you ok?" Obi-Wan asked him.
Obi-Wan was standing in the room along with Masters Luminara and Windu a bit surprised by Leon's sudden wake.
"Ord Mantell" Leon told them, "Something happened on Ord Mantell contact our base there" seeing the way they were looking at him he raised his panicked voice, "This is not a staring contest contact the Republic base on Ord Mantell".
Obi-Wan brought his wrist up to his chin and turned on his comlink contacting the headquarters of the Republic Army.
"Is something wrong Leon?" Master Luminara asked him.
"I think we just lost our entire base on Ord Mantell…I had a dream a vision" he looked around the room, "Why am I in the infirmary…" he remembered. Whatever happened to him caused him to black out, "What happened to me?"
"We found you passed out in front of the council chambers" she walked over to him, "Leon somehow you've contracted a virus that attacks cells in your body called macrophages".
While Luminara explained the still unidentified virus in Leon's body Obi-Wan walked over to Master Windu telling him that the Republic base on Ord Mantell isn't responding to any communications.
"I sense a disturbance in the Force" Master Windu muttered, "This is troubling. We should investigate".
"How would Leon know about it? He said it saw it in a vision, but why?"
Master Windu walked over to Leon with a penetrating stare to his eyes, "Leon do you remember why you were coming to the council chambers?"
Leon quickly searched his pockets and pulled out the synthetic crystal he found on Felucia, "Thalia" he said handing the crystal to his master, "She made the crystal and I believe now that she is Dooku's new apprentice".
Master Windu took the crystal, "Is she on Ord Mantell?"
Leon lowered his head, "I think so. I heard her voice calling out to me".
Master Windu turned back to Obi-Wan, "Master Kenobi we're going to Ord Mantell to investigate prepare a shuttle for us while I inform the rest of the council".
"I'm going with you" Leon said standing back up.
"No" Master Windu told him, "You're too personally involved".
"Exactly" Leon cut him off, "I'm the one involved in this which is why I should go. If Thalia is there she will listen to me more than you and with all due respect Master I don't trust you to handle her the right way".
Master Windu's eyes fixed on Leon as did Luminara's.
"She's calling to me to help her I'm the one she trusts. If you show up and demand that she surrender how is she going to handle that? You don't know she could be emotionally unstable which is why I need to go".
"I'm more concerned with your personal involvement with this girl than anything else at this point. Your attachment to her".
Leon cut him off again, "My attachment to her isn't a factor here" he yelled, "Her safety is my priority. She's in danger and she's crying for my help".
"And how do you know it isn't a ruse?" Windu questioned, "If she is Dooku's apprentice she could be reaching out to you so she can draw you in. Deceiving you because you know she once trusted you".
"That doesn't matter" Leon snapped, "The fact of the matter is its my fault this is happening to her, she is my responsibility so I am going to help her" he walked past his master stopping at the doorway, "And if you feel like trying to stop me…go for it".
"There is a darkness growing in him" Luminara said after Leon left the room, "I fear his judgment may be clouded".
Windu's intense eyes stared at the doorway where Leon once stood, "Perhaps so, but what he said about that girl being his responsibility what did he mean by that?"
Luminara looked to him, "With your permission Master Windu I would like to talk to him. He was my padawan first maybe I can get through to him he often comes to me for advice".
Master Windu allowed her to try and stop Leon. She was right he could sense a dark burden in his padawan's mind not just fear and anger, but guilt. Leon said Thalia was his responsibility what did he mean? Is he somehow responsible for what happened to her? The stalwart Jedi turned and looked out the window into the vast city of Coruscant his padawan's defiance weighing heavily on his mind. Leon was strong willed and an all around capable fighter for his age more skilled with his lightsaber than most padawans and even without had proven to be skilled in hand to hand combat. His physical capabilities were truly impressive for someone his age, but for all this his biggest weakness was his fierce loyalty.
Master Windu himself was as loyal as they came ready at any given moment to lay down his life for the Jedi Order or the Republic and he knew sometimes his loyalty to the two could be seen as extreme, but Leon's sense of loyalty and duty went in a different direction. Leon couldn't be described as just loyal he was persistent. During their mission to Dantooine when Leon was gravely injured by a new Separatist droid he insisted that they continue their search for Ahsoka Tano who went missing during the battle. His injuries bordered on lethal, but his padawan's determination overruled his pain allowing him to continue on. He was proud of his padawan's loyalty there was no denying that, but he feared that the young Jedi's persistence would be the death of him if he didn't learn to stop and think about a situation first.
Leon entered the temple hangar and walked over to a lone fighter and climbed into it just as Master Luminara called to him.
"Please don't try and get in my way Master Luminara" he said coldly.
"Leon tell me what is bothering you" Luminara requested looking up to him.
"It's complicated" Leon said strapping himself into the pilot's seat.
"You claim a responsibility that isn't yours".
Leon's hand slid off the controls to the fighter, "Everything that is happening to Thalia is my fault…I showed her how to use the Force".
The Mirialan Jedi Master looked up to him surprised by his words, "You showed her how to use the Force?"
