Return Home part 2
You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war - Napoleon Bonaparte
Slowly he turned around to look at her and she tried her best to smile, it had only been a few months and yet it felt like years, decades even. Too long of a time since he had last seen her long enough that when he locked his eyes on her serene smile he could feel tears forming in his eyes.
He took a single step forward and reached out with his hand to touch her as her name formed in his mouth…
Leon sat quietly in his quarters at the edge of his bed, the lights off as his leg bounced up and down in desperate anxiety and anticipation for their arrival. The battle against the final goliath was at hand, but it was on Dantooine, his home world. He had been in his quarters since take off from Coruscant alone in the dark with just his thoughts adding to his already tense mood. His heel had occasionally tapped the ground as his leg danced slapping down and sending an echo through the dark room one he didn't hear no matter how many times it happened. His thoughts were scattered, but focused jumping from one scenario to the next his mind was completely entrapped by the upcoming battle and what could happen with each scenario he painted for himself.
He played out battles again and again in his head going through enough variables to give mathematicians headaches and no matter how many battle plans he went through he continued to poke holes in his own plans and try to patch them up, his anxiety rapidly building with each flaw he found. His leg continued twitching and bouncing the muscles in his upper thigh becoming sore from the repetitive motion, but he was too absorbed in his own thoughts to notice.
He had taken everything he could think of into account and planned around everything only to find hole after hole in each plan analyzing everything to a tee only to discard it and start again. He was cunning and for his age he had shown surprising intelligence and situational awareness, but he wasn't a strategist or a tactician not that it would help under the circumstances. He should be calmer really the mission is practically a guaranteed victory considering everything they were bringing to the fight.
In addition to himself and his own personal clone squadron, the entirety of Torrent Company and the 212th Attack Battalion had been dispatched along with nine AT-TE walkers and three mobile heavy artillery cannons and that was just the clone forces, Ahsoka, Anakin and Obi-Wan had also been set out and even then that wasn't the end of their forces. After everything Liliana had revealed to them about the final goliath no one was going to take any chances this time, in a rare agreement between the Jedi Council and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine this was going to be one of the largest deployments in the way's brief history. There were eight hundred and four clone troopers and four Jedi on the Resolute alone in total their forces consisted of two thousand six hundred and sixty six clones and eight Jedi including Masters Windu and Yoda.
With a counter force like this it would be impossible for them to lose, but the power of the final goliath had yet to be witnessed and with the ability to sink two cruisers at once while they were still in orbit suddenly their numbers didn't seem to mean much.
Leon had avoided talking to anyone since they left Coruscant, including Ahsoka he immediately retired to his room without a word to anyone. And he remained there sitting alone in the dark trapped in his own thoughts and had lost all sense of time. At first he wondered why the Separatists would attack Dantooine a third time let alone send a goliath to do it, but that didn't matter to him he didn't care why all he cared about was repelling them. That's when he began thinking running scenario after scenario through his head going through battle plans as sure as he was that his fellow Jedi were doing the same he however was planning for his own actions.
"There's no such thing as the perfect plan" the voice in his head said, "Every plan has a flaw somewhere in its design".
"That doesn't mean I can't fix it" he argued against himself, "I have to try at the very least".
He shook his head and a frustrated yell poured from his throat before he could stop it. He leaned forward bracing his elbows against his knees and interlocking his fingers together as he rested his chin against them, his leg still jumping as he tried to think. He was thinking about too many things at once that was his problem he just needed to narrow his focus try coming up with one thing at a time and build from there. Lead in with a fighter squadron have them distract the goliath and then have a bomber come in with the electro-proton bomb and drop it close enough to disable the goliath or at the very least its shield generators.
"But what if it shoots down the bomber? Or even the bomb before it hits? Liliana said it has a pinpoint precision aiming system".
"Dammit shut up, there has to be a way".
"Leon?" a knock came from his door ripping him from his thoughts.
"What?" he yelled catching himself too late.
He clenched his fist and bit his lip trying to calm himself he didn't mean to snap like that he really didn't. The door opened and cautiously Ahsoka stepped in eyeing him with concern as he tried to bury his face in one hand.
"You ok?" she asked closing the door and moving to sit next to him.
