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I Remember Me

Lesaberisa's Avatar

05.26.2013 , 11:24 PM | #11
Oops, been awhile.

Ord Mantell was not what I would call a vacation spot, far from it. In some ways, it reminded me of back home - especially the way the majority of the galaxy tried to pretend it didn't exist - but there was a sense of wrongness to the place. Maybe it was because I was used to the green hills and plains of Ithaca and not the mountainous terrain and islands of this world. Maybe it was the fact that everything I read suggested the local government was more corrupt than the bastard love child of a Hutt, a Sith and a Republic politician. Either way, something had unsettled my stomach since the moment I touched the surface.

I'd been met at the spaceport by Bex Kolos, a.k.a. "Gearbox", the squad technician. BIg guy, even bigger than me. Seemed solid enough, even if his jokes were even worse than mine. Once we got past a delightful separatist ambush of our convoy to Fort Garnik, things were pretty straightforward, though. The introductions to the rest of the squad were interesting, to put it mildly.

Harron Tavus was...disappointing...if I could call one of the great heroes of the Republic that. He was firm, but also respectful of my previous service, something I appreciated. Still, he seemed like he was carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders, like he was weary of our mission before it had even begun. His XO was Zora, who seemed to have been transplanted from some kind of cheesy adventure novel. Cold as ice, that one - professional, but I felt like little more than a piece of meat when she looked at me. And not that kind of meat. Fuse, Vanto Bazren, seemed alright, though it felt a bit weird to be saluting him and calling him sir when he felt greener than a tank of kolto.

And then there was Rylar Dorant, "Needles", the squad medic who looked like he'd been transplanted from the nightmares of someone who had a phobia about the medical profession. Maybe it was the cybernetics, but I shuddered involuntarily whenever I saw him, even if he'd done nothing to deserve it. He's just creepy, it's not rational, just is. Of course, he wasn't the real problem. No, that would be Lieutenant Aric Jorgan, professional *** and officer-on-loan from the Ord Mantell infantry to assist in coordinating our efforts on the planet. Jorgan seemed to take pleasure in berating me at every opportunity and insulting my experience with the 23rd. I understood why everyone on Ord Mantell was so miserable, with him around.

Today, the rest of the squad was off on separate recon missions, still trying to track down various sources of information on where the ZR-57 bomb might have been spirited off to. My mission was a simple one, rendezvous with a civilian contact named Bellis, who had reported in with the prearranged signal that he might have found something important. Jorgan had hinted - not all that subtly - that he barely considered me qualified even for that, so I aimed to shut him up as best I could. I was relieved not to run into either the medical officer or Cathar who'd confronted me about the lost medical supplies. Both had wanted the entire lot for themselves, but I couldn't see it being right that either group was left wanting, so I had split the supplies evenly between them. Neither had commented so far, and I hoped it stayed that way.

Talloran Village wasn't a safe place any more - Separatists had boldly moved into the settlement only a few days before my arrival, and a large number of civilians had fled for the fort's safety. Bellis had set the meet up for a quiet alley in disputed territory, as he and his wife had chosen to remain in their house on the separatist side of town to maintain his cover. I'd colored my armor a more neutral dark green and blue to try to avoid drawing attention, but I was still more than a little nervous. Sooner I get this over with, the better.

I rounded the corner, arriving almost precisely at the arranged time, but saw no one. I carefully made my way forward, maybe he was just trying to find some cover to stay out of view of any curious eyes, then tripped over something and nearly fell flat on my face. A corpse. Kark. A corpse with an identification card that named him as none other than our source, Bellis. Damnit. I tapped my comm to make a call I was not looking forward to.

"Lieutenant Jorgan, this is Sergeant Martell. I've reached the rendezvous point, but Bellis is dead, his corpse was left here. No sign of who did it, but we can assume it was the separatists."

His response was no more pleasant than the news. "Way to blow the op, rookie."

I bristled at that - even if I'd done nothing wrong - and I knew I hadn't - my time with the 23rd meant I was anything but a rookie. "I got here as fast as I could, sir.

"Not fast enough. Get over to Bellis' house and see if you can get his field box. If you think you can handle that much work, that is."

I wondered - more like hoped - that someone, somewhere, would soon develop the technology to punch someone in the face over a comm. Instead, I settled for a dig-and-run.

"Maybe if I had all of your years of experience with....running...I'd get places faster. Sir.." I cut the channel off before he could get a response in.

Getting to Bellis' place was less of a problem than I had thought it might be; quiet night in Talloran, I guess. Not going to look a gift bantha in the mouth, though. I knocked on the door twice, then rang the doorbell three times, to let his wife know that it was a Republic-friendly person. The door slid open, almost hesitantly, and I made my way in.

A petite woman with brown hair was sitting at the kitchen table, mulling things over a cup of coffee. Bellis' wife. Lin, if I remember right. I grimaced, this was going to be painful for the both of us. She looked up as she heard my feet sc****** the hardwood floor, narrowed eyes and a suspicious look on her face.

"What are you doing here? You'll blow my husband's cover, coming here like this!"

My stomach did a slight roll to the right, but there was no point in beating around the bush.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your husband...your husband is dead. He was killed by separatists before I could meet him. I brought you his identification card, and I'm here for his box. A lot of innocent lives are at stake and your husband can still save them." I placed the card on the table, slid it towards her, and waited for the explosion. When it came, it was more sedate than I had expected.

"You got him killed. You and that damn Republic of yours. Bellis was a good man, trying to do the right thing, and you got him killed." She shook her fist in the air, then turned her gaze towards me. I felt like her eyes could pierce my armor. "What do you have to say for yourself? Or are you just here for the box, so you can go back to the fort and clean the blood off your hands?"

I winced at that.

"Ma'am, there's nothing I could say to ease the pain you're feeling, Your husband was doing his part for the galaxy, and he deserved better. I know the pain you're going through; it's not something words can ever fix. Only time. And that pain never really goes away, it's always there, echoing in your heart every time you think of what you've lost."

She didn't seem convinced. Instead, she was still quite angry. "What do you know of loss?" She laughed bitterly. "This should be interesting."

So I told her. I started slowly, but soon the words were coming out of me and I couldn't stop them, like the water flow from a faucet turning into a full-blown waterfall.

"I was at the academy when some pirates hit my homeworld. Killed a few thousand people, took thousands more as slave. Killed my entire family; mom, two sisters and my little brother. Pop was already gone, serving the Republic like Bellis. Left a girl back there when I went to the academy, sweet girl named Ariel. Thought we had the future ahead of us, until I ran off to Corulag, never told her what she had meant to me after things fell apart, then never could."

I took a breath. She was looking at me, more curiously than anything.

"Had a great girl when I was at the academy, Rissa, better than I deserved. Let her down too, couldn't make it work, wasn't there when she needed me. Story of my life, really, but at least she's still alive, will still find happiness some day. Me? Well, I wake up every morning trying to convince myself that I'm fighting for something real. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. So, I guess I just remind myself I'm fighting for people like Rissa and my friend Dravis, and my third cousins - twice removed - and people like you and Bellis. Have to find something, or you end up feeling empty inside."

She opened her mouth, about to say something, then clamped it shut. I was still going, anyway.

"I can't tell you that you'll ever be alright with your husband's passing. I'd be lying if I said I was over my family's - it still haunts me, my heart still hurts from my memory of them. But I can tell you that no matter how big of a karking mess this planet is, no matter how corrupt some of the politicians are, no matter how dark the feelings you have are, you'll have at least one soldier out there fighting for the likes of you...and Bellis' memory. I swear to you, on the Maker above, the Force my father served and the Republic my mother did. Your husband's sacrifice will never be told in song or written down in the histories, but he will be remembered. By me, if no-one else."

The room fell silent. I shifted my weight awkwardly from one foot to another.

"The box is over there, behind the desk." Her words were so quiet I almost didn't hear them. "I hope you're right. About the information....about everything."

I nodded slightly, then went over to the desk she had pointed at and pulled out Bellis' box. Inside were discs of information and other intel on the separatists. As I moved towards the door, he looked at me and quietly said, "Thank you for what you said....and I'm sorry."

I was already halfway out the door, but I turned back, trying to be as gentle as I could. "So am I, ma'am. Someday, I hope I won't have to be."

Even with my pack stuffed with Bellis' box, I felt so much lighter on the way back to Fort Garnik.

Lesaberisa's Avatar

05.27.2013 , 05:10 PM | #12
Three days had passed since I'd salvaged Bellis' box.

Luckily, the trip to Talloran hadn't been a complete waste; Lieutenant Jorgan had managed to recover most of Bellis' data, which suggested the ZR-57 bomb had been moved to the separatist outpost on Mannett Point. Of course, life couldn't be as easy as dropping in on our rebel friends and securing the bomb - they'd blown the bridge to the mainland, and intel suggested the entire area had been heavily resupplied and reinforced.

"Seems to me that Mannett Point is a bit too organized and well-armed for a glorified armed camp, Sir." Lieutenant Jorgan pointed out to Commander during the briefing. "If I didn't know better, I'd say they had Imperial aid coming in, maybe even actual troops on the ground."

Tavus shook his head, a bit more dismissively than I'd have expected. "I don't think so, lieutenant. We'd have heard something from our sources if the Imperials were involved. Stay focused." I frowned, but kept my mouth shut. No point in getting in any more trouble. The commander turned to me, "Sergeant, you will rendezvous with Wraith at Mannett Point and secure the ZR-57. Eliminate any opposition you encounter."

I saluted. "Yes sir."

"Also, I have a pair of requests from Ord Mantell Command. They requested you keep an eye out for Doctor Jaen Kett, who was stranded in Mannett Point when the separatists blew the bridge. Also, there have been reports of several children reported as kidnapped being seen in separatist gear in the area. I'm downloading some of the images the parents from the refugee camp provided into your armor. Consider that a very low priority, though."

I saluted again, and made my way to the ready room. Grabbed my gear, a quick bite of a ration bar that tasted like something that came out of the wrong end of a womp rat, and hopped on one of the regulation speeders Havoc had been assigned during its time on Ord Mantell. Sturdy machine, almost as well put-together as my old Orlean Tracker from back home on Ithaca, but not the stealthiest of vehicles and it rattled whenever you pushed it past the speed of a brisk walk.

The trip out to the downed walker that was serving as the advanced monitoring post wasn't too bad, apart from a few scattered groups of separatists and the constant nattering from Jorgan over the comm. If I hadn't known better, I might have assumed he was part of some elaborate test of my loyalty to Havoc and its motto of getting the mission done, regardless of the obstacles. Maybe I don't know better too. The hike up the seaside path into Mannett Point itself was a bit more of a hassle, but the separatists had been thankfully lax in guarding it, probably assuming no one would bother trying.

Where to first.

I could see the small bunker where Wraith would be waiting, but I wasn't sure where the kids might be, or where the doctor would be found. I decided to take a gamble on the latter one, and worked towards the building with the 'Doctor' sign outside. Idiot. The door slid open, and I found myself in a large room full of scared-looking kids, and a man in his early forties looking panicked at my arrival. I held up my hand to let him know to stay calm.

