- "She's trying to save her family, Hunter. I'd do the same for you."
Shortly after the formation of the Galactic Empire, Twi'lek freedom fighters General Cham Syndulla, his wife Eleni Syndulla, and other members of the Free Ryloth Movement were rescued from Imperial custody in Lessu. The Syndullas had been arrested after rescuing their daughter, Hera, from Imperial custody herself. Despite a manhunt, Hera and her astromech droid Chopper managed to evade arrest. Hera decided to call on the Bad Batch, a group of mercenaries and Imperial defectors she had recently met, for help rescuing her parents, having been given their comm channel by Omega, the youngest member of the group. Matters, however, were complicated by the presence of Crosshair, a former member of the Batch who had remained with the Empire and knew how they operated. The group decided on a two-pronged attack whereby Hera, Omega, Chopper, Tech and Wrecker would attack the Imperial refinery on Lessu's outskirts to distract the Empire while Hunter and Echo snuck into Lessu to break out the prisoners. Crosshair realized the refinery assault was a diversion and nearly prevented their escape, but Captain Howzer, a clone who had been growing increasingly uncomfortable with the Empire's activities, warned them about the trap, leading them to steal Senator Orn Free Taa's personal shuttle to escape. Howzer decided to stay behind to try and get through to his men, and was arrested with a group of six other clones that he persuaded to stand with him. The incident led Vice Admiral Rampart to give Crosshair permission to explicitly hunt down the Batch.
Tensions on Ryloth
During the three-year galactic conflict known as the Clone Wars, the planet Ryloth, homeworld of the Twi'lek species, was invaded by the Confederacy of Independent Systems. The initial local resistance to the occupation was led by General Cham Syndulla, a noted freedom fighter. When the Galactic Republic launched a counter-invasion to repel the Separatist occupiers, Jedi General Mace Windu approached Cham, and persuaded him and his long-time political enemy Senator Orn Free Taa into an alliance for the sake of their planet. Cham was uneasy about a long-term Republic military presence on Ryloth, but Windu promised that the Republic's clone troopers would eventually depart, although they would remain for a time to keep the peace. To that end, a unit led by Clone Captain Howzer was stationed on Ryloth to help protect the planet, although they were supposed to leave when the war ended. Cham wound up befriending the clone officer.
However, the end of the Clone Wars marked the beginning of a dark period in the galaxy's history: claiming the Jedi Order had attempted to assassinate him and take over, the Republic's Supreme Chancellor Palpatine declared the Jedi traitors and reorganized the Republic into the Galactic Empire, with himself as Emperor, promising to bring a new era of peace and security. In truth, Palpatine was the Dark Lord of the Sith and had been plotting the Jedi's eradication for a long time, and it had been mostly carried out through Order 66, a secret command which compelled the clones of the Grand Army of the Republic to turn on and execute their Jedi officers through implanted inhibitor chips. Very few clones were immune to the chips, which also made them obedient to the Empire.
Tired of war, Cham initially accepted the new era of "peace" at face value, ignoring the warning signs because he hoped that his dream of a safe and free Ryloth was finally about to come to fruition. His wife Eleni Syndulla and lieutenant Gobi Glie remained wary, however: Eleni did her best to keep abreast of all of the new Empire's activities on Ryloth, while Glie began organizing a new resistance with various other freedom fighters. When the Imperial Vice Admiral Rampart arrived on Ryloth, he found Cham to be more cooperative then Senator Taa's warnings had led him to expect, although he was still suspicious of Cham and wanted to bring Ryloth securely under Imperial control. Howzer, for his part, retained a degree of individuality that was highly unusual for a clone in the Empire's service, although he accepted the regime change and assuaged Cham that letting the clone army protect Ryloth was what the two of them had fought for. The Empire also insisted that the Twi'lek people disarm and turn over their weapons, something Glie particularly disagreed with as he felt it made them vulnerable.
