The Judge's Executioner
Leon fell to his knees his broken shoulder hanging a limp arm at his side, his world shattered again it wasn't supposed to happen like this. This wasn't real it wasn't happening it couldn't be…why? Why did he…
"Divide all power to the forward shields and batteries" Anakin yelled on the bridge of the Resolute, "We're not letting them get away keep attacking if they jump to hyperspace we lose them".
The Separatist fleet was in retreat, Naboo was safe for now, but Grievous and the goliath were preparing to escape. Anakin gritted his teeth as he watched the barrage of heavy laser fire pound into the enemy ship ahead of them the one Grievous had landed on. The Republic fleet had split its attack half of the ships attacking the carrier that retrieved the goliath and the other half attacking Grievous' ship. The enemy fleet was fighting back of course one of their ships had even turned to counter attack to give their general and goliath time to escape, but it didn't last long once it crossed in the path of all the ships firing at once.
Anakin quickly turned his attention to the ship's admiral, "Admiral Yularen send a message to the hangar once we disable the hyper drive on that ship we're sending teams in to capture Grievous".
The decorated admiral nodded, "Right away sir".
Anakin turned his attention to Master Windu and Master Luminara, "Once we stop their escape we're going to have to board their ship and make sure they can't repair it. We'll send a team to completely destroy the hyper drive while we go deal with Grievous ourselves".
"What of the goliath?" Luminara asked, "Capturing Grievous is important, but shouldn't we also send in a team to infiltrate the carrier".
"The goliath is a powerful weapon" Windu agreed, "Too powerful to ignore, but with Grievous as wounded as he is we can't pass up this chance even if the Separatists keep the goliath if they lose Grievous today it will be a much bigger blow".
The bridge doors opened and Ahsoka ran over to them, "So what's the plan?" she asked stopping in a single step as she reached them.
Anakin looked back to the lead ship carrying Grievous, "We disable their hyper drive get on board and take Grievous by force then we get back here and to Republic space where he stands trial for his crimes" he turned back to his padawan, "How are Obi-Wan and Leon?"
"Master Kenobi is unharmed, but a bit fatigued by his fight with Grievous, but he said he can keep going and Leon…" she hesitated for a second and sighed as she shook her head, "Leon's virus hit him again during their fight with Grievous according to Master Kenobi it wasn't bad, but he's refusing to let the medical droid examine him".
"What's he doing now?" Anakin asked.
Ahsoka waved her hand in an irritated, but unsurprised fashion, "He's in the hangar getting ready for the green light to infiltrate the enemy ship".
"Well he's persistent" Anakin said with a slight smile, "As long as he's ok I don't see too much of a problem".
"You have no idea" Ahsoka said inwardly.
In the hangar Leon and Titan squad were getting ready it wasn't hard to figure out what was going to happen. Disable the hyper drive get on kill Grievous; those were Leon's words to his team although his fellow Jedi would be aiming to capture the general Leon no longer cared whether he was taken alive or dead in fact he wasn't going to settle for anything short of his death. Grievous was strong, smart to an extent despite his arrogance and over confidence, but he was tenacious as hell and had a knack for escaping, but not again no this time Leon was going to kill him.
Edge and the boys were with him on that killing Grievous would be a major win even if the goliath escaped. Capturing Grievous alive would be difficult even if he was still injured at this point killing him would be easier and probably faster. Leon's fists were balled tight as they waited he made no effort to hid his impatience or his anger even growling sighs every so often.
Edge stood next to him as they waited while the rest of the team continued making preparations, "Leon you know the other Jedi won't see it the same way you do they'll probably try to stop you from killing him".
"They'll try and fail" Leon answered, "I'm not letting him get away again. It may be against the Jedi Code, but at this point we can't afford such mercy and compassion we have to put an end to this and killing Grievous will do much to accomplish that".
Leon knew the others would try to stop him from striking a fatal blow against Grievous and he didn't want to harm any of them which meant he would have to be subtle about it. It would be hard to do depending on who went with them hopefully he would be able to find a way to engage Grievous alone and then he'd be free to do whatever he wished to him without interruption. He had a feeling Anakin wouldn't protest too much the two of them had a similar way of seeing things, but the others wouldn't be so silent about it and while he had a great fondness for Master Kenobi and great respect mixed with dislike for Master Windu he couldn't care less what they would think of him afterwards, Luminara and Ahsoka however were a different story.
The only two whose opinion would matter to him neither of them would approve of him using fatal force against an injured opponent no matter how dangerous he was, but it had to be done Grievous needs to die. He could only hope that they would be elected to stay on the ship to repel any enemy boarding parties as dim a hope as that sounded he had to pray for it. If he was unlucky enough to engage Grievous alongside either of them his chances of killing the cyborg general would be greatly diminished, neither of them would stand back and let him strike Grievous down which meant they would try to stop him and while he would have no problem forcing his way past anyone else he would never dream or think of raising his hand against Luminara who reminded him so much of his mother or Ahsoka who was the most important part of his life.
He didn't want to think of it, but every foreseeable factor had to be considered if he was to successfully pull this off in order for him to kill Grievous he had to be ready for anything that includes his own side trying to stop him. Forgiveness was part of the Jedi way so after a while Luminara would forgive his decision, but what about Ahsoka. Against everything she was raised to believe and taught she fell for him like he did for her and because of that her opinion of him would be affected even greater than anyone else's would she forgive him if he struck Grievous down, would he be able to live with it if she didn't. The thought of that alone somehow manage to worry him.
He sighed rather loudly and dropped to the ground and crossed his legs and felt his friend's hand on his shoulder, "I'm fine Edge" he said sighing again, "Just starting to get a little tired".
"Just a few more hours and we can call it a day" the clone captain said then he smiled, "So until then suck it up princess".
"Oh you're funny" Leon said shooting him a mock smile which made the clone laugh.
"I have my moments" Edge continued to smile.
