The Short Fic Weekly Challenge Thread!
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11.02.2012 , 08:58 PM |
@Magdalane Aw. A call at the right time is the best thing ever.
@Irrissa Noooo, Chance...and a very sympathetic Agent
Now, may as well dump the rest of this. Some kind of
as witnessed by Vierce. Spoilers for Trooper Tatooine. 1600 words.
We breached the Imperial bunker buried under the Dune Sea. Once inside we found Fuse's jail cell before we found the command center. Lucky Fuse.
The pale kid was the only prisoner in the block, the only Zabrak in the base, the only Havoc failure on the planet. He looked even scrawnier in person than on holo. "Lieutenant," he said anxiously when he saw us coming. "You made it just in time – Colonel Gorik called for a full-scale evacuation. He's already at the hangar in the back of the base overseeing the evacuation – and he has my bomb designs with him. Please, you have to stop him."
Couldn't let that one get away. "I will," I said shortly.
The floor rumbled. Red lights started flashing and a voice came from every loudspeaker at once: "Warning. Warning. Self-destruct sequence initialized. All personnel evacuate to the hangar area immediately. This is not a drill."
I looked around. "They rigged the whole base to blow?"
"A research base with the kind of secrets they're developing? They would, sir," said Fuse.
"Great." Time to move. I took a look at the control panel for the forcefield that sealed Fuse's cell. Then I took a look at Fuse. "Have fun dying for your Empire." I turned away.
Jorgan clenched his jaw so tight his cheek spasmed. He gave me one look of green-yellow fire, then walked by me and punched the door release. "Come on, Fuse," he said.
I swung around to face him. "Jorgan, that's a hell of a lot more trouble than you want with me."
"He surrendered, sir."
There was work to do and I couldn't let loose on Jorgan, nor by extension the idiot I would have to shoot through Jorgan to get to, just then. Dorne and 4X didn't seem about to speak up; if I was the only sane person there – well, I would have to sort it out later. I made myself start walking.
Fuse trotted to keep up. "Sir, I'll do everything I can. I want to make this up to you. To everyone."
I didn't look at him. "Two hundred forty-seven civilians dead from your testing in Anchorhead. A hundred and fifty of them women and children. Now I don't know what the f*** part of this surprised you when you signed on with those people and I don't care. Stay close, stay quiet, you might live long enough to see your court-martial. Jorgan, you're responsible for him."
We cleaned up Gorik and every other Imperial who tried to escape the building before we took the shuttle from their hangar and got out ahead of the blast. We landed well outside Anchorhead and trudged in on foot. I gestured for Dorne to deal with Fuse when we reached our own ship. I followed Jorgan straight up the ramp, across the holo room, and into the armory, and when he turned around I threw him a right cross that slammed him into the lockers hard enough to rebound.
He glowered at me and checked his jaw. "Feel better?" he said in a low hard voice.
"No. KIA was all he deserved. Don't ever cross me on something like that again."
"He doesn't need to die. You see a bad order, sir, you question it. Or you refuse it."
"What's bad about letting a traitor burn in the fire he helped set?"
"We wouldn't have nabbed Gorik without him. He's got intelligence on Havoc Squad's activities and he's more than willing to help. Mission says bring him in alive if possible. We can use him." Jorgan crossed his arms. "He's earned another shot at this."
I hefted my rifle. "I was just gonna give him the one shot, but sure. Two works." I lowered it again. "Either way it's my call."
Jorgan's stare never wavered. "So do it," he said quietly. "If you want it done, do it."
"I might." I fished a kolto press out of my pack and tossed it to him for his already-swelling jaw. My point was made. Then I left. I went, not to the brig, but to the bridge, where I could bring up the surveillance holo.
It's one thing to kill a man in combat or leave him to his fate in the thick of things. It's another thing, a much colder thing, to deal the execution in a moment of quiet. I've done both as needed. Especially for traitors and collaborators. I've seen men – and women – die spitting defiance, I've seen them die laughing hysterically, I've seen them die chanting their articles of faith, I've seen them die crying and begging for their worthless traitor lives.
I figured Fuse would beg. He was young, after all. Stupid, stupid kid. Stupid, and others paid the price for it. I couldn't figure out a story that could stretch to explain both why he had turned on the Republic and why, when he knew it was already too late, he had helped us out.
He was just sitting there in his cell. He was done resisting. I guess he hadn't been resisting the whole time.
