View Full Version : [FIC] Graduation Day
05-27-2006, 08:32 AM
Okay, the forums won't let me post the entire story in one post for some reason, so here's part one. It's my first stab at fanfic, so be gentle and enjoy.
Time froze. He’d heard of this kind of thing happening to other recruits and troops, but only in their war stories about how close they’d come to being killed by this snub fighter or that hovertank. Never in situations like this. Grey ribbons of smoke from charred stone and singed bodies still hung in the air, and he could feel the automatic blaster rifle in his arms begin to sag. Flashes of the thermoptic-camo suited troopers arrayed in a rough semicircle around him flickered in his peripheral vision. He could feel a warm breeze tickle the back of his neck--but he knew it was no breeze. Now standing so close the hairs on the back of his neck were waving back and forth with his breath, The Instructor was waiting for him to respond. The Instructor. He’d never even known his name or rank. He had been selected for training and this was his Instructor. That was it. Don’t question. React. Follow orders. No time to think in a battle, they’d relentlessly told him. But now, there was time to think. Now, there was time to survey his situation. It had all been coming to this, from the day he’d been chosen for the training.
“Is that it, Soldier?”
He glanced down at the small transmitter in his gloved hand, then raised his head back towards the Lieutenant. “Yessir.”
The Lieutenant regarded him through pinched eyes, then paced back and forth in front of him. A formation of dropships soared overhead towards the column of smoke several kilometres deep in the forest. The day’s main battle had long been over, but the mopping-up was evidently still continuing. Squads of troops were still occasionally double-timing it past him through the compound towards the gate in the energy fences and the air was thick with comms chatter, but the desperate air of impending battle had long subsided. Abruptly, the Lieutenant stopped only inches from the front of his assault armour, inclined his head and assumed the by-now almost mandatory stance for officers issuing orders--hands behind the back, eyes squinting, and back suddenly so stiff you’d think his hind quarters had unexpectedly met the business end of a force pike.
“Your actions today in the line of duty are truly to be commended. As you know, for years, we’ve been trying to locate the mobile base the terrorists were using, but only until your idea to bait them did we discover it. Tell me, how did you know they would not discover this ruse?”
“Well sir, I didn’t. I thought, as our patrols are so often driven off, the terrorists would be well used to looting our dead soldiers’ bodies for weapons and useful tech, sir. After replacing the frag grenades’ fuses with long range beacons sealed inside remote triggers, all our unit had to do was wait until the signals stopped moving, detonate the grenades and target the explosion for the air strike, sir.” The whole idea had seemed rather simple to him. So simple it was a wonder that no one else had thought of it before. But then, any trances of imagination or independent thought were usually squashed flat in the infantry corps. For years, terrorist cells had been occupying the outlying forest areas outside the picket zone around the urban areas of the main continent, leftovers from a failed coup that had been crushed in a matter of weeks. But after the space fleet had gone on to bigger and better things and left the garrison of ground troops to mop up the guerrillas, a petulant stalemate had resulted. The enemy couldn’t breach the perimeter of the picket zones and had no way off the planet, but neither could the garrison launch a serious counteroffensive of their own against an enemy that had proved frustratingly elusive in such a large search area. Ground forays into the forests had been attempted and repulsed with monotonous regularity, and new trooper squads had been cycled on and off the planet to gain live-fire experience for some time. It was a situation he supposed must be regarded by High Command as so minor an annoyance that the officers’ total tactical incompetence could go completely unnoticed.
“Well, I don’t need to tell you what this will do for the prestige of our garrison here. My report will of course mention your invaluable contribution to my success in this battle…“ Sure it will, he thought. And the sky is green, wookies are overdressed, and every dancing girl wants to bring a Hutt home to meet mother. That’s why I arranged for the frontline surveillance cameras to transmit directly to the long-range comms array as well as the HQ control room. Sorry, but it’s too late to edit me out of the picture. He smiled beneath his helmet. The Lieutenant droned on and on in his best “Official Business” voice. Officer training always seemed to emphasize speech-making far above military strategy, and he’d long since learned to mine these pompous monologues for nuggets of important information with a minimum of attention. As much as the standard trooper helmet’s almost opaque faceplate could be a liability in battle, it at least had the benefit that long-winded officers couldn’t see their troopers rolling their eyes during their speeches. The gleam in the Lieutenant’s eyes was growing ever sharper, and he knew behind that puffy red face was a mind already picturing the new rank insignia on his uniform.