Renegades and rebels
As part of strengthening the burgeoning Empire, Rampart helped to spearhead Project War-Mantle, an operation intended to test the effectiveness of recruited soldiers in the Imperial Military. To that end, he had helped recruit the first unit of Elite Squad Troopers, who were placed under the command of CT-9904, a genetically modified clone nicknamed "Crosshair" who had formerly been part of Clone Force 99, an irregular clone commando squad. However, the other members of the so-called "Bad Batch" had all been immune to Order 66 due to their genetic modifications, or in the case of Echo, cybernetic experimentation at the hands of the Separatists. While Crosshair had been taken away to have his partially-functional chip enhanced on the orders of Admiral Wilhuff Tarkin, the rest of the Batch had escaped Kamino, taking along Omega, a young clone who was highly valuable to the Kaminoans' attempts to retain the Empire's interest in their operation. Crosshair developed an obsession with hunting the Batch down, but his one encounter with his former squad on Bracca had led to him being severely injured while the Batch escaped. The Batch wound up working as mercenaries for the information broker Cid in the meantime.
When he was sent to Ryloth, Rampart brought the Elite Squad along with him, having them monitor insurgent activity. Crosshair quickly identified Glie as the ringleader, although Taa was utterly convinced that Cham was secretly behind it. Glie had recruited Cham's young daughter Hera into his group, having her spy on the new Imperial refinery being built. On one such mission, Hera and her astromech droid Chopper were caught by clones, and Howzer escorted the two of them back to the Syndulla residence. Noting that he was in a difficult situation, Howzer promised the general that he would not report what Hera had done, but that it could not happen again. Cham was furious with Glie for recruiting his daughter into his activities, and made him promise not to send Hera out on any more such missions. After a tour of the refinery, which was clearly a military installation despite the Empire's claims otherwise, Eleni questioned Cham about the potential cost of achieving peace by working with the Empire.
Despite Cham's prohibition, Glie invited Hera on his next mission, a supply run to Ryloth's nearest moon, by offering her the chance to fly his starship, and she had Chopper cover for her. Glie had purchased weapons from Cid, which she had the Bad Batch deliver to the weapons drop. While Glie and Serin were inspecting the delivery, Hera met Omega and was shown around the Havoc Marauder. The two girls developed a rapport, and Omega, noting that Hera and her people appeared to be in trouble, gave her new Twi'lek friend the code for the Batch's comm channel, to be used in emergencies. When Hera, Glie and Serin returned to Ryloth, however, they were captured by the Empire, as Crosshair had spied on Glie's landing pad and tagged his transport with a homing beacon before they had even left. Rampart had all of them arrested, although Howzer initially protested arresting Hera as she was just a child. Taa demanded that they all be charged with treason.
A call for help
Lenk reported the capture to Cham and Eleni, and when Chopper found out about the treason charges, they raced to the rescue, knowing that Taa would not allow Hera the chance to defend herself. The freedom fighters attacked the HCVw A9 turbo tank the prisoners were being transported in, which was also carrying Rampart, Taa and Howzer. The clone captain was unhappy about setting his men against the Syndullas and their allies, but reluctantly followed his orders. However, when Lenk disabled the tank and Cham and Eleni were about to breach it, Rampart decided to surrender, ostensibly on the grounds of keeping them all alive. After the freedom fighters had freed their comrades and led their prisoners outside, however, the admiral's true plan became clear: he had set up an ambush with Crosshair, and the sniper shot Taa non-fatally just after Eleni had talked Cham down from killing the corrupt senator himself. Accusing the rebels of Taa's attempted assassination, Rampart had them all arrested. Hera and Chopper had escaped, but Rampart was confident they would not get far and ordered Howzer to find them, although the captain was skeptical of the freedom fighters' culpability in the assassination attempt.
