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Overcoming Adviercity: A Trooper's Tale

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
Overcoming Adviercity: A Trooper's Tale

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bright_ephemera
11.07.2012 , 08:34 PM | #51
Chapter 21. Tatooine: A break in defenses

Crossposted from the Short Fic Weekly Challenge thread. One or two lines taken from a Dorne conversation; no other game spoilers.



Evening, and I was on edge. I'd just as soon not go over what memories were playing in my head. I needed to sleep, so I headed to the medbay to get that process started. Picked up a little sleepy shot, a drop of anti-anxiety stuff, brought out a little whisky – a combination that is strictly prohibited, but a guy my size doesn't necessarily notice any one factor by itself, so the combo helps – and then I headed back to my quarters, loaded up, and just had to sit around waiting for it to kick in.

Sergeant Dorne wandered by not long after and stopped in the doorway. Her eyes immediately went to the syringe on the nightstand. "Leftenant, our supplies appear to be down by – sir?"

"I was just prepping for sleep. Every now and then the shots help."

"Shots," she said, emphasizing the plural. "…And is that a flask?"

"Yes, Sergeant, it is. Minor cocktail, I've found it works." My lazy warm veins agreed with me.

"Sir, if you actually mixed alcohol with the deprovanatol and the grillamine, that's incredibly dangerous."

"Too late to stop it, doctor. Though for what it's worth, it hasn't killed me yet."

She gave me an exasperated look. And was almost certainly trying to work out how to yell at me without pissing me off.

"I'll be fine," I said. "Nights like this I don't wake up shouting, and that lets us all sleep. So anyway. Did you need something?"

"Yes." She brought up a datapad. Of course she had a datapad. And gave it to me. "Squad status and activity report, classification level secret. If you could confirm what I've entered and finish the summary for the last four week's activities, then sign, I'll get this submitted."

I frowned at the datapad. "I understand this when we're not producing concrete results, but didn't they notice what we've brought in lately? What else matters?"

"It's purely a formality, sir," she said nervously.

"I know, I know. It's just obnoxious. In my last outfit our status reports consisted of, A, getting the job done, and then B, calling up the guys next door and letting 'em know we're still alive."

"Your…last outfit, sir? Prior to the Republic Army?"

I got a slightly unpleasant feeling in my stomach, but I still felt pretty relaxed. "Yeah, I was in the resistance against the Empire on a planet called Kegled II."

"Ah. Your record did mention your home planet. I'm sorry, sir."

"Sorry? What, had you actually heard of the place?"

"Unfortunately yes." She looked genuinely disgusted. "Rumors, that's all, but that was enough."

"I see." Well, that was way past time to steer away from the subject. "So as I was saying, I never had to fill out – what is this? – Form RAR-002 for the resistance. We had a much simpler system."

"You had many fewer people to keep track of," she pointed out.

"I guess." I frowned at the datapad and scribbled an uninformative sentence so as to take up space in that wide empty status field. "Did you have to fill this stuff out at your last job?"

"Oh, yes, sir. Due punctually every two weeks. It was rather longer than this one. Several more detailed questions."

I scrolled down the entire awful questionnaire and back up. "…You're joking. Right?"

"No, sir."

Of course not. Dorne didn't joke. "How the hell did your people find time to do"…no use getting into that, so…"all the other stuff…if they were filling out some juiced-up version of this every two weeks?"

"Mostly by not taking time off to sleep, sir." Cool voice, straight face. I suddenly wondered whether I'd been wrong about her making jokes.

"So that's why you defected," I said, nodding sagely. "To slack off."

She blinked. "That wasn't my primary reason."

I started to suspect that the whisky was doing the talking for me. "Of course not. The rations must've been up there on the list, too."

She raised her eyebrows.

"For years," I explained, "half my meals were rations we stole from the local Imps. And let me tell you, the day I got off planet and found that they have real food in the Republic – even the Republic ration bars – that's the day I threw in my lot with the Republic Army and never looked back."

"It…certainly was a benefit, sir."

I had this sudden strong desire to trip that shy play of expression around her mouth and eyes into a real laugh. But I didn't have any idea how to do that. So I kept rambling instead. "So the food and the sleep schedule are big pluses, but – at least for me – the jump to the Republic Army involved a hell of a lot more paperwork than I was used to." I waved the datapad.

