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10.16.2012 , 10:03 PM | #2
Chapter 1. Meet Elara Dorne

Crossposted from the Weekly Challenge Thread.

The first Imperial I ever saw was, when I saw him, in the process of killing my father.

I say "in the process" because he didn't make it fast. He had ion cells to spare, time to kill, stims to keep the entertainment conscious; besides that the "security sweep" of the occupied village was…nah, enough of that. Spend a day in my head and you'll see the whole thing over again anyway, some days more vivid than others.

So anyway. That was a long time ago. I grew up, made good, joined the Republic Army, and found myself "leader" of the "elite" "Havoc Squad." I try not to be sarcastic, but in effect I'm replacing a bunch of defectors (to the Empire. The Empire! Who does that!?) to command an angry, recently demoted Cathar. That's Havoc Squad. Him and me. I think they're just that desperate to keep the name active rather than admitting the Empire swiped our best.

Jorgan's all right, mind you. He's like my brother only not a scumbag. Well, he's a different kind of scum. It's hard to describe. We can't get six words without picking another fight, but he's good people.

Havoc Squad's first priority? Hunting down its old members, of course. And boy, do I have every reason to want to see them stand and account for themselves.

My first lead was on Taris. The planetside control center I walked into was busy. Decent variety of people. I couldn't help but notice the bright golden hair of one woman working over a console across the room. It was done up in one of those buns you might call severe, but it looked nice. And when she looked my way…you know how blondes all have gold dust on their eyelashes? I swear I could see it from where I stood.

I reported to Colonel Gaff, who was in a snit at Havoc Squad having the gall to storm through demanding support for an unspecified mission. He stonewalled me until Sergeant Gold Dust left her console and walked up to directly contradict his claims of knowing nothing useful.

"Patrol teams three, five, and eight were all lost, all without explanation."

This news might have been more tactically interesting if it hadn't been delivered in a pitch-perfect Imperial accent.

The woman and her stupid yellow bun came to stand opposite Colonel Gaff. They glared at each other. I glared at her, but I don't think anybody was counting that, except maybe Jorgan.

She turned her eyes, dull overgrown lashes and all, away from the colonel and saluted me crisply. "Elara Dorne, sir. Sergeant, first class, commander of Search and Rescue Squad 204." Imps command our squads now?

"Lieutenant Vierce Savins. Havoc Squad. Colonel, is there anyone you can recommend to brief me on this matter?" Is this person actually qualified to be here?

Dorne didn't respond to the slight. Gaff processed my displeasure and gave me a sullen sneer. "That would be Sergeant Dorne. She's all yours."

"If you would, sir." The sergeant tilted her head toward a conference room and led me and Jorgan in, standing by to shut the door after us.

I had work to do, I reminded myself. Leads to pursue, and somehow Sergeant Imperial was the only one talking. I wouldn't take her information at face value, but there was a chance it was better than nothing. Therefore: "If you have information for me, sergeant, I'll be glad to hear it."

She nodded crisply – crisp was a big thing with her – and laid out the whole story of the base's standard patrols, their usual patterns, the communications of the missing patrols, every item of standard procedure they had missed. She had paragraph citations for the procedural violations. The constant rules mentions, done in that accent, really made her seem like an Imperial trooper scribbling "I AM LEGIT REPUBLIC" on her helmet.

But she got me the information to start. Whoever was screwing with our patrols might have other information I needed, and I sure didn't have any other leads, and it was possible that Colonel Gaff didn't actively encourage Imp operatives to send officers he disagreed with into deathtraps. It was possible.

I thanked her, as politely as I could stand to - she did have the uniform, after all, so I figured I could pull together some courtesy - and excused myself.

Jorgan fell into step beside me on our way out. "That was…interesting. I've had drill sergeants more relaxed than that woman. Not to mention that accent."

"Yeah, well. Imps aren't known for their capacity to relax."

"There's a story with her," said Jorgan. "But I don't think we're getting it until we finish this little job."

"I have a better idea. We skip the story." I rubbed my neck and growled. "Gah. Let's go. Sooner we find Needles, sooner we get off this rock."

It was, I realized as we mounted up outside, the first time I had ever met an Imperial without physically attacking her. (Or him.) The encounter felt more than a little unsatisfying. But I had work to do. Eh, with any luck she would've wandered into a rakghoul nest by the time I got back to base.
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