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I Remember Me


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Lesaberisa
03.02.2014 , 12:36 AM | #71
I mentioned this on tumblr, but if I ever have spare time I might write a few Valyn Thul/Forex stories, they're fun! Also - spoiler tagged for size - our own Kabeone drew a picture of Ayrs for me
Spoiler


I woke to the sound of fervent tapping at my door. After a brief struggle with the blankets and a near-death experience when I tripped over the bottle lying at the floor by the foot of the bed, I stumbled my way to the door. I quickly patted myself down to make sure I had a shirt and at least shorts on, and then slapped the control panel to open the damn thing.

The door had barely begun to hiss in reaction to being opened when something fast and hard hit me square in the chest. It didn’t hit with enough force to move me, but I heard a muffled squeak. A familiar-sounding one, at that.

“Oh, oh my. My apologies to you, I was just so excited to be visiting a dashing commander of the villainous Republic forces.” Valyn scrunched up her facial features into what looked like a rough approximation of a particularly angry rancor. “Right into the belly of the beast, as it were. Quite the adventure, if I do say so myself. Mum will never believe all the excitement I've had this morning.”

I prayed that the vein in my forehead was not as close to popping out of my face as it felt.

“Of course. Is there something I can do for you, Miss Thul?” I tried my best to twist my lips into a friendly smile but couldn’t quite do it.

“Nothing in particular, I suppose.” She flitted about the room, coming perilously close to the same bottle I’d tripped over and paying particularly close attention to my wardrobe. “You must look so dashing in your dress uniform. Mother always said it was an abomination and a crime against fashionistas everywhere, but I don’t agree. I think it is positively marvelous.” She turned back to me and flashed a huge smile.

“Marvelous. Naturally.” I wrinkled my nose. “How did you get up here, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in special quarters, or with your father?”

“Father is such a bore at this hour.” She sighed sadly. “You wouldn’t believe what he said when I told him so, too.”

“I think I can believe it just fine, actually.” I quickly glanced away as she shot a suspicious look in my direction. “So, I take it you’ll be serving as my alarm clock during my stay here on Alderaan?” I grimaced and rubbed my forehead ruefully as I started feeling last night.

“I wanted to hear stories about your adventures! Being stuck under armed guard in House Organa is barely more exciting than being under armed guard in House Thul. I want to explore this wonderful world and discover all of its wonders!”

“Hmm. You don’t seem to be under much of a guard now.”

That seemed to break her out of her routine. “True, but those loutish brutes are just around every corner.”

“Uh huh.” I narrowed my eyes and considered my companion for a moment. The girl was excitable, annoying and a menace to hung-over soldiers everywhere, but I couldn’t quite find it inside me to send her away. “Tell you what, you give me five minutes to get freshened up and I’ll give you a short tour of the palace. How’s that sound?”

Her face lit up like a million Life Day lights and the smile plastered on her face could have stretched from Alderaan to the Outer Rim. “Oh that would be wonderful. Do hurry up then!”

I scowled slightly before regaining my composure. “After which, I’m returning you to your parents. Maker knows what the Organas will make of you running around like some kind of honored guest instead of a prisoner. Of sorts.”

For once, she didn’t say anything; instead, she quickly made her way out of my quarters and began tapping her foot excitably right outside. I thought about asking her exactly how she’d convinced the palace guards down on the detention level to let her out, then thought better of it. No reason to give her another reason to start her whole act again. Instead, I quickly slipped on my standard tunic and pants. It took a minute longer to find my boots, but once I’d gotten those on I had no more excuses for delay.

She was leaning against the wall as I exited my quarters, but practically jumped to the ceiling once she saw me. For a moment, I wondered if I’d have been this crazy at her age if I were brought to a place like this, but I hoped I would have been clever enough to have escape being dragged to somewhere like the Organa palace.

Luckily, she was easily entertained, though I didn’t need firsthand experience with giving a tour to know that. She gaped at the garish paintings, made strange noises when we walked through the gallery of absurdly stupid-looking sculptures and seemed in awe of the fact that the Organas had included a marble staircase in their palace. We got a few strange looks – mostly Valyn, of course – but there were no interruptions, no respite for me. I learned all about her studies, her family, even her favorite animated adventure series on the HoloNet. I hadn’t felt his lost since the time my first date with Muriel Vance ended up being a trip to her neighbors’ farm so we could tip their Barasian cattle.

We were just finishing up the first floor and were heading toward the main stairs for another half-hour of mind-melting fun when I spotted the most unlikely of potential saviors.

“Forex. Hey, Forex!” I waved the droid over and – for once – was thrilled to see it motoring as fast as possible to where Valyn and I were standing. I waited until it was closer to us before continuing. “I have a new mission for you, Forex. A top priority one, but strictly off the books. Do you think you can handle that kind of responsibility, Forex?”

The droid’s ‘eyes’ dimmed for a moment as it considered the question carefully. At least, that’s what I was assuming it was doing.

“Yes sir! Of course, Sir!” It sounded as excitable as ever. “One small matter, Sir. I was unable to locate any prowling Imperials on the grounds of the palace. Not in humanoid form, or even pretending to be tumbleweeds like you suggested.”

I cleared my throat loudly to keep from smiling. “Really? That’s unfortunate, Forex. Perhaps you’ve driven them to ground, though.”

Its lights for eyes shone brightly at that consideration. “I should hope so, sir! Why it burns my very circuits to think of the vile servants of the Empire tainting a place such as this, even if its denizens are not entirely appreciative of the heroic lengths to which we go in order to defend our glorious Republic.”

“Oh my, is this a war droid? It is simply splendid, I haven’t ever seen anything like it,” Valyn interjected unhelpfully.

“No, I imagine not.” I grit my teeth and returned my attention to Forex. “What happened, Forex? Did you have problems with the civilians?” I suddenly realized the potential folly of unleashing a maniacally patriotic war droid on the prats here at Organa’s palace.

“A few vociferous disagreements, Sir! Why, one group of potential saboteurs even had the gall to resort to physical violence when confronted with their suspicious doings.”

Oh, Stars.

“What happened, Forex? Was someone hurt?”

The droid shook its head. “No, Sir. I forcefully reminded them of their inherent duty to obey the Republic and respect its chain of command and communicated my need for cooperation in my investigation of potential sedition.” The droid continued before I could get a word in. “After I demonstrated the essential nature of my mission and emphasized my desire to achieve results in the minimum amount of time, they were more than happy to comply with my requests.”

All sorts of horrible images passed through my head, and I began to regret my earlier decision.

“Uh, that’s great Forex. I hope you taught those ne’er-do-wells a lesson about Republic ethics, too.” The droid didn’t respond. “Or, at least, I hope you didn’t violate too many regs. Otherwise, Elara will have my head.”

“Sergeant Dorne? Oh, I’d love to talk to her.” Valyn Thul was talking again, much to my dismay. “I could tell from her accent that she is from the Empire and she must have such an enthralling story to tell!”

I eyed each of them in turn, trying to contain the blush that resulted when I realized that I’d referred to Elara by her first name to someone other than her. “Hey, you two. I just had a wonderful idea.” I waited for a moment to judge their reactions; judging from the rapt expression on the girl’s face, I knew I had at least one of them interested. "Forex, why don’t you show Miss Thul around the palace and introduce her to the Republic’s ideals, Forex? It would be a good opportunity for you to expand on your contributions to the squad.”

“Sir! That sounds like an ex-“ Forex never got the chance to finish, as Valyn sprung toward him with the energy of a hungry rancor sensing its first meal in a long time.

“Oh this will be a story to tell! The brave but secretly frightened girl in the custody of a fierce and terrifyingly vicious Republic machine of death, deep in the heart of the enemy stronghold. What will she uncover? Will she survive? This is truly extraordinary!”

I stared at her for a moment, the only sounds her excited breathing and my teeth grinding away.

“Yes, exactly like that. Anyway, I’ll see you guys later.” It took all of my self-control not to sprint away, but I did allow myself to break into a brisk power walk toward the detention center. As I made my way to the access corridor, I noticed a familiar figure with blonde hair in the distance heading toward one of the dining halls; it took even more self-control not to sprint after her.

Thul was alone by the time I got to his cell; I assumed his wife had either gone to get breakfast, or was trying to pawn her daughter off on some unsuspecting Organa noble as part of a deal to get her husband out of prison. The detention center was fairly empty at this hour, so we’d be left in peace, just how I wanted it. Idiot Organa soldiers were all too happy about letting us know what they really wanted to do to the man. We needed his info quickly, so we could transfer him somewhere safer, where the local yokels weren’t likely to rip him to shreds.

“I’m here for your info,” I offered as I deactivated the field and entered his cell. “Faster we get this done, the faster we can get you and your family somewhere where there aren’t a bunch of people wanting to see you knocked around real good. Or worse.”

I didn’t see any new bruises or marks, but he looked a little more haggard than he had the previous day, and there was a sense of weariness around him – the kind you get when you’ve had the fight beaten out of you.

“Yes. Yes, of course.” He motioned for me to sit across from him but I demurred with a simple shake of my head.

“You want to know about this Gearbox’s activities on Alderaan, yes?”

I nodded. “Yes. You can save any other confessions for your Republic debriefing officer.”

“Fair enough.” Thul snorted to cover up a chuckle. “I was not made aware of the entirety of his plans, and I cannot point you to his specific location, but I know enough for you to get there on your own given your capability.” I handed over the data pad he’d requested and watched in silence as he created a detailed map of some highlands to the northeast, marking several locations. “We built an extensive power generation network in the mountains at the locations I’ve marked, all tethered to central generator at a Thul fortification here.” He tapped a red circle on his map. “Take out that generator and you should read a massive loss of energy output wherever his facility is located.”

“Seems simple enough.” I chewed on that for a moment. Seeming simple and being simple in practice were often two entirely different things. “What if there’s a backup generator or a second facility for him to move to?”

He shook his head. “There wasn’t time or money enough for that, I can be sure of it. We had barely enough time to build that system. It’s possible they’ve been working on the backups you are concerned about, but it would be several weeks, at least, until they’re online.”

I nodded along with him, carefully comparing the map he had provided with the recon imagery we had of Thul forces in the area. They matched about as well as I could hope – no secret armies or emplacements to block our way or natural obstacles either. By all appearances, Thul’s info was on the up and up, another good moment, but also one I wasn’t too comfortable believing. Part of me wanted to assume it was an honest effort to uphold his part of the bargain, but I could not shake the suspicion that he might also be taking advantage of that good feeling to lure us into a trap.

“Looks good. I’m off, then.” I didn’t really feel like exchanging any small talk with him, so I angled my way for the exit. It seemed Thul was more or less of the same mind, apparently, because he didn’t even offer so much as a goodbye. Fine by me. He might be helping us right now, but he wasn’t our friend.

Once I determined it was safe to enter, I headed into the dining room to enjoy a delicious, if over-the-top, meal provided by one of the thousands of cooks that seemed to populate the palace. There was a brief hint of trouble when she asked me about nerf steak, but after I realized she meant no offense, I chowed down on the meat just as much as the rest of the dishes.

Elara and Jorgan were waiting for me at our designated briefing room, as prompt as always. I wished I could say the same for myself, but it ended up taking a couple of minutes to make sure my appearance was up to par. For regulatory purposes, of course.

The operational plan was a simple one – several Organa units would cover our approach and then provide the necessary distraction to keep potential reinforcements from interfering with our work. Captain Cormac arranged for two of his best platoons to go with us, which I appreciated, even if I wasn’t quite sure if it was meant as a gesture of generosity, or one to get us out of his proverbial hair faster. I supposed it doesn’t matter much, anyway, since I wanted off Alderaan as soon as possible.

It took until we were nearly at the staging area for me to realize that Forex hadn’t responded to its summon. Truth be told, keeping Valyn Thul occupied was probably a herculean enough task for it, but I wanted the extra firepower in case things got difficult at the power generator. Even if Markus Thul’s information was correct, it was still going to be somewhat out of date, and there was always the possibility that he might have underestimated the strength of the forces we’d be facing.

“Forex? Do you copy?”

It felt like forever before I got the droid’s reply. “Sir, I will be arriving at the designated departure zone momentarily!”

“Okay.” I clicked the comm off before my curiosity got the better of me and I reactivated it. “Is there a problem of some kind, Forex? Possibly a bipedal one?”

“No Sir! Miss Thul has proven to be a most invigorating companion, even as I have imparted the wisdom of the Republic’s egalitarian policies to her. I have no doubt that she will likewise share the glorious truth of the Republic way of life to her entire social circle!”

“Uh huh.” I clicked the comm back off as I Felt my head start to throb. Elara must have noticed, too, because she slipped away from the main group to come over to me.

“Is everything all right, Sir? You appear a bit stressed.” She sounded strangely amused instead of worried, though.

“Fine, fine. Just some of the usual nonsense from Forex, with a dash of Valyn Thul.” I made a face, away from the rest of the group so only she could see it.

“It sounds like you might be jealous.” Elara’s smile was a subtle one, but it got my heart racing a bit all the same. “She did seem rather fond of you, Sir.”

I didn’t quite like the mischievous note to her voice. “Naw, you know how it is.” I scratched at the scar on my cheek nervously, realizing I’d gotten myself into another situation again. It burned with every scratching motion, but it was all I could do to avoid conversation.

“Perhaps,” she allowed as she let the topic drop and switching her attentions to my scar. “Sir, you really should avoid picking at that scar.” She made a move to grab my hand away from my face, but I deftly dodged her maneuver, causing her finger to gently trace my face along the scar. For such a delicate touch, her finger shot a huge bolt of electricity through my body. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to notice, though she did seem embarrassed by what had happened. “I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean –“

I put my hands out between us. “Don’t worry Elara. I mean, Sergeant. We’ll find some time later. To talk.” Performing some necessary triage, I stormed off toward the transport we had been assigned.

Kark. Kark. Kark. Kark. Kark. Kark. Kark.

Forex was waiting for us onboard. I was distressed to notice that it had a pink heart painted onto its chassis, surrounded by what appeared to be multicolored sparkles. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and did not deign to ask it any questions about what it and/or Valyn had been up to. I settled into my seat across from the Organa pilot and spent the entire trip avoiding looking at or thinking about any of my squad. Especially Jorgan, who was trying to shoot death rays at me with his eyes from across the transport.

The mission proved to be even easier than Thul’s information had made it seem it would be. Three of the heavy guns that Thul had expected to be defending the approach weren’t even installed when we arrived, and most of the soldiers defending the exterior of the facility were of no better quality than the ones we’d fought at the Spears of Organa. It was another reminder that it was the normal folk of Alderaan that were fighting and dying for an entire class that didn’t give a damn about anyone else except for viewing them as means to the end they sought.

When we reached the generator controls I sent Forex on ahead to interface with them – it was about as close to an engineering guru that we had, and while I still didn’t trust it much, I trusted it a whole hell of a lot more than the Organas’ man they’d send along.

He called himself “Chuckles”, but I hadn’t seen the man so much as crack a grin and there was a certain grimness to him that made me uneasy. It wasn’t .like anything I’d seen with Havoc or the 23rd. Cormac hadn’t seemed too fond of him either – specifically mentioning that Pallos Organa had personally assigned the man to the mission. It smacked of interference, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what their goal was, and I couldn’t afford to turn down the assistance without offending the Republic’s most valued allies.

I sighed and sidled over to Jorgan when “Chuckles” gave me another scowl.

“What do you think of this Chuckles guy, Jorgan? Something doesn’t sit right with me, makes me wonder what Pallos’ end game is.”

“Is there a question there, Sir?” Jorgan seemed unusually reticent to give his opinion.

“Maybe.” I casually swept my hand over mouth to keep any of the Alderaanians from catching on. “The Duke seems to be on the up and up, but I have a feeling more than a few of the others would be more than happy to cut us off at the knees if they could.”

Jorgan nodded slightly. “Not just the usual bureaucratic crap, either.”

“Keep an eye out on this Chuckles guy. I’m concerned that he and/or his masters might be up to something we won’t like. They weren’t happy about us working with Thul. They’re probably even less happy knowing we’re dealing fairly with him.”

“Can’t say I’m too happy we’re doing it, either.”

I nodded slightly. “I understand. But we’re doing it, anyway. He’ll get what’s coming to him in Republic custody. That should be enough.” I took a deep breath and surveyed the scene, ensuring we didn’t have anyone listening in. When I was convinced we were in the clear, I lowered my voice to a whisper. “We know that the Organas have their own interests. We know they roughed up Thul before. I won’t let them do it again, especially with his family around now.”

“Got it, sir.” Jorgan nodded. “I’ll keep an eye on the guy.”

Everything else seemed to be under control, thankfully. Forex was still cheerfully discussing Republic political philosophy with one of the Organa soldiers, no doubt trying to convince her that our system was not merely a beacon of light in a galaxy of darkness but also downright splendorific. Jorgan was doing his best to appear casual and Elara…Elara was coming right at me at the speed of sound, a worried look on her face.

“Sir, I have a priority message from Captain Cormac over the secondary tactical channel.”

I grimaced, nodded, and reactivated the rest of my comm system. “I read you, captain. What’s going on.”

“Lieutenant…Lieutenant M-Martell.” His voice was as high as a school girl’s.

“Yes, that’s my name. Calm down, captain, and tell me what’s going on.”

“Th-they have the Duke. The Wolf Baron does.” There was an audible intake of air before Cormac continued. “Sorry, lieutenant. After your team left the palace, Duke Charle admitted that the Wolf Baron communicated with him and General Kashim. The baron had taken several hundred hostages and was threatening to kill them unless…”

It suddenly felt like there was a never-ending pit where my stomach had been. “Unless…”

Cormac swallowed hard. “Unless the Duke turned himself over to Thul custody. Which he did.”

“What the ****?”

“He said he had to, lieutenant.” Cormac paused again, obviously having difficulty explaining it. “He said he couldn’t expect people to follow and die for a leader that would not do the same for them. He said he needed to prove to everyone that House Organa stood for something more than petty politics and power struggles.”