He sighed and shook his head, "No…Every plan I think of I immediately ball up and toss to the side".
"Is that what you've been doing?" she asked him almost sounding angry, "Leon you know you don't have to be doing that alone we're all up there trying to come up with a strategy and we're looking at all possible options even your opinion would mean something on this one".
He shook his head again, "Like their plans matter to me. I'm here trying to figure out what I'm going to do on my own".
Her eyes snapped up and locked onto his, "By yourself?"
He shook his head again, "No not by myself, not entirely" he stood up and started pacing, "I'm trying to determine the best way for me to do my own thing once we're there. I need to come up with a way to handle the goliath myself".
She jumped up and stopped him, "Leon I already told you, you don't have to do everything alone. We're all allies out here and we help each other".
He backed away from her still shaking his head, "Its not that easy the last time we went up against one of these things Edge died and the time before that we lost over a hundred men in one day and let's not forget the first time we ran into the goliaths Coins and thousands of soldiers all died" he turned away and sat at the edge of his bed again, "I just want a way to do this without losing anyone".
"You know that's possible" she sat next to him again her voice calming, "Leon people are going to die no matter how hard we try, but we fight so we can save as many as possible. I don't like it anymore than you do, but that's how it goes there's no way to save everyone".
Again he just shook his head and finally his voice began shaking, "After Coins died, I swore that I would never allow anyone else close to me to die as well…I honestly thought I could pull it off that I could get us through this entire war without letting anyone else close to me die" he shook his head again, "I'm an idiot thinking I could carry an entire war I can't even go into a fight without almost dying from a stupid bug".
His voice wheezed for a second like he was fighting back a cough.
She grabbed his hand wrapping her fingers around his palm, "Leon I know how you feel believe me I do. Before I met you I was leading a strike force on a mission and lost half my squad because I had made a bad decision and because of it I almost got Admiral Yularen killed as well. It was because of Rex, Anakin and Admiral Yularen's encouragement that I was able to keep going. So I know what it feels like".
She raised his hand and cupped it between both of hers, "And I know you" she said with a gentle smile, "You're too passionate for your own good, but that's what makes you so incredible and reliable. Just like a Jedi you refuse to abandon anyone you can help and you are always the first one to lead the charge against the enemy. There's so much about you so many things that make you an amazing person so don't think for a second that you're too weak to do something because you've proven time and again that you're the opposite" she smiled again, "You even managed to get to me remember?"
The night he finally confessed to her flashed through his mind along with the night she confessed back to him. The first night he was able to breathe easy around her because she returned his feelings. He turned his hand in hers grabbing her hand as he freed his and stared into her eyes before falling back onto his bed pulling her with him.
A surprised yelp escaped her lips as she was yanked down on top of him, but she continued to smile at him as she laid on top of him, "You see?" she asked running her free hand down the side of his face.
"I love you Ahsoka" he whispered, "That's why I'm so dead set on coming up with a flawless plan. I don't want anything to happen to you" he reached up and cradled her cheek as well, "If I ever lost you".
"You won't" she said gently taking the hand that massaged her cheek and holding it there as she leaned in closer to him, "Because I know if I ever got in over my head either you or Anakin would be there to help me" she smiled again, softer this time, "The only difference is you would probably tear your way through whatever was between us".
"In the most gentlemanly and Jedi way possible" he said finally smiling back to her.
They both fell into silence as they laid there different thoughts going through each of their heads as they just gazed into one another's eyes.
After what must have been a few minutes he smiled again a look of nostalgia filling his eyes, "I just realized something" he said in a whisper.
She tilted her head a little, "And what would that be?" she asked him almost playfully.
"This is where I realized how I felt about you".
She pushed up a little still looking into his eyes as he smiled at her the nostalgic look changing to a mix between love and sadness.
"After we lost the battle for Ruusan remember?" he asked her, "You were here to try and cheer me up just like today and you tripped when I fell landing on top of me".
"I never noticed how beautiful you are until just now".
Those words played in her mind, she remembered that night. The way he held her when she fell on top of him the look in his eyes that stopped her heart and stole her breath, it was that night she was sure he was falling in love with her.
"We were laying here just like this" his hand glided up her arm and over her shoulder snaking its way back and running down the center of her back making her shiver a little, "This is where I realized that I loved you".