Despite the forces hunting for them, however, Hera and Chopper managed to evade capture, and Rampart subsequently reassigned the Elite Squad to look for them. Cham, Eleni, and the other rebels were imprisoned in the Capitol building in Lessu. Rampart taunted them as he felt he would be able to convince the people that Cham was a traitor, but when he asked Eleni to tell him where Hera was as he felt she was more reasonable than her husband, Eleni told him she would rather be his enemy than his ally. The admiral gave Howzer orders to round up all of Cham's supporters, but the captain was reluctant to arrest innocent people without cause, and shared his belief that the rebels had not been the ones responsible for Taa's shooting. When Rampart coldly asked him who he thought was responsible, Howzer said he did not know and that he would carry out his orders, offering to find Hera himself. Rampart denied his request, stating another squad was handling it and that she would be found soon. The conversation was partly overheard by Chopper, who had been sent into the city to spy. He reported what he had heard to Hera, who was scouting out her home. The Elite Squad, accompanied by regular clones, searched the Syndulla residence as Hera watched through macrobinoculars, reporting to Crosshair that she was already gone and may have already left the planet. Crosshair, however, correctly deduced that she would not do so without her parents, and ordered them to continue searching. Hera told Chopper to meet her at their base so they could send a transmission.
Holing up at her father's old command outpost from the Separatist occupation, Hera recorded a message which she had Chopper send to Omega, explaining her situation and asking for help, with the coordinates attached. The Bad Batch received the message while they were in deep space, and Omega had been attempting to repair Gonky. Tech did not recognize the frequency, but Hunter had him put the message through, and Wrecker recognized Hera from the recent weapons drop. Hunter was surprised that Omega had given Hera their comms channel, but she explained it was for emergencies, and the situation Hera described certainly qualified. Tech attempted to dismiss the situation as a child exaggerating, but Omega insisted otherwise. Hunter was reluctant to help, seeing it as risking their lives with no reward, but Omega persuaded him to agree by pointing out that was what soldiers did. When the Batch arrived at the hidden outpost, they were met by Chopper and Hera. Hunter asked why the Empire was so interested in her parents, and Hera explained who her father was, wondering why the Empire was going after him. Hera also said that her parents could pay the Batch if they were rescued. Echo noted that Cham's status as someone the people listened to made him a logical target for the Empire. Warning Hera that he could not make any guarantees, Hunter said that they had to scope out the situation in Lessu first.
In Lessu, Rampart gave a speech to another uneasy crowd where he painted the assassination attempt as an unfortunate act of treason from someone the people viewed as a hero, and said that the "beloved" Senator Taa was on his way to making a full recovery. The Batch, Hera, and Chopper surveyed Lessu from sector five, a high rock spire outside of the city, with macrobinoculars, and listened in. Omega saw Crosshair and pointed him out to the others, leading the adult clones to move away for a private conversation. Hunter noted that Lessu's plasma bridge had been deactivated, leading Wrecker to suggest they fly in and attack from above, but this was shot down as the capital's sensors would detect them. Tech observed that the numbers of Imperial forces were comparable to those on former Separatist capital planet Raxus, which Echo found concerning given that Ryloth had been a Republic planet. An Imperial probe droid in the area spotted them from above, but Hunter noticed it with his enhanced senses, enabling him to sneak around the droid and get the drop on it from above, destroying it. However, the droid had been able to transmit footage of the Batch before its destruction, something Hunter surmised had occurred. Knowing the Empire was now aware of their presence, the group departed the area, although Omega had to nudge Hera to come along.
Informed of the sighting by one of his troopers, Crosshair had patrols increased. Howzer had arrested some of Cham's supporters, but Rampart told him that was not good enough. When Howzer expressed concern that Rampart's heavy-handed actions would cause an uprising, Rampart claimed that was the price of peace. When he was informed of their presence, the Admiral did not consider Clone Force 99 a threat and reiterated that he wanted Crosshair and his squad to find Hera, implicitly threatening to have Howzer look for the girl if Crosshair failed. The Batch, meanwhile, retreated to the cave outpost, Tech noting the increase in patrols. Hunter told Hera that since they had lost the element of surprise, they would not be able to do the rescue mission, although they could take her offworld. Hera stormed off, upset, and Omega followed her after telling Hunter that she would do the same for him as Hera was trying to do for her parents.