Suddenly, a shuttle roared overhead and touched down softly in the clearing in front of the main hanger a few hundred meters distant. The Lieutenant’s speech stalled, and he raised his hand to the comlink in his left ear. He frowned in concentration.
“Wait here, soldier.” A Captain had emerged from the shuttle and was now making his way past the techs and support crewers towards their position near the side entrance of the duracrete monolith that formed the main garrison structure. The officers met barely fifty meters away from him, and although he couldn’t hear their conversation, he knew from the Lieutenant’s suddenly stricken expression what the subject must be. The smile under his helmet grew wider as the Lieutenant wheeled around, glaring at him in cold, impotent fury. The Lieutenant then turned and stiffly marched towards the entrance of the garrison, and after casting one final look over his shoulder like a kath hound that had been ordered not to fetch its favourite ball, jabbed at the door controls and disappeared inside. The Captain reached out and beckoned him over. That was how it began.
05-27-2006, 08:36 AM
Scorching twin suns beat down remorselessly through the choked and dusty air onto the line of almost-naked men. Only an hour after sunrise, and already the sand was starting to burn his feet. He and his fellow recruits were a week into their training and already the class was down to half the original number. His blond hair had been bleached almost white by the suns, his skin was beginning to crack and blister, and his eyes strained to keep focussed under the heat shimmering off the sands.
“Attention!!!” Despite their lack of sleep, the line was shocked into stillness and almost feral anticipation. The Instructor strode past the line, eyeing each recruit with a menace more palpable than a fleet of Star Destroyers. Angry scars criss-crossed almost every inch of the corded, muscular flesh visible outside of his fatigues, his close-cropped hair looked almost painted onto his massive head, and a wild, almost insanely predatory glimmer shone in his one remaining eye. The Instructor was supposed to be human, but decades of vicious fighting had built him into something akin to the bastard child of a rancor and a shaved wookie. He reached the end of the line, turned on his heel and began to address the recruits in a voice that sounded like a
“Yesterday, another five worthless maggots chose to leave special recruit training. They left because they were weak and useless to us! They couldn’t survive here, and they won’t survive in the kind of combat that you will all pray for. You have only gone through a single week and I assure you the fun is just getting started! If you leave here in eleven weeks, if you survive, you will be the most feared weapons in the galaxy. You will be a lethal killing machine with any weapon. Today, you slime will begin unarmed combat training. Recruit 17! You’re first! Step out of line and face me!”
Recruit 17. That was his name now. When he’d first stepped off the shuttle and met the rest of his unit, The Instructor had given them all a number and taken their names. In this unit you got your name back when you left, he‘d told them. Until then, you were referred to only by number. Every word the Instructor spoke was like a brick falling on his head the first day, and he’d only just begun to get used to it. Wiping the trickles of sweat out of his eyes, he stepped out of line and faced The Instructor, who for all the world looked to him like a tank squatting on the sand.
“Now, let’s see what you can do! Attack me, recruit 17!” Five minutes later, and after being unceremoniously dumped on his head ten times, he lay heaving and aching in a heap as The Instructor paused.
