[FIN]Star Wars: Victim of Betrayal
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VICTIM OF BETRAYAL
It is now three years since the epic battle of GEONOSIS. Republic Victory is finally in sight as is the doom of the Separatists.
Fighting continues on the battle-worn worlds of the OUTER RIM, but the Separatists have concentrated their attacks in the inner core, specifically CORUSCANT.
Meanwhile, on the uninhabited planet of CRYSM, Captain W-E5S advances towards his base along with the Jedi Knight SELIQA CAMMAN...
Chapter 1: Touchdown at Crysm
“All right. We’re here. Get ready, boys!” Capt. Wefive announced as the gunship lowered itself further down, navigating excellently through the spires and mountains. Capt. Wefive put on his helmet and secured it and loaded his gun. Light flooded the dark ship as the doors of the gunship slid open. Wefive got up and looked out at the mountainous world. Hues of red and maroon filled the atmosphere. It was just after dawn, and the skies were clear. A bright sun shone, rising to greet the lifeless world.
“Reminds me of Geonosis…” a trooper uttered, gazing out. “You have been there?” another asked.
“Not pretty. Was there in one of the later battles. The natives are worse than the droids.”
On the other door was Seliqa Camman, a Jedi Knight known for her excellent lightsaber abilities. She was a human, tan, with sharp brown eyes and shoulder-length jet-black hair. Her dark red robes fluttered wildly, but her gaze was fixed on the landscape. At her belt dangled a special, bronze hilt. It was five inches long and it’s blade orange.
“Base in sight!” she announced, looking at a makeshift base, teeming with clones and vehicles. “Captain, where are the caves?”
“Two miles past the base, in a canyon range.” He yelled. “Not many crystals for your saber.” Another trooper added, who was attacked by a sharp glare from Camman.
The ship came to a sudden halt at the base, lowering itself for better dismounting. The Jedi and other troopers stepped out and assembled. Seliqa walked beside the Captain. Capt. Wefive assembled his squad and stepped face to face with the Commander. The Commander surveyed the squad. They were ten in all, with the captain and Seliqa. He turned to a lieutenant. “Alert Magenta that White Squad is here.” He commanded. The lieutenant nodded and scurried away to the comm. tent.
“Captain W-E5S, your mission is to eliminate Separatist forces in the caves two miles south-east of base. You have the co-ordinates.” The commander then switched a holographic device that would give a visual representation of the plan. “The Separatist bases on the planet surface were wiped out by Shark, Black, Vase and Wedge platoons. We have sent several squads to eliminate droids in caves and mountains. Progress is going well, but we have lost communication with a few squads. We also have Commando teams here. Alright, Captain, your objective is to infiltrate these caves, here. The caves are natural, but the entrances were carved out by Separatists. Expect low resistance at the entrances. The exit, is at a small dock, jutting out of the canyon, here. Infiltrate through this entrance and clear. We have map that we received from Magenta recon squad. They will provide sniper support as necessary. Both the map and comm. connection to Magenta will be transmitted to you. Questions?”
“No sir!” the squad replied in unison.
“Then prepare yourselves. Watch your steps and good luck.” The Commander turned and proceeded to another section of the base.
Captain W-E5S called up the squad about ten standard minutes later, with the Commanders holo device. “All right, then, troops. I have discussed the plan with Commander SOY-34, we have clearance to use detonator bombs. Hope that makes you AA guys happy. OK, the map is divided into two parts. There are two chasms and the line dividing these two parts lies right between these chasms. We have a bridge connecting one chasm, we have to knock it out. The other side is covered by Magenta. The middle is where most of the Separatists are holed up. It has the canyon exit, and a jamming device. We have air support, so they can’t run from there. It’s a shootout!”
“We need to be careful, nevertheless.” Seliqa added. “They may be droids, but they’re smart. I sense a trap. Stay on your toes.”
The squad echoed in acknowledgment.
Chapter 2: Insertion
“We’re in. Spread out and maintain comm. Watch your steps and keep your eyes and ears out for droids.” Lectured Seliqa as the group slowly descended into the cave, through a red valley. There were rudimentary steps leading to the bottom and very few crystals peeking out through the mass of black rock. The clones turned on their flashlights, partially illuminating the place in white light. The clones kept shifting the center of the light, to effectively scour the entire place. Captain Wefive was at the head, his gun ever ready to shoot.
The first ‘corridor’ was some hundred meters long, from where it descended and spread out into larger caverns, some having water pools. As the clones entered the cave, Seliqa strode up towards Captain Wefive. “Be careful” she advised, “I sense concentration of droids. Heavy… maybe Super Battle Droids.”
“Have to be, General.” A trooper added, “We found no Federation Droid Ships out there, only SBDs can survive without them. The newer versions of Droideka too…”
“Wait!” Seliqa commanded. The squad was knee-deep in a water pool. A large pink crystal jutted out of the upper wall. Light reflected from it, lighting up the cave. From it was only one exit and one entrance. The latter was already checked, but the exit was where Seliqa now slowly crept. She motioned the squad to stay back and crouching behind a rock, peeped out. Ahead was an enormous cavern, in the middle of which was a natural, worn bridge. “Captain, we have the bridge in sight.”
Captain Wefive nodded and with a flick of his wrist, the squad slowly waded through the water. The room dimmed as the flashlights no longer targeted the crystal. Captain pulled up a map on his visor. Switching to inter-squad radio, he spoke, “Magenta, White here. We have Bridge visual. Report Location.”
After a pause, Magenta replied, “Minor resistance, no casualties. Proceeding to Chasm B.”
“Proceeding to Bridge. White out.”
Seliqa took the first steps, slowly crouching out into the corridor that led to the cavern. Captain Wefive and his ten-strong squad followed, switching off their flashlights. The large cavern was bathed in blue-white light that spread out from the broken ceiling. The clones were taken by surprise as detonation mines were set off at their end of the bride. The sound of the explosion was followed by yells and shouts from White Squad. Seliqa ignited her orange-bladed lightsaber. White Squad was not taking any more chances. In loose formation, they headed down towards the chasm. The explosion had damaged the bridge’s end considerably, making it almost impassable.
“General Camman, any chance you can use the Force to… uh… repair the bridge?” Captain Wefive uttered, looking at the crumbling bridge.
Seliqa seemed to be deeply observing the bridge. Bit by bit it was breaking down. “The droids were smart, for once. They must have demolitions droids here, SBDs can’t plant these. As for the repair, captain, I don’t think I would be able to. The bombs have blown the bridge to smithereens.” With that, she turned off her lightsaber.
A trooper scampered towards Captain Wefive. “White Squad reporting area clear, sir!”. Captain Wefive acknowledged and stamped the bridge. A large chunk of rock dislodged and disappeared into the chasm. Seliqa was deeply concentrating on something. Her eyes, closed shut opened suddenly. Igniting her lightsaber, she made a lunge at towards the edge of the chasm and swung her lightsaber hard. Miraculously, it hit an object, which exploded. It was a cloak field generator, a device that allows an object or a group of objects to be hidden in dim light conditions. A metal bridge appeared out of thin air. It was a compact bridge, probably built when the Separatists thought of building a base.
“A… Cloaking device! This large?” exclaimed an inexperienced trooper.
“Watch out. Let’s go!” ordered Camman and the troop rushed towards the bridge. The last half of the squad turned around to cover the back of the squad, while the front half scanned the forest of stalactites and stalagmites that lay ahead. Captain Wefive led the pack, with Seliqa at his side.
Luckily, it didn’t take long to cross the artificial bridge. Once crossed, anti-armour laid charges on the bridge and on the other side of the natural bridge, for detonation after the mission would be complete. “Clear it.” The Captain ordered and the squad spread out to secure the area. Soon enough, blasters were fired. The dark, large cavern was suddenly filled with red laser fire as the droids opened fire on the unsuspecting clones. Seliqa ignited her saber and unleashed her expert Form IV style upon the droids, slashing and destroying them. The form she had mastered, Ataro was an acrobatic technique, where the user would draw heavily from the Force to achieve almost impossible physical feats.
There were about fourteen super battle droids in all, strong, lumbering giants. They were damaged to some extent. The clones managed to take out a number of them, but Seliqa undisputedly had the highest kill count. The droids were smarter than their beige-coloured counterparts. They holed up themselves in the ‘chamber’ in the middle of the cavern. The ‘chamber’ was crystal-rich room, with walls of stalactites and stalagmites, some of which had been broken to serve as doors. The battle droids were well equipped, with blasters, high ammunition and a fat supply of grenades.
The clones followed them to the chamber and under the Captain’s command stood back and fired through the holes of the ‘walls’. Seliqa attempted breaching the ‘chamber’, but in vain. With clearance from the captain, the anti-armour team rolled out their own ion grenades and chucked a couple of them inside. The blast was spectacular. The green, blue and turquoise crystals shone brilliantly as the blue-white light filled the chamber in seconds. The clones pulled back as the ion grenades were known to damage visors, in some cases, permanently. When the brilliant light disappeared, the clones advanced, further this time. This time they rushed in and opened fir on the malfunctioning droids. Already sparks were flying from them. Some had lost their programming and had begun attacking random targets. As before, Seliqa was there to finish the job and slice every bit of living metal.
Chapter 3: Order 66
Two miles away, Commander Soy was inspecting the area map. Crysm was a very rough and jagged planet, with hardly any plains. The caves Captain Wefive had ventured into were connected to a dock, jutting out of a canyon. Clone starfighters were already patrolling the canyon, as were gunships and infantry units. His activity was disrupted by a clone sergeant. “Sir, you have a holocom message from Coruscant. It’s a group message to multiple commanders. It’s waiting in the comm. building, sir.”
Commander Soy entered the comm. building, which was more like a half-tent-half-cave dug into a rock face. Inside were several terminals for communication, voice and holo. With their fearless leader in the tent, the clones immediately made preparations. One of the clones placed a life-size-image holo projector in the middle of the tent. The Commander nodded and there was an exchange of nods. Soon, one of the clones pressed a button and the projector flickered to life.
It was the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, Chancellor Palpatine. However, he wasn’t in his well-dressed, charismatic form. He was in a dark, hooded cloak, which almost covered his eyes. His face, whatever of it was visible was pale, heavily wrinkled and his voice was slow, cracking and ominous.
“Commander, the time has arrived. As expected, the treacherous Jedi have betrayed me. It is time to finish them. Execute Order 66.”
With that, the message crackled in static and finished. There was silence in the room. Not one soul stirred. A trooper silently marched ahead and put the holo projector back. The Commander sighed. “Well, you heard him. Alert all squads, especially White and Magenta. The Jedi’s got to go.”
There was a series of nods as the troopers got back to work. The Commander walked out. There was a new enemy for him besides the droids. Jedi.
Meanwhile, Captain Wefive was at the second charm. Across the chasm was the sniper squad Magenta, consisting of three snipers and two troopers. There were hardly visible as the chasm itself was some two hundred meters wide. Seliqa was at the edge of the chasm, peering down. A trooper came by her side, his blaster in a more casual stance, “General, we still need to find the jamming device. We’re trying to receive this message that’s come from the base. Captain thinks it’s near the chamber we found.”
“With good reason.” Answered Seliqa, “The droids would only rush there together to protect something. There shouldn’t be any more droids, though, just supplies and the device we’re all looking for.”
Soon enough, Seliqa sensed the stash. It was hidden behind a section of spires, near the chamber. It had nothing but a stash of ammunition and an entrance to an underground cave, with a small jamming device. The device was about four feet tall and was scrambling communication within fifty meters of itself. With the help of the Anti-Armour team, Seliqa and her squad destroyed it. By the time the team crawled up, however, Commander had received Order 66. As the team regrouped for further orders, Captain’s comlink suddenly crackled to life.
“Captain Wefive. Order 66 is now active. Repeat, Execute Order 66. Report to base after execution. Base out.”
The entire team heard it, save Seliqa. The squad now had direct orders to eliminate Seliqa Camman or any other Jedi. Captain Wefive was an ARC trooper. He knew it was the wrong decision. “All, don’t fire!” he called out on his comlink. The clones were caught by surprised. Dropping their guns to a standby position, they turned to Captain, waiting a reasonable explanation. Captain backed away. Suddenly, loud blasters echoes in the cavern. It was magenta shooting from the other end of the chasm.
Within a split second, Wefive dived, taking down Camman with him. “Go, go! They’re out for you!” he urged and got up. White Squad got the message. Aiming their guns, they fired away, lighting up the cavern with blue lasers. Seliqa’s saber ignited and deflected a number of shots, but the lasers were too much. Wefive loaded a frag grenade into his launcher and shot his squad, delaying the blaster fire. There were few casualties, but neither Wefive nor Seliqa felt like waiting to count. With sniper fire echoing in their ears, they set off at high speeds, through the spires towards the dock. Seliqa slowly distanced herself from Wefive, but continued to follow him
“Where are we going?” she yelled.
“There’s an exit here! A landing dock. There were some speeders there.”
“We won’t get anywhere! The entire planet belongs to clones! They’ll kill us! What’s happened?”
“Order 66. The Supreme Chancellor commanded it, to kill all Jedi when they would betray the Republic!”
“The Jedi have not betrayed the Republic!”
“No, but the chancellor is insane. He has been talking of plans of an empire and telling us to keep shut!”
Seliqa dodged another sniper shot and dived for cover. The exit door wasn’t too far now. Captain waited a while to catch his breath. He switched on his comlink to base.
“Base, White here. Seliqa Camman is eliminated. Repeat, Order 66 is over. We’re heading to base now! White out.”
Seliqa got up and ignited her saber.
“It’s to put them off our tails.”
“And how do I know you won’t turn on me?”
“Trust me. I know the chancellor is crazy. I’ve always thought I’d be somewhere else when he gives the order, hell, I didn’t even think he would pass it. I’m an ARC, you have to believe me!”
“I believed the clones. They betrayed me.”
“You Jedi are too moody. Look, I’m doing this for your own good. You can slice me down if you wish, but I can get you further…”
With that, she resumed her run, followed by Captain Wefive from behind. A hundred questions rushed within her mind, but those would have to wait, for now her only goal was to escape Crysm alive.
Chapter 4: Escape from Magenta
The comm. tent was abuzz with activity. The execution of Order 66 was big news and one that would change the galaxy. Hundreds of Jedi were being shot down across the galaxy, some escaping the wrath, but facing it inevitably. The killing of Seliqa Camman had also brought and end to the activities of the sector and now all that was left was to eliminate Separatist activity and clear the planet. There were some twenty odd teams across the planet, clearing out the caves and mountains. Most radars had detected their zones clean, but it was the deadzones where the teams were sent.
It was mid-afternoon at the time Capt. Wefive had sent the message that Order 66 was successful. Commander had ordered all troops to return base, if their objectives were complete. Already, ARC-170 Starfighters were systematically docking themselves at a makeshift hangar in the base. Gunships rose and left the hangar, to aid the return of teams. Republic Assault Ships were looming above in the atmosphere, approaching closer every second, awaiting the mass boarding that would occur.
Magenta’s leader was furious. He was assigned to take out the Jedi, but apparently White’s lead wasn’t of the same opinion. Evidently, he was an ARC trooper. Magenta was now racing Seliqa and Wefive, almost parallel, on the other side of the chasm. At regular intervals, a trooper would get to his knees, aim and fire, unsuccessfully hitting dirt and rocks and then bearing the lead’s curses. What made Magenta lead even more furious was the message he received from base. It was a comm. operator, a novice. “Magenta Squad, Order 66 has been executed, return to base. Repeat, mission complete, return base. Base out.”
Magenta lead stopped in his tracks and initiated comm. with base.
“Magenta lead here. What was that? Order 66 executed? We still have White’s Jedi on our sights! She’s running with White Lead!”
“Base here. Are you sure, lieutenant? We received the message from White Lead, Capt. Wefive.”
“It was a trick. He’s an ARC, he’s with the damned Jedi!”
There was some silence on the line, interrupted by frequent static. The operator was talking with someone, probably of higher authority. After a while, he returned.
“Very well, eliminate both the Jedi and Capt. Wefive. Remember, the priority is the Jedi. Base out.”
Magenta lead looked at his squad, aiming and awaiting his orders.
“Alright, get your assault rifles and let’s go get those turncoats.”
Captain Wefive was at the dock door. He was struggling with the hard-coded lock system the Separatist security had installed. He was trying his best to slice in, but with no equipment and limited skill, it was no use. A few feet away, Seliqa stood, her hand towards the door, concentrating. After a while, she gave up the attempt and sat on a rock. Captain Wefive’s helmet was abuzz with curses and slicing techniques. “Can’t use your Force?” he called out, not turning away from the console.
“No. It’s a strange technique. Never learnt it. Tell me something. What had the Chancellor told you before? Any recordings?”
“No, general. He told us to erase and eliminate all recordings. I wouldn’t know, but I have a feeling he even commanded to keep and eye on us ARCs. He said that he foresaw a plan by the Jedi, to betray the Republic and turn on it.”
“What would the Jedi want to do such a thing?”
“They wouldn’t! I and lots of other ARCs know that. But the other clones are mindless slaves. They’ll do anything. He said that the Jedi don’t want the betterment of the Republic and they’ll turn on him. In his dream Republic, he wants us clones to fulfill the tasks of Jedi. To… wait a sec. Okay, got it. I got the code. Now just to…”
A soft click confirmed that the door was unlocked. A red panel on the door turned green. Seliqa got up and readied herself. Captain Wefive stepped back and reloaded his gun. With a nod, he proceeded to the green panel and pressed it, opening the door.
The bright, yellow light was blinding. Captain Wefive walked ahead, his finger on the trigger. Seliqa followed, shielding her eyes from the sun. It took time, but her eyes eventually got used to the brightness. Ahead was a large dock, a few speeders parked in it. It’s walls were of rock and at the end was a ramp that led to the surface. Wefive dashed for a blaster-equipped speeder. Seliqa followed.
As the two strapped themselves in, they began to discuss their strategy. The speeder majestically rose, it’s repulsorlift kicking into action. It’s well-used blaster cannons extended their muzzles. The hum slowly filled the dock, echoing through the rocky interior. The inside was quiet and the hum was considerably muffled. “Okay,” started Seliqa, adjusting the navigational controls, “We have the speeder. Now we need to make a dash for the… where?”
“Base. I’ll be carrying your dead body. We can get a transport there.”
“Too risky. If something goes wrong, we couldn’t last against a whole base.”
“There’s nobody there! You saw the strength. Some twenty soldiers, that’s all. You can handle them alone.”
“Sure we can’t find any other transports? What options do we have?”
“We can ask from help from some patrolling ARC-170 or a LAAT, but again, it’s a risk. And that means we’ll have to give up the speeder.”
“What do you think?”
“Base. Safer, but we’ll have to pull it right.”
