Chapter Five: The Surprise
Besh motioned for Dorn to unlock the double-doors that would lead them on the path to Aurek. At three by six meters, the barrier promised a compact enough path with which to trek beyond its obstruction. With a few taps, the team’s own lockdown had been lifted and the gateways began its slow process of parting.
The sense of ease and otherwise lethargic response of the troopers allowed the presence on the other side of the doors to remain unnoticed until it was too late. With the doors exposing only half of what rest behind its maw, a squad of heavy Republic troopers lay ready, guns raised and trained on their intended targets. Helmed and clad in distinctive white armor, these were not of the same class as the weak hangar defenders.
“Hold it!” a Republic soldier commanded from the forefront of the group. The command resonated forward, freezing not only the Imperials but seemingly the door along with it.
“Probably should have checked for that,” Besh slowly mumbled. The Republic squad leader rebuked his opposite with an order of silence. That order was quickly followed by a command for the Imperials to raise their hands.
Four and a half of the Imperials complied. Esk was the half, deciding that raising only his left hand would suffice. The demo-man looked as if he were about to hesitantly swear an oath instead of admitting surrender. Dorn was the man whose hands remained his own. Still hugging the wall console, the Republic troopers’ perspectives left them with no evidence of his existence.
“What? Were these guys just sitting behind the door? Or do we just have horrible timing?” Esk chimed in.
Not taking kindly to his aversion to silence, the Republic leader jerked his rifle towards the churlish Imperial, and submitted a repeated threat. One that was not accepted by its intended recipient.
“You think this is the first time I’ve had a blaster directed toward my face? For talking, no less? I’ve received worse from people who like me a lot more than you, pal,” Esk admitted.
The rest of the squad remained perfectly still as tensions flared between the two. Everyone’s attention was so focused on the two troopers that Dorn almost did not detect the subtle notification that appeared on his heads-up-display. One final taunt from Esk drove the Republic frontrunner forward, stepping past the half-open barrier, intent on delivering a stock strike with his rifle to the faceplate of the antagonistic Imperial.
Moving with speed uncharacteristic of someone his size, Grek intercepted the blow by positioning himself between the two soldiers. The result was a barely audible ting as the weapon bounced of Grek’s chest, causing a physical and emotional recoil by the Republic trooper. The white soldier hadn’t even a chance to recover before a heavy black boot planted itself right below his sternum. As Grek sent the trooper hurling backwards into his own squad mates, the previous notification on Dorn’s HUD flared.
Taking note, the engineer quickly began shutting the doors. The Republic troopers, now knocked completely to the ground by their own leader, only caught a short glimpse of the giant turning away. The demolitionist revealed behind him, his left hand still raised, swiftly scooped a silvery orb from his belt with his right and tossed it through the closing door. The lobbed explosive and the subtle wave goodbye from Esk’s still elevated hand were the last things the Republic squad saw before the doorway completely shut. The muffled thump on the other end of the door signaled the device’s detonation to the now relaxed Imperials. Yet oddly enough, Esk still had his single hand raised in the air.
“High five, anyone?” Esk proposed with restrained turns toward his squad mates. Grek, still in front of him, turned around and indulged the trooper in celebration.
“At least you managed to toss it beyond the door this time,” Dorn chimed in. “Last time it bounced off the frame and landed back at our feet.”
“Last time, your timing was off,” Esk fervently explained. “Plus, used my right hand this time. Because I learn from my mistakes, Mr. ‘Keeps Forgetting to Check What’s Behind Door Number One’, eh?”
“Wouldn’t want you to have naught to talk about during our extended time together in the hangar,” Dorn joked. “Nothing speeds up a slicer like critical analysis.”
“Alright, alright. Let’s just see what kind of cleanup is needed,” Besh interrupted in an increasingly commanding tone.
“Shall I take a peek through the console, or just open the doors again?” Dorn quipped. Esk responded with a soft flail of the hands beckoning the trooper to do as he wished. Besh confirmed the query with a single word, and not a moment later the barrier began to part.
The troopers were greeted with a scene of rather restrained devastation. All eight of the Republic soldiers lay scattered on the floor, slightly pushed away from what appeared to be the zone of impact. The effects of the explosive were no more evident than on that of the fallen squad leader. His once pristinely white chest plate had been blackened and utterly cracked.
The device was primarily concussive, with some thermal energies thrown in there for some added pizazz. A critical range of a few meters with a stun range a few meters past that. None made it to the stun range.
With the doors wide open, the four Imperials that made up the future rescue squad stepped beyond the threshold to examine the collapsed troopers. Kicking away weapons, they examined each for any signs of life.
“And the Director says explosives are expensive,” Esk commented, still in the hangar. “Divide the cost by eight soldiers and you’re down to a measly 125 credits.”
“For a man who hates discretion… you have an odd taste for economics,” Forn responded.
“What can I say? I’m a complicated individual with simple tastes,” Esk joked. The hunter bobbed his head in agreement. As Besh, Cresh and Forn checked the bodies and weapons that lay about, Grek stood adamant ahead of them, becoming a makeshift barrier for any additional soldier that might happen by.
“Everything seems clear,” Cresh informed. The other two examiners promptly agreed.
“Let’s head out,” Besh ordered. “Let’s divide the comm into separate party channels and leave the collective open for emergency communications while apart. Stay safe you two.”
And with that, the sniper offered a parting salute and Dorn sealed the doors behind them. The four troopers readied their primary weapons from their hanging slings and made their way toward Aurek. Esk almost immediately turned around and began heading toward the shuttle.
“Where might you be heading?” Dorn inquired.
“Shuttle,” Esk answered without missing a beat.
“I can see that,” Dorn admitted. “What for?”
“Gonna need more explosives.”