Chapter One A jet-black starfighter reverted realspace, it’s matte-black hull all but disappearing from sight in the black empty void. It’s pilot adeptly maneuvered the controls and sent it rocketing forward, the huge Novaldex engines firing at full power. Ahead of it loomed a large red planet, it’s surface covered in huge swathes of deep crimson forests and wide, magenta deserts, both so vast that they were visible from orbit. In the far eastern reaches of the northern hemisphere rose a wide expanse of mountain ranges, appearing as a series of raised brown bumps from the visibility of orbit. As the pilot brought his ship down into the atmosphere, he reflected over the tense confrontation he’d left before coming to this world. “You lied to us, Ezra!” Hera’s voice was high-pitched with an undertone of disapproval and betrayal. “You told us that supply ship was deserted.” Ezra met her pale green gaze unflinchingly. “I knew you wouldn’t want to risk it if I told you the truth.” “So you just lied? How can we trust you anymore?” A look of disappointment crossed Hera’s face. “Ezra, do you see what you’re becoming?” Ezra felt the now-ever-present rage beginning to stir beneath the surface of his thoughts. “What I’m becoming is effective. I got you fifteen crates of proton bombs! You wouldn’t have any if it wasn’t for me!” Hera drew back at the naked anger in Ezra’s voice and Commander Sato spoke up. “Commander Bridger, we are grateful for your assistance. Do you have anything else for us?” Ezra turned to the greying officer. “Not right now, Commander. I’ll be in touch soon.” Sato gave him a curt nod, then placed a hand of Hera’s shoulder and drew her away, speaking to her in low tones. Ezra watched them go, and then turned to Rex, Sabine and Zeb who were standing behind him in the briefing room. “Kid, I don’t care how many proton bombs or anything else you get for us,” Zeb bellowed angrily, “If you yell at Hera like that again, I’ll-aggh.” The Lasat’s sentence ended in a cry of surprise as Ezra raised a hand towards, curling it into an arc. Zeb’s body began to rise up from the floor, caught in Ezra’s Force grip. “What’re you doing-ackkk!” Zeb’s hands went to his throat, clutching in vain at the invisible power that was slowly squeezing his windpipe closed. Ezra’s scarred face twisted into a look of pure hatred. “I am so sick of everyone telling me what to do!” “Ezra!” Sabine cried out, “Ezra, you’re killing him!” She grabbed his arm and shook his violently. “Ezra, stop!” The young man whirled on her and glared at her, his deep blue eyes glowing a sickly red-rimmed yellow on the edge. Rex made a shocked noise at the sight and Sabine took an involuntary step back. Then, her eyes narrowed in determination and in a swift motion she brought up her right hand and punched Ezra in the nose as hard as she could. A sickening crack sounded in the air and Ezra staggered backwards in pain, his hand going up to his face as a hot jet of crimson blood sprayed from his nose. Zeb abruptly crashed to the floor, released from Ezra’s Force Choke as the young man’s concentration vanished. Ezra stumbled back and tripped over one of the briefing room’s chairs to land flat on his back. Clutching at his bleeding nose, the young Rebel lay on the ground, his hands pressed to his injured proboscis. After a few tweaks, he managed to re-set his broken nose. Swiping at the steady dribble of blood, the young man looked up and found himself staring down the gleaming muzzle of a WESTAR-35 pistol. “Get up Ezra,” Sabine ordered, “And keep your hands at your sides or I swear I will stun you.” Staring at the weapon’s emitter tip for a long moment, Ezra lowered his hands to his sides and slowly rose to his feet, blood dripping freely from his nose. “Start walking,” Sabine ordered, gesturing with her free hand towards the briefing room exit. Ezra blinked a couple times, both from the pain in his head and from surprise. The scarlet and ochre faded from his eyes, returning the twin orbs to their natural electric blue color. “Where am I going?” he managed to ask in a shaky voice. “Landing pad,” Sabine replied coldly. “I don’t care how much good you’ve done for Phoenix Squadron. You’re leaving Chopper Base right now.” Ezra remained silent, his eyes going soft with remorse. “Sabine, I…” The Mandalorian girl held up a hand. “I don’t want to hear it, Ezra. I really don’t. I’ve been making excuses for you ever since you came back. But I was fooling myself.” She clicked the safety off her pistol and tensed her finger behind the trigger. “So, you can leave right now, free and clear. Or I can stun you and drag your sorry carcass to the brig.” Her hard gaze bored into his. “Your choice.” Ezra swallowed hard for a moment. Then he turned towards the door and started walking. Sabine followed right behind him, keeping her blaster trained on the small of his back. It was a long, silent, awkward walk to the landing field. They both got several questioning glances from Phoenix Squadron personnel on their way there, but Sabine waved them off, insisting she had it under control. Once they reached Ezra’s jet-black A-wing, Sabine stepped back and pointed at the open cockpit. “Get in,” she said coldly. Ezra didn’t comply, instead staring at Sabine with a remorseful expression. “Sabine, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-” “Shut up, Ezra,” the Mandalorian retorted sharply. She glared at her long-time friend with anger and more than a bit of hurt in her expression. “Get in and get lost. Don’t ever come back here again.” Ezra swallowed hard and then, with sadness clearly visible in his eyes, he obeyed, climbing into the cockpit in silence. “I’m sorr-” Ezra said, trying one more time to apologize. “You tried to kill Zeb, Ezra!” Sabine shouted, “Just because he was telling you off.” She took a few steps back to get clear of the A-Wing’s liftoff. “You need to leave and not come back for a long time.” Ezra nodded once and began the liftoff procedures, the canopy closing with a click. The repulsors whined and the ship rose up into the air. Glancing at Sabine through the transparisteel, Ezra spoke softly into her mind. “You’re right, Sabine. I don’t what I’m becoming. Tell Zeb I’m sorry.” The A-Wing rose into the sky and rocketed away, disappearing from Sabine’s sight within seconds. Once it was completely gone, Sabine let out a deep sigh and her shoulder slumped. A single sob escaped her throat as the black curtain of Atollon’s night fell on the coral mesa.