The speeder advanced slowly, and turned towards the exit. Suddenly, the door opened and in came the armour-clad Magenta squad, their guns opening bursts of laserfire. The entry was rushed and fortunately, hardly any shot landed on the speeder. The speeder’s engines roared to life and it blazed out, followed by a number of blaster shots. Magenta followed it to the edge, aiming the speeder with their sniper rifles, but in vain.
The speeder flew in the Crysm skies, leaving a white trail behind. Seliqa had already taken to the guns, looking out for any potential targets. Wefive piloted the craft, flying towards the base.
“Okay, General Camman. Get off those guns. Dead Jedi don’t play with speeder blasters. Do you Jedi have some tricks for faking death?”
“Plenty. I know a good one, works great with Mind Trick.”
“Good. Use it. I’ll try to get to the hangar and steal whatever I can. You find a way keep yourselves and them busy. Oh, and unless you want be a really dead Jedi, don’t try anything stupid.”
“Alright, Captain. Hope this works out.”
“Honestly, I don’t think we have a chance.”
Chapter 5: The Infidel
The Republic Base on Crysm was very busy. The unexpected contradiction by Magenta had caused quite a stir. The Commander was now sure that the ARC was involved in saving the Jedi. He knew that he couldn’t leave either alive. Commander Soy had seen many battles and learnt tactical planning faster than most other clones. His unique style of strategy and efficiency had gained respect with more than one Jedi.
As soon as Magenta reported that Capt. Wefive and Seliqa Camman had escaped in a blaster-equipped speeder, he had put all starfighters he had back into their patrols. With that, he assigned all radars to track Separatist-ID vehicles, hoping to catch the speeder in the net. Unfortunately, the speeder was not of Separatist build and had a unique ID signature. Soy’s next tactic was to calculate the opponents plan.
Commander Soy knew that the two had to get off the planet, but all known Separatist bases had been cleared and destroyed. Wefive would have to return base to find a Hyperdrive capable vehicle. He could try to board an orbiting RAS, but the resistance inside would be too strong for them. Continuous communication would prevent them from hijacking any vehicle. Even they did find a plan that Commander Soy hadn’t thought of, they wouldn’t have the time and resources to pull it off successfully. With all his bases covered, Soy walked out of the planning tent. The twin Assault Ships were still in the atmosphere, blocking the sun. They were slowly moving South, after which they would land in a large, flat piece of land, for easy boarding.
The mountains echoed with the searing roars of jets of Republic Gunships, Assault Ships and a dozen ARCs. Never had Soy thought that Order 66 would be so difficult. A gun-toting trooper hurried towards the Commander.
“Sir, radars have spotted an airspeeder. Civilian.”
Things were going as the Commander had expected.
“Can you get contact with it?”
“Yes sir. We tried to identify. It’s Captain W-E5S. He says his squad was wiped out by the Jedi.”
The Commander nodded and walked off to the Comm. tent. The tent was busier than a beehive. The Commander walked briskly to a sergeant attempting to initiate contact with the speeder. The trooper directed him to the sergeant and the he, the Commander took the comlink in his own hands. He motioned the sergeant to initiate contact and waited for the other side to click. It didn’t. The line went off-air. With some hammering from the Commander, the trooper fine-tuned the frequency and tried again. The line got through. On the other side of the line came the sound of muffled engines and a radio-voiced trooper.
The Commander’s tone shifted, to a more threatening and commanding one.
“This is Republic Military Base Headquarter, Crysm. Identify yourselves.”
The person on the other line answered without hesitation.
“Captain W-E5S of White Squad here.”
“Captain, this Commander SOY-34. You were to return to base in a LAAT Gunship.”
“Commander, the plan didn’t go right. The Jedi massacred my squad. I convinced her that I’m an ARC and on her side. She believed me and stuck with me. I killed her in this speeder.”
“You did not establish contact with the base after executing Order 66. And you are not to ally with the enemy, even if it is a lie. You will be tried, Captain.”
“I regret my decision, Commander. But otherwise, the mission would have been a failure. The Jedi…”
“Were you aware that Magenta was at the scene? The snipers would have shot the Jedi even if she killed you!”
“Yes sir, but she used her lightsaber to deflect the sniper…”
“Just get to the base ASAP. I will deal with you later. What about the Jedi?”
“Her body lies with me. She’s in the gunner position of the speeder. Beside me.”
“Good. You will be heard at the Military Court at Coruscant, later. They’ll judge you right.”
“Very well, sir. Captain W-35S Out.”
The Captain hung up and the Commander stood. The Commander turned to face the rest of the tent.
“Captain W-E5S is a traitor. He has allied with the Jedi and supposedly brings the Jedi’s corpse here. Keep an eye on the speeder’s progress. When he arrives keep an eye on his activities, especially around the Hangars and Medical. Be ready to shoot him down, if necessary.”
The tent chorused an affirmative and the Commander walked away, knowing that a critical moment was approaching.
A few minutes later came that moment, which the Commander was anticipating. The airspeeder was in sight, at first as a dot, then growing larger. The Commander stood in the center of the camp, where the speeder was bound to stop. Beside him were five troopers, and a sergeant at their head. The speeder arrived, a two-seater with blasters and an excellent repulsorlift. It set down upon the dusty surface, it’s repulsorlift throwing dust everywhere, colouring the trooper’s armour red-brown. The black canopy opened up and Captain Wefive was seen shutting down the engines and carrying out last-minute shutdown operations.
The troopers rushed to surround the speeder and examined it. It was charred by blaster fire, at more than one location and it’s engines were damaged. The speeder itself was of an unknown built, but was about 5 meters long and slightly resembled a T-47. It was grey in colouring, with occasional black and yellow marks. There were two canopies, for one cockpit, which held two personnel. Captain Wefive hopped out and ordered the sergeant to check the other cockpit and deliver the Jedi “corpse” to the medical facility at the base.
The Commander approved the order and asked the Captain to meet him privately, in another “cave-tent” built in the canyon. It somehow served as an office. With not much of an option, Captain Wefive agreed.
The Commander’s cave led to a deeper bunker, furnished with metal and wires. Troops were at computers, radio chatter filled the background and the bunker was anything but silent. The Commander led Captain Wefive to his personal office, a makeshift one. It was a mere room, with a terminal, some seats and low decoration. The Commander sat in his seat and motioned the Captain to sit in a seat opposite to him.
“So, Captain W-E5S. Let’s hear your story.”
“We infiltrated the caves, as per mission plan. Things went well, but we faced heavy resistance in the central cavern. Magenta helped us though. There was some sort of a jamming device somewhere, cause the comlink stopped functioning.”
“That’s strange, Captain.” Marked the Commander, leaning ahead in his chair, “We were having excellent contact with Magenta.”
“The device may not have been extending as far as Magenta’s position. I received Order 66, however, just barely. My troops got it as well. We fired, but the damned Jedi began to slice us down. I knew that we would have died, so I pretended to be a turncoat. She had reason to believe me, since I was an ARC, after all. She did, and we escaped in the airspeeder. I led her here, and on the way, I shot her in the back and killed her.”
The Commander leaned back again. He switched on the comlink and changed the frequency to the medical labs. Once the line was connected, he began, “Medic, get me the medic on Seliqa Camman.” After an apprehensive ‘yes, sir’, the line fell silent. But soon enough, it came back, with a different medic.
“Medic, this is Commander SOY-34. You’re working on the Jedi’s body?”
“Captain W-E5S here reports that he shot the Jedi in the back. Any marks?”
“No, sir. And we checked the entire body. A few mild burns, but nothing fatal. The droids are in perfect condition, and yet the Jedi is… just dead.”
“Our droids are still analyzing and testing. It might be some time…”
“Alright. That will be all, Medic.”
With that conversation over, the Commander turned to Captain Wefive.
“It is obvious you are lying. Since one of our Assault Ships, the Garendator is about to leave in a few hours, I suppose it is best we put you on it and ship you to Coruscant, or Kamino, yes, that’s closer. We’ll get you to Kamino and you will have to answer before the court. Court Martial, that is.”
Captain Wefive sighed and looked down. The Commander leaned ahead.
“Why, Captain? Why have you betrayed us? No, why are you here? Why were you damned ARCs tasked with mundane jobs like that. Captain FD-342, or JX-073 could have been sent, but it has to be you! Damned coreslime. What the hell, just get your worthless body off that seat and take it to the hangar. I’ll have a squad to escort you to the RAS. Oh, and these aren’t your favourite greenhorns, their tough veterans and pure genes. None of your filthy ARC blood. Now go! You are dismissed.”
The Captain got up and through his featureless helmet, the Commander could see that the former was studying him. After a few seconds, the Captain left the tent. As he walked through the metal maze of a bunker, he could feel several eyes on him.
Chapter 6: Breaking through the Storm
Captain Wefive kicked the dust at his feet, as he waited for Lieutenant HF-32K to escort him to the LAAT Gunship waiting for him in the hangar. Beside were four troopers, standing guard. The Captain was stripped of any and all weaponry and personal shields. He now stood alone in his armour, his dysfunctional helmet in his hands. Command had switched off his helmet completely, so as to prevent him from contacting any accomplices. As the lieutenant walked into the hangar, the Gunship began humming and rose, it’s repulsorlift repelling the dust near the Gunship. The lieutenant got onto the Gunship, talking to someone on his comlink. Two troopers embarked the gunship and the other two poked their guns at the infidel Captain. The latter got onto the ship, tossing his helmet to a stash of ammo and weaponry. With the Captain on board, the last troopers boarded the gunship and the lieutenant signaled the pilot to start the engines.
The pilot replied an affirmative and got to working on the controls, but seconds past and the satisfactory blast and humming of the engines never appeared. After a minute the Lieutenant ran out of patience. “Pilot, anything wrong?” he asked, trying to mask his temper.
The pilot answered after a while. “Sir, this bird took some hits when arriving. The last pilot on duty probably didn’t report the engine damage to the technicians. We’ll have to get this fixed. Will take time, sir.”
The Lieutenant sighed and looked at Captain W-E5S. “Well, sir, we’ll have to pick up a new pair of wings.” With a flick of his wrist, he ordered his troopers to get off the LAAT. He initiated communication with base.
Meanwhile, Seliqa Camman lay on the medical bed, flat and hard. Her head rested on a pillow and she was clothed in Jedi Robes. Her skin was pale, almost as if dead, and she had no pulse. But that was simply an illusion. She was healthy and alive, though only force sensitives could feel her so. She had successfully deceived the clone medics who attempted to find a cause for her death before cremating her. Their research was in vain, for Seliqa went so far as to damage the droids and make them follow her will.
She was now alone and the only sound that came in the room was of the humming and beeping of machinery and droids. She had been left alone while the medics conducted other activities. She would soon be taken for cremation, which is where she would unleash her reality and escape the planet. She could sense that Wefive’s betrayal had been found out by the Commander and that he would be deported from the planet. She was just hoping that the Captain had managed to find a loose vessel for the escape. A gunship would be too large and unnecessary, which is why her hopes were pinned on an ARC-170 Starfighter.
Her chain of thought was interrupted by a sound of footsteps falling on the metal floor. Soon a medic came in, unarmed and naïve. He looked around and got to work at a lab station, with chemicals and computers. Suddenly, a jolt came into Seliqa’s mind. She felt a larger company of clones coming. She felt not the sophisticated perceptions of the Force, but the rawer instincts, the primal instinct of approaching danger. Her eyes opened in an instant and her ghostly white face returned to a livelier shade. Her pulse amplified.
She got up in an instant and spun out of the bed, alerting the medic. The latter turned back, startled, but not shocked. He had known through training and experience to expect the unexpectable and counter it. He ran for alarm, but magically slipped and knocked over medical apparatus. The alarm suddenly blew in a carefully timed sequence of events. As the sound of the alarm’s explosion died down, another rose: the loose footsteps of an approaching party. The medic got up, but flew off his feet into the lab station and was suddenly electrified as a computer beside him blew up.
The alarmed medics ran in and found the Jedi standing alone, the corpse of the medic writhing in electricity. In a frantic effort of survival, the Medics wielded their pistols, but were hit by a massive bolt of electricity from the computers, which blew up, one by one. The clones flew around the room like loose armour. When the noise died down, Seliqa crept up to a medic and salvaged his pistol and grabbed any piece of ammo on the clones. Being medics, off field too, they wielded only pistols rather than the bulkier blaster rifles.
Armed with a standard issue pistol, Seliqa crept into the corridors, and warily made her way through them. Most rooms were empty, some had injured soldiers. Seliqa’s naked feet made no noise as they stepped through the medical facility. Soon enough, she reached the entrance of the facility, a large door with four guards, two on each side. Before they could so much as seize the reality of her in their vicinity, they lay on the ground as cold, dead bodies. Seliqa was very careful about her escape. She was about to use the door controls to open it, but hesitated. She first needed to calm herself. Her heart was pounding loudly. A little too loudly for a Jedi of her class.
She crept back into the shadows and pondered her next move. Going out into the open with a blaster would be suicide. She would have to develop a careful strategy and either make minimum casualties, or maximum. She was hoping that it would be the former. But she could not bear the loss of her lightsaber. She had made it after she had sacrificed the first, when she was only sixteen. Her first lightsaber was constructed under her master’s guidance. It was a beautiful blue blade, which Seliqa was destined to lose. On a less important mission at Caldarb IX, she learned that the only way she could destroy a monster terrorizing the locals would be to crush his insides. Separated from her master, she sliced the monster’s teeth and guided her saber deep inside the monster and ruptured his heart. The monster collapsed and the saggy, yet tough body prevented the saber from returning. Her master praised her decision at such a critical point, and instructed her to be more careful the next time. Seliqa then made the lightsaber she eventually grew to love. The lightsaber was with her everywhere and she would do anything to save it. She did not want another sacrifice.
Captain Wefive prepared to board the second Gunship in the day. It was now early evening and the ochre skies had begun to fade into a sinister violet. With all the checks done, the lieutenant assigned on Captain W-E5S got onto the gunship. The gunship itself was restlessly hovering above the ground, ready to escape the confines of the hangar and make a run for it’s home, the RAS Garendator. It slowly started, it’s engines’ hum getting louder. And then, through some sort of instinct, Captain Wefive got a message that the time is right.
He jabbed the lieutenant with his elbow and kicked one of the guards. The other two wasted no time in opening fire. Before the gunship could touch it’s reputed speed, the Captain dived, grabbing a trooper and the lieutenant to cover his fall. Meanwhile, the gunship rocketed out of the hangar and realizing something was amiss, the pilot made a sudden 180° turn, throwing one trooper out. The last trooper used a bar near the gunship’s door to save him from falling. The gunship came to a sudden halt, outside the hangar. The launching direction of the hangars was on the opposite side of the base, which is why there was hardly anybody noticing the spectacle.
The last trooper jumped out and helped the fallen trooper to the gunship. The latter wasn’t too injured, so the former asked him sit at the gunship controls as a gunner. It was a radical idea, but nobody objected. The trooper, DA-816V was a veteran and knew much about the tactics and strategies to be used in battle. He then instructed the gunship lay in wait and turn off it’s engines and keep the hum to a minimum. DA then jumped out of the gunship and crept towards the hangar and jumped for cover behind a crate. Then, he peeked from the top of the crate.
As soon as the Captain had made his daredevil jump out of the gunship, he used the lieutenant too block his fall and with a strong grip over the other trooper, made him fall as well. The lieutenant got knocked out, while the trooper cried out and jumped to his feet. With his DC-15 he opened fire at the infidel. The latter took a few hits, but rolled and flung the lieutenant towards the trooper. The trooper’s repeated firing killed the lieutenant, whose body fell like a ragdoll over the trooper. The Captain rammed the lieutenant, bringing down both the corpse and the trooper. He then grabbed the lieutenant’s rifle and pistol. With his feet he kicked the corpse off the trooper. The latter kicked the lieutenant away and jumped to his feet. Before his feet could touch the ground, he was blown several feet away by a powerful, charged blaster shot by the Captain. The Captain staggered to his feet and placed the pistol in his holster. He then grabbed the dead trooper’s helmet and secured it on himself.
Subconsciously, he moved to think his next move. But by doing so he narrowly missed a thin, blue ray of laser that was aimed for him. The Captain knew that this ray was a sniper rifle’s and that the shooter was in the direction the gunship went. As expected, there was a trooper, reloading his sniper rifle. Captain Wefive dived for cover behind a metal crate. His position was critical. He can’t turn back now, the death of two troopers was no small affair. The trooper after him was the one that had been assigned on him. That gave the Captain another jolt. The gunship was nearby. Reloading his gun, he jumped out of his cover, missing another bolt of sniper fire. He opened fire upon the trooper, who instinctively sought cover behind his own metal crate. Before the Captain could react, he raised his hand, palm outstretched. It was pointed outside, and then made a sudden jerk in the captain’s direction. Immediately, the Captain knew this was trouble. Within seconds, a LAAT Gunship descended, opening laser-fire into the hangar. Intimidated, the Captain jumped to the far left wall of the hangar. The gunship slowly came in and masterfully directed it’s fire towards it’s target. The Captain stood alone, the Gunship’s laser fire about to incinerate him in a second. It was at this precarious moment that two rockets flew in from behind the Captain and hit the gunship straight at the guns. The Captain’s cover, a large metal crate, flew off as the last blaster shot hit it. Two more missiles followed the earlier ones, this time hitting the posterior part of the Gunship. Its fuel cells exploded, resulting in a massive explosion that even killed the lone trooper near the gunship.
Armed with a plain DC-15, the Captain looked back, at an ARC-170 Starfighter approaching him. It lowered itself as it approached the battle-worn Captain. The canopies opened up and Seliqa leapt up and backflipped to the gunner’s seat. The Captain jumped into the pilot’s seat. He closed the canopies, and suddenly another ARC appeared to the rear of the hangar, with a horde of clones gunning the starfighter. The second ARC fired four missiles for the other craft. Captain Wefive made a sudden start and the starfighter shot out of the hangar. The Captain pulled the yoke and made a vertical 180° turn, turning the craft upside down. Two more ARCs erupted from their hangars, their noses pointed towards the Captain’s ARC. The missiles trailing the ARC exploded inside the hangar itself, killing many. Captain stabilized the craft and made another sudden acceleration towards the sky.
The ARC-170 hurtled towards the golden-violet sky, laser fire following it.
“Two missiles, no three, wait… five missiles incoming!” Seliqa alerted, her eyes on the radar.
“We could have used a rear gunner here…” the Captain replied.
“Make another 180, maybe I fire the missiles…”
Before the Jedi could complete the sentence, the craft turned 180 degrees, and flew downwards, much against their enemies’ expectations. Seliqa fired the last two proton torpedoes in her arsenal, which hit two torpedoes flying for them. Three more trailed them. “Hit the sublight!” Seliqa yelled.
“We’re not even out of the atmosphere! We’ll die!” the Captain yelled back.
“Do it!” Seliqa ordered.