"Sir, no need to panic. My name is Ayrs, and I'm with the Republic military. I'm here to get you out of here." What about the kids though? Nothing in the briefing about what to do with them, especially if these weren't the same ones that'd been kidnapped.

He shook his head violently. "Not without these children. I don't give a damn about your Republic or your war, just my people. I won't leave without them." He crossed his arms in front of his chest and set his jaw firmly. I couldn't blame him really.

"Sir, I understand your frustration. I'll make sure both you and the kids get out of here safely. Trust me." That sparked a bitter laugh.

"Just like we trusted the Republic's promises to provide us with an honest government? Or to evacuate us safely when the separatists first came here? Forgive me if I'm having a hard time trusting the Republic or its soldiers right now."

I grit my teeth.

"Sir, I understand your frustrations as well, but I"m only here to help. I will do all I can to get everyone out of here together, but I need your word that you'll come along." He looked slightly mollified. "If it matters, I'm also here to find some children that were kidnapped by the separatists and, looking around the room, I see more than a few of them here. It's not just my promises, it's our objective."

He moved over next to me, looking at the display that popped up when I punched in the code for the data on the children.

"Yes, yes, I see. Some of the children were given large amounts of stimulants to...psychologically alter them. They're still in the main separatist base in Mannett Point. If you get them out of there, I will give you my word that I will come to Fort Garnik."

"It's a deal, then." I stuck my hand out. He looked at it without moving, and I wondered how many times someone from Ord Mantell had been offered a hand of friendship by someone from the Republic only to be disappointed. He probably expects nothing more than the same. Still, he gripped my hand as firmly as if we were best friends, and I felt pleased with myself as I left to rendezvous with Wraith.

I made my across town, trying to take the smaller streets that were both less full of separatists and also afforded me better options for ambushing any that did happen to come by. What looked like a ten minute trip on our holomap only took me five, the slack defending definitely coming in handy yet again. I slipped into Wraith's bunker, and found her working at a console. Disabling security, I assumed. "You're late."

Shrugging slightly, I leaned against the wall. "I secured Doctor Kett's cooperation and located some of the missing children. What's up next?" She kept tapping away at her console the entire time, never even bothering to look at me.

"I've disabled the outer defenses surrounding the separatist installation. Fuse and Gearbox were monitoring our readings and confirmed the signature of the ZR-57 is present inside. We will both infiltrate the building - you'll need to disable the generator on your way - and secure the bomb."

I slipped my helmet back over my head. "Yes sir. I'll see you inside." And then I left.

The separatists were real sloppy with their operations. Sure, they had the numbers and tech that intel had mentioned, but they applied them the same way some teenager might use a thesaurus for their paper to 'improve' their vocabulary. It all looked real nice and shiny, but didn't have much substance to it. Three, maybe four, patrols were operating in any kind of useful manner. The rest, I bypassed as easily as my mouth got me into trouble with Jorgan. I slipped into the bunker leaving only a couple of bodies hidden in a utility closet as evidence I was even there.

I stepped through a door and entered a medical area of some kind. Three separatists were inside, two standing and one writhing in pain on the bed. They were already raising their hands in surrender before I could even point my blaster rifle at them, except the wounded one. No threat to me at all.

"P-p-p-please don't kill us," One of them said, sounding like he might have soiled his pants. "I’ll"

I waved a hand in front of my nose. "Maybe try some adult diapers." His face scrunched up into something inscrutable. "I"m not going to hurt you though, as long as you guys don't go for any weapons. If you turn yourselves in at the nearest Republic post, you'd be better off though."

Smiling underneath my helmet, I left them there, and moved to the generator. No guards, no security, no problem. For about the millionth time I wondered how the separatists could be giving us such a hard time; sure, they had some decent equipment, but they didn't have the first idea of how to run an outfit. Then again, not like the local Republic forces are that much better. And having Aric "Demotivation" Jorgan around doesn't help. I shrugged, punched in the deactivation code the commander had given me, retraced my steps into the main corridor, and made my way to where Wraith's indicator had her on the map.

I found her holding a pistol to the head of a shaking separatist and without anything resembling the ZR-57 in sight.

"It's gone. Go into the next room and take out any Seps in there, grab their info, then get out of here. I'm heading out."

I jerked a thumb at the man in front of her. "What about him, sir, need help tying him up?"

She pulled the trigger, and the man fell limply to the ground. I stared at her, even as she left the room and then my line of sight. Sure, the guy had been an enemy, but he was probably just some frustrated Mantellian who didn't know what he was guarding. He wasn't some monster. Somehow I doubt Wraith or Tavus care. Shaking a bit, I pressed on to the control center in the room beyond, readying my pistol when I heard voices.

Three men, one hunched over a console - probably trying to erase the data before I got there - and two behind a desk. I took out the console user first, bolt between the eyes, then spun to take out both the others with shots to their chests. Only one had even managed to draw his weapon properly. Amateurs. I felt a slight hint of disdain towards them until it occurred to me that it must have been similar when the pirates hit Ithaca. My hand twitched involuntarily, and lunch came up in one ugly mess of vomit and disgust.

I moved over to the console and downloaded the data in a daze, then left as quickly as I could. I tried not to picture my friends and family where those three men were. On my way out, I passed a room that was completely bare except for a cot and a kid, maybe fourteen or fifteen, outfitted in separatist gear. I flipped through the photos and recognized one of the missing kids, a boy named Paul. I approached slowly.

"Hey son, are you Paul Kriege? Your parents are looking for you."

He turned, his eyes blazing with an unnatural hatred. "Paul? There's no Paul here. There's only Bonecrusher, and I will kill you, Republic scum. I will break you in half." I considered that for a moment. What did the Doc say, again? Pumped 'em full of stims? Poor kid probably didn't even remember what he'd had for lunch. I put my hand on his shoulder and - surprisingly - he didn't pull away.

"Son, I'm with the Republic. I know your real name is Paul because your parents are looking for you, waiting for you. They miss you, and they want you to go home to them."

He looked at me, uncertainty replacing the incoherence. "I can't go back...I can't. They...did things to me, made me do things to other people. I need to get off Ord Mantell, get away from all this. Please, help me and the others here get away, I promise I won't cause any more trouble." He slumped down on the ground, I wasn't sure whether it was the stims wearing off or simply being worn out. I sat down next to him.

"I can help you get out of here, no problem. You and everyone else. Just make your way to Dr. Kett's place, and he'll take care of you. But getting you off Ord Mantell? I can't let you do that just like that, kid, I'm sorry. Your parents deserve better, and so do you. When you get back to Fort Granik, go see them, spend time with them, and then make your decision. There's a huge galaxy out there with endless opportunities, but don't be so quick to run away from what you already have. Someday you might want to see your parents' faces or hear their voices and not be able to."

He took a deep breath and nodded, more steadily than I'd have expected from the way his body was shaking. "I'll remember that. Thank you...for everything. And I"m sorry about your parents."

I patted him on the head gently, and grinned sheepishly. Kid's smarter than he looks. "Don't be, Paul. There's enough people who are sorry out there. Take care of yourself."

The stars were shining brightly by the time I'd managed to get out of the compound; two seemed far brighter than the others, shining in tandem. I liked to think it was my parents, stupid as it was.

A part of me wanted to wave up at the sky, anyway, just in case.

Lesaberisa's Avatar

05.30.2013 , 02:55 PM | #13
Minor story note:

Additional note: This short story takes place 1-2 nights before the mission, as I note later in this topic. I forgot to include it here and posted it on the Short Fic thread. Correcting that now! Cheers



When I entered the command center, I found only Jorgan waiting for me. Not the most welcome of sights to begin with, let alone when the absence of my squad members made me wonder why I’d been left with the angriest Cathar this side of the of the Hyperian Way. I snapped to attention as he made his way over, looking no more pleased to see me than I was him.

“Sergeant, take a seat. You’ll be observing the operation from here with me.” He gave me a pointed look, seeming to take some pleasure in giving me the information. “I thought….maybe….you’d have proven yourself to Commander Tavus but it looks like he isn’t ready to rely on you in the field.”

I pursed my lips, trying desperately to keep my big mouth shut long enough to avoid getting myself in trouble. Tavus was wrong, I knew I was ready, but I also knew my place as the newest member of Havoc and if it meant sitting this fight out, then I’d have to suck it up and move on. I nodded at the lieutenant and took a seat behind him as he paced behind a pair of technicians and a radio operator.

“Any news from the squad, sir?”

He shook his head and narrowed his eyes, focusing intently on one of the displays. “We did find out that some relatively high ranking members of various terrorist and underworld groups are holding a meeting in the main separatist base, where the ZR-57 is, but not much else. Good work with that separatist sympathizer, by the way. You must be very persuasive” His look suggested the praise was largely genuine, so I wasn’t going to fight it.

I favored him with a conspiratorial grin. “I’ve been told I’m charming, from time to time.”

I reclined back into the chair, folding my arms behind me and resting my head in my hands. He barked a harsh laugh in response, marking the second time he'd done something other than complain about me or insult me in less than a minute. Must be some kind of record, I hope someone's recording this.

“Sir, sir. We have a problem.” The radio operator seemed to be hyperventilating. “We’ve lost contact with Havoc Squad.”

Jorgan was hovering over the man’s shoulder in a flash, taking in the data on his screen. “I don’t understand, their radio signals just switched off. If it was interference, we should have seen it before. We need to find out what’s going on.” His eyes moved from the panel to me. “We need you to get inside the base and find out where the squad is and assist in recovering the ZR-57. I’ll monitor from here.”

“Might the commander be doing something that requires them to break any contact, sir?”

He shook his head, much more vehemently than he had a few minutes before. “Can’t risk letting that bomb off Ord Mantell, can’t risk the entire operation. The squad may have been compromised, we don’t know. I’ll run it by General Vander once you’re out, but we can’t waste any more time. Gear up and move out.” I saluted and moved for the barracks.

Ten minutes later, I was on my way on a personal speeder to Crater Base, a small fortification that the Republic had built to monitor the large separatist base to the northwest of Fort Garnik. I still wasn’t quite sure how I was going to find my squad mates once I was inside but I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get into the base to begin with. I’d been briefed on Havoc’s operational plan, but the commander had designed it knowing he had a full squad to fall back on, I was on my own unless I could scrounge up some reinforcements at the base. If you’re lucky. You’re not, though..

Once I arrived at the base I was beyond thrilled to be wrong on that score. The 29th and 33rd Battalions from Whirlwind Company were stationed there for reconnaissance, and they looked to be bored out of their mind. I made way over to the woman who appeared to be in command, a Captain Shepard. I snapped to attention and saluted her, trying my best not to show my appreciation for her...unit. Her unit being here. I coughed.