Omega told Hera that they would be able to get Hunter to help by coming up with a good strategy to rescue her parents, suggesting that they use Hera's familiarity with Ryloth. Working together, the girls and Chopper concocted a plan which involved staging a diversionary attack on the doonium refinery to draw forces away from Lessu. Hunter accepted the plan when the girls explained it, deciding they would follow Hera's lead, and let the two of them participate, although he wanted them to stay out of the action as much as possible.
Howzer secretly approached Cham and Eleni in their cell, where the general voiced his disapproval that the clone captain had chosen to side with the Empire. Howzer asked Cham what kind of repercussions he had expected from attacking an Imperial convoy, but Eleni responded that Senator Taa's actions had left them with no choice as they had to protect their daughter. Lowering his voice, Howzer tried to explain that he was attempting to do the same, as Rampart's squad was hunting her. Cham retorted that both of them had sworn to defend Ryloth, and Howzer asked Cham and Eleni to tell him where Hera might be so he could protect her. Cham did not believe him and refused, stating they had made a mistake trusting him, leading a pained Howzer to leave them.
The team split into two groups: Hunter and Echo went to scale the walls of Lessu and covertly enter the city, and Omega and Hera waited outside the refinery while Tech and Wrecker remained on the Marauder. Chopper, meanwhile, snuck onto a Rho-class transport shuttle carrying workers and other astromech droids to work at the refinery. The shuttle arrived at a landing pad outside the facility's main gate, and as the workers and droids went through security, Chopper snuck around the gate and was able to enter while the clones at the checkpoint were diverted. Sneaking through the facility, he located a droid socket and, after taking out another astromech that had been using it, plugged in to the control console for the refinery's autocannons, intending to deactivate them. However, Chopper hit a snag, and while he was attempting to access the systems and communicate with Hera, his aggravated beeping caught the attention of two patrolling clones, who recognized him as an unauthorized droid. Hera and Omega watched from a distance as Chopper was taken prisoner and escorted through the facility by the clones, Hera wondering what they were going to do. Omega had an idea, telling Hera they would rescue Chopper after deactivating the console, which they would accomplish by stealing one of the shuttles.
In Lessu, Hunter and Echo climbed the city's wall. As they reached the top, a patrolling clone heard Echo as he reached the top, turning to see him casually ask for a hand. The clone was immediately knocked out by Hunter, who helped Echo over the wall before the two headed deeper into the city. At the refinery, Omega and Hera snuck up to one of the shuttles on the landing pad, Hera noting that her parents would never approve, leading Omega to promise that she wouldn't tell them. The girls boarded the shuttle and settled in the cockpit, just as Tech contacted Omega to ask if Chopper had disabled the cannons. Omega said they were working on it, before surprising him by asking him not to shoot down their shuttle. Hera composed herself and performed a takeoff, her inexperience causing chaos on the landing pad as troopers reported the unauthorized liftoff of shuttle two. Gaining control of the ship, Hera brought it around and flew towards the control console, bringing the shuttle into a hover. Chopper took advantage of the distraction to shock his two escorts unconscious before approaching the ship. Hera and Omega blasted the console with the shuttle's guns, causing it to explode and bringing the cannons offline, before opening the front hatch to let Chopper onboard. As the girls flew the ship away, Tech reported that he had picked up several large explosions, and Omega told him they were responsible and the cannons had been dealt with.
With Wrecker in the gunner's seat, Tech flew the Marauder to the refinery, using an abrupt blast of the engines, before bringing it into a drift. Gleeful about the prospect of explosions, Wrecker opened fire, destroying the facility's gun emplacements. As the destruction continued, the refinery's garrison called for backup. In Lessu, Rampart was furious when he heard the news and stormed off to oversee the battle personally, ordering Howzer to stay and guard the city. On the detention level, Cham, Eleni, and the other prisoners were surprised when Hunter and Echo appeared, knocking out the guards and opening the cells. Glie was especially surprised as he recognized them, telling Cham that their rescuers were mercenaries but he had not hired them. Hunter explained that Hera had, and Cham asked if she was alright. Above the refinery, Hera said she thought she was getting the hang of flying the shuttle, and Tech told her that her "uncontrolled maneuvering" was as confusing to the Imperials as it was to him.
