Justice or Revenge
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind - Mahatma Gandhi
The reunion was short, but longer than he would have expected if he knew it would happen. Even still with the task at hand and the odds against them he was happy to see her and she was happy to see him. The reunion was short, but it would resume…after they won.
The goliath had retreated from the fight, maybe it was out of ammo or maybe the Separatists wanted to be nice and give them a fighting chance, either way it's time they weren't going to waste. The last of the wounded had been evacuated and extra supplies were brought in along with spare troops their vehicles were all spared from the goliath's attack, but there weren't enough to carry everyone. An airstrike against the enemy base was the first idea since it was an unfortified small administrative facility, but a recon flight found the facility to be protected by a full perimeter ray shield and no sign of the goliath anywhere.
Had it left the battle? They wondered, maybe it returned to one of the Separatists ships to rearm and refuel, or maybe it was still on the planet just waiting somewhere to strike at them again.
Everyone else had gathered to begin planning something he should probably attend, but he was focused on something else. He wasn't sure what he was more surprised about that he had forgotten that he was the one who suggested that she come to Dantooine in the first place or that she was the one who appeared and saved them. Either way he couldn't help, but stare into her icy blue eyes as the smile that expressed how much he missed her continued to stretch his lips little by little.
"Are you going to say anything?" she asked him finally breaking the silence and blushing a bit.
He snapped out of his trance and lowered his eyes, "Sorry I…Just surprised to see you here".
"You're the one who told me to come here".
He nodded, "I know I…I just wasn't expecting you to show up here. I'm happy to see you again".
"If only it were under better circumstances" she said quietly suddenly falling silent and looking like she was about to break down and start crying.
"What happened?" he whispered immediately covering the short distance between them and grabbing her upper arms.
She fought back a single sob before answering, "Dooku and Grievous…they were both here and they" she stopped and closed her eyes leaning her head against his chest fighting back the pain welling up within her, "They killed everyone".
His hands slid past her arms and to her back the second the last syllable was spoken, his arms wrapping around her.
He held her for a moment rocking side to side on his heels expecting her to cry, but her tears never came.
"Tell me what happened" he whispered to her as she tried to free herself.
She pushed her shoulders out against his arms gently freeing herself, "The place their using as their base…that's where we were. We were using it as a home it seemed to be perfect, plenty of room for everyone and at the edge of the plains and the river giving us more than enough space to hunt and fish. Then…they just came and…"
The tears finally began showing themselves forming just behind her eyes, but she wouldn't release them, "I tried I fought back and destroyed as many droids as I could hundreds and hundreds of them and then…"
It was enough for him to figure out the rest on his own, "Are they still here?" his fists were clenched tightly enough that his nails sliced into his palms, "Dooku and Grievous, are either of them still here?"
She nodded, "Grievous is. He's not leading the attack, but he's supervising the goliath's performance".
"Leon" Master Windu's voice called out to them.
Leon closed his eyes taking in deep breaths through his nose and holding them for a single second before releasing them forcing himself to calm down.
"Yes?" he managed to say calmly.
"We're preparing to move out".
"So I can assume we have a plan?" Leon asked him, "Because I'm not going anywhere unless we have something".
"We do" he nodded then shifting his gaze to Thalia, "We would appreciate your help as well Thalia".
Thalia wiped her eyes dry and met his stoic gaze with one of her own and Leon finally saw what really happened to her, she wasn't the same as she was the last time he saw her she had lost everything and with it her fear had vanished as well.
"I'm in" she agreed.
Leon wasn't even listening to the briefing his focus remained on Thalia he was more worried about now that he had seen that look in her eyes the utter absence of fear or similar emotion. She was completely different than the last time he saw her so fragile and gentle and now she seemed hardened. The vast difference in her personality caused him more concern than anything else and he wanted nothing more than to talk to her to do anything he could to help her to make things right, but what could he do? She told him everyone all of her people had been killed leaving her as the only survivor…Memories of Edge returned to him his best friend's sacrifice to save him and complete their mission he was lost after it happened trapped between shock and rage and it was Ahsoka who managed to stop him.
He dreaded to think what he would have done had Ahsoka not been there that day, to pull him out of whatever rage he had gone into. Now Thalia had suffered something similar perhaps worse in losing everyone she knew everyone she was supposed to lead and protect, she was like him.
"That's it" his mind screamed.
