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Life Aboard the Thunderclap


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YoshiRaphElan
11.20.2012 , 04:54 PM | #21
Chapter 15:
The Demolitions' Man


Back on the ship, they got a predictable call from the ever-persistent Zane. Jorgan considered letting it go unanswered, but his anger over the Deadeyes’ intentional capture led him to accept the call.

“Captain,” Zane growled. “Senior Agent Zane here. Apparently I didn’t make myself clear earlier. Or perhaps you thought an unauthorized rescue mission didn’t constitute as interfering?”

“Torve told us about your involvement in the Deadeyes’ capture,” Prudii said, a deadly edge to his voice. The man didn’t tolerate messing with the Republic’s troops.

“Considering how classified that information was, I do hope you had to torture Lieutenant Torve, Captain. I understand you’re concerned for your comrades, but you morons are only complicating things!”

“You are addressing the commander of Havoc Squad, Zane!” Jorgan hissed. “You will show him the proper respect.”

“Apologies,” Zane said, and sounded genuinely sorry. “But this is a delicate operation, and your continued involvement will only jeopardize its completion.”

“I’m not going to stop,” Prudii said. “Those men don’t deserve what they’re going through.”

“Then you can expect far worse than holocalls,” Zane snapped.

“Your operation’s falling apart, Zane,” Jorgan said. “Now either rescue the Deadeyes yourself or stay out of my way.”

“I don’t take orders from grunts. This mission is over when I say it.”

“I’ve had it with this guy,” Jorgan said. “Permission to cut him off, sir?”

“Granted,” Prudii replied.

“Now, wait–” Jorgan cut the link.

* * *

There was no time to further pursue the Deadeyes, because Garza relocated them to Balmorra.

The intel they’d gotten from the agent on Tatooine was about an Imperial superweapon called the Gauntlet, and Garza wanted to complete Havoc Squad for the mission.

Their first new recruit was a man named Tanno Vik, a Weequay who’d had quite a number of bad marks on his record. Apparently he was something of a rogue.

Jorgan would put him in his place.

* * *

As soon as he stepped out of the shuttle, Jorgan had to duck in order to avoid a giant green insectoid. As it flew over his head, Jorgan fired his rifle up into its chest.

“Colicoids,” a female Twi’lek in armor said. “They’re mutants. Commander Madine has been expecting you, Captain.”

Prudii nodded. “Let’s not keep him waiting.”

Jorgan stood at rear guard, with Prudii at point. As they approached the base, they had to ward off two more Colicoid attacks. When they reached the base a team of Republic soldiers ran up to guard their rear.

One saluted. “Captain. Commander Madine is waiting inside.”

Prudii nodded and ducked into the base. Jorgan followed him, clipping his rifle to his backpack. He glanced around. The base appeared to be in shambles.

“What a mess,” Jorgan muttered.

“I heard that,” Commander Madine said. “It’s good to meet you, Captain Prudii.”

Prudii saluted. “Sir. An honor.”

“I’m glad to have Havoc Squad on Balmorra,” Madine said. “Good to see Garza’s finally taking my request for Special Forces assistance seriously. Let’s get down to work.”

“Actually,” Prudii said awkwardly, “Garza did not send me here to help you. I’m sorry, but there’s a case of galactic crisis mounting and it is more important than any one planet. I’m here to recruit Sergeant Tanno Vik to Havoc Squad.”

Madine’s face darkened slightly. “Are you saying you will not assist my forces, Captain?”

Prudii shook his head. “Never, sir. I am just saying I am not at your complete disposal–any mission you assign me must be within reasonable correlation to Tanno Vik.”

“Very well,” Madine said quietly. “There’s a man in the Balmorran Resistance–Ardon. Speak to him, he’ll tell you where Vik is. I’ll give you your correlating assignment when you return.”

* * *

“Scanning sector two…nothing,” said a man to a Twi’lek in a Resistance uniform. “Just like the others, Prand.”

Prudii stood by quietly, waiting. Dorne scowled under her helmet. The man Ardon had been rude and standoffish when asked about Vik. He’d provided the information, reluctantly.

“Excuse me,” Prudii said to the Twi’lek. “I’m looking for Tanno Vik. Can you help me?”

The man jumped a little. “Ah! Oh, you’re with the Republic. I thought we were dead meat.”

“Looking for Vik, huh?” the Twi’lek asked. “That Weequay scumbag’s long gone.”

“What? Gone?” Prudii grunted. He was not in a forgiving mood. “I need to find him immediately.”

“Vik was here earlier,” said the Twi’lek. “But he slipped away when we weren’t looking–along with our entire security team!” He shook his head. “All he left was this holorecording.”

Dorne watched in an increasingly sour mood–and was disturbed that Prudii’s mood was affecting hers so much. She turned her attention back to the recording. Vik was a scumbag, no doubts there.

“The Republic wouldn’t get a mercenary for a top secret op,” Prudii said when the recording ended.

Jorgan nodded. “Vik’s a total liar, and a piece of scum. I’d rather have a traitor like Fuse on Havoc than that man. Just barely.”

“General Garza chose Vik!” Forex said. “I am sure he is the best for the job.”

Prudii barked out a sharp laugh. “Right. Sure.”

What was up his afterburner, Dorne wondered.

* * *

Tanno Vik raised his rifle and shot the Imperial in the gut. The trooper fell. Tanno ducked around the corner and pulled his arm in as a hail of bolts flew into the building. What was taking that Havoc man so blasted long?

“Sir!” said one of the Resistance forces. “There are too m–”

A blaster bolt slammed into his throat, killing him instantly. Vik snarled. He had no emotional attachment to these men–but they were his. It made his blood fill with fury to have something that was his taken away. He whirled and fired his rifle on full auto.

It clicked empty, and he threw it down and drew his vibrosword he charged out and cut down two, then three Imps–and dropped as a stream of stun bolts slammed into him.

Vik tried to stand. An Imperial officer stood over him. A dark grin on his face, Vik drew his pistol and blasted the Imp through his throat.

Then he passed out.

* * *

Vik awoke with a bad feeling about this. He grunted as someone slapped him, and then punched him. He looked up. Brel Orus crossed his arms and smirked.

“Again!” he yelled. “Hit him again! Make the thieving liar pay!”