Son of a *****. Karking naïve noble with no karking common sense. The hell is he trying to prove, anyway?

I seethed in silence as the vein in my forehead came perilously close to popping out. “What’s the status of the Duke and the hostages now? We’ve just about finished here and can provide assistance as needed.”

“The hostages are safely in our custody, Lieutenant Martell. The Duke…is in Thul hands at a compound about an hour from your position. I can –“

“You can send us the layout and provide us with as much ground support as you can while we get him out of there. That’s what you can do.” It suddenly felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. “We’ll head in immediately with everything we’ve got.”

“Acknowledged.”

The channel cut off and I heard the sound of data being uploaded into the tactical displays of everyone around me. Small bunker, nothing too complex. Didn’t look to be too many soldiers guarding it either, probably some kind of temporary holding facility while the ‘Wolf Baron’ decided how best to use his new hostage. It gave us a window to do something about it, but only a small one, and we could ill-afford to screw anything up along the way.

Once Forex had confirmed that the generator was set to blow, we all cleared the hell out of there. The Organas piled into their two transports, while the four of us hopped on the lighter model that Cormac had scrounged up for us. The three vehicles lifted up in unison, kicking up a huge dust cloud that only began settling over the wreckage of the Thul defenders as the scene faded from view.

We were still about twenty minutes out from the target site when I noticed that the other two Organa ships break off from the formation and head back north, in what looked to be the direction of the palace. I commed each pilot in turn, then Chuckles, but got no reply. None of our attempts to get through to Kashim or Cormac made it through, either. I didn’t like it; I knew something was wrong.

Can’t do a damned thing about it right now, though. The karking duke needs you first.

We landed a mile out of the bunker, the whining of our repulsorlifts drowned out by the roar of gunfire from up ahead. Judging from the sound, the Organa forces were putting up a hell of a fight against the defenders; I only hoped it would be enough of a distraction to see us into the bunker.

I took point – normally I’d have had Forex take the lead, but its metal chassis would be too noticeable from too far away. Instead, I had the droid take up the rear, with Jorgan and Elara filling in either end of the diamond formation. We clambered our way slowly through the dense foliage of our approach route, coming at the bunker from a hilly area to the northeast where there wasn’t much fighting. It was a gamble – if the Thul forces recognized the suspicious nature of an entire corridor being left open…

Best not to think of that right now. Mission to accomplish. Prissy noble to save.

The Maker was with me, at least this once. With us. There was no fire directed at us as we entered the perimeter of the bunker, no hostile forces, and no security mechanisms. I had to wing a random guard that happened to pick the wrong time to come out of a side door, but we reached an auxiliary entrance without any kind of fight. I had the rest of the squad brace themselves a safe distance away and left a thermite device to announce our entrance. I sprinted back to join the rest of the squad.

“Three. Two. One.” I flipped the triggering device open and smashed the button. The device blew the door to kingdom come, and the roar filled my ears even through the helmet. After things died down, I turned my attention back to the squad. “Alright. Clean sweep. In and out. We get the duke out safe and sound, and we all get back to the palace safe and sound.” Elara and Jorgan nodded, and then we were out of time.

There wasn’t any time for niceties like taking prisoners or offering to let the Thul soldiers blocking our way surrender or walk away from the fight. I wasn’t sure if I would have been able to make that work even if we weren’t scrambling, but...

Thankfully, the majority of the defenders were tied up dealing with the Organa forces to the north and northwest. We took out all of a half dozen sentries as he made our way to the command center, and the lifesign readings revealed only a handful of other potential enemies ahead. Jorgan and I opened the firefight with our usual routine – a pair of thermal grenades followed by a curtain of bolts from his assault cannon. The Thul forces returned fire, but they managed only a smattering of blaster bolts before Forex’s weaponry took out the pair to our left and my own shot took out the survivor to our right.

Which left only the two lifeforms behind the blast door opposite us. It didn’t surprise me that the baron had run and hid – it was about all you could expect from these kinds of people. Unfortunately, if he felt like he had no other options, it also meant he might go and do something stupid. Or worse.

Forex plugged itself into the system jack adjacent to the door and began overriding the lock as I fiddled with the communication system. I wasn’t sure if the lock was that good or whether my hacking skills had somehow measurably improved, but I finished quickly, while Forex was still getting started. I activated the private channel to the room beyond, not really sure what to expect.

“This is Lieutenant Ayrs Martell, Republic Special Forces. I’m prepared to allow you a peaceful surrender into my custody if you release Duke Organa.”

There was a slight hiss of static before I heard the voice of an appropriately uptight-sounding man on the channel. “Who is this? A mere lieutenant thinks to threaten me? I am the Wolf Baron, not some minor functionary.”

Maker save me.

“What you are is surrounded. Your forces are otherwise engaged, and we’ll be through the door momentarily. If you agree to surrender, it’ll be easier for everyone.”

Another pause.

“I shall not allow myself to be bullied like this. I will hold until my last breath, but my reinforcements will be here to recover the situation and end your pathetic life.” He cut the channel with an audible huff of annoyance.

Fortunately, it was at that exact moment that Forex secured the override. The door lifted to the ceiling with a flourish and I found myself standing across the room from the infamous Wolf Baron, who ended up being a middle aged man with an aggressively stupid goatee and an even more offensively stupid hat. When his shock wore off, he tightened the grip his arm had around Duke Organa’s neck and dug his gun’s barrel into Organa’s cheek. I sighed and drew my pistol – not Mom’s DV-22, but the standard issue Mark 14 blaster they gave you fresh out of the academy. I didn’t even bother to approach him; I just pointed it straight at his head.

“I don’t have time for this ****, Thul. I’m giving you until the count of three to release the duke and surrender yourself into my custody. If you don’t, well..” I shrugged helplessly at him.

“You…you couldn’t possibly hit me from that range,” Thul sputtered.

“I grew up learning to shoot, you idiot. Mom was a trooper, I was a hunter. How happy would you be to lose this gamble, right here, right now?” I tensed and did my final positioning. “Three.”

“Well, I would-“

“Two.”

“You wouldn’t-“

One.”

“I surrender, I surrender!” I had to keep from laughing as he threw away his gun with a disgusted look and fell to his knees, and again when Jorgan dragged him outside while I checked on the duke with Elara. He seemed to be in decent shape, even offered a wan smile when I removed my helmet to greet him.

“Lieutenant, I am quite glad to see you were in command of my rescue. You are as capable a soldier as I have ever met, not the least of which because you could make a shot like that.”

I laughed nervously. “What if I said I couldn’t have made that shot if my own life depended on it?” Both Elara and the duke glared at me like Mom used to. The room suddenly felt real hot. “I mean, maybe I could have. Probably not. Stupid Mark 14s, they’ve got such terrible weighting to them. Anyway, we should get you back to the palace.”

“You…you have that other pistol.” I couldn’t say so but I appreciated how well he was taking it.

I fingered Mom’s DV-22 in its holster. “Yeah, but that one’s so old I’d be lucky to get a single shot out of it, and if I did...” My voice trailed off for a moment, stolen by memories. It was a hoarse whisper when I got it back. “That shot is meant for someone else.”

They didn't say anything the entire way back to the transport.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
03.21.2014 , 09:21 PM | #72
I let Elara handle the Duke’s people on the flight back to the palace. I’d been more than happy to see them swooping in on our LZ with a couple of armored carriers, but dealing with fussy diplomatic types was more of her thing than mine, anyway. Not like you can put Jorgan or 4X on the job, either. Elara looked happy enough to do it, anyway, probably since the Organa bureaucrats actually gave her a challenge for once.

Mostly, I was concerned about what the withdrawal of the Organa commandos we’d hit the power generator with meant. They’d peeled off and returned to the palace instead of assisting with the rescue op for their own duke; it made no damn sense, which only worried me even more. Not every Organa was the kind of person the Republic would want to associate with, after all, and the vibe those men and women had given off had been…off. Wrong, in the way that Nar Shaddaa had felt.

You’ll find out soon enough, Ayrs. No point stressing out about it now.

I tapped Jorgan on the shoulder, then tapped my ear, letting him know I wanted him to pop his helmet on. I did the same.

“Your thoughts on the op, Jorgan?” The Cathar wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but he was an acceptable distraction from stressing out about Alderaanian and intergalactic political relations, and wouldn't sugarcoat his feelings about the Alderaanians. Forex would be able to overhear us on the channel, of course, but I figured it would understand to keep its version of a mouth shut.

“Smooth, smoother than I expected. Those Organa troops weren’t the screw-ups I expected.” He licked his lips before continuing. “Hopefully we didn’t use up all our good luck on that one run. Especially with that pistol stunt of yours.”

“Ha.” I snorted loudly. “What did you make of the Duke’s own stunt?”

I could almost hear Jorgan smirking through his helmet. “Are you asking what I think of what he did, sir, or what I think of our initial judgments of the man?”

My judgment, not yours, Jorgan.” I grimaced. “But since I’ll need to file a report on our unscheduled adventure, I figure I might as well get input from the squad.”

“You mean since Dorne will need to file a report for you, sir?” Jorgan’s tone was as close to innocence as was possible, only strengthening my desire to strangle him.

“Yeah, whatever. Just remember that if you were on the squad because of your sense of humor, you’d have been dishonorably discharged a few years ago.”

I heard a bark of laughter over the comm before Jorgan fell silent. Somehow, despite everything else, it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one with concerns about certain elements of our Organa allies. I realized that it wasn’t as if we could only ally with people that doubled as saints, but the internecine fighting on this planet seemed to breed a particular breed of nastiness. If that wasn’t enough, there –

“Sir! A question, if I may.” Forex’s loud, overly excited, voice boomed over the comm. It hurt my ears, and I could see Jorgan rubbing the side of his helmet ruefully as well.

“Go ahead, Forex. Not so loudly, though, if you please.”

“Affirmative, sir! I am receiving a distress signal from Valyn Thul on a secondary channel.”

“You’re what?” Jorgan doubled over again, attracting unwanted attention. “You gave a potentially hostile civilian access to a comm channel to communicate with you?”

Forex bobbed its head up and down. “Of course, Sir! She assured me that she was entirely onboard with our glorious project of bringing democracy and freedom to the enslaved peoples of the Empire! In fact, she generously offered her services in designing and distributing informative pamphlets for distribution among the Thul population in order to better disseminate our political stances. I have calculated the odds for success and I believe them to be quite good!”

I discovered that my right hand was shaking, and felt a vein in my forehead nearly pop, and found myself speaking through gritted teeth once I had composed myself. “And that message she sent?”

“Oh, of course Sir! It is an automated distress signal.”

The possibilities flashed through my mind like a montage on a holoshow, numerous possibilities but only one that seemed likely. The Organa troops that had left us after the power generator, sent by the hot-headed Pallos Organa…and they’d left their duke behind to return to the palace mid-op.

****.

I unstrapped myself from the chair and scrambled up to the cockpit. We were still nearly half an hour away from the palace, but that was at our current cruising speed. We could go faster, we needed to go faster. I needed the crew to understand.

“Pilot? We have a priority situation back at the palace. I need you to push this bird as hard as you can.”

The pilot gave me a look that suggested he’d rather push me off the ship than do what I’d said. “We have procedures for this, Lieutenant. We go as fast as they tell me to.”

I slammed a fist down on the control panel, drawing angry looks from the pilot and his partner. “I don’t have time for your damn procedures, and trust me, I’m well acquainted with procedures and this would be a good time to shove them firmly up your ***.”

“This is an Organa vessel, Lieutenant. I recommend you retake your sit and we’ll get there when we get there.”

I heard the shuffling behind me only a moment before the smooth Alderaanian voice. “And the duke recommends you listen to Lieutenant Martell and expedite our return. Surely you would not want procedural matters to interfere with the duke’s wishes, would you?” I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see a petite, middle-aged, woman. I still found her more intimidating than anyone outside of Garza. Or Elara, when you try to talk to her. Idiot. “If you don’t mind, Lieutenant, please return to your seat. The mind boggles at how dangerous travel at such speeds might be.”

Then she winked at me. I simply gulped and slipped back into the passenger area. I carefully avoided looking like I was looking at anyone, especially the woman that had rescued me in the cockpit. I wasn’t entirely sure I liked the way it’d felt like she was watching me from behind as I had returned to my seat, and I definitely didn’t like the way she was looking at me now.

We put down at the palace fifteen minutes later, but got delayed by protocol requiring that the duke be taken off the ship before we could disembark. The minutes it took for him and his entourage to get off felt like hours, and I was feeling more than a little antsy as it was. We followed right on the heels of the duke’s entourage, double timing it from the landing platform toward the palace. Forex wasn’t getting anything else from Valyn Thul over the comm, and there was a lot of static on the standard comm channels when we tried patching into the local defense network. It wasn’t until we were nearly to the main palace that I heard the familiar voice of Captain Cormac.

“Lieu--- --tell, do you –py?”

I grimaced – anything that was able to create that kind of interference on a Republic channel was probably serious business, and if the Organas weren’t reacting to it – and the relaxed posture of the guards we passed suggested they weren’t – then it was an inside, approved, job. Which means our suspicions were right and we’re about to be in real trouble.

“Captain Cormac, this is Lieutenant Martell. I read your signal, but we’re running into a lot of interference. Is there an issue in the detention center? Do you need assistance?”

There was a loud burst of static before the reply came through. “—los Organa ---- ---- Markus --- women. Require ---sistance.”

No real point in continuing half a conversation, so I gave a quick hand signal to the rest of the squad and redirected all of us to the detention level. For a moment, I wondered what Pallos Organa might possibly want with Markus Thul and his family; then I realized it was all too obvious. Worried, I signaled to the squad that we needed to move even faster, the lowered my head to lead the way. I tried not to notice the strange looks from the people we passed along the way.

We halted our progress just outside the detention center – I could hear raised voices from inside the room, and I didn’t want to walk into any surprised. On the other hand, it wasn’t like we could storm in with weapons at the ready. *********** Alderaanians. Always finding a way to make things difficult. We needed to be planning our next move against Gearbox, not wasting time on petty squabbles. Damnit.

I peered around the corner and didn’t like what I saw at all. ‘Chuckles’ and the rest of the unit that had been with us on the op were arrayed in two lines facing the cell area; their backs were to us, but their hostility was palpable. Across from them was Captain Cormac, with a pair of his unit to either side. Behind them were Altana and Valyn Thul, standing as tall and proud as ever, but the elder woman wore a concerned look that suggested we’d arrived just in time. Judging from the noticeable absence of Markus Thul, I just hoped we were not too late.

Time to make a decision on how to play this.

I suspected Chuckles and his troops would not be receptive to talking, but coming in with weapons drawn would be too damn risky; one frayed nerve or misunderstanding later, and we could all end up dead. No, we’d have to keep things professional, and hope the situation could be resolved without overt threats. Fortunately, I suspected I had an answer for that problem. With nothing else to debate, I strode boldly into the room, feeling the reassuring presence of my squad and the slightly less reassuring one of Forex, sweeping in behind me.

“Chuckles, I’m surprised to see you and your men here. After all, I would have thought that rescuing the duke would be more of a priority for you than harassing Captain Cormac and intimidating a prisoner’s family.” I folded my arms across my chest as he and his entire group swiveled on their feet to face us. I was relieved to see they all had holstered their weapons as well, but the look in his eye was troubling. “Perhaps we can speak about this in private, away from here.”

He shook his head. “I’ve got orders, straight from the Organas. I intend to follow them, regardless of what you or your Republic wants.”

Pallos. He didn’t need to say it. “What will it take you to leave this place now, without any trouble?” I didn’t expect to like his answer, so I subtly shrugged my right shoulder to signal my squad to be ready. I still hoped to avoid a fight, but….

“You don’t understand, do you? Stupid Republic types.” I sensed Jorgan and Elara stiffening at that. “Why don’t you just leave, before you break a nail?”

I sighed – the problem with these types is that they never understood perspective, only the pathological need to follow their boss’ orders to the letter, mistakenly thinking that that somehow made them more valuable, or even more capable.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” I was also afraid that we’d already wasted too much time. Where ever Markus Thul was, I suspected he was being mistreated, possibly eve tortured. Depending on how angry Pallos Organa was, perhaps he was even dead. We needed to end things now, before that became any more likely. “I’m going to need to take you and your men into custody and remove the Thuls from yours.”

“Ha.” There wasn’t any mirth evident in his voice, though. “You have no authority here, Republic dog.”

I straightened slightly and almost wished being a soldier didn’t mandate wearing a helmet so I could have given Elara a knowing glance as I started. “If that’s how you want to play things, fine. Captain Cormac?”

The big man snapped to attention. “Yes, Lieutenant?”

“You and your men are to take these soldiers into custody; feel free to detain them in the cells behind you..” I paused, as a deathly silence filled the room. “Sergeant Dorne, you and Forex will escort the Thuls back to the spaceport and ensure they safely arrive at the Republic post there. Inform Captain Ingvar that he can expect an update from me shortly.”

“Understood, Sir!”

Elara made a move toward the cells, but found herself blocked by the Organa thugs. Chuckles simply laughed at the scene.

“You’ve got no authority here, you stupid piece of ****. We’re not part of your damn Republic any more, we’re independent Your ‘orders’ are meaningless.”

I drew my pistol, but left it hanging by my side. “You are mistaken. While it is true that the Republic has no official jurisdiction on Alderaan at the moment, I have jurisdiction over you..” The Organa men looked more confused than anything else. “You see, by engaging in a military operation with Havoc Squad you became an auxiliary force under the Treaty of Onderon. Alderaan, while no longer a member of the Republic, is a signatory of that treaty, isn’t it?”

Chuckles responded to my cheerfully offered question with brooding silence. I made a show of pretending to look up the answer.