She was like him; she wanted to be like him to have the strength to protect her people and others she cared about. She had told him that he was the most important person in the galaxy to her and it was because of him that she was opened up to the Force and even though it had brought a time of suffering on her she loved him for it. He had saved her life twice and saved her people and she loved him for it, she wanted to become like him to have the strength to protect those important to her and the will to fight through trying times…She wanted to be like him and now…
"Let's move out" Anakin called to all of his troops and immediately after Captain Rex had began issuing orders to all of his soldiers.
Leon stood still as everyone else began moving around him his feet were frozen, he hadn't heard a single word of the briefing or their plan or even where they were going. Thalia, the only thing on his mind she was going with them wherever they were heading and she was going to fight with them, to avenge her people, her family, but what would happen after that? With no one left what would she do after, return to the Jedi or stay on Dantooine in solitude.
No, he couldn't let her do that to herself. To live alone with no one else around that was a thought that terrified him she had friends she could turn to, himself, Ahsoka and even Liliana wherever she was now. He had no way of knowing what Thalia's plan for her future would be after this battle, but he wouldn't let her be by herself he couldn't not after what she had been through. Finally his feet moved and he hurried to catch up running over to Thalia, her eyes were the same as they were when Master Windu addressed her eyes without fear, without sadness, without anger they were almost empty as if she didn't even know how to be angry over what had happened.
"Or she's hiding it" his mind suggested something he had to force himself to consider as it's the same thing he would do.
He leaned closer to whisper to her, but before her name even formed in his mouth he stopped. What would he say to her, what could he say what do you say to someone who lost everything and was unable to stop it?
"I'm sorry doesn't cut it here" he thought to himself, "I want to say something to her, anything, but what".
He leaned toward her again, "Thalia I…"
"Don't worry" she whispered back to him, "I'll be ok for now".
She actually smiled at him, what little joy remained in her was directed at him. She still loved him, she always would even though she was heartbroken when he said he didn't love her in the same way it was something she accepted after all Ahsoka was her friend to. Thinking of Ahsoka, Thalia glanced to her other side to see the Togruta marching alongside her master so much alike they were in so many ways headstrong and tenacious, but also compassionate and loyal and then there was Master Kenobi on Anakin's opposite side, strong and wise just like the other masters with them. She looked back to Leon whose eyes had fallen to the ground as they continued walking, he was different from the time they said their goodbyes to each other, he was stronger, far stronger a strength of character and will forged through conflict.
It didn't take long for her to figure out what had happened, the absence of Edge within Titan squad's ranks and the hole she sensed in Leon's spirit an echo of pain that had healed as much as it could. During her time with the Jedi Order she never took the opportunity to get to know the clones Leon loved so much, she knew their names and personalities, but she never got to know them. She was there when one died on Ruusan, Coins she would never forget him, not just because he was killed by the goliath or because tens of thousands of other clones were dying within seconds, but because of the mark it left on Leon.
She was able to use the Force because of him, she was alive because of him, she was happy being around him and with him. Everything for her came back to him. He wasn't just the object of her affection he was more to her than that, an idol, a savior, a protector everything she had done was to try to be like him as much as possible.
She loved him for several reasons, but that love brought a double edged blade with it, as happy as she was to stand next to him again she was still sad because she knew he didn't return the same feelings.
"But that's ok" she tried to convince herself, "He still loves me, not in the way I would want, but he cares deeply for me".
She sensed something, something dark and burning…anger, hatred it was subtle, but strong and focused and it was right next to her.
She could just barely sense it while looking at him, but it was there he was doing a good job of suppressing it, but she could still sense it he was angry. She had seen him angry before, but only a few times and it wasn't hard to figure out the cause, Dantooine was his home world and the Separatists had attacked it before and now they attack it with a goliath the last one from what she had been told and probably the biggest cause of his anger, the death of her people. He never met any of them directly, but he swore to protect them when he was around only because they were important to her and now they were dead all of them killed by Grievous and Dooku despite her own attempts at stopping them.
Anger leads to the dark side that's what she was told by the Jedi who trained her and by Dooku during the too long time span where she was forced to serve under him, he had tried to make her hate Leon using whatever method he could think of make her hate him and use that hate to embrace the dark side's power, but she wouldn't do it. She did everything else for him, but the one thing he was never able to make her do even through torture was change how she felt about Leon.