Captain Wefive set up the craft for sublight speeds with it’s ion engine, while the three proton torpedoes and a large mass of laser followed it. “Done!” Wefive yelled and the world outside the craft blurred out. The craft hurtled off, the atmosphere turned from violet to plain black. Once Seliqa was sure they were out, she ordered the Captain to turn it off. The space came back in a sudden jolt. They had managed to evade the ARCs, but a new danger had been formed. The massive RAS Garendator lay to their right. Shadowed by the sun, it looked dark, fierce and monstrous. The looks were not deceptive, as a swarm of ARC-170 Starfighters erupted from their hangars, directing towards the lone spacefighter.
“Go, go, go! Get a hyperspace route!” Seliqa ushered, her eyes on the RAS.
“There are a few routes, but the nearest is… Onderon. Close enough. Our hyperspace should be able to…”
“What are you waiting for? Get that route and fly, or we’re going to be brutally murdered in the middle of nowhere!”
“Just gotta feed this co-ordinate data… autopilot check… positioning…” the starfighter moved to the Captain’s whim, positioning itself towards Onderon. “clearing data…”
Time passed by as the Captain hurriedly made all of his checks. The starfighters began firing. Within a split second the world blurred. The distant stars spread to form blue lines and everything vanished into a blue tunnel, spiraling and twisting. Hyperspace had been initiated.
Both the Captain and Seliqa breathed a sigh of relief.
Chapter 7: On the Run
For the first time since his daredevil leap out of the gunship, Captain Wefive relaxed. It had been about two standard hours since they entered hyperspace. Onderon was near, only a few more hours away. Captain Wefive finally broke the ice and started conversing.
“For a second I thought I was gonna be dead meat. If you hadn’t come up with this ARC, you’d be the one flying away…”
“Not a chance, Captain. I’m bad at flying starfighters like this. It was luck that let me fly and the force that let me fire the torpedoes at the gunship. And besides, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I would have been shot down before I could even started making the Hyperdrive checks.”
“Yeah, well coincidence, luck and skill. The golden trinity for any damned feat. So, what happened at the medical?”
“Well, I broke out. Lot of people got fried, then slashed, then hit with their own blaster shots…”
“So you massacred them.”
Seliqa fell silent at his cold statement.
“You massacred them, Seliqa. Not a very, well, Jedi-ish thing to do.”
“I don’t know. It just had to be done, right? I mean, there were, like, a hundred troops crawling in that base. I couldn’t get past them without…”
“You should. You should find a way to do what you can’t. It seemed impossible for me to take out two troopers unarmed. But I did. I held off a gunship alone for like, thirty seconds. I…”
“You, would have been burned alive had I not been there.”
“We complement each other’s stupidity then.”
Seliqa fell silent once more. For the first time in her life had she been verbally defeated by a non-Jedi. It dawned upon her that she had much to learn still and if the ways of the Force are learned through a Master, the ways of the galaxy, life can only be learned from someone who has much of it, without the Force. The key to mastering the world, the galaxy is to learn living both with and without the Force.
“Come on, don’t be so grim. I just don’t like snappy Jedi.” The Captain joked, noticing the silence.
Seliqa smiled and nodded. “Well, even the best of Jedi Knights are foolish at times.”
“And I’m proud to have met one!”
Both laughed, even at an hour so grave. Seliqa resumed the earlier discussion.
“So, I found my lightsaber in a vault. There were other Separatist weapons and datapads there.”
“Must have been a safe, for the spoils of war. Don’t know why they keep them, though.”
“Maybe so that if their dead preys get resurrected and want their possessions back?”
“What happened to you, by the way. Standing off against a gunship and millions of clones is no easy feat.”
“Not if you have a million dumb clones. They bought the idea that I won’t rebel. Four troopers were to escort me to the RAS Garendator, then to Coruscant’s holding cells where I would await my trial.”
“Okay, so going to Coruscant is not a good idea…”
“No, but hey, you have the Jedi Temple there! They must be fighting off the clones!”
“Coruscant is almost filled with clones. They won’t… I don’t think they will make it out alive…”
“Damn, things are going down.”
“What happened to the Chancellor, by the way? I hadn’t expected him to go rogue.”
“He hasn’t. According to him, the Jedi have. It was in his plan all along. Wait… he knew he was going to get the emergency… wait, whoa! He actually commissioned the clones!”
“That would be going too far. He can’t plan that much, even if he’s a Supreme Chancellor. Maybe he… just got absorbed by power. Maybe he wanted to have the entire galaxy at his own feet, not at a senate’s.”
“Possible. He’ll be dictator. And that’s dangerous. The galaxy is going to suffer without Jedi and without the Senate.”
“I sense something more than this. There are more, hidden secrets beneath the veil. Perhaps we need to give it time to unveil itself…”
“Jedi riddle-talk” the Captain mumbled.
Time passed by and the lone starfighter raced to Onderon. Seliqa continued discussing with Captain Wefive about the Clone Wars, Chancellor Palpatine and estimated the number of Jedi that could have been lost in Order 66. While the Captain was skeptical, Seliqa estimated that the casualties will be less, as the Jedi are strong and can predict such matters. What surprised her, was that how cleverly Chancellor Palpatine had hidden his motives from the prying Jedi. Having a mind as strong as that was unusual in most beings, especially those who are insensitive to the Force. On top of that, the entire Jedi foundation was based on Coruscant, home of the Chancellor’s operations.
The topic diverted quite soon and the two were conversing on Seliqa’s trust in Captain Wefive. But the conversation had to be cut short as Captain alerted Seliqa that Onderon was near. Seliqa readied herself, her eyes set on the radar. Within seconds, the blue tunnel evaporated, into millions of rays, which seemed to grow shorter. And suddenly, the illusion disappeared as the starfighter jerked out of light speed and slowed to crawl. Onderon was dead ahead, but what was around it was more noticeable for the duo.
“Captain, the radar is showing… multiple units… starfighters, two RASs”
“So, how do we proceed?”
“I say we hit straight for one of the moons. Onderon must be watched closely.”
“Right… what are chances we’ll live through one day on one of those deathtraps? I would rather we get to Onderon, stay put, and jump off as refugees.”
“The clones will be watching…”
“Yeah, well we can enter each RAS, slice every living organism, blast the ship after escaping it, then repeating on every Republic vessel on Onderon. Not a bad idea, General.”
“Please, I’m a General no longer.”
“And I’m no Captain, so we’re equal now. We’ll get rid of those robes, the lightsaber, and you mask your Force thingies, and we should be safe on Onderon.”
“Sacrifice my saber for a getaway? We’d might as well hijack a civilian transport.”
The cockpit fell silent.
“I’m putting us down on Onderon. The longer we linger here in the middle of space, the faster we’re going to be burned, charred, tortured, and then killed.”
Accordingly, the starfighter’s engines blazed and it sped towards Onderon. However, their flight did not go unnoticed. Before they could realize it, Seliqa and Captain Wefive had five ARC-170 Starfighters on their tail.
As the ARC cleared the first stages of Onderon’s atmosphere, the warmth of a planet greeted the two. The forests, the mountains, the seas all became much clearer as the starfighter slowly changed its angle. Seliqa was observing the natural beauty of the planet when a change in the radar alerted her.
“Um, Wefive, we have five ARCs after us… Not good.”
“We’ll just have to evade them…”
He fired up the engines and the Starfighter rushed across the planet. The starfighters below escaped the radar, but appeared soon later, catching up with the starfighter.
“Are they firing?” asked Wefive, his eyes not leaving the controls.
“No. They just think it’s odd to have an ARC starfighter appear out of nowhere and fly above Onderon without greeting them.”
“We’ll have to land, Camman.”
“We can’t. They’ll get us before you know it. And when they find an ARC Trooper and a Jedi, I don’t think it’ll take long for them figure out things.”
“Yeah, well tell that to our fuel tank.”
The Starfighter slowly began losing height and its pursuers increased their speed, like Caxdatra birds going after a dying bird.
“Ready your ejection, Seliqa.” The former Captain notified.
Seliqa used the controls on the craft to ready an ejection seat. She knew Wefive’s plan all too well. They were to crash the craft and make it look as if they have perished in the crash. She had her own doubts on the success of the idea, but didn’t express them, as she didn’t have any ideas herself. Right now Wefive had earned her trust. He had saved her life in more than one occasion and she was willing to accept his plans and ideas.
The starfighter approached the trees. They were only some hundred feet below now. Their chasers were getting closer. Wefive suddenly turned off his engines, to make it look like an engine failure. He was almost hoping somebody shoot the craft and make a fuel leak. “Get ready…” Wefive signaled as the craft began to get dangerously low. Within a few seconds, he shouted, “Eject!”
The canopy, electrocuted, broke apart and the two seats shot out of the canopy. Wefive and Seliqa used their controls to keep the seats below the tree level. Slowly, they controlled the repulsorlifts to alight upon Onderon’s surface.
The ARC, on the other hand met an infernal fate as it’s wings, were clipped off by the trees, the fuselage collide with several trunks and eventually, the starfighter crashed, it’s belly wrecked, and brought down a dozen trees with it. Seliqa and Wefive, however, were already on the run. The starfighters passed above them as the two hid below a tree’s branches. They were careful not too let themselves visible, by distancing themselves and covering themselves with leaves. Once the starfighter passed by, the two regrouped and sitting on a lonely log, they pondered their next step.
Captain Wefive looked around, his hands on his knees. He took off his helmet and let the surrounding fragrance enter his nose. He inhaled deeply and sighed. Seliqa got up again and began pacing back and forth. Her eyes were intent, as if observing something, but it was impossible, since she was constantly moving. Shortly, she began to mumble. The Captain leaned back placed his helmet on the log. Through her fast words, he interpreted the Jedi Code. She was reciting the code over and over, as if she were in some sort of a trance.
“Chanting the Jedi Code isn’t going to get us anywhere, miss.” He remarked.
Seliqa continued pacing, ignoring him. Her forehead morphed into a frown. Her words increased their momentum. It was as if she was in battle, and had reached a critical point in it. The Captain learned that thee was not much to be gained from interrupting her. Taking his helmet, he got up and stretched as much as he could through his limiting suit.
“Hey!” he suddenly cried out. Seliqa was concentrating hard on her trance and didn’t pay heed to the Captain. “I heard something in those trees!” he said.
“Be back in a minute” he said and rushed into the forest. Kneeling down, he examined the fallen leaves. They were crumpled and torn. He had seen the leaves fall, but what caused them to was beyond his reckoning. In any case, he knew that they weren’t alone. He reloaded and cocked his rifle. With one hand, he put on his helmet and took a few steps back.
“Seliqa, watch out. We, are not alone.”
Seliqa’s eyes were closed. Her chant descended to a whisper, and then disappeared. At last she opened her eyes and fixed them at the forest. Her lightsaber floated to her hand and ignited. She took up her stance, looking out. Wefive, realizing that Seliqa had lifted herself from her trance, nodded at her and scanned the forest. Seliqa turned off her lightsaber. The Captain, surprised, was about to remark, but decided against it. “I sense no enemies.” Seliqa said. Wefive answered with a sigh and shaking his head.
A man came out of the forest, from behind a tree. He wore a forest camouflage suit. It was a light, padded armour, green and brown. He looked nearly middle-aged, accentuated by a full grown beard and moustache. In his hand was a blaster, one of the older varieties and on his belt were first-aid supplies and a hunting knife. “Not many Jedi in these parts” he told the duo for an introduction. He had a strange, winding accent.
“My name’s Esnaw. Esnaw Repol. I’m a… beast rider.” He turned to the Captain. “And my Desna’am is what alerted you, stranger.”
Seliqa nodded. “I am… Seliqa Camman, a Jedi. This is…”
“Leffar Benike, bounty hunter.” Captain lied.
“A bounty hunter, a Jedi? Unusual pair, but anything’s possible in this galaxy. Your extraordinary method of alighting upon our territory was what alerted me and my beasts. Not many prefer to crash their craft into the forest after ejecting it.”
A gentle smile spread out Seliqa’s face. “We’re on… a secret mission. A bounty, you can say. A rather unusual one, though. We’re looking for other Jedi. Until we find them, we cannot turn on each other.”
“Damned Jedi…” Captain mumbled.
“And some syndicate is after us, in those starfighters.”
“I’ve heard of a war, that Jedi are fighting on this planet. It’s mostly at Iziz or the space, however…” the beast-rider commented.
“Iziz?” Seliqa asked, innocently.
The beast-rider watched as a hound-like creature came by him and whined at his feet. He spoke something to the animal in a native language and the dog scurried away.
“It is not safe to speak here, in the middle of the forest. Our village is a little far from here, and our swoop bikes were destroyed by a perfect example of an imbecile. Me and my hunting crew have set up a camp nearby. Please, come with me. You will be safe there.”
“I would be honoured.” Seliqa answered and began following the beast rider. The Captain followed them, after a brief delay.
Chapter 8: Unexpected Developments
The infuriated Commander was busy admonishing lieutenants and captains when an unanticipated hologram message was redirected to his terminal. He gave a cold stare at his subordinates before accessing the message. The hologram broadcaster lit up a blue figure. It was a Clone Captain, boss of the renowned RAS Bayonet. He was nodding to a message in his helmet for some time, before diverting his attention to the Commander. The Commander made the first move.
“Captain DQ-92I, this is Commander SOY-34, you may proceed.”
“Commander, the RAS Bayonet is stationed at Onderon and we have detected a lone starfighter emerging out of hyperspace, from your direction.”
“A lone starfighter? Where did it go?” The Commander was trying his best to pretend to be naïve.
“It was an ARC-170, jumped out from a hyperspace route connecting Delfahera and Onderon. We could not establish contact with it. It headed towards Onderon, without making any violent approach.”
“It must not have come from here. It… it must be a stolen ship. Mercenaries, smugglers, underworld operators. They steal Republic equipment.”
“Or, it could be Jedi attempting to escape Order 66.”
“Unlikely. Every ARC-170 is heavily guarded by clone troopers. They will fire on sight. What did you do to the ship?”
“It’s pilot committed suicide. Onderon’s forests. Either that, or his engines overheated.”
The Commander flinched. For the first time in the military life, he flinched. He realized that the rogue Captain and the Jedi had not only evaded him, but had humiliated his power, his authority and gotten away with it. He knew that the two had not committed suicide, but had obviously used it to put the Republic off their tail. He had hoped that The Bayonet would have taken the starfighter down, but recent developments had changed everything. He now had to rid the galaxy of the Jedi, or the incident would taint his conscience and his career for years to come.
“Commander SOY?” the awaiting Captain said, noticing the Commander’s unusual reaction. “I am sending teams to investigate the crash, locate and identify the bodies. I will notify you after that has been done.”
After a brief delay, the Commander spoke, “Will do. Commander SOY-34 Out.” The hologram sputtered before dying.
The clones in the room looked uneasily at the Commander, who had his arms together, his gaze on his desk. He was contemplating the next manoeuvre in this game of dejarik. He had cleared his enemy’s pawns, and now only the elusive king and queen remained. And he would not rest till he had won the game.
Seliqa helped herself to the second serving of Valeupol, an exotic Beast-rider dish that featured the meat of Valeunallis, a local bird and other herbs and spices. An old beast-rider was entertaining the party with his hunting tales and dishing out information to Seliqa. She had learned the trick of effective manipulation without using the Force. She had to get information about the area, but not in a method that would alert and possible provoke the beast-riders. Instead, she was using the old man’s enthusiasm to her advantage, mixing local news with ancient folklore. The Captain seemed rather distant and ate one serving, before leaving the campsite to retire. Seliqa listened to the old man, Neiopa’s stories and learned much.
The clones had secured Iziz as a stronghold, while the Separatists were using several beast-rider settlements and staging a strike on the walled city of Iziz. The clones had done a good job of protecting Iziz, but there had been one particular day, when one wall was near falling. The Republic managed to send a team of elite Commandos to infiltrate a Separatist base and disable their weapon, a powerful rocket-equipped tank droid. The Commandos destroyed the droid and escaped in time, never to be seen again on Onderon. The other troops then staged a counterattack on the many Separatist strongholds across the outskirts of Iziz.
“So did the beast riders help Iziz?” Seliqa asked, donning the face of a curious, young girl.
“Why, the beast riders wouldn’t dare interfere in such large-scale wars. It’s just beyond us. We live life quietly and some go to work at Iziz and other cities. But don’t consider us one of those rural fools who know nothing about the galaxy. Believe me, Jedi, there have been several riders who have made their mark outside the planet.”
“I’m sure they have.”
As the old man continued the story, Seliqa listened, her eyes reflecting the vivacious fire. On the very next day, the Separatists received reinforcements and renewed the battle. The larger battle was going on above the planet, however. Spacefighters fought each other thousands of miles above Onderon, the massive RASs, the numerous starfighters and the Separatist army that never ceased to bring reinforcements. Eventually, the Republic learnt of a nearby droid factory on the urban world of Sirattannam. With the factory destroyed and the area secured, the droid forces lessened in the sector. Soon enough, the droids were lesser and lesser. The ground forces became extinct and the clones gradually evacuated.
Seliqa did not stop here, she asked Neiopa on local happenings, the common feuds, the menacing beasts and extracted information on how to make a lethal strike on some of them. Most of the beast-riders retired early into their portable tents, while some discussed matters, often in their native tongues. Eventually, Seliqa got the hint that Neiopa was feeling tired and needed rest, so he left her for his portable tent. Seliqa sat on the log she was sitting on all this time. As all other riders had, she tossed her makeshift paper plate into the fire. She sat all alone, thinking about the Captain who had turned against his brothers and his vow, only to help a Jedi in her time of need. She thought about the Chancellor and his cruel assault on the Jedi. The whole idea of him planning the order seemed too far-fetched to her. But she could no longer deny the magnitude of damage the lone command could do. She imagined the Jedi order, the very organization she had grown up in and believed in, die a sudden death. Several Jedi died, gunned, destroyed, their lives lost. It was a shock and Seliqa had to cope with it, or die trying. Exhausted, she got up left for an empty tent.
The next day, when she opened her eyes, Seliqa saw that the sky had not yet turned blue. It was instead a rather dark blue, hinting at dawn. She got up and out of her tent. A few beast-riders were already out, some stretching, the others gathering equipments for the days breakfast hunt. She went to the Captain’s tent and peeked in. There was nobody inside. Instead, she heard a voice, a familiar one. It was Esnaw. “Looking for the bounty hunter, master Jedi?”
A polite smile spread over Seliqa. “Yes. He is not known to getting up early.”
“Well, ma’am, we riders get up real early. Early morning hunt, treks and all that. I’m not sure I sighted your… uh, friend.” He smiled upon the last word.
Seliqa returned the smile. “Well, we have much to do and we need to get to Iziz, or any city nearby.”