“In fact, it is! Given that is the case, let me see if my memory holds up…Section 4, addendum 3(b) notes that ‘auxiliary forces shall be considered within the operational jurisdiction of their affiliated partners with regards to conduct directed at appropriately identified prisoners.’.” I let my slight smirk grow into a ****-eating grin. “As it happens, Markus Thul and his family are appropriately identified prisoners, and – as such – your conduct falls within my purview as the highest ranking Republic officer on the scene.”

The rest of the squad were ready for action, but it was pretty clear none of the Organas was.

“Captain Cormac?” I reduced my voice back to its normal self. The captain nodded. “You will disarm these soldiers and detain them here until such time that a properly constituted board of inquiry can be convened. Sergeant Dorne and Forex will assist in the process.”

One of Chuckles’ men looked about ready to do something stupid.

“If you are given any trouble, you are authorized to use any appropriate measures to ensure the completion of your task. Up to and including deadly force.” I let the implications of that sink in. “You will also place the two Thuls into protective custody until I return, at which point they will be transferred to Republic hands along with…where is Markus Thul?” I grimaced slightly as I stumbled over my own words.

“He took them upstairs, Lieutenant. Third floor, personal quarters.”

I nodded. “You have your orders, Captain.”

I watched impassively as the last flickers of resistance died after Cormac began his work. Chuckles was one of the last to be cuffed and prodded into the cells, but even he looked shell shocked. I suddenly realized why people found Elara so intimidating – much harder to fight against something you didn’t understand or know how to deal with, and men like Chuckles knew nothing of legalities and treaties. He’s a brute, nothing more.

Once I was comfortable things were under control, I tapped Jorgan on the shoulder, and we both took off for Pallos Organa’s quarters at a dead sprint. I didn’t really give a damn if it violated protocols or if having drawn weapons might frighten some of our precious Organa allies. I was not going to let some scummy noble do anything to someone under my protection.

He had three guards outside his door, one on either side and the third standing right out front. The latter stepped forward as we approached, with his hand out in front of him. I didn’t have time for that, so I shoved him aside and brushed off the other two. Judging from their only half-hearted attempt to stop us, it seemed like even they were having misgivings about what their boss was up to. Judging from the muffled sounds I heard through the closed double doors in the suite, it should have been more than misgivings.

I slammed the door open with a sharp kick of my right leg and found Pallos Organa leaning menacingly over Markus Thul, who was strapped into a chair that had all kinds of nasty-looking attachments on it. Thul had a bad cut above his right eye, which was also so swollen that it was nearly shut, and the rest of him didn’t look much better.

No.

I launched myself at Organa, who only had time to turn halfway in my direction before I slammed into him with everything I had. His audible “oof” was like music to my ears, as was the noise of all of the air going out of him as he crashed into the floor. I freed my right arm and slammed an armored fist into his face twice, then picked his upper body up by gripping either side of his shirt’s collar.

“How does it feel?” It was a rhetorical question, and not one I wasted time waiting for an answer to. I hit him again. “Won’t risk your noble *** out there in the field with the people fighting and dying for you, but you’ll creep down to the prison so you can abuse a prisoner and intimidate his family?”

“What do you know about it?” He sneered at me through the blood and wincing. “Do you even know who you are dealing with? I am Pallos Thessius Or-“

I hit him again.

“Or how about you shut up right about now?”

I didn’t wait for a reply. Instead, I got back to my feet and pulled him up by his collar, ripping the expensive fabric slightly. Not like I gave a damn about that, though. It looked like I’d probably knocked out a couple of teeth, and any spirit he had left in him. Good. I want him a little humble.

“Thul needs some medical aid. We should probably have Dorne come up here,” Jorgan noted.

“Negative.” Thul wouldn’t be safe here. Neither would his wife or daughter. “We need to get him out of here and to the spaceport under Republic guard. His family, too. Just…be gentle.” I grimaced – Forex was more likely to be gentle than the angriest Cathar in the galaxy.

We got even more strange looks heading back down to the detention center, especially from the people that recognized Pallos Organa, but Cormac had been thinking ahead and sent some reinforcements. They didn’t look all that pleased with what we were up to, either, but the captain seemed to have a good handle on his troops, and we managed the trip without running into any trouble. Thul didn’t look very good, though, and Elara hurried over to him when she saw us arriving. I slid over to Cormac.

“Captain, I’m taking the Thuls back to the spaceport. It’s not safe for them here, and I need to be able to guarantee their safety. I need you to hold station here until I can get a squad up here from the ‘volunteers’ the Republic sent.”

He didn’t look okay, so I clasped his shoulder. “Cormac, I know you’re an Organa man, but I also know you want to do this the right way. You’re not alone. I’m not going to leave you hanging.”

After a moment, Cormac shook his head and seemed to snap out of it. He looked me directly in the eyes, and I could see the steel beneath the uncertainty as his jaw set in place. “You can count on me, Lieutenant. We’ll hold the fort down.”

Cormac had a couple of his people lead us out through a secondary exit, to avoid any potential trouble with other Organa troops that might be more loyal to Pallos than the principles the duke claimed to be fighting for. Not that I could blame him for that – not after what he’d done, but it was a lot easier for a man to stand for something than to get an entire population behind it. Everyone has their own agenda and biases and goals and when you throw them in with a group of people just like them…

I took a deep breath and sighed in relief as we turned the corner of the palace and found the small shuttlecraft Cormac had arranged for us. Nothing fancy, but we needed a safe ride out of dodge, not anything that would draw attention. Markus Thul, supported by Jorgan, got on first, followed by his wife and daughter. Dorne followed after shooting me a look that meant nothing to me coming from behind a helmet, and I jumped on last. Forex was too large for the light craft’s passenger compartment, but it was able to attach itself to the hull magnetically; Valyn Thul had apparently convinced it was a good idea.

The Thuls looked pretty shaken up as we flew west to the spaceport, but intact. Mostly, at least – Markus was banged up pretty badly even with Elara’s intervention, and Altana looked almost as bad just from the worrying. Almost reminded me of my own family, only from the opposite side of things, politically. For a moment, I wondered how Valyn was holding up, but after I glanced in her direction and saw her excitedly yelling questions at the pilot, I realized it was another time when discretion was the better part of valor.

She’ll be all right. Whatever else she is, she’s tougher than she looks.

I tried not to think about how much she reminded me of Ally.

We touched down a few minutes later, with Elara and Jorgan helping the elder Thuls off the craft and leading them to the medical center. Forex disengaged from the shuttle and made some comment about locating Imperial infiltrators; it wasn’t until after it was too far gone that I realized the precarious situation I had left myself in.

“Lieutenant Martell?” She wasn’t her usual, ebullient, self. Poor girl must have been scared as hell after what those thugs did. “I…um…was wondering if I…um…could ask a question.”

I gave her a quick smile, hoping to settle her nerves a bit. “Of course, Miss Thul. What can I do for you?” I removed my helmet and leaned against the shuttle, hoping to further put her at ease.

“Why did you do it?”

“Why did I do what?” I frowned slightly, wondering what she meant.

“You imprisoned your own allies and threatened an important noble from House Organa, all to protect my parents and me.” Her eyes were narrower than usual, and lacked the flash of excitement that usually partnered with her excessive volubility.

Ally was always getting into trouble – exploring places she shouldn’t be in, saying things she should have kept to herself, always being exactly where you least wanted her to be when it mattered the most.

I shrugged slightly. “It was the right thing to do I guess. Your family was under my protection, in my custody. That means I owed it to you.” I picked my words like a kid picks at their meal – trying to find the bits that were just right.
“Well, I can say we are all very appreciative of your efforts. It is far better treatment than we would expect someone to offer their enemy.”

Ally never met someone she couldn’t befriend, not even if they tried to avoid it.

“You aren't my enemy, Valyn. The people in the Empire that want to destroy everything the Republic stands for and the Sith, those are the kind of people that are my enemy. You’re just a girl trying to grow up as normally as you can on this rock. Must be hard as hell with all the crazy nobles running around.” I gave her another smile. “Hell, if you can find it in you to like that droid of mine, I’m sure you’re destined to do other amazing things.”

The girl twisted at the waist to look outside of the spaceport for a moment, scrunching her face up. “Do you think it’ll ever be over? Not just here on Alderaan, I mean, but the fighting in the galaxy.”

She was twelve when they hit Ithaca. Young enough to be innocent, old enough to dream of her future. Far too young to die.

“It comes and goes. Ain’t never going to get rid of people fighting over some planet or another, especially with the karking Sith around.” She flinched at the curse, causing me to blush somewhat. “Sorry. My manners aren’t quite what they used to be.” I grinned sheepishly and pulled myself back together a bit. “I learned a while ago not to dream about ending wars. It’s not about anything like that, it’s about finding something in your life worth fighting for.”

“That is something mum says, too. It’s why I like to learn about so many things. Have you found something? To fight for, I mean.” She gave me a nervous look.

I flinched again at the memories. “I had a family. I hope like hell to have one again. Until I do, helping out overly curious girls like you will have to do.”

She looked at me with guileless brown eyes, sad somehow, even if the rest of her face betrayed no emotion. “I’m sorry. It was rather foolish of me to bring up your family. I’m so terribly clumsy about such things.”

So was Ally.

“It’s alright. You remind me of them, anyway. Of my sister I mean.” I looked down at the ground.

She suddenly leaped forward and wrapped her arms around me in a firm hug, whispering something about being sorry again into my armor. When she pulled away, she gave a shy smile. “I would have liked to have a brother like you. We could have had so much fun with mum.”

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t avoid smiling at her. For an overly talkative Imperial-aligned noble, she wasn’t so bad. I decided to play along, messing up her hair with a couple of playful sweeps of my hand. “You better go check on your parents, they’ll be worried about you. Especially if they find out you’re spending time with the likes of me.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t quite say that – mum may be a worrier, but -.” She cut herself off, displaying a level of self-awareness I was almost proud of. “I better go then.”

I smiled slightly as she left, before my thoughts returned to the situation at hand. Gearbox was still out there, doing whatever it was he’d agreed to do, and now I’d possibly lost the support of House Organa because I wanted to do the right thing.

What was it Garza had said, again? We make the unpleasant choices so that no one else has to?

I wondered if this might have been one of the times an unpleasant choice needed to be made – protecting the Thuls had been the right thing to do, but I wasn’t sure it had been the correct one given why we were here. Even if the duke was sympathetic to our side of the story, he was going to be facing a lot of angry members of his own house because of what I’d done. We’d be lucky if he helped out at all with the final strike.

Maker save me if I’ve ruined Organa-Republic relations.

I heard Jorgan’s footsteps before he even came into view.

“Sir, Captain Ingvar’s people are almost ready to head out.” He paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “And General Garza’s asking after you. Has Duke Organa on comm.” Jorgan bared his teeth in a pained grimace.

“I really ****ed things up, didn’t I?” The Cather remained silent. “But I had to stop them. I couldn’t let them do to the Thuls what the Imps did to my family. No alliance is worth that to me.”

“You made your call,” he began, cryptically. “It’s the one I would have made, though. Thul’s been cooperative, the Organa troops haven’t done much. And we had to bail them out. Seems to me you were only asking them to respect your authority, too.”

“Maybe. Won’t do us a damn bit of good of the Organas decide to take it out on the Republic though.”

Jorgan shook his head. “You’ll be fine, Sir.”

“And if I’m not? I don’t exactly have that many career opportunities if this soldiering thing doesn’t work out. “ I frowned. “And I ain’t got anything to fight for other than the Republic.”

“There’s your sister,” he noted. “If what that MacTyre guy said was true.”

I grimaced at that and gave him an awkward shrug as I made my way to the command center.

As I got out of range, I heard him call out after me. “Besides, if you survived me for this long, I’m sure you can survive this.” It sounded like he was holding back a laugh.

I glanced back at him over my shoulder and was presented with the terrifying sight of a fangs-bared Cathar smile. I returned the favor with a smirk and marched away, passing the med center as I did. When I glanced inside, Elara happened to be looking straight at me. She offered a warm smile as a flush spread across her cheeks and mine.

Feeling strangely reinvigorated, I strode toward my impending doom, whistling a tune from Ithaca.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

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Lesaberisa
04.05.2014 , 02:17 AM | #73
The ops officer had Garza and the duke already on display as I entered the command center, neither one looking all that happy. The foolishly optimistic part of me hoped that their ire might be directed at someone other than me, but that was the kind of prayer that would have gotten me laughed out of Temple as a kid. Not that it mattered much, anyway. I’d known that working with someone like Markus Thul might be problematic from the start – what good was it to wring my hands over the consequences now? The man deserved to be tried for his actions, but he did not deserve to be beaten and humiliated while his family was forced to watch and was threatened as well.

I faced Garza’s hologram and came to a full stop, drawing myself up and snapping to attention. “Lieutenant Ayrs Martell, reporting in per orders, Sir.” Normally I wasn’t much for following protocol so strictly, but it was good for catching my breath.

“Yes, Lieutenant, we have a good deal to talk about.” Her brow furrowed slightly, but I didn’t see her trademark frown – possibly a good sign, but not one I wanted to put too much stock into just yet. “The duke was just filling me in on his understanding of the events that took place this afternoon and evening.”

I swiveled slightly and gave the duke a small nod of respect. It looked like most of his wounds – largely superficial to begin with – had healed, but he shared Garza’s troubled expression.

“I’m glad to see you in one piece, Duke Organa. You had us worried there for a moment or two.”
Organa surprised me with a rakish smile. “It seems I had little to worry about with you and your squad here to support us. Would that I could say the same for my own soldiers.”

Huh?

“Agreed,” Garza was saying. “It’s not entirely surprising that there would be problems with any kind of deal made with a Thul prisoner, let alone one accused of attempted assassination, though.”

I felt like they were speaking gibberish – hadn’t they called this meeting so they could berate me for my actions and try to salvage what was left of the Republic-Organa relationship?

“True.” The duke rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “That doesn’t make what happened any more palatable.” He paused and looked in my direction, as if suddenly remembering I was there. “Perhaps we should hear the lieutenant’s report first, though.”

“Yes, I agree.” Garza peered down her nose at me.

“Understood, Sir.” I straightened up again. “At approximately 1530 local time, we completed our planned op to disable the power generator Markus Thul had identified as being responsible for powering Gearbox’s operation for the Imperials. During the return trip, both Havoc and the auxiliary forces provided by House Organa…sorry, by Pallos Organa...were informed of a developing situation with the duke.” I nodded in the man’s direction. “We redirected to assist Organa forces in rescuing the duke, but…”

“Pallos’ forces returned to the palace instead,” Organa finished. “

“Yes, exactly.” I swallowed hard, hoping the gulping of saliva wasn’t as loud as it sounded to me. “After we rescued the duke from Thul custody, I had our transport return us to the palace. When we landed, I received an interrupted distress call from Valyn Thul, the daughter of Markus Thul; that report was corroborated by Captain Cormac from the security forces. Upon arriving at the scene, I determined that the Organa forces reporting to Pallos Organa were in the middle of attacking Markus Thul and intimidating his family. Per the Treaty of Onderon, I had Captain Cormac detain them and removed the Thuls from the palace grounds for their own safety.”

“I see.” Garza’s voice was such that I could not tell what she was thinking.

“In my opinion, Lieutenant Martell acted well within his rights, both as a Republic soldier and a Special Forces squad commander. I deeply regret the actions of both Pallos and his mean, and I intend to see them punished appropriately.”


“You do?” I grimaced as I realized I'd spoken the question instead of just thinking it, a mistake that led to a sharp look from Garza.

“I appreciate all of your efforts, Duke Organa. In the meantime, I will coordinate with Lieutenant Martell to ensure the situation is defused as quickly and harmlessly as is possible. Rest assured, I do not wish to see the Organa-Republic relationship damaged in any way.” I’d never heard the general speak so…politically…before. “Is there anything either of us can do in addition to that?”

“No, no.” The duke shook his head vigorously. “I suggest we reassess the situation tomorrow sometimes.”

“Agreed. Good night, gentlemen.” Garza nodded sharply in my direction, so I snapped off another salute and waited for their holograms to disappear. Only, it was just the due that went away, and I suddenly found myself staring at a now-furious Garza.

“Sir?”

“Do you have any idea the kind of trouble you’ve caused, Lieutenant Martell? The kind of **** you’ve stepped into?” Her face was alarmingly red for a blue and white holo. “I thought I made myself clear about the importance of the relationship between House Organa and the Republic, but apparently you decided to ignore it completely.”

“No Sir.” I knew I needed to tread carefully, but damned if I was going to roll over without a fight. “I brought the plan of using Markus Thul’s intelligence to you, and you agreed that that idea had merit. Any actions I undertook tonight were merely in furtherance of that agreed-upon course of action.”

“You threatened a key member of House Organa! You also alienated several key units of Organa commandos, which are now no longer available for joint operations, at least for the time being.”

I grimaced at that – I didn’t give a **** about Pallos Organa, but his house’s soldiers were good at their job, and their absence would likely be noticed sooner rather than later. I only hoped that it would not prove fatal. “I didn’t realize that, Sir.”

“Of course you didn’t.” Garza planted her hands balled up and at her hips. “I thought I made it clear that military objectives are of paramount importance when making command decisions. In fact, I believe I’ve made that clear on several occasions.”

“You have, Sir. And, if I am not mistaken, I believe I replied that I would be unwilling to ignore moral and ethical imperatives to do so, each time. If the Organas are so sensitive about having their nose rubbed in their mess, then maybe they should reconsider getting into the whole prisoner and civilian abuse game. Maker knows that the Empire does enough work there.” She was giving me the kind of look that Ris or Ariel or – Maker save me- Mom would have when I did something wrong. “If you are uncomfortable with that being the case going forward, I have previously offered to be reassigned and will continue to do so. I am who I am. I can’t be anyone else. Sir.”

Some part of me flashed back to the blown up building on Nar Shaddaa, but I pushed that thought aside.

“You do remind me so much of your mother sometimes,” Garza mused, her voice suddenly sad even as her lips formed a small smile. “You certainly cause a lot more trouble than she ever did, though.”