Her heart began hurting after everything all of the training she put herself through after leaving the Jedi Order she was still unable to protect her people and because of that she lost all of them. She wanted to leave Coruscant and the Order because her people needed her, but also because she needed to prove to herself that she could become strong in her own right without relying on him to save or protect her. In the end she wasn't able to save them she wasn't strong enough to defeat Grievous or Dooku and in the end it was Leon once again coming to help her.
She didn't hate him not even a little for wanting to protect her, she hated herself for failing.
"I can still avenge them" she said in her mind, "I can still make sure justice is served. I would prefer to do it alone, but I know I can't I'm not strong enough. But he's here with me and as long as he's by my side I can do anything".
She would confront Grievous again before this battle was over and she would beat him she wasn't going to continue being the helpless girl that had to be saved over and over not anymore she was going to fight with everything she had.
"All I have to do is find him. Leon will want to fight on my behalf…but I can't let him. This won't change anything, but it's all I have left".
To fight and defeat Grievous a skilled warrior there was no denying that, but she had an advantage he lacked, the Force. With her control over it she could easily defeat him and then she'd be one step closer to her revenge. She held no illusions of being able to best Dooku in fact she was certain she would lose, but for now she knew he was no longer present on Dantooine so there was little point in giving him any thought. She felt her eyes drifting toward Leon again and had to pull them away he would never let her fight alone and if she fought with him their chances of defeating Grievous were practically certain and even knowing that she still felt like she had to fight alone, it wasn't a matter of honor or pride for her she just wanted to prove that everything she had done had meant something.
"Ever since we arrived here I had spent all my available time training. It can't all have been meaningless".
Grievous wasn't the only target the goliath was still out there and from what she heard their only plan on dealing with it involved dropping a really big bomb. Supposedly the bomb was going to emit a massive electrical wave that shorted out all electronics caught in its blast radius which in theory would include the goliath's shield generators leaving it vulnerable to an orbital bombing. Thankfully Dantooine was mostly unpopulated plains and mountains with few cities all of which were no where near them.
She could only hope just like the rest of them they could all only hope that their plan worked. Unless the goliath had some kind of special shielding around its generators to protect them from an electrical pulse it should work. As of right now the atmosphere around the legion of troopers was more than tense she could feel it, it was almost suffocating she couldn't blame them, the last of the goliaths was incredibly fast for its size from what she was told. It covered miles of distance in seconds and its cannon shots were devastating she was grateful she arrived in time to help.
With speed and power like that the goliath could attack or come from anywhere and to make it all worse they couldn't pick it up on the planetary scanners so their fleet couldn't track it and warn them of its approach. The tense atmosphere so thick it was suffocating only seemed appropriate all things considered so tense that she was willing to bet if a gizka croaked near them someone would jump.
A small smile curved her lips at that thought; it would be amusing under other circumstances.
"Hey Thalia" Ahsoka's voice pulled her from her thoughts, "You holding up ok?"
Thalia nodded putting on a fake smile for her friend's sake, "It's hard, but I'll be ok for now".
"I can't begin to imagine how painful this must be for you, but I'm here for you and so is Leon".
Thalia continued to smile at her until she noticed a hint of sadness in her voice.
Ahsoka put on a smile of her own a half sincere one as she looked up at her friend, "There's nothing he wouldn't do for you".
Was it jealousy? No…Ahsoka didn't strike her as the type to be jealous besides she already knows what Leon's true feelings are concerning the two of them. Maybe she was being sad for her so she wouldn't have to focus on it, not that she was or maybe like Leon she was sad because she wasn't there to help a friend when they needed it.
Thalia nodded inwardly to herself that made sense, that was the kind of people they were the ones that would always be there to help a friend and be torn about it if they weren't, the only difference is Ahsoka was only offering her sympathies while Leon was letting his anger build.
"He's not talking is he?" Ahsoka whispered to her after glancing at Leon.
"No" Thalia answered, "He's been pretty quiet this whole time. He's only said a few words to me".
"That's not good. He was like this after Edge died…"
"We'll keep an eye on him" Thalia said finishing her thoughts then her smile turned real, "Between the two of us I'm sure we'll be able to help him if something happens".
Ahsoka could only wish she could be as sure as Thalia sounded, "I'm worried about both of you" she leaned a little closer, "I know you still have feelings for him, but you're still my friend so I'm worried about you as much as him. Just promise me you won't run off to do anything by yourself, you don't have to be alone at a time like this. We will help you".