Vik grunted as the fist slammed into his face again. He looked up. The hitter was an Imperial soldier. Behind him was a guard. And behind him…

Vik grinned. The Havoc Squad captain bashed the butt of his pistol into the back of the guard’s head.

“Ah,” he said. “Well it’s been fun, guys. But it looks like my ride’s here. Nice knowing you.”

“Drop your weapon–now!” the Imp said, his rifle shouldered.

“No way,” Prudii said. “You drop it, or you’re dead.”

Oh, Vik liked him.

“Shut up!” Orus said. “We don’t negotiate with riffraff! The Empire fears no one, isn’t that right?”

“Yes, sir,” the guard replied.

“Hands up,” the captain snapped. “Now!”

“Enough! Shoot him, shoot him!”

Orus whipped out his pistol, but Vik watched as the Havoc captain shot the weapon out of his hand, and then blasted the Imp in the chest.

Orus ran to hide, and Vik laughed at him as the woman behind the Havoc captain came up and untied him.

“Well, that was exciting,” said Vik. “Good to finally meet you in person, Captain.”

“Welcome to Havoc Squad, Vik,” the Captain replied. “I’m Prudii. This is Lieutenant Aric Jorgan, Sergeant Elara Dorne, and combat droid M1-4X.”

Vik said, “That’s something I never expected to hear. What does Havoc do with worthless enemy bureaucrats?”

Orus cowered. “Uh…let’s not be hasty, now. I am a man of honor, despite what you may have heard.”

Something about that made Prudii mad, because he punched Orus. Hard. Vik liked him.

“Don’t talk to me about honor, auretii,” Prudii snarled.

Vik tilted his head. That was a Mandalorian word. Interesting. He liked even more.

“Yeah, nice guy!” Vik snarled. “You stole from your people and betrayed them to the Empire by accident!”

“I’ve made mistakes, certainly,” admitted Orus. “But allow me to make amends. A contribution of credits, say, to repay the Republic’s heroism on behalf of my fellow Balmorrans?”

Prudii punched him again. “I don’t want your money, traitor. Get out of here before I decide to finish it.”

Orus ran.

* * *

Prudii rubbed his hand. Jorgan winced. Orus was a thick man, so those punches must’ve hurt. Jorgan wondered if Prudii had been playing bad cop, or if he’d really been venting.

Either way, they had Vik.

“Here,” Prudii said.

He tossed Vik a box he’d been lugging on his back the whole time they’d been on Balmorra. Vik opened it and removed a set of fresh white Special Forces armor.

“All right,” Vik breathed. “I like it.”

“Welcome to Havoc, Specialist Vik,” Jorgan said.

“Thanks,” Vik replied. “Now, seeing as we’re on the same team, let me fill you in on my little operation. The vault we blew open is full of pricey prototype weapons designed by the Balmorran companies. Orus had them hidden before the Imperial invasion to ‘keep them safe’.”

Jorgan frowned. He wondered if Vik was being level with them. He glanced at Dorne, and saw that she was thinking the same thing.

“Orus never told the Imperials?” Prudii asked. He seemed interested.

“Of course not,” Vik replied. “He wanted to make money off them. Orus planned to sell the prototypes for a tidy profit. We could do the same–after picking a few choice items for ourselves.”

So that was Vik’s angle. Jorgan sighed. He would really need to straighten this guy out.

“Those prototypes should be put to good use,” said Prudii. “Not sold for profit. Imagine how the Republic could use them against the Empire. Or the Resistance, to free Balmorra?”

“Quite right, Captain,” said Dorne. “Those weapons must be turned over to the proper authorities, in accordance with Regulation 87-C.”

Jorgan nodded. “She’s right, sir.”

“I agree wholeheartedly!” Forex said. “The Republic could use these to great effect!”

Tanno shook his head. “I think you’ll change your mind once those blasters are in front of us. Let’s just get to the vault. If we don’t hurry, the Imperials might find the prototypes before us.”

* * *

When they reached the vault, Jorgan looked around while Vik called Commander Madine on his comlink, requesting a pickup squad.

When the squad arrived, Vik said, “Here they are, Sergeant. Go ahead and bring your men through. It’s clear.”

The sergeant, a Zabrak like Prudii, nodded and pressed a hand to his ear comlink. Three more troopers came in.

“Captain, this is Sergeant Tong,” Vik said. “I took the liberty of calling his transport team in to get these weapons crated up and ready for transport.”

“I appreciate you coming all this way to help us, Sergeant,” Prudii said.

“No problem, sir,” Tong said. “Hostile pickup is our specialty. Where can we take this stuff for you, sir?”

Jorgan and Dorne glanced at Prudii expectantly, as did Vik–but he expecting something entirely different.

“Yeah, sir.” Vik tilted his head. “Where are they taking all these highly useful, highly valuable prototype weapons?”

Jorgan shot him a warning glance. Vik took the hint and backed down. He had potential, at least.

“Send the weapons to Commander Madine,” Prudii said. “Tell him they’re to be dispensed evenly–half to the Balmorrans, and half back to Coruscant for General Garza.”

Jorgan and Dorne nodded in approval. It was a perfect solution.

“Copy that sir,” Tong said. “Get moving, men.”

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iamthehoyden
11.20.2012 , 05:24 PM | #22
Vik is awesome Sure he's rough and tumble, no where near pure as the driven snow, but he's cunning and likes to blow crap up. My kind of guy hehe.
aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?
---------------
Fan Fiction: My Name is Solomon Crae The Man in the Box

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YoshiRaphElan
11.20.2012 , 05:48 PM | #23
Quote: Originally Posted by iamthehoyden View Post
Vik is awesome Sure he's rough and tumble, no where near pure as the driven snow, but he's cunning and likes to blow crap up. My kind of guy hehe.
Yes, yes he is. He is dirty, but I've always favored him because he was the first companion I found out about.

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YoshiRaphElan
11.21.2012 , 04:52 PM | #24
Chapter 16:
A One Shot


Upon leaving Balmorra, Havoc Squad was sent to Quesh to rescue a squad of troopers called the Safecrackers, who had been trapped behind enemy lines.

Dorne loaded her pistol as the shuttle debarked from the orbital station and headed for the planet. She rubbed her upper arm where the doctor had injected her with anti-venom for the atmosphere on Quesh.