“The nearest is Iziz, yes. But it’s not near enough to traverse to on foot. You’ll need some vehicle and I’m not talking about a Falkachet or an Anonnae. Those beasts are rare in these parts. We’re trekking back to our town, Bashunash. There must be a few speeders there we can spare…”
“Will do, sir.” With that, Seliqa left Esnaw and strolled out of the camp. Outside the camp, the Captain was talking to a beast rider. He was unarmoured and the beast rider he was conversing with held the bulky armour in his hands. After coming closer, Seliqa learned that the Captain was trading clothing. In return for the clone armour, the rider was offering his light, yet protective forest suit. The rider then retreated to his tent to change, while the Captain, in simple red clothing stood facing a nearby lake, his hands at his back and his chest high. Seliqa stood beside him.
“Wise option, Wefive.”
“Yeah. You’re wearing the rider’s clothes though. You can’t hope to enter a bustling city in those robes and get away with it.”
“And what about you? You’ll be rather vulnerable.”
“Believe me when I say this, Camman. I’ve been in more critical, more vulnerable and definitely more dangerous moments than this. I’ve had to defend a hill against a thousand droids. I’ve had to enter a nest of Geonosians alone and without ammo. I’ve had to swim ten thousand feet to the surface with heavy equipment.”
“I respect you, Wefive. You’ve really been through a lot. Maybe, you’re more experienced than me as well!”
The captain turned as he heard some radio-voiced chatter. It was the rider with whom he had bartered his armour.
“Hands up, you two! The Republic has you now!”
Wefive made a small chuckle and instructed him on the use of the helmet and gave him pointers on when and where to wear the armour. Seliqa took the beast rider armour and left for the camp. She arrived a few minutes later, wearing the suit. It was a little oversized and she looked odd in it, but it had to suffice.
Meanwhile, dark operations were afoot on the RAS Garendator. A recon squad, that of the illustrious Recon Leader Xydan had arrived, fresh from their latest operation in a cluster of Separatist mines on Crysm. Xydan arrived, in his special, grey-white armour. In the briefing room were Commander Soy, Lieutenant CL-441 alias Calladar and Lieutenant FRE-B40 alias Ferbazor. As Xydan entered the room, it’s occupants rose and saluted. Xydan returned the salute and took a seat, accepting the Commander’s gesture. Xydan’s subordinates, Recon 1R-83 alias Irtan, Recon B14-394 alias Blade and Recon JQ6-458 alias Jesqas soon followed.
Once everyone were on their seats, the Commander rose to address. “Recon Squad DY44, your actions have been recognized all over the galaxy and the code DY44 has become not just a Recon Squad name, but a legend. Your actions have shaped the face of the war and have turned its tide more than once. I call you once more for an operation, a mission that may decide the fate of the Republic.
You must realize, however, that this is a covert operation and its details shall not escape this room. During your last mission, to the HO870 mines, Order 66 had been executed. Unfortunately, an ARC trooper accompanying a Jedi turned on us and helped the Jedi destroy his own squad, as well as the nearby Magenta squad, designation MR93. Unfortunately, he slaughtered his own brethren in the Cavern. We… tracked him down with the help of Magenta, but he escaped. He stole a Separatist hyperspace-capable starship from the Separatist base and escaped us.”
“That is impossible, sir. There are well over four hundred troopers on this planet and numerous satellites are orbiting it. An escape by a lone Separatist vehicle is… unthinkable.”
“The satellites had been cleverly disabled by another defector, possibly lurking on that planet. I have my men working on it. Your objective is top secret, and equally important. We suspect the defectors escaped to Onderon, a nearby forest world, inhabited. You are to enter the planet and find any whereabouts of the defectors, or their ship.”
Lieutenant Calladar rose, as the Commander sat back. Callader continued, “We have calculated the approximate landing locations, considering the vehicle’s hyperpace, engine and other capabilities. We also used the planet’s rotation and revolution data, coupled with data on incoming and outgoing vehicular traffic from the Republic satellites at Onderon. The RAS Bayonet is stationed there, by the way. I’m transmitting the data to you, includes co-ordinates and distance data.”
Xydan nodded as his visor lit up with message alerting him of an incoming transmission. Calladar sat, and nobody rose this time. The Commander spoke. “Recon Leader, it is of paramount importance that we secure the location of the Jedi and the defector, Captain W-E5S. You are to find the rebels and assassinate them, when appropriate. Do not fail me, DY44.”
The assembly then discussed more regarding the Jedi, the Captain, their personalities and was briefed on the environment and structure of Onderon. Commander Soy tried his best to keep the truth as buried as possible. It was strictly forbidden to execute vendettas in the army, but the Commander’s future depended on it. After more discussion the party rose, saluted and left the room. Xydan and his squad, the DY44 left for the hangar, where their starfighters awaited. A long day lay ahead of them.
Chapter 9: DY44's Advent
It had been three hours since Esnaw had official started the trek back to Bashunash. Seliqa and Wefive were trudging alongside the beast-riders, elevated above the forest canopy. They know hiked through a hilly region that distinctly stood out, if seen at the horizon. There was rudimentary path, yellow from overuse, on which the party marched. When Seliqa reached the top of the hill, barely a half a hundred feet above sea level, she could see the true extent of the path. It went down, only to reappear on another hill and then traveled east with the range. Seliqa’s eyes followed the path east. The path then went level for sometime, before rising and going north again, the direction the group was traveling. According to Esnaw, Bashunash was a few miles north-east to the northeastern tip of the range they were traveling on.
For the first time since their great escape, Seliqa could see the Captain’s facial features. The face that had been hidden behind a Clone mask for several hours had been revealed. Seliqa had hoped that he would look different from other clones. It was a mild expectation, which was squashed when she saw the Captain’s face like that of any ordinary clone. It was the same chocolate of Jango Fett, scarred and blemished. His face was grave, as if in regret, or as if he could foresee a great danger. His eyes were wary, constantly darting to check every movement. It wasn’t surprising, considering that the Captain was a veteran and had seen more than his share of combat. Even he was against it, his senses would be ever-watchful for traps, enemies and just about anything that was to threaten his survival. He marched almost militaristically.
Another hour passed and the party now trekked upon the sloping, winding path into the taller hills. They had passed the path’s turning east and then back north. The path was not only but a long ledge sticking out of a hill’s sharp surface. A constructed railing prevented injury, for most people at least. To the right was another hill, out of which some unusual trees had grown horizontally. Some had even taken support of the railing. The distance between the railing and the surface of the other hill was roughly two feet. And below lay a vast chasm, green and yellow, where nobody dared to look. After about half and hour, the riders lumbered down the hills, onto a plateau, roughly a hundred feet above the ground. It was, like the rest of Onderon, dense with vegetation. At the end of it, the path became more civilized and journeyed downwards, overlooking a large river, with a metal bridge across it. Before it was a large clearing.
When the first beast-rider arrived at the edge of the plateau, he called out to Esnaw. The latter ran up to him and looked out with binoculars. When the rest of the party regrouped, Esnaw turned back to Seliqa. “Well, Jedi. It appears you are in luck.” Seliqa took the binoculars she was offered and looked down the plateau, towards the bridge. The bridge was about three hundred feet long, and on it was hovering an airspeeder. It was a rather new build, long and with an optional canopy. Inside sat a pilot, unmasked and in beast-rider clothing. The airspeeder crossed the bridge and made it’s way to the top of the plateau in a few minutes. It levitated a good four feet above the ground and as Wefive reckoned, it was capable of flying upto a hundred feet in air, maybe more.
The airspeeder steered towards the riders as it slowed near them. Inside was the beast rider Esnaw and the scout had spotted. After making some end-engine adjustments, he jumped out and casually made his way to the party. He leaned back on his speeder and surveyed the team. It comprised of roughly 10-15 people.
“Forgot how to run speeders again?” he joked.
“Some mechanic” Esnaw replied, turning to one of party members, “apparently didn’t do a good job of fixing them up, after we were attacked by a herd of Falkachets.”
The pilot chuckled. “And the Jedi? You pick her up at a Jedi Survival Camp?”
“What? What do you mean?” asked Esnaw, confused.
The pilot chuckled again. “Been to Iziz yesterday. Clones shooting Jedi. Saw it with my own eyes. The clones said that it was none of my business, but looks like someone doesn’t like Jedi. And, there’s a lot of money to be made…” he said, looking at Seliqa with a smirk drawn out across his face.
“Shame on you, you traitor!” cried out Neiopa, “How dare you think of turning over a Jedi? Do you not know that we survive because of Jedi? How greedy can you get, Sadarr?”
“Yeah? Well, where were the Jedi when those droids bombed Nattoyan? They were obviously preaching at Coruscant while my parents, my sisters and my brothers were burned by their blasters. Where were you, Jedi?”
Seliqa stepped ahead before anyone could answer. “The Jedi are limited. We couldn’t be everywhere. I apologize for your loss, Sadarr, I…”
“How the hell do you even think of speaking my name? You don’t even know who I am. And now you apologize to me! What do you have to apologize for? The Jedi doesn’t care about us, the…”
Wefive lost his temper. His face twisted by rage, he strode angrily to Sadarr and getting hold of his throat, pushed him into the speeder. Overcome by surprise, Sadarr gawked and fell in without resistance. “The Jedi don’t care, do they? Well, I don’t care either. In fact, I wouldn’t care to see you die in agony here, today.” He shouted out to the bewildered Sadarr. Sadarr came to his senses and dodged Wefive’s punch and ramming him with his body, he threw Wefive off the speeder.
When Sadarr got to his feet, he was welcomed by a flurry of punches, before Wefive was jerked back by Seliqa’s command of the Force. Wefive got to his feet, but Seliqa was ahead of him. Sadarr, sore from his beating cried out enthusiastically and charged for Wefive, but was stopped by Seliqa, who used the Force to keep him from reaching either Wefive or herself. In a calm voice, she apologized.
“I am sorry for the behaviour of my companion. He is a rough man, and prefers urban centers to forests. He is a bounty hunter…”
“He ain’t no damned bounty hunter!” Sadarr retaliated. “He’s a clone! One of those independent thought ones, maybe. Just look at his face!”
“Well you’ve got no business with me, so let’s drop this!” Wefive yelled back.
Esnaw, who was watching the spectacle now stepped forward and consoled Sadarr, who, out of frustration shrugged him off and jumped back into his speeder. Esnaw leaned over his speeder. “Come on, Sadarr. He’s just a hothead. And we, well, we need your speeder.”
“What for?” Sadarr asked, sulkily switching on the engine.
“You can walk home tonight, enough speeding for one day. We have an injury in out party and we need to heal him up fast. We fear the worst…”
Sadarr didn’t reply, but his speeder hummed and rose. After some time, it dropped low again and with a sigh, Sadarr jumped out.
“I came here for some hunting. Any kills?”
“We’ve got raw Vanoe and Cannok skins. Come on, we’ll hunt some more and let the Jedi be on her way.”
Seliqa politely bowed as she received the speeder codes from Sadarr. It didn’t take long for Wefive to figure out that Seliqa wasn’t as innocent as she pretended to be. She had obviously used her tricks on Sadarr. Wefive hopped in and the speeder rose, before shooting out over the trees at four hundred miles an hour.
DY44 was known to do its job quickly and efficiently. The Team leader, Xydan had developed a code of operation in his team. With this code, the team would achieve it’s objectives by whatever means necessary, “knot the loose ends” and leave the battle in a breeze. Although it wasn’t against standard procedure, Xydan had instructed his team to maintain silence and speak only when necessary. The team often realized the actions they were undertaking without the need of speech. DY44 was a perfect epitome of the proverb “Actions speak louder than words”.
DY44’s Special Recon Starfighters, codenamed UR14’s dropped down the Onderon atmosphere and hurtled towards the forest canopy. These UR14 Starfighters had been developed at Kuat, and their blueprints had been designed off the new Jedi Starfighters. These UR14s were shaped like sharp, thin arrowheads and were slimmer than the older Jedi Starfighters. Like the Jedi Starfighters, they were equipped with vertical fins, larger than the Jedi crafts and curved concavely. To the rear was one ion drive engine, along with two boosters to give the URs speed that allowed the Recon to move in and out of battle zones swiftly.
The four UR14s dropped down into a forest clearing some fifty metres away from the crash site. Turning off the engines and turning on the shields, the four troopers got out of their starfighters and regrouped at one edge of the clearing. After some routine checks, the team advanced to the crash site. The crash had certainly taken down a number of trees with it. In a clear line behind the wrecked starfighters was a trail of broken and fallen trees. The starfighter itself was highly damaged and ruined. It’s canopy was open, with no glass. Having much recon experience, Xydan first climbed the three wings and started with the cockpit. As he had suspected, there were no glass shards anywhere, and the glass was not Vareutan Casshias, the glass that can dissolve in thin air with a simple button.
The rest of the team, after a brief search regrouped at Xydan’s location. Xydan’s theory, that the rebels had jumped ship before it crashed was plausible to all. They would obviously want to feign death and the not only the lack of bodies, but the lack of glass shards was pointing to the theory. Xydan also found it unusual that the RAS Bayonet, RAS Banshee and the RAS Deathbringer had not sent teams to search the base. Xydan suspected foul play on the side of the Commander, but he was in no position to question or counter the idea. Besides, his biological programming did not allow him to do so.
Their arrival and presence did not go unnoticed, however. Another beast rider clan was wandering nearby and had sent their scouts to check on the new crafts that had landed. One of the scouts stumbled into the crash site and watched the armoured men work on the craft. A second joined him soon. Once the inspection was done, the troopers descended and approached the beast-riders. The clones, with their specially decaled and modified armours, looked very intimidating. One of the riders even stepped back.
“State your name and business.” Spoke Xydan.
The beast-riders fumbled for words.
“We are… um, beast-riders and we’re here to, well, check the crash site.”
“What do you know about this crash?” Xydan curtly asked.
“Well, it happened yesterday, I think…”
“Yes, yesterday.” His companion assured.
“Any specific timing?” Xydan asked.
“Well, the afternoon, I think. Or was it evening?”
“What do you know of its pilot and the gunner?” Blade asked.
“What? Uh… no. It just crashed and we… came.”
“Took you long enough to reach here… if you saw the crash in daylight, yesterday.”
The beast-riders were getting nervous, at least physically.
“Go on, we won’t hurt you.” Xydan ensured.
“Look, we… should be going.”
“Yeah, we’ll miss the hunt.”
Xydan realized that he had used up the two.
“Clean up.” He commanded. The two beast riders stood dumbfounded.
Within seconds, they were brutally shot down multiple times. Their bodies were searched and buried a few feet underground, below a bush. All this was cleared up in a few minutes. Many would call this inhuman, or vicious, but for DY44, it was nothing but simply “knotting the loose ends”. DY44 cannot, in any case make their presence aware, especially locals who loved to gossip and spread news. No one could be trusted. Not even the DY44 teammates.
Chapter 10: Torrdemnon Wassi
Both Seliqa and Wefive were quiet through most of the speeder ride. As the speeder covered more and more trees per second, the Onderonian sun declined. The colours of the sky shifted from a beautiful blue to an ominous orange and violet. Bird cries were frequent, as were the sights of birds migrating south in neat formations. The stars then penetrated the bright cover of the sky and peeked at Onderon. Soon enough, the sky was filled with multitudes of such stars. Dxun rose, and the rest of Onderon’s moons followed. Some two hours after Seliqa and Wefive had left the beast-riders, the speeder traffic had gradually increased. Speeders flew on invisible roads, some towards Seliqa’s direction, but most were just silhouettes on the horizon.
The walls of Iziz stood tall and strong and were visible from quite a few miles away. Over the years they had been strengthened and made taller. They had originally been built to protect the city-dwellers of Iziz from the wild beast-riders. However, the beast-riders allied with the citizens of Iziz, following the marriage of Iziz’s princess and a beast-rider chieftain. The walls of Iziz were then used to keep the wandering animals away and protect the beloved city from any other possible enemies. According to custom, the walls of Iziz were expanded regularly. Every two years, the wall would be expanded one foot, and made upto a metre taller. The Wall eventually became a symbol of power and of strength. Some mathematicians say that the exact date the building of the wall had started could be determined by carefully calculating statistics of the wall such as the length, breadth, the height, number of bricks etc.
Made about a thousand years ago, the Izizia Ondera Spaceport was a location teeming with activity. When Onderon had integrated more fully with the Republic, it needed to show that it was new, modern and could easily merge with the rest of the Republic. Iziz’s largest spaceport was therefore, rebuilt and named Izizia Ondera., the Izizian from Onderon. Unlike the older spaceports, this one was situated on a platform above the walls. From the spaceport, one had a beautiful view of the city, and could walk the magnificent walls. Three cantinas rivaled each other, filled with creatures of all sorts.
Seliqa arrived at the Izizia Ondera Spaceport about three hours after leaving the beast riders. She neatly parked the speeder in a Speeder Parking Zone, beneath the platform that served as the foundation for the Izizia Ondera. The parking lot, one of the six lots was rather empty. It was filled with a number of speeders; however there were only a couple of sentients loitering in the lot. Seliqa killed the engine and exhaled. The Captain, silent for a long while, got talking.
“Alright, we’re here. To start with, we’re gonna need equipment. This blaster rifle and pistol is good enough for me. You, need a pistol of your own. I need a good set of armour, since it’s not a good idea running into a battlefield naked, and this clothing is as good as that. You will need something, as well. I’m sure this beast-rider thing isn’t too comfortable.”
His guess was confirmed by a nod from Seliqa.
“That lightsaber stays hidden. You’ll need a pistol, or two. After that, we’ll go look for a ship.”
“Okay, but Wefive, no starfighters this time.”
Wefive chuckled as he hopped out of the speeder and double-checked it look for any leftover equipment. When the checking was done, he quietly opened the speeder’s hood and shot the systems. Sparks flew in all directions. The two loiterers, both rodians stood stunned. Seliqa masterfully blinded their minds so that they were left temporarily stunned and would not remember the last ten minutes. Seliqa’s conscience was slowly catching up with her. She was on the path to betray an advice by her Master. Her Master had explicitly told her not to overuse or exploit Mind tricks. It is a technique that temporarily blinds the target, but has the potential of permanently blinding the user. Blinding the user from the light side.
The Eccsun Emporium was one of the stores at the Izizia Ondera. Like all the new stores, this one too was desperately trying to attract new customers and make its mark in the spaceport. The life of a storekeeper in a newly founded store is hard, especially if the spaceport is filled with bigger, better stores. The merchant lives on money. He sells and buys, then repeats on a higher scale. And people want the better stuff. So they go to the more advanced, seasoned stores rather than the lower-grade stores that don’t have the rare, high-quality equipment they needed. The strategy was to watch a city, and when it builds a spaceport, move in fast and sell fast. Even the slightest of delays could be fatal.