"We have a very good system here, but it can be quite convoluted."

"I didn't think that bothered you."

"Just because I can navigate it doesn't mean it came easily."

"And I guess you had to cram it in next to all the Imp rulebooks you already knew."

"I think," she said carefully, "the previous practice in memorization helped."

"It's useful having both tactical manuals, at least. I've noticed that sometimes, rarely, when we're out there and things go off plan I'll slide into an Imp maneuver, one of the things I learned from fighting and copying the best my people saw in the field years ago. And you pick up right away. Jorgan's studied those tactics, but you know 'em. That helps."

"They do seem to come readily to you."

My anger at that claim was distant and fuzzy. "Studying and copying Imps was how I got most of my training. Robbing Imps was how I got most of my supplies and gear. All to point right back at them. In some ways the Empire made me the soldier I was when I signed on for Republic basic training four years ago. Not a day goes by I don't curse them for doing it, but…that's how it ended up." I frowned. "Sorry. I'm not directing this at you. It's just, that's how I came across the Imperial tricks I know."

She nodded solemnly. "I've been asked on more than one occasion," she said slowly, "to give a superior a full briefing on the tactics, the hand signals and other tells that Imperial squad leaders give. And a thousand other things. Sometimes it seems I'm expected to teach the whole field manual. It's been something of a relief not to have to be that kind of resource here."

"No. I already know more than enough." My head was starting to gently spin; I lay down and looked back over at Dorne. "Whatever I learned, things are better here."

"They are," she agreed warmly.

"You're all right, Dorne. You're not like any of them I ever met." For one thing, she didn't shoot at me, even when I probably deserved it; for another, she appeared to have a conscience. "And Jorgan and Forex keep up with the Imp-Pub two-step pretty well."

"Forex I expect; he's programmed for anything. I've been very impressed with Sergeant Jorgan's performance given our occasionally unorthodox or at least non-Republic-approved tactics. May I ask how long you worked with him prior to my arrival?"

"Six weeks, give or take."

She raised her eyebrows again. "You seem to coordinate very closely for such a short acquaintance."

"Eh, I'm used to having mouthy brothers. My professional brother-in-arms. We get along." And then I delivered the absolute finest nonsensical overreach my brain has ever handed to me while under the influence of anything. "I've never had a sister, though. I wonder how that works?"

She looked surprised, incredulous, possibly halfway alarmed, but after a moment this shy sweet smile started warming away the edges of her doubt. It was something…something genuine, that's all.

And that's when I fell asleep.
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Rabbarabba
11.08.2012 , 12:59 AM | #52
i just spend the last 2 hours reading everything from post 1. I hate you for it...

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bright_ephemera
11.09.2012 , 04:29 PM | #53
Quote: Originally Posted by Rabbarabba View Post
i just spend the last 2 hours reading everything from post 1. I hate you for it...
Haha! My evil plan to reel in readers with Trooper fun is working!
the Short Fic Weekly Challenge - 70+ authors to date. 2000+ stories. New prompts weekly!
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bright_ephemera
11.09.2012 , 04:30 PM | #54
Chapter 22. Tatooine: Morning after

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



I was sort of hoping Dorne would be gone forever when I got up that morning, but no, she was in the mess for breakfast as usual.

"Look, Sergeant," I told her by way of greeting. "I apologize if I was out of line last night. I was...a little out of it."

"It's all right, sir. Given the combination of injections you gave yourself I'm not surprised you were off balance. I am somewhat surprised you are still breathing."

"I told you, I've done it before. Let's not go over it. I just, I really didn't mean to–"

"You didn't, sir."

"Right. Good." I still felt vaguely like I owed her something. "I'm not saying you're not all right."

"Of course not," she agreed anxiously.

"I just, obviously," and here I was stumbling all over the place and needed something to decide on. Maybe something that made me stop feeling like an absolute liar for what loopy-me had said. "Obviously, as part of the squad like we talked about...would you be up for dinner tonight with the rest of us down at the cantina?"

"Oh," she squeaked. "I–I'm afraid I'll be busy, sir. Plenty of reading to keep up with."