After that the young Jedi fell silent again it bothered the clone captain whenever his friend became silent it always meant something was heavy on his mind and more often than not it was something bad or worth worrying about. The last time he was like this they were on Onderon on an infiltration and sabotage mission his silence then was due to his conflicted and panicked emotions over his confession to Ahsoka and there was a time before that as well. It was after Coins died on Ruusan, Leon blamed himself for his death Coins was badly injured and his chances of surviving were low no matter what Leon did what anyone would have done and placed him on a medical evac shuttle. The evac shuttle was shot down by the same goliath they were chasing killing Coins and the other injured clones on board Leon blamed himself he thought if he kept Coins on the ground he would have lived something that wouldn't have happened Coins was just too injured.
Edge was saddened by his brother's death as well the whole team was, but Leon had basically shut himself off from them for a while. From what Edge had seen Leon barely spoke to the other Jedi after Coins died he had even charged headfirst into an enemy battalion he would have joined Coins if Edge hadn't stopped him. They had been through a lot since they met and everything they survived since then has only strengthen their friendship they had complete trust in each other. A bond that could not be severed.
Leon, his friend remained silent Edge decided to leave him be for now and returned to his team to help them prepare for the upcoming mission. The Senators they rescued along with the Delta Team were on a smaller ship on their way back to Coruscant meaning they were out of harm's way marking another victory for them. Standing over his team as they gathered equipment and placed it into their packs and belts he asked how they were looking.
Baron was the first to respond he stood up to face his captain, "Our medical supplies are good we have plenty in case one or two of us takes a hit. We're bringing extra explosives this time around no doubt we'll be needing them, grenades, poppers, triggered charges that sort of thing and we're going to be bringing a rocket launcher as well. As for equipment Boulder and I have finished setting tow cables to our rifles and I've given us extra packs of bacta in our utility belts for more minor wounds".
Edge nodded, "Good let's keep at it within the next hour we'll be done and on our way back to Coruscant" he turned back to glance at Leon and muttered, "Hopefully".
Leon's attitude had become sporadic since he and Ahsoka had been rescued from Korriban, one minute he would be his usual self then he would appear to be extremely exhausted and then he would appear angry like he was now. Edge recalled how badly injured Leon was after they had crash landed on Korriban he and Ahsoka were there for almost three days and while he didn't know the full report of what happened he had a good guess. Ahsoka only had some minor cuts and bruises while Leon had been worked over by something and knowing him that meant he was protecting Ahsoka from something dangerous something even a Jedi had trouble dealing with. Then he remembered the massive wound on his forearm, what looked like a bite mark with puncture wounds and shredded flesh and the wound itself had a purple coloration to it definitely not from the trauma no then it would have been a dark blue color.
Since then Leon's moods have been constantly changing, subtly, but changing.
"Was he infected with something? Is that why he's been acting differently? Maybe some kind of neurotoxin that affects his behavior…He seemed so focused when we were preparing to land on Naboo he was ready for anything and now he's pissed"
The young Jedi's comlink beeped and General Skywalker's voice asked him to return to the bridge even though his friend didn't respond Edge could tell by the look in his eyes that he didn't want to go back to the bridge. Leon wasn't the type to just stand around on the bridge like the other Jedi he preferred to be down with the troops more specifically his team he felt better around them and they felt better when he was around.
"We're ready to go once the green light is given Leon" Edge said after him, "Just be sure to hurry back we'd hate to leave without you".
"If you leave me here with them I'll kill you" Leon called back before vanishing into the elevator.
Edge turned back to his team asking them if they had also noticed the recent change in Leon's personality they all looked up to him and nodded. There had to be a reason he had become like this there was always a reason for everything, Coins' death, his confession to Ahsoka both understandable that he'd become so quiet and distant so what was the reason this time. It couldn't just be because Grievous escaped again he's escaped plenty of times and as much as he hated the cyborg leader of the Seppies, Edge respected him to some extent his ability to keep escaping and fighting despite his injuries were proof that he was a warrior. Leon's mood couldn't just be because Grievous escaped again no there had to be something else was it because the goliath was escaping as well, no his anger was directed at Grievous specifically so was it because Grievous escaped from him then.
Leon didn't like failing even though since he had known him he had only seen the Jedi fail twice well technically three times, but he didn't count the time on Ord Mantell as a failure since they accomplished their mission they didn't even know Count Dooku and General Grievous were there, but it didn't matter. Maybe that was it then Leon didn't like the fact that he wasn't able to completely defeat his opponent. Leon was a fighter he had told Edge about his upbringing on Dantooine how his father and mother would always teach him how to defend himself he had been training to fight to defend and to survive since he was five and when he was eight he was brought to the Jedi Order. Leon's entire life had been spent training and honing his skills into something and to fail at something maybe it just caused him to think his training didn't pay off.
Edge shook his head, no Leon wasn't the kind to think like that he was fully aware of his own prowess and would never under or overestimate himself he was completely capable of defeating Grievous after all he beat him and Count Dooku by himself. So many theories and none of them made sense…except one. Edge's mind was filled with the image of the bite on Leon's arm from some kind of big lizard on Korriban, he didn't know much about poisons and such things, but was it possible for something like that to affect someone's behavior. A poison or neurotoxin affecting his behavior did something like that exist.
The clone captain turned back to his team again, "At ease boys. Take it easy until we get the go ahead I'm going to head up to the bridge and see what our progress is".
"Should we leave without you to if you don't make it back in time?" Boulder asked with a chuckle.
"If you want to" Edge said back to him, "Just don't expect me to try to save your ass if you do".
Boulder and Chip laughed as Baron volunteered to keep them in line until Edge returned. Edge jogged to the bridge not wanting to waste any time in case their window was about to be opened. It had only been ten minutes it was strange any ship would have been able to jump to hyper space by now were the Separatists trying to fight back instead of fleeing or were they…setting a trap, "Dammit".
Picking up his pace Edge hurried to the bridge meeting the Jedi just as they were leaving sliding to a stop on his heels.
"What?" Leon asked in a rushed tone, "What is it now, what did they do now?"