“So, when do we get to wreck something?” Vik asked.

He had taken a few hours to get over being mad at Prudii for letting the weapons go to the Republic and Balmorrans. But after that he had been almost insufferably cheery.

“Soon,” Prudii replied. “We’ll attack an Imp outpost to distract them from the Safecrackers, and then we’re off Quesh. Easy.”

“Yeah,” Jorgan said, crossing his arms. “Easy.”

* * *

Vik loaded his rifle and stood to one side of the entrance to the Imperial outpost. Dorne had her pistol out, and she stood beside Vik. Jorgan stood to the other side of the door, rifle out, and Forex was behind him. Prudii was planting a detonator on the door.

“Ready…” Prudii said. “Clear!”

He activated the breach charge and leapt aside as the door imploded. A hail of blaster bolts flew from the outpost. Vik whirled inside and opened fire. He cut down two Imps and ducked as Dorne and Prudii fired over his head.

“Spread out!” Prudii ordered. “Jorgan, Dorne, you’re with me. Vik, take Forex and do damage where it’ll hurt them the most.”

Vik grinned. “Roger.”

They split up down the hall. Vik entered the outpost’s power generator. He blasted down one of the guards, and Forex got the other. One of the engineers stood and reached for his pistol. Vik executed him.

“Anyone else goes for a weapon gets shot, too,” he said. “If you don’t want to die: leave!”

The engineers scrambled for the door, dropping their holstered weapons to the ground for good measure. Vik planted a detonator on the generator and opened a link to Prudii.

“This’ll make their eyes water,” he said. “Forex and I’ll meet you outside. Vik out.”

* * *

Jorgan cut down one of the Imperial guards and Dorne got the other. A battle droid squad charged in and fired. Jorgan whirled and switched his rifle to fully automatic and spread fire through the squad. The droids sparked and dropped.

“Targets down,” he said.

Prudii blasted the officer standing by the main console in the command center. The man dropped. Jorgan stood behind Prudii as he hacked into the console.

Jorgan looked around once to make sure all the Imps were dead and then slung his rifle over his shoulder. Prudii contacted the Safecrackers’ CO, Coria, and confirmed they were safe.

“Then we’re done,” Prudii said. “Vik, we’re on our way out. Count to twenty and then blow the generator.”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Vik said.

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YoshiRaphElan
11.23.2012 , 10:44 AM | #25
Chapter 17:
A Chilly Situation


Garza sent Havoc Squad to Hoth to find their final teammate, a Gand named Yuun. After Quesh, Jorgan had taken Vik aside and “explained” to him the rules of the squad.

Vik left the room considerably paler.

Dorne took the time to catch some alone time with Prudii–but it was just a quick kiss on the cheek, because there was a very annoyed flight controller telling them to land already.

“Later, Dorne,” promised Prudii.

She hoped it was a promise, anyway.

* * *

Yuun was an interesting one, Jorgan decided. While Prudii and Dorne talked to him, Jorgan stood to the side, arms crossed. Forex was across the room, scanning Yuun’s information on the Umbra encrypter. Vik was outside, standing guard–or that’s what he said. He was probably attempting to avoid Jorgan.

Jorgan’s confrontation with him had turned into a rough argument–and ended when Jorgan showed Vik physically why it was a bad idea to mess with him.

While Prudii was talking to Yuun, Dorne said over the private helmet comlink, “What did you do to Vik?”

Jorgan chuckled. “I learned a thing or two from a guy named Lieutenant Iresso back before I met Prudii on Ord Mantell. He called it a Mandalorian handshake.”

Dorne choked. “I’ve, ah…heard of it.”

She glanced back at Jorgan, and he inclined his head at her.

“I won’t tell Prudii,” she said.

Jorgan nodded. “Whatever it takes to get Vik working with us, right?”

She nodded, too. “Whatever it takes.”

* * *

A cave system later, Prudii was kneeling by one of Sergeant Yuun’s mortally wounded team. Jorgan felt heaviness in his gut.

“Poor guy,” Jorgan said.

Corporal Sajin appeared to have been ripped apart by several blaster bolts, but it wasn’t the professional aim of an Imperial.

“Don’t let his sacrifice waste,” Vik growled. “We need to find the Umbra encrypter before the Empire.”

“Sajin said pirates called White Maw did this,” Prudii spoke up. “Dorne, anything you can do for him?”

She shook her head. “No, sir. His heart was chewed up by a near hit. The arteries were ruined.”

“All of them?”

“All of them.”

Jorgan shook his head and walked over to where Forex was standing guard while Prudii contacted Yuun to tell him of the losses.

“Where do you think this Encrypter is?” Jorgan asked.

Forex inclined his head. “Statistics suggest it cannot be anywhere except the starship graveyard, Lieutenant Jorgan.”

“He’s right,” Prudii announced. “Confirmed by Yuun. Let’s move out.” He turned back to the dying Sajin. “One more thing. Corporal, Yuun said you served with honor.”

“Thank you…” Sajin’s eyes fluttered. “Thank you…”

Jorgan shook his head. He was gone.

* * *

When they found the last component of the Umbra, there was a female Cathar there–Jorgan hadn’t seen one of his own species in a long time, but that was considerably dampened by the fact that she had probably shot Sajin. He raised his rifle, as did Vik and Prudii. Dorne whipped out her pistol, and Forex locked his shoulder launchers into place.

“My, my, my.” The Cathar turned. “I can’t for the life of me figure out what you might be after. I’m Zareen. I take care of…targeted acquisitions, let’s say–like that pretty trinket you came here for. I get the impression you want it pretty bad.”

Jorgan’s rifle didn’t waver an inch from the spot between her eyes. One false move and she’d be dead.

“Can we work this out?” Prudii asked.

“Peaceful agreements are boring,” she hissed. “Unless, of course, they’re profitable. That piece of junk is worth a lot to you, isn’t it? So, make me an offer. If it’s high enough, we walk out of here.”

“You want money?” Prudii sounded disgusted. “You can have it.”

“Respectable, but I think you can do better. Last chance, army boy. How much is that scrap really worth to you?”

Prudii snarled, kept his rifle trained, but pulled a few more credits from his belt. “That’s the final offer, Zareen.”

“It’s a deal, soldier. Hand over the money.”