“Sir, Sergeant Martell from Havoc Squad. I’m on a priority mission with my squad and need to double time it up to the separatist base, but I could use your help to get inside. You can contact Lieutenant Aric Jorgan, on authority of General Vander. Sir.” I hoped like hell that Jorgan had managed to get ahold of the general, or I’d be in for it.

She smiled tightly at that.

“We’re aware of the general situation, General Vander commed ahead of your arrival. We’ve been prepped and ready to go. Well, ready once you got here, that is, Sergeant.” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the look she gave me, but I didn’t have time for that. “Can you give me any more information before I speak to my men?”

Tricky question. Havoc’s operation here was highly classified, of course, basically everything we did was. On the other hand, I didn’t feel quite right getting Captain Shepard’s troops involved in the mission without some warning of both the risks and high stakes involved.

“Sir, Havoc was assigned here as part of a classified mission to track down some …. misappropriated equipment. We’ve lost contact with the squad from HQ, and it’s up to me to reconnect with them and ensure the mission is completed. I need help to do it, though, I’m good with infiltration but not good enough to get into that place on my own on top of everything else. I just need some cover if things get hairy; get in, secure the bomb if necessary, determine the situation. Sir.”

She nodded quickly, then turned to brief her men on the additional details. I hit the fresher and grabbed a couple of nutrient bars for my pack, I didn’t know how much time would pass before I got another chance to do either, and it’d be inconvenient to have to take a bathroom break in the middle of a base full of hostile separatists. Then again, their freshers couldn’t be as bad as Fort Garnik’s, right?

We made the climb in total silence, passing past the outposts and checkpoints the other units from her company had set up, and crawled into position across from a service access corridor that some advance units had been fighting over with separatist defenders. She motioned me over and drew a map of the complex in the sand, marking heavily defended positions with an x and circling the power station where we’d traced the ZR-57’s signature to.

“We’ll help you make a push into the first level and hold positions here and here.” She marked two more spots with triangles. “I’ll send a third squad to hold the cargo lift that’ll take you up to the third floor, but that’s pushing it. If General Vander can send reinforcements, I’ll push further in, if I can, but once the garrison figures out where we are and what we’re up to we’re going to face some nasty resistance. I can’t jeopardize my units’ survival.” She paused. "Command's hitting the main entrance regularly anyway, but the general will make sure they keep the pressure up to draw attention away as much as they can. Hopefully enough time for you to complete your objectives and get the hell out of there."

I nodded once and tapped her shoulder twice to let her know I’d be using the second tactical frequency over the comm. Havoc had been using the first and might have been compromised, and I didn’t want any separatist scouts in the base or sympathizers in the Republic and governmental ranks to overhear anything or read my lips.

“Rough Riders, move out!” I heard the captain call behind me as we made our push, dodging some mild defensive fire that disappeared quickly enough when the local commander opened up with his heavy artillery. We sprinted across what had previously been no-man’s land and took a quick moment to regroup once we’d made it through the outer walls. There were some scattered Republic troops further in, but we’d be making our way through some of the service corridors to try to avoid the strongest resistance in this sector.

Something smells terrible here. I hope it’s not me.

We moved slowly but purposefully, doing our best to avoid making any noise, as it’d be rather inconvenient to alert any separatists to our presence. We hit the main junction in ten minutes flat, three minutes ahead of the schedule I’d worked out in my head when I’d been talking to Captain Shepard. Now it’s my turn. I tossed a quick, almost imperceptible, salute to her, then removed the dye modules from my pack. One-time use only, annoyingly enough, but they’d allow me to color my armor to fit in with the separatists and hopefully avoid at least some of the attention I’d otherwise get.

When I finished, I moved towards the cargo lift, trying to balance a purposeful gait with appearing like I fit in with the rest of the group congregating down there. I was glad for my helmet, since I was nervous as hell and didn’t want to prematurely alert anyone to my presence. Fortunately, in armor, no one can see you sweat. I tipped my head at the five separatists at the platform and stepped on the lift, using the two minute trip up to collect myself and take some deep breaths.

The lift got to the second floor, which looked pretty clear as far as I could tell. There were some loud rumbling from somewhere ahead of me, a useful – if unintentional – distraction. I passed a pair of rooms full of wounded separatists and some medical personnel and found myself in a detention area that had been abandoned due to the fighting at the main gates. The only prisoner left in the room, a wormy looking Rodian, called me over.

“You there, there’s no need to keep me locked up. I have an arrangement with the Republic and can be sure you are properly compensated.” He flashed a grin that irritated me more than anything. I raised an eyebrow in response, but started punching in the deactivation sequence for his cell’s force fields. A prisoner of the separatists with an arrangement with the Republic was worth busting out. “Who knew the Republic would be so desperate as to work with Veem Set, pirate and raider of the Outer Rim?”

I felt some bile rising in my throat and had to make an extraordinary effort to keep my voice level. “You’re a pirate? Were you involved in that big run of hits on colony worlds oh….three, four years back?” The force fields flickered and went out, and Veem Set gleefully pranced out of the cell.

“Yes, some of my finest work, I’m happy to see it’s so well known. What did you think of it.”

I drew my pistol and aimed it squarely at his head. "Don't think much of you at all."

He didn’t so much as flinch, pushing past me and making his way to the exit. “What are you going to do, kill me? You don’t have the stomach for it, whoever you are.” He laughed, and continued walking, passing a pair of barrels that looked to contain some kind of explosive material. I lowered my aim and fired a bolt into each barrel, setting off an explosion that would probably draw too much unwanted attention but felt deeply satisfying.

I kicked his corpse over with my foot. “Who’s laughing now, you piece of filth?”

My comm beeped twice. The captain.

“Sergeant Martell, we picked up an explosion, do you require assistance?”

I shook my head, then realized a visual gesture wouldn’t do much for her comprehension unless she could see through walls and floors. “No sir, just had to burn through some resistance. I’m almost to the control room, ETA five minutes.”

Another two beeps, and I was off.

Time to figure out what the hell is going on.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar

05.31.2013 , 03:54 PM | #14
Leaving the charred corpse of Veem Set behind, I took a quick peek at my in-helm display to confirm how much further I had to go to get to the control room Jorgan had marked on my map. Two hallways, some sort of large meeting area, then get through an entry of some kind and I’m there. Simple enough, except if I run into some friends. I could hear the sound of some heavy footsteps from the corridor I’d come from, so I would have to move quickly. Recolored armor or not, at least some of the separatists would be smart enough to connect the flame-broiled Rodian with the strangely silent trooper wearing slightly charred armor.

I hustled through the first hallway and following room easy enough, since there wasn’t anyone in them other than a single separatist who was too busy cowering in the corner to notice me. The second room had some technicians, who looked at me curiously, but didn’t seem too bothered. I was feeling rather pleased with myself until I got to the doorway that led to the corridor to the control room. Standing in front of the hatch was a separatist officer, long raid hair. Reminded me of Ariel for a moment. With her were two heavily armed troops.

“You, what are you doing here? What’s your authorization?”

I gulped. I was a good shot, but these separatists looked a lot meaner than the others I’d been fighting and I couldn’t guarantee more than a single shot at them even if I had my fastest draw. Might not even get that one shot off depending on how good they were. I decided to try a more subtle approach, instead.

“Hey there, pretty lady. I was hoping to see you here. I’ve heard all about you from my sources. Only good things, I promise.” I flashed the smile of a used hover car salesman at her before realizing that it wasn’t likely to make much of an impression if it was coming from behind a helmet. My opening seemed to have taken her off guard, though, so no matter. “I hope you can say the same about me. I’d be happy to prove myself in any way you deem appropriate. Or inappropriate, if that’s how you like it.”

“I…uh. Hmm.” She blushed slightly, her cheeks matching her hair. “Who are you again?”

My mind flashed through possible names as quickly as I could. I intelligently decided to drop any that could or would be easily traced to the Republic. I contemplated using Dravis’ name but he might well have some kind of convoluted connection to the Mantellian separatists. Finally, I came to the first name that made sense, a separatist spy who’d busted out of Garnik that we’d been warned about.

“My name’s Skavak. And I’d love to talk to you sometime to tell you more.” Her blush deepened a bit, and I felt a little guilty, she seemed nice. She might be a separatist, but she might have good reasons for being here. Or she reminds you of your dead high school sweetheart and you're too soft-hearted as it is. “If you need further identification, I can show you some hard proof then, too.”

She shook her head and waved me forward, apparently not trusting herself enough to speak. The other two separatists were rolling their eyes so hard I could hear it through their helms. Havoc Squad, finding a way. I was glad they hadn’t asked me to take my helmet off, because my face was as red as hers.

I continued forward through the first room, which seemed to be used for little more than storage, then activated the door to the second room. It wasn’t even halfway open when my heart stopped and something nasty sank to the pit of my stomach.

Imperial troops. I'd know their armor anywhere. When Mom had taught us to shoot, it’d been at Sith and Imperial targets, and these guys were those target dummies in the flesh. There were 8 of them, two packs of three near the entrance and the ranking officer and an aide by the control panel I needed to use. Bluffing past these guys wasn’t going to be possible.

“What’re you doing here?” Spotted already, slick.

I responded carefully, slurring my words as much as possible. “Heyyyy there. I was just lookin’ for th’ cantina. Let off some steam, ye know what I mean?” I staggered towards one of the trios of Imperials, as if to slap them on the back or commiserate. “It’s so hard to stay focused, heh heh, so much going on. You guys know where to find a good woman ‘round these parts?” My hand was already sliding to my pistol, adjusting its firing rate.

The Imperials exchanged glances . A couple of them chuckled and I heard one make a jab at the ‘Mantellian yokels.” I grimaced slightly, then swept my blaster out of its holster, scything fire across the three Imperials in front of me, who went down in a heap. The officer in the back of the room reacted the fastest, which surprised me, but his reaction was simply to throw himself behind the desk, pulling his aide down with him to use as a human shield of sorts. No time for distractions

The second group of Imperials was already tracking me, so I crouched behind one of the computer consoles for cover. A lucky shot picked one of them off when he leaned too far out of cover to try to spot me, but the other two were being a lot more careful. Luckily, we have tools for these types of situations. I grabbed a grenade from my belt and hurled it in their direction. Three seconds later, It was all over. The Imperials nearest me were all dead, blaster holes in their armor smoking. I wasn’t sure I really needed to see what the other group looked like.

I looked over at the officer and his aide and saw them still rooted in place, exactly where they’d been when the firefight broke out. I made my way towards them, brandishing my pistol to let them know I was serious. “In the name of the Galactic Republic, I order you to surrender.” I hoped they’d make it easy on themselves, not just for their sake, but so I could get some information out of them.

The officer made an obscene gesture, but remained hiding. “I will not surrender to the likes of you. My goodness, you look as if you just dragged yourself out of the streets. I would rather die than be manhandled by a ragamuffin such as you.”

He’d barely finished his speech when the aide brought a piece of computer equipment down on his head, leaving him sprawled and unconscious on the floor. “You might be willing to die, but I’m not.” I grinned, despite my best efforts to remember that the officer was far more likely to have valuable information than an aide.