She shivered from his hand running down her back, her back arching a little, but she smiled at him when she settled, "The difference is" she began leaning down until she was completely laying on top of him, "This time I won't run off".
His other arm moved wrapping around her and running down her back stopping at her narrow hips and she shivered again at his touch. Lying there like this she felt better mostly because she knew he was feeling better as well. He was happy just to be close to her to hold her like this something he had wanted to do for so long. She wanted to stay here with him for his sake more than her own comfort as much as she was enjoying the moment as well, but the others knew she had come to talk to him and it was only a matter of time before they came looking for them.
She was reluctant to, but she broke away from his embrace sliding up to her knees standing over him as he smirked at her, "Go ahead and say it" she pretended to moan rolling her eyes.
"Not this time" he said waiting for her to move before he sat up as well, "As much as I want to" his smile faded, "I guess it's too much to ask for to just have an hour alone with you".
She blushed and looked down at the floor, "It would be nice, but we should go up to the bridge before they come looking for us".
"Ahsoka" he stood up with her, "I know I don't have to say this, but…Promise me you'll be careful when we get there. I love you more than anything else and if…"
His voice feel silent as she reached out grabbing his shoulders and pulling him toward her holding his chin against her shoulder.
"I won't bother trying to tell you not to worry about me" she said rocking a little to the sides, "But I'll be alright and you just be sure to take care of yourself as well".
She let go of him and led him out of the room and back to the bridge rejoining her master along with Obi-Wan, Admiral Yularen and Captain Rex. Two holograms were being displayed in the center terminal one showing Masters Yoda and Windu and the other showing Masters Luminara and Plo Koon.
"Nice of you to finally join us Leon" Master Windu said upon seeing his former padawan.
"I wanted to rest for a bit before we arrived" Leon told him a half truth at best, "How long until we arrive?"
"Not long" Anakin told him, "Good news we have a plan, bad news aside from the goliath we have no idea what else is going to be there waiting for us".
"Please tell me we have a plan" Leon sighed, "A good one".
Anakin laughed at him, "Since when do I not have a plan?"
"Plans in general all the time" Leon said leaning against the wall, "Good plans, different story".
Anakin turned on him and feigned offense, "Now hold on my ideas have a…above average rate of success".
Ahsoka chimed in, "Is this before or after you improvise your way around the failure of the original plan?"
"Can we please focus?" Obi-Wan sighed, "As much as I usually enjoy your near suicidal plans Anakin we don't have much time".
Anakin turned to his old master, "Right, I'll be leading a team of fighters in to distract the goliath along the way we'll also be trying to clear out as many enemy forces as we can. We're not going to engage the goliath its too dangerous to get close to so we'll also be keeping our distance as we fire at it. Our goal is to draw its attention away from the ground forces and the bomber we'll be sending in to drop the electro-proton bomb".
"What that thing's blast radius?" Leon asked, "We need to drop it far enough that the bomber can evade if it gets shot at, but obviously close enough for the bomb to be effective".
Anakin nodded, "Exactly, the bomber will be coming from a higher altitude to drop the bomb right on top of the thing from enough altitude to give the pilots time to pull out. Once the bomb goes off and the goliath's shields are down Obi-Wan, Masters Windu, Plo Koon and Yoda will go in via drop ship and land on the goliath's back or close enough to scale it from there they'll make their way to its shoulders and cut their way to the shield generators that way even if the goliath somehow comes back online before we destroy it its shields will be down and then we pummel it with artillery and if we can get our troops out of the way bomb it from orbit".
"Exactly the kind of plan I was expecting" Leon hummed, "So what's my role in all this then? To sit back with Luminara and Ahsoka to engage the enemy forces on the ground?"
Master Windu cut in "Depending on the situation when we arrive we'll assign you and your team to a position before we land".
"So I'm going to be the jack of all trades again?" Leon asked before shrugging, "Alright".
Admiral Yularen turned to them, "We'll be dropping out of hyperspace in a few minutes General, I suggest you head to the hangar at once and prepare to launch the second we arrive".
Anakin nodded, "Very well Admiral as always I leave the ship in your capable hands".
"General" Yularen saluted before turning to give orders to the bridge crew.