Run by two Sullustans and a Twi’Lek, the Eccsun was no different. The three were young merchants, who met each other at Nar Shaddaa and were double-crossed by a pair of female Rodians. In lack of money and ideas, the trio moved planet-to-planet offering their economical skills to those interested, but were largely unsuccessful. Eventually they contributed their funds and founded the Eccsun Emporium, but were at a loss. Hardly anyone walked into their store and whoever walked was most likely too poor to afford a good percentage of the merchandise.
The arrival of Seliqa and Wefive changed the bored Sullustans. They got to their feet and began yelling their merchandise and prices at the two customers. The Twi’Lek, more experienced, kept quiet and stood alone in a corner. Wefive placed his rifle on the desk and calmly said, “Shut up.”
The Sullustans complied. Wefive took over.
“We need equipment, and we need it cheap. We have two thousand credits. One suit of light armour, one heavy. One blaster pistol, and then you can go to hell.”
One of the sullustans was already on his calculator, and pulling up armour specifications. Seliqa followed the Twi’Lek into a store-room, where he gave her a relatively light and cheap suit of armour. He claimed it could withstand most blasters and was quite flexible. It’s cost was some six hundred credits. Wefive’s armour was rather easy to find. He only needed something not to obtrusive, but enough to cover his features and his face. He settled for a suit of Bajjoragh Armour, the specialty of the planet Basokuurn. A thousand credits. The pistol was a non-modified piece straight from the Fatonyech Factory. Light, not heavy and effective enough. Two hundred credits. The last two hundred credits that remained would have to be used sparingly. Very sparingly. The two still had to get their ship and that would definitely cost more than a meagre two hundred credits.
Their next step was to decide on what the next step was. Two hundred credits was not good money, and would not even buy a child speeder. Their only hope would be to masquerade as victims of a double-crosser and get a ship. It was a far-fetched plan, but anything would work in this situation. News blared that two Republic Assault Ships had departed orbit and left for some other war-torn world. Only the RAS Bayonet lay in space now, swarming with clones and starfighters.
One of the best places to find just about anyone, is a cantina. Teeming with all sorts of sentient life, Cantinas are havens for people with problems, people with a story or people who would soon be dead. Seliqa and Wefive entered the Taliandra Usccaindis, the Sword of Queen Talia, one of the oldest, largest and most popular cantinas. The fresh spaceport air soon turned into the stuffy, incensed air common to cantinas and the dark red, green and blue lighting hurt Wefive’s eyes. The cantina had become so large over the years, it now had some five bars, three large sabacc dens and all sorts of cantina accessories. Seliqa made her way to the nearest bar, and for courtesy’s sake, ordered a Daboulateure, a drink with an intoxicating taste, but having no real intoxicants. Wefive ordered the same.
Seliqa silenced her thoughts and tried to hear the commotion around her more clearly. It is common Jedi knowledge that if one concentrates, one could hear the life of a crowded place. One could see the conquerors, the victims, the depressed, the triumphant, the weak, the strong and listen to their minds. While Seliqa stared at the cantina and entered the Force, Wefive quietly sipped his Daboulateure, a luxury he never had in his army days. The drink felt good and almost went to his head, but he kept the intake down and kept his mind sharp by thinking further steps and playing at planning a battle strategy. A sudden gasp from Seliqa brought him to his senses. Setting his drink down, his extended his arms, about to grab Seliqa, until he learnt that she is not falling.
Seliqa, on the other hand had made a startling discovery. Somebody in the cantina was brimming with Force potential. That could only mean it was a Jedi, an untapped Jedi or a Dark Jedi. The other two options being highly unlikely, Seliqa settled it to be a fellow Jedi. Suddenly the mystical air of a Force trance lifted and she found herself at the bar, beside Wefive. Wefive’s concern was washed away by Seliqa’s “I’m alright”s and “I’m fine”s. She told him to sit where he was and be wary, while she went to search ‘something she had sensed’.
This search wasn’t too far, fortunately. Only in the next room, she found the source of energy, a young human male in his thirties. Only when she got closer did she recognize him.
“Torrd!”, she called at the man.
The man turned back suddenly and instantly recognized Seliqa.
Seliqa rushed at his side and took a seat beside him. Torrd, whose real name was Torrdemnon Wassi was a Jedi who had been with Seliqa when they were young Padawans. Seliqa felt relieved that at least Torrd had made it out alive.
“Seliqa! I thought they sent you to Crysm!” Torrd remarked.
“I escaped and landed here, on Onderon. There was a defector, an ARC.”
Torrd was about to say something, but decided against it. It was too risky to speak in a Cantina as risky as the one they sat in. Torrd told Seliqa to meet him outside, in a secluded corner in the spaceport. He assured her that if she could find him in a crowded cantina, she should have no difficulties finding him outside. Seliqa agreed and Torrd left. Seliqa left for her bar as well.
Finding Torrd was no more difficult than finding an attractive Twi’Lek in Nar Shaddaa’s Red Light Sector. Seliqa let herself be followed by ‘currents’ and ‘veins’ that flowed through the life in the spaceport. Torrd was in an alley, dark and hidden from the eyes of the public. Seliqa entered the corner, followed by Wefive. Wefive was, as always wary. His rifle was constantly cocked and he always checked behind his shoulder. Seliqa was aware of his unusual suspicious nature, but didn’t discourage it. It did keep them on their toes.
Torrd pulled Seliqa into the alley as soon as she approached it and then throwing her behind him, went into an aggressive stance against Wefive. By instinct, Wefive raised his gun, ready to shoot if need be. Seliqa had told him about Torrd, but that did not change Wefive’s skeptical suspicion over just about everyone. Torrd’s hands was over his lightsaber, but Wefive knew that he won’t ignite it.
“This is a private matter, mercenary” Torrd spoke, eyeing Wefive’s armour.
“It’s okay, Torrd. He’s Captain Wefive, an ARC. He’s the one who has saved my skin more than once. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here.” Seliqa vouched.
Torrd dropped into a more casual stance, as Wefive made his way in. His helmet turned to Torrd’s head.
“So… I take it you’re both shipless.” Torrd started, his well-known smile spreading across his face.
“Pretty much obviously. We came to the cantina hoping we’d find a ship…” Seliqa answered.
“As a matter of fact, Camman, I do have a ship. It’s a fine cruiser, small and enough for two.” He looked at Wefive as he completed his sentence.
“But I’m sure we can squeeze you in, wise guy.” Wefive answered the silent provocation.
“That’s good news, Torrd. Where are we going to go, though?”
“Polis Massa, where else? You were lucky I was planning on catching up local gossip in the cantina, or I would have already been in hyperspace!”
“Polis Massa? Why there? That’s an asteroid or something…”
“I take it you didn’t check your datapad… There was a message for the Jedi to regroup at Coruscant, but it was a bogus message. That damned Skywalker set it up. Master Yoda and Master Kenobi got to the place in time and diverted the message to Polis Massa, that’s where we’re going.”
“That can be bogus as well…” Wefive commented.
“But it’s out only hope. Besides, it’s better than running blind into a planet full of clones. What say, Seliqa?”
Wefive stood silent for a while, before giving his approval.
“Great, we’ll leave immediately. I hope you two caught everything you wanted, cause…”
“Aw, looks like I forgot my underpants. Can we run back to Crysm?” Wefive joked.
Torrd took the hint and walked out, followed by Wefive and Seliqa.
Torrdemnon’s ship was a little outdated. It stood alone in the large dock. It was small and as Torrd showed, it had just a corridor and a cockpit, after the loading ramp. Wefive commented on it being an oversized passenger starfighter. He was right, in a way. The ship was equipped with minimal weaponry. Two blaster cannons, but no torpedoes. The cannons, too, were locked and could only be used with a Heavy Blaster License, which Torrd did not possess. Bought only a few hours ago, the ship, whose name was The Emmire was of Onderonian build. It was fast, but not as durable as some other ships. It was fuelled and ready to leave, by the time the three made their way to the cockpit.
Chapter 11: Pursuit
DY44’s progress through the jungles of Onderon was slow. Unsatisfactory as it was to Xydan, DY44 wasn’t built for chasing traitors. DY44’s missions upto now had involved covert operations. Spying, demolitions, computer slicing, pathfinding, reconnaissance (which was the team’s primary focus) and emergency operations were common for them. Never before had they tracked an enemy in open, however. Cities, public life and non-military zones were unthinkable. DY44 was a weapon that swiftly scoured enemy bases and cleared them.
Xydan had his doubts about the operation since it was explained to him. It was obvious that the mission had not been officially given to him. It was more like a personal favour for the Commander. A favour Xydan did not owe. And yet, he could do nothing but follow. It was something in his mind, that he had often wondered when he was alone. Is it possible to break free from the Republic’s chains? Is it possible to be freed from commands? No matter how hard he thought, Xydan couldn’t help it. He had to follow orders and he did, even if he had a grudge with the one who gave it.
Their search was going futile. It was now mid-day, when the sun shone the brightest, glistening off the well-polished clone armour. Using tracks, trails and technology (the golden ‘trinity’ of recon) they had managed to get to the beast-rider encampment. There were signs of pitched tents, a fire in the centre and logs well-arranged to substitute furniture. After thoroughly checking the campsite, DY44 spread out and watched the site for thirty minutes. After seeing nobody breaching the invisible perimeter, they regrouped and proceeded with the search.
The footprints that were clear enough before were now lost in a multitude of earth, tossed, stamped and messed up. The disturbed soil helped Xydan’s crew for a while, till they reached an area with dense woodwork. The soil was quite messed up in all directions and footprints were invisible, if present. Without a word, the squad spread out in various directions, constantly reporting observances and any activity, which was mostly animals peeking at the visitors. Most animals took a peek and jumped away. Those that lingered for too long, didn’t last long.
By Evening, DY44 had almost given up their quest. The search was taking too long and since the mission was a private one, they had complete reason to complain. DY44 had to evacuate and they did. They regrouped and returned to square one: the four UR14s. Huddling around the leader’s craft, they watched as the holocommunication unit attempted to make contact with the RAS Garendator. After two failures, Xydan cancelled the idea and decided to check the maps again. Plugging in his datapad, he watched as the 3-dimensional hologram of the area upto 50 miles away lit up. He studied the terrain, the forests and concluded that there were ample ways to get to Iziz.
Irtan, Jesqas and Blade watched Xydan go into a brainstorm. He was pointing into the map, detailing on the numerous possibilities that could arise. Night was setting in, but Xydan continued. He knew that it was just as useless as stupid to hide in a forest here, isolated from the rest of the galaxy. The duo had obviously gotten to a nearby city, or town. Beast-rider towns weren’t many, and the only thing within a walking distance of two days was the walled city of Iziz. Having no other plans, the other three complied and set off.
The UR14s silently lifted off the ground. Xydan’s craft shot out first, followed by Irtan and then Blade and Jesqas, who flew parallel to each other. They set their course for Iziz and maintained low altitude. Once they were twenty miles to Iziz, their crafts suddenly gained altitude and rose high enough to see Iziz. They disconnected formation and flew independently, cutting off communication. Their special radars, designed to automatically scan every ship ID in view set off. Xydan’s guess was that if they were to escape, they would do so in a bought or rented ship. Smuggler, civilian and medium-sized ships, therefore were the first suspects.
Once one such ship was sighted, one of the DY44 would track it down and establish contact with it, masquerading as Iziz Air Security searching for stolen cargo. From the massive galactic databanks, DY44 had downloaded voice IDs for Wefive (which was too easy) and Seliqa, who’s ID was stored in the Jedi Temple, now maintained by Imperial Troops. Xydan’s plan was foolproof, and he knew it.
DY44 scanned every ship, until it came into contact were above the Izizia Ondera. They spread out and flew a few miles away and returned. Having plenty of fuel, they had no problems making several rounds. Xydan feared that the two had already left. Their co-ordinates would be unknown to him, as would be their plans. And Xydan did not like that.
The Emmire rose haphazardly, emitting all sorts of noises, from gas escaping to it’s engines humming randomly. Once the landing pads were pulled up, the ship’s engine shot out exhaust. Inside the ship rumbled, almost bringing Wefive down. Seliqa and Torrd had taken their seats and Wefive was the one to explore the one-corridor ship. There was a closet, empty and a ladder to go up onto the surface of the ship. There wasn’t anything else. The engine would shudder and so would the ship, but Wefive clung to a rod just outside the cockpit as Seliqa and Torrd talked.
“So where were you, Torrd?”
“Right here. There’s a Separatist research lab, underground. It was some hundred miles from here. I led a raid into it and well, pretty much cleared the sector. Those clones went rogue in the facility. Well I was alone in a room and some rookie comes in, guns blazing. My saber already on, I fed him his own laser. I stood on my guard and found that every damned clone was after me. I used a cloaking device to hide myself and stumbled out…”
Wefive found the tale rather amusing.
“And the clones didn’t use their infra-red visors? Not too feasible, Jedi.”
“Nobody said the clones were geniuses. So I got out, jumped into a Sep airspeeder and blasted out of the place. I came down here, hid my saber, flipped up the hood and hid out into the cantina.”
“Sounds like you’re the happy-go-lucky sort.” Wefive commented.
“You can say that.” He turned to Seliqa. “Where did you pick up this piece of garbage anyways? Looks premium Raxus Prime.”
Seliqa smiled and turned to Wefive, who was almost ready to slaughter Torrd.
“Crysm. This fellow turned against his own kin to save me. He came up with the plan to get out, to get to Onderon and all that. Believe me, he can be trusted.”
“I’m not too keen on keeping a clone around in my ship.” He turned to Wefive. “We’ll drop you. Anywhere you like.”
“I’m not planning a vacation. I’d prefer sticking it with you too and helping you Jedi.”
“Yeah, well you’ve done what you could. We’d appreciate it…”
“I’ll appreciate if you keep you damned trap shut and fly the ship! I didn’t kill those brothers for nothing! I didn’t fly ARCs, come with plans and save our skins multiple times just to be dropped off at some planet and live as a mercenary.”
“Poor temper, eh? Well, be warned that we’d be happy to slice you should you show us the slightest provocation.”
“And I’d be happy to fry you alive.” Wefive patted his gun.
Torrd grinned and patted his lightsaber. Once things were even, he got back to his ship, which Seliqa had been flying. If Wefive was fuming, he definitely wasn’t showing it. The ship had finished the last of the departure procedure and was going by a path dictated by the Onderon Air Protocol. The shaft they flew in was clearly visible as a long line of ships moving steadily upwards at a relatively low angle. That was when Wefive noticed something in the radar. There was the green dot that marked the center of the radar and several readings all around which indicated the air traffic. But there two ships darting in and out. At times they would escape the line and rejoin later. They would pretend to be flying at the standard speed, then suddenly speed up and overtake. Seliqa and Torrd ignored it, but Wefive observed the radar as if enthralled by it.
He used a control beside the radar to increase it’s range. Wefive found two more starfighters, some hundred meters behind and carrying out the same routine. Torrd looked at it as well.
“What is it? Looks like some drunken rodian experimenting with spices.” He commented.
“No, there’s something else to this. They’re flying… very systematically. In a very organized method, slow and steady, and coordinated.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, though I sense they’re all connected…”
“Blast the hull! Those are Clones! The movements, methods, interaction – has to be some sort of Special Recon!”
“Whoa, hold down. What was that? Special Recon?”
“Fast and Effective. One notch below Commandos and ARC Troopers. If they’re here, we have to get out.”
“Couldn’t it be a coincidence?” asked Seliqa, without changing her view through the window.
“Sure, a bunch of drunken rodians experimenting with spices and flying an organized pattern emulating the Special Recon? Unlikely.”
Torrd was getting impatient. “Alright, we’ll get an ID of those.”
He submitted ID requests for the four ships, still darting here and there. After a few seconds, the replies arrived – Unknown. There was no owner data, ship class, seller, purpose, nothing. It was all either blank or unknown. Every ship had an unknown certificate. Wefive found this news even more disturbing. Special Recon was extremely dangerous. It was like commandos without the genetic modification. They were raw clones, with refined fighting abilities.
“Bad.” He commented, “An unknown certificate will mean that they’re flying high-range prototypes. The Republic has not officially sanctioned them, but the army needs no authorization. They have a ship, they’ll…”
He was cut away by a beep from the computer. It was an incoming message, from an ‘unknown ship’. Seliqa was about to pick it up when suddenly Wefive yelled out not to. “Seliqa and me will have to stay shut. No voices. Torrd, you talk and you communicate, got that?”
Torrd nodded with Seliqa and hit the button to initiate communication. There was some static, but the voice that followed was rather clear. It sounded clone, but was oozing heavy Onderonian accent, very poor, as Torrd noticed.
“This is the Onderon Air Security. A heist has been committed at a merchant shop at the Izizia Ondera Spaceport and we need to manually check every ship leaving. Please report your name, purpose and ship.”
Torrd thought fast and spoke on-the-fly. “This is Tarfe Cuir, the ship is the Immerire and uh… purpose. Well, I’m a merchant and have unloaded all my stuff at a merchant shop nearby…”
“What is the name of this shop?” the OAS officer asked curtly.
“The Cututu Emporium, heart of city. I’m off to… uh… Nar Shaddaa to load up and catch a shut-eye. You got a problem?”
“We apologize for the inconvenience, but we will have to check the ship. Please land it at…”
Wefive stepped in and modulated his voice controls on the helmet. He now had a very low-pitched voice, almost like a Hutt. He stepped up and spoke, “This is Vercie Lammar, Captain of the Immerire and I wish to know your name, officer. The inconvenience you have caused me is irreparable. My client will be furious now. I must give complaint!”
As soon as he finished the last words, however, his helmet failed. The voice modifier reset and Wefive’s plain voice was heard. There was silence on the other line. Wefive realized his own mistake. Before he could turn off the communicator, the call disconnected. Special Recon had no more reason to talk. They had they’re target in sights, now they just had to take it down.
“Blast! Go go go! Get the hell out of here!”
Torrd responded by shifting throttle to full and blazing through the traffic. Their start bought them distance, as they saw the ‘unknowns’ lagging behind in the radar. Soon enough, they charged up and pursued their prey, dodging traffic and even shooting the more stubborn ones. Torrd kept bending the control stick, diving, then rising. Running out of the highway would be dangerous. They would be in open air and easy targets.
The chase was harrowing, especially for the Emmire. It was bulkier and not equipped with the latest anti-crash equipment. So much as a scratch with a ship would bring down the craft. That, coupled with the fear of being blasted by the Special Recon was unnerving. Seliqa accessed navigational co-ordinates and using Torrd’s datapad, inserted the Polis Massa co-ordinates. Wefive watched, alerting for traffic ahead and the speeding ships behind.
The ground was relatively far below and whatever was visible of it stood visible only for a fraction of a nanosecond. The highway now wound and separated, as it approached the edges of the atmosphere. Torrd took the lesser crowded path, not only because his instinct advised him to, but also because Seliqa announced the hyperspace route to be in that direction. But the manoeuvre was risky, since it left more open space for the Recon to strike. And the Special Recon took every opportunity they had.
The first shots to connect with the Emmire were fired from Irtan’s fighter. The shield system effectively stopped the blaster fire. The Emmire’s shield was strong, but once it expired, the ship was very vulnerable. The ship was now crossing the bridge between the atmosphere and space. The temperature dropped slowly, but nobody noticed it. It was only when the ceiling hit him that Wefive made a discovery – he was floating. He was not standing on the floor, but was floating the air. There was no gravity in the craft.
“No gravity!” he yelled at Torrd.
“They said… it was damaged.” Torrd replied, dodging a light cruiser. “But there are air tanks, don’t worry!”
“Take a thirty-seven in right, forty up.” Seliqa guided, avoiding another confrontation.
Torrd nodded and turned the ship accordingly. Seliqa further guided him towards the hyperspace route. Torrd kept moving the ship and made sudden turns, which often gave Wefive another hit on the head. He got used to it, though. Sticking his head low, he held on at the shaft behind the cockpit, yelling at Torrd. He kept an eye on the shield levels, which he had made his primary priority. He knew all too well that should the shield break away, they were history. The ship had depleted half-way through and Wefive alerted accordingly.
Seliqa looked up through the window and down into the datapad, then at the navigation computer and punched in the codes. Torrd took a look at them, before the Emmire took another dive and a more sudden rise. Once near the co-ordinates, he hit Autopilot and chose the “Aggressive” setting. The engines roared, the ship shuddered. Wefive tried to get his feet on the ground, cursing the gravity generator. Seliqa run the Hyperspace checks and the systems began to light green. Behind, the four starfighters were incoming, guns blazing. They were far from any highways, so they were relatively secure.
A while later, the Emmire was bombarded by a volley of torpedoes released by their pursuers. The ship’s shields took heavy damage and reached 25%. Wefive watched the shield display, shouting out the diminishing sequence of numbers. The red light went on. Whether it was a hyperspace alert or a low-shield alert was unknown to Wefive. The spacefighters were getting uncomfortably closer, the shields dropped and time was running out. The final checks and engine preparations were complete. They heard the relieving beep that signified that the ship was ready for a jump. But a siren rang out a second later. It was the no shield alert. A few blaster shots would kill them all.
In frustration, Wefive punched the button marked ‘hyperspace’ with his fist. The ship suddenly flung out into the depths of space, after another shudder indicated another hit from their attackers. They had been hit in the rear, but the well-timed jump had almost negated the effect. Wefive crawled back to the cockpit, watching the vortex of stars in relief. The jump had thrown him back due to inertia and the broken gravity generator. It wasn’t serious, since Wefive had knowingly caught another bar outside the closet. He had almost begun to think that was what they were made for.
As soon as the stars had turned into the infinite lines of hyperspace, there was a sigh of relief in the room. Torrd took off his seatbelt and floated in the air. Seliqa checked the astrogation computer.
“Two more days, and we’ll be at Polis Massa.” She announced.
“Wow, what’re we gonna eat?” Wefive asked, looking out into the space.
“Yeah, well you help yourself to some fallen nuts and bolts. We’ll catch lunch at ‘Massa.” Torrd answered. Two more standard days will have to pass. He wondered how many Jedi had been killed. Realizing that he doesn’t even want to know the answer, he decided to meditate floating instead.
Chapter 12: Polis Massa
“Damn!” Xydan heard himself curse as the smuggler vessel disappeared into hyperspace.
“Freeze target, location data now!” he ordered and got to work on his computer. The information on the smuggler ship, it’s course, it’s location of jumping etc. would be stored and calculations would be made. These calculations would guess the trajectory, landing sites, current location etc. Once the system reported a complete freeze, Xydan ordered his squad to move out and land in a jungle area, away from the city.
“We need access to the Galactic Databank. Our onboard systems don’t have any planets in that direction – or distance.” Jesqas reported.
“That’s the very edge of the damned galaxy! What’re trying to suicide?” Blade said enthusiastically.
“Cut the chatter. We’ll get to the RAS near here – the Bayonet. All RASs have access to the Databank. We’ll also contact Commander SOY-34.” Xydan commanded.
Without much discussion, the four fighters rose, gleaming in the moonlight. Nobody came in their way, and nobody questioned them in the RAS. They carried out the operation in the deathly silence they were known for.
A day passed since the jump had been initiated. Seliqa and Torrd spent their time meditating in the air, often upside-down. Wefive spent his time punching air, narrating war stories and such. He also experimented with the various tools and gadgets in his armour. He had found a flamethrower, with very little ammo, a gauntlet, a wrist-mounted grenade launcher, cooling systems, mini-organiser, and a tiny sonic weapon, that shot sonic waves in a 5-meter radius.
He was napping in the pilot’s seat when Torrd woke up. Torrd stretched in zero-gravity and flung himself towards the cockpit. Wefive, snoring without his helmet got up with a gasp when Torrd patted him.
“How close?” Torrd asked.
“Two parsecs.” Wefive answered, glancing at the astrogation computer.
Torrd nodded and somersaulted, much to Wefive’s annoyance.
“So, you’re an ARC. What was your mission on Crysm?”
“Just before leaving, we had received a private message that the Chancellor’s close to finding his new ‘apprentice’. Commander Soy had us get to base with Seliqa and then infiltrate a cavern swarming with droids. We did and Seliqa’s lightsaber went gung-ho. And then command tells us to get rid of the Jedi and return.”
“How many people were in your squad?”
“Some ten people, probably. A shame that I don’t remember.”
“You killed them?”
“Yeah, me and Seliqa. There was this sniper squad, but we evaded them. We stole a Separatist Airspeeder, new model. Then we go back to base and I pretend Seliqa’s dead. They’re about to send me for court martial on Coruscant or Kamino, but I got ‘em and luckily Seliqa got there with an ARC-170. Sweet fighter, that.”
“So you got to Onderon with that. Far-fetched, yet possible.”
“I’m surprised you’re not interrogating me about the Chancellor, or should I say… the Emperor of the Galaxy?”
“Please, fill me in on that one.”
“The order was given midway through the Wars. It was codenamed “Order 66”, and the order was, to kill all Jedi when they will betray – as prophesized by the Chancellor…”
“Hold up a second. Prophesized? His just a damned politician!”
“Yes, well he’s a Jedi damned politician. You see, he has Jedi powers. He was planning to having an apprentice, and said that it is crucial to the galaxy for him to have one. But a sacrifice must be made – the Jedi. The Jedi will oppose to this and they will ‘betray’ the Republic.”
“Anakin is his apprentice…”
“And that means we’re in deep danger. A guy like Skywalker against us is trouble. He’s that prophecy guy, right?”
“Right. The prophecy was wrong. Skywalker would not restore balance, or destroy the Sith. He was to destroy the Jedi. To restore balance in the galaxy without the Jedi. Where is the Chancellor?”
“Anywhere. He could be at Coruscant, or a secret base on some unknown planet, heck for all we know, he might be hiding in this ship…”
Torrd’s mind shook. He got a strange, unexplainable feeling and an idea – Wefive could be Palpatine. If Palpatine could mask himself mentally, then there was no telling what he could do. He could run illusions in minds – illusions that one is seeing what he shouldn’t. Wefive might be Palpatine, but Torrd could only see him as an ARC Trooper. The theory, although absurd was completely plausible. He decided to stay even more cautious with Wefive.
Wefive looked back at the console. The time was decreasing rapidly and drastic changes were taking place. Escaping the heart of the galaxy, the ship’s speed was increasing and was shooting faster through the vortex. The time fell below twenty-four hours, then twenty and fifteen, all in a few minutes. Torrd woke Seliqa up, who held on to the bar near the cockpit. The speed indicator was constantly increasing. Wefive adjusted it and the speed leveled out. Their destination was only a couple of hours away.
Seliqa strapped herself with a belt on the bed while Wefive and Torrd strapped their seat belts. A short, but loud beep signaled precisely two hours were left for the jump to end.
“Ever been to this place?” Wefive asked.
“No. Just heard of it.”
Torrd made a sharp glance at Wefive, noting his inquisitiveness. Wefive’s face didn’t move from the controls.
“Geography lessons. We go real in-depth. But then again, we force-sensitives can store much more knowledge than you can possibly dream of.”
“Why’d they choose this as an emergency point?”
“It was a Jedi secret. Some sixty odd years ago, there used to be one notable council member – Master Raphe. He was a Zabrak, ninety years old and very, very wise. He had a premonition that there will be a time when the Jedi order will be at the brink of death. It will never be destroyed, but will be near.”
“So… he randomly picked a planet?”
“No. At that time the Polis Massans arrived at Polis Massa and started archaeological digs into the asteroid colony.. Unfortunately, whatever artifacts they acquired from the rock, they were forcibly stolen by pirates, mafiosos and such. Their money was going down the drain and they desperately needed help. Borrowing some money, they got a ride to Coruscant and begged the council for help. The wise Master Raphe agreed to help them, but had one condition. The Jedi will clear the sector of all pirates and mafiosos, but when the time comes, the Massans will have to help the Jedi. The Massans agreed, the Jedi helped and everything went happily ever after… well, up till now, at least.”
Wefive only nodded.
A good two hours later, the vortex cleared, and the ship suddenly jolted out of hyperspace. Ahead lay a small mining colony. There were too many chunks of rock to count, which lazily floated in their quiet space. Only two more starships could be seen flying, both Jedi Starfighters. Soon enough, they got into communication with the Emmire. After receiving confirmation from Torrd and Seliqa, they handed over the landing co-ordinates for the Emmire. With Wefive piloting the ship, it did not take long for the Emmire to dock in the largest asteroid.
The loading ramp descended and out walked the trio. The dock was busy with workers, a few Jedi and of course, lots of ships. There were some 7-10 Jedi Starfighters and other ships of all sorts and sizes. But the one that stood out the most was the Tantive IV, docked away at one side of the gargantuan dock. It looked like a massive lightsaber handle, with tons of thrusters at it’s rear.
Seliqa knew the Tantive IV all too well. It had saved her life once when she was in an operation at Alderaan. A petty crime lord was trying to become popular by attempting assassinations on the senatorial representative of Alderaan – Senator Bail Organa. Seliqa struck the crime syndicate and killed the crime lord on his flagship. The crime lord’s assistant, upon realizing that the lord is dead, set the ship on self-destruction, and got out in his own ship after torching Seliqa’s fighter. Seliqa sent out a distress call and was helped out by the majestic Tantive IV itself.
“Senator Bail Organa is here.” She noted, gazing at the Tantive IV.
“OK, that’s great news. Alderaan’s with us. And if Alderaan’s with us, I bet a hell a lot of planets are with us.” Wefive said.
They strode to the door leading to the interiors of the colony. After a decontamination room, they passed into a series of well-lit corridors and rooms. After running wild in what could be best described as a maze, they finally reached a larger room with better furnishings. The floor was lined with black Desston stone and exotic plants lined the corners. Three sofas and two tables were in the middle of the room. Three Jedi sat on each of the sofas, discussing something when Seliqa, Torrd and Wefive entered.
One of the Jedi, a male Twi’Lek got up and looked at the two new entrants in delight.
“Torrd! Seliqa! Ganah Nuia!” he exclaimed in Ryl.
“Nice to meet you too, Sed. Who’s in charge here?” Torrd asked.
Wefive made a quiet approach towards Seliqa. “These Jedi make me nervous. I’ll be out at the ship if you need me.” He whispered. Seliqa nodded in reply.
“Master Kenobi and Master Yoda are here.” Sed informed, “They were the ones who set up this place. It’s been… three standard days since Order 66.”
“We’d like to speak with the Masters.” Seliqa said.
“They’re in the briefing room. This is a confusing place; I’ll help you out here. Follow me now.”
With that the pale white Twi’Lek turned around and walked to a turbolift. The door slid open and in went the Jedi. The turbolift then dropped a few levels downwards, into a corridor. At the end of this corridor was a large room, which was supposedly the ‘hub’. It was a huge room, with a dome on top. An incessant pit dominated most of the floor, with archaeological equipment in and around it. Strange beings were working inside, while others watched. A railing separated the archaeological ditch.
“The Polis Massans are mainly archaeologists. Don’t be surprised by such excavations in even the most formal areas on this mining colony.” Sed explained.
“What are they looking for in this asteroid?” Seliqa asked.
“Well, it’s believed that this whole asteroid colony was a planet – but was obliterated due to some unknown reason. These Polis Massans come from some planet in this system and start checking this place.”
“That’s an unusual motive for an alien species.”
They passed through more and more corridors and rooms, to reach another large room. Unlike other rooms, this one was occupied with more humans and Jedi. There were a few holo-maps, but no sign of Master Kenobi or Master Yoda. Bunches of people were huddled around the maps and discussed matters sincerely. Sed led Seliqa and Torrd to the end of the room and down a flight of stairs to another door. He opened the door and walked in. The door closed by itself.
The hall they entered was relatively dim, and furnished with a sleek, meeting table. It had bright lighting, omniholoviewers and other facilities. Jedi sat on chairs beside this table, chatting or discussing. Seliqa noticed the duo at the very end of the table – Master Kenobi and Master Yoda. Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, the ‘negotiator’ was nodding apprehensively at a Jedi. The enigmatic Master Yoda sat on side of the table, his head still as a rock. Yet the creases and wrinkles showed the old Master had seen much and that more was going on in his mind than what one would think.
Noticing that Seliqa and Torrd have spotted the Masters, Sed left their company. The two went towards the two iconic figures sitting at the end of the tables. Master Kenobi and the alien Jedi facing him were seemingly having a disagreement. Seliqa and Torrd took their seats beside Master Yoda. Master Yoda turned to face Seliqa, smiled and turned back. It took a while for Master Kenobi to please the Jedi, who eventually bowed and left. Master Kenobi and Master Yoda then turned to Seliqa.
“Seliqa Camman, if I am not mistaken.” Began the gallant Master Kenobi.
“True, Master Kenobi. This is Torrdemnon Wassi.”
“It is good news that the two of you have survived. We will need all the help we can get, and with Jedi like you by our side, I doubt our failure.” Kenobi spoke.
“Master, we have been out of the loop. Evading clone troopers in two systems is a tough task, and we have been unable to get ourselves updated with the latest happenings.”
“Indeed. Let me tell you, then. You surely know of the Battle of Coruscant?”
“Yes, we had been informed of a strike on Coruscant and had been instructed to get to Coruscant as soon as the mission is complete.” Torrd answered.
“Well, that’s where the story starts. My former apprentice and I were on another world when we were called. Our mission complete, we headed in and received orders to rescue the Chancellor, who was held captive by General Grievous. We found the Chancellor, but also Count Dooku. In our duel against Dooku, I lost consciousness, but Anakin killed Dooku and not only did he save the chancellor, he also saved me from certain death. We then faced Grievous, who escaped and we had to land the burning ship on Coruscant. If it hadn’t been for Anakin’s landing skills, I doubt if we could have survived. Back on Coruscant, I was sent to Utapau to finish off Grievous. Anakin was left at Coruscant and got closer to the Chancellor. The Chancellor… he corrupted Anakin. And when Grievous was finished, the war was too. Palpatine would not give up his powers, and Master Windu tried to arrest him. Turns out Palpatine was the Sith Lord all along. He… brought an untimely demise to the great Master… and recruited Anakin as his Sith Apprentice. Anakin was not himself anymore, he was a twisted monster of hate, he was… Darth Vader. Vader was sent to Mustafar, for some reason. That’s about when Order 66 was executed. Palpatine, or rather Darth Sidious manipulated hundreds of minds in the Senate to bring about a revolution in the Republic. He claimed that the Jedi have betrayed him, that they tried to kill him and they were evil. I and Master Yoda evaded the Clones and got to Coruscant. Master Yoda tried to defeat Sidious, but the Sith Lord… was too powerful. I went to Mustafar to find my former apprentice. But he was a devastated being. He was… twisted, a creature of hate. I… had to kill him. There was no choice.” Obi-Wan spoke the words with remorse. “I… killed Vader. I watched him die, watched his body be incinerated, watched him hate me to his last breath. And then, I followed Master Yoda’s advice to establish a meeting point here.”
The conversation fell silent after Master Kenobi’s long explanation. Master Yoda had his sights downwards, as if he were regretting something. Upon Master Kenobi’s request, Torrd and Seliqa told him their story as well. Seliqa omitted Wefive from the story, but did not lie. Realising her story was incomplete without him, she mentioned the exploits of Capt. Wefive. Master Kenobi seemingly knew this trooper and had heard that the Captain had quite a reputation in the clone ranks.
“Be wary of the clone. To trust anybody, we cannot afford.” Master Yoda advised, speaking for the first time in the discussion.
The more important matter, of course, was the future. The past was gone, and Seliqa was more bothered about how the handful of Jedi can overthrow a massive Republic, or The Galactic Empire, as it was now called.
Chapter 14: Facility of Ghosts
Kashyyyk’s unforgiving rain battered down on Wefive’s helmet as he struggled with the well-encrypted lock system that barred him entry into Zivz 110011. After half a dozen attempts, he threw his computer spike into rich, auburn puddle beside him. It floated back upto him. Wefive looked back and saw Torrd, his hood drawn, grinning. Wefive took the spike and violently threw it at the Jedi, who caught it and cleaned it wit the raindrops. Wefive came and sat beside Torrd, on a wet and rather slippery log. Seliqa sat on another log, reading the holographic map of Z-101. As Wefive’s bulk dropped itself on the opposite log, she took a quick look and continued studying.
“Alright, not my fault. This is a top secret scientific research facility, and I don’t believe they keep their front doors open all the time.” Wefive promptly stated.
“You’ve been here before, right? On the outside, too. Know any back doors?” Torrd asked.
“Hmm. There were a few docking nests topside, but they must be locked tight. There is one place, though. It’s called the Nest Hub. Hand me the map, Seliqa, thanks. See this here, on top of the building, this is the ‘watch tower’ as they called it. There are three docking nests on it, with support for multiple ships. The big blocky thing here, at the base of the tower is the hub. You can throw in a dozen ships or something there…”
“Wouldn’t that be closed?” Seliqa asked, looking up at the partially visible tower.
“Probably not. Sometimes I wondered if it even had doors, it had fat openings for ships to come in and get out with ease.”
“Worth a try.” Torrd stated.
“Yes, well there are other places, too. This facility was built very specifically. It’s modeled over the terrain below and around it. See the hills around? They’re part of the facility. The facility you see here is actually nothing, the real deal is below, within the hills, below the ground. The entrances are hidden. All the unimportant stuff was stacked up here, on top.”
“Then how do we go down?” Seliqa asked.
“There were openings in the forests or hills or something. They never told us, we just had to guard the counterfeit. Besides, they must be pretty much closed by now.”
“Back to the nest hub plan. How do you propose we go down to the bottom facility from up there?”
“There was a super-elevator which goes to the lavish fake facility. From there, there was supposed to be a small restricted-area sort-of elevator inside somewhere, which went deep down.”
A massive crack of thunder sounded in the air. The rain multiplied.
“Better get to it, then.”
The RAS Algos, whose last recorded post was at in the V-4T457 Dessé Asteroid Field, had become the busiest in it’s ten-month operation period. The incoming message from DY-44 sparked excitement on board and the ship traveled to the mysterious location revealed by DY-44. As soon as the massive behemoth arrived, all hell broke loose. Starfighters discharged from the underside of the Republic Assault Ship, raiding the asteroids of Polis Massa. A special ship, a sleek GD-59 Covert Bomber dropped a powerful anti-laser charge into the largest asteroid, pulverizing it’s laser capabilities. Ground troops then spewed from the incoming transports. Adept at space warfare, they murdered Polis Massans and Republic Troopers alike.
DY-44 sneaked into a dock at the rear of the ship, hidden from wary eyes. The ships quietly slid in and the hangar doors closed on their own accord. DY-44 was greeted by an enthusiastic clone, who guided them through the more intricate labyrinths of the ship’s rear end. They finally emerged in more familiar hall designs and architecture, until they met with the Captain of the Ship, Captain PV-924. After a cold welcome, they assembled in the sealed briefing room. The conversation started with a rather unnecessary update on the situation, but the meeting sparked to life with the arrival of Commander Soy, via holovision.
“We have received trajectory calculation data from the holonet, and things do not look good.” Informed a blue-plated technician, ejecting a datapad.
“Where were they headed?” Soy asked.
“Kashyyyk or Trandosha, considering the craft’s capabilities and speed estimation.”
“Suicide. Kashyyyk is being heavily patrolled and Trandosha is tropical hell. Those lizards are brain-damaged and the climate not too friendly. We have a good party out there anyways.” PV-924 analyzed.
“Precisely. They’ll want to hide under our noses, where we won’t find them.” Added a subordinate.
“Double the enforcement at Kashyyyk, Trandosha and all surrounding territories. Get those craft-detector satellites fixed and tracking. We need a hit at least this time.” Soy commanded.
His order was greeted by an acknowledgement by PV -924.
“Xydan, it is imperative that you leave immediately for Kashyyyk. I will send a nearby recon squad for Trandosha and flush both planets out.”
The technician approached Xydan and handed him a datapad.
“This contains information on the approximate landing co-ordinates for that craft, taken through Kashyyyk Rotation and Revolution Analysis Databank.” He informed.
The meeting soon came to a close, after more deliberations and decisions. DY-44 set off for Kashyyyk within minutes.
“I think I have agoraphobia…” whined Torrd as the fifteen-feet square elevator descended down a massive and dark cylindrical chamber. The walls were rimmed with pathways furnished with railings and gloomy, dark doors. The entire location was loosely lighted by what appeared to be moonlight, or a variant of it. The elevator lowered constantly, but the chamber seemed to be endlessly long, like a vertical tunnel of sorts. The little square patch of fresh blue light was like a gift of God, thrown away.
“Whoever made you a Jedi… deserves to be shot… here. In the head.” Wefive said, motioning his pistol to his head.
“Yes, well that’s precisely why we Jedi learn how to deflect blasters early on.” Joked Torrd.
The two had developed a rather close friendship, somehow. It had developed within and both could feel it. It was like drinking a cup from the fountains of healing, or floating in the sky, free from the pains of land. The two seemed to insult each other, but they were only joking and Seliqa had eventually realized it.
The elevator came to a shuddering halt and it was difficult to see what was around the base of the elevator, thanks to the darkness that prevailed. Wefive put on his infrared visor, which he had pretty much forgotten till now. The world of darkness around him was suddenly lit up by a bright red flame that engulfed the vicinity. He took out a torch from his belt and handed it to Torrd. Seliqa ignited her lightsaber for light.
The elevator had stopped in the middle of the vertical tunnel they had been traveling through. The stop was built in the middle of a ring, suspended in the middle of the tunnel by a metal pathway to the railed path that so closely hugged the round chamber. Wefive stepped out on the pathway, and away from the ring-like elevator stop. The shadows around them looked rather frightening, like a materialization of disease, or the presence of an omnipresent monster. The smell, which would have once been graceful and aseptic had now grown into a repulsive stench, laden with the carcasses of humans and beasts alike.
Wefive had found a corridor that led away from the cylindrical hub and into a series of doors, all marked with code or a name, and shut. There was no use stumbling into the unnecessary, as a death in a location as remote as this would be unnerving, at the least. Turns and hallways later, Wefive found himself descending down a flight of stairs. The group had maintained an unearthly silence, without as much as a grunt.
“Oh great captain of the clones, wait up so I may grace your presence!” Torrd called out.
“Shut up, pipsqueak. You’re no better than… Well just shut up and think of what we have in mind once we reach the facility.”
“I say we get to the comm. room and ask all survivors to respond, so we can personally rescue each one.” Torrd suggested, on a more serious note.
“Yeah, maybe we can ask them to spare us the effort and get their butts to the comm. room themselves. Yeah, good.”
“You think anyone survived?” Torrd asked, his eyes on the descending stairs.
“Nah, I think this place is a sophisticated graveyard…” Wefive answered.
“Then where are the bodies?” Seliqa asked.
The question left a trail of dead silence in it’s wake. They had encountered no body – living or dead.
The abrupt coming of DY44 sent loud shockwaves throughout the empty space that surrounded them. Their specially-designed cruiser, wrapped in a ring-like ultra-thruster did not pause for a moment as it jumped out of lightspeed and dove straight for the green sphere below that was Kashyyyk. The ultra-thruster was another of the Republic’s darker researches, which had been implemented while still in a prototype phase. Recon was always given the prototypes first, so as to test equipment before pushing them off for other ranks. The use of the ultra-thrusters required official sanction, which had not been taken in this case. The thruster would shoot the craft to a tremendous speed in space, some five times more than average hyperspace speeds.
It took quite a while before the soldiers of DY44 recovered from the shuddering jolt of the jump. As soon as Blade regained his senses, he detached the disposable thruster behind and doubled the speed, racing towards Kashyyyk. Irtan checked the information sent to the craft by Kashyyyk’s satellites. After analyzing and working with the data, he presented it to Xydan, who agreed on Irtan’s guess that the craft would head for an abandoned Republic research facility, in the middle of the planet-spanning forest. It was known as Zivz 110011, one of the few facilities which the Chancellor had ordered a “clean-up” of, prior to Order 66. The place had never been checked since the clean-up and there was ample opportunity for their prey to hide. Deep-scanning satellites had eliminated the possibility of the trio hiding in the open, under the cover of the trees. The scanning was inaccurate, but Xydan knew better.
He commissioned the Desci Ship-scanning satellite, which, by some stroke of luck lay in a nearby RAS. The smooth Desci satellite glided out of the Assault Ship’s belly and positioned itself near the Recon Cruiser. It’s invisible rays traveled through the empty expanse between itself and the planet below. They penetrated the thick tree-cover, raced parallel to the trees, some striking an unknown creature of nature’s. The remaining rays would continue their journey and strike the ground. After realizing they could not travel any further, they would bounce back up, and propel to the satellite’s receivers, where a three-dimensional visual representation of the terrain would be available.
An unusual looking terrain formation stood before the grand blast doors of Zivz. Xydan immediately realized, just as Irtan did, that this was no terrain formation. It was a sort of light cruiser often used by smugglers, and the very same model that DY-44 had given chase to on Onderon, and later spotted at Polis Massa. His guess was right. Their targets were found.
Chapter 15: Sinister Shadows
Wefive, Torrd and Seliqa had reached the dark depths of the facility. After several ups and downs through stairs they reached a rather large corridor, lined with dark glass windows and occasional doors with red, or malfunctioning lights. A yellow display panel hanging from the ceiling gave the infrequent designation of where each door led. They were mostly labs, halls or something of the sort. The three advanced slowly, an air of eerie ghosts surrounding them. There was an ethereal silence in the facility ever since they had entered it. Not a soul stirred inside. No creatures, human or otherwise had been found. Not even the smallest of critters were to be seen.
Seliqa caught sight of a long glass window, which was much like the other opaque black windows they had seen. Except this one was transparent. What caught the young Jedi’s attention was a faint blue flickering from the other side of the window. Seliqa looked in and noticed the flickering was being caused due to damaged electrical equipment. Sparks flew around and from what Seliqa could make of the sudden dancing shadows, there was a large underground room beyond the window. The corridor they were on, was an enclosed observation deck that served as a pathway to the deeper labs.
Torrd stopped to peer into the darkness with Seliqa and he too, saw attempted to decipher why this lab was drawing their attention. There was something sinister, and dangerous under those shadows, in those labs below them. He spotted a stairway leading up from the lab’s floor and after a few turns, joining a corridor which hugged the ceiling and met the observation deck at a convenient door beside the window. There were wooden and metal tables below, most broken or burned. Papers, datapads and other stationery lay in a slapdash fashion. Computer panels showed bright blue error messages, were frozen in unresponsiveness or blank, if not broken or sparking. Again, there were no bodies.
The three stared down in a mutually established silence. The room had once been the site of much violence, chaos and confusion. A battle, Seliqa thought. A battle would explain the carbon scoring and lack of bodies. But then why was all the work left there, for visitors to pore over and learn the Republic’s secrets? Torrd was thinking of a science experiment gone wrong. He believed that the scientists had stumbled upon some sort of mind-altering drug, which had seemingly damaged either a subject or a scientist’s head. Wefive though of treachery. Rules in secret installations were strict. The slightest deviation from rules required thorough detention, and could even stretch to execution.
“Take a look at this…” Wefive whispered. He was looking through the window at a rather steep angle. Torrd took his place and gazed out, waiting for the flickering.
There were Bacta cylinders. The life-saving cylinders were used to keep specimens with absolutely no compromise on health. They were broken; the shattered glass and spilt bacta surrounded them. Torrd and Wefive also spotted four huge flat holding beds. Handcuffs at the ends held the victim’s arms and legs fast. Suddenly it dawned upon Torrd that the damage was not caused by any army, or mad scientist, or science experiment. It was something more primitive, more savage. The damage caused was not due to blasters, but due to raw powerful hands. It was not uniform, and definitely not sophisticated.
“We better take a look down there. Look for survivors.” Wefive suggested, without taking his eyes off the window.
“We’ve already sent a message through the intercom and waited a damned hour for nothing, and you think we’re going to find survivors, there? Of all places, there?” Torrd replied cynically.
“Yeah, well I at least want to what happened in there. Something’s happened here and you cannot deny that. This place is… freaking me out. It’s so, empty. Like some horror holovision movie.” Seliqa said.
After some moments of consideration, Torrd agreed and punched the door panel. It turned green and the door opened up, after much difficulty. He stepped in, shortly followed by Wefive and Seliqa. They were in another, smaller observation deck that shortly terminated with a sharp right and a flight of stairs which took right turns at a regular pace. As soon as the stairs started, the observation deck ended and the massive expanse of the room could be felt as the three descended into it’s depths.
It was dark, but not as dark as it had first appeared. It’s only illumination was the long window near the ceiling, through which Seliqa had once been peering. It’s featured were abruptly illumined because of the sparking wire. Seliqa and Torrd ignited their lightsabers simultaneously, so as to lighten up the place better. The pure glow from the lightsabers revealed a room of research, experimentation and secrets. The bacta cylinders loomed over Wefive as he made his way through the spilt bacta. Torrd looked around warily, hoping for the slightest trace of life.
They examined the place, looking up and down, wondering what had caused the destruction. The damage was evident now, and signs of forced violence had now become obvious. Something grizzly had occurred here before and an eerie feeling told Wefive that whoever was responsible for this act was somewhere there. He stepped up to one of the metal tables. It was made of strong durasteel, but couldn’t not shine against the carbon scoring on it. It was slightly deformed at edges. Somebody with enormous strength and used it as a punching bag. Papers and panels lay haphazardly on the table, some even fallen below. They all had ‘Top Secret’ and ‘Confidential’ watermarks on them.
As Torrd and Seliqa explored the great experimentation chamber, Wefive let his blaster rest on the table and shuffled through the papers. He looked with the expert eye of a battle observer. He swiftly changed pages, but most were unimportant babble on chemicals and protocols and other such ‘hypocritical rhetoric’ as Wefive put it. Seliqa spotted him going through the papers when she saw him fix his gaze on one paper. After scanning through it’s contents for a few seconds, he dropped it onto the table and read it more thoroughly. Seliqa could sense him growing tense. He was reading rapidly. His heart had started to beat faster. Seliqa could feel the disbelief, the growing sense of danger, the fear in Wefive’s mind. He slowly began muttering the page’s content as he rapidly read it.
As soon as his eyes ran over the last letter on the paper, Wefive looked up in fearful desperation. With a swift hand he threw aside the paper and grabbed his blaster, cocking it.
“Get out of here! Get the hell out!” he shouted, advancing towards the stairs.
“What is it?” Seliqa asked, anxious to know the contents of the paper.
“Hurry! We don’t have the flaming time! It…”
A sharp sound of glass breaking interrupted Wefive. His head snapped to the left, where the sound came from, to the opposite of the bacta tanks.
“Hell no. Come on, get out! Out!” he yelled.
“Look, what’s in those papers anyways?” Torrd asked, using the force to bring the papers towards him while Seliqa walked to where she heard the glass shattering.
Suddenly, out of the darkness an unknown entity rammed itself into Wefive, throwing him a few feet away from where he was standing. He fired his blaster, lighting up the room in short white bursts. The creature which had attacked him howled in pain as the burning laser connected. Torrd ignited his lightsaber, and the creature turned back. Against the faint light from the window above, Wefive got an idea of the countenance of his assailant. It was a large beast, almost nine feet in height and had a wide chest, with thick, iron-strong muscles. He was very furry and breathed laboriously. He growled loudly, as if threatening.
Wefive pulled the trigger and let the white blaster fire dig into the creature’s back. The creature roared in pain as Wefive got up. As soon as Wefive paused to reload his magazine, the creature turned back voraciously and slapped Wefive with his massive clenched fist. This time Wefive moaned in the painful impact he received on his head. Exulting his rage, the creature stormed towards Seliqa and with the same terrifying clenched fist, he delivered a deadly punch to Seliqa, who artfully dodged the attack. The frustrated beast then unleashed a flurry of attacks on Seliqa who continued dodging and jumping, enraging the beast further. And right when he least expected it, she ignited her lightsaber and made a quick, light slash while ducking through below the beast’s arms.
The beast expressed his fury by banging his hands in frustration on the metal table in front of him. His hands made quite noticeable dents on the table. The beast then turned to Torrd, or at least seemed to. Seliqa hurried to Wefive and took off his helmet. He was conscious, but dazed. He noticed Seliqa and then the creature. He whispered a faint “There”, pointing towards the monster facing Torrd. Torrd ignited his lightsaber, and waved it near the creature hoping it won’t harm the creature. He did not believe in senseless violence, especially against non-sentient creatures. This code had often landed him in more than one instance of trouble.
The beast had amazing agility and jumped right over the table that divided him and Torrd. He waved his hands randomly at Torrd, hoping to get some flesh within his claws, but failed and eventually withdrew, fearing Torrd’s lightsaber skill. The second he lowered the saber, the creature punched at a lightning-fast speed. Torrd stepped back instantly and avoided the blow. He came to his senses atlast and backflipped several feet behind.
“What the hell is this thing?” he shouted out in rage and desperation.
“A… It’s a…” Wefive sputtered, choking and attempting to get up.
“What?” Torrd yelled back.
“It’s a bloody mutant wookiee!” Wefive screamed, firing at the wookiee. Because of the distance, very few shots connected.
Wefive’s words hit Torrd like a bullet. He didn’t believe his ears for the moment.
“A mutant what?”
“Behind you!” alerted an alarmed Seliqa, just as the wookiee marched threateningly towards Torrd. The wookiee was growling fiercely, and apparently did not have a sentient mind. He was only a brutal, senseless monster of destruction and pain.
“Huh?” Torrd uttered, looking back. Milliseconds later, a mammoth claw struck his face, scratching it. Torrd staggered from the blow and moaned.
He lost his senses only a second later, when the first wookiee’s thundering punch connected his neck. He fell down to his knees, his vision blurry, his head throbbing. Tossing his head back, he caught a glimpse of the two wookiees towering over him. One of them was about to drive his massive paw into Torrd, when suddenly a bright orange lightsaber blade erupted from his abdomen. His eyes opened up in shock, from his mouth flowed a deafening roar of pain. Seliqa’s blade withdrew and once again plunged in, this time into the chest. A quick succession of stabs later, the wookiee toppled and fell, his body lifeless.
The wookiee’s companion did not take the incident too kindly. He screamed and shouted and began attacking Seliqa, clawing for her, ignoring the lethal swinging white blade. His fingers got chopped off by a graceful swing of Seliqa’s and his chest lightly slashed. It only enraged the pulsating beast further. He attempted a jump at Seliqa, but stumbled and fell as soon as Wefive stepped out of the shadows and fired rapidly at the wookiee from close range. Close range repeater shots are always deadly and the wookiee lashed about on the ground in pain as the blaster fire rained on him relentlessly.
“Quick! Out of here, now!” Wefive commanded, his finger firm on the trigger. Seliqa grabbed the semi-conscious Torrd and dragged him to the stairs. Wefive slowly followed her, his gun still trained on the wookiee. As soon as he was a dozen feet away from the writhing body of the creature, he stopped firing and ran up the stairs with Seliqa, reloading as he ran.
The mutant had developed an unbelievable stamina. He got up and after a round of confusion, lashed about, destroying anything in vicinity and then storming up the stairs. Wefive and Seliqa hurried, with the newfound danger following them. Wefive sprinted to the door and punched it harder than necessary. The door opened, with the slightly delay courtesy of malfunction. The wookiee charged up the stairs and reached the observation deck just as Wefive opened the door to the larger observation deck. Wefive hurriedly took out a smoke canister and loading it in his gun, fired it straight into the giant wookiee’s eyes. The wookiee screamed in rage, frustration and pain as the tear gas spread into his eyes and irritated his skin. The gas spread fast, but the wookiee slowed to a halt. Seliqa was already past the main door. Wefive lunged out and closed the door desperately. The door closed after a painfully long nine second delay.
Wefive heaved a sigh of relief as he dropped down against the wall of the observation deck and took off his helmet. Seliqa sat beside him, propping Torrd up beside her. Torrd was still moaning, but had become more conscious. He lay rubbing the back of his neck, which was apparently still throbbing in pain.
“Remind me never to run into an experimentation chamber next time…” Wefive said, his voice reduced to a breath-heavy whisper.
“That was… very painful.” Torrd uttered, still fondling his neck.
“Here, take this.” Wefive said, tossing two cylinders of blue bacta over to Torrd, “Found these down there. I took some and stored them in my suit’s pockets. He handed one to Seliqa and gulped a mouthful from another.
“That was refreshing. But the pain ain’t gonna go out… yet.” Torrd announced, emptying a cylinder.
Seliqa initiated her holographic map. Wefive looked into it. And with some tracing, tracked their position. “Okay,” he said, coming to a conclusion, “We’re close to the upper part. We just take a door to the left… somewhere, there that door. It should lead us somewhere above, then an elevator to go to the upper facility, and a stack of ladders and halls to the rear exit of the facility.”
“But where will we go?” Seliqa asked.
“Anywhere, dammit! Anywhere other than this scientific hell built here. We almost got killed there! It’s worse than facing those Recon goons!”
Seliqa hesitated and spent a moment of thought.
“I follow the clone.” Torrd announced, apparently still in pain.
“Alright, we’ll think better once we’re out.” Seliqa said and got up.
“Way to go. Now we’re talking, sister!” Wefive acknowledged, getting up. He extended his arm to Torrd and helped him up. He then assisted him in walking and the two slowly, but surely limped their way to the door Wefive had planned upon.
Chapter 17: The Ruins of Kwayci
The crashing thunder brought with a terrifying lash, like that of a massive whip, cracked in the air. Tachs and other animals scampered for shelter as another wave of powerful downpour released itself from the clouds and onto the damp earth. The rain fell relentlessly on the cold, untouched stones of the Temple of Kwayci. The temple was a known ritual altar, used by the Kwaycionkari tribe of Wookiees. The tribe would regularly sacrifice some of their profits for gaining more profits (which they would sacrifice again). The tribe was very religious and devoted, and their fierce fervour during battle was a legend told by many Wookiee historians. But that was thousands of years ago, and as time passes, so do tribes. The Kwaycionkari tribe was wiped out in one of the many thousand battles and skirmishes that have taken place on the rather primitive forest planet.
Seliqa pushed away a low branch of a tree as she trudged alongside Wefive. They had no precise idea on where to go, but Wefive had planned on some sort of small enclosure, hidden from the world. The forest would be too dangerous and the abandoned facility was unpredictable. The long hours without sleep had worn out both Seliqa and Wefive. After realising their ships were not functioning, their already squashed hopes were killed. They only walked in silence, passing the trees, ignoring the sounds and hoping for a cosy bed in the middle of the arboreal land they trespassed.
“This looks good.” Wefive said, stepping on the cobblestone flooring beneath him. The Temple, or more so the Ruins of Kwayci lay ahead of him. The magnificent temple was some twenty metres wide and fifty metres long, and seemingly consisted of a single sacrificial hall, where once appalling sacrifices had been made.
“What makes you so sure?” Seliqa asked sceptically. She too felt her spirits rise as he stepped on the firm stone.
The temple was elevated from the ground, and it’s wide door was greeted by a flight of stairs, which numbered anywhere between twenty to thirty steps.
“Well we’re away from DY44 and this place looks splendidly luxurious. Why not give it a try? Where’s the reservation counter? We need a double room…”
“Let’s just camp up on those steps.” Seliqa replied very tersely.
The two had not yet brought up the topic of Torrd’s death. Wefive had avoided the subject since he escaped Zivz and Seliqa had tried her best not to think about the incident. Her mind was too bushed for it anyways. She made her way past the wet stone towards the stairs. The stone railing that sandwiched the stairs had been well sculpted for a Wookiee artist and although the figures were a little abstract, Wefive guessed they would sell for millions if the right marketing strategy were used.
Seliqa collapsed on the base of the stairs and let the pure water of the skies soak her. She breathed in fatigued exasperation. Wefive dropped his gun and his helmet and sat beside her. They said nothing, and simply appreciated the musical, liberating quality of the raindrops, as they landed on their faces. Another thunder brought with it another great wave of water from the atmosphere, only to be reduced slightly in a few seconds. The rain formed a sort of illusion, of spirits fighting and killing demons above. The wind broke away these illusions to form new ones. Wefive sighed as he reviewed everything he had done, and achieved. He closed his eyes and thought for seconds, minutes into what seemed like hours. He was very tense, and Seliqa knew that. What she did not know, was what he was always thinking of, beneath that dense veil of his mind. At this stage, Seliqa did not care either.
DY44 had never been on a more frustrating assignment to date. Their prey had escaped them more than once, to the point where Irtan had begun to wonder why they are running in the first place. There was nothing on Kashyyyk, except dense foliage and probably some towns and villages speckled across it. Irtan was tapping away at his computer, his face bearing a very grim and serious expression on his face. Jesqas drew up behind him, watching the probe droid trace the red trail in and out of the jam-packed forests. Blade watched Xydan, who lay below on the muddy ground, his armour an ugly mess of clay and carbon scoring. Xydan’s injuries were too severe. He had influentially led the DY44, but the battle had not only sapped his strength, the blows dealt by his opponents had caused heavy damage.
He got up, in much pain and limped towards Irtan. He collapsed on a log and fell back, breathing heavily. “What is it?” he asked, pointing at the computer screen.
“The probe droid, he followed Camman all the way into the forest. We’re launching as soon as we find their resting place.” Irtan intelligently answered.
“No. Go now. I… need rest. My armour is banged, my weapon’s jammed and my body’s broken. I want you all to go and murder those turncoats, you get me?”
The rest of the squad nodded firmly.
“Once you are done, contact me and return immediately, upon which we will exit this piece of junk.”
DY44 agreed solemnly and after performing some checks and reloads, set out with a direct feed of the computer data into their helmets. They marched away speedily, cutting through the trees and other plants with ease. Xydan watched as they left and laid back on the log, letting his head rest and his eyes close. He was playing a gamble. His squad was nothing without their leader in the field, but his opponents were no more invigorated. He quietly switched on his squad radio on the helmet and kept it beside him, listening quietly, but not whispering a breath.
Seliqa awoke with raindrops plummeting into her eyes. She got up quickly and realised she was drenched. Her clothes were soaked and her back ached bluntly from sleeping on the stairs. Looking around, she recollected what happened last and saw Wefive in his armour, still on the stairs. Seliqa could not guess whether he was sleeping, or simply leaning. She assumed the former, since he neither turned nor spoke. There was an unusual tingling inside her and she realised that her Sense abilities had started working. The Force Sense works when the user is in danger, and surrounded by opposing energies. Sense can be accurate or not. It can be a simple, harmless mouse with malicious intentions, or a very powerful foe, ready to deal the user a painful death. Seliqa, being a true-born Jedi Guardian, had never sensed much or predicted a calamity.
She turned to where she thought the danger would present itself. Her mind was telling her, it would be none other than DY44, or at least some jungle beast sensing a new quarry.
“What happened?” Wefive asked, noticing Seliqa’s alert state.
“I don’t know. The Force is trying to tell me something. Some sort of danger is approaching. It could be mortal.”
“Yeah? Well just be more careful, then.” He said, getting up.
Seliqa turned back and asked in a very sombre tone, “How did… what happened to Torrd?”
Wefive turned down, on hearing the question. He found it painful to answer the question, as he had witnessed, in a very conscious way, the death of Torrdemnon Wassi.
“He was shot. Multiple times, in the neck and the back.”
“But that’s crazy. Torrd was a very experienced Jedi. He could block the attacks, or at least sense them.”
“He didn’t. The bacta had worked like a painkiller on his neck. He couldn’t feel a thing there. It was only much later that he did realise, and then it was too late.”
Seliqa opened her mouth to ask, but then closed it abruptly and thought in silence. She sat back down in the relentless rain as it poured down on them.
“What… what happens now?” she asked ingenuously.
Wefive lay silent for a while, looking out in the dark rain, almost as if ignoring her question. His featureless helmet revealed nothing.
“I don’t know. They got our ships. They got Torrd. We haven’t got anything. We’re alone in the middle of a Kashyyyk jungle. Perfect nightmare.”
“But there must be some locals. Master Kenobi told us to survive by any means possible. And we’re going to do it. We’re one of the few rebels. Our endurance is the key to the struggle. We can topple…”
“Enough with the half-baked lies already!” Wefive snapped animatedly and then buried his head in his hands. He sighed in the frustration built inside him, at all the meaningless struggles of existence they had fought since that one moment when Order 66 was announced.
“OK, look. We’ll rest here until the morn comes. Then we’ll head out and look for some village or something. You can speak Wookiee-language, right? Just use your mind tricks to have them follow us.”
Seliqa looked vaguely into oblivion. “Right. What after that? We head for Polis Massa?”
“No. We can’t go there. We’ve been ordered not to, remember? We’ll… hide on some far-flung planet, wait around till some big movement comes up, or we are contacted by Jedi. We can’t do anything else all the same.”
“Great. Any planets in mind?”
“Not many good planets survived the Wars. Most of them will have clone residue on them like dust. We’ll need to hunt.”
Seliqa was about to speak when she suddenly lunged ahead and fell straight down the stairs. Nanoseconds later, a brilliant blue sniper shot lit up the large ditch in which the Temple was nestled. The ditch was surrounded by raised forests, which rose to hills. The sniper shot struck right where Seliqa had been sitting.
Wefive jumped up, grabbing his rifle and reloading it. Seliqa ignited her lightsaber and stood at the stair’s base in a combat stance which clearly illustrated her battle expertise. Another Sniper shot followed, aimed for Seliqa. This time it came from behind, but Seliqa turned back in time and forcefully struck the laser, driving it back where it came from.
Wefive fired blindly where he thought the laser had originated. He hoped to land a lucky shot, which would expose his target. None of his shots connected his expected target. An unsettling peace pervaded the Temple. The rain battered down on the beleaguered stone, creating the satisfactory, chirpy sounds of the rain. Suddenly a whooshing and then, booming sound resonated in the ditch. A large, smoking ball erupted out of the woodwork and landed a few feet away from Seliqa, exploding with great intensity and sound. Seliqa jumped away in time and dodged yet another sniper shot.
She carefully concentrated into the forest, hoping to pinpoint her attacker’s location. It was broken soon enough, when a volley of blaster fire opened only a few metres behind her. She gracefully eluded the attack and turned around, slashing away at the rain and laser with her lightsaber. Her attacker was in full view, at the floor of the ditch. He was a recon trooper, armed with a powerful heavy repeater. Wefive counterattacked him, sending running for the bushes. Another flaming anti-armour shot jumped out of nowhere and landed straight at Wefive’s feet. Wefive, who was at the top of the temple’s stairs was knocked off. He fell down, and suffered on his back, but avoided the calamity that was to come. The blast knocked out the stones where Wefive was standing, shooting out rocks and stones in all directions. The pillar was shattered in a dazzling explosion and crashed onto the blasted stones below. The roof above the pillar, too crashed, unsupported by its trusty pillar. Wefive rolled around in pain, but it showed no signs of subsiding as rocks and boulders and debris rained on him with the water from the skies.
Seliqa brushed away the invading blasters and closed in at her assailant with deadly precision. Her opponent, Jesqas knew better. He stepped back with every step of Seliqa’s. His blaster did not falter. He had a plan up his sleeve, and he had put his life on the line. Seliqa found a gap in Jesqas’ shooting pattern and then leapt up into the air, seizing the first opportunity she found. She was about to thunder down with the rain, when another recon trooper rammed into her with a jet pack. Caught by surprise, Seliqa lost her concentration and plummeted to the unforgiving stone floor below. She felt the sudden rise of temperature as the heat of the jet pack swept past her. She regained her senses seconds before the fall and landed on her hands and legs like an experienced cat. She jumped away unpredictably and served a forceful stab of her lightsaber into Jesqas’ shoulder. Jesqas screamed in pain and fell to his knees. His hand went numb and the blaster rifle fell with his body. He rolled around and catered to his injury, but he knew very well that the damage was irreplaceable. No metal hand could ever match with a natural, organic hand.
Seliqa swung her lightsaber with full force, but the flying Recon trooper was out of her reach. She jumped up as high as the Force permitted her and grabbed him by the belt. The astonished trooper dodged and spun in the air, trying to shake off Seliqa. The latter held on firmly and ripped off the jet pack from the trooper’s pack. The jet pack flew wildly in the ditch and collided into the Temple’s wall, demolishing it. The trooper fell and made hard contact with the stone ground, as Seliqa drove him down. He kicked the Jedi off and quickly drew out his blaster, shooting a few desperate shots. Seliqa frantically deflected them and then swung some attacking manoeuvres at him. The recon trooper, Irtan, picked up Jesqas’ rifle and emptied a magazine as Seliqa advanced threateningly. He slipped out two smoke grenades and denoted them under his feet.
The incident looked like an accident. Seliqa stood bemused as all her visible space was filled up with the all-too-familiar white smoke. She heard the boots scamper across the wet stone. Following her instincts, she ran after the sound. The smoke grew denser and then clear, then again dense. By the time the smoke cleared away, pummelled by the rain, Seliqa stood wet and confused, opposite to the great stairs of the Temple. The right side of the stairs had largely been undone, because of the anti-armour shots. The entrance had been partially covered up with the explosion of the pillar. She saw Irtan rush up the steps and leap to the left pillar, still intact.
Wefive realised everything. He jumped onto the debris, and shouted “Watch it! The Recon Trooper is baiting you! They’ll launch an anti-armour!”
Seliqa stopped at her third step. She concentrated against the pillar and found Irtan hiding expectantly beneath it. Initiating a force pull, she pulled Irtan towards her and slammed him onto the pillar. Without losing her hold on Irtan, she concentrated on the pillar itself. Wefive watched as it chipped and cracked away. It’s smooth, round body reduced to a series of crevices. It suddenly gave way and churned down in white and grey smoke of dust particles. The roof above slammed down onto the unwary trooper and buried him in a large heap of stone, wood and smoke. “One down!” Seliqa yelled as the rumbling wreckage dropped on Irtan.
Chapter 18: Victim of Betrayal
Blade watched from his dark forest cover as his squadmate was buried alive in a heap of stone. His resolve fastened and his hand gripped the anti-armour gun tighter. He unloaded it’s empty shell and pumped in a new one. “Jesqas, report.” He whispered over the comlink.
“Jesqas here. Shoulder injured.” A broken and breathless reply surfaced.
“Irtan has been buried in a pile of stone. Won’t last.”
There was a momentary silence on the other end.
“Here. We won’t last either. We must inform Xydan. This Jedi is powerful. We’ve never fought Jedi…”
“Shut the whining, Jess. We’re taking down this Jedi. Let Xydan know and ask him to contact command. Act as unconscious as possible, those Jedi can detect death-feigners.”
“Alright. Be careful and stay down. Jesqas out.”
Blade heard Jesqas’ words clearly, but he had no real intentions of following them. He had always lived on the brink of death and he knew completely well that the very purpose of his life is war. He is a war machine, only an organic one. He is engineered to fight, designed to think and conditioned to last. And he knew he would not give up that easily. Pulling out his three-feet long sniper rifle, he hoped the Jedi had not moved. He looked down the iron sight and zoomed in at a maximum, capturing a clear, albeit partially blocked view of Seliqa staring at where Irtan must have been. His finger lingered over the trigger. His mind was dying to make that one twitch that could end either his, or his target’s life. Seliqa, in her full senses was a very dangerous foe, and if Blade revealed his location with the sniper shot, Seliqa would slaughter him.
He dropped his sniper rifle and collapsed against a wall, in anxiety.
Wefive gawped over the seemingly unanimated body of Jesqas. His shoulder showed a clearly cauterised, ring-like mark made by Seliqa’s lightsaber. Wefive kneeled down into the mud and touched Jesqas’ helmet, his other hand ready to strike. There was no response. He unfastened Jesqas’ helmet and slowly pulled it out, letting Jesqas’ head drop onto the muddy stone. His eyes were closed, but his face was not peaceful, but more like a man resting before his revenge. The face was just as Wefive had expected – like his own. The same eyes, the nose, the ears, everything looked just like him. Wefive had never thought he would have to turn a gun against someone with the same face.
He got up and aimed cautiously with the gun, hoping to waste the least ammunition possible by hitting at a critical point – the exposed head. He got ready and was about to shoot, when Jesqas’ leg kicked Wefive’s and tripped him. Wefive stumbled and his gun fell ahead. Jesqas jumped to his feet, pushing Wefive aside and grabbing his gun. Too close for a safe shot, he butted the gun into Wefive’s helmet. Wefive fell to the stone floor and rolled back up, in a martial arts stance. Jesqas fired with his right hand, his only working one. Unaided by two hands, the gun fired in a very loose reticule. Wefive took advantage of this and leapt for Jesqas’ feet, bringing him down. He then grabbed his gun and fired Jesqas’ leg. The leg started incinerating and Jesqas cried in pain and his bashed his leg on the ground. Wefive fired away and struck Jesqas’ upper abdomen. The armour was strong, but Jesqas’ unusual jerks and twitches gave away the fact that he was in pain.
Wefive fired mercilessly and brought his aim up, towards the face. Jesqas watched in the few seconds of horror, as the white fire spread from his chest, to his neck, then corroded his cheek, filled his nose and charred it away. It then immolated his eyes and burned away his face. Jesqas’ last moments were short, but painful. Wefive stopped firing seconds later, long after Jesqas’ face had been corroded beyond recognition. Wefive fired twice more, further blackening the already scorched face and turned away.
He had claimed yet another life, and witnessed yet another horror.
Xydan got up and donned his reliable helmet. He half-limped his way to his starfighter. Switching on the input to the radio comlink, he called out for Jesqas, Irtan and Blade to report. He had heard the complete conversation between his squad, but had never interfered. His mind had been racing with thoughts. The thoughts that had formed in his mind from Jesqas’ last words.
“This Jedi is powerful. We’ve never fought Jedi…” Jesqas’ chant echoed through Xydan’s head. It was the cold truth, which answered all of DY44’s questions. DY44 had only faced droids and separatists before. Fighting a Jedi had taken too much out of them. Xydan traced the root of this disaster to Commander Soy, the egoistic imbecile who had launched the operation partly to hide his failure and partly to extract a vendetta. Xydan now wanted to kill him as much as he wanted to kill the Jedi. His monotonous mind, built to follow all orders given to him was on the verge of breaking it’s rules and running free. But it was impossible for him. The urge to complete his orders was irresistible, as was his hate for the Jedi and Captain Wefive.
He jumped into his starfighter and punched into it’s controls.
Wefive walked back to Seliqa, who stood alert before the stairs. She was soaked by the water, which continued to fall on them, showing no signs of stopping. Her lightsaber was turned off, and she looked calm, but Wefive could tell from the glaring heat in her eyes that she knew something he did not. He did not care anyways.
“I’ve killed another one. Pretended to be out cold, the idiot.” He reported coldly as he approached her.
“There is another one, and one more who has not shown up. I think we got him in the facility.”
“Well, there are four and we have halved our load. The other two must be running for their lives in the forest right now.”
Seliqa did not reply, but paced the brilliant blue and grey stone below her. She was in much frustration and apparently tired.
“Any clue?” Wefive asked, hoping