I coughed nervously and hoped there wasn’t a blush creeping across my suddenly red-hot face.

“Very well. I will work with Duke Organa to rectify the…consequences of your decisions. In the meantime, I trust you have news to report on Gearbox?”

“Yes, Sir.” I nodded, more relieved than anything else. “After blowing the power facility, we traced the energy signature of his bunker to the mountains east of the royal palace, which is currently being occupied by Bouris Ulgo, if the Organas’ intelligence is correct. I was going to launch a quick strike against Gearbox after our initial mission, but things got hairy with the Duke and we lost our window of opportunity. I’m currently re-evaluating the situation, as I have to assume Gearbox has either reinforced his position or is in the process of doing so.”

“Agreed.” She rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “I believe I can get you additional troops – Captain Cormac has proven reliable, and I believe there are some additional resources on the planet I can speak to. Have your squad get a good night’s sleep, Lieutenant. I will contact you in seven hours time.”

I glanced down at my chronometer to gauge when that would be, then nodded. “Understood, Sir. We’ll be ready.”
She nodded in return, then signed off too quickly for me to salute. Then again, Garza had never struck me as the kind of officer that gave much of a damn about formalities like that. Worked fine for me, since I didn’t give a damn either.

I retraced my steps out of the command center and turn toward the med center. Inside, I found Elara quietly reading a data pad while sneaking peeks at the Thuls every few moments. For a second or two, I thought about surprising her from behind, but I realized that would probably end with her breaking my nose. Or stabbing me with one of those needles. I shuddered as I peered at the syringes.

“El-Sergeant Dorne.” I corrected myself mid-sentence as I noticed the Thuls glancing over in my direction. “Just spoke with General Garza, and we’ll be briefed in seven hours or so. Best get some rack time so we’re all ready to go.”

She nodded briskly, and I took the opportunity to beat a hasty retreat over to where I’d left Jorgan – I figured the key to avoiding putting my foot in my mouth was to limit my opportunities to do so. The Cathar was right where I expected, though he wore a strangely pensive look on his face as he looked into the night sky. The stars were alive, though some were the drives of various ships coming and going on their various missions and routines.

“Finished talking to General Garza,” I interrupted mildly. “Don’t want to break up your séance, but our briefing’s in a little less than seven hours, so you’ll probably want to grab some sleep.”

“On it, sir.” As I started to turn to leave, he spoke up again. “Ever wonder about where you’re headed, Lieutenant?”
“Ayrs.” I waved away the formality. “What do you mean?”

Jorgan gestured at the sky above us. “My people have suffered greatly over the years, and sometimes I wonder if they have a place in the Republic. If I do, even.”

I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, not quite sure how serious his concern was. “The Cathar always have a place in the Republic, Jorgan. That’s what makes the Republic what it is, and what makes the Empire what it isn’t. And as for you…” I let my voice trail off ominously to screw with him. “Don’t care if you’re a Cathar or a Bothan or even a Hutt. If you fight well and you don’t violate the principles we’re fighting for, I don’t give a damn about who or what you are.”

He grunted.

“Hell, look at our squad. Perpetual ****up Ayrs Martell, boldly commanding the ever-proper Imperial defector, the perpetually grouchy Cathar and the overly patriotic war droid. If that isn’t proof of Republic inclusiveness, I don’t know what is.”

“True enough.” I heard Jorgan chuckle slightly at the mental image his mind must have conjured up. “I’ll go find a bunk somewhere. See you in the morning, sir.”

I took a moment to take in the night sky myself. It wasn’t the same as it’d been back on Ithaca…with Ariel…but the twinkling stars reminded me of a time where it didn’t feel like I had a ten ton weight on my chest and when family meant something more than a painful memory. The moment passed. What was done was done, and there were too many people out there counting on me to dwell on the past. Shaking my head at my own stupidity, I found a spare bunk in the command center and drifted off to pleasantly uneventful sleep.

I woke up six hours later, leaving me my usual window to get ready. It was a stupid habit that my friends had always made fun of back home, but I liked to be a step ahead when I could – it made me feel like I was a leg up on whatever was about to come. The water in the fresher was cold as hell, but it did the job of waking me up real fast. Will save the mess hall some of its caf supply, at least. As I exited the room, I nearly ran directly into Elara, who was already armored up and ready to go, sans the helmet she cradled under her left arm.

“El-Sergeant. Uh, good morning. Wasn’t expecting you to be up already.”

She gave me a curious look, and something flashed in her eyes. “I discovered your habit of getting up earlier than necessary, Sir, and felt it was a good idea. However, I felt that I could be even more efficient than you are.” I felt my mouth open and close, but nothing came out. “I will see you at the briefing, Sir.”

I tried to ignore the gaping from a couple of the spaceport workers that had seen the limited exchanging. Was Elara developing a playful sense of humor? If so, I was in for even more trouble than I could ever have imagined.
Breakfast was a lot like Jorgan – cold, bitter and hair all over – but it filled me up well enough for the day ahead. I pushed away from the table and, for what felt like the millionth time, walked toward the command center’s briefing room. In contrast to the scene from last night’s meeting, it felt surprisingly light and cheery in the room. I nodded my head in greeting to Captain Cormac and was just shifting my attention to the familiar brunette next to him when –

“Ayrs! I mean, Lieutenant Martell.” Amitia swept me into a brief and – thanks to our armor – uncomfortable hug. Her eyes twinkled a bit as she spoke again. “If I’d known we’d have to help you out again, I’d have charged more for my help.”

“If I’d known we needed Jedi help to get this mission done, I’d have found a safer line of work,” I replied weakly, before offering Kira a small smile. She didn’t reply immediately, instead rolling her eyes at her partner, before smiling in return. “You both know Sergeants Dorne and Jorgan from Taris. And this is…our wardroid, M1-4X. If you have any propaganda needs, Forex is the droid for you.”

Amitia eyed the droid suspiciously, but Garza’s hologram suddenly appeared and killed off our repartee.

“Lieutenant Martell, I’m glad to see everyone is assembled. I will be brief, as time is of the essence.” I nodded to indicate understanding. “The Jedi have their own business on Alderaan, but they have generously offered their services for the mission. They will provide direct support for your squad as it engages Gearbox and eliminates the threat he poses. Captain Cormac and his soldiers have been provided courtesy of Duke Organa, and will provide cover for the entire operation, intercepting any reinforcements before they can present a problem.”

“Seems pretty simple.” Too simple. “Do we have any intel on what Gearbox might have in there, Sir?”

“I’ll let Captain Cormac speak to that.”

The burly man stepped forward, hands clasped in front of his stomach. “Our sources within House Thul report a garrison of approximately fifty Thul soldiers, plus a pair of medium APCs. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to give us much on what Gearbox might have as part of his personal force. Maybe we’ll get lucky in that regard.

I frowned – as the saying went, an absence of evidence was not evidence of absence. Assuming that Gearbox wouldn’t have anything more up his sleeve was the kind of thinking that would get us all killed if and when he did have a surprise saved up. Then again, it’s easy to say that when you aren’t facing a mission that has to be completed. We have to stop whatever it is Gearbox has planned.

“That’s not ideal, but we can make do, General. We’ll head out immediately.”

“Good luck, Lieutenant.”

We exchanged perfunctory salutes, and her image faded away. I turned to Cormac.

“I am guessing I won’t like the answer, but how many troops did the duke send with you?”

He grimaced. “Twelve. Good soldiers, though. We’ll do the job.”

Thirteen Organa soldiers, the four of us and two Jedi against an entrenched force at least three times our size, which might also have one or more surprises waiting for us inside the actual facility. Terrific. Nothing to be done about it now, though – not when these were the kinds of missions that Havoc had been formed for. It wasn’t like I could ask another squad to go die in our place.

“We lift off in ten, be sure you’re ready.”

Everyone slowly filed out of the room, though I noticed that Jorgan made a point of waiting so he could follow the two Jedi out. I smiled slightly, since I didn’t imagine either of them as the fangs and fur type. That bounty hunter back on Nar Shaddaa, though… My smile grew into a fierce grin, and I felt better about the mission ahead because of it, stupid as that was.

Once I was confident I was in the clear, I dropped to a knee and quickly recited a prayer to the Maker, one my mother had taught me about seeking aid before battle. It wasn’t something I was entirely comfortable with – my faith had never been as well-defined as hers had been – but it felt reassuring nonetheless. I repeated it for each of my squad members, and then for those that had joined us. In the end, it might not mean a damn thing, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt, either.

Everyone was there waiting for me when I made my way to the departure area. We were using two Republic-issue hover-carriers, repainted to Organa’s colors. Two big Celestial-class ones, too. Cormac and his squad took one, while the two Jedi clambered on board ours. The ships were obviously built for larger deployments, but I wasn’t going to complain about having extra space, to say nothing of thicker armor and more robust defenses.

The sun was just beginning to creep over the horizon to the east – a good omen, if I’d been inclined to believe in those sorts of things, of course. If our timing was right, we’d hit the Thul forces right before they woke up, leaving them particularly vulnerable to a surprise attack. If not…well, I didn’t really want to have to worry about that. We had enough to deal with as it was.

It was still mostly dark as we came into range of the area Gearbox was based out of. Scanners showed large concentrations of armed forces and machines throughout the valley as we approached, causing the pilots to nervously hover hands over the instruments that would allow them to begin evasive maneuvers. Maybe we were flying over friendlies, maybe they were enemies asleep on the job, or maybe we were just lucky, but we didn’t take even a single shot during the approach. Or maybe the Maker really is watching over you.

A sobering thought, but not one that was appropriate for a combat situation.

Cormac’s squad dropped first, surprising the lone Thul soldier on watch at our landing zone. The Organa forces fanned out in a standard formation, quickly sweeping the entire platform and ensuring it was clear of any further resistance. Amitia and Kira followed them, and then Forex and the rest of my squad. Once everyone was in position, I jumped down after them, landing with an unfortunate screech as my boots skidded for a moment on the pad.

The specs for the place that Cormac had given us ended up being spot on, and we eliminated the small amount of organized resistance the Thuls put up in the external portion of the base. Things progressed smoothly until we encountered a squad of defenders hunched behind an overturned table they were using as a barricade, flanked on either side by one of their anti-personnel turrets. They pinned us down for a couple of minutes, but then one of Cormac’s people tossed a jury-rigged EMP into their midst. The Thuls were just a bunch of corpses with two smoking shells where the turrets had been soon after.

We split up when we hit the inner complex. Cormac and his people established a perimeter there, to form a choke point against any of the garrison that tried to make their way to the central command area where whatever Gearbox was working on would be. After a moment’s reflection, I left the two Jedi with them – not that I didn’t want to have their sabers with us, but they’d do a lot more good helping out Cormac and his people. Everything was just about in order when the holoterminal in the middle of the room lit up.

Gearbox.

“Hey, kid! Good to see you again.” I felt my mouth tighten as he glanced at the rest of my squad. “There’s the grumpy Cathar liaison officer, Jovin? Jordan?”

“Jorgan,” he replied through clenched teeth.

“Whatever.” Gearbox paid Forex no real attention, instead zeroing in on the two Jedi for a moment, before ending at Elara. “And who do we have here? Looks like Havoc Squad has picked up some fine new candidates.”

“Any squad would be improved by you leaving,” I replied coldly. I’d liked Gearbox when I’d met him back on Ord Mantell. At least, I thought I had – now it seemed like everything might have been just an act to sucker me in. “I don’t suppose you’re willing to surrender to save yourself and your troops unnecessary bloodshed?”

He laughed heartily. “Always knew you had a sense of humor. You’re almost as funny as me, kid. Why don’t you and your squad come visit me in the control center? We can…talk…more there.”

Kolos’ image faded away before any of us could say anything; the only sound we were left with was that of Jorgan’s teeth grinding some more. Cormac spoke first.

“Sounds like he has something nasty planned for you, Lieutenant. Are you sure you don’t want any of my soldiers? Or the Jedi?”

I shook my head. “No, you’ll be hit by everything else he has – Gearbox wants us to make the mistake of assuming otherwise. My guess is he’s got one of his crazy gadgets waiting for us, something to keep us occupied while his troops overwhelm everyone else. We’ll handle it.”

We exchanged nods. Then the four of us turned to the northern corridor and began making our way to Gearbox…and whatever he had waiting for us. There were no Thul soldiers waiting for us, which was strange. Even more so when we heard blaster fire ringing out from behind us and Cormac’s voice reporting heavy fighting over the comm. Everything on our end was a suspicious calm, the kind that always seems to come about right before something crazy happens.

The command center was empty as we entered, and the large door on the far side of the room was slammed shut, with an ominously blinking light on either side of it. I ignored the door for the moment, and focused on the panel ahead of us instead. Another light was blinking there, indicating an incoming message. I motioned at the squad, letting them know to take up position on either side of the room, then strode forward to see what Gearbox had to say.

“Hey kid, good to see you again.” His voice was tinged with the usual amusement, but there was a darker undertone to it. “I wish you’d brought more of your friends with you, but your squad will have to do.”
I got no chance to respond. Instead, I heard a roar as the large door suddenly slammed open.

Kark me.

I wasn’t quite sure what it was other than a really big robot, big enough that I guessed that Gearbox had to be inside. I didn’t recognize the model – maybe it was a special design – but that didn’t really matter; what mattered was figuring a way to take it out.

“Forex, create a distraction for us. Jorgan, right flank. Dorne, keep us all covered. I’ve got left.”

Their acknowledgements rang out over the comm, then there was no more time for talking. The droid focused its fire on Forex, like I had known it would – Gearbox likely hadn’t been briefed on what it could do, so he was scrambling. Forex sprayed fire from both of its cannons at the larger machine, then did some sort of gymnastics-like maneuver to draw Gearbox’s attention away from the rest of us. It was an amateur mistake to make. And a fatal one.

Jorgan and I both locked onto the hydraulics of the battle droid’s back right ‘leg’, with a pulse from the Cathar’s assault cannon frying the circuitry and throwing the entire monstrosity off balance. Too late, Gearbox seemed to realize his mistake of focusing on Forex, and he shifted his machine back in the squad’s direction. It did so ponderously, and not before a round from my rifle disintegrated the lower portion of the back left leg. The machine fell forward as gracefully as an off-balance Hutt, toppling forward so only one of its turrets could be brought to bear. It tracked my movement with staccato bursts of fire, but a grenade from Forex and another round from Jorgan’s cannon silenced it.

Smoke was billowing out from just about everywhere on Gearbox’s creation, so we approached it carefully. Losing someone to its death throes would be a pretty poor way to wrap up the mission, and I couldn’t be sure that Gearbox wouldn’t do something stupid to avoid capture. He had to know what to expect if he was returned to Republic custody.

After a minute had passed, a hatch at the top of the machine popped open and Gearbox’ large frame rolled out. He was cut above his right eye, but it seemed to be one of those wounds that looked worse than it actually was. He seemed somehow smaller than when I had first met him back on Ord Mantell – perhaps the time spent with the Empire’s rot was more than moral.

“Heh. Might have taken you a full squad, but I guess you managed to take my new toy out.” He tried to grin, but ended up grimacing from the pain. “Afraid I can’t just let you walk out of here.”

I laughed. “Don’t think that’s up to you, Kolos. Only question is whether you’re making it out of here alive or dead. I’m fine with either.” I kept my rifle leveled directly at him, as he eyed me closely.

“Really, just like that? Haven’t I earned a fair fight?”

“Traitorous filth like Tavus and the rest of you aren’t owed anything,” Jorgan interjected.

I put my hand out. “It’s fine. I’ll even let him take the first blow in.”

“Really?” Jorgan and Gearbox replied at the same time, then shared a look. I simply waved the latter toward me.

He obliged, swaggering forward with a confidence that seemed wholly unwarranted. Once he’d gotten closer, he balled his hands into fists and strode forward with a purpose. He got into range and swung one of those fists at the vulnerable spot where my helmet met my armor. I caught his blow with an outstretched arm, then hit him in the stomach with a punch of my own. The air went out of him with a loud whoof, and he fell to his knees, gasping.

“You-you said I’d get the first blow.”

“I lied.” I smirked at Elara, who didn’t seem too impressed or amused, mostly because my expression was hard to see under a helmet. “Uh, Jorgan. Forex. Take him into custody.”

“Kark that!”

Gearbox was already moving for a blaster on the ground, but never made it; Jorgan’s cannon cut him down several paces away. Gearbox’ corpse twitched a few times, then was still, leaving us in a room that was suddenly eerily quiet.

“Damn it, we could have used him for more intel.” I scowled slightly, before catching myself. “Thanks for the save, Jorgan.”

“No problem, chief.”

I took a breath and glanced at Gearbox’ corpse. I could understand why he’d decided to go down fighting, but I still was no closer to understanding why he and the others had defected in the first place, not really at least.

It was no time for navel-gazing, though. Jorgan moved toward the corridor we’d entered from, recognizing that we needed to reconnect with Cormac and assess the situation. I noted that Elara had already pulled the data from Gearbox’s system, which meant it was time for all of us to go.

“Havoc, roll out.” Once they’d all acknowledged the message, I swapped channels to the private one Cormac had set up for us. “Captain Cormac? We’ve neutralized Gearbox and are heading your way. What’s the situation on your end?”

“All clear, Lieutenant. We convinced the Thul soldiers that they didn’t need to die for your traitor, so they’re locked in their quarters for the time being. We’re ready to withdraw when you are.” Cormac either laughed or coughed – I couldn’t quite tell. “Then we’ll send our Thul friends the code to get out of their barracks.”

I chuckled. “Roger that. We’ll be right there.”

“You know what this means, Sir?” Jorgan’s voice rang out over the squad channel.

“Garza will be happy with us?” I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at.

“Drinks at the cantina.” He slapped me on the back. “And you’re paying.”
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

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Lesaberisa
04.18.2014 , 04:17 PM | #74
The cantina by the Republic camp wasn’t much to write home about, but it wasn’t like we needed anything fancy, and everyone from Garza and the duke on down had agreed it wouldn’t be a good idea to show my face again at the palace any time soon. Fine by me, anyway, since I hated the damn place – much better to spend my recreational time where I belonged, with the closest thing I had to friends on this miserable planet. Well, except for one.