“You made the right decision, maybe you can make a couple more. I’m looking for a piece of misplaced Republic equipment, we tracked it to this room, but it’s not here anymore. I’m also looking for some of my friends.”

He looked at me, curiously, for a moment. “I don’t know about your friends, but I know about your ZR-57 bomb that was being kept here. They moved it out only a little bit ago, took it up to a hangar to get it off planet. You might still catch up to it, but if I were you, I’d just deactivate it from this console and high tail it out of here.”

I moved over to the panel he’d pointed out and began reviewing the displays; the bomb’s control codes and authorizations were indeed loaded into the machine, and I had full access. I turned back to the aide. “Why’re you doing this? I ain’t complaining, but you’re a lot more cooperative than most Imperials I know.”

“I’m not an Imperial.” His voice was loud now, angry. “I’m a Mantellian, tired of the crap the government your Republic supports does. But that doesn’t mean I have any love for the Imps or what they’d do with a weapon like that. Blasted Imps sold us out, bringing in mercs and pirates, practically taking over the movement without anyone realizing it”

Fair enough. I kept at it with the computer, made it past the security checks and started programming a kill command to ensure the bomb could never be used. Reverse-engineered, maybe, but there was only so much I could do until I found Havoc. And even then, not sure I could make it there in time.

“What are the Imperials doing here anyway?”

He shrugged. “Well, I don’t know when it all started. I know this guy,” he jerked his thumb at the unconscious officer, “came to help oversee a ‘special pick-up’. I assume that's the bomb.” I nodded, and finished up my work on the console. From the information I’d downloaded into my armor, I had maybe fifteen minutes to get to the bomb, but even if I did, I wasn’t sure I was up to disarming it or disabling it enough to keep the Imperials and separatists from getting anything from it.

Have to try though. Have to find my squad. Not going to leave them behind, not leaving anyone behind.

“You should get yourself out of here while you can, go home, find your family. Keep them safe.” Like I could not. “If any Republic troops come poking around, you tell them Ayrs Martell will vouch for you.”

I didn’t have time to wait for his response, didn't have much time for anything. I suddenly realized the separatists I’d had to talk my way past on the way in would most assuredly have heard the ruckus inside and would be a lot harder to get past on the way out. I hoped the fact they hadn’t followed me in meant I was getting lucky and, for the second time today, I was rewarded with an empty corridor. I glanced to my right and saw them hunched over the Rodian corpse a couple of rooms down. I took a deep breath and sighed with relief.

Back on Ithaca we had people like Fillo MacTyre in charge who made sure things were done the right way. These people have been bled dry by a bunch of corrupt bureaucrats. They deserve better, even if they’re fighting the wrong way.

I kept moving, thanking the Maker that the assault on the main gates had really thinned out the garrison in this area. I hoped Captain Shepard and her men were doing alright, too. I eliminated a pair of separatists that were blocking the way into the service corridor I needed to head down, then put my head down and hoofed it. Didn’t have time to be subtle any more, not with the Imperials about to load that bomb onto a transport to do Force knows what with it. Fuse had mentioned it being enormously destructive, and I knew all too well from Mom’s stories what that would mean if the Empire got its hands on it.

Fuse…I wonder where he is. Where they all are. They must have made it, they’re Havoc Squad, they don’t let just anyone in

My armor display beeped at me, I was almost there; hangar bay about a couple hundred meters ahead with the door guarded by a group of six bored-looking separatists. If I’d had time, I would have tried to get them to surrender, go home, live their lives – like the aide back in the control center – but I didn’t. After meeting more than my fair share of decent-seeming separatists today, I wasn’t quite as eager to run up a kill count as I might have been earlier, but I had no choice. Kark that, you always have a choice, sometimes it’s just a hard one.

No time for handwringing over the ethics of killing a separatist patrol, anyway.

Grenade. Pull the pin, release it. Rifle on auto, clean up that mess. Don’t give them time to recover, don’t give them time to get back on their feet.

All six lay dead at their post, I hoped the rumbling from out front covered as much of the sound as possible. The hangar doors were fused shut from inside, which was frustrating, but I’d been top of my class on Corulag and Corellia for a reason, and a minute of slicing did the trick. The doors, both about as big as any I’d ever seen, slid open to reveal the hangar bay.

It was mostly empty, medium-sized Monitor-class shuttlecraft with some small cargo littered around it but no sign of the ZR-57; obviously the Imperials were almost ready to go. There were people on the other side of the craft, and coming down the shuttle ramp was…

“Commander Tavus? Sir? What are you and the squad doing here?” I wanted to wipe my eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. The hell is going on? “We lost contact with you.” I kept walking towards him, never noticing the shadow behind me until I felt the cold metal of the barrel of Wraith’s pistol on the back of my helmet.

“I can take him, sir. Your orders?”

Is she nuts?

The commander looked at me sadly, like Mom or Pop had when they had to tell me an inconvenient or unpleasant truth. I didn’t think I would like what he would have to say, and the queasy feeling in my stomach didn’t help.

“I wish you hadn’t come, soldier, you weren’t a part of this. Weren’t meant to be a part either.” He turned his attention to the Mirialan behind me. “Stand down, Wraith, the sergeant deserves to know what’s going on.” And, just like that, the shadow was gone.

Tavus’ face looked friendly enough, but the shiver down my spine and the tingling sensation in my hand ruined my attempt to stay calm. “Sir, you’re in possession of the ZR-57, and we’re supposed to be disarming it and then bringing it back to the Republic. Why’s the squad packing it up and getting ready for an extended getaway?” I don’t know why I asked, maybe some stupid part of me hoped I was seeing something that wasn’t there.

“Soldier, we’re not going back to the Republic, ever. It betrayed us on Ando Prime, and we aren’t going to give it a second chance. It has forsaken its soldiers, its duty to defend its worlds and citizens and is too afraid to challenge to Empire to preserve itself.”

I had no idea who or what Ando Prime was, but it didn’t really matter. “So what, sir? You’re running away to become a merc-.” I cut myself off when one of the figures behind the shuttle came into view. “You’re joining the Imperials? Is this some kind of bad joke?”

Tavus looked slightly uncomfortable, Fuse was even worse off. Wraith looked nonplussed, though, and Gearbox and Needles were positively giddy.

“Give it up kid. Just go home to your Republic and you’ll see we’re right. The Republic won’t win this war because it refuses to let its soldiers fight.” Gearbox never knew when to shut up.

I turned on him. More than likely, I was a dead man either way. “You tell yourself that, but the Republic wouldn’t be forced into fighting if it weren’t for the Empire trying its best to stomp out any civilization that doesn’t rely on murder, slavery and repression. I don’t think you’re afraid the Republic will lose the war, I think you all are just afraid you can’t cut it anymore.”

Tavus and Gearbox laughed, but Fuse was still sweating away. Needles was smirking, and Wraith had a firm set to her jaw, her hand resting on her pistol while she shot lasers at me with her eyes.

“You’re all cowards, nothing more. You talk about being betrayed by the Republic, but you run off to serve under the boot of the Sith. What karking good is that doing anyone, especially the people you’re supposedly so worried about.”

He slashed his hand across his chest in his frustration. “You weren’t on Ando Prime. You didn’t fight in the last war. You didn’t see what I did. The Republic is a lost cause, an empty shell being propped up with the blood and sweat of the everyday soldier. You think the Supreme Chancellor gives a damn about Ord Mantell? You think the Jedi give a second thought to the Outer Rim or Balmorra?”

My laugh was a bitter one.

“Why, because the Empire does? Last time I checked, they were busy enslaving and butchering populations for being non-human.” I glanced over to Wraith at that, but she had no reaction. “You think you can make the Empire all better by joining them? They’ll use you, and once they’ve used you they’ll throw you out like the garbage you all are.”

This time, it was Wraith that replied. “The Imperials respect strength. They will honor our commitment and recognize our contribution.”

“I hope they enjoy a deactivated bomb. Most expensive toy in the galaxy."

“Nice try.” The commander’s voice was firm enough, but he seemed slightly rattled. He glanced down at something on his armor’s display, then returned my gaze.

“Out of time, soldier. I take it there’s no point in asking you to come with us, then?”

I responded by spitting at his feet. “There’s a special place in hell for traitors, I’ll make sure you end up there.”

The rest of the traitors had been filing into the shuttle without me noticing, Tavus followed them. “I’m sorry it ended up like this, you are an exceptional soldier. Your mother was too. But I can’t have someone like you running after me, too risky for us. Havoc only takes the best.” He turned and made his way into the shuttle.

“The worst, too.” The taste in my mouth was almost as bitter as the day I had found out about home. The shuttle’s engines gave a sharp whine and the repulsorlifts created a shimmering as it lifted off the ground. “I swear, I won’t rest until I’ve hunted you all down. Especially you, Tavus. I’ll find you, you son of a b-.” A blaster bolt flashed past my head, and I realized the Imperials in the hangar were more interested in a fight than finding a way out.

I was happy to oblige.

When it was over, I surveyed the scene, putting another bolt into one of the Imperials who was trying to get back up. The shuttle was long gone, and my time was up. I had nothing else keeping me here. The bomb was lost to the Imperials, my squad lost to some fit of madness, my sense of purpose lost somewhere in between.

What did I keep telling myself, leave no one behind? I laughed bitterly, then cursed my naivety, my stupidity.

I heard something over the comm system that ran through the base, it sounded like we’d broken through the front, and the separatists were going to throw everything they had to try to hang on. Perfect time to make a stealthy exit back to Captain Shepard, and then the fort. I was too scared to think about what would happen after that. Or what Jorgan would say.

All I knew is I had more names on my list, and that I needed a cold shower.

And a stiff drink.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar

06.02.2013 , 01:59 PM | #15

The short, completely silent, speeder ride back to Fort Garnik was a welcome respite from everything that had happened today. I needed to think things over, to figure out what had happened, exactly. Somehow, I was going to have to explain how my entire squad had defected from right under my nose without me realizing anything. I doubted the brass would view the fact that I'd managed to disable the bomb as adequate compensation. Havoc Squad going over to the Empire. My mind was still reeling. They were the best of our best. If they've lost faith or been turned, who's next?

I turned into the hangar bay and dropped the speeder off with the quartermaster officer there, a Twi'lek who gave me a bit of an odd look as I turned to leave. There's no why she could know. No way. I hoped so, at least. Last thing I needed was to be walking around the base with a giant bulls-eye on my back. Ord Mantell was enough of a hellhole without having my fellow troops giving me dirty looks for something I had known nothing about.

The command center was only a few feet away now. I stopped for a minute. Breathe. Relax. Try not to vomit. I got going again, past the glares of the men in the outer area, through a pair of rooms full of off-duty soldiers, and into the mission room where the entire nightmare had begun. It was nearly empty now, just Jorgan and an older man with a lot of medals and stripes. There was something funereal about the atmosphere, and the mood wasn't helped by Jorgan looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable or the lights being dimmed considerably.