And she whipped out her pistol. Jorgan snarled and tightened his aim. Vik was already squeezing the trigger, but Jorgan gave him a glare, and he released the trigger. Then a squad of Imperials entered, their rifles aimed on both Havoc Squad and the pirates. Jorgan snarled a Mandalorian word he’d learned from Prudii and whirled to aim at the Imperials.

“Halt!” said an Imp officer. “I’m Major Artano of the Imperial military. Drop your weapons and surrender immediately!”

Jorgan rolled his eyes.

Prudii snorted. “Right.”

He shot Artano clean in the chest. The Imp dropped, and everyone fired at once. Two of the Imps went down from Jorgan and Vik’s fire, and Zareen and her pirates surprised the rest.

“Phew!” Zareen said. “Been a while since I’ve had a good scrap like that. I’m glad you stopped by. Your piece of junk is over there. Hopefully it didn’t get shot up too much. Now hand over my credits.”

“Just as we agreed, Zareen.”

Prudii tossed the credits to the ground.

“Ah…” Zareen said. “Credits, killing. I don’t think this day could get any better. Watch out for yourself, soldier boy. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again sometime.”

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YoshiRaphElan
11.24.2012 , 12:12 PM | #26
Chapter 18:
Running the Gauntlet


Arms crossed, Jorgan stood at the front of the ops room. Dorne and Yuun sat at attention, and Forex stood near Jorgan beside the podium. Vik was near the back, his legs crossed and arm propped on the back of the chair.

Prudii walked in, and Jorgan snapped off a smart salute. Yuun and Dorne sat straighter, if that was possible, and Tanno at least tilted his head in recognition.

“I’ve got the team prepped and ready for assignment, Captain,” Jorgan said. “We’re all eager to do some damage. Like Garza said, we’ll need two for the assault on the bridge. Getting there will be a fight. Vik and Yuun are spoken for, so that leaves me, Dorne, and Forex to hit the bridge. Who do you want on the job?”

Prudii considered. “Forex has the most stopping power, and Jorgan–you’re my XO. You two hit the bridge. Dorne, guard the ship. Make sure none of the Imps get past you.”

She nodded. “Yes, Captain.”

Forex raised his arms. “We will destroy those blasted Imps in glorious combat!”

“We’ll make the final adjustments before we land,” Jorgan said. “Any other words for the team, sir?”

“Havoc is the best squad in the Republic because it has the best soldiers in the Republic,” Prudii said. “We may be charging headfirst into the deadliest weapon of war in the Empire, but we will succeed.”

Yuun and Dorne were visibly moved by the speech, and even Vik sat straight in his seat and uncrossed his legs.

“The odds may be impossible. The enemy may outnumber us a hundred to one. But Havoc Squad will succeed!”

“Sir, yes, sir!” all five chorused.

* * *

The Thunderclap docked with the Gauntlet and Prudii opened the hatch. An Imp approached to investigate, and Prudii blasted him. Jorgan turned and followed him into the Gauntlet.

Yuun charged ahead, electrostaff whirling. Jorgan watched as the Gand slashed through the Imps. Vik and Forex stood back and opened fire. Dorne knelt and began assembling a field hospital in the corridor.

An Imperial sergeant charged into the corridor with a squad of soldiers. They opened fire, and Prudii barked for them to take cover.

Jorgan ducked back into the airlock, cocked his rifle, whirled, and took a shot at the sergeant. One of the sergeant’s men pushed him out of the way and took the bolt full on.

“Yuun is moving in,” the Gand said.

Jorgan wondered about Yuun’s strange speech pattern but couldn’t think about it in combat. Prudii gave Yuun permission to go.

“Covering fire!” Jorgan said.

He whirled and fired, along with Forex and Vik. Prudii charged in with Yuun. The Gand twirled and slashed with lethal precision. Prudii bashed down a trooper and leapt at the sergeant, ejecting his knuckle plate vibroblade. He buried the blade in the sergeant’s throat.

They waited for a count of five before Prudii said, “Clear! Get set for your assignments, people. Vik, make a distraction. Jorgan and Forex, head for the bridge. Dorne, hold this hall. Yuun, you’re with me. Everyone, move out!”

* * *

Yuun clenched his staff in his hands and walked quietly through the Gauntlet behind Prudii. The captain had his rifle up and ready. An Imp came around the corner, and Prudii blasted him. Yuun raised his staff in readiness. Prudii raised two fingers and swept them in a motion toward the door.

Yuun charged. An Imperial fired at him, and Yuun ducked under the shot. He brought his staff up into the Imperial’s chin. The trooper dropped, and Yuun finished him with a clean strike to the chest.

Prudii rounded the corner and blasted the last two Imps. Yuun sheathed his staff and approached the console. He began hacking into it.

“Hmm,” he said. “Yes, this is one of the points we seek. The first key to the door that seals our great objective.”

He continued working, rapidly doing what he had to do. He heard a blaster bolt and looked up to see a dead Imp lying at the entrance to the next corridor.

“The signs within this terminal’s workings are clear to Yuun, Captain,” he said. “Several others yet remain. All must be disabled for access to the core station.”

“Then let’s get moving,” Prudii said with a nod.

“Yuun agrees.”

* * *

Jorgan led Forex to the nearest turbolift. A pair of Imperial guards by the lift saw them and raised their rifles. Jorgan and Forex cut them down.

“Accessing turbolift controls,” Jorgan said, more for his own comfort than anything. He hadn’t been alone like this–not counting Forex–since one of his missions with the Deadeyes. “Destination: bridge.”

“Sir,” Forex said. “Are you speaking to me?”

“No, Forex. Just…talking to myself.”

The lift opened, and Jorgan unclipped a flash grenade from his belt, tossing it into the bridge. A squad of Imperials gasped and tried to cover their eyes…too late. The flash blinded them. Forex cut them down.

“Let’s move!” Jorgan said.

There were a lot more soldiers on the bridge.

* * *

Vik saw the door open to his left and realized it was Prudii and Yuun. He fired his rifle a few more times. The Imp at his feet struggled to get up, and Tanno brought his thick boot down on his spine. The Imp stopped struggling.

The rest of his squad charged. Vik threw a grenade and took out two more. The final one tried to make a dash at Vik. The Weequay brought up his rifle’s butt and bashed the Imp in the chin.

