They were just getting some chow when it happened.
Prudii ducked as the bomb exploded in the mess, sending corpses of Republic soldiers, people he knew, flying everywhere. He pulled his sidearm and wished profusely for a helmet. Scowling, he leapt behind the cover of an upturned table as a spread of blasterfire peppered the room.
Prudii glanced across the room. Vik and Yuun had kicked over a bench and were crouched down, blasters drawn and ready. Elara was dragging an injured soldier back into the kitchen. Jorgan...
Jorgan was on the ground.
Prudii spat in Mando'a, then raised his head above the table to find targets. There were ten of them, all clad in black and gold armor, and with more pouring in by the minute. Standing, he opened fire. One target, a human, fell instantly, as did a Rodian and a Duros behind him. The other black-armored soldiers saw him and opened fire; Prudii ducked down just in time to avoid having his head blown off.
"Yuun, Vik!" he said. "Flank 'em!"
Yuun holstered his blaster and drew his electrostaff, then began moving through the mess from cover to cover. Vik moved to a better firing position and raised his blaster. Prudii held up his fingers. Three, two...
He stood and fired, killing a Weequay. Vik's shot took out a Gamorrean. The other soldiers were about to turn in their direction when Yuun leapt out and began weaving his way through them, cutting them down quickly. Several other Republic soldiers managed to get to their feet and fire.
And another bomb went off.
The table Prudii was behind went flying, and Prudii felt himself being carried along with it. He tucked his knees up to his chest and slammed back first into the wall. He hit the ground just as the table would have flattened him. It crashed into the wall, splintered, and fell. Prudii rolled aside.
He stood and took a shot, killing another enemy soldier.
Who are they? he wondered. Imperial? Dread Forces? Regulators? No time to think–fight!
He fired at another soldier; a clean headshot. Yuun and Vik had regained their feet and were fighting–Vik now with his vibrosword. Prudii wished for his rifle, but he had to make do. He fired again, killing another black-clad opponent.
The third bomb went off.
Prudii ducked down as shrapnel flew overhead. Another bomb, and another, and another, went off in the room, not giving him a chance to stand. Finally, it was over, and he vaulted over the counter to resume the fight...and they were gone.
"Blast," he muttered. He spoke into his wrist comlink. "Havoc Squad, report in."
"This is Elara. I have a handful of wounded here, can't treat them all. Call for medical assistance immediately."
"Vik here. I'm outside–they're all gone, no sign of 'em."
"Yuun reports no sign as well. Yuun apologizes."
"Nothing to apologize for," Prudii replied. "Dorne? How's Jorgan?"
"Jorgan?" Dorne asked. "Sir...I don't have him here."
Prudii's heart sunk. He looked around the room desperately, fearing that he would see his friend's broken corpse. He did not.
"They took him," Prudii said grimly. "They got Jorgan."
* * *
"Who were they?" General Garza asked.
Prudii felt weary, more weary than he'd ever felt before. Havoc had been on the planet Bilbringi, fighting against anti-Republic separatists, much like Prudii's first assignment on Ord Mantell. It should have been easy; reports indicated the Bilbringi Liberation Force had been meagerly supplied; indeed, many of them wore armor that suggested they'd been purchased off the black market or been given as a show of faith by the Empire.
Prudii knew what the BLF's gear looked like. The black-armored forces that had attacked them had been nowhere close to the BLF. They'd been more efficient, better trained, better geared–everything.
"No idea," Prudii replied. "They fought like a crack special forces team, but they weren't geared like Imperials or Regulators, or even the Dread Forces."
"They could have been Imperials," Garza said, "wearing false uniforms to throw us off. Why else would they kidnap a member of Havoc Squad?"
"There's a reason, I'm sure. But I don't think they were Imps–too many aliens."
"Imperial-hired mercenaries, then."
"No, even they tend to be more human or near-human."
Garza considered. "We're at a dead end, then."
Prudii nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
"And with no clue where Captain Jorgan may be," Yuun agreed grimly.
All in all, it couldn't have gotten much worse.