"Sergeant Martell, I'm General Vander, Chief of Operations for the Republic here on Ord Mantell. Please, stand at ease and take a seat. We have some important matters to discuss."

I relaxed my posture, but didn't take the proffered chair. "I prefer to stand, sir. I assume Lieutenant Jorgan has briefed you on the situation?"

Both men frowned at that, but it seemed like they were doing so for different reasons. The general's discomfiture seemed to be pretty straightforward, but there was Jorgan. Beneath his quiet-but-uneasy veneer, I could detect a dangerous undercurrent of rage. That alone wouldn't have surprised me, but - strangely - it seemed to be directed at General Vander rather than me or Havoc. I wondered if I had unknowingly wandered into another ambush.

Vander was considering his words carefully. "I've received the report on Havoc Squad's apparent defection to the Sith Empire, along with several other reports regarding your activity in the separatist base. Very impressive work, I must say."

I was a little confused. "Yes...sir. Thank you. But isn't Havoc's defection to the Empire the reason for this briefing?"
Jorgan coughed loudly, then looked a bit sheepish when the general gave him a sharp look.

"I understand that you were Havoc's newest recruit, and I want you to know I don't hold you personally responsible for any of this mess." I had to bite my tongue not to say something court-martiable to him. How karking generous.. I bit my tongue again, just to be safe. "However, I would like your opinion on that subject with regards to Sergeant Jorgan." Sergeant? The hell? I glanced over at the Cathar, but got only a murderous glare.

"Sir, it is my opinion that Lieu-Sergeant Jorgan performed admirably under the circumstances and in no way could have been aware or involved in the Havoc Squad plot. Without his assistance. I'd be a corpse out there, or strung up for torture by the separatists." Jorgan seemed to relax a bit, and I now understood why he'd been so upset. Someone upstairs with more stars than common sense demoted him, and they even thought he might have been involved. Blasted armchair generals.

The general turned to Jorgan. "I'm sorry about all this, Sergeant, you've been a fine soldier in your years here."

"Didn't stop you from demoting me anyway. Sir." I glanced over my shoulder and planned my exit.

Vander looked about ready to choke Jorgan, but instead turned his gaze back to me. "You also performed well beyond any reasonable expectation in disarming the ZR-57 bomb and neutralizing it as a threat. Simply outstanding work that needs to be recognized." I hoped that meant I might get a 2-for-1 coupon at the cantina, I needed it after today. "In light of your service, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Lieutenant."

I snapped off a salute, trying my best not to look at Jorgan.

"In addition, we have decided that you will be given command of the new Havoc squad. To rebuild it as the symbol of Republic strength in the face of Imperial aggression." I damn near fell over. "I realize you're still fairly new to the unit, but you've proven yourself in the field in multiple operations and in very difficult circumstances. Every officer who has served with you has had only the highest of praise for your conduct, particularly Sergeant Jorgan."

This time, it was Jorgan who was avoiding my gaze.

"One last item." Thank the Maker, I think I'm about to collapse. "You'll need to refill your squad with the best...with good, loyal soldiers. I can think of no better choice for your first member than Sergeant Jorgan, so I am assigning him to Havoc. You'll both be reporting to General Garza on Coruscant once we formalize everything." The general paused, then looked back at Jorgan. "I"m sorry, you deserve better for your years of service, but this was the best I can do."

The only response was a nod from Jorgan and a croaking noise from me; my throat had dried out sometime during the conversation without me realizing it. I summoned as much saliva as I could before trying again to respond.

"Yes, sir. I - we - won't let you down. You can count on us."

The general snapped off a salute that Jorgan and I both returned immediately. "You're both dismissed."

We made our way out of the command center, stumbling more than walking. When sunlight hit our eyes, I turned to him. "I need a drink. Well, more than one, really, but I want to get us started off on the right foot. Paw. Uh, you know what I mean."

Jorgan was giving me another of those looks of his that could out freeze Hoth, but then surprised me by barking out a laugh. "The General may have just ruined my career. Your Havoc friends might have just ruined my career too. But, you know what? Getting drunk with you sounds like a stupid enough idea to work." He bared his teeth in the scariest grin I'd ever seen in my entire life.

I slapped him on the back, quickly removing my hand when the glare returned. "To Havoc, once the proud vanguard of Republic Special Operations, now the home of a grumpy Cathar and his crazy commander with the big mouth. They'll have us on recruitment posters in no time."

The cantina was packed by the time we got there, but we scored ourselves a couple of decent seats in the corner. I hoped it was because of something positive, but some part of me was sure it was because Aric had encouraged the previous guests to perform a certain, anatomically impossible, act. Either way, the ale flowed freely and, for once, Jorgan wasn't the biggest *** on Ord Mantell. Admittedly, it helped that he was too busy drinking to say anything to me but, hey, small victories. Apparently, I just need to keep him liquored up.

That night, I returned to the barracks and sat down in front of my holoterminal, staring into the blank screen while I performed mental gymnastics to avoid making any kind of decision. They're not strangers, they're not enemies. They're your karking family. You can face a separatist's gun to your face but not them? You karking coward. I leaned over to the cooler to grab a beer, than caught myself.

Not tonight. Tonight, I needed to be brave. I activated the terminal and dialed in the account number. A woman's face appeared, lined with age but open and friendly all the same.

"Auntie Thalia? It's Ayrs, Valeria's son. I was wondering if you had some time." I winced at my own awkwardness.

Her smile was big enough that I forgot all about that, though. "Of course, Ayrs! I know things have been....difficult....but we're always here for you. Even when you're...busy."

Feeling a bit guilty, I reached behind my head and ran my hand up and down my neck a bit awkwardly, pretending to scratch an itch that wasn't there.

"I know, I'm sorry about being a lone ranger, but I'm gonna try to be better. Have a lot going on, and I thought it'd be nice to talk to my family."
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Syart's Avatar

06.05.2013 , 12:19 PM | #16
I'm really enjoying this *imports popcorn from Euphrosyne's thread* It's inspired me to go and pick up my own trooper again, I abandoned him at the beginning of Tatooine because I was so bored with him
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Lesaberisa's Avatar

06.08.2013 , 05:21 PM | #17
Thanks! It's always nice to know people are enjoying it. My apologies for not responding sooner, but I didn't want to needlessly bump my topic without adding to the story and I've been pretty busy the past couple of weeks.

I can definitely understand your feelings on the trooper storyline, but one thing I will always love about it is something people talked a bit about in the Short Fic thread - it's much more relatiable on so many levels, and I find it a lot of fun/more interesting to look at how someone without 'magic powers' might face the galaxy in front of them. Of course, it's someone with a tragic background seeking a new beginning, blahblah, but the thought is there


Five hours out of Coruscant, and I couldn’t sleep at all. For once – thankfully – it wasn’t dreams of people and
places I’d lost keeping me up, though.

For the first time since I’d lost Rissa, I had something, some place to call my own, and I was deathly afraid that we’d arrive on Coruscant just in time for General Garza to pull the rug out from under me. I was no fool – I had only a little over a year of field experience, and there had to be dozens of SpecOps commanders itching to get their hands on a command like this, even if it meant dealing with the repercussions of Tavus and the others’ defections.

Well, that’s not entirely true. You are a fool. Just not about this.

I sighed, rolled over in my bunk, and stared blankly at the wall for the fifth time in the past ten minutes. Jorgan was fast asleep, his loud snoring adding yet another thing to the lengthy list of things that made me strongly consider strangling him in his sleep. Unfortunately, even my limited understanding of military regulations suggested that doing so would get me court-martialed, but a man could dream. Maybe I should ask Mori next time I talk to Drav

Across the cabin was a cooler full of military rations and water, nothing to satisfy the nagging sense that I needed to be doing something, anything, rather than wasting the hours away taking in the scenic grey-on-grey coloring of the walls of the shuttle cabin. I took a deep breath, then slid off the bed and headed for the door. The shuttle wasn’t very big, but maybe I’d track down a nice view if I looked hard enough. Or maybe I’ll find some alcohol, either will do.

I strolled down the empty corridor, carefully stepping over a mouse droid that beeped furiously at me before it scurried on, doing…whatever it is that mouse droids do on a military shuttle. I passed the empty mess hall, nodded at a crewman doing some maintenance on a sparking panel, and made my way up the ship’s spine, towards the cockpit, where anyone else still awake would be. I heard a strange noise coming from one of the other sleeping cabins as I passed it, but I decided discretion was the better part of valor and pushed on.

There was only a lone crewmember minding the fort, staring off into space while the autopilot managed the navigation through the congested traffic lanes to Coruscant. He noticed me before I managed to decide between coughing to get his attention or backing out of the room quietly.

“Sir, welcome to the bridge. Is everything ok?”

I nodded, moved up to stand next to him, and looked out the viewport. The stars were a kaleidoscope of colors, flashing against the black backdrop. I remembered the nights I’d spent back home on Ithaca staring up into the night, wondering if there were kids out on the worlds in those systems looking back at me. A stupid thought, but I never had any problem coming up with those.

“How long have you been a pilot?” He looked young, at least three years younger than me in appearance but even younger by his demeanor. He must have recognized the implication, because he stood up a little straighter and puffed out his chest. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.

“I’ve been serving on this ship for four months, Sir. Been in the service for ten.”

I put my hand out towards him. “Easy there, you’ll burst an artery if you don’t relax. I’m a soldier, just like you. Even if it weren’t some ungodly hour of the night, I don’t need any fancy salutes or formal language. And you don’t have to call me ‘sir’, my name’s Ayrs.”

He shook my hand and let out a loud breath. I noticed he was sweating a bit, too, and had to bite my tongue a little harder this time.

“Thank you si—uh, Ayrs.” He ran a hand through his unruly blond hair, then motioned towards the stars outside. “Amazing view, isn’t it? It’s why I signed up; to see something beyond the dirt and muck of my homeworld. To see the galaxy, and as much of everyone and everything in it I could.” He chuckled quietly. “Not that I get to see much piloting this old rust-bucket, but it’s enough to know the possibility is out there.” He coughed. “Oh, and I’m Stavros, but everyone calls me Stamos. I don’t know why.”

I didn’t either, but I smiled at the sentiment he’d expressed. It was like I’d discovered a time machine and gone back in time a few years ago to talk to my younger self.

“How’re you enjoying your tour so far?”

He glanced back at me before his gaze settled on the controls in front of us. I covered up a small yawn with my palm.

“Not entirely what I expected, to be honest, but I’m still new. I was hoping to see a little more action, be out on the front lines. You know, like in the holovids.”

I shook my head. “Life’s not like the holovids, though. Sometimes you’ve got to do the boring and mundane for a chance to do the heroic. Sometimes you might not get that chance, either.” Stars, I better get mine. “I’ll bet you get yours in time, though, military always needs hotshot pilots with strange nicknames.”

He laughed at that. “I certainly hope so, si-Ayrs. Sounds like you joined for the same reason, though.”