Obviously he was referring to Boulder and Chip assuming they were up to their normal antics, "Nothing Leon I was just coming up to check on our progress".
"Update we're moving out" Leon told him walking past him with his fellow Jedi.
Following after them Edge lagged behind until Ahsoka stepped past him and he lightly tapped her shoulder, "Ahsoka I need to talk to you before we head out" he kept his voice low barely a whisper.
"What is it?" she asked him her round blue eyes staring past his helmet visor as the ship's alarms went off alerting the entire crew to the incoming battle.
"I'm worried about Leon" Edge said in a louder whisper so she could hear him, "He's been acting strangely lately and not in his usual way. I've been trying to figure out what, but I can't think of a reason except that something may have happened when you two were on Korriban".
Ahsoka suddenly stopped and Edge with her she looked up to him again and parted her lips before looking at the floor, "A lot happened on Korriban" she said softly, "He almost died more than once something like that changes the way people behave".
Edge shook his head, "No I think its something different. I was thinking it was maybe that bite he had on his arm" Ahsoka's body twitched at those words, "I could be wrong about this, but it's the only thing that makes sense to me. I think whatever bit him may have poisoned him maybe some kind of neurotoxin that affects his mood or something like that".
"The Hssiss" Ahsoka muttered, "They were used by ancient Sith Lords as guardians they're creatures of the dark side…the archives said they live in the dark side for so long that they're bites can infect their victims with some kind of dark side poison…that would explain why he attacked…" she fell silent as she recalled how Leon briefly attacked her on Korriban at the time she assumed it was due to his fatigued and the stress of being on that world, she never pieced it together that he was suffering from a poison born of the dark side.
She continued walking again and Edge followed the other Jedi were far enough ahead that they could speak without whispering now. She quickly mulled over the possibility that some of the poison may still be in Leon's system couple that with how he refuses to restrain his emotions it was a likely possibility.
"You think so to then?" Edge asked her and she half nodded.
"I don't want to think of it, but if that is the case then we have to do something about it. He's resisted the dark side's temptation before he did while being completely enveloped in it, but if this poison affects his mind it may be different…I want to believe in him, but I don't want to take this kind of chance if it could be harmful to him".
Edge agreed, "I know what you mean I don't want to see anything happen to him either. I think his recent mood change is due to Grievous getting away again he's not showing it, but he's pretty pissed about it. He's keeping himself in check and all that Jedi restraint stuff, but I think we should keep an eye on him. I trust him with my life as do the others, but we don't want him to do something dumb and get himself hurt or worse you know?"
Ahsoka nodded, "I'll keep an eye on him Edge, thank you".
Edge nodded back, "Thanks Ahsoka. As much as Leon and I trust each other there's a chance he may not listen to me, but I know he'll always listen to you I know how important you are to him".
Ahsoka stopped in mid step again, "He told you?" she asked nervously and the clone nodded.
"Don't worry I won't tell anyone neither will the rest of the team we all trust you, both of you".
"Great it's ok if you and Baron know, but Boulder and Chip…" she sighed and Edge patted her shoulder.
"Don't worry about them Leon's already laid down the rules for that topic they know better".
She sighed again and shook her head, "Fair enough".
Arriving back in the hangar they saw Leon standing opposite of the other Jedi and he didn't look happy about something.
"Absolutely not" Leon said to Master Windu as Ahsoka and Edge rejoined them, "Unless my count is off all of you" he pointed at each of the Jedi before him except for Ahsoka, "All of you have faced grievous more times than I have and yet for some reason I seem to be the only one who's not only capable of fighting him, but injuring him. I've beaten him twice once by myself if you remember as well as I do and now that he's in full retreat and frightened of me you want to take me off his trail and put me on the goliath? Absolutely not".
"What's the problem?" Anakin asked him, "I thought you'd love a chance to get back at the goliath for Ruusan".
Leon's hand snapped up and pointed at him, "The goliath will be destroyed today I'm more than capable of doing both in one day, but I'm not going to stand back and let you finish off Grievous after I've done all the work".
"You are skilled Leon" Master Windu said, "But we're trying to capture him and while you have experience fighting him you don't have experience in subduing and capturing high profile targets".
Leon nodded and his tone became sarcastic, "Right because my first mission as a Jedi didn't involve me capturing a powerful crime lord on Coruscant. Same dance different partner I've already proven I can take him on better than any of you".
"This isn't up for discussion you have your orders" Windu told him and Leon's sigh sounded more like a growl.
"Fine" he said resigning his argument, "You better succeed" he turned to Edge and nodded back to the rest of Titan squad, "Let's move out".
Following Leon Edge gave Ahsoka one last glance and a nod before boarding the shuttle with his team.
Ahsoka didn't know why, but she had a strange feeling something was pulling at the back of her mind something was about to happen.
Her master's voice pulled her from her thoughts, "Ahsoka you and Luminara are going to stay here in case the enemy tries boarding the ship while we're gone. Master Windu, Obi-Wan and I are going after Grievous".
Like Leon she didn't like being left out of the action, but she nodded anyway knowing her Master had reasons for wanting her to stay behind plus she liked Master Unduli they've had a good friendship with each other for a while now. Wishing her master luck Ahsoka watched as he left to engage Grievous, but as her eyes moved back to the shuttle Leon had boarded that tugging feeling at her mind had moved to her heart as she watched the shuttle take off. The retreating enemy ships had halted and were firing back in desperate attempts to defend themselves until they could repair their hyper drives, the flagship carrying Grievous and the carrier carrying the goliath, one shuttle per ship was all they were sending hopefully it would be enough.
The two shuttles vanished almost instantly in the darkness of space even with the countless lasers illuminating the area. Ahsoka didn't bother trying to keep track of either shuttle knowing it would be pointless to try to find them again she would have to trust them to be able to handle themselves, but she was worried for Leon the news of his virus hitting him again and the thought that the dark side poison from Korriban might still be in his system made her worry.