The Jedi made their way to the hangar the soldiers in the hangar receiving the last of their orders as they arrived and made their way to their respective crafts. Leon immediately ran over to his team making sure the three of them were ready.
Baron, usually the quiet one shouldered his rifle and for the first time spoke with a commanding tone, "Lock and loaded Leon, let's give 'em hell".
His new tone surprised him Baron was always the quiet, collected and precise type just like Edge just minus the commanding tone. Leon grinned and nodded at the three clones before loading up with them in their shuttle taking a rifle of his own with him.
"Oh no" Boulder said seeing Leon take the rifle, "The clankers are finished now. Leon's got himself a man's weapon".
Leon's head snapped to the side and tilted as he stared at Boulder and dropped his rifle, "What was that Boulder?" he asked stepping over to him and cracking his knuckles, "You want to see a man's weapon?"
Boulder held up his hands and stepped back into the corner, "I love you Leon, but I don't want to have to hurt you before the mission starts".
"Alright you two that's enough" Baron told them, "Let's save the wrestling for after the mission".
"Are you giving me orders Baron?" Leon asked turning his attention to the squad's new captain.
Leon didn't need Baron to answer to know the kind of look he was giving him from underneath his helmet.
Leon grinned and slapped the new captain's shoulder, "That's more like it".
The ship lurched a bit and alarms were going off everywhere.
"This is it" Baron yelled to his teammates.
"For Edge" Leon said reclaiming his rifle and grabbing hold of one of the handholds above him.
"For Edge" the three clones repeated as the shuttle doors slid closed a faint red light illuminated the inside.
Leon closed his eyes and inhaled a slow breath and exhaling a slower one he could see everything the battle between the two fleets had already started both sides firing at each other. The fighter squadrons led by Anakin were playing escort for now to the shuttles and bomber he could see them, hear them his training was finally paying off he was able to sense things he wouldn't have been able to before. Two squadrons of culture droids eight in total had flown to intercept them three of them going down immediately one of the clone pilot's took a hit nothing serious as he claimed though.
Leon wanted to se how much he had improved his control over the Force, he held up his free hand keeping his eyes closed and targeted a vulture droid that was flying after Anakin and grabbed it holding it still long enough for another pilot to shoot it down. He was faintly aware of Boulder saying his name probably wondering what he was doing waving his hand around. He grabbed another vulture and rammed it into another crashing both of them and then his concentration broke and his chest tightened.
His eyes quickly opened and he placed his hand against his chest gasping in a few deep breaths causing the trio of clones to come to his aid. His let go of the handrail and waved his hand for them to stay back as he closed his eyes again this was going to be another test of his ability over the Force, to see if he could suppress his virus while it was affecting him. Placing both of his hands against his chest he directed the Force inward he couldn't pinpoint the cells themselves as they were far too many and small for him to see, but he could cover the area they were inhabiting. With a weakened pulse of Force power he felt the cells react and then a second pulse and he was able to breathe again and the virus cells became quiet.
He inhaled an unrestricted breath and blissfully exhaled it the last thing he needed was to be benched because of his virus' poor sense of timing. The clone pilot called back to them telling them they had broken through Dantooine's atmosphere and would be landing soon. Baron inquired about their insertion point and the pilot told him they would be landing behind at the edge of a large field where they would have sufficient cover for all of their troops.
"Leon can you hear me?" Master Windu's voice asked.
"I hear you Master" Leon answered, "Do we have a job yet?"
"You do, when you land I want you to take your team around to the enemy's left flank, there's a large hill there with a rock formation that will provide superior cover and vantage for you and your team I want you to take them there and provide covering support while we get our armor and artillery set up".
"Easy enough Titan squad copies all" the transmission ended and Leon looked to his team, "You heard the General let's go raise some hell".
The shuttle landed and the four of them piled out shouldering their various weapons and running to their assigned position.
"Now this is what I call superior positioning" Chip said seeing the large rock formation that would serve as their cover.
"Definitely" Boulder agreed, "The other side is too step for the droids to climb and these rocks are too think for blasters to do anything to" he kicked one and tried to push against it, "And their in the ground to so even rockets won't do much".
"Let's try not to test that theory too much" Leon said looking over at Baron, "Alright Baron you're on sniper detail focus on heavier units and pick 'em off. Boulder, Chip do what you do best".