Elara had politely declined my – our – invitation to come, saying she preferred a quiet night on the ship to unwind from our mission to drinking. I’d tried to change her mind, but after a bit I’d realized a stupid bout of alcoholism wasn’t worth harassing her over, so I’d let her off easy. After flashing me another of her smiles, she’d wandered off with Forex, presumably discussing the most efficient ways to annoy me with protocols or debates on the rights of droids in the Republic.

I had more important things to worry about, like why Amitia’s mug of Lomin ale appeared slightly fuller than mine. I peered at her over the foam from my own drink, casually ensuring neither Kira nor Jorgan were watching me too closely from their sides of the table. After a few moments of careful reconnaissance work, I realized that Amitia had indeed taken the fullest mug for herself.

Most unlike a Jedi. For shame.

“How long are you guys on Alderaan for,” the miscreant was saying. Had it not been for my keen observational skills, her crime might have even gone unnoticed.

“That’s classified!” I took a gulp from my mug before slamming it back down loudly, drawing a couple of annoyed looks from the surrounding patrons. “Besides, what does a Jedi need to know about military dispositions?”

“I think he’s onto you, boss,” Kira whispered surreptitiously, covering her mouth with her hand. “He’s a smart one.”

“Let’s not go too far. Keep pumping up the kid’s ego and he won’t be able to fit his head through the doorway on the way out.” Jorgan’s voice was so loud and irritating. It was like he was yelling for some reason. I made an irritated waving gesture at him, but he didn’t seem to take the hint. “Everyone knows I’m the clever one in Havoc, anyway.”

I elbowed him sharply in the ribs and enjoyed the audible oof I got in response. “In all seriousness, we’re only going to be on Alderaan until we get assigned somewhere else.”

“So you’re here until you’re not here?” Amitia’s eyes twinkled with amusement. “I can see why you’re considered the elite of Special Forces.”

Jorgan snickered slightly, but said nothing, leaving me to defend the honor of Havoc Squad. “I’m afraid we can’t share operational details with anyone outside of the chain of command, not even with the up-and-coming superstars of the Jedi Order.” I gave my Cathar compatriot a glance out of the side of my eye. “I’m sure Jorgan would love to share all sorts of things with you, though.”

Amitia snorted loudly, then laughed at Jorgan’s obvious discomfort. “I’m sure he would. A shame we can’t bring you along on our mission, though – it’s something right up your alley.”

“And you’re much better company than Master Din,” Kira added, earning herself a playful slap on the head from her partner. “Where’s the rest of your squad, though?”

“Forex would probably just start harassing the other customers about their true loyalties or something. And Elara…” Elara decided to spare me the embarrassment of stammering my way through the evening. “Uh, Elara was busy taking care of some paperwork or something. She’s always covering for us that way.”

The two Jedi exchanged a look and then sly smiles that I liked about as much as an Imperial blaster rifle pointed at my head. I cursed my own clumsiness, since I didn’t even have her presence to justify it, then gulped down some more ale to try to cover for the faux pas. I suddenly felt like I was a kid again, stuttering my way through telling Ariel how I felt about her so I could ask her to attend the Winter Festival Dance with me. Just as stupid now as I was then. Kark.

“You know, I’m not even sure Jedi are supposed to be seen carousing with Republic soldiers,” Amitia said loudly, another twinkle in her eye. “We’re supposed to be defending the galaxy from louts, not drinking with them.”

“Referring to the lieutenant as a lout is an insult to louts everywhere,” Jorgan commented sourly. I slapped him on the back of his head.

“Agreed,” Amitia replied, nodding a bit too happily for my taste. “Seems to me he could prove us wrong, though…if he buys the next round or two.”

I glanced around the table, but there wasn’t any use in fighting a battle that I’d already lost, so I shrugged and handed over my cred card. Amitia’s hand swallowed it whole, and I watched in despair as she slid the card into the payment slot on the table – another few dozen creds down the drain.

“You’re wrong about that, though, Amitia. Ain’t nothing wrong with a Jedi carousing with anyone, let alone a trooper.” I spoke before my brain realized what I was saying, and I regretted every one of my words as they slipped out from between my lips.

“Really? How would you know that, hot shot?” Kira teasingly elbowed me in the ribs, which didn’t feel as bad as it normally would have with several beers already in me.

“My dad spent plenty of time carousing with my mom, didn’t seem to affect him much.” I felt my cheeks warm slightly, though I hoped that was just the alcohol. “Other than the whole leaving the Order to start a family thing, I guess.”

“Your father was a Jedi?” Amitia leaned in closer, the universal sign of someone expecting you to keep talking even when that was the last thing in the galaxy you wanted to do.
Should have kept your damn mouth shut. You’re always talking your way into trouble.

“Yeah, during the war.” Immediately after I finished the sentence, I recognized the looks of expectation on their faces, and knew I’d have to say more. “My parents met on Balmorra and a romance for the ages bloomed. He left the Order later on, though, so they probably deleted him from the archives and what not.”

Amitia wrinkled her nose as she smiled. “So why’re you slumming it with Jorgan instead of with us.”

“The Force is weak with this one,” I said with an exaggerated grimace. “Besides, where’s the fun in waving around a laser sword when you can hit people in the face with a rifle butt.” I winked at the two Jedi and arched an eyebrow at Jorgan. “Or blow them away with the most over-the-top phallic symbol this side of a Harrower.

They laughed, while the Cathar merely glowered at over the rim of his mug.

“Sounds like you have your priorities straight, Lieutenant.” Kira leaned over to tap in a request for another round. “How’s the hunt for the Havoc traitors going?”

“Almost got them,” I replied with a grim but satisfied smile. “I wish they’d made better decisions but…at the end of the day they chose wrong. I’m hoping we can capture Tavus, though, find out more about why he did it.” I sighed.
“And what he’s told the Imps. And about the other troops followed Havoc over. We could be vulnerable in a number of areas.”

“Sounds like the Empire’s getting prepared for another war,” Amitia noted.

I nodded. “And soon. The Brentaal Star. Imperials infiltrating Coruscant and setting up backroom deals with the Justicars, stealing or otherwise ‘appropriating’ Republic assets, even messing around in Alderaanian politics. At the very least, they’re trying to stir things up, but subtlety isn’t exact in the Imperial playbook. My guess is we’re heading for another big one. Maker help us if we’re not ready.”

The two Jedi exchanged another look, more worried this time.

“The Sith are up to something too,” Amitia said with a soft voice. “They were on Coruscant and…they’re involved in more than a few other things too. Master Din is concerned about what their next move will be. I can’t blame him.”

“Well at least you’ve got an easy job if anything gets started.” I winked and laughed at their confused reaction. I pointed to their sabers. “Stick ‘em with the pointy end.”

This time Jorgan hit me on the back of the head. “Behave yourself, Lieutenant.” He turned to face our companions.

“Believe me, ladies, this is actually Martell at his most charming.”

I felt a sudden warmth in my cheeks and proffered a weak smile that provoked furious giggling. “Maybe you’ll see me in the next ‘Patriots of the Republic’ calendar.”

Amitia laughed, “I’ll keep an eye out. Maybe two.”

“For now, though…” Kira began before trailing off.

“…We need to get going,” Amitia finished. “Master Din is supposed to report back to us soon, and we might need to be in good enough condition to act.” She elbowed me sharply in the ribs. “Unlike some people.”

“I think she’s talking about you, Lieutenant.” Jorgan was always so insightful.

I rose from my seat, trying to keep things diplomatic even in the face of the Cathar’s rudeness. “If you need any help, feel free to give us a call on our comm channel. Can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to get clearance from Garza, but I can see what we can do.”

Amitia smiled brightly and wrapped her arms around me in a firm hug. “You take care of yourself, Ayrs. It’s too much fun doing your work for you guys.”

“It’s always nice to have such great friends,” I replied with a smirk. She replied with a wink, then released me from her vice-like grip and made her way over to Jorgan. Kira stepped into her place and hugged me too, though she was kind enough to allow me to breathe while doing so.

As they left, I heard Jorgan sigh softly.

“There goes the closest thing to a love life you’ve had in months, Jorgan.” I purchased the next pair of drinks to show I meant no offense.

“You’re one to talk,” he shot back sharply. I grimaced – accurate insults tended to be the worst. Luckily I was more trying to avoid any thoughts of romance than I Was trying to attempt one, but damned if I was going to let the Cathar in on that. “Course, maybe there’s a reason for that.”

I stared off into space, trying my best to act natural until the drinks came. I hadn’t told him anything – I wasn’t stupid, after all – but I also knew I wasn’t the most subtle guy around, either. Not like he hasn’t been ribbing you about it since you met her on Taris, anyway.

Our awkward silence was interrupted by the loud sound of someone slapping both of us on the back at the same time. I rotated in my seat to see Cormac, who looked none the worse for wear. Somehow, that sight was more reassuring than I would have imagined, given how much trouble I had assumed he would be in.

“Captain, come join us.” I waved him toward the empty seats our Jedi friends had vacated. “Pick your poison, it’s on Jorgan.”

The Aldaraanian gave us both an odd look, as if deciding if we were laying some kind of trap for him, then shrugged and took the seat across from me, at Jorgan’s elbow. “Call me Balic, please, we’re all off duty.”
“Ayrs, then.” I hated people calling me by my rank when we were off duty, too.

Cormac and I turned in unison to face Jorgan, who was sipping his drink – a ping, foamy, concoction – out of a straw. “What?”

“Ignore him,” I advised the captain as he input his order “Hope you aren’t in too much trouble over the various stunts we’ve pulled here over the past few days.”

“If you are, feel free to blame him,” Jorgan added with a snide smile.

“Nothing like that. When the Duke straightened everything out, they cleared me of any kind of review. He even said I might be up for a promotion.” Cormac paused for a moment as his drink arrived. “Pallos was never all that popular with the general population, just his circle of cronies and some of the hard-liners.”

“No trouble for the Republic then?” I knew Garza would have my back, regardless, but I didn’t want to be responsible for karking up an important alliance. Especially not one I had been explicitly ordered to maintain and strengthen.

“Can’t say that for sure.” He shrugged and took a lengthy drink from his mug. “But I doubt you’ll have too many problems. As much as these nobles like to act like they’re big and scary, they know the Republic’s help will be necessary for winning the war. Heard they’re even bringing in some Jedi to help mediate after you helped put us in a better position.”

“No kidding? Maybe they’ll give us a medal for this, then.”

Cormac simply laughed. “I’ll see what I can do. For what it’s worth, it was an honor to work with some of the Republic’s best.”

“And Jorgan, don’t forget him.”

The Alderaanian laughed again as Jorgan shot daggers across from me. We clinked our mugs together, then drank heartily . Cormac and I did, at least.. Jorgan’s drink required careful management of his straw. Not for the first time, I wondered what the hell he had ordered, but something made me suspect I was better off knowing.

Cormac had only been at the table for about thirty minutes before I noticed his head dipping and speech slurring Damned lightweights, all of them. I realized that duties at a nobleman’s police probably precluded the type of recreational drinking soldiers might enjoy, but it still caught me by surprise. Course, he probably hasn’t spent years trying to drink away bad memories and feelings, either. As it happened, Cormac was an avid fan of huttball, though, which made for good conversation while also boring Jorgan enough to order something with a little more kick.

It was about thirty minutes, or maybe two hours, later that I felt my comm buzzing against my arm. I gave the other two men a small hand gesture to let them know I had a call to take, then slid off the seat and carefully made my way into a quieter, more secluded, area. Everything seemed to be moving at an odd pace; even my own gait was oddly sluggish, but I hadn’t had all that much to drink, so I wasn’t sure why.

“Hello?” I must have been too loud, because I drew a couple of looks from a maintenance crew passing by.

“Sir? It's El-Sergeant Dorne. I was just calling to ensure you and Sergeant Jorgan were all right. It is rather late.” I glanced at my chrono and realized she was right.

“Uh, yeah. Everything’s great here, we’re all fine.” I stumbled over my words – alcohol only exacerbating my usual problems around her. “How are you?” I winced.

“I am…fine, sir.” I couldn’t quite tell if she was amused or still worried. Possibly both. “Perhaps I should leave you two to your…recreation.” This time there was a definite hint of amusement.

“Uh, yeah. Thanks! We’ll be back soon. Soon-ish. Not too long. I’m hanging up now.” I cursed and disconnected, slapping myself a couple of times in the face. So karking stupid. Get a grip. I did just that, holding onto a railing to guide me back into the cantina.

When I returned to our table, I noticed Cormac was already slumped over it, snoring as loudly as mom had.

“What-what a lightweight,” Jorgan sneered shakily; he looked barely better off than our Alderaanian friend. “Haven’t seen someone fall apart like that since this Imperial the Deadeyes and I tracked down on Vrthlak.”

“Vrthlak,” I repeated stupidly. “Tell you what, Jorgan. You’re not so bad once you get totally drunk. I think I even like you.” I leaned in closer and whispered, “Don’t let anyone know alright?”

“You’re not too bad yourself. For a green kid with a big attitude, that is. You could have done worse.”

Coming from Jorgan, that was unusually high praise – clearly, the alcohol was affecting him more than he realized. I grinned evilly and finished my drink; Jorgan had already ordered our next round. Good man, that one, at least in a cantina. As we waited, I noticed a familiar sight in the doorway. A decidedly unpleasant sight at that.

“Oh Master, it is good to see you.” The Maker-damned droid tottered over to our table, inspiring more than a few dirty looks from the remaining patrons at the bar and even dirtier ones from me and Jorgan. “I was sent here to ascertain if you required any assistance.”

“Elara sent you, didn’t she?” I scowled at the monstrosity, though I was more annoyed than mad. I’d told Elara that everything was fine but obviously she hadn’t believed me. Why wouldn’t she believe me though. You’ve had a few drinks, sure, but it’s not like you’re having any issues. “I said everything was under control, C2-N2. Go back to the ship, your thrice-damned bucket of bolts.” I hiccupped as I laughed at my own joke.

“Sergeant Dorne informed me you might attempt such a response to my presence and assured me that I had her full support in maintaining proper decorum.”

I spat out the beer in my mouth as it spoke. “We’re in a..a cantina for kark’s sake. What’s the harm in poor decorum here?”

“You also failed to respond to several of Sergeant Dorne’s communications following the disconnection of your previous call.”

Huh? I glanced down at my comm and noticed I’d missed several messages from Elara and a couple more from Cormac. Wasn’t quite sure how that had happened, but it was hardly the first time I’d had communication issues with something. Nothing another ale won’t take care of, anyway.

Jorgan wasn’t looking very good after that round, though, and looked even worse the round after it. He slumped down onto the table, and looked unable to get up. It also sounded like he was humming what sounded suspiciously like something from Kitty Lovin and the Playmates. I wasn’t usually one to judge, but I decided to file it away for later use. Assuming you even remember it

I turned back to my one remaining companion, perhaps the last one I could have ever expected to be spending time with at a cantina. Something made me want to talk to it, though. Maybe it was Jorgan’s humming, maybe it was the alcohol flowing freely through me, or maybe I just knew the droid would be the one to talk to, but it didn’t really matter. Now was the time.

“Tell me, droid, what do you think of Elara?”

“I am not sure that is an appropriate question to ask me, Master. I loyally serve each and every member of Havoc Squad.”

I tried to narrow my eyes at the droid, but that just made my head hurt, so I moved on. “Have you ever wanted to say something, C2? Something important?” I gazed into its metallic eyes, but got no response. “Like it’s important, but since it’s important you don’t want to say something because if you say it wrong it will be horrible, so you don’t say anything at all? Because you need to say it to someone that’s important to you and it’s important to you that they know they’re important to you and what you’re saying to them is important too?”

“I-I am sorry, master, I-“

Realizing that C2-N2 was not designed for such weighty thoughts, I waved away the droid’s comments. “Never mind that, you wouldn’t understand.”

“But master, -“

“It’s Sergeant Dorne, C2. Elara, I mean. Pretty name like that should be said, not hidden behind a title.” I took another sip of ale. “I think she’s great. Really great, really. She’s got a great smile, she’s always there for you when you need her, rock solid, strong sense of ethics, one of the best soldiers I’ve ever met. Probably one of the best people I’ve ever met.”

“Sergeant Dorne is quite agreeable –“

“That’s not all though,” I continued. “Great body, good hygiene, excellent grammar and a great smile. Total package.” I let out a sharp, appreciative whistle.

“Perhaps you should return to the ship, Mast-“

“Too bad I’m afraid to tell her, right?” I arched an eyebrow at the robot, which was proving to be a rather poor listener and conversational partner. “Always too afraid, about her….about everything.” I sloshed some more ale around in my mouth as I pondered how best to continue. “I was the big brother of the family, had to be the dad too a bit after…after Dad didn’t come home. Got used to being responsible for people, got used to thinking I was good at it, too.”

“You have been a most excellent commander of –“

I leaned forward, hunched over the table. “Then I ran off to the academy. Left them all behind, left them all to die.” My mouth was suddenly filled with an acrid bitterness no amount of ale would wash away. “I let them all down, every one of them. Been disappointing people all my life, even karking Uncle Demetrius back on Kuat. Damned lucky I haven’t screwed over Havoc Squad so far.”

“Master, I –“

“I mean, I’m doing better now. I know better, I know I can do better too. But it doesn’t mean I ain’t scared. What if something happened to her, you know?” I took a gulp from Jorgan’s mug; wasn’t like he was going to miss it. “Bad enough if she isn’t interested, but what if she is and I let her down, too. Don’t know if I could take it.”
“If I might – “

“I wish I could, though. I mean, stars, when she looks at me and her eyes are shining and bright and full of life…and her smile could blind me if I wasn’t more careful. Maker save me.” I decided to take two swigs this time. “I think she’d like me, though. I mean I like me. Do you like me?”