Thalia could only respond with another smile one she meant to be sincere, but didn't feel like it and then there was silence again. Leon remained uncharacteristically silent and Ahsoka was left to her own worry leaving Thalia to her own devices, her thoughts remained focused wholly on how she would slip away from the others to go fight Grievous on her own assuming they even got close to him. She felt bad Leon and Ahsoka were her friends the closest she ever had and ever would have her desire however to fight on her own to rectify her own errors and redeem herself in her own eyes overruled her love for them. No matter what fate awaited her she refused to allow herself to rely on anyone to come to her rescue again, especially Leon though she knows he will try.
Spending so much time in her own thoughts she lost track of how long or how far they had marched they had reached the other side of the plains practically what would have been another city if Dantooine had any this side of the world. Because of the threat the final goliath posed they were unable to set up an effective base for fear the goliath would just deploy to destroy it leaving them to rely on mobility and their fleet to extract them if things got too bad and the enemy had to be aware of this which would only mean they were marching to a trap.
The Jedi weren't stupid though, they would obviously have thought of this especially by now considering there had been no sighting of the enemy so far. Of course that would also meant the Separatists didn't have a base either at least not an effective one considering they had only been there for just over a day. Even with an entire ship worth of construction droids building an entire base of operations in such a short time would be impossible…sadly that wasn't the case. They had a base a small one, but it was a base and overnight construction would allow a decent perimeter to be established with ray shielding and other defenses.
Thalia felt herself beginning to shake as they drew closer to their destination, and soon the fighting would start if not against a small first defense force then against the entirety of the droid army present on the world.
It was an old military base from what she was able to gather her and her people had decided to make it their home while they were on Dantooine, what little of them remained only a dozens people not including herself. They chose to settle their since it already provided shelter and adequate space and was located in the middle of the plains with ample wildlife around them to hunt and a nearby river to provide water. Thirteen people in total herself and four adolescents two just short of adulthood, 5 adults one of them elderly and three children all under ten and all of them murdered by devils.
Now she was the last one with nothing left to lose she was set in her desire for justice and if that meant temporarily abandoning her friends leaving them to fight on their own for a time that was a risk she was willing to take.
"Its only because I know they can handle themselves" she tried to convince herself, "They can handle droids easily, but the goliath…no I can't think of it not now. I'll kill Grievous if he's still here then I'll help them deal with that monster…Leon, Ahsoka…please forgive me".
They were getting closer, little by little and the enemy was sure to know of their presence by now, but until the fighting actually started she kept herself steeled. After however long their march had been the clones were becoming tired though only a few were complaining about it they still seemed battle capable, but she could sense their fatigue building.
For once the clone forces would outnumber the droids, but did a number advantage really mean anything when the enemy had something like a goliath on their side.
That was an answer they would all have soon, Thalia looked up and pointed at the horizon as she stopped.
"There it is".
The separatist base was in view, and to Leon, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Mace Windu it was a familiar site.
"Isn't that the" Obi-Wan began.
"The same base we found last time we were here" Anakin finished.
"The same base were we first encountered the spectre droids" Master Windu recalled.
"Only this time they have a goliath in addition to who knows what else" Luminara pointed out.
"It doesn't matter what they have on their side" Leon said clenching his fists finally breaking his prolonged silence, "I don't care if it's a legion of spectres or a fourth goliath. We are going to win".
He turned to his allies a glare in his eyes telling of his determination, "And if Grievous is here. He will not escape this time".
Obi-Wan crossed his arms, "Boldly said, but I would like to go about this as cautiously as possible considering the fact that there's still no sign of the goliath".
"Liliana said it could basically fly right?" Ahsoka asked recalling what her smuggler friend had told them, "Maybe its flying around somewhere or on a carrier in orbit. I doubt we're lucky enough that it's gone though".
"No we're definitely not that lucky" Anakin grinned lightly.
Luminara narrowed her eyes as she gazed out toward the base, "So between the droid army no doubt ready to meet us the missing goliath and the possibility that Grievous is still there, what should we do?"
"The same plan as before" Anakin suggested, "We go in we fight and call in air support now keeping the bomber at bay until the goliath shows up. When it does we drop the bomb disabling it and we hit it with everything we got and I mean everything".
"And then we go after Grievous" Leon almost growled, "Edge" he said turning around to look at Baron and his expression faulted for a moment, "Baron" he quickly corrected shaking his head, "Get the team ready we'll be going in first".