"What about you Leon?" Chip asked with a chuckle, "Going to charge in again and show us that amazing Jedi superiority?"
Leon pretended to be hurt by his words, "Chip you should know me better than that" he grabbed hold of the blaster rifle he took, "I'm going to show everyone that I'm just superior on principle".
"Alright let's get set up" Baron said as Chip began laughing.
Their position couldn't be any better, the direct vantage point and the solid cover and on their side they had plenty of room to move around it was just perfect. Two rocket launchers were set on the ground behind them along with Boulder's favorite rotary cannon a third rocket launcher in his arms being cradled like a baby. Chip was armed with a new six chamber grenade launcher and an entire duffle bag of grenades that alone made him happy.
"There's nothing like the smell of fresh grenades to make the day better" Chip said looking at the bag of explosives.
"Well enjoy them while you can" Leon told him checking the sights on his rifle, "The enemy will be here in a few minutes".
"Make that now" Baron said laying prone at the edge of the hill, "I can see their battalion coming in now".
"Did they bring any toys?" Boulder asked.
Baron was counting out loud what he saw as he swept his scope over the enemy, "I count four tanks and…yeah that's it just four tanks".
"Well that's no fun" Boulder moaned.
"Well enjoy it while it lasts" Leon said, "Once the goliath shows up the fun ends".
"Speaking of that thing" Chip said walking over to them, "What's the plan for dealing with it?"
"For right now we're just trying to clear out a staging area. Once we do that we mobilize our tanks and mobile artillery and head toward the goliath's location. We couldn't risk landing any closer to it. Once we reach maximum engagement range Anakin is going to fly in with his squadron and try to distract it long enough for a bomber to drop an EMP to disable its shields. From there some Jedi will be inserted along with some ARC troopers will try to destroy it before it comes back online, if not at the very least we're hoping they permanently get rid of its shields".
"So from there we just bomb the thing to hell?" Chip asked.
Leon nodded, "My exact words of course even without its shields we have to be careful this one can move and quick according to the specs Liliana got us. And just like the Judge it can take out cruisers that are still in orbit".
"You think it would kill the Seppies to play fair for once?" Baron asked.
"Technically we're the ones who haven't been playing fair" Leon told him.
"How do you figure?"
"Because we're here" Leon smirked.
Baron nodded his head to the side, "Good point".
They waited in silence from there the seconds slowly ticking by until finally the enemy was right under them. Leon held his hand up holding off his team until half of the enemy forces had passed by with the tanks in the center and then he dropped his hand down stepping out of cover along with Boulder and Chip all three of them shouldering a rocket launcher locking onto the tanks.
"I see you" Leon hummed as they pulled the triggers.
The rockets screamed toward their targets impacting the tops of the tanks crushing them and the three clones dropped their launchers, Boulder grabbing the last one while Chip reclaimed his grenade launcher and Leon used the Force to lift and flip one of the tanks. The droids below began firing up at them and they dropped back behind cover the rocks serving as invincible shields as long as the tanks didn't fire as well. Stepping out from cover again Leon lifted another tank and threw it at another crushing both of them as Boulder and Chip double teamed the last one. Less than two minutes into engagement and the four tanks were already wiped out leaving only the droids left.
"That's it for the tanks" Boulder yelled.
"Now it's only three hundred plus droids against the four of us" Chip cheered.
"They don't stand a chance" Baron said dropping out of cover and firing his sniper rifle at a super battle droid that tried climbing the hillside only to slip back down.
Boulder grabbed hold of his heavy rotary cannon and slung the strap over his shoulder, "Just stand back and let me and Sucker Punch handle this".
Boulder stepped forward and began laughing manically as he opened fired on the droids below mowing them down by the dozens as he swept his aim across the field. Leon jumped ahead of him firing a few bursts from his rifle before dropping it and switching to his lightsabers to provide cover for Boulder as he continued tearing through the droid forces. Silver and red danced through the air as Leon fell into the stance of Soresu the third form of lightsaber combat tightening his bladework as he spun and swung his lightsabers in every direction covering himself and Boulder behind a flashing barrier of silver and red lights.