All targets neutralized.

“There you are,” Tanno said to Prudii. The captain had fresh scars on his armor. “We ready to finish this, or should I pop out for a drink?”

“I could use a drink,” Prudii acknowledged. “But right now we have business. Let’s move.” He turned to Yuun. “Rendezvous with Sergeant Dorne and stay sharp.”

“Yuun understands.”

The Gand drew his electrostaff and charged off. Vik checked the charge on his rifle. Empty. Lucky he’d bashed the Imp rather than tried to shoot him or he’d have been dead. Tanno clipped the empty rifle to his backpack and drew his vibrosword.

“Let’s go,” Prudii said.

They reached the first detonation spot and Vik quickly got to work setting the bomb. There was an energy bridge over this chasm–which Vik realized was the Gauntlet’s main weapon.

“We’ll have to cross the bridge before I hit the detonator,” Vik warned.

“You’re not detonating anything until we get back to the airlock,” Prudii ordered.

“Fine. Anyway, let’s get off this thing and back to the many thankful citizens of Coruscant.”

Prudii tilted his head. Vik realized he wanted to be liked by his men–and that made Vik respect him on a whole new level. Prudii really wanted to argue but didn’t.

“Medals, parades, parties…” Prudii joked. “This could be great.”

It wasn’t much, but Vik appreciated the effort. “These crazy missions do have their advantages,” he said. “I’ll follow your lead.”

* * *

Jorgan saw the captain of the Gauntlet reach for his blaster. He tried to whirl and shoot the captain but he was preoccupied with an Imp with a vibroblade. Forex beat him to the captain, spraying a stream of missiles in the captain’s direction.

“Enemy officer down,” Forex confirmed.

“Contact Sergeant Dorne and let her know,” said Jorgan.

He whirled and blasted the last of the Imps–and a bolt whizzed over his head.

* * *

Tanno knelt and planted the bomb. He connected the wires and nodded to himself, then synced it with the detonator.

“That’s the last one,” he said. “We’re good to go.”

Prudii’s comlink beeped. Vik looked around worriedly. He gripped his vibrosword and stood guard.

“Sir!” said Jorgan. “Big trouble on the bridge! We got the data but Imperial reinforcements showed up out of nowhere–a lot more than we can handle. Are the bombs planted; can we move out?”

Prudii nodded. “Pull out, Jorgan, pull out!”

“Roger that. Let’s move, Forex!”

As Prudii shut off the comlink, Vik stood easily. Prudii led him to the turbolift. When it reached the top an Imperial Special Forces sergeant was waiting.

“Take-take-take!” Prudii said.

Vik leapt in, sword drawn. He slashed at the Imp, who tried instinctively to block it with his rifle. Tanno’s blade sliced the rifle in half. The Imp staggered back and drew his own vibrosword. Prudii sent in covering fire, but the Imp dodged, all while dueling it out with Tanno.

Prudii’s shot slid through a gap in the sergeant’s armor plates. He dropped to his knees–and Tanno slashed him in the gut.

“Double time it!” Prudii said.

They reached the airlock, and Vik saw Prudii visibly lock up. Jorgan was lying on the ground, a smoking hole in the stomach area of his armor. Dorne was kneeling over him. She removed his chestplate and put a kolto patch over the hole in his gut. Prudii dashed over.

“Sit rep!” he said.

Forex said, “Jorgan was wounded valiantly fighting off the Imperials in the retreat.”

“Yes,” Dorne said. “And when Leftenant Jorgan took injuries, Forex actually carried him back.”

Prudii breathed. “Thanks, Forex.”

“It was the least I could do for a hero of the Republic, sir,” Forex said.

To Vik, he seemed surprisingly subdued.

“Let’s get out,” Prudii said. “Vik can detonate the charges after we bolt. Dorne, keep Jorgan stable, read?”

“Yes, Captain.”

Vik rushed to the cockpit and sat at the gunner’s seat. He plugged his detonator into the console and programmed it so he could activate the charges with the trigger. Dorne, apparently having taken care of Jorgan, rushed to the copilot seat. Prudii was right behind her, and he ran to the holocom.

“Strike team, this is Havoc Squad. We’re clear! Mission accomplished.”

“We copy, Havoc. All ships are clear. Proceed with the detonation.”

Tanno gave a feral grin and squeezed the trigger. “Boom.”

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YoshiRaphElan
11.25.2012 , 09:25 PM | #27
Chapter 19:
Confessions


Dorne looked at Lieutenant Jorgan with concern. He was Prudii’s friend–and more importantly a fine officer and soldier. She had to keep him alive.

She patched him up and then pressed IV needles into his arm. She sighed and sat down in the chair beside him.

They were en route to Coruscant, and Prudii was in the cockpit with Tanno and Yuun. Forex was shut down in the cargo hold.

“Jorgan,” she said quietly. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but it is scientifically proven that men and women in comas can sometimes comprehend what is going on around them even if they cannot react.”

She sighed. “I have to get this off my chest. I need to talk to someone. It’s about Captain Prudii. Everyone aboard the ship by now should be aware we have feelings for each other, but I wanted to say it aloud to someone other than him.”

Jorgan made no sign of moving–his heart rate did not increase and his eye movement did not change.

She continued, “We only shared a few personal memories and stories. After a while we admitted our fondness for each other. I just wanted to tell you.”

She stood and left him to rest, feeling better.

* * *

Yuun sat at the small table in Carrick Station’s cantina. After returning to Garza, Prudii had been promoted to Major–Jorgan, for his valor, had made Captain–Yuun and Dorne been given the title of Lieutenant–Vik had been promoted from specialist to Sergeant.

Yuun analyzed the situation. He did not know why they had been praised so. Surely Jorgan did deserve it, but the rest of them…they’d all done only what was necessary.

He voiced his doubts to Dorne and Vik.

Vik snorted, but Dorne said, “That, in itself, is why, Yuun. When men and women do things that are necessary, because it is necessary and not for promotion or praise, then they are deserving of the promotion.”

Yuun tilted his head. “Yuun may understand. In Gand society, we may only earn the right to name by achievements, but they must be achievements recognized by the Gand community, not by the Gand earning the name.”