"Roger that" Baron said shouldering his sniper rifle and running walking off with Boulder and Chip to check their supplies.
Leon closed his eyes kicking himself in his head the battle hadn't even started yet and he had already slipped up. He inhaled a quick breath and held it quickly counting to five in his head and exhaled before he turned around, as he thought everyone heard him say the deceased clone's name.
Mixed stares ranging between critical judgement and concern were on him now not that he cared. He turned away from them again and walked away to follow after his team leaving the rest of the Jedi to go over their attack plan once more.
Ahsoka slipped away while Anakin and the masters went over their plan with the clone squad leaders and battalion commander. It was only one mistake only one made during a tense moment, but it was enough to make her worry she had to check on him before the fighting started.
"Leon" she spoke his name quietly just enough for him to hear as she ran over to him.
"This is going to be the first time going in to battle without him" he said knowing what she was going to say to him, "Ever since Ord Mantell we've always been together all six of us as one team…" he let his words trail as he stared up at the sky storm clouds were forming in the distance, "It was the Chancellor who gave me direct command over their unit…This is why Jedi aren't supposed to become attached to others…its hurts too much".
"You'll be fine" she said to him, "What you said is true, but I wouldn't have fallen so much for you if I didn't believe you would be able to handle it. I'm here for you and I know Thalia is as well even though she lost her people. And as her friends it's out job to be there for her and if I ever need help I know you'll be there for me".
"Yeah" he nodded, "We'll be fine I know we'll win…I just miss him".
"We all do" she agreed.
"That's why this one is going to be for Edge" Boulder said shouldering a rocket launcher, "Because of him that's two goliaths down. So it's up to us to get the third".
Chip juggled a grenade between his hands, "A big bang in his honor. I think he'd like it".
Leon's lips stretched into a grin as he nodded and punched his open palm cracking his knuckles, "For Edge, for Thalia and for every single person that's died before us".
Chip started chuckling, "Well if that's the case I'm going to need more grenades".
Baron shouldered his heavy sniper rifle after slamming a magazine into it, "Damn straight" he said sliding the bolt action back cocking the oversized weapon.
"What kind of rifle is that?" Ahsoka asked.
"A special one" Baron told her, "This doesn't fire plasma bolts like blasters this fires high impact armor piercing shells".
"A projectile weapon?" Boulder asked, "I didn't think anyone used those anymore".
Baron had to be grinning under his helmet, "Edge and I found it back on Coruscant at an antique shop. He loved his rifles and he always said he would save this one for a special occasion".
"Ok so what's so special about it?" Chip wondered.
Baron flourished the weapon a bit, "It's what used to be called an anti material rifle. Which means when it's pointed at something it goes boom and then there's no more anything".
Leon nodded, "Well let's test it out find a perch and set up".
"Already ahead of you" Baron answered, "This thing is heavier than most of its kind guess it was modified at some point. So I'm going to set up back here, I had one of the tanks carry it and some spare ammo. With this kind of fire power I could send a round through the front door and kill whatever is behind the back wall and anything standing behind it for about thirty yards easily and everything in between".
"Now that is sexy" Boulder chuckled, "What do you think Leon?"
Leon threw his thumb over his shoulder pointing at Ahsoka, "Dude my girlfriend is right here".
Ahsoka waved at him reminding the clone of her presence, "If you really feel that attracted to a rifle we won't judge you if you ask her out".
"Don't put the idea in his head" Chip said, "He loves guns enough to do it".
Ahsoka chuckled a little and walked away, "Just hurry up and get ready".
Baron slung the rifle over his shoulder, "I'm going to need about five minutes to set up, but I can keep a large range covered with this thing just let me know if you need me up front".
Leon nodded, "Roger, you'll be on your own back here so good luck".
"There won't be any luck today" the new clone captain said as he jogged off with his rifle.
"Yeah" Chip and Boulder both agreed, "Today is going to be our victory and nothing is going to stop us".
Leon agreed with them, "We're not going to stop until the goliath and every last droid is destroyed" he turned casting his gaze out to the base before whispering, "And then I'm coming for you Grievous and I will kill you".
"Leon" Thalia said softly as she walked over to him.
The look on her face was something he had seen from her before something that surprised him after seeing her so steeled since running into her again, the look of concern and fear, "There's something important I need to tell you before we begin".
The man who seeks revenge digs two graves - Ken Kesey.