“In this Mandalorian fighting style, there is no one single blow. There are only combinations. 17, on your feet!” He struggled upright, gasping for breath as he wiped the lines of blood from his face. “Now, attack me again!” And again, and again, and again…
Bone-chilling cold. His breath smoked out of his nostrils as he peered through the macrobinoculars out at the frozen tundra that stretched out in front of him. He flicked a switch, and the EM filter hummed into life. Tripwires and scattered mines blurred artificially into view against the jutting, permafrost-dappled boulders in the rangefinder, and he mentally marked the lines of defence. Two huge sentry towers stood sentinel in front of the blast doors carved into the rock face of the mountain some five hundred meters away, and squads of battle droids plodded through the snow on their patrol routes. He zoomed in on the closest squad, and noted they bore a striking resemblance to the old-style Trade Federation droids from the clone wars. He frowned. Anything that old still on active duty must have been modded so extensively their designers probably wouldn’t recognize them, especially to function here in this subzero wasteland. Can’t underestimate them, he thought grimly to himself. Even droids as heinously stupid as their original models had still managed to kill thousands of clone troopers and Jedi. He pocketed the macrobinocs and slid back down the snowdrift to his equipment sled. Pulling the drawstring on his furred hood tighter, he contemplated his options. An hour ago, he had discovered to his disgust that his ion rifle had frozen solid, but the consolation was that the portable rocket launcher had incredibly remained functional. Hmm. Going to be really close, he thought. Stuffing as many ion grenades into his pockets as he could, he slung his blaster rifle over his shoulder and hauled the rocket launcher out of the sled. Slowly and carefully, he crawled on his belly back up the snowdrift. Brushing the ice from his eyebrows, he squinted into the rangefinder and zoomed in on the first sentry tower. He concentrated on his breathing--in, 1, 2, out, 1, 2, in 1, 2, out, 1, 2, in, 1, 2, out, 1, 2, FIRE. The rocket had barely cleared the barrel before he shoved another round in the chamber and fired at the second tower. Leaping sideways down the through the snow, he flung the rocket launcher aside as a huge turbolaser blast instantly vaporized several feet of snow and ice right behind him. Damn launchers, he thought, his ears ringing. No way to use them without giving away your position. Two muffled explosions sounded in the distance, and he scrambled back to the sled. Kicking the repulsorlift drive up the maximum, he sent it hurtling over the embankment and ran as quickly as he could around to flank the approaching patrols. No additional turbolaser blasts greeted him or the sled--good. Managed to get both towers. Blaster bolts sizzled through the snow at the driverless sled, and he primed his blaster rifle, taking careful aim at one distracted squad of battle droids. Four shots, and four droids fell in smoking heaps. The others instantly sent a withering storm of blaster fire in his direction. Great, he thought as he mashed his face into the snow. Definitely upgraded fire control behaviour patterns. Another muffled thud signalled the end of the equipment sled. Now there would only be one target on the droids' tiny mechanical minds. Lobbing grenade after grenade into his path, he leaped from one sparse bit of cover to the next. The blaster bolts subsided when he was roughly halfway to the blast doors, but he knew that was bad news. That meant the remaining droids were taking cover, retreating to better positions or trying to flank him. He would have much rather this batch had retained their previous models' suicidal determination when faced with combat, but all in all droids were only droids. He sucked in a deep breath and threw himself back into the battle. Ducking and weaving through the snow, he fired furiously at the defenders, sending more and more droids down into a hail of charred metal. Luckily, the sled had managed to attract the attention of the supposedly "smart" mines, and they were still clumped together near its ruins--easy pickings for an ion grenade. He began to feel a giddy joy spreading through him as he continued his mechanical slaughter. Fewer and fewer targets were presenting themselves as he neared the mountain. When he finally reached the blast doors, he silenced the last patrol with a burst of blaster fire and affixed the portable thorium charge to the polished metal and ran behind the remains of the smoking duracrete sentry tower. The vicious explosion ripped the blast door apart, and brandishing his blaster rifle, he leaped through the remains of the entranceway.
A huge bank of floodlights blinded him as he stood up.
"Two hours and forty-seven minutes. Two hours and forty-seven minutes from touchdown to mission success. Now that is what I want to see from each and every one of the rest of you!!" The Instructor loomed into view from behind the floodlights. His voice now calmed down to almost not deafeningly loud, "Good job, 17. Only two weeks and one more planet left. Keep it up!"