“Sort of.” I paused, not sure how much of myself I wanted to reveal to him. “Mom’s family has served in the military for generations, so there’s that too. Wanted to be like my mom and pop and do something good for the galaxy while I was still around. Nothing too surprising, I guess, but I still hope I can do some of that. Mom and Pop left big shoes to fill.”

I cut myself off to cover another yawn, and to keep myself from saying any more.

“Makes sense to me. I figure that there's always a chance of doing something more, at least until I'm turning old and grey and I'm still flying this thing. Then I might need to put in for a transfer."

I chuckled at that, sympathizing with his plight. "Well, the one positive thing about being in Havoc Squad is that things are never boring. There's always someone shooting at you, throwing regulations in your face, trying to cut you in half with a lightsaber. Adventures for the average soldier, Mundane events for the likes of me."

His eyes lit up a bit at the mention of Havoc Squad. "You know, if Havoc Squad ever needs a pilot…”

I laughed. “I’ll keep you in mind, we’ll have to see how long it takes them to replace me with someone who knows what they’re doing, though.” I slapped him on the back, and turned back towards the rest of the ship. “I’d better get what sleep I can, though. Need to be fresh for General Garza. You have a good night, and if you ever need something, drop me a line. I'll do what I can to help. Or pretend to, at least."

He laughed, then turned back to the controls.

Since I was feeling particularly good, for once, I stopped by the communications room on my way back. I was too tired to make any calls, so I left one message for Drav to let him know I’d been transferred to Coruscant, and a second to Rissa to say hello. I stood at the terminal for a few minutes, then sent another to Aunt Thalia as well, figured she deserved at least that for putting up with me for so long. I was going to go further down my list of academy friends when another yawn convinced me I’d be better off waiting until I wasn’t in danger of incoherently revealing embarrassing secrets about myself.

Jorgan was still out like a light by the time I got back, and still snoring loudly enough to alert the people on Coruscant’s surface we were in the system. I slid onto my bunk and covered myself with the hopelessly inadequate regulation blanket. Then, I fell asleep.

I had the most pleasant sleep I’d had for over five years. I didn’t dream of my family; didn’t hear their voices or see their faces in front of me. I didn’t dream of my friends, or of the good times we’d had together I didn’t even dream of home, of the places and things I had loved and now were lost to me. I dreamed of something better, something brighter, shining before me like the stars had back in the cockpit.

I dreamed of a future.

The ship-wide comm woke me four hours later to alert us that our authorization to land had been granted, and we needed to get everything ready for our meeting with Garza. Jorgan and I got dressed in silence. I finished first, and went to the cargo bay to ensure our gear was delivered to the barracks right away. When I ducked back into our cabin, he was waiting for me, looking uncomfortable as he shifted from one foot to the other.

“Sir, permission to speak freely?”

I was sorely tempted to say ‘no’ just to see what his reaction would be. Simmer down, now. I nodded, not trusting myself or my self-control.

“I want you to know that, despite my earlier comments, I respect your record as a soldier. Command may have screwed me with the demotion, but I’ll gladly take down as many Imperials as I can with you.”

Feeling a bit impish, I fluttered my eyes at him, and softened my voice. “Why Aric, you know just want I want to hear.”

I couldn’t quite decide what the look he gave me was. To my untrained eye, it looks like some sort of mix between disgust, amusement and the kind of fear people show in the holovids when they realized they’re good and truly karked. I smirked, and pushed past him to the door, making my way to the exit.

Jorgan had a strange look on his face as we exited the transport. “I didn’t want to bring this off when we were discussing serious matters, but this briefing might leave us both dead, judging by Gara’s reputation” His voice trailed off for a moment. “Just to let you know, you snore like a rancor.”

Hopefully Garza’s briefing will be less painful than this.

The trip to the general’s office in the Senate building was a surprisingly long and tiring one, mostly because no one had thought things through enough to have a direct transit system between the spaceport and senate, apparently. Jorgan and I were huffing and puffing a bit when we finally entered the military wing of the building, but we managed to make it to her office in one piece. Mostly. Thank the Maker for all that training.

General Elin Garza was waiting for us, hands folded behind her, a frown firmly planted on her face. Things are already looking up. Her already severe features were hardly softened by either that or the perturbed expression on her face. I hoped the dismay came from something on one of the many datapads on her desk and not from something we’d done. Well, that I’d done, I could live with Jorgan getting in some more trouble.

We exchanged salutes, then she launched right into things.

“Lieutenant, Sergeant, welcome to Coruscant. I’m glad to see Havoc Squad’s reconstruction in such capable hands, and I have full confidence in both of you. The situation is critical; multiple Special Forces groups and squads have apparently joined Tavus in defecting, and we must move quickly before this information is discovered.”

I scratched the back of my neck. “Sir, if I may?” She nodded. “Shouldn’t we be coordinating our response with SIS or other agencies?” I stopped talking as an expression of complete and utter disbelief spread across her face.

“Under no circumstances is information on these defections to be shared, lieutenant. Surely you can see the damage that would be done, both militarily and politically.” Silently, I wondered how that could outweigh the damage the defectors would do if they struck against us first, while we were unprepared, but I knew better than to speak up. “In any case, your work will begin here, investigating and eliminating several supply networks that have followed Tavus into the Imperial camp."

I nodded. "I won't let you down, sir." I sensed Jorgan nodding in approval behind me.

"Several of my sources report that one of Tavus' associates is on Coruscant as we speak, coordinating efforts with these traitors. This must be stopped. You will report to Corporal Garrum in the Old Market District for mission-specific details. I will be monitoring your progress through your armor cam, and determining how best to move forwards afterwards." That sounded a bit ominous. "Dismissed.”

We exchanged salutes again. Jorgan and I turned on our heels and marched out of the building; we’d have to figure out where our gear was, then get a move on things if we were going to make that briefing in time..

“Not one for small talk,” he put forth. “I like that.”
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar

06.11.2013 , 11:54 PM | #18
Coruscant was supposed to be the shining beacon of civilization for the rest of the galaxy, but my experience so far had demonstrated it to be anything but. The Republic having security problems and breakdowns on a planet like Ord Mantell, that was one thing, but Coruscant was another matter entirely. Jorgan and I had been unpleasantly surprised by the corruption and crime running rampant in so many of the lower areas of the city that we had been traveling through during our strikes against Tavus’ underworld infrastructure on the planet.

Easy there, you’re a soldier, not a social worker.

The last mission had only further deepened the hole I was in with Garza; black market lab experimenting on civilians. By the time we’d got there, the doctors had been experimenting on them, leaving ten of them with various cybernetic implants. Then, as if he hadn’t been loathsome enough as is, he broadcast that the newly-created cyborgs were programmed to carry out terrorist activities if they were allowed to live. Garza had insisted we kill them, remove any chance of things going sour, and even Jorgan had grudgingly agreed, saying we couldn’t accept that level of risk. Maybe they couldn’t, but I could. Kark, was I supposed to have shot that twelve year old? Jorgan, at least, had heard me out and not commented much. Garza….

I’d felt much better about myself letting them be handed over for monitoring by Republic Security, but Garza’s very precise verbal takedown afterwards had left me wondering if I was on a shorter leash as Havoc commander than I thought. I appreciated the fact that – in her position – eliminating both real and potential threats was of paramount importance, but I didn’t accept that that included killing people like the ones in that lab; they weren’t war criminals, not traitors or Imperial agents. Just regular people caught up In some horrible stuff out of sheer bad timing, and even wose luck. Like my family.

Today, Jorgan and I were off to visit the scenic Black Sun sector, to rendezvous with a Sergeant Jaxo about some chemical and biological weapons the criminals were apparently stockpiling before turning them over to the Havoc traitors. The briefing had been even more curt than the first one, Garza still smarting from my decision at the cybernetics lab, and left us both with serious questions. How had Tavus managed to organize and maintain these supply networks? More importantly, how much pull did the Black Sun have to have an entire sector of the city named after it?

Jorgan interrupted my stream of thought. “You think Garza’s testing us and our loyalties on these missions? Running after organized crime on Coruscant seems to be a waste of our singular talents.”

I shrugged. “If she didn’t trust us, she wouldn’t have left us on the squad roster, there are plenty of top-notch soldiers out there that’d be itching for the opportunity to be a part of Havoc. Garza probably just wants us to work through a few lower-level ops first, you learn how I operate and vice versa, so we get our timing in the field down too. Besides, judging from everything we’ve seen, the planet’s a mess and could use all the help it can get.”

He grunted in agreement as we slipped passed another Black Sun patrol and headed towards Jaxo’s meeting place. The gangsters took no note of a pair of men wearing nondescript armor, and moved on. “Kind of worrisome they’ve left the capital end up like this, don’t you think, sir?”

“No kidding. Politicians lining their pockets, people taking advantage of each other for personal gain. No wonder there’s so many people demoralized about how things are going. It’s been years since the war ended but it probably feels like the Republic’s still losing battles out there. I thought Ord Mantell was bad, but seeing Coruscant like this?”

My voice trailed off and he took a moment to mull that over before changing subjectss. “You heard of this Sergeant Jaxo before? I don’t want any surprises like we got with Tavus if she isn’t on the level.”

I shrugged again. “Never heard of her, but I haven’t been around all that long myself. Hopefully she’s easier to talk to than Garza.” Jorgan barked a laugh as we rounded a corner and entered a residential district. I pulled up the display in my armor and angled us towards Jaxo’s building. “With our luck, though, she’ll be Garza lite.” We reached the door, and I buzzed in the access code Garza’s aide had given us. “Old, mean, soul-consuming…”

The door opened, and we stepped in. An attractive brunette, nice figure, was standing inside with an amused expression on her face that reminded me a lot of Rissa. “Sounds like a real monster, not anyone I know is it?”
Jorgan and I removed our helmets; no sense in taking in the filtered air when we could have the real thing instead. He responded before I could, jerking his thumb at me, “Just talking about Martell’s mother, that’s it.” I flinched, but he had no way to know how much the barb stung for the wrong reasons.

She turned to me, flashing a smile and practically purred, “I had no idea the new Havoc commander was so handsome, guess I’m a lucky girl.”

I nodded my head in Jorgan’s direction, hoping she wouldn’t notice the flush slowly taking over my face. “Jorgan? I guess he’s alright if you don’t mind the shedding. He’s not the commander of Havoc Squad, though, I am.” The sound of Jorgan’s jaw clenching and then unclenching was what made life worth living. Jaxo laughed lightly at the comment, then winked at me.

“Well, boys, you’ve got an interesting mission ahead of you. I’ve been holed up in here for weeks now, tracking incoming and outgoing shipments coming out of the Black Sun-controlled spaceport and docks in the area. Turns out they’ve got a big shipment of some real nasty stuff heading out in a few days and General Garza wants us to take it out.”

Made sense to me.

“What’s the catch, Sergeant? Not that I don’t enjoy your company, but I doubt Garza would have sent Jorgan and me down here to take on some street thugs.”

