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11.06.2012 , 12:17 PM | #41
Thanks, all!

Once again I'm publishing four, and this time it's post #2 (Chapter 17) that's entirely new. I'm slowly chugging through the tremendous Nar Shaddaa/Tatooine backlog to get to Alderaan, which at the moment is a terrifying expanse of things I haven't written even for the Short Fic thread...

Chapter 16. Tatooine: Community Service

Crossposted from the Short Fic Weekly Challenge thread. No game spoilers.

We hit the ground on Tatooine ready to hunt, but our local contact didn't have any leads to start with. We ended up riding out to check some of the farmsteads outside Anchorhead in the hopes of hearing some news of Imp activity. That's how we found one woman out fiddling with a hand scanner near one little homestead.

I took off my helmet and tucked it under my arm as I approached her. "Ma'am. I'm Lieutenant Savins, with the Republic Army. Can I ask a minute of your time?"

She shook her head at me. "We have to be inside by nightfall. Please go."

A little kid, no more than eight years old, ran up to her side and gawked. "Wow, Mister! You're done up like Havoc Squad!" He gestured at the spot on his shoulder where my insignia would be.

"That's because we are Havoc Squad, kid."


"Inside, Devy," said the woman.

"We got half an hour ‘til sunsdown, Mom."

"Inside. Now. The Sand People don't always wait until full dark these days."

That got my attention. "Um. Sand People, ma'am?"

"Yes. Natives, savages. There's a band that's been raiding farmsteads all around here for weeks. You understand, I have to get my family to shelter now."

"But they're Havoc Squad, Mom! They've got a battle droid! I bet they could take the Sand People."

That really depends on their numbers, how well supplied they are, what the terrain around here is like, whether we can find a spot to fight that doesn't give them comfortable sniper sights – and good luck with that, they know this country better'n we do – what kind of vehicular and droid support they have…

The kid was alternately staring at our uniforms and admiring M1-4X with big brown eyes. I like kids. There's a light in their eyes that goes out somewhere on the way to growing up, and no one ever gets it back. I try to delay that moment as long as I can.

"I bet we could take those Sand People," I said. I looked around at Jorgan, Dorne, and M1-4X. "Optional assignment, guys, I know it's off hours. Anyone who stays, I figure we'll find a place nearby to lay up and watch, clear out anything that tries to hit the place."

"Such a gesture of goodwill toward the potential allies of the Republic is an excellent idea!" announced M1-4X.

"I'm in," grunted Jorgan.

I waited for Dorne's recitation of all the reasons it was irregular and therefore bad. "We're all in, sir," she said instead.

I hid my surprise as best I could. "That's what I like to hear." I looked to the woman. "Ma'am, if you don't mind me talking to your son." I knelt to meet the kid's eyes. "We're going to need a decent place to watch from, someplace we can view the whole perimeter of your house and where it'll be hard for anybody to sneak up on us from behind." Kids can think in those terms when they're horsing around; grownups don't always do so. So I asked the expert. "You're my scout here. Got any recommendations for me?"

Devy didn't hesitate more than two seconds; he scampered off in one direction and I followed, making sure to keep a pace his mother could keep up with. She still seemed on edge. I guess I would be, too.

The kid brought us to a sweet spot on a low rise with its back to the city. Good visibility, enough rocks for cover. "Here's where I would go if I were gonna shoot 'em. If I had the blasters," he said.

"You've got a real good eye, kid. And luckily we do have the blasters."

Devy surveyed the landscape and smiled a gap-toothed smile. "Can I watch?"

"No," his mother said quickly.

"I'm afraid you'd better stay inside and look after your mother," I told him. "It may sound boring, but making sure things stay safe and quiet on the inside's just as important as shooting the bad guys on the outside. Each of us doing what's needed, that's what makes us a team." I nodded to his mother. "You'd best get him home, ma'am. If there's any trouble we'll clear it out from here."

We didn't have to wait long. The last sliver of Tatooine's second sun was still clinging to the horizon when thick shadows started scudding between the rocks a little ways around the complex. I heard one of M1-4X's missile turrets swinging into position beside me.

The action was surprisingly short; I don't know how Sand People usually fight but this was a small and not very well-coordinated group. We cleared the field in minutes and immediately set about gathering the bodies to burn.

We had just gotten that under way when running steps came up behind us – too light and irregular for a fighter's. Devy ran up close to us and stopped short, staring at the slowly catching fire.

"Did you kill 'em all?" he asked, wide-eyed.

"Sure did. It's nothing pretty to look at, Devy. But I can tell you they won't be bothering you any more. You did good, showing us the right place to watch from so we could catch 'em."

"Jint and Leese are never gonna believe Havoc Squad got rid of the Sand People."

"Not gonna believe you, huh?" I took off my helmet and knelt to face Devy. "You can just show 'em this." I turned the helmet around and gently placed it on his head.

The second my hands were clear he yanked it off again and stared at it. "C-can I keep it?" he squeaked.

"Sure can. You helped Havoc Squad get the job done tonight. You earned it."

He ran back off toward the house, clutching the helmet tight. I stood up and nodded at his approaching mother. "We're in town a few days longer, ma'am. If any other trouble comes of this, call Anchorhead's mayor, he'll get you in touch with us."

"Thank you," she said quietly.

"Just doing my job. Good health to you and your son."

With that the four of us started on back towards Anchorhead. I freed up a hand to run through my hair, letting the startlingly chill nighttime wind ruffle it further. It felt good.

"I like that part of my job," I said to no one in particular.

"I'm not sure running yard maintenance for non-citizens in the back end of nowhere is part of our job, sir."

I rounded on Jorgan, ready to tell him exactly what I thought of his grumbling, and found him looking at me with a gleam in those wicked yellow eyes.

I rearranged my attitude around that and returned his sly smile, then gestured on towards Anchorhead. "Let's pack it in, people."
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