He continued, “Those with some achievements to speak of earn a single name–like Yuun. Others with more achievements earn a personal name in addition to the surname. Only those recognized by all or most Gand can carry the right to speak in first person rather than third person. No matter what, we cannot earn the right by doing what we feel is a great achievement, but…what is extraordinary because it had to be done.”

Dorne considered. “What did you do to earn your name, Yuun?”

Yuun frowned under his mask, but forgave her. “It is not spoken of, because it is considered to be bragging.”

“I’m sorry,” Dorne said.

“Yuun forgives.”

* * *

Tanno crossed his arms and looked up as Prudii entered the mess hall. He had something to say, but…it was awkward.

“Sir,” he said. “Can we talk?”

Prudii looked over at him. “Sure.”

Tanno leaned forward on the table, feeling his own awkwardness. He hated telling people about his flaws, but this was important.

“Sir, I have to tell you something.”

“I established that,” Prudii said with a smile. “What’s wrong?”

“I never told you why I joined the army, did I?”

“No.”

“I wanted off Nar Shaddaa. See…life wasn’t so good there, running from gang to gang, working for whoever was protecting my part of town. But I found an out, got off Nar Shaddaa, and found a way to keep using detonite.”

Prudii smiled. “Better than joining the Empire.”

Vik chuckled. “Yeah. I don’t think they tend to allow aliens as non-human as Weequay.”

“Why are you stalling?” Prudii asked.

“Because,” Vik said, realizing he’d have to come out. “I knew about the Gauntlet probably before anyone else did.”

Prudii’s eyes widened. “What? How?”

“When I stowed away aboard the cargo vessel, I overheard someone talking. He had an accent. He said the words ‘Gauntlet’ and ‘Empire’ a lot, and when I got closer I saw a hologram of the weapon. I never told anyone.”

“Why?”

“I…don’t know. But I never thought about it, not really. Not until Lieutenant Jorgan got hurt. And I started wondering: if I’d told the recruiter from the start, would they have dealt with it sooner? Would Jorgan not be hurt now?”

Prudii frowned. “It’s a good point, but you can’t dwell on it. Besides, I thought you didn’t like Jorgan. He…ah…explained things to you.”

Vik grunted. “He did. But I guess that earned my respect. I don’t like it when my teammates get hurt. I tend to react violently.”

Prudii nodded. “Then we’ll find some Imps really soon, okay?”

Vik grinned. “Sure.”

Prudii got up and turned to leave. “Oh. And I’m sure Jorgan will be fine.”

“I’m not gonna be his friend or anything,” Vik growled. “But…yeah.”

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YoshiRaphElan
11.26.2012 , 01:24 PM | #28
Chapter 20:
One Half Down


Garza assigned Havoc Squad to rescue a group of Senators captured by Imperial General Rakton–who had apparently been angered by the Gauntlet’s destruction. Dorne would have to stay on the ship to care for Jorgan, and Yuun would be aiding them from the Thunderclap–so it was just Prudii, Forex, and Vik for this op.

Vik loaded his rifle and calibrated the scope, but he put it back in its sling and drew his vibrosword–he’d really taken a shine to that weapon.

Grinning, he took a few test swings, slashing the air with the lethal blade. Satisfied, he held the weapon at guard position as Prudii guided the ship into the hangar on the tail of a Senatorial aide who had offered to cover for Havoc Squad.

Prudii said the man was brave, but Vik thought it was sheer stupidity.

The docking clamp sealed, and Vik and Forex charged in. Vik slashed through an Imp’s gut, the thrumming blade cutting through the armor like tin.

Prudii joined them in the entrance to the station. He glanced around and then flicked the safety off on his rifle.

“Let’s move, Havoc Squad!”

* * *

Yuun tapped his console patiently, eager to finish his task but also grateful for the chance to rest. He was a Findsman, so he seized a peaceful moment when he could–though that was difficult in the Republic Special Forces.

He hacked into the station’s security cameras so he would know when Major Prudii had reached the proper corridor. He frowned at what he saw.

Those Senators, for hostages, seemed rather calm, sitting in their seats around the table and talking to a holo of General Rakton.

“You have reached the passage from maintenance to crew area,” he said into his comlink. “Yuun now controls this door and all others, along with all security measures.”

He tapped several keys on his console. “You will be the only one able to pass from each room to the next. All Imperials will experience…” he pondered the right words, “technical difficulties.”

“Good job, Lieutenant,” Prudii said.

“Life sign scanners show many, many guards within the crew area,” Yuun added. The holocams in that area had been blacked out. “The battle to reach the hostages is sure to be fierce, Major–please, journey cautiously.”

“I will, Yuun,” Prudii promised. “Thanks.”

Yuun closed the link and turned to ponder this situation, as well as the war at large. Finally, he did not like the conclusions he was arriving at, so he stood to find company.

He walked into the medbay and found Dorne sitting in a chair beside Jorgan’s bed, a datapad in her hand. He sat on Jorgan’s other side.

“How is he?” Yuun asked.

“He is recovering remarkably,” Dorne said. “It may be his Cathar biology. In any case, he should be able to return to duty by the time we reach our next assignment.”

Jorgan groaned and sat up. “That’s good,” he said. “Because I don’t like being in here while the others are out there.”

“I know exactly how you feel,” Dorne said.

She and Jorgan exchanged glances, and Yuun realized that something had passed between them. He closed his eyes and considered. It was quite possible that Dorne had told Jorgan something while they had been alone.

Yes, he decided. She had. It had been about Prudii.

* * *

Vik cut down the last of the guards outside the main conference room. They could see inside, and Vik didn’t like what he was seeing. A pair of Imp guards stood around the table, and the Senators were treating them like sand panthers.

In the center of the table was a holo of General Rakton.

“Weapons down!” Prudii said. “Freeze!”

The Imps whirled and, of course, opened fire. Vik leapt in, swinging his blade. He cut one guard’s rifle in half, and then impaled the guard. Prudii and Forex blasted the other guard.

Abruptly, a squad of Imperials came in behind them. Vik whirled and caught one of the Imps’ shots on his shoulder plate. The shot ricocheted off and left a black scar. Vik sheathed his blade, pulled out his rifle, and opened fire. The three members of Havoc were formidable even without their squad mates. Soon, all Imperial ambushers fell.