The droid eyed me, but said nothing.

“Well, I’m sure you do. You’re programmed to, at least.” I playfully slapped C2 on its back, but it remained silent. “I mean I’m a nice guy, most of the time and except for Jorgan. And Pallos Organa. And a few other guys, I guess, but mainly I’m nice. And I’m a good soldier, got most of my teeth, plus I’m funny. I think Elara would like a funny guy, and I’m pretty funny. My mom always laughed at all of my jokes, so I must have been doing something right. Maybe that’s a sign. Maybe I should say something.”

I felt the adrenaline kicking back in, so I decided to make my move. Ignoring C2-N2’s protests, pushed myself up and away from the table and began to walk toward the door. Everything seemed a little blurry, but I figured I could make it back to the ship okay anyway. For a second, I wondered how Jorgan was going to make his own trip back, but I figured C2 could figure it out. That’s what protocol droids were around for, after all.

I’d struggled forward for a good five minutes and managed several feet of progress when I felt the ground below me shaking. Confused, I checked the people around me, but had a hard time doing so when the room was shaking and spinning. Alderaan wasn’t supposed to have groundquakes…

My head was pounding when I woke up and came to my senses. I felt nauseous as hell, but also a hell of a lot better than I had when my face had had a close encounter with the cantina floor. I blinked a few times and took a couple of deep breaths. It was only after that I realized that I wasn’t alone in the room, and a few seconds after that realized that I figured out where I actually was, and who was with me.

“Elara. Um, Sergeant Dorne. I hope I wasn’t too much trouble.” I grimaced as I rolled onto my side and then forced myself into a sitting position. “I didn’t mean for things to get out of hand like that.”

“I would hope not, Sir.” She had that damnable mixture of amusement and concern in her voice again. “It would require a great deal of paperwork and bureaucratic wrangling if you were to be responsible for an incident while intoxicated.”

“And we wouldn’t want that,” I shot back teasingly.

“I would agree completely, Sir.” she replied with a small smile. “If I might ask, how much alcohol did you consume last night? Both Captain Cormac and Sergeant Jorgan were found severely intoxicated and yet you were apparently able to keep going.”

“Uh, too much, I guess. Ow!” I cried out as she jabbed my arm with a needle. When she offered no sympathy, I glowered at her.

Elara wrinkled her nose at me. “If you stopped acting like a baby, perhaps things wouldn’t be so difficult.” Our eyes met, and for a moment I sensed a hint of fear in hers. She probably saw the same in mine. “Sir. Quite so difficult, Sir.” Her cheeks flushed a bright red as she hurried away to mess around with some of her equipment on the far side of the room.

“Uh, I’m sorry for any trouble I caused. And the missed messages. And any projectile vomiting that may have occurred, of course.” I grimaced at the last one. She glanced back over in my direction, and I couldn’t help but notice how startlingly beautiful she was. It left me tongue-tied, which was just as well, since I’d have probably said something stupid.

“I was simply concerned for your well-being, Ayrs. Sir.” She quickly turned back toward her tools.

I suddenly felt way out of my depth in a way I hadn’t for…a long time, years at least. I carefully slipped off the bed and winced as my bare feet landed on the cold floor of the med bay. “Uh, Elara, I...” She turned back to me with her eyes open and almost expectant. You what?

“Master, you have a priority message from –“ The karking protocol droid made it that far before realizing he was interrupting. “From General Garza. She requests you reply when you are fully recovered.”

Kark me.

The droid was gone as quickly as it had arrived. So was the moment.

“I’m sorry if I made you worry, El-Sergeant. I’ll be sure it doesn’t happen again, and I’ll be sure Jorgan understands too.” The room was feeling a bit warmer, which I took as my cue to leave. Garza was waiting, anyway. “I’ll, uh, let you get back to your work. Just want you to know how much I appreciate you.” The room was now blazing hot. “How much I appreciate what you do for the squad. Carry on, Dorne.”

She seemed about to say something as I turned and left. Probably for the best that she didn’t – I was already going to have enough problems dealing with Garza.

Maker save me.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

alaurin's Avatar


alaurin
04.21.2014 , 02:38 PM | #75
I just love when Ayrs and Jorgan get drunk.....guaranteed good times!!!

Quote: Originally Posted by Lesaberisa View Post
Jorgan wasn’t looking very good after that round, though, and looked even worse the round after it. He slumped down onto the table, and looked unable to get up. It also sounded like he was humming what sounded suspiciously like something from Kitty Lovin and the Playmates. I wasn’t usually one to judge, but I decided to file it away for later use. Assuming you even remember it
The picture I have in my head is priceless! Also, SQUEE.......I recognize that band name!

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
05.07.2014 , 09:58 PM | #76
I've been trying to work in that reference for a few posts now
--------------

I felt a lump grow in my throat when I saw the smile on Garza’s hologram as I entered my cabin and activated my communications console. It wasn’t the cheerful, uplifting smile of someone who was genuinely happy with things; it was the snake-like smile of a predator carefully eyeing its prey. I just hoped I wasn’t it.

“Sir.” I snapped to attention and fired off a salute that was straight out of the soldier’s manual.

“At ease, lieutenant.” Garza’s smile suddenly became somewhat lopsided. I was beginning to feel very afraid. “First, I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done. Though it would have been preferable if you had managed to complete your mission without alienating a faction within House Organa and killing Bex Kolos.”

I tried really hard to look embarrassed. “Sorry about that, Sir. I hope those setbacks don’t affect us too much going forward.”

She narrowed her eyes, a lot like Mom used to, and cleared her throat loudly. “Of course. I can always count on you to look out for the potential political and long-term ramifications of your actions.” I felt a drop of sweat forming where my hair met bare skin on my neck. “Fortunately, further consultation with Charle Organa has secured even closer ties with his house. I’m told he even considers you personally responsible.”

“You’d be surprised how often I hear that, Sir.”

“I doubt it.” I clamped my mouth shut. “In the meantime, the SIS has secured some very valuable intelligence that will be of interest to you. I won’t share it over this channel; it's too important. Your squad will need to report to my task force, currently operating in the Pa’rath system in the Outer Rim. Once you arrive, I will brief you on the unfolding situation and outline your new mission’s objectives.”

I thought about asking her for more information, but killed that thought after getting a better look at her holographic face. Whatever was going on involved something big, and if she wasn’t going to even hint at it to me over a holocall, there wasn’t much point in trying to talk her into revealing anything else. I knew what it probably meant, though. Tavus.

“We’ll move out immediately, General. I’m sure the squad will be eager to see more action, especially Forex.” Damned droid was even better at fighting than it was at spouting Republic propaganda, which was saying something. “If there’s nothing else, I’ll gather my squad. Sir.”

Garza merely nodded as her image faded away.

I found Jorgan and Elara both ready to go on the ship, but Forex was nowhere to be found. Confused, I jogged down the ramp and into the hangar bay, surveying the scene to try to find the wayward war droid. Nothing. Growing somewhat concerned, I picked up the pace and ran through the security checkpoint, back into the main hall of our wing of the spaceport. I finally spotted it next to Valyn Thul, who was seated at a small table in a café.

What the hell?

They were so caught up in their conversation that they didn’t hear me approach, which was just as well given how they’d have launched themselves at me to get me involved. As I got closer, I heard snippets of what they were saying – talk of galactic politics and the excitement of military life; I was unsure which of them was the more enthusiastic participant in the exchange.

“Forex.” I cleared my throat and felt a bit sheepish, even though it was just a droid’s conversation that I was interrupting. “We’re shipping out, new mission in coming. Need you back on the ship so we can head out.”

The droid rotated its body toward me. “Of course, Sir! I look forward to bravely defending the Republic and her soldiers on many battlefields to come. I only regret that I have but one chassis to give for my country. Why, there is nothing I would not do to serve the Republic in order to ensure its final and glorious victory over the Empire.”

Valyn Thul clapped excitedly, while I felt slightly nauseous. “Uh, that’s great Forex. The Republic appreciates your service as much as I do. Probably more so, actually. You are truly a testament to your, uh, kind.”

It looked at me with cold metallic eyes. “Thank you, Sir! I am always eager to prove my worth to the glorious cause of our noble Republic and its proud citizens, one and all. Together, we represent the vanguard for the Republic armed forces, which in turn serve as a shining example for everything that is right in the galaxy as we combat the nefarious minions of the evil Empire. We have made great inroads here on Alderaan, smiting the devious and conniving Wolf Baron as we rescued the noble Duke Organa, and –“

Enough, Forex.” Dealing with a droid was bad enough when it wasn’t reciting material from the propaganda holos verbatim. “I’m sure we all appreciate the finer points of political morality you bring up, but perhaps we can discuss them later. After you get on the ship.” And after I find a restraining bolt that lets me shut you up whenever you get going.

“Of course, Sir!” The droid rotated its body to face Valyn Thul. “Miss Thul, it has been an honor serving as your escort. I trust that the Republic-related materials I procured for you will help you learn more about our righteous cause, our drive to bring truth and justice to every Sith-infested corner of the galaxy. In fact –“

Enough!” I must have said it louder than I intended, because both Forex and Valyn jumped in the air. I rubbed my forehead in exasperation. “Just get back to the ship, Forex. We need to ship out as soon as possible, which means no time for speechifying.” I glared at the droid until it took the hint and shuffled off back to our hangar.

Which left me with the largest ball of energy this side of the galactic core.

“Oh, Lieutenant Martell, I’m quite glad you were able to find time in your busy schedule to visit; I wasn’t sure you would be able to because you must be so busy with your command.” She snuck a breath in, but finished it before I could get a word in edgewise. “Oh, this has been such an adventure. I never dreamed I would be involved in a high-stakes game of diplomatic tug-of-war, a pawn trapped by the schemes and machinations of both the vicious House Organa and her own, duplicitous, House Thul.”

I was beginning to understand why Forex and Valyn enjoyed each other’s company so much.

“Uh, yeah, something like that. Where are your parents, Valyn?” I squinted as I shifted my body to look around the room, hoping to see either of them nearby. “Shouldn’t you be with them instead of wandering around with Forex?”

“Oh, not at all, Lieutenant Martell. I have determined that spending time with people from the Republic and other walks of life would be most beneficial to expanding my understanding of the galaxy. Why, think of the stories that they could tell me! In only a few short hours, I’ve already learned about so many exhilarating experiences that these people have had.”

“Uh huh.” I looked around the room again and noticed a sketchy looking Twi’lek glancing in our direction, a wry smile on his face. “Let me guess, you were talking to one of the smugglers over there?”

“Nothing like that, Lieutenant!” Valyn sounded vaguely insulted. “I was speaking with one of the independent contractors over at the dining establishment, and he spoke about his adventures outrunning Imperial cruisers in his freighter. Why, one time he was smuggling people from Tatooine to Alderaan, can you imagine that?”

I wrinkled my nose, trying to determine how best to respond. I ended up settling on patting the top of her hand gently. “I think you’d be better off staying away from guys like that, Valyn. There are other ways to learn about the galaxy. Saferways, too.” I gave the Twi’lek a bit of a dirty look, prompting him to look away, though he was still grinning mischievously. “In the meantime, you should find your parents and make sure they’re okay. “

“Oh.” For once, she was unable to come up with a ridiculously verbose response. “Are you leaving then?”

She gave me a sad look that made me feel absurdly guilty. “Uh, yeah.” Her expression fell slightly further. “But you and your family can always count on me if you need help with something. I’m always just a holocall away.” I cautiously looked in her direction again and realized I needed to clarify. “Within reason of course. Not all the time. But if you need to." I grimaced. "You know what I mean.”

Damned teenagers are as hard to deal with as Elara is. Maker save me.

I was about to say more but instead found my mouth covered by the top of her head as she wrapped her arms around me in a tight hug. I awkwardly reached around her and hugged her back, trying not to notice how much it felt like when I had said goodbye to my family when I’d left for Corulag…the last time I’d seen any of them.

I didn’t want any more family to have to say goodbye to, didn’t want to have anyone else that I’d let down, whether today or at some point in the future. But I was also tired of running away from being the kind of man my parents had raised me to be. Mom hadn’t brought me up to run from those who needed me, and Dad hadn’t passed along lessons on how to shirk what was right. Maybe it was time to remember that, even if it meant taking a leap of faith.

“Thank you for all you’ve done.” Valyn murmured into my chest. “You’ve been far lovelier than we could have expected.”

I frowned slightly and carefully disengaged myself from her embrace, taking care not to beat too hasty of a retreat. Something – what, I could not say – made me playfully ruffle her hair with my hand as I did so. “Take care of yourself, Valyn. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” I thought about that for a moment. “Unless it’s something smart, cause I do some dumb stuff sometimes.”

She gave me a puzzled look, then smiled slightly. I took it as a hint to escape while I still could, and turned away so I could jog back with as much of my dignity as I could. Didn’t want to let the bastards at the cantina get the wrong impression and think that I cared about some half-crazed noble girl from Alderaan, after all.

The trip to Garza’s staging area went as well as could be expected. Elara somehow managed to have Jorgan tied up with Forex for most of it, and I managed to avoid her by disappearing into my cabin and developing an acute case of deafness when required. I needed the time to recharge, anyway, after nearly screwing up the entire political situation on Alderaan for the Republic. It didn’t help that I had the strong feeling that things were coming to a head, in more ways than one. Garza wouldn’t have ordered the rendezvous unless we were closing in on Tavus. I would have thought that realization would have felt good, but I just felt uneasy.

Probably doesn’t help that I’m trying to manage my own personal situation too.

Turned out it was a lot harder to avoid someone when you were stuck together on a small ship with little room for maneuver. I decided to try to develop new strategies for dealing with the situation after we took care of Tavus.

We dropped out of light speed at our assigned coordinates. The three of us and Forex were greeted to quite the sight out of the cockpit window – she’d managed to scrounge together a quartet of cruisers and several other ships. Definitely Tavus – nothing else would be worth this kind of effort.Garza’s automated signal led us toward the largest of the cruisers; Jorgan piloted us into the ship’s hangar bay, where we left our ship…and our overly enthusiastic war droid.

General Garza was waiting for us in the central briefing room, her usual uniform as perfectly pressed as always. She waved away our salutes and went straight to the holodisplay behind her, launching into the briefing I had known would be coming.

“Your good work on so many worlds has presented us with an extraordinary opportunity to strike a death blow against Tavus and his service to the Empire. In response to the death of Gearbox, Tavus sent out messages across the galaxy to others that joined him in defecting to the Empire.” Garza paused and gave us a wry smile of triumph. “Unfortunately for him, we were able to intercept those messages with the assistance of our friends in the SIS. Tavus is rattled, and the Empire has begun to lose faith in him because of his failures on so many worlds. Because of this, Tavus has recalled many of his senior commanders to meet on his personal ship, the Justice.” The holographic image of a Harrower dreadnought appeared before us. “With the assistance of several other units, your mission will be to infiltrate the Justice, disable its engines, and then eliminate Tavus as a threat once and for all.”

“Eliminate?” I raised an eyebrow. “Is our mission to kill him or capture him?”

“Either will be an acceptable outcome.” Garza’s voice had an edge to it, even for her.

“Understood, Sir.” That left the glaring question on the table. “If I might ask, how are we going to infiltrate Tavus’ ranks. Somehow, I doubt they’ll be all that pleased to see us.”

Garza smiled. “Of course not. But you won’t be Lieutenant Ayrs Martell and Havoc Squad, you’ll be Captain Raul Mendoza, commanding a squad of survivors from the failed operation on Nar Shaddaa. Though Captain Andrik was…regrettably…killed in action, you and your men were able to escape with a prototype Republic war droid.”

“Should be good enough to get us on board, at least. Hopefully will keep them off our backs as long as Forex keeps its mouth shut, too.” I stroked the stubble on my chin thoughtfully. “What other squads are involved, Sir?”

“Three others. Gallant, Nova and Typhoon.” She nodded in turn at two women and a man across the room from us, presumably the commanders of each of those squads. “Gallant will cover the hangar bay, while Nova and Typhoon will counter any attempts by the defectors to put up an organized resistance. Once you have secured and disabled the engines on the Justice, this task force will jump in and land further reinforcements for the final push. Any questions?”

“No, Sir. We’ll go get prepped.”

“Excellent, I’ll have the necessary comm protocols forwarded to your ship.” She paused and licked her lips. “We have an opportunity to knock Tavus and his organization out once and for all. I expect nothing less than complete success.”

“Yes, Sir!” This time, the entire room spoke as one.

We returned to the ship in silence, though that silence was tinged with the nervous anticipation you’d expect from the kind of career-defining mission we had ahead of us. Elara’s brow was furrowed with concentration, and I could only imagine what was going through her mind. Even Jorgan looked a little

Truth be told, I didn’t know what to feel. I hadn’t served under Tavus long enough to care about his defection on a professional level, but he’d always been a man I’d admired from afar, a childhood idol for a teenaged me. I was eager to see him and his men brought to justice for their crimes…but there was still some part of me that hadn’t completely accepted that I would be going up against someone that had been a hero of the Republic.

No time for that kind of crap now, though. People are counting on you, and there’s a mission to get done. Finish the job, finish Tavus’ organization off, then you can sit on your *** and contemplate the meaning of life all you like.

I sighed and made my way over to the room where Forex had decided to create its lair – it needed a new color scheme if we were going to pass him off as ‘captured’ Republic goods. It helped that the job also gave me something to do during the trip out to Tavus’ ship. Better that than hiding in my cabin again, at least.

We came out of light speed a few hours later. The Justice was hanging in front of a heavily-cratered moon, without any escorts. The perfect target. Assuming everything was on schedule, the other squads would already have made it onto the ship, and I could only hope they hadn’t been discovered. If they had…

Well, if Tavus managed to sniff out the other squads, then at least it’ll be over with quickly.