My stomach twisted a little.
Garza wanted him brought in alive and she wouldn't accept the story that he passed through Anchorhead just fine but somehow mysteriously died on the ship. That's what I told myself. From a practical standpoint I couldn't get away with giving Fuse what he deserved. That's all.
I washed up and then I went to sleep. Tomorrow I would return him to Coruscant. They can do firing squads just as easily there as here.
Jorgan was waiting for me when I got up the following morning.
"Was talking to Fuse," he said.
I didn't look at him. "I'll have to question your judgment on that, but whatever makes you happy."
"You know what got the old Havoc Squad to defect?"
"No. Though maybe it wasn't much smarter than that. You remember Commander Tavus mentioned Ando Prime once or twice?"
"Yeah. There was some classified op there."
Jorgan nodded. "A classified op that went sour, and the Republic, rather than sending in support to get 'em home, cut 'em loose. They shouldn't have survived that, but Commander Tavus brought 'em out whole."
"What do you mean, Command cut them loose? Why would they do that?"
"Don't know the details, sir. I just know that's how it went down."
"And in response Tavus and the others decided to hop the fence."
"Looks like it."
"Looks like it."
I banged into the brig a while later. Fuse was still just sitting there. He started and sat up straight while I settled on the bench opposite.
We looked at each other a while.
"Sir," he said weakly. "I'm sorry, sir."
"Your apologies aren't worth much," I said. I stared at him a while longer. "What the f*** were you thinking?"
Fuse leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees. His hands waved and grasped at nothing while he spoke. "You have to understand. Havoc Squad served. We were the best. We could do the impossible, and did do it a few times. The Republic owed Commander Tavus and the rest of us more than I can count. So maybe we weren't too popular with some politicians. It didn't matter. We did good.
"So when Ando Prime went down...when we found out support wasn't coming...it didn't make any sense. How could they throw us away like that? How could they just drop Havoc Squad? We gave the Republic everything. We would've done anything for them, for each other. And they cut us loose the second it was convenient. Can you blame Tavus for wanting out?"
"Out to the Empire?"
"Where else could we go? We're fighters. We just needed to be backed by someone who wouldn't turn on us."
"You knew what they were. You stupid son of a b****, you knew!"
"The soldiers we'd met were dedicated, courageous – honorable, a lot of them. They believed in what they were fighting for, and the Empire believed in them." He shook his head. "I know what you think, sir, but not every Imperial is a murderous psychopath."
"Oh? How many are, then? One in two, three, ten? All it takes is one when morons like you sign up to obey him."
"I didn't know, sir."
"Yeah. Well, I guess you found out."
"That's why I helped you back there. I wanted to try to set things right."
"Better two hundred fifty bodies late than never, huh?"
"If you think I don't feel terrible about that, you're wrong. I can't...I can't wash that out, I know that."
"If you're capable of feeling bad about it you're not much of an Imperial." I stood up. "So maybe I don't know what you are. I'll let Command sort that out." I headed to the door, stopped with one last thought. "I'm real sorry you didn't get your taxi ride home from Ando Prime. But next time you get pissed off at your bosses, don't take it out on the rest of us."
I headed back to my quarters. And, for some reason, took out my dress uniform. I just traced the embroidered insignia on it for a while. Back on Kegled II, we didn't leave each other. Ever. If anybody ever did...I mean, the people who got abandoned would survive. We're tough like that. I just don't know what they would do about it after.
The Empire, though? That move made Fuse and his friends worse than any abuse they could've taken here. I brought up my barebones mission report and added: "Only additional commentary on target's behavior is already on file as armorcam records from the day target and former Commander Tavus left Ord Mantell."
* Does 247 seem like a high death count? When you first enter the mayor's office in Anchorhead you hear that the "tally" (it isn't specified whether this is killed or wounded) of the most recent ripple of bombings is 64, and there have been "more than a dozen" such bombings this week. Imagine that was an uncommonly bad one; say they average 40 hits per. Imagine no more than half of those are deaths – a dramatic percentage, but again there's a nonnegligible chance that the cutscene was describing the death toll outright. The estimate is still 240 people killed. That week.
Umm...yeah. I hadn't heard, prior to this thread, what happens to Fuse if you let him live, because you can bet that in-game Jorgan didn't stop me. He disapproved, but he didn't stop me.
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