“Who are you?” Rakton demanded. “Who are you?”

“Havoc Squad,” Prudii said proudly. “You’d best remember us, because we aren’t going to stop haunting you until you’re behind bars.”

“We’ll certainly be seeing more of each other,” Rakton growled. “I’ll make sure of that. You’ll face justice for all you’ve done. My men’ sacrifice will be avenged–and the Emperor’s justice will be served.”

Rakton’s holo vanished. Vik scowled and gently kicked the chair of one of the Senators. The man jumped up, as did the others.

“We’re saved!” one said. “The Republic has saved us! Thank you, thank you.”

“Shut your mouth, traitor!” said another man in obvious kingly attire. He was Nautolan–so was the aide who’d helped them arrive. “You don’t even deserve to breath the same air as the rest of us.”

Vik grinned. He loved watching bureaucrats fight.

Another man said, “These cowards were signing on with Rakton–they traded their planets to the Empire in exchange for lifetime leadership.”

Icily, Prudii said, “Is that true?”

The first man said, “What choice did we have? Our lives were at stake–our peoples’ lives!”

A fourth man interrupted. “Don’t hide behind your people. You gave up, betrayed everything we fought for–alliances we’ve held for generations.”

“We are at war!” The third man, who Vik saw was a president, agreed. “We don’t have room for cowards and traitors–you deserve to be executed!”

“Agreed,” the Nautolan put in. “Give these traitors what they deserve. If anyone asks, we’ll say the Imperials murdered them.”

Vik had not missed the political double talk. The politicians were ganging up against these so-called traitors, but other than the first man none had been identified by name.

“In the Republic, the accused stand trial,” Prudii argued. “They aren’t executed on a whim.”

Vik sighed, wishing to shoot one or two of them right here. But of course the Good Major would not allow that, and if Vik tried Jorgan would “talk it over” again when he was recovered.

“We are at war,” the fourth man reiterated, for no apparent reason. “We should not suffer allies who cannot be depended upon.”

Up until now, the Twi’lek man had been silent. Now, he said, “This will never happen again. Now that we’ve seen Imperial diplomacy firsthand, I don’t think we’ll take part in any future ‘summits.’”

Apparently it was best left at that.

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YoshiRaphElan
11.27.2012 , 06:37 PM | #29
Chapter 21:
A Brief Break


Dorne had cleared Jorgan–his wound had healed, and when she took him to the Thunderclap’s small shooting target, he scored at one hundred percent accuracy.

Dorne called Prudii into the medical bay while she stocked supplies, and looked down on the four datapads beside her.

“Sir,” she said. “I have noticed the other men in the squad have been falling behind in their reports. Especially Sergeant Vik,” she said with a rueful smile.

“That needs addressing,” Prudii said.

“Yes,” she said. “Indeed. I will send them out to do so immediately, with your permission.”

Prudii raised an eyebrow. “You know, that means we have some alone time on this ship.”

Dorne nodded. “Yes, I suppose I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Get to it,” Prudii said.

She nodded and sent the men out.

* * *

Jorgan huffed and looked down at his report list. This was totally–number of Imps killed on the Gauntlet mission?–ridiculous! How was he to know how many he’d killed? He’d been comatose for the last half of the battle!

He rolled his eyes and walked out of the small cantina under the Senate tower where he’d decided to do the work. He stuffed the datapad in his belt.

When he reached the Thunderclap, he stormed in, huffing.

“Dorne!” he called. “Get in here! Blast it Dorne, where are you?”

He walked into the medbay and saw Prudii and Dorne kissing gently. He blushed, removed his helmet, and saluted.

“Apologies, sir.”

Prudii looked up, embarrassed. “Captain.”

“I just…I finished the reports.”

Dorne nodded. “Yes, of course you did…ten full minutes faster than I expected.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I just…I kind of guessed at the number of Imps killed on the Gauntlet. I was, after all, out cold.”

“It is I who should apologize,” Dorne replied.

“No, no.” Jorgan rubbed his forehead. “I should have realized you wanted time alone. I…I’ll go.”

“Sir!” Forex called from the ship entrance. “General Garza just called. She has assigned us our next mission.”

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YoshiRaphElan
11.28.2012 , 03:16 PM | #30
Chapter 22:
The Prison World


Jorgan disembarked onto Belsavis, helmet fit snugly on his head. Ah, it felt good to be back in action. He followed Prudii to the command center. Vik stood to the rear, and Jorgan wondered if he was remembering his “lesson”.

Havoc was on Belsavis to free a squadron of fighter pilots known as Dagger Squadron. Rumor was they’d disobeyed orders in order to take out a Sith Lord, and been unfairly imprisoned for it.

“Guard Captain Zess?” Prudii said.

Zess turned. He was a Kel-Dor. “Ah, Major! I’m glad you caught me. I was just heading out to round up another wave of runners. The Imps are springing everyone they can. The Daggers volunteered to get everything under control. They are spread out across the prison.”

Jorgan wasn’t sure he liked that. They didn’t have days, let alone weeks, to round up the men. They had more people to free for the eventual fight with General Rakton.

“Can you put me in contact with Conrad Gall?” asked Prudii.

Gall was the leader of Dagger Squadron. Jorgan had heard good things about him.

“Gall’s in one of the higher security zones,” Zess said. “So my comm won’t reach him. The Daggers’ XO is closer, though. Let’s give him a shot.”

He pulled out his holocom and typed in a code. Jorgan watched quietly, impatient to get to the action.

“Harlan?” Zess said. “Harlan, come in. This is Zess, over.”

Harlan appeared. He was a beefy man with black hair in military cut, with a facial tattoo and wearing prisoners’ garb.

“Zess?” he said. “Heh, good timing, pal. We need backup, ASAP. The Imps are opening the vaults!”

“Are they insane? We’ll get you backup, Harlan, just hang in there!”

“Where are they?” Prudii asked. “We’re ready.”

“Who is that?” Harlan asked. “Forget it, I’ll take anyone you got. We’ve got some Imps cornered in one of the vault entrances, but we’re shot up pretty bad. We need medpacs and manpower, and we need them yesterday.”

Yes, the Daggers were definitely professionals. Jorgan was looking forward to working with them.

“Help is on the way, Harlan. Zess out.” He seemed worried. “We’re out of medpacs. But…there are some caches you can raid on the way. Here are the coordinates.”