"It's not like you to worry so much" Luminara said to her with a gentle smile, "They'll be fine".
Ahsoka forced a smile, but she could push her concern away, "I know…it's just a feeling I have".
"Have faith Ahsoka they'll be back before we know it".
Leon's shuttle practically crashed into the carrier's hangar they had taken a minor hit upon their entry, enough to disable the shuttle, but they still made it inside. A violent force push sent the shuttle door flying off the side of the shuttle and into the line of battle droids approaching it knocking over their ranks as Leon leapt out and began cutting them down. Edge and his men filed out and immediately found cover firing at the droids that began focusing on the Jedi in the middle of their ranks. A single flashing silver light stood out amongst the storm of red laser fire and severed pieces of droids that were flung into the air and then only a minute after the firefight started an explosive wave of energy was released sending the battle droids flying back in all directions.
Edge wasn't sure exactly what he did, but he saw him cut down a droid and then huddle himself over almost like he was crouching. Then in the same second he jumped up his arms extended again and all the clankers were thrown back a booming sound roaring through the air in a fireless explosion. The Force was a powerful thing there was no denying that, but Edge never cared for it give him a rifle with a decent scope and a sidearm and he was happy, but the display was impressive all the same. From what little he heard Leon tell Baron about the Force it was some kind of omnipresent entity that existed in everything and everyone, Baron was the type who like to learn a little about everything mostly just out of curiosity, but he liked to expand his knowledge. The Jedi Order revered the Force believing it to be the thing that guided them and controlled their destinies thankfully Leon didn't agree with that notion instead believing the Force was just some kind of universal presence that some had the ability to manipulate.
After the explosive display of the Force's power Leon had dropped to one knee to catch his breath and Edge and the boys ran over to him Chip and Boulder slapped him on his shoulder and back while Baron knelt in front of him asking if he was feeling alright and the young Jedi nodded. Tenacity and stubbornness were two other traits of his and all the same Edge respected that in a soldier as long as he was still able to discriminate between smart and stupid.
"There's right and wrong and there's smart and dumb" was one of Edge's beliefs as long as a soldier had good sense all was good.
Taking in a deep breath Leon held it stood up and then exhaled, "Alright I'm ok now let's get going the quicker we finish this the quicker I can get to killing Grievous".
"Do you really think you can finish the job here and get over there before the other team is done?" Boulder asked him, "You're good Leon, but you're not that good".
"You do remember what happened the last time someone challenged me right?" he asked Boulder, "Don't make the same mistake I AM that good".
Boulder laughed and so did Chip and Leon finally cracked a smile a halfhearted one, but it was enough. They moved on from the hangar and through the ship their target was the ship's main engine and generators with enough charges set on both it would cause a chain reaction that would destroy the whole ship and the goliath inside it and assuming they finished before the other team they would move on to the flagship to assist Anakin and the others in engaging Grievous.
"And this time he won't get away" Leon's inner voice growled.
He had to force himself to think of something else something that didn't provoke his desire to kill his enemy. It didn't bother him that he was so casual in his thoughts of killing someone even if they did deserve it just felt like something that should bother him and not because it was against Jedi beliefs he really just didn't care what the Jedi Order believed in he had his own beliefs and one of them was enemies who were too dangerous should be executed. He growled in his mind again and shook his head he needed to focus or at least find something to take his mind off killing Grievous that was for later not now.
His mind drifted to the one who haunted his mind more times than he cared to count since they met they had been through a lot and relatively recently what could be considered hell and yet through the good and bad they managed to get closer and closer to one another. He really loved her, the confusion of his feelings toward her had long since vanished and now all he could think of when it came to her was how happy he was just to be around her. When she finally confessed that she cared for him as well he had never been so happy even through the fatigue of their ordeal on Korriban he found the strength to smile and be joyful. There was so much he cared for and so many people he loved, but she was the one that meant everything to him.
He felt himself smile a genuine one and although he smiled just a few hours ago it felt like it had been ages since he last was able to. A rough day, but it would soon be over he trusted the others it was three against one they had a clear advantage over Grievous of course they would succeed even though he wished it was him instead so he could put an end to it. He finally pushed it from his mind not even making it a secondary thought to his current situation he had to focus place his anger aside for now and focus on destroying The Judge and the ship that held it then Coins would be avenged.
"Hold on" Baron called sliding to a stop at a large door.
"What is it?" Edge asked him watching his brother walk over to the door and he read the sign next to it out loud.
"Escape pods…Why would droids need escape pods?"
"Maybe they're finally running out of troops and they're trying to salvage what they can" Chip suggested, "Should we blow them up to so they don't get away".
"No" Leon said, "Our shuttle is damaged, we'll use these to get away" he raised his comlink, "Leon to the Resolute".
"Go ahead General" it was Admiral Yularen, the one person who refused to call him by name no matter how much Leon insisted.
"Our shuttle is damaged we'll be using Separatist escape pods to get out once we're done here".
"Escape pods? On a droid ship?"
"Yeah I'm confused to maybe they stole it or it was originally intended for an organic crew either way it doesn't matter be sure to tell all of our pilots so they don't shoot us".
"Roger that General, bridge out".
Leon sighed loudly and lowered his comlink, "I really don't like titles".
"Really?" Chip chuckled and as if reading his mind Boulder finished his joke, "I'd figure a narcissist like you would love being called General or Master".
The two clones raised their hands and did a half hailing bow and Leon scoffed and shook his head.
"Alright enough stalling let's keep moving" Edge ordered taking point alongside Leon.
Rounding a corner a heavy blaster shot echoed through the air and Leon's arm was on fire. He clenched at his arm out of instinct to massage the pain and he was suddenly grabbed and pulled back behind the corner of the corridor.
"Sniper at the end of the hall" Edge said as he pulled Leon back.
"Dammit" Leon growled through clenched teeth.
He clutched at his arm the searing pain gave him the sensation that his skin was melting or boiling.
Baron knelt next to him as Edge and Boulder stood guard at the edge of the corner, "Move your hand let me see" the medic told the Jedi.