"Okay. Just thought I'd ask." My feet finally agreed to participate in the retreat my brain was yelling for.

Jorgan pushed away from the wall outside and fell in step with me. "That," he said, "was the single most interesting exchange I've heard all week. 'Last night'?"

"Quiet, you," I said. "I had some adventures in tranquilizers, that's all."

"Oh, she finally caught you at it? It's a stupid way to die, but I guess you'll die well-rested."

"I'm not going to die. Not like that, anyway."

"In fact you're healthy enough to ask her out to dinner?"

I continued toward my quarters. "Don't even start. It's with the squad. Like you insisted."

"What the hell happened last night?"

"We talked about you, smart*ss." It was true, too.

Jorgan squinted at me for a while. "I did not expect the desert to get to you this fast," he said at last.

"Yeah, well, I guess I'm delicate like that. Now excuse me while I go curl up and die." I made to shut him out of my room.

"Uh, sir? We have a work day first."

"Dammit!" He was right, of course. And I was badly off balance. Again. "This is her fault."

"And I see we're already past the apology part of the Dorne cycle."

"Let's just go find something to shoot."
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bright_ephemera
11.09.2012 , 04:31 PM | #55
Chapter 23. Tatooine: Fuse Overloaded

Crossposted from the Short Fic Weekly Challenge thread.



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 cleaned 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?"

"Indiscriminate malice?"

"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."

"Idiots."

"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 crazy evil."

"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."
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bright_ephemera
11.09.2012 , 04:32 PM | #56
Flashback 6: Disguises

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

5 ATC


I was stretched out on my stomach, letting my feet kick idly while I switched between reading the textbook on my datapad and staring out across the river. It was a nice day.

"Vierce!"

I rolled and twisted just enough to see Illyris bounding up the hill towards me, that fine white-gold hair streaming behind her. She was dressed as a nerf wrangler, complete with lasso, baggy chaps, and one of those brilliantly colored neckerchiefs they only sell in tourist shops nowadays. She was also carrying a big colorful bag.

"Vierce, you haven't even started getting ready for the Carnivale party!"

"I wasn't planning on going." I would've gotten up, but she flopped down beside me, then wrapped an arm around me and gave me a quick spark of a kiss.

"You should," she told me. "I can't be a nerf wrangler without a nerf."

"I'm not going to be a nerf."

She grabbed a handful of the brown hair that flopped over my unscarred face. "Already halfway there."

"Am not! If you want me to cut it, you could just say so."

"Please come?"

I freed up a hand to play with her hair. "I would love to."

She perked up.

"Without a costume."

She pouted.

"But, this," I nodded down at the datapad, "it's killing me. I have to clear this lesson by the end of the week."

"Says who?"

"Says me." I'd been delaying this chapter for weeks; things kept coming up that needed handling. Turns out it's tough to keep any kind of school schedule when you're too much wanted by the police to attend school as such; since I'd finished regular levels with a tutor last year, the university-grade stuff was all me. Me and whatever time I had.

Illyris made a face. "Your demands on your students are unreasonable, professor. If I were you I would complain."

"You don't even have to be me. You're you and you're complaining."

"I'll stop if you promise to come."

"I'm learning here. You should be happy."

"Put it off 'til tomorrow. Then you could learn by helping me study." She was in the real university, after all.

"That doesn't work."

"No," she giggled, "but it's fun."

"Not listening." I stuck out my tongue at her, then kissed her, then ignored her.

She tensed up and pounced on me, straddling my back while she did something or other. I continued ignoring her. When you have a brother like Kirsk, you get to be an expert in ignoring up-close annoyances.

But then she started doing things that felt suspiciously like pinning stuff.

"Lyr?"

Illyris giggled and kept going.

"Lyr. Lyr, what are you doing. Illyris? Whatever you just did, undo it." I struggled on for another textbook sentence or two before I felt her wriggling down to continue her nefarious scheme. "I'm not being a nerf for Carnivale."

"You'll be the handsomest nerf there," she said without stopping.

"I'm not a nerf!"

"Come oooonnnnn."

"If I go will you get rid of whatever costume you just pinned to me?"

She leaned low over me and to one side so I could see her glaring. "Do you even understand how holidays work?"