05-27-2006, 08:39 AM
Graduation Day. At last! He squirmed in his seat and pulled impatiently at his restraint harness as the scenery flashed by outside the dropship window. Four hours of flying time had chafed away several millimetres of skin underneath his freshly pressed dress uniform, and now the anticipation was almost tangible. Only ten recruits of the original forty had lasted as long as him, but he was alone on this flight. Ten pounds lighter but infinitely stronger and more lethal than twelve weeks ago, he was on his way to the final test. Nervous anxiety bubbled through him as the landscape dipped and bobbed outside, and he scanned the empty cargo bay in front of him. He'd been through desert, swamps, snow, ruined cityscapes, learned the basics of a Mandalorian martial art he couldn't even pronounce, mastered new weapons no other unit even knew existed, but still his heart was in his throat. The last test. What if he fouled everything up? What if he let them down...? Faces flashed in his mind. Faces frozen in shock and fear...descending...looking up at him...imploringly...mouths agape in unheard screams...no. He winced, clenching his jaw. No. Not now. He'd come too far. He wouldn't let them down again. He held up the small identity disk the Captain had given him on that first day...Recruit 17. Only for today, he thought. Today he'd get his name back. Leaning back against the bulkhead, the thrum of the engines vibrated through him, and he closed his eyes. These long flight were so boring...
...and he was standing on the observation pier on Centuri III. Aliens and humans thronged in the sunlight, chattering excitedly in a hundred different languages as the brightly-coloured streamers fluttered from every available surface. Cass giggled happily in delight as she swung from his arms, her blond ringlets flapping in the gentle breeze. Kelso ran in circles around his legs, following his swaying sister, almost tripping over his own brightly-coloured, oversized pants. The waves on the ocean under the pier lapped gently against the shoreline, and the musicians on the bandstand at the end were just beginning to warm up. Sunset was only minutes away, and the yearly Carnival was due to start, timed just as the sun set beneath the porcelain sky. Even the dour reports of increasing terrorist activity hadn't dulled the celebratory air, and reporters decked out in very unbecoming and loud garments clogged the entrance to the pier, cameras positioned to get just the right angle of the sun setting beneath the bandstand as the music started, signalling the week of indolence and good cheer.
"Did you remember the rec centre passes?" Sharilee's face suddenly appeared in front of him. He rolled his eyes skyward.
"Aack. No. Here, attack your mother for a while." He heaved the deliriously tittering Cass over to Sharilee and steered Kelso in her direction with his leg, although Kelso was still too busy shooting imaginary enemies with his toy zap-gun to take much notice.
"I'll just pop back to the hotel and get them. Save me a place in front!" He leaned over and kissed her, and momentarily her scent filled his nostrils. He leaned back inches from her face, taking in her smile. Red lips above the gentle curve of her chin, brown ringlets framing her blue eyes, and their daughter cuddled to her chest, suddenly silent and docile in her mother's arms. He turned and began to walk back along the arched entrance to the observation pier. He knew this part. Ten years, and always the same. Time always slowed and every motion unfolded in crystal clarity. Four steps back, and the Bothan lurched out of a doorway. Hair flattened, eyes wild. The Bothan roared past him, his leather garments almost reeking of alien sweat and desperation. Another step towards the hotel. The Bothan lurched through the crowd, spilling the assorted partygoers aside. Another step. Five suited soldiers raced out of the doorway and took pursuit. Another step. More soldiers. He turned, and saw the Bothan shoving his way to the bandstand. Sharilee, Cass and Kelso craned their necks around, nonplussed by the activity. He stopped walking. A hovercar tore screaming overhead, stopped at the end of the pier and the Bothan leaped into the open canopy. The hovercar turned back and swerved laterally facing the pier, and blaster fire stretched out from the soldiers. Abruptly, missiles spewed out from the hovercar, slamming into the pier's support struts directly underneath the squad of pursuing soldiers. The pier gave way, collapsing with sickening slowness into the water. He screamed in horror as the crowd began to fall. He reached the edge of the torn structure just in time to see Sharilee's face looking up at him in uncomprehending terror, Cass and Kelso writhing in air, mouths open, heads turning up ever so slightly, eyes wide, down, down, down, down...........
...he jerked back to consciousness and whipped his gaze around the gun-metal grey cargo bay. His muscles went slack as he slumped against his restraints. Cold sweat filled his uniform, and he tried to will his heart back down to its normal rate. Damn. The same dream after all this time. He'd enlisted in the military the next day, fought for ten years, killed countless enemies of the Order, gone through yet more soul-crushing training, and still the dream remained his constant companion. The breath rasped out of his mouth as the transport dropship slowed and began its descent. It touched down with a barely audible thud, and the clamshell doors hissed open. He struggled to regain his composure, loosed the restraint webbing, and strode down the gangplank into the dusty clearing. A lone camo-suited trooper stood waiting.