All of Edge's senses were focused on making sure the sniper or any other troops didn't come any closer Chip had the rear covered for now, but they were in a very vulnerable spot with no way out if they were attacked from both sides. He could just barely hear the voice of the droid at the end of the hall behind him he only heard a few words between Baron and Leon.
"Grazed, bacta and fine".
He was able to piece together the rest of the short conversation their friend would be fine, but they needed to move, now.
"We have to keep moving" he said and the Jedi jumped back to his feet his silver lightsaber flaring to life as he did.
"Payback time" he seethed jumping around the corner another heavy blaster shot deafened the hall and his lightsaber flashed in front of him.
The silver light illuminated his face for a fraction of a second and then his hand was extended and he jerked it back as if he was pulling on something and the droid at the end of the hall was flying toward him being cut down in mid air. Edge watched his friend kick the head of the halved droid loudly boasting his victory over it his voice carrying through the hall more than he should have let it.
"What" Leon yelled as he kicked the droid, "What now you pile of scrap" he kicked it again, "Think you can shoot at me and get away with it?"
Edge grabbed his arm, "Alright Leon playtime's over we got clankers incoming".
The sound of heavy marching was coming from the hall behind them a squad of at least twelve by the sound of it. Edge watched Leon kick the droid one last time before taking point by himself this time and led them to the reactor room. Something wasn't right there was no way this ship was originally meant for droids no the escape pods and now a medical bay this was definitely a ship originally meant for organics as its crew.
"First escape pods and now an infirmary?" Boulder muttered, "Either the clankers have suddenly developed a way to feel pain or they stole this ship from somewhere".
"Or they commissioned it from a Separatist aligned system" Baron said which sounded like a more likely scenario.
Leon switched on his comlink again, "Admiral Yularen I want you to scan this carrier as best you can and find out anything you can about something definitely isn't right here".
"I'm already ahead of you on that General after your first communication I had a hunch something was out of place so I started a scan of the ship and I have some of my men searching for Intel on it. We should know more within a few minutes".
"Very good Admiral I see once again that your rank is well earned".
Lowering his comlink he looked to his team, "Something definitely isn't right about this ship. If it was meant for organics then why would the Separatists be using it its not like they couldn't build their own carrier for the goliath".
"Unless they were running out of resources" Baron pointed out, "Unfortunately I don't think we're that lucky".
"Is it that important to know?" Chip asked, "Every other Seppie ship we've been on they've had life support so the escape pods and medical bay may be a little out of place and unusual, but does it really matter right now?"
Normally it wouldn't matter, but something didn't feel right about it something in Leon's and Edge's gut said this carrier was suspicious. They didn't have time for suspicion however their time was running out and the droids knew they were on the ship somewhere they had to keep moving. The generator room should only be a few more halls away and from there they move on to the main engines each of them including Leon were carrying enough charges to destroy each of their targets, but they wanted to make sure the goliath went down with it they wanted to make sure there was nothing short of tiny pieces the Separatists could salvage of the weapon they called The Judge.
"So we plant the charges and head back to the escape pods and get the hell out of here right?" Boulder asked.
His inquiry was more for his need to always talk rather than double checking their mission, but Edge confirmed it all the same. He didn't much care for small talk during a mission, but it seemed to keep Boulder focused and kept Chip from losing his mind so he put up with it.
"About time" Chip said as they entered the reactor chamber, "Now I can finally blow something up".
"General Solstice" Admiral Yularen's panicked voice yelled from Leon's comlink.
"What is it Admiral?"
"Our scanners indicate the carrier's hyper drive is almost operation again we must not have damaged it as much as we thought you have to hurry or they'll jump with you still on board".
"How much time do we have?" Edge asked.
"We're monitoring their communications as best we can tell you have less than ten minutes General Skywalker's team also reports that Grievous is not on the flagship he must have fled when they were detected".
"He got away again?" Leon was forcing himself to remain calm after that news, "That's twice in one day Admiral I don't like that".
"Apologies General we're still trying to determine if he fled in a personal craft or if he's on a different ship we'll alert you and General Skywalker once we find out until then you must with your mission. I'll have a squadron ready to retrieve the escape pods you use when you're finished unless you've found another way out".
"No that part of the plan is the same we'll be using escape pods to make our exit. We're at the reactor now we'll be moving on to the main engines shortly".
"I advise you double time it General" Yularen told him, "We've also discovered the origins of the craft you're using. It was originally intended for organics it is manufactured by a Mandalorian company more thorough scans hint that it may have been used by Death Watch in the past".
"Death Watch?" Leon whispered back, "How the hell did the Separatists get a hold of a ship used by Death Watch?"
"Unknown sir, but it doesn't matter at this point you must destroy it and fast".
"Understood Admiral. Titan squad out".
Leon looked to his squad and then to the reactor core and then to a catwalk that would lead them to the main engines, less than ten minutes…could they make that?
"You heard the Admiral" Chip said, "We got less than ten minutes so let's get started".
"No" Leon said, "We split up Edge and I will take out the main engines you three stay here and get the reactor".
"Is that wise Leon?" Baron asked, "I know we're short on time, but should we really divide our forces right now?"
"I don't want to risk it" Leon said, "We take out both targets and this entire thing turns into a very brief new star for this sector, but if we only take out one we accomplish nothing. We're splitting up once you're done get to the escape pods and get out don't wait up for us no matter what you leave once you get there".
Baron tried to protest, but Leon stopped him, "Baron we don't have time just do it".
The clone medic didn't like the idea he didn't want them to split up, but he nodded and turned back to Boulder and Chip, "Alright you heard him let's get to work. Boulder stand guard while Chip and I set the charges".
Leon turned to Edge and the clone nodded to him, "Let's go".
The clone captain fired a cable launcher attached to the under barrel of his rifle while the Jedi used the Force to aid his jump. Climbing onto the catwalks they began running the droids most likely knew what their intentions were on their ship, but they hadn't seen any since the hangar save for the one sniper in the hall that could only mean they were setting up an ambush somewhere.