"They work," I grumbled, "by me loving you enough to abandon my responsibilities and go do stupid things."

She squealed. "Yes!"

She scrambled aside to let me up; I stood and dusted myself off. I pulled a couple of long shaggy fake-fur strips and a cloth saddle off my back, as well. "I'm going, but I won't be a nerf."

We took the usual route downtown; the streets were packed with colorfully costumed people in varying states of drunkenness. Illyris kept a tight grip on my hand the whole way. I counted myself lucky she wasn't using the lasso.

It was a good time. It always was with that crowd, the Ridgeside core and a number of other young adults who had since come to the area. Everyone seemed really delighted to see us. We were in good spirits. And as always, Illyris with her sparkling laughter was the brightest of all.

Late in the evening Kirsk swung by, his new cybernetic implant nearly lost in a mass of flexiplast war-droid accessories. "Hey, nerf-boy!" he called happily. "Nice tail!"

Everyone in earshot seemed to quiet down a little bit.

I checked.

I had a tail.

Illyris's face was a round freckled study in mischief.

I tugged the cloth nerf tail off and brandished it as threateningly as one can brandish a cloth nerf tail. "Dammit, woman. I am going to feed you to your stupid nerfs. As soon as I find some."

"Ha. I know how to deal with them." She danced around and swung herself up onto my back, her arms around my neck, her legs around my waist. "To the drinks table! Giddyup!" she giggled.

I sighed loudly, but I giddyup'd. A man's got to know when he's beaten.
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bright_ephemera
11.09.2012 , 04:35 PM | #57
Chapter 24. Interlude: Calling Home

No game spoilers.


"Mama! How are things?"

Mama's holo image smiled at me. "Well, going well. And you?"

"Keeping busy. I can't complain." That was just about literally true; any matter I could think of to complain about was classified to some degree now that I was in Havoc Squad. "How's your gentleman caller?"

Her smile developed dimples. Words can't express how glad I was to see that smile back when she started seeing Glend a year or so ago. How glad I still am to see it. He's just another West Ford City native, not a resistance guy or anything, but he seems solid enough. "Glend's doing very well," Mama continued. "The factory's doing better business every year. As for the shop, we had a fire here a couple of weeks back, but nothing bad. Just enough to scare everyone and dump suppressofoam on everything."

"You all right cleaning up? I can send some credits your way."

"You already send enough, Vierce. Between Glend and me we had enough on hand to clean things up just fine."

Now that was an odd thought. Even if Glend had been around for a while. "I suppose he's taking care of the house, too?"

"He's on to things that need fixing sometimes before they know they need it." She gave me a half-thoughtful, half-mischievous grin. "I'm sure I can save some chores for you to do the next time you're in town."

"Oh, don't let the house fall apart on my account." Mama always had a list of assorted repairs and brute-strength tasks she could use help with when I came by. It would be doubly odd to lose that. "But maybe save one or two things."

"I will. Now, then. Have you heard anything from Kirsk lately?"

"Afraid not. I've been busy with work; I was hoping he would be in touch with you."

"Not for months."

"Last I saw him in person was Nar Shaddaa." I skipped the parts about his ship being stolen and him being embroiled in what had looked like a titanic gang struggle. "He was doing great. Spoke to him briefly a couple of weeks ago. He's running guns for the resistance on Balmorra these days."

Mama sighed. "Just like his first paying job, hmm?"

"Same job landing the same kind of weapons to fire at the same kind of people. Balmorra's better off for his doing it, even if I really, really hope they have some more work-oriented fighters to take the fight from there." She still looked uneasy. "Don't worry. Nobody's ever going to catch a pilot as crazy as him." Assuming he had his own ship back. Or assuming he knew his way around whatever ship he had begged, borrowed, or stolen since then. Anyway, Kirsk's lurching, erratic flight style was incredibly hard to get a lock on. More than one Imp gunner had died trying.

"I'm sure he'll be all right," Mama said unconvincingly. "I'd rather he were all right closer to home doing something safer, but you know Kirsk." She forced a smile. "He'll get in touch when he's ready. What about all this you're doing? Are you still recruiting?"