Imperial reinforcements were loaded onto Nu-class shuttles in Lessu and dispatched to the refinery. Crosshair and his Elite Squad were preparing to join them, but the sniper ordered them to stop just as they were boarding their shuttle. His troops questioned why, but he realized that the refinery was not the true target of the mission. When ES-04 asked what was, the other shuttles in the courtyard began to take off, and Crosshair deduced what they were doing. However, he was unaware that Howzer had witnessed the Elite Squad staying behind, and the danger led the captain to make a decision. As the commandos and freedom fighters made their way through the Capitol building, Crosshair assembled a squad of clones with riot shields to wait with his unit at the main exit, blocking the others.
When the escapees reached the Capitol's main exit, they were preparing to leave when they were intercepted by Howzer, who warned them it was a trap, removing his helmet to speak. Glie asked why they should trust him, and Howzer said he was on their side, as what the Empire was doing was wrong. He apologized to Cham for not having done anything to stop it earlier, and Cham promised that he and his people would return to Ryloth. Told about the blocked exits, Eleni said they could use Senator Taa's personal shuttle, which was kept in his private hangar. As the group prepared to leave, Eleni suggested that Howzer come along as the Empire would know he had helped them, but he refused to abandon his squad, insisting that he had to at least attempt to get through to them about the Empire. As the group headed off to their new destination, Hunter took one last glance back at Howzer before leaving, as the captain put his helmet back on and prepared to face his men. At the refinery, Tech was informed that Hunter and Echo had found alternate transportation and to meet at the pre-arranged rendezvous point, and he was happy to leave given approaching Imperial ships. The Marauder and the girls' stolen shuttle fled the scene.
In the courtyard, Crosshair, who had taken up a sniper post overlooking the main door, ordered his troops to remain in formation after ES-04 asked if they shouldn't move in. When the door finally did open, they tensed up, but lowered their weapons when Howzer came out instead. He asked his men what they were doing, reminding them they had come to Ryloth to free it from Separatist control and succeeded, but were now oppressing the very people they had sworn to protect. Declaring he would not be a part of it any longer, Howzer threw his blaster on the ground and asked who stood with him. Six other clones in the courtyard followed suit, dropping their shields and weapons. Taken by surprise, Crosshair ordered that the dissenters be arrested, which they did not resist. As the arrests were going on, however, Senator Taa's stolen shuttle burst out of its hangar and flew away, and Crosshair fired a few unsuccessful shots in its wake. Crosshair and Howzer both looked after the fleeing ship, before the captain and his supporters were led away.
The Batch and the Twi'leks regrouped on Ord Mantell, where the squad was based. With the Marauder and the stolen senatorial shuttle landed in the same hangar, Tech showed Omega and Hera how to scramble a ship's magnetic signature while Hunter spoke to Hera's parents. Eleni offered him the payment Hera had promised, but he turned it down, saying they would need the money more as Imperial occupations were happening across the galaxy. Cham noted that he had hoped not to fight another war, but it had become inevitable, and Hunter said he would not be joining in as he had people to look after. Eleni, however, commented that the coming fight would be everyone's, not just the Twi'leks'. Cham told Hera they were leaving, and Hera and Omega said their goodbyes, Hera thanking Omega for believing in her and telling her to look after her brothers. Once Hera and Chopper had boarded the shuttle, it departed as Omega and the Batch watched.
Surveying the damage done to the refinery, Rampart told Crosshair that he could no longer underestimate his former unit, wishing they were fighting for the Empire. Crosshair asked permission to hunt the Batch down, which Rampart granted.
Notes and references
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Rescue on Ryloth"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Infested"
- "Rescue on Ryloth" takes place shortly after the formation of the Galactic Empire, which Star Wars: Galactic Atlas dates to 19 BBY.
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Supply Lines"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Liberty on Ryloth"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Devil's Deal"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Aftermath"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Battle Scars"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Replacements"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Bounty Lost"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Reunion"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Rampage"
- Star Wars: The Bad Batch – "Common Ground"