"Well I'd hate to disappoint them" Leon smugly grinned in his head.
Eight minutes left and they arrived at the main engine room they would have plenty of time to set their charges prime them and get back to the escape pods. They split up again each taking one side of the engines a dozen charges each the walls would probably be torn apart with this many set to go off. Once done they regrouped all the charges from both teams were on a synched timer and a backup manual detonator in seven minutes the entire carrier and hopefully The Judge would cease to exist.
Edge slapped Leon on the shoulder and chuckled, "Alright what say we beat them back to the escape pods we make them buy us a drink?"
Leon grinned, "I'm not really old enough yet, but what the Order don't know won't hurt them".
Edge laughed as they took their first steps out of the engine room and into the main hall and then they were both grabbed and slammed into opposite walls. Edge felt something hard close around his throat and he felt something press against his abdomen looking up he saw the same happening to Leon something was holding him by the throat against the wall and something invisible made an indentation in his abdomen and two blaster shots went off at the same time.
He heard voices, mechanical ones and something was pulling at him from the collar of his armor a dull pain in his abdomen nothing lethal by the feel of it, but definitely enough to knock him out. Whatever was pulling him was strong he could tell just by the feel he was being dragged by one arm. He opened his eyes and turned his head Leon was being dragged right next to him unconscious and a ring of scorched skin at the left center of his abdomen just above his waist. Leon always wore the same sleeveless jacket with nothing under it leaving himself exposed and at such a close range that kind of blaster shot should have killed him thankfully he could see his chest slowly rise and then fall just as slowly he was still breathing, but for how long.
"Grievous wants the Jedi alive the clone means nothing" one of the mechanical voices said they were right behind him they must be the ones dragging them.
"And what of the charges they set?"
"They're being gathered and disarmed not even a remote detonator can set them off now. They only way for them to go off is for one of them to come back and trigger them directly".
"What about the other clones?" the other one asked.
"The other clones got away, but they're of no consequence".
Edge felt a small wave of relief the rest of the team managed to escape in time, but how much time did he and Leon have and how would they escape their captors.
"The hyper drive will be ready in five minutes once its repaired we'll jump to hyper space and deliver the Jedi to General Grievous and execute the clone".
"Five minutes" Edge thought just five minutes and they were done he moved his eyes again just enough to see Leon who was still out, but still breathing he was on his own for right now.
Slowly and silently he reached down to his belt reaching for his grenades and pulled out a droid popper. Moving his hand behind his back Edge primed the grenade and threw it behind him and in front of the droids dragging them as he heard the grenade clank and roll across the floor they suddenly stopped and then a screeching sound rang in his ears and then his captors released him and Leon before falling to the floor.
Edge was filled with adrenaline allowing him to ignore the pain in his stomach he jumped up turned around and quickly grabbed a rifle from one of the downed droids stepping back in case they got back up, they didn't.
Two spectre droids, he hated spectre droids. A droid that had the ability to turn invisible, extend its arms to up to ten feet, an almost blank, soulless face and the ability to see everything in slow motion and armor plating strong enough to withstand point blank grenade explosions. Spectre droids were a nightmare in droid form and just like his Jedi friend he hated their very existence.
Once sure the droids were completely disabled he dropped down next to Leon and shook his shoulder trying to wake him whispering his name to not alert any other enemies that might be nearby. Leon stirred a little his eyes opened, but immediately closed again two, three, four times they fluttered open and shut he tried to say something, but it was only a mumble an unintelligible word. He shook him again and called his name a little louder not daring to say it any louder and finally he got a response.
Leon's eyes opened slowly and didn't close again, but he finally became aware of his pain and immediately hunched over wrapping his arms around his side screaming for a half second before clenching his teeth and trying to hold back his cries of pain. He began breathing heavily and he turned onto his good side one arm holding him up the other still wrapped around his side his body looked like it was convulsing his back arched up and settled. He was fighting back the pain, but he could barely move his body was probably still a little numb from the trauma Edge lifted one of his arms and placed it around his shoulder swearing to drag the Jedi if he had to, but once he stood him up Leon pushed away from him and stood on his own with the help of the wall.
"I'm fine" he panted.
"The mission is a bust we need to get out of here" Edge told him.
Leon nodded their mission was dead the charges were discovered and being disarmed and with no way to trigger them remotely they had no choice, but to flee. Thankfully Leon agreed forgetting their mission and focusing on their survival was more important now and they began making their way back to the escape pods.
Leon stumbled several times and vomited at one point he was clearly disoriented not walking a straight line even when using the wall for support. Tripping over his own feet and asking Edge to read the corridor signs to him he must have taken a hit to the head at some point maybe when the spectre droid slammed him against the wall. As best as he could guess it was a minor concussion, but he had no way of knowing for sure he lacked medical knowledge and they couldn't spare the time to actually check for basic symptoms.
Edge kept him as straight as he could as he was now he would be useless in a fight which meant they would have to avoid enemy patrols. With luck though their path would remain clear and the enemy wouldn't learn of their escape until they were gone or at the very least until they arrived at the escape pods. Their luck wouldn't hold up the droids were already blocking off the quickest route. At least two dozens stuffed into the hall waiting for them they weren't going to get through this they had to go around, but did they have time.
"Set me down Edge" Leon told him panting with shallow breath, "I have a plan just set me down".
He didn't ask why or what he did as he was asked and set his friend down and kneeled next to him waiting for him to speak.
Leon inhaled a hollow breath and Edge could tell he was in a lot of pain as he did, "Give me a grenade a droid popper".
"Only have two left" Edge told him handing him one.
"We'll only need this one" he panted before clenching his teeth and pushing himself up from the wall.
He leaned against the wall right at the corner and raised his hand as far as he could not even reaching shoulder level before the pain became almost too much for him. Locking his jaw he opened his hand and closed his eyes the Force became his arm levitating the grenade into the air and slinging it around the corner sending it high at first arcing it just enough for it to land somewhere near the middle of the droid group. They heard the grenade impact against something and then one of the droids spoke.