That was about the most detail I had given her thus far. "Not actively. I've got the two sergeants and that prototype droid I talked about, we're on an errand we've got to clear up before we go back to thinking about possible newcomers."

"I see. Well, Sergeant Jorgan and Sergeant…who's the other one?"

"Dorne," I said shortly. I hadn't told Mama anything but Dorne's name. The less Mama knew about the local former Imperial, the better.

"Sergeant Jorgan and Sergeant Dorne will just have to step up."

"They do, Mama. Havoc Squad doesn't carry dead weight."

"I'm glad." She looked off camera. "Well, I need to be going. Call me if you get any news from Kirsk."

"I will. Love you, Mama."

"Love you, too, chief." Her image winked out.

Dorne caught up with me after I headed out to the mess. She had some paperwork or other to ask me about. While we were talking it occurred to me to wonder where her brother Aleksei had ended up. He was all the family Dorne had on this side of the fence; it must've been a real relief once he defected to be allowed contact again.

And it's a comfort to know your people are all right. So yeah, I did wonder a little. But it wasn't my place to ask, not really. I didn't exactly have any place to start.

So I signed off on her completed form and got out of her way.
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bright_ephemera
11.09.2012 , 04:38 PM | #58
*whew* Okay. So far the posts have been sets of three Short Fic crossposts and one "I'm totally doing something new here, or at least filling in minor plot intervals" original. Now the torrent of updating should slow, since I'm out of current-timeline Short Fic material. That means less volume in each update (since I'm not dumping the SFC backup) but, it also means actual story progress beyond what the SFC readers already know!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!
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bright_ephemera
02.10.2013 , 09:15 PM | #59
Chapter 25: Vieux-Riches

I've only partially regurgitated this from the Short Fic Thread. Promise. More to come!



I've never lived with wealth. I've seen it from a distance; it always struck me as kind of breakable. Too much time and worry spent keeping it all shiny, time and worry that'd be better spent elsewhere.

Alderaan's had a few thousand years' head start on worrying about keeping its wealth shiny.

We took a taxi across what they call the Organa estate and I'm going to call Organa City. It's big enough. The mission: Talk to a nobleman of House Thul, an Imperial ally, who had been captured by our friends the Organas. This Markus Thul claimed to have information about Gearbox, one of the last two Havoc Squad members still at large.

There were armed guards flanking the front door of Organa's biggest building, but they took one look at our uniforms and waved us through. We hadn't gotten halfway down the big entry hall when a plain-looking woman in livery charged up to us. "You there! Sir!"

The…servant?...trotted to keep pace with me. "Your presence is requested in the strategy room with Duke Charle Organa."

"You've got the wrong guy. I'm here on Army business."

"As your host," the woman said weightily, "Duke Organa would be most pleased to see you at your earliest convenience for a discussion of importance to the mutual interest of Alderaan and the Republic."

I hadn't been on the ground long enough to know what kind of trouble it would be to ignore her. If nothing else I could explain the urgency of my mission to this Duke himself.

*

Organa's briefing didn't take all that long, and it was some comfort to see one of our own, General Kashim, in the room with him. On the one hand that meant Organa's instructions held weight at a time when my priorities should be elsewhere; on the other, it meant that doing the stuff that would keep our ally from getting mad was definitely, officially sanctioned.

We got out. I led the squad up toward where I was supposed to meet the men for my actual job here. I stopped on the landing. "So," I said, still mentally unpacking the speech and assignment we had just gotten. "Duke Organa."

"Duke Organa," agreed Jorgan.

"Officially appointing us, uh, paladins."

"Remind me to add that to my resume," said Jorgan.

"I will. Oddly enough, it's already on mine." Jorgan gave me a curious look, so I went on. "Girl back home used to say that my 'gallivanting around righting wrongs' made me a certifiable paladin." Vrenda always did have a way with words. "Unlike Duke Organa she was making fun of me, but, the job description was there."

"Can't say I'm surprised, sir."

"Yeah. Well, come on, then. There's wrongs to right."
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bright_ephemera
02.10.2013 , 09:20 PM | #60
Chapter 26. Hope you like your local contact (hint: you won't)


The guy in charge of watching the Thul prisoner was Captain Cormac. He seemed a solid enough guy. He had no business saluting Lieutenant Me, but he seemed pretty impressed by Havoc Squad in the first place, so I returned it and then listened.