"Recruit 17! Come with me." He watched the trooper's retreating back and looked around. The clearing was a few hundred meters across, framed on either side by massive stone pyramids. Huge statues stood at either side of the entranceways in front of the pyramids, heads bowed reverently. Walking after the trooper, he looked behind him, and past the dropship the view opened up onto a vast, rocky plateau. The sky was not quite blue, but there was something distinctly strange with the air--not cold exactly, but somehow chilling. Somehow this place felt at once totally alien yet strangely familiar. The statues were looming closer as they neared the entrance to one pyramid, and oddly, he almost felt their eyes following him. It suddenly reminded him of a long-forgotten lesson in planetary archaeology he had never really paid attention to when he was a young schoolboy. There was an ancient planet somewhere that was rumoured to be almost...alive. What was it called again...? Korribus? Korrala? Well, Korr something. He followed the trooper to the open doorway in the nearest pyramid on the right, when he heard almost a whisper speak in his head: Korriban.
Korriban. Yes, that was it. He remembered now. Something about an ancient Sith base from the Great Hyperspace War era, all those thousands of years ago. The Sith Master Revan had subjugated the rest of the Sith under him and embarked on a crusade against...he couldn't remember who or how the whole thing was supposed to come out. Something about a Dark Jedi Exile who could rend the Force around him allied with the Mandalorians against both the Old Republic and the Sith, at least before the Mandalorians were wiped out. He couldn't remember the rest of that rumour, either. The ancient Jedi and Sith had both gone through civil wars sometime after Exar Kun's defeat, and those times had long since descended into myth and legend. He vaguely recalled the Hutts were somehow involved with a mysterious assassin droid factory that nobody could enter...but what that had to do with Revan or the Dark Exile was anyone's guess.
The trooper stopped at the face of the pyramid and turned to face him. He jerked his thumb towards the door.
"In there. Take a left, then a right, then straight on to the end."
He looked at the arcane symbols carved into the rock face, and felt a breeze float past him. A few seconds later, the breeze reversed. Now that was odd. Almost like the pyramid was...breathing. It occurred to him that he'd actually heard the word Korriban, almost as if spoken aloud. The closer he listened, the clearer the whispers became... he could almost make out words. Suddenly he felt uneasy, and apprehension began to fill him. He felt a creeping suspicion that advanced training hadn't been such a great idea after all...
The trooper had now walked very close to him. "You can hear them, can't you?" He could hear the smile in the trooper's voice.
"That's good. That's really good. They'll make it easy. Go on in. They're waiting for you." The trooper stepped back to the entrance and beckoned him forward.
05-27-2006, 08:43 AM
The light from the outside was sucked away after only a few paces. Lit torches burned forlornly at regular intervals, but the darkness in the stone corridor was almost tangible. It was as though the feeble light from the torches could only reach a few feet into the dark before it was beaten into submission and forced to stop its unwelcome incursion. Wispy, ethereal voices followed his every step as the strangely oscillating breeze crept back and forth. He felt like a rich tourist who suddenly found himself strolling through Nar Shadaa's grime encrusted lower levels under the hungry gaze of a thousand desperate and predatory alien eyes. Doing his best to ignore his growing sense of foreboding, he trudged ever onwards through the gloom. A left, then a right, then he saw people in the distance. Several of the figures shimmered in thermoptic-camoflague relief against the wall, but in the centre was a huge figure clad in ancient Mandalorian combat armour. His pace quickened as he recognized the bristle-cut hair of The Instructor jutting out of the armour, and he instantly felt relieved. He had yet to enter a building where The Instructor wasn't the toughest inhabitant. He reached the end of the passage, and The Instructor turned to face him, even more menacing and impressive in his Mandalorian armour. It must have cost a fortune...
"Recruit 17. Today's the day. Your Graduation. Only one more thing will prove if you really have what it takes to be one of us. Are you ready?"
He swallowed and hoped his nervousness wasn't that blindingly obvious. "Yessir!"
The Instructor reached behind him and handed over a massive automatic blaster rifle. He took the weapon in his hands and inwardly marvelled at the sheer weight of it. Do you fire this thing or just bludgeon people to death with it?