Leon's face darkened, "After we saved her people I could sense it in her. She has a strong connection to the Force strong enough that I could sense it. She was next in line to lead her people, but she felt she was too weak to do so. I thought if she learned how to use the Force she would believe herself worthy of leading them".
"Master Kenobi never reported this to the Council" Luminara said to him before coming to the obvious conclusion, "He didn't know. You trained her in secret?"
Leon nodded, "I…I did it to help her that's all I wanted to do. I wanted to help her overcome her fear and realize the power locked within her".
Luminara still couldn't believe what she was hearing, "Leon you're still a padawan. Your own mastery of the Force isn't fully refined yet how can you teach another? What you did was foolish you should have told the Council about it".
"And what would they have done?" Leon yelled, "Thalia is too old for the Council to accept her for training, but her connection to the Force" he began trembling, "What would they have done? You wouldn't have ignored her no that would risk her becoming a potential threat, but she's too old to be trained".
Leon jumped out of the fighter and stared into Luminara's eyes, "So what would they have done? Detain her? Place some kind of restriction of her ability to use the Force? I've done a lot of research into the history of the Jedi there are multiple accounts where the Jedi Order has restricted and even completely cut one's ability to call upon the Force".
"That is not what the Council would have done" Luminara tried to tell him.
"How can you be sure?" Leon asked her his voice returning to normal levels, "You don't know how the others would have seen it".
"That is true, but I trust in them" Luminara said retaining her calm tone against Leon's harsh words, "I place my full faith in the rest of the Council as should you".
Leon hung his head again, "It changes nothing. Thalia is still in danger and I'm going to help her…I owe it to her. Master Luminara I owe you my life you've done so much for me".
Luminara noticed his hand subtly inching toward his lightsaber and the tears forming in his eyes as he spoke in a fearful, pleading tone.
"After all you've done for me I beg you to not stand against me on this".
She could feel his thoughts his emotions they were raging like a storm fear and guilt mixing with one another creating a dark cloud.
"Very well" she said, "I will go with you, but you are to follow my instructions without question".
Leon's body relaxed and his hand slid away from his lightsaber, "Thank you…Master" his voice sounded like it was about to break. She had agreed to allow him to go, but if he could not return to a stable state and regain control over his emotions then she would be forced to put an end to the mission.
Luminara led him to another shuttle contacting Master Windu telling him that she will join them on their mission to Ord Mantell and assume full responsibility for Leon as he travels with her. Reluctantly Master Windu agreed although he voiced his strong disapproval of the idea. Luminara looked to Leon as the shuttle's engines came to life reminding him to be wary of his emotions. Leon still distraught by his argument with her simply nodded and leaned into the corner of the co-pilot's seat and closing his eyes.
The young padawan opened his eyes just as the shuttle dropped out of hyperspace above Ord Mantell. He could sense it, now that he was this much closer he could sense it Thalia was definitely there waiting for him.
"Master Luminara" he said in a gloomy tone, "I want to apologize for earlier and thank you again for allowing me to come here".
Luminara could tell he had calmed down a great deal, "I am taking a great risk by bringing you here Leon" she gave him a small smile, "Don't make me regret my decision".
"I won't" he said before looking over to her with an expression of deep sadness, "You're wondering what my feelings for Thalia are right?"
Luminara's smile vanished, "You're attachment to her is against the Jedi Code".
Leon looked back to the planet ahead of them, "I know…"
"Do you love her?" she asked him outright.
"I don't know" he answered, "She's important to me, but I don't know to what extent. All I know is I will do whatever it takes to protect her".
"What of Skywalker's padawan Ahsoka?"
Leon visibly retreated, "It's the same. I care about her a great deal I'll never let anyone or anything harm her or Thalia" he looked to his former master and smiled, "It's not just them either I feel the same about you as well".
Luminara looked at him surprised again by his words, "Me?"
Leon kept his small smile, "You're the one who saved me I owe you everything and more. You are one of the most important parts of my life Luminara Unduli and I would die protecting you just as I would for Thalia or Ahsoka. It doesn't matter who or what if it's important to me I will protect it and nothing will stop me".
"His eyes" she thought seeing the look in his eyes, "He's more than determined he's confident. I can sense it clearly now his will his resolve they both echo more than his fear. He believes completely in his own strength and he truly intends to protect her".
Luminara began landing the shuttle at a nearby spaceport the adamant resolve she saw in Leon's eyes made her question if attachment is something that should be shunned. If it gave someone this kind of determination this kind of iron will…no she was overanalyzing it. The teachings are clear and should be upheld if this was attachment then he should be brought before the Council to decide on a course of action, but if this wasn't attachment then his strength of will and steel nerved determination will lead him to becoming a great Jedi.
The shuttle landed and they stepped off receiving word from Master Windu that he and Obi-Wan would by arriving soon.
"There's more" Master Windu said, "We've received word from Skywalker his ship is returning from the supply run. They're going to stop over Ord Mantell and he will be joining us along with his padawan. If the Separatist managed to attack our base here without setting off a single alarm then we shouldn't take any chances. I want both of you to wait until we're all there before proceeding".
"Very well Master Windu" Luminara responded, "We will wait until you and Skywalker have arrived".
"I hope its soon" Leon said, "We have time, but not much…I sense something…dark".