Jorgan responded to the defectors’ hails with the appropriate recognition codes and we all breathed a sigh of relief when they were accepted without issue. Too often, mission planners got caught up in the intricate or flashy aspects of a mission, and they let the more mundane details slip through the cracks. Then again, I should have known Garza wouldn’t be that sloppy. The dreadnought grabbed our ship in a tractor beam to guide us into the hangar, which was as good an excuse as any to abandon the cockpit and make our final preparations. We hadn’t had time for a proper equipment overhaul, but our neutral-colored armor would hopefully be enough – we were meant to be Republic defectors, after all, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if we still had Republic-issue gear.

As we disembarked from the ship, we were greeted by a squirrelly-looking captain and six troopers. Judging from their demeanor, everyone else had either made it on board okay or Tavus’ people were the best actors in the galaxy – their only hint of suspicion appeared as Forex clanked its clumsy way down the ramp. The captain stepped forward and put his hand out, while his men lifted their weapons. “Halt. Identify yourselves.”

“Captain Raul Mendoza.” I gave my voice a tired, almost haggard, tone. “We were with Andrik on Nar Shaddaa when the Republic hit us hard. We went to ground and managed to recover that droid prototype but…” I shook my head to mimic the sadness the real Raul Mendoza would have felt. “It was rough, real rough.”

“I heard the unit the Republic sent after you was their best,” he replied sympathetically. “The stories I heard about their commander from another guy that escaped.”

“Damn straight,” I grunted. “Guy was a maniac, like a monster out of one of the stories. He ripped through entire squads practically single-handedly and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it. Captain Andrik tried to hold him up by sending some of the droids after him, but it was like nothing we did mattered. I wish we’d gotten that guy to join us, he’s the finest damn soldier I’ve ever seen.”

The captain’s eyes were bugging out a bit. “Sounds like you’re lucky you got out alive.”

“I was. We all were. I don’t know who he is or what turned him into an animal like that, but I don’t ever want to fight him again.” I took a deep breath. “I bet he could probably take out this entire ship on his own. Maker help us if he ever tracks us down again.”

It sounded like Jorgan was choking on something, but I chalked that up to another hairball. My counterpart was too busy to notice, as his jaw had dropped and his tongue looked to be in danger of detaching itself from his mouth and falling to the floor.

“M-maybe you should get that droid over to engineering and take a break then.”

“Sounds like a plan to me.” Worked out nicely, actually, since we needed to get to engineering anyway. “Take care of yourself, captain.”

We exchanged salutes, and then the four of us began our trek toward the engineering deck. Security wasn’t very tight, which was surprising, but the traitors had probably been lulled into a false sense of security by their mobile location. We passed by two security checkpoints and at least four patrols that barely paid us any attention, despite the fact we were heading for one of the most sensitive areas of the ship. Even after we entered the engineering area, only a single person – a young-looking Rodian woman – thought to stop us, and even she was dissuaded with the help of my charming smile and winning personality.

I left Forex at the bottom of the ramp that led up to the control room – it was far too conspicuous to take up. I wasn’t sure if I could trust Jorgan to handle things if things got hairy, so I left Elara with the droid to keep things under control. If someone gave them trouble, I figured Elara could bury them in paperwork and procedure, anyway.

Jorgan took the lead as we entered the control room. There were a handful of pasty-faced techs inside, but they didn’t seem too concerned with what we were doing – not at first, at least. I casually strolled over to the main controls and inserted the data rod with the command override that would let us seize control over the dreadnought’s systems. It was only then that the techs seemed to realize we were up to something, but Jorgan’s assault cannon kept them from trying anything stupid. The system override was surprisingly easy to install – whoever had programmed it had obviously focused their attention on external threats, not those from within.

Sorta funny for a ship crewed by a bunch of traitors.

I’d just about finished my work when the terrifying wail of the ship-wide alarm went off. Might have been me being sloppy, might just be one of our fellow squads screwing up, but it meant trouble either way. I sped up my work as best I could, but there were only so many shortcuts I could take before I was risking having the entire thing fail. Won’t do us any good to have Tavus jump away and leave us stranded on his ship against a few hundred angry traitors. Stay focused. Focus. Focus.

“Sir?” Elara’s voice was slightly raised; I felt my heart leap into my throat just imagining why that might be. I glanced to the side, but Jorgan still had the techs under control. Which meant only one thing. Reinforcements. Maker save me.

“Dorne, what’s going on?” I tried and failed to keep my concern out of my voice.

“We have company, Sir. Forex and I have established a perimeter of sorts, but we are outnumbered and could use assistance once you have completed overriding the propulsion systems.” Her voice betrayed not a hint of emotion, yet I could still tell she was worried, and that worried me.

“Finishing up now. We’re on our way.” I motioned to Jorgan, who pointed the techs toward a utility closet. One of them opened the closet’s door, and then led the others into the room. The Cathar closed the door behind them and activated the locking mechanism. I double tapped the console to upload the final bit of our override, and then the both of us hightailed it out of the room and carefully descended down the ramp. I didn’t like what I saw.

“Sergeant – no, Lieutenant.” Her voice was as icy and unfriendly as ever, and the looks on the faces of the squad behind her didn’t help. “You’ve been busy, I see.”

“Wraith, it’s good to see you again. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to have you pointing a blaster at me.” I kept my tone as airy as possible. “I don’t suppose I can convince you and your men to lay down your weapons and surrender? There’s no need for this to get violent.”

She watched Jorgan slip to my left and take up a position behind a large console, though her cold eyes revealed nothing about whether she was at all worried about a potential firefight. “I’m not here to surrender, Lieutenant. You and your Republic are my enemies. That’s all you need to know.”

“I suppose it is.”

Both groups stood in silence for a moment, staring at each other like something out of a vid. Then, with the flash of one of Forex’s grenades, the room lit up into a pyrotechnic display unlike any I had seen since leaving the academy. Wraith somersaulted out of the line of fire, and most of her squad managed to find some cover, but three of the traitors weren’t moving at all when the smoke began to clear. Good. Give ‘em something to think about.

“Forex, loop right then take them from the side. Jorgan – grenades on the left, then I want you to keep the center pinned down. I’ll follow your fire in. Elara, you follow me in.”

The droid moved out first, its armored shell reflecting the bolts fired at it into the ground and walls. Its blasters tracked the traitors opposite us and blasted holes into the armor of two of them, lifting them up and out of their cover and sending them flying away. Jorgan’s fire on the other side of the engagement pinned the traitors in from the other side. After a few moments, several tried to make a break for their comrades to their left.

Time to move.

Jorgan switched to mortar rounds and scatter fire, dropping two more of our opponents, and sending the ret flying in search of cover. I followed Jorgan’s fire in, activating the shields on my armor and lowering my shoulder into the container that was covering Wrath and the remainder of her unit. I heard her gasp in surprise as I forced it backward, driving them back as well. Elara’s pistol fire dropped all three of Wraith’s companions; I ignored them and charged the Mirialan directly, ramming my shoulder square into the spot where her armor met her neck.

The impact caused us both to drop our weapons, but she was faster to recover, unsheathing a nasty looking combat vibroblade and nearly taking my right hand off at the wrist. I rolled away from her and lunged for my rifle, but she blocked me off. I still had Mom’s DV-22, but I couldn’t quite reach it with the way my body was contorted. I tried to reposition myself, but her boot caught me across the face as I tried to roll out of my crouch. I found myself flat on the floor, staring up at the conduits and pipes on the ceiling.

Damn, that hurt. Packs a punch for someone her size.

I heard some screaming from behind me, from unfamiliar voices, thank the Maker. Wraith heard them too, and they seemed to throw her off guard. Even as she moved in with her blade, I swung my legs around and swept them into hers. Wraith crashed to the floor with a surprised yelp, giving me the time I needed to scramble back to my feet.

She growled and charged again, but this time I was ready. I caught her wrist in my hand and twisted it as I squeezed as hard as I could. She cried out in pain and dropped the blade before trying to disengage. This time, though, she couldn’t put the weight on her wrist that she needed to perform her acrobatics, and she landed squad on her face.

I grimaced slightly as I collected myself and grabbed my rifle. The firefight was over – Jorgan having finished off the last of Wraith’s people – so the room was suddenly and eerily quiet. It was almost as unnerving as being in the middle of a battle.

“Surrender, Wraith.” I pointed my rifle at her, trying to remind myself that she’d be more useful as a prisoner than a corpse, no matter how creepily detached I found her. “Your men are dead, and we have you surrounded. Don’t do anything stupid.” Jorgan was circling around her to my left, Forex to my right. I felt the reassuring presence of Elara behind me, though I might have been confusing it with the feeling of a kolto injection. “Hands in the air.”

The Mirialan never responded to my request. Instead, she reached into her belt and unclipped a grenade. Before any of us could do anything, she pulled the pin and rushed toward us. Time seemed to slow, giving me plenty of time to see the blank expression on her face. It seemed somehow appropriate for a woman who never seemed to be anything more than a cold enigma. Even her service record had barely hinted at anything more, but suddenly there was no more time to mull that over. Just a loud roar, a wave of heat, and the room went black.

I came to a couple of minutes later. My helmet was off, and I could feel the blood on my face and neck, felt like I had a piece of glass in my face or something. Soft hands were gently mopping some of it up. Elara.

“El-Sergeant Dorne. Status report?” My words were somewhat garbled but everything seemed to be working okay, other than my head feeling like it used to after one of my nights drinking.

“Fine, Sir. You have some facial wounds which will heal with appropriate care, but you are combat-capable.” I caught the flash of something in her eyes as she looked at me, but she flinched instead of meeting my gaze.

I shot her a roguish smile. “I’m in good hands with you, Dorne.”

Jorgan’s hacking cough cut us off before Elara could respond. Or you could get yourself in trouble, more like. “If we’re good to move out, Tavus is still out there, and we don’t know what kind of resistance to expect.”

I suddenly couldn’t quite meet Elara’s eyes, so I gave the Cathar a steely look and nodded as I slid my helmet back on. My face was still sticky with blood but my vision was clear, and so were our objectives. I cut in front of Jorgan and Forex and led the squad back to the door.

We’re Havoc. We've got a job to do.

There would be plenty of time to embarrass myself later.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
05.29.2014 , 02:14 PM | #77
Author's note
Spoiler


I crouched behind a bulkhead as another squad of Tavus’ people scrambled past us, heading toward the hangar bay. We’d heard the alarms for several minutes now, alerting the entire ship to the fact that Garza’s reinforcements were moving into position. I couldn’t be sure of how the squads already on board were doing, but I suspected that they had proven to be as big an annoyance as we had, judging from the increasingly frantic expressions that Tavus’ people were wearing. Not that it bothered me much; it wasn’t that I wanted them to die, but they’d made their choice to jump ship to the Empire, and they were living with the consequences.

**** ‘em.

The bridge was too far up the ship’s superstructure to get to without using the lifts, even if that might be a real hassle. Our little cloak and dagger routine might work have worked on a random officer with his guard down, but the entire ship was on full alert now, and Forex alone was reason enough to give anyone with half a brain pause. Not much to be done about it at this point, though. Best we could do was hold onto our butts and pray to the Maker for good luck at whatever security or defenses they had waiting for us.

Garza’s briefing had been unpleasantly brief about how we were meant to get from engineering to the bridge, particularly given the heightened security. No doubt, Garza had figured we’d find a way to get it done, like we always did. Damned easy to do when you were safely commanding the op from a desk somewhere, somewhat less so when you were trying to actually complete the mission.

I took the lead, hoping that my insignia and commanding presence would at least help deal with any reluctance to let us through. The corridors were largely deserted except for a few stragglers scurrying around like the rats that they were; fortunately for us, they paid little attention to the well-equipped squad of soldiers moving away from where all the fighting was taking place elsewhere on the dreadnought. Maybe it was a sign the Maker was watching over us. More likely, it was just a sign that the troops that had followed Tavus over to the Empire were not all the best and brightest of Republic Special Forces.

“Lifts are coming up on our left, sir.” Jorgan’s voice was slightly raised, but his posture made it clear he wasn’t too worked up about the situation. “Scans show some kind of automated defense, but nothing too bad.”

“These traitors stand no chance of stopping us, Sir!” I sensed a Forex speech coming, and decided to nip it in the bud.

“Quiet, Forex. Keep the channel clear.” The droid stopped for a moment and almost looked chastened by my words. “I’ll handle security – it’s likely they’re wired into the security network on the bridge, so we don’t exactly want to go blasting away at them.”

The squad nodded and followed me down the corridor and around the turn to the right. I could see the squad of Tavus’ people ahead; a captain in command and six subordinates scattered haphazardly around him. They had set up some cover, mostly by overturning what looked to be crates of supplies. They weren’t using that cover, though, clearly more caught up in the chaos that was unfolding around them. It was either lazy or stupid of them – possibly both – and it was also something we could capitalize on. I strode up to them casually, as if I had all the time in the world to do whatever it was that had brought me there.

“Halt.” The captain had an authoritative voice, which rang out as his squad slowly drifted into something more closely resembling a formation. “Who are you? Where are you taking this…droid?” The man must not have been briefed on Forex, which was so much the better for us.

“Prisoner transfer,” I replied smoothly. “From cell block 1138.”

Because he’d left his helmet sitting on one of the crates, I immediately noticed the suspicion painted on his face. Trouble. I tried to assuage his concerns with a friendly smile, but the gesture did little good when it was covered up by a helmet.

“I wasn’t notified,” he said with a frown. “I’ll have to clear it.”

I grimaced. There wasn’t a chance in hell they wouldn’t activate their defensive protocols if he kicked this upstairs,
and we weren’t going to fight our way through those without significant back up. By the time that arrived, Tavus might find a way to escape from the trap we’d laid for him.

“No need,” I said, putting my hands out in front of me, as if I was talking to an old friend. “We captured this unit after we took out one of the Republic squads down in engineering. Turns out it’s the same droid that Commander Tavus sent Captain Andrik and us out after on Nar Shaddaa.” I gave Forex a sharp kick in the leg. “Guess it’s a bit of poetic justice, even if it came too late.”

“Hmm.” I could already tell that the guy wasn’t buying my story, not completely at least. Mom’s voice had had a similar tone after I told a white lie to try to avoid getting in trouble, and this was no different. Even as he seemed to be giving my words careful consideration, I was already preparing for the worst. I casually glanced back at my squad and nodded almost imperceptibly. Elara and Jorgan nodded in return as I turned back to Tavus’ captain.

“Mind letting us through? Would rather not have to lug this thing through a firefight?” Last chance for him and his people, even if he didn’t realize it. It seemed clear his squad didn’t, given the way they were more focused on the hallway behind us than at what we were doing. “Don’t want any of the Republic infiltrators to catch us here, and I want to take my people back into the fight after I’m done with this thing.”

“I’m not sure I can do that,” he said after a long moment. “Just following procedure; can’t afford any slip-ups with Republic troops on board.”

He sounded disappointed. It was about to get worse.

“By the Maker!” I inserted some panic into my voice as I stumbled back from Forex. “The restraining bolt failed! It’s active, it’s active! Run for it!”

“Eh?” The squad commander was still turning back toward me as Forex’ blasters put two holes through his chest. His still-twitching body spun back toward his squad, which was only just beginning to react. Forex took out the pair to my left, and Jorgan finished off the rest with a carefully controlled burst of fire from his assault cannon.

It made me feel a bit uneasy – the soldiers had been my enemies, but we’d also just been having a normal conversation only moments before, and they'd been Republic troops only months before. I took a breath and surveyed the carnage, wondering if it was the same uneasy feeling these troops must have felt when they defected, if they’d been forced to fire on loyal forces. Seemed pretty ****ed up that things could go sideways so suddenly and so completely.

“Sir!”

I shook my head as I heard Jorgan’s voice reverberate harshly over the comm. This wasn’t the time for daydreaming or moralizing – maybe these guys had been just led astray by Tavus and his rhetoric. Maybe they’d never believed it at all, but felt obligated to follow a certified war hero over a bunch of politicians back on Coruscant. Or maybe they were a bunch of thugs that had seen defecting to the empire as a way to express the parts of themselves that they’d had to suppress back in the Republic. Mom had told me all about those kinds of soldiers, the ones that had scared her more than combat ever could.

Worry about that **** later, idiot. You’ve still got Tavus to worry about, and that’s enough to worry about for the time being.

I stepped forward and slammed my fist against the control panel for the lifts, calling for our transportation up to the bridge. If we were lucky, they hadn’t been tipped off to the altercation below, and we’d get a clean ride into the command area. IF not…well, there were contingencies for fighting our way out of a deactivated turbolift, but I wasn’t particularly interested in living them out. Getting Forex up there with us was going to be a bit of a problem, given that the cars weren’t built for unwieldy war droids, but we’d be able to make do on our own if he had to join us in a separate lift.

Calm down. Take a breath.

My mind was moving fast, too fast. I could always tell when I was risking getting myself into trouble because it always felt like my mind was racing along at lightspeed. There were no more variables to calculate, no scenarios to imagine, just a mission to complete and a job to get done.

The lift arrived with a soft beep that was barely audible. The doors slid open to reveal an empty grey chamber with a control panel opposite us against the far wall. It was smaller than I had hoped, forcing us to leave Forex behind to wait for the next. Not idea, especially not with the kind of resistance we might face on the bridge, but there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it. Elara stepped in first, followed by Jorgan. I followed them in, then spun on my heels to face the door. I gave Forex a thumbs up as the doors slid shut on us, which sparked an amused chuckle from Jorgan, and then we were on our way up.

Standard sweep procedures unless we hit a snag, sir?” Jorgan’s voice was measured rather than curious; he’d obviously realized the same thing that I had.

“Affirmative. We won’t have Forex’ heavy fire and armor at first, so we’ll play it safe until it gets here.” I pondered what Tavus might have done since first receiving word of Republic troops boarding his ship. “My guess is Tavus would have sent whatever he had on the bridge after the boarders, especially once we shut down his hyperdrive. He wants to run, not fight, so we have to assume that they’re working on repairs right now.”

