“But-!” even Aria, who was more used to having to kill opponents than Yerbol, had to protest somewhat to Voldon's harsh outlook, but remembering how they had failed to talk down the three assailants in the Warden’s home gave her the resolve to know it was their only option.
“Still a shame that this is what it has to come to.” she sighed, giving a nod to their Mandalorian companion as they scattered to find hiding places amongst the clearing. Sho disappeared into the shadowy tree canopies frighteningly quickly and Aria lost sight of her completely as she took up her own cover in a large swathe of grass (which, though it LOOKED like grass, was actually well upwards of a quarter of the height of the tree trunks, it made good cover nonetheless). Two of the shuttles set down and more Faceless Assassins appeared, advancing towards the shuttle and what they thought was the unsuspecting pilot. On Voldon's mark, the group attacked before the Faceless could dispatch their poor pilot, Aria launching out of her cover place and slamming into the back of one of the Faceless, her lightsaber making quick work of dropping him to the floor. She dodged a swinging blade from another, a sharp kick to his gut sending him sprawling into his counterpart which Yerbol had just dispatched.
The fight was over in seconds. Far too quickly, Aria realised with a sickening sense of dread. “They're too clumsy and careless…” she swallowed, exchanging a regretful glance with Voldon and Yerbol. Yerbol removed the helmet of one of the fallen attackers and confirmed their suspicions. Aria's gut twisted horribly, she had not felt so….sick, after killing someone, in a very long time. She almost didn't hear the third shuttle arrive, had Vo not stepped down and begun speaking to them. Voldon attempted to assure Vo that the Qyaari were different than their predecessors, but the man vehemently protested the fact, instead throwing back arguments of his own. Her jaw stiff, Aria felt a stab of worry pierce through her. The way Manus spoke, he sounded so….sure, so, right. Shaking her head, Aria hissed at Manus.
“You're no better than Bracknell. You will never bring people together by squashing them under your heel!”
Voldon's saber snapped back to life and the Elder moved as if to engage Manus, had the other man not drawn their attention to the other two empty shuttles before promptly fleeing.
“Son of a bantha!” Aria hollered after him, casting around for their Mandalorian munitions expert with another shout: “SHO, BOMB!”
“Got it!” Sho called in response, leaping from her perch and clearing the distance to the shuttle on the other side of the clearing with the aid of the jet pack on her back. Aria ran for the other shuttle, not really having the first clue how to disarm explosives but they couldn't take the risk that the two mechanisms were unconnected.
“Sho...what am I doing?!” the panicked Champion called to the Mandalorian, who had already dropped into a crouch and was working away on the other shuttle.
“The red wire!” Sho shouted. “JUST the red one, not the blue one, not the brown one, RED.”
“Red, right….” Aria gulped, locating the front panel which sported an ominous countdown of red numbers and prising it off to reveal the electrics underneath. Sho’s shuttle beeped profusely and nearly made Aria's own heart stop, before it powered down just as quickly. “Got it!”
“GAH!” the Champion fumbled to try and follow suit, but found the task somewhat more difficult.
“Tick tock, Ari!” the Mandalorian barked. “Not like we're all gonna die or anything!”
“DON'T RUSH ME!”
“My apologies, your highness, but I AM rushing you! I DON'T WANNA DIE TODAY!”
Gritting her teeth, Aria managed to grab what she could only pray was the correct wire, and severed it just as the ticking from the mechanism increased to that unnerving rate.
She exhaled nearly all her breath at once as the explosives deactivated and didn't detonate.
“...that was a close one.”
As she shakily got back to her feet, Aria noticed Voldon was still glaring at the break in the tree canopy where Manus’ shuttle swooped in, finally turning to move back towards their shuttle. They returned to find the pilot still tweaking with the nav panel, though she smiled brightly as the Qyaari and Sho reappeared.
“The hull took a beating, and some of the more complex functions are fried, but looks like that shield you put up took the worst of it. With a few tweaks I think I can get it flying again enough to get us back.”
“Good.” Voldon nodded. “We need to contact the other Elders and update them on…”
Aria tuned out the rest of the conversation as Sho slid into place beside the pilot and the pair chattered away with Voldon while they worked on the necessary repairs to the shuttle. Moving away from leaning on the shuttle doorway, Aria stepped back out into the clearing to get a bit more space away from the seemingly menial conversations the rest of the group were participating in.
Her feet carried her a reasonable distance from the shuttle before the Champion stopped, emitting a heavy sigh. She had hoped being back out in the open forest air would soothe the sickening churning in her stomach, but it had not quite abated. She felt, rather than heard her partner approach, unsurprised when he stopped behind her and murmured close to her ear.
“Something’s bothering you.” of course he would know. Thoughts and feelings passed so easily between their bond now, she ruefully hoped her weak stomach wasn't making Yerbol feel queasy too.
“Mhm. I was just....thinking about what Master Vo said.” she answered slowly, teeth digging into her lower lip. Aria had easily dismissed his ramblings as being akin to Bracknell’s, but somehow she couldn't shake the feeling that in some way, they may make some sort of sense. “About the Qyaari and...what if part of what he said was right, Bol?”
She heard him sigh, turning to face him as he slid his arms around her waist.
“You don't really think that, do you?” Yerbol murmured, his tone inviting her to elaborate a little further rather than entirely condemning the train of thought.
“I just…” Aria struggled to find the appropriate words for a moment, huffing in frustration as she pressed her forehead to his shoulder. Another few moments of silence, then:
“Those kids today, Bol....they were only kids. And we just...killed them. We didn't even TRY to talk to them. The interrogation room, I was so desperate to find Soto that I just dove right into that kid's head without thinking about whether I really NEEDED to...” what if the Qyaari really were heading down the same path, and they just didn't realise it? The thought was unsettling.
“I'm not saying that what Master Vo is doing is right, but does that make what WE'RE doing right now “right”, or are we just as bad? When did we become so quick to hurt people instead of helping them?”
Yerbol looked as if he wasn't entirely sure how to answer her questions.
“Hey, lovebirds!” Sho’s voice cut into the conversation, beckoning them back to the shuttle. “Whenever you're done, we're leaving!”