"Hey what was that for?"
"What do you mean?"
"Don't play dumb with me I know you hit me in the back of the head"
"Why would I do that?"
A dull screeching sound echoed through the tight hall the EMP grenade had gone off frying the droids in its blast radius eliminating them.
"Nice one Leon" Edge said helping him back up shouldering him once again, "Alright just a little farther and we're home free".
Leon moved his arm across his body to the spot where he was shot it still hurt just touching it made him want to curl up from the pain.
"This is nothing" he tried to tell himself, "What I went through on Korriban makes this look like a walk in the park".
"Oh shi" Edge suddenly yelled, but whatever it was Leon didn't hear. His yell was suddenly cut off by a deafening blast and suddenly Leon was in even more pain.
He felt himself slam into something flat and hard whether it was a wall or the floor he couldn't tell, but he knew he landed on his shoulder. The blaster shot became insignificant to him now his shoulder was now his target his opposite hand clutching at it as he rolled off of it onto his back and then his other side and yelled, sharp, tortured cry of agony. His fingers hooked into claws as they dug at his shoulder causing even more pain, but he couldn't let go he pressed on it as if it would relieve the pain somehow. As he rocked back and forth on his uninjured shoulder fighting against the pain of his likely broken joint he felt something kick in his mind, something was about to happen and he needed to act.
The pain in his shoulder became a forced secondary concern a sense of primal fury and fear overcame him. He shot up from the floor his arm outstretched and there was a super battle droid against the wall its arms and legs out spread eagle style, it dropped from the wall landing on its feet its knees bent slightly as it stared at the panting Jedi it raised its arm, but the blasters in its wrist would not have time to fire. The Jedi roared pulling his hand back and thrusting it forward again and the air in the corridor rumbled as if a thunderstorm was forming and the droid was slammed into the wall two, three times and as it bounced off and fell a stream of lightning shot from the Jedi's palm sending it back into the wall a fourth time. The electricity surged through the droid's systems frying it and eventually tore it apart from the inside out.
He was growling more than he was gasping for air after he destroyed the droid. He was on one knee not risking any more movement than he already had, the pain in his shoulder and abdomen returned and his entire body felt numb, but the worst part was his stomach. He felt sick like everything inside of him was mixing together in some terrible brew of bodily fluids that he would eventually reject. The sick feeling quickly rose from his stomach accompanied by a bubbling feeling that made him gag before it even reached his throat and then he dropped he fell forward catching himself as his stomach forcefully emptied itself.
He felt a trembling hand on his arm and he turned to look he saw burned white armor and he immediately lurched forward again vomiting a second time. The taste lingered in his mouth it was beyond awful or terrible and the worst part was it made him feel like throwing up even more, but thankfully he finally gained control of himself. Pushing himself up and falling back a little he gasped for air his head felt like it was splitting open and his injured shoulder was still burning, but his arm had gone numb.
"Leon" a weak voice said behind him and he remembered the trembling hand on his shoulder.
"Edge" he gasped jumping in a half turn laying his eyes on the mangled armor of his friend.
The grenade must have gone off directly in front of him, before it even hit the ground Edge's armor was torn apart ripped and scorched and there were traces of blood soaking through the under layer of his armor.
"Edge stay with me" Leon panted reaching for him, "We're almost out alright we're going to be fine".
Still trying to catch his breath Leon struggled to speak as he forced himself to stand and helped Edge up. Both of them one step short of fatally injured they could not wait any longer they needed medical attention now. Opening the door to the escape pod bay Leon stumbled a little as he helped Edge walk they had to support each other both of them too weak and wounded to walk on their own, but it was about to be over.
"Alright here we go" Leon panted gently setting Edge down against the wall and limping over to a control console to activate the escape pods.
After prepping the nearest pod he raised his comlink and contacted the Resolute again, "General Solstice to the Resolute" he was fading fast, he was slurring his words and his vision was beginning to blur.
"General where are you?" Admiral Yularen yelled in a panic, "The carrier's hyper drive is almost repaired why haven't you left yet?"
"We were held up by the enemy" Leon replied struggling to keep his words sensible, "Edge needs emergency medical attention have a medical team on stand by and send someone to pick up our pod hurry".
"Alright now hurry or you won't have time to get out you have less than two minutes".
His arm dropped dangling at his side and he tried to turn around, but stumbled back falling against the wall. He turned managing to catch himself and he looked down to Edge and held out his good arm to help him up.
"Alright let's get out of here".
Edge tilted his head back the lower left corner of his helmet was gone, "Just go" he exhaled his words as weak as his breath.
"Not a chance" Leon said grabbing his arm and pulling him up with what little strength he had left, "We're both getting out of here".
"I'm not going to make it I'll bleed to death before we even get picked up"
Edge was dizzy as Leon pulled him to his feet and walked him to the escape pod and as the door opened Leon's comlink beeped.
"This is General Windu…Grievous escaped General Skywalker is injured I need a medical team ready for when we land".
Grievous escaped again…twice in less than a few hours and now The Judge was going to get away to. They saved Naboo, but there was no victory today at least it didn't feel like one no they had lost, they failed to capture Grievous twice and now they failed to destroy the goliath they didn't even have a chance to set off the charges they set.
"The charges" Edge yelled in his head, "They can still be set off. The reactor is only one block away if I can get back to them I can trigger them directly and send this entire ship and everything on it to hell".
Leon swore under his breath his fatigue and exhaustion echoing in his tone he was in just as bad a shape as Edge, but he would survive his injuries long enough to get help Edge's were fatal he had already lost too much blood. He could feel the shrapnel in his stomach tear into him every time his body moved shredding him more and more from the inside.
"I'm going to die anyway I might as well make something out of it".
"Alright here we go" Leon said as the pod door fully opened.