“There may still be turrets or other unmanned defenses, Sir,” Elara cautioned. “I suggest a cautious approach.”

“Agreed.” I chewed on something else for a moment. “Also, we’re taking prisoners. Including Tavus, if we can.”

“You can’t be serious…” I didn’t need to see Jorgan’s face to know it was darkening with anger.

“I am.”

“Tavus is a traitor; he gave up any right to special treatment.” He was angry, but more under control this time. “If he gives himself up, fine. If not, I don’t see why we should risk our necks for a Sithspit piece of crap like him.”

“Commander Tavus might prove to be a useful source of information, Sir.” Elara’s rebuke was only implied, but obvious nonetheless. “And, regardless of our personal feelings, he is owed the same treatment as any other soldier under our rules of engagement and code of conduct. We must set aside any desire to exact vengeance.”

She says we must. I smiled slightly, safe in the knowledge that neither would be able to see it.

“If he doesn’t make things difficult, we take him in even if he fights back at first. If it comes down to putting a member of the squad in jeopardy and killing Tavus, we take the shot.” They nodded in understanding, if not agreement. “Here we go. Nice and easy, no funny games. Don’t want to give Garza the opportunity to replace me any sooner than she would anyway.”

Jorgan coughed loudly as the door opened and we got our first glimpse of the bridge. There were technicians and crew members mulling about their control panels while others supervised by staring at their data pads. Tavus standing with his back toward us on the opposite side of the bridge, facing the viewport like a man seeing outer space for the first time. He didn’t seem to have any guards around him, and I didn’t see any kind of turrets or other weapons emplacements. Either he hadn’t anticipated trouble…or he welcomed it. I didn’t know whether to be concerned or thankful.

I fiddled with the settings on my helmet. “In the name of the Galactic Republic, I am placing you all under arrest.” My voice rang out across the bridge. The technicians, most of them pasty-faced and looking like the kind of guys that spent too much time on the HoloNet, shot their arms in the air. Tavus didn’t respond, didn’t even move. “Even you, Tavus. General Garza wants to have a nice little talk with you.”

The older man finally responded, turning around to face us. His hands remained clasped behind him, though he could easily draw his pistol if he decided to. I couldn’t quite read his expression – it was like the sky on a cloudy day – shrouded and unclear. He wasn’t happy, though. I seemed to have a habit of depressing people by showing up.

“Lieutenant, I am not surprised to see you here. I always believed you were true Havoc material, even if your loyalties were too easily swayed by Republic propaganda.” He glanced over my shoulder, past Elara and Jorgan, to the spot behind me where I could hear Forex clanking its way up. “I see you’ve returned my war droid.”

What’s he playing at?

“We can talk more later, once you’re in custody. Keep your hands where I can see ‘em.” I raised my rifle to point in his direction and motioned at Jorgan and Forex to keep the rest of the bridge crew covered. “There’s no reason to for this to end badly.”

“Isn’t there?” There was a hint of bitterness to his voice now. “You killed them all. Needles, Fuse, Gearbox, and now Wraith. Not to mention the dozens of other good soldiers you murdered in the name of a Republic that deserves nothing but scorn. Do you regret what you’ve done for such a misguided cause? Do you feel any guilt at all? Do you realize what you’ve done?”

I took out the trash.

Fortunately, I managed to keep my mouth shut instead of saying so.

“Fuse turned his back on you and your Empire before he died giving his life to ensure his bomb designs wouldn’t fall into the hands of murderers who saw them as tools to kill civilians with. And the rest?” I was tempted to spit on the floor between us. “Needles was an amoral man experimenting on his own soldiers on Taris so he could perfect a bioweapon. Gearbox was a lunatic who was overly fond of explosives and large machinery. I didn’t know Wraith much apart from the fact that she enjoyed killing people.”

The corners of his lips twisted in a rage-filled scowl, but I kept going before he could say anything.

“I may have pulled the trigger on some of them, but it was you that got them killed. Your pride, your selfishness and your rank stupidity. You told me on Ord Mantell that the Empire valued its warriors and the Republic did not, yet here you stand on your bridge. Alone, with no friends and no Imperial reinforcements.” I took a breath to settle myself a bit. “You may have been a hero once, but you’re just a karking fool now. The Empire used you and your followers for its own gain, and now that you’ve ****ed up and need help, they’re leaving you hanging to dry. Surely, you can see that?”

“How dare you speak to me about making mistakes. How dare you lecture me about my own people.” Tavus’ face reddened to the point where I could almost no longer see his wrinkles. “The Republic abandoned us on Ando Prime. The Republic abandoned everyone with the Treaty of Coruscant. It is nothing more than a sickly corpse-to-be, and is no longer worth serving. You may have bested my squad and the rest of my men, but they are greater heroes than you’ll ever be.”

“Fine by me,” I said nonchalantly. “I’m here to be a soldier, not a Maker-blessed hero. I don’t need or want some Holonews reporter telling my life story, and I don’t need legions of teenaged girls writing fanfic about me. I’m here to do a job, and I’m here to protect the people you no longer care about. Maybe you forgot that the first duty of a Republic soldier isn’t to themselves, it’s to the people they serve.”

“Sir, perhaps a less confrontational approach would be advisable.” Elara’s soothing voice helped dim the red I saw before me.

“Be that as it may, I’m prepared to take you into custody peacefully. You and all of your surviving troops, too. General Garza will want to question them about what they know, and she’ll definitely want to…talk…to you about everything you’ve been involved with, but it’s a helluva lot better than getting the rest of your command killed for some damned fool crusade.”

“Don’t’ be ridiculous. Garza would have me shot the moment you were out of sight.”

“You give her too little credit.” At least, I was hoping Tavus was. “She’s not stupid, and neither are you. You’ll stand trial for your crimes, of course, but your corpse is a good deal less valuable to the Republic than your information. We aren’t the Empire. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that.”

“True…true.” His expression softened, and I stepped forward slowly to take him into custody. It was a mistake. I was stupid. And I was sloppy. “But a trial? No, I won’t go through that. Not for you, not for Garza, not for whatever’s left of the Republic.”

Tavus drew a pistol from a holster I hadn’t seen and fired a bolt directly into my chest. The shielding and armor absorbed the energy, but threw me back and to the side, into an abandoned console that felt really bad to be thrown into. His eyes were strangely empty, as if he’d resigned himself to death as long as he got to lash out one last time. He adjusted his pistol again, but never got the chance to fire again. A series of blue circles flew out of Elara’s pistol and slammed into Tavus. His body jerked for a moment, and then went limp, his pistol falling to the floor next to his prone form.

“Stun bolt, nice work Elara.” I coughed and swept my hands over my armor, trying to make it look like the entire thing had been part of my plan instead of a damned stupid mistake that could have ended real badly. “Thanks for the save. I, uh, should have seen what he was up to.” I coughed again, and removed my helmet to give myself some more air.

“Your belief in Commander Tavus’ good intentions was understandable, if misplaced.” She was unavoidably close now, carefully inspecting me for wounds and my armor for damage. Her voice was softer when she spoke again, in part because her helmet was off, placed on the floor beside us. “Having faith in others can be dangerous, but it is also admirable in many case as well.” She avoided my gaze, which gave me an excuse to avoid looking at her.

“I like to think people always have the chance to do right. Some people deserve to have their own faith rewarded.” I flashed a smile on the off chance that she might see it. Naturally, she did not.

“Of course, Sir. I have always appreciated that. That you take that stance, I mean. Sir.” Suddenly flustered, she scrambled back to her feet and threw a look back at the lifts. “General Garza is here, Sir. Perhaps this is a conversation best left for another time.”

I hadn’t realized we were having a real conversation, but felt strangely pleased that Elara had. I killed the small smile that followed as quickly as I could, realizing Garza would most likely not be in the mood for such frivolities. Indeed, she had a deathly serious expression on her face as she strode toward me, flanked by two pairs of guards and with Jorgan and Forex trailing behind her.

“Lieutenant, I see you have the situation…under control.” She peered inquisitively at Tavus. I assumed she was wondering if I’d killed him.

“Yes, Sir.” I snapped to attention and saluted. “Sergeant Dorne successfully stunned Tavus when he attempted to use my negotiations with him as an opportunity to kill me. He is ready to be transferred into Republic custody for questioning, though it will be some time before the stun wears off.”

The general’s eyes narrowed for a moment before she turned her gaze to Elara. “Well done, Sergeant Dorne. Your quick thinking could help us learn intel that might save thousands of Republic lives.”

“I am just happy to do my part, Sir.” Elara couldn’t hide the slight flush and curled ends of her lips, though. Not to me, at least.

“Sergeants Dorne and Jorgan were both invaluable assets to the mission,” I added. “So was Forex, I guess. It did a good job of blasting things.”

“For the Republic!” I heard the damned machine call out.

Garza looked back at the droid with a perplexed expression, then returned her gaze to me. “Well done, Lieutenant Martell. You and your squad have successfully completed one of the most important operations in Republic Special Forces history. You and your squad should be very proud of your efforts on behalf of the Republic.”

“We are, Sir.” I wondered how much longer this show was going to go on for – the end of a major op like this usually meant getting some time off, and talking to Garza wasn’t really my idea of recreation. Unconsciously, I glanced over my shoulder at Elara, but caught myself and faced forward again when I saw her looking at me.

“I realize you may view this as an opportunity for some much-earned R&R, but I’m afraid there are some administrative matters to attend to, first.” A smile tugged at the edges of Garza’s lips. [i}Kark her, she’s enjoying drawing this out![/i] “I have to attend to finishing this operation first, but meet me in my office on Coruscant in three days’ time for the final debriefing. You may consider yourself on leave during the intervening period.”

I hid my smile. “Yes, Sir!”

Much to my chagrin our three days of freedom were cut short when Elara had detected that Jorgan had somehow contrived to contract womp rat fever, presumably from our time on Tatooine. The rest of us were fine, but she had insisted we follow proper quarantine procedures, and that meant getting locked up once we landed on Coruscant. I didn’t mind getting poked and prodded by Elara but the bastards from Medical Division didn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word gentle and inflicted horrible food on us at well. Jorgan, as if deciding our lives were a cosmic joke, recovered the day of our debriefing, and was entirely too cheerful about the entire ordeal as we made our way to Garza’s office. I decided to make sure that he understood the full implications of what he had done.

“You owe me about ten rounds of drinks now, Jorgan. Karking doctors treated me like I was some kind of medical experiment.” I winced and flexed my arm. “If you hadn’t been so damn eager to tough it out on Tatooine, none of this would have ever happened.”

“It’s a miracle you survived,” Jorgan shot back. “I can only imagine how they handled the crying.”

Elara remained silent, though I strongly suspected she was guilty of rolling her eyes at least once. Forex merely clanked on.

“You ruined my vacation, Aric. There are some crimes that are simply unforgivable.”

He snorted, but said nothing. We were getting too close to the senate tower for childish banter, anyway. Damned politicians and the various other bureaucrats and brown-nosers never did appreciate the smaller joys in life, and they were already giving us strange looks. Could be the armor too. That seemed too reasonable a motive for people like them, though, so I discarded it as a possibility. We marched on in silence.

Garza was seated at her desk, waiting for us with hands folded in front of her, She rose slowly, almost ponderously, as we entered the room and came to attention.

“Greets, Lieutenant. I trust your squad has recovered fully from the outbreak?”

“Yes, Sir.” I glared at Jorgan. “We got a bit stir crazy, but everything worked out okay.”

“Good.” She frowned slightly. “I would have hated to have another nerf steak incident on our hands.”

“No, Sir.” I hoped the heat I felt in my cheeks wasn’t a blush.

“First, I would like to revisit what I said on the Justice – Havoc Squad successfully completed one of the most difficult and complex operations in the history of the Republic, and for that you deserve congratulations.” I bowed my head in thanks as she continued. “In recognition for your efforts, the Chiefs of Staff have decided to award you with the Star of Valor. Wear it with pride, Lieutenant.”

I wanted to ask about Elara and Jorgan, but I could take a hint. “Thank you, Sir.”

Garza’s tongue ran over her lip for a moment, like she was steeling herself for something. “In addition, you are hereby promoted to the rank of captain, with all of the duties and benefits that that rank entails. In recognition of your new rank, you are also granted the ability to name an executive officer for your squad. Your executive officer will serve as your second-in-command and will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Because droids cannot hold rank, your choice will be between Sergeants Dorne and Jorgan.”

**** me. ********************.

“Uh, yes Sir.” I decided to delay for as long as possible, even if I could have made my decision that moment. Instead, I stepped toward Jorgan. “Sergeant Jorgan, why do you think you are qualified for the position of XO?”

“Are you serious?” The Cathar’s face was all scrunched up in a way that smelled of trouble. He sounded about as angry as I’d ever heard him. “I have previous command experience with the Deadeyes. I was an operations officer on Ord Mantell for years. If Commander Tavus and your squad hadn’t betrayed us, I’d still be a lieutenant right now.” He swallowed hard. “Besides, you’ve seen what I can do in the field. I’m clearly qualified.”

“Uh, thanks. That’ll be all, Jorgan.” He’d said what I had expected he would, and nothing more. I frowned slightly, then turned to Elara. “What about you, Sergeant Dorne?”

As if to prove it was possible, she straightened up even more. “I believe I have demonstrated my qualifications and skills during my time in Havoc Squad. I have several years of experience in the field, including a significant amount of time commanding SAR operations on a world as hostile as Taris. In addition to my experience in the field, I can support the squad with my knowledge of the bureaucratic and procedural requirements of being a Republic military unit.” There was a long, knowing, pause. “I also have extensive knowledge of our enemies’ tactics and can facilitate mission and operational planning by using it.”

“Thank you, Sergeant Dorne.”

She nodded. “Thank you for hearing me out, Sir.”

I swallowed hard. Having an easy time finding the answer to a question didn’t always mean that revealing that solution would be just as simple. Especially when you’ll be living with more than just the decision, you’ll be living with the people you made the decision about. **** Garza for making me do this.

“You’ve both made your cases, and I’ve made my decision.” I prayed for divine intervention that did not come. “Sergeant Dorne, I hereby name you my executive officer and promote you to the rank of lieutenant.” Jorgan was giving me the look of death that had previously been reserved for ex-girlfriends and Mom, so I decided to stare at the floor.

“Thank you, Sir!” Elara’s face was beaming so brightly she could have passed for a star. “I shall endeavor to prove your decision to be a correct one.”

“If there’s nothing else, Sir?” I turned away from the glowing Elara and glowering Jorgan to look at Garza.

“Not for the moment, no. I’ve allotted four weeks of R&R for your squad, Captain Martell. You’ve more than earned them.” Even Garza cracked a smile at that one, which was completely terrifying. I tried to purge the image from my mind as we exited the office and returned to the barracks we’d been assigned after escaping quarantine. I tried to plan what I would say to Jorgan, to prepare for the storm I knew was coming, but my mind was blank.

Blanker than usual, you mean, idiot.

Forex left first, muttering something about a political rally. Elara left minutes later, stating that she wished to visit the medical school located nearby. I did my best to appear distracted by an insect crawling on the wall, but Jorgan was a good enough soldier to know what to do when his target was square in his sights.

“Can we talk about something?” He flashed his fangs. “Sir.”

“Of course. Drop the formal crap, though.” I steeled myself for what was the come.

“How could you promote Dorne over me? I’ve been with the Republic for years and served it faithfully, even after the higher-ups screwed me over because your precious Havoc Squad defected on Ord Mantell. I deserved that promotion to make up for it.”

“You didn’t deserve that demotion, you’re right.” I started slowly, carefully. “But you aren’t the most qualified person to be my XO. I- “

“Maybe you have a problem recognizing officer material, then.” Jorgan’s face was as red as mine.

“Maybe you should shut the **** up.” I should have done a better job of keeping my cool but I really wasn’t in the mood. Not when this was my time off, not from the biggest killjoy in the Republic. “I chose Elara because her strengths are exactly what I need in an executive officer. Both of us aren’t exactly by-the-book, and we both have tempers that a Sith would be jealous of. I need someone with a cool head to offset that. You haven’t shown me that you can do that. You have shown me you’re a damn fine soldier, but there’s a difference between being able to fight and being able to command.”

His face darkened further. “I’ve held command positions for longer than you have.”

“In other units.” I stepped closer, until there was practically no room between us. “If you can’t accept that you’ll have to actually prove your command abilities to me, and that I won’t simply accept your egotistical sense of self-entitlement, then we are going to have a problem.” I lowered my voice until it was barely more than a guttural growl. “Do we have a problem?”

For a moment, I thought he would say we did. Instead, he took a deep breath and then turned on his heel as he stormed out of the room. As the doors slid shut behind him, I slid into a chair. Somehow, the fights with the people you cared about always ended up being so much more difficult than anything you’d see on an actual battlefield. I stayed there, stewing in my own juices, for another twenty minutes.

Then, I left to find a bar. Drinking counted as R&R too.
Finest mediocre fanfic this side of the Outer Rim:Trooper / Inquisitor

alaurin's Avatar


alaurin
05.30.2014 , 02:40 PM | #78
Wow, tough choice there at the end and you handled it very well. When playing through that part, I always thought that was a rough situation to be in. No matter what, someone's going to be hurt and by then (for me at least) Jorgan and Dorne were both considered friends by my trooper. You did a great job explaining the reasoning, something that I hope I'll be able to do when Mallay gets to that point in the Lauren girls story. Can't wait for the next part!!

DougTbx's Avatar


DougTbx
06.08.2014 , 12:31 AM | #79
This was pretty much the same reasoning I had for choosing Dorne as my XO, Jorgan and my trooper were too alike in temperament to have him as her second in command, one would get into trouble and the other was just as likely to dig them in even deeper
"What do you mean they blew up the Death Star? Who is they? What's an Aluminum Falcon?"

LordMatthewS's Avatar


LordMatthewS
07.19.2014 , 12:53 PM | #80
Interesting...
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