“Lieutenant Dorne, could you handle them?” Prudii asked. “If so, no need to waste time on raiding caches.”

“Not knowing their condition,” she replied, “I would still recommend extra medical supplies.”

Prudii nodded. “All right, we’ll get the caches and get to Harlan as quickly as we can. Let’s double time it, Havoc!”

“Stay on your toes out there,” Zess warned. “This place is a madhouse.”

That, Jorgan decided, was probably putting it mildly.

* * *

Several caches of medpacs and dozens of angry prisoners later, they caught up to the Daggers. Vik walked into the vault behind Prudii, his rifle at the ready.

Harlan was down on his knees, firing at some of the Imps. An explosion rocked the room, and Harlan and his men stumbled. One was cut down.

“Dagger Wing is still kicking, you murdering cowards!” Harlan snarled.

Prudii fired off a few shots, killing a pair of Imperials. Vik nodded and slowly lowered his rifle. The appearance of reinforcements made the Imps fall back. Vik walked up to Harlan, while Dorne approached the wounded.

“Your backup is here, Harlan,” Prudii said. “And your medpacs.”

“Best news I’ve had all day,” Harlan replied. “So did the army finally send reinforcements, or are–” he looked at Prudii’s armor and saluted without breaking conversation, “–Havoc Squad! It’s our lucky day, ladies and gents! Dig in and patch yourselves up–the army sent its best.”

Vik loved it when they had that reaction. Not that it had happened all that often in his career, but it was still exciting to be recognized.

“Give me the Imperials’ position, armaments–everything,” Prudii ordered.

He was good at giving orders.

“They’re dug in farther in the tunnels,” Harlan said. “And they’ve got some serious heat. If we hadn’t caught them by surprise, we’d all be dead.” He paused. “There may be even worse things in here, too. I’ve heard there’s scary stuff locked in these vaults–nobody opens them. Ever.”

Tanno did not like the sound of that.

“Whatever’s in there should be scared of me,” Prudii said.

“We’ll make sure no one flanks you. Give those Imps what they deserve!”

* * *

“I don’t ever want to go back in there again,” said Dorne.

“Agreed,” Jorgan replied.

Whatever had been in there, it had been…well, the closest word Jorgan could think of was unholy. He was shaken, and it took a lot to shake him.

“Relax, guys.” Even Prudii’s voice was a little unsteady. “We’re out now. Right?”

Vik was totally silent. Yuun was typing into his datapad. He was the only one other than Forex who seemed unshaken. He actually seemed fascinated.

“Yuun wonders what the beast with the three legs would be classified as.” He typed more into his datapad. “Was it a mammal or a reptile?”

“I don’t care,” Jorgan replied bleakly. “All I know is it ate an Imperial whole before we killed it. And I could see the Imperial’s fists hammering on the inside of its stomach.”

Vik had apparently heard enough. He ran out of the vault and vomited all over the ground. One of the outpost guards shook his head and pulled out his comlink to call a cleaning droid.

“Looks like we won this round,” Harlan said. “On your feet, people. Get ready to move out.”

Jorgan steadied himself against the wall and took off his helmet. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, wishing he’d never seen those monstrosities. Nothing had ever fazed him like this. Nothing.

He stood straight and walked outside to stand beside Vik, who was still vomiting. Jorgan patted him on the back. Vik inhaled, retched, and wiped his mouth.

“That…was…horrifying,” Vik grunted.

Jorgan nodded. “Just…part of the job.”

Prudii, Dorne, Yuun, and Forex came out of the vault. Dorne took her helmet off and wiped sweat from her forehead. Prudii kept his helmet firmly planted on. Jorgan wondered why, until a moment later, when Prudii quickly shuffled away and tore his helmet off.

“Yuun is surprised,” the Gand said. “Yuun had believed that the major had a stomach of steel.”

Prudii returned a moment later, his dark face much paler and a cold ring of sweat around his lip. He inhaled slowly.

“That…was bad.” He exhaled. “Anyway, Dorne and I talked to Harlan–”

“And I lost my temper,” Dorne admitted.

“Relax, Lieutenant,” Prudii said. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Apologies, sir.”

Prudii rubbed the back of his neck. “Anyway, we need to move. Some of Harlan’s men have been pinned down in a complex.”

“Better a complex than another vault,” Vik grunted. “I’m ready.”

“Let’s move out,” Prudii said.

Jorgan, as XO, requisitioned five speeders for them and a repulsorlift for Forex. They set out for the complex at full speed.

* * *

The Daggers’ man outside the complex was Kal, a Twi’lek male. He met up with them in an office, and it didn’t appear he was a prisoner at all, other than the uniform and shock collar. Captain Zess gave them a lot of freedom.

He turned. “What? A major? Havoc Squad! This is huge! Oh, I’m Kal. It’s a real honor to meet you. You’re here to help, right?”

These men did not deserve to be here, Yuun thought bleakly. They had been ill informed. He had heard Harlan tell Prudii about it. They’d been targeting a Sith Lord on Fest, and instead of hitting an arms facility they’d hit civilians.

“Absolutely,” Prudii replied. “Give me a sitrep, kid.”

“With all the commotion going on, we started breakouts from one of the labor camps,” Kal said. “Some real bad characters in there, believe me. The worst is a guy named Gouge. You don’t even want to know what that freak was up to before they locked him up.”

Yuun considered. The very name Gouge was probably a good indication of what he had been up to.

“You told Harlan some of your men were stuck in the prison complex, right?” Prudii asked.

“Right, because of Gouge. Let me explain. One of the guard officers, Brok, wanted to storm the labor camp and make sure Gouge didn’t escape. A bit obsessed, that guy.”

Yuun shook his head. Anyone obsessive as that would get good men killed trying to achieve his goals–like General Rakton.

“Three of our people volunteered to back Brok up,” Kal continued. “But things went bad in the labor camps, and now they’re trapped.”

Prudii rubbed his chin. “Can your pilots confirm that, Kal?”

“Can’t get through to them.” Kal was sounding worried. “Last I heard, they were holed up pretty good. Here are the last coordinates Brok gave me. You should find everyone there–a little stressed, so take it easy on them.”

Now, Yuun thought, was time for action.