Stepping forward Leon pulled Edge with him, but the wounded clone planted his feet and pulled back, surprised Leon stopped and looked back at him. It was only a second a single second and Edge pulled back again pulling his arm away from Leon's and then he stepped forward pushing the young Jedi, his friend, his brother into the escape pod. Leon landed on his back and coughed more pain shooting through every nerve in him, but a loud hissing sound force him to ignore them. Opening his eyes he saw the pod door closing and he jumped up and right as he reached the door it closed sealing tight.
"No" he yelled slamming his fist on the small window just big enough to frame his face, "Edge! No don't do this! Open the door!"
Edge raised his hand toward the console that controlled the pod and Leon yelled again, "Dammit listen to me" he slammed his fist against the window again, "We can both still make it out. There's still time".
Edge stepped away from the window and began activating the pod's launch sequence.
"What are you doing?" Leon yelled, "No, Edge don't! You can still make it out!" Edge ignored him and Leon began banging his fist harder and harder on the window, "Goddammit Edge" the lights inside and outside the pod door turned red as Edge pushed a lever up and turned it to the side.
"No!" Leon yelled again as Edge stepped back in front of the door, "Edge! Open the goddamn door that's an order !"
Edge raised his rifle and saluted Leon as the airlock around the pod began hissing, "It's been an honor and a pleasure Leon".
Leon felt something pierce him, right through his chest something had stabbed into him and suddenly he couldn't breathe anymore. He stood there silently shaking his head and it wasn't until Edge lowered his salute and grabbed his rifle that he was able to speak again.
"No" he gasped, "Not like this, you can still make it out".
The locks were released and the pod was shot out into space Leon's final scream echoing briefly as he called Edge's name one final time.
The airlock closed behind the escape pod and Edge removed his helmet the left corner of his jaw was cut up from the grenade and his vision was half blurred, but he had regained his balance enough to move on his own. It wasn't adrenaline at this point it was determination, purpose, the sheer desire to see his final mission through. He dropped his helmet and took a single step forward before breaking into a run and he could hear Leon's voice again from his helmet lying motionless on the floor behind him calling to him crying and begging for him to get out.
Edge whispered an apology to himself as he sprinted through the hall less than a minute remained even if the ship jumped to hyperspace he wouldn't stop until he set off the charges and put an end to this. Kicking open the door to the reactor room his rifle already raised he unloaded on the droids in front of him dropping one after another before they could even reach for their own weapons. The last droid went down and he ran forward again sliding down to his knees and grabbing the charges setting them against the reactor again and then stepping back he fired the cable launcher on his rifle to the catwalk and ascended again. Turning toward the engine room he pulled his last frag grenade and tossed it to the floor below right next to the reactor.
Just as he closed the door behind him the grenade went off setting off the charges in a long chain that caused the entire carrier to rock and more explosions were going off no doubt the reactor had been destroyed. He bolted again his body weak and begging for him to stop, but his mind wouldn't allow it he pressed on pushing himself until he reentered the engine room and the droids were still collecting the charges from here as well. Just like before he open fired on them destroying each of them and reclaiming the explosives as another chain of explosions shook the ship around him.
Setting the final charge back on the main turbine he stepped back and took aim at the center charge, but something knocked his rifle away from him. He turned and something hit him sending him to the floor he turned onto his side and rolled jumping back to his feet to see another spectre droid and a pair of magna guards preparing to surround him.
He grinned at them, "So this is how it's going to be huh?" he asked, "Why not".
He waited for the first magna guard to lunge forward its electrostaff jabbing toward him and he sidestepped it grabbing the weapon and pulling back and swinging his arm out slamming it across the droid's head. The droid curled from the blow the sheer power behind it giving Edge enough time to pull the weapon from its arms and then jab it forward again impaling it partway into the droid's chest and kicking it to the floor before pulling it out and turning it toward the other two.
He risked a look at the charges and saw that the timer on one of them was still ticking, a minute and a half and it would go off, but if he died before then there was still a chance it could be disarmed no he needed to set it off himself to be sure.
Looking back to the other two droids, the magna guard and the spectre he pointed the electrostaff at them, "Who's next?"
The spectre took a small jump forward and swung with its arm which extended in mid swing and Edge ducked under it raising the staff vertically and twisting it catching the droid's arm, but the other magna guard lunged forward and jabbed him with its staff shocking him and causing him to drop his weapon before he fell to his knees. The magna guard reared back and jabbed him again with its staff and Edge clenched his teeth as he screamed before falling to the floor his armor was smoking and his body was becoming numb as he felt colder and colder. He moved his arms sliding them up even with his shoulders moving one under his stomach and the other being used to push himself up.
The magna guard kicked him knocking him back toward his rifle and he made one last desperate crawl toward it. He had it less than an inch away his fingertip was resting on it he pulled it toward him and took it into his hand, but before he could aim the spectre's extended arm snatched it away and shot him. Out of instinct he curled up into a ball the shot that would have hit his head hit his shoulder instead the close range blast causing a lot of pain, but he still wasn't done yet. He reached down to his hip quickly drawing his sidearm and fired wildly in the direction of the two droids.
He wasn't sure if he hit either of them, but that wasn't important firing at them was only a distraction as he reached into his belt pouch again and retrieved his last droid popper. Priming the grenade and lunged up and chucked the grenade chucking it at the two droids caught in the EMP's blast radius he felt the near paralyzing jolt of the grenade's electricity course through him, but he managed to smile as the two droids dropped to the floor.
There was no doubt that the carrier had already jumped to hyperspace, but it didn't matter the reactor was trashed beyond repair there was no salvaging it. Even if another ship entered hyperspace it's impossible to stop alongside another ship and board it, but they could still attach tow cables and tug the thing. Slowly he crawled toward the disabled droids grabbing his rifle he rolled over onto his back and took aim at the center charge hearing the voices of his team and Leon's one last time.
He chuckled as a trickle of blood flowed from the corners of his mouth and he pulled the trigger the plasma bolt shot forward impacting the center charge and then everything stopped for him the last thought in his mind, "I leave it all to you now kid".