Her smile slowly morphed into a frown as she brushed a few strands of hair out of her eyes. “Normally, I’d agree, but these aren’t normal street thugs. They took out three full squads of Republic Security when the local commanders tried to make a push. General Garza probably wants to send a message along with getting the weapons neutralized. You two are perfect for the job, from what I hear. Smooth operators, know how to handle yourselves…” her voice trailed off for a moment, then returned as she locked her eyes – sparkling with amusement – on mine, “…delicate touch. Skilled in more ways than one, from what I can see.”

My armor was suddenly feeling distinctly overheated and uncomfortable. I heard Jorgan cough. At least, I thought it was a cough; if he was stifling a laugh I’d probably have to kill him.

“Well, uh, we better get over to the Black Sun headquarters and neutralize the weapons. The general told us to return the stuff here once it was secured.” I casually slipped my helmet back on, a few minutes too late for my ego’s sake.

“Looking forward to seeing you then, Lieutenant.” I could have sworn she winked at me, but I was already turning away and couldn’t be sure. The door had barely closed behind us when I saw Jorgan fidgeting. “What?”
His smirk was so powerful I could see it through his helmet. “You seem to be making quite an impression on the local troops. I guess Havoc Squad is useful for morale in more ways than one.”

I stopped so quickly that he almost ran into me. He sidestepped to the right, avoiding a collision between the two of us, but running face first into a flashing advertisement for a travel company. This time, I was the one who had to hide their amusement.

“Shut up, Jorgan.” His smirk died.

Fortunately, the rest of the mission was far less unpleasant than the Cathar’s company, even with the accidental dismemberment of one gang member that made a dash through a closing door at the exact wrong moment and the endless packs of three to five Black Sun members that seemed to patrol the area leading up to their headquarters and even inside it. The entire defense perimeter felt like it’d been set up to be simultaneously completely inefficient but also as aggravating as possible to an attacking force.

Resistance inside the building was almost as pathetic, apart from a pair of higher ranking Black Sun officers in upgraded armor. The rest of the de facto garrison seemed unprepared for even a pair of SpecOps troopers, as they seemed to avoid ever taking cover, stood next to environmental hazards that could be used against them, and had the aim of a Force-blind Miraluka. The canisters of biological weapons were lined up against a wall, exactly where Jaxo’s intel had said it would be. Amateurs. I shook my head, and wondered both how the Black Sun had managed to make it so far despite such incompetence, and also how Republic Security could fail to deal with them.

Still, the trip back to Jaxo’s safe house was a lot more pleasant than the trip from it had been. The Black Sun, apparently learning its lesson, had largely cleared out of the immediate area, which left us with smooth sailing for the majority of the trip. Well, that and you stuck Jorgan with the majority of the biological agents, so he’s weighed down. Jorgan’s head was covered in sweat when he removed his helmet, and the sight of my victorious smirk did little to improve his condition. To her credit, Jaxo seemed appreciative of our work.

“I knew I could rely on you.” She ran a hand over some of the canisters. “Without these weapons, Commander Tavus will have some pretty unhappy Imperial handlers.” Her smile turned a little vicious. “Would be a real shame if it had consequences for him or his people.”

Jorgan and I laughed at that – wishful thinking, maybe, but pleasant enough to hope for.

“Anything else we can do for you, Sergeant? Otherwise, we better be on our way to the debriefing. We also don’t want to blow your cover, I’m sure you attract enough attention as it is.” I heard Jorgan mutter ‘Oh brother’ under his breath as he headed for the door.

Jaxo took the opportunity to move forward and get close enough to cause that tingling sensation I always felt when there was trouble afoot. My brain was trying to process that troubling mix of opportunity and potential disaster, and I knew that I'd find some way to screw this up, regardless of what I said or did. Fortunately, she spoke before I could; there was a twinkle in her eye, and her tone was suggestive and hopeful at the same time. “Maybe I’ll see you around sometime, Lieutenant. With or without the uniform.”

I swallowed something unpleasant and gave a grin as my face turned a bright shade of red, which seemed to amuse her. “I’ll see what I can do, Sergeant.” Then I beat a hasty retreat, before I did or said anything I’d regret later.

Jorgan was waiting outside the door, leaning against the wall to the door’s left and arms crossed in front of him. He looked surprised to see me.

“Done already, sir? I guess humans might be different, but I figured the debriefing might take longer.” He was enjoying himself way too much, and not even a sharp look could wipe the predatory grin off his face. “Not that I’m judging, she obviously preferred me.”

For the second time today, I halted my steps and nearly caused him to crash into me; this time he managed to avoid any collateral damage, though.

“Don’t make me kill you, Jorgan. It’d look bad on my record and you might stain my armor. Besides, I think Garza’s more your type.” I swept my hands over the front of my armor in an exaggerated motion, and kept moving. “I’ll see you back at the barracks, though, I’ve got some family I need to see.”

I walked past them all, ignoring the looks of confusion, curiosity and –occasionally – derision as I clomped through the building in my off-duty fatigues. I had never been to Coruscant before, never thought I’d ever make it here, but ever since I’d been old enough to want to be a soldier, Mom had never failed to remind me of where I came from before Ithaca, no matter how strained relations were with the rest of the Martells now.

Memorial Hall was located in a large circular room, the ceiling a simple design; the Republic crest. Kuat was sometimes derided for what others saw as insufficient patriotism, but its sons and daughters died for the Republic just as well as any other world’s did. Circling much of the walls was a display in memory of those Kuati that had died in the service; names, dates, memories. The room was deathly silent; even the small children seemed to know it was not a place for antics.

In the center of the room, as would be expected from a world with proud aristocratic traditions, were displays for major families. Castillo, Hawthorne, Whytecliffe, Manderly….Martell. I leaned in and took a pair of headphones that were attached to the display, then activated the narration.

The Martell family has long been one of the most prominent members of the Kuati banking community, dating back centuries. Their contribution to our world’s financial and economic success has made them role models and heroes for Kuati of all backgrounds and walks of life. However, it is important to also recognize their immense sacrifices made in the service of their world and the Republic. A Martell has fought, and in some cases died, in every conflict for the past three centuries, and their tradition started before they even rose to prominence in the private sector.

To the enemies of their world and the Republic, the Martell words ring true. Unbowed, unbent, unbroken.

The display shut itself off. I shouldn’t have been surprised the creators would focus on the other side of the family first, but the display itself was a nice gesture and it was hardly something to get too worked up about. I sifted through the names and faces. Constantine, Yasmin, Achilles, Nymeria, Hippolyta, Belisarius. I found my grandmother, Allyria, who had not been the first to break away from the rest of the Martells, but had been the one that took us to Ithaca. And then, staring at me with a bright smile I hadn’t seen from her after we lost Pop, was Mom.

Valeria Martell. Served in Republic Special Operations. Received multiple commendations, including three Service Stars.

Fourteen words to sum up a life, but Mom had been more than decorations and terse descriptions. She was hunting trips into the country, camping trips in the mountains, stories about the people even crazier than I was she’d met along the way. Hugs when we fell, stern looks when I had done something wrong. Most of all, her unconditional love and the security we felt knowing we had a best friend for life. She was more than some trite description, I just wish I had some way to express it. I guess the warm feelings I have will have to do. Even now. Even after everything that's happened..

A small smile creased my lips, and for a moment I was back home. Ariel was coming over for the dinner Pop had going on the stove, a meal Mom had to keep watching over because he was too busy making Ver and Ally collapse into giggling fits with his silly voices and Force tricks. Dio was sitting at the table, oblivious to the chaos arond him while he studied thermodynamics, or whatever.

Something jabbed at my arm.

One of the docents had managed to sneak up on me, prodding my shoulder with his datapad in his rush to interrogate me. Scrawny guy, about a foot shorter than me, looks like a weasel too.

“Excuse me, sir, could I interest you in a commemorative book on the Martell family? It contains all sorts fascinating information on various important members.”

I struggled to contain my laugh. “No thanks. I know enough about my own family without some overpriced souvenir.”

His eyes went as big as saucers. “Sir, you’re a Martell? I must arrange a meeting with the Senator. He will be most thrilled to meet a Martell currently serving in the military. A true Kuati hero.”

I shook my head vigorously. “No. I don’t need or want to meet any politician. And I’m not Kuati.”

Idiot couldn’t take a hint.

“But…but you’re a Martell, and they’re all Kuati. You’re one of us.”

I turned on him, feeling a cold fury that came from nowhere. “No, I am not one of you. I am the descendant of Martells, but I am a son of Ithaca. I was born there, I learned to love and live there, the best part of me died there too. Now, get out of my way.” He recoiled from my hand and practically threw himself across the room to get out of my path.

The good feelings I had been feeling were long since forgotten. I pushed my way past him and made my way back towards the exit. Worst part is, dealing with Garza’s even more unpleasant.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar

06.13.2013 , 04:28 PM | #19

The Dealer's Den Cantina wasn't as busy as the other troops in the barracks had led me to believe it would be, which was fine by me. Never was a fan of crowds, anyway.

General Garza had suggested Jorgan and I take the night off to engage in "team-building exercises"; I certainly saw the benefit of developing a rapport with him, but I also wouldn't have put socializing with Aric Jorgan high on my to-do list. Still, the Dealer's Den had the best supply of alcohol this side of Corellia, and if I had to be spending time with someone in my chain of command, better Jorgan than Garza.

Jorgan was waiting for me as I slid onto the bench across from him. He glanced over at me, gave a small nod, then waved the server droid over before I could get a word in. Guess he was listening when I said I could order a drink at any cantina without needing a menu He ordered some kind of strange-sounding drink that I'd never heard of before, I stuck with a lomin ale straight from a local brewery that one of the other squad commanders had recommended.

I decided to take the first step. "So where were you before they assigned you to Havoc?" Clever. Always going for the insightful over the obvious, Ayrs.

His eyes narrowed, as if trying to parse the question for hidden implications or insults. When he realized there were none, his shoulders dropped slightly and his expression softened noticeably. "I served for a few years in the Deadeyes, elite sniper unit. Started out as a regular grunt, worked my way up to XO, then took over the unit. I transferred to Ord Mantell to get some hands-on command experience. You saw how that turned out." He grimaced and fell silent before realizing that I might take it wrong. "How about you? Sir?"

This time, I was the one that grimaced. "Just Ayrs, or Martell if you prefer. We're off duty, and all the sirs and salutes don't matter. I'm here to make sure what happened to my family and homeworld don't happen anywhere else. I'm here to fight the Imperials and Sith and Black Sun and whoever threatens that sort of thing" I paused as the waiter reappeared with our drinks. "Right now, though, I'm here to enjoy some beer."

He took a sip of his drink. Apparently, he had chosen poorly, because he made a face and slid the glass away from him. "I have to admit, you're not as green as I thought you were. You did well on Ord Mantell." It sounded like praising me was akin to pulling his own teeth, and that it took supreme effort to get the words out. I chuckled at that.