Within minutes there was a noticeable blank patch between the droids on the ground as more and more of them continued to fall. Chip ducked back behind cover to reload his grenade launcher while Boulder began moving to the left to get better aim on his targets and Leon moved with him while Baron continued putting down super battle droids and the destroyer droids once their shields went down so they could move.
"Artillery inbound" Chip yelled at them seeing the mobile artillery cannons fire their shots into the sky.
Boulder stopped firing and ran behind cover with Leon following right behind him and the four of them ducked down as the shells rained from the sky landing across the field below them. Leon didn't waste time jumping back from cover and using the Force to clear out the large cloud of dust covering the area, almost the entire enemy battalion had been wiped out leaving only a few dozen stragglers some of which were crawling for cover.
"Yeah now what" Boulder yelled down at the droids as they tried retreating.
"Goliath spotted" a clone trooper yelled over the radio and the members of Titan squad looked up peering out into the distance to see a massive figure zooming through the field toward them.
It was only a tiny spec in the distance at first, but it was moving fast and growing larger as it got closer. Baron checked his sniper scope staring at the monster and jumped up ordering them to fall back away from their location as he saw the cannon on its back aim in their direction.
"Run" he yelled jumping up and turning.
It was so far in the distance, but Leon could see the shell it fired into the sky just like an artillery shot he watched it arc in the sky as it turned and fell it wasn't coming for them, it was falling toward the main force that was engaging what was left of the enemy first lines, to where Ahsoka and Luminara were.
"No" Leon yelled reaching his hands toward the sky, toward the artillery shell and pushing it away from its intended target.
He succeeded the shell was forced off its current path and landed out in the fields away from them the rumble and cloud from its impact proving the goliath's destructive capabilities with a single shot.
Baron yelled again and Leon's attention was drawn back to the goliath still gliding toward them as it fired another shell and then a third and a forth the kickback from its cannon slowing it a bit each time it fired. Leon cursed the monster's existence s he raised his hands again pushing away the second shell and then the third, but as he turned to push the last one he realized a fifth was fired and it was coming right toward them.
Leon pushed the fourth shell away and felt his chest tighten again his desperation causing him to focus his full attention on protecting his allies.
"Dammit" his mind's voice yelled as he clenched at his chest again he kept his focus split between the battle and suppressing his virus. It hurt this time immediate pain overcoming him in addition to barely being able to breathe. He dropped to his knees and Chip and Boulder were already there lifting him up yelling as the fifth shell arced in the sky and began falling toward them.
"We're not going to make it" Boulder yelled before Baron pushed him and Chip to the ground causing them to drop Leon.
Baron jumped over them spreading his body across them as much as he could waiting for the shell to hit hoping they were far enough downhill that only the shockwave would reach them.
Then the air rumbled a rumble like thunder and a wave of pressure swept past them just over their heads and when the shell finally exploded it was distant. Baron looked up and saw that the goliath had halted its advance and a massive shield was covering its body a cloud of dust and smoke around it.
"What the hell?" he muttered slowly getting up as the goliath's shield dropped and it fired another shell toward them again. He swore reaching down and grabbing Leon who had fought and finally regained his breath.
Baron was preparing to lift Leon onto his shoulders when he heard another rumble in the air and another wave of pressure pass them at the same time and he looked up. The shell had reversed direction in the air and was falling toward the goliath which put up its shield just seconds before the shell made impact.
"Did one of the other Jedi do that?" Boulder wondered after seeing the shell reverse direction.
"Are you guys ok?" a female voice yelled.
The three clones turned around as Leon froze in place a young woman with shoulder-length straight white hair was running over to them, her lightly tanned skin gleamed under the sunlight. She stopped in front of them her icy blue eyes moving over each of them and her tight fitting light brown leggings were stained an even darker brown from dirt as was her looser fitting white shirt and jacket.
"Sorry I got here as fast as I could" she said her voice familiar to all of them.
Slowly he turned around to look at her and she tried her best to smile, it had only been a few months and yet it felt like years, decades even. Too long of a time since he had last seen her long enough that when he locked his eyes on her serene smile he could feel tears forming in his eyes.
He took a single step forward and reached out his hand to touch her as her name formed in his mouth, "Thalia…"
War does not determine who is right - only who is left - Bertrand Russell.