"We caught this guy sneaking in with a dozen Imperial spec forces, on their way to take out Duke Organa. He's the only survivor. Said something about Gearbox, Republic Spec Forces will want to know, and then he clammed up. We worked him over a dozen times, got nothing for it."

That didn't sound promising, but then, if he was asking after Havoc Squad I could hope he planned to talk to me. "Got it. Thank you." Cormac opened the forcefield to allow me into the little detention block and the first cell within.

The nobleman who stood there waiting was of average height and build, swarthy, dark-haired and dark-eyed, covered in bruises and the kind of laceration that comes by accident from the overly enthusiastic application of bruises.

"Thul," I said. "You work for the Empire. Got yourself caught along with some real live Imp commandoes trying to get into the Republic's friend Duke Organa. And, they tell me, you expect the word Gearbox to be enough to keep you alive."

"So," he said, briefly trying to look down his nose at me then giving it up, "a visitor. Welcome, I am Markus Andarius Thul. Your aspect and equipment are not those of House Organa. Whom do you represent?"

"I'm with Republic Special Forces," I said sharply.

"Just as I had hoped. We have much to discuss. I can tell you all about Gearbox, the Empire and their activities. But before I help you, you must help me. I want protection for my wife and daughter."

So not only was he welcoming me to his lordly jail cell, he thought this was a negotiation. He was certainly arrogant enough to be an honorary Imp. "A callsign alone doesn't prove you know anything I care about. So talk."

"My family," he said evenly, "is back at the estate in Thul territory. If the Empire should find out that I have yielded information to the Republic there will be a reprisal. I want guarantees of their safety."

"I want answers. I didn't come here to make a trade with an assassin."

"Then if you prefer, you can get nothing," he said haughtily, and glared at me.

I got up close to lean over him, checking his face. It was bruised and cut up pretty good already, but he was still keeping up that nobleman's composure. Might be the second wind you get when a new interrogator comes in, you can try to fake them afresh. Might be something else. Some people don't break under beatings. Some won't do it until way past when you've done something to yourself. Collaborator, I reminded myself. On a planet where picking a side hadn't even been forced yet. He chose this.

I raised a hand to point without quite touching. "They missed a spot," I observed. "Want me to fix that?"

"I'll tell you nothing more until you assure the safety of my wife and daughter."

I hit him, not quite hard enough to throw him off balance. A warmup tap. "I would tell you exactly how much concern I have for the safety of the Empire's friends, but I don't know any words short enough. You want to help them? Give me Gearbox."

He braced himself. "Their safety first." For all his frilly noble clothing, there was steel in his eyes.

I knew the script, I'd seen it enough, but I hadn't had to get serious about interrogations since I'd joined up with the Republic. Oddly enough, I didn't like the idea now. I certainly didn't like the thought of doing it with Jorgan watching. He was the kind to get things done, but not…I looked at him.

He looked back at me, face set. He'd back me up. We had a job to do, after all, and he did care about that.

He'd back me up, but I'd known him long enough to know that whatever face he put on, he didn't like it.

I cast a look Dorne's way while I was at it. She lifted her chin and quickly turned a little less green. "Sir, this is a direct violation of regulation 24 and a number of planetary treaties."

Like I didn't know it was bad behavior "Noted, sergeant," I said. Then I opened my mouth again, not quite sure whether I wanted to dismiss my people or just take Thul's deal. Objections from the rulebook I didn't mind, not when the mission called for something outside it. The problem was, the stakes were people and I wasn't sure those people – Thul's wife and daughter, that is – had had much of a choice. Alderaan's nobility, from what little I had seen, didn't strike me as having the most equal power. This guy, the assassin in front of me, he was scum, but…

Paladin. Right.

"All right, Markus. If it gets you to talk, I'll get you your family." I looked to my squad. "Forex, help Captain Cormac keep order here. I'll be back before long."
the Short Fic Weekly Challenge - 70+ authors to date. 2000+ stories. New prompts weekly!
Bright's Fanfic Threads
Forever Shenanigans!
Ceterum autem censeo, Malavai esse delendam.