The circle of troopers then turned to the huge stone doors behind them, did something he couldn't see, and the doors creakingly slid apart. The Instructor stood to one side, and the circle of troops parted. He hefted the rifle, and stepped into a nightmare.
...and then time froze. The stench of burnt and rotting flesh assaulted his senses, and chained against the wall in front of him were rows of corpses. Jangling chains sounded from somewhere, but he couldn't tear his eyes from the bodies. Some were skeletal remains, some were in various states of decomposition, but most were fresh. Very fresh. Too fresh. Small children barely out of diapers dangled from their chains, some with tongues stretched out, some with their guts underneath them, all with huge blaster holes carved viciously into their bodies. Women in rags lay slumped upright, spread-eagled out against the stone, arms and legs slung limply beside the charred remains of heads and torsos. His gaze crept along the horrifying tableau, when he finally reached the end of the line. That was what was making the noise. No. It couldn't be. Three figures were chained to the wall beside the corpses. Eyes wide in terror, thrashing about madly at the chains but unable to move more than a few inches. Mouths working furiously at the gags. Smoke softly rising from freshly-scored blaster holes in the wall next to them. Blond curls matted with blood and sweat. Blue eyes wide with fear. Two children and one woman. No. It couldn't be. He knew it couldn't be. Sharilee, Cass and Kelso were dead. They were killed by rebel spies trying to escape the lawful authorities ten years ago. They weren't chained to the wall. Their eyes weren't pleading silently in uncomprehending shock. They weren't really here. They couldn't be. He became aware of a breeze at the back of his neck. But he knew it was no breeze. The Instructor. Right behind him.
No. Not like this. How...Cass? Kelso? No...no...and then a coldness rose through his body. Images of contorted bodies swam into his vision. The voices grew louder. Fear, hate, lust, greed, all began to wash over him uncontrollably.
Furious rage suddenly surged unbidden through him. He felt the blackest depths of a bottomless abyss rushing up to meet him. He was a speck in an ocean. Flashes of cruel malevolence shook him violently. An endless hunger, insatiable and unimaginably old but still somehow living reached out down through the aeons, and a wild, irrational hatred of all living things gripped his heart.
His hands looked darker somehow. The voices sounded like a thunderstorm roaring at the window of the cheapest shack. His vision was failing around the edges. He tried to look at Sharilee but couldn't see her clearly. The three thrashing bodies didn't look human. The hatred grew. He saw them like a raptor spying a grazer flock.
His face curled into a savage snarl. Chills raced down his spine, his heart flopped in his chest like a toad...but how could he? His wife? His children? How could it be them? What was this place? What was happening to him? The maelstrom inside his head was reaching a crescendo. His fingernails were turning black, and he could feel his finger tightening on the trigger, almost by its own volition...
Three perfectly aimed blaster bolts tore through the bodies. In an instant, everything was still and quiet. Steam gently curled from the wall. Shock and disbelief filled him, but only for a moment. Then a cold, frozen evil pushed away the doubt. Sureness of purpose filled him as his conscience breathed its last. Then the voice spoke in his head.
Well done, Rhazhal Khalee.
A gloved hand gently came to rest on his shoulder, and The Instructor spoke.
"Welcome to the Imperial Special Forces."
hands behind the back, eyes squinting, and back suddenly so stiff you’d think his hind quarters had unexpectedly met the business end of a force pike.
Nice fic man, I like it, very creepy. It seems almost like you wrote it from personal experience (a nightmare you've had maybe?). Anyway, nice job.
06-02-2006, 02:08 PM
Thanks, milo. :D
It wasn't inspired by a nightmare I had--more like just an idea that kept growing. I wanted to show a man descending into a nightmare through loss and grief, and how those feelings opened up the possibility of falling to the dark side. Sorrow became anger, anger became hate, hate became violence, etc. I was thinking about making his force-sensitivity more pronounced in the story, but it was just one of the ideas that didn't make the final cut. As with the "war on terror" going on today, I think the parallels are obvious, and too few people running our world remember how easy it can be to cross the line. One man's rebel is another man's terrorist. Anyway, thanks for the reply. :)
01-29-2009, 01:25 PM
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