"I appreciate it, you're a good soldier. What they did to you was wrong, but when you'll prove that to them by the time we finish taking down Tavus and the rest of his traitors"

He raised his glass in a silent toast, which I mirrored.

"So, what do you do in your spare time Jor-, err Aric. Jorgan. Sergeant." I coughed and found an interesting speck of dust on the table to stare at.

"Spare time? There isn't any for me. Being in Spec Ops means I need to ensure everything is prepared and ready to go for a mission at all times. Not just my own gear, the squad's too. You can never be too prepared." He frowned slightly. "Too easy to get distracted and miss something if you focus too much on something other than your job."

I shrugged. "Fair enough. You'll be expected to make cantina runs with me anyway, though. No ducking all your responsibilities."

"I did hear that you caused a real ruckus at the Kuati embassy the other day, si-err. Not very becoming of an upstanding future poster boy for Special Operations." His smug grin was infuriating. Or maybe it was my empty glass that was, I wasn't really sure. I waved his comment away.

"Nothing major, I just had a polite disagreement with one of the embassy staff over whether I could or should be used in some of their political games. I pointed out that I was neither a citizen of Kuat nor someone who considered themselves Kuati, and that I didn't appreciate their attempts to include me in their PR."

Jorgan snorted. "I heard there was more to it than that. Profane language, hair pulling, comparing the staff member's mother to a Hutt?" He seemed entirely too pleased with himself.

I stared at my empty glass a little harder, then looked up at him, jabbing a finger violently at his face. "There was no mention of any Hutts, let's get the story right. I don't remember that much profane language, either."

He smirked, but remained silent.

"Anyway, the idiot was pushing me too far about being a "true Kuati", that sort of nonsense. Go far enough back and I'm related to some financial bigwigs back on Kuat, so I'm guessing the guy thought he could score some points by putting me in a holo or something. I let him know how I felt, filled him in on some facts he was ignoring, nothing major."

He looked a bit confused. "You're not from Kuat, but you mentioned a home world...," his voice trailed off into an uncomfortable silence.

I'd never found it very easy to talk to people about home, my family, my past. What they had meant. What losing it all had done to me. The doctor at the academy, sure, I had to feed him stuff to make sure I didn't get a medical discharge. Bellis' widow on Ord Mantell, well...she'd been a kindred spirit. It's hard to truly appreciate the magnitude of that kind of loss unless you have some experience of your own. I wasn't sure Aric Jorgan had that experience and - even if he did - I didn't know if he was the kind of person I wanted to talk about it with. He was a squad member, yes, but obviously one more interested in the professional side of things than anything else. Probably best to keep the sob story to myself.

"Nothing, it's gone. Over. Just something I've learned to deal with and use as motivation."

He eyed me suspiciously, and a hush fell over the table. The silence extended uncomfortably until a loud crash from elsewhere in the bar saved us both from our own social ineptness.

I turned my head just in time to see another glass mug crash against the floor by the bar. One of the bartenders was running for the bouncer at the door, while the other seemed petrified in fear. Two Rodians and a Trandoshan were surrounding a Mon Calamari, shoving him around while the other patrons looked more interested in finding cover than helping him. The Calamari waved his hand towards the Trandoshan, like he was a Jedi or something, but the thug just laughed.

I jerked my thumb towards the bar. "Think we should help that upstanding citizen out? It appears as if he has been accosted by unsavory characters."

He shifted his body to get a better look, then glanced back over to me. "I think you're right, it's our duty to defend those that serve the Republic."

I gave a small, vicious, grin. "We'll get written up for this. Might knock you back down to Specialist Jorgan."

Jorgan laughed at that, a full throaty laugh unlike the others I'd heard from him before. "Be worth it to see these guys put in their place." He paused, then favored me with a glance. "And see you bumped down to Sergeant."

I favored him with a half-smile, and pushed myself up from the table; he followed suit and trailed behind me as we made our way over to the fracas. The Trandoshan and Rodians never heard us approach, never realized they had missed their chance to get away. Even as I tapped the rear-most Rodian on the shoulder and the Mon Calamari beat a hasty retreat, the idiots didn't know what they'd gotten themselves into.

The Rodian made a drunken, half-hearted shoving motion, but failed to budge me even an inch. "What'ya want, you idiot? He owed us credits." His breath smelled terrible, even worse than Jorgan's. "Now he's run off. Maybe you and your friend pay instead." He bared his teeth, trying to be intimidating.

"Maybe you and your friends should take a hike. Before things get unpleasant."

He just laughed.

I glanced behind me to see Jorgan's hands balled into fists. He nodded slightly.

" Let's get to work, Aric."

My fist caught the Rodian flush in the face.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar

06.17.2013 , 11:30 PM | #20

"I trust you two enjoyed your time in the cantina? And your encounter with the military police? No doubt, you will have some impressive reason for why two members of my most elite squad were engaged in an altercation with random street thugs?"

I focused intently at an interesting speck of dust I found on the ground. Jorgan was staring into space behind Garza's head, continuing his welcome trend of not opening his mouth. She didn't seem particularly thrilled with either of us, but damned if I was going to give her more ammunition by giving the wrong response. That you did enjoy it. Not that that mattered to her. Right now, she reminded me a lot of how Mom was when I'd done something wrong.

"Lieutenant? As the ranking officer, surely you have something of value to add to this one-sided conversation?"

My face flushed slightly and felt sweat forming in the hair on the back of my neck.

"Uh, no sir. We didn't enjoy it, we acted to defend a civilian from those thugs. Nothing more, nothing less. Sir."

Her frown deepened. "Yes, the civilian in question did give an account that corroborated your story. Unfortunately, this witness - a Mr. Tuno - has since disappeared from Coruscanti custody. I am sure they will redouble their efforts to secure him again, but in the mean time I was forced to explain your actions to several groups of local authorities, none of whom were convinced the brawl was a necessary consequence of the altercation."

"Is there a question there, sir?"

Her face scrunched up into an inscrutable expression, although her disapproval was obvious. "Never mind that, I will keep you posted if I require any further input on the situation. Though I do trust it won't be repeated in the future." Jorgan and I both nodded quickly. "Excellent. In that case, I have a new assignment for you. A certain group of former military members known as the Justicars have seized control of a substantial sector of Corellia and reports suggest that Tavus is funneling supplies and support through this territory. You'll be coordinating with the local SIS Agent-in-Charge."

Huh, SIS. That's new.

"Standard coordination protocols with the SIS contact, sir?"

She shook her head so violently at that, that for a moment I was concerned her head would spin off her neck.

"Absolutely not. You will cooperate with the SIS as best as possible, but under no circumstances are you to reveal anything regarding the defection of Havoc Squad specifically or the scope of Special Operations defections in general."

I scratched the back of my neck. "Sir, won't the SIS contact notice that I'm not Tavus? I mean, assuming they aren't as incompetent as some of the other authorities on Coruscant are."

"Do the best you can, label it a training exercise for new members for example. I trust you will be able to keep the information from the SIS; if news spreads, we will have bigger issues to deal with than supply chains - the Senate and military hierarchy will come down on us."

I didn't quite like the implications of what Garza was telling us, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do. I didn't know much beyond the basic outline of what was going on, so there wasn't a whole lot to tell. Still, if Tavus' network was so widespread, someone was bound to notice something was up, and I didn't want friends and allies harmed or killed because of Garza's political sensibilities. Guess we'll see how things go.

Jorgan was silent the entire trip to the small strip of the Justicar territory still under the control of the Republic, whether it was because he just didn't feel like talking to me or was upset about the dressing down we'd gotten, I wasn't quite sure. Either way, there wasn't much to be done about it now, we couldn't afford the distraction anyway. He's probably just mad we had to swap our nifty Havoc Squad armor for more ubiquitous light armor that wouldn't stand out to the Justicars, anyway. I smiled, then killed the expression when I saw Jorgan watching me warily.

The trip to the SIS safe house was uneventful, helped by a friendly Justicar at the checkpoint that waved us through. One of ours? Or just lazy? Not sure it matters, I guess, just accept the favors when they come. The apartment was one of hundreds, and even came with the prerequisite layer of dust and smell of spoiled milk. Our contact made his entrance into the room a moment before we could see his entire face, a thick brown beard announcing his presence but unable to hide the fact it was...

"Dravis! You karking idiot, what are you doing here?" I ignored about fifty pages of protocols and rules and enveloped him in a huge hug. "I figured you were doing something underhanded with the way you travel the galaxy, but never figured the SIS was so desperate they'd take the likes of you. How'd you get away with growing that beard, though? Why hasn't Mori killed you for it?"

He laughed at that, unconsciously stroking his beard as he did so. "Well, you know me, always pushing my limits. Even with the old ball and chain." he gave me a wink, even as I struggled to remember the last time he'd tempted divine retribution by calling Mori that. "Besides, helping a bunch of hotshot SpecOps troops take down some washed up veterans prancing about pretending to be anything but thugs seems like more fun than helping the Republic handle the criminal underworld."

I grinned at that despite my best efforts to retain what little professionalism I could still claim. "You always did have a habit for getting into trouble, never knew you to be one to keep your nose clean."

He laughed loudly at that. "I seem to remember you participating in a rather notorious incident back on Corulag." His eyes moved between mine and Jorgan's, amusement lighting them up a bit. "And, from what I hear, you boys have been enjoying your shore leave more than most."

I heard Jorgan loudly clearing his throat.

"How rude of me. Jorgan, meet Dravis Tallin, late of the Corulag Military Academy and currently the most wanted man in SIS." Jorgan grunted a greeting while eying both of us. "Drav, this is Aric Jorgan. He's sort of half-mascot, half-resident grump." Drav smiled faintly and shook Jorgan's hand, shooting me a glance that suggested he wasn't entirely sure how to respond to that. Only the second or third time Drav's been left speechless in his entire life, I bet.

"Anyway, Ayrs, I know General Garza sent you boys down here to investigate the Justicars. Rumor has it that they're tied to some kind of Imperial Intelligence operation." He paused, as if carefully preparing his next sentence. "Rumor also has it that there are Republic traitors involved." He raised an eyebrow and looked at me, a bit more cautiously than usual.

"That'd be news to me, Drav." I wasn't much of a liar, let alone being any good at it while in the company of a professional spy who also happened to be my best friend.

He snorted and moved over to a console. "Relax, Ayrs, I already know about your traitor."

My heart skipped a beat. How would he know about Tavus already?

"That's right, chum, we knew it even before Garza did. No need to play any more games, we know about Kardan."Jek Kardan? My stomach did a roll to the side as I processed that information. SIS had incomplete info, which would please Garza, but one of Havoc's founders had betrayed us as well? I struggled to focus as Drav kept going. "Here's the intel we've got on the Justicar HQ. You get in there, rendezvous back here with me, and we'll set up the op as needed. We'll nail Kardan, we'll nail his Imperial contact, and then we'll get ourselves a drink."

The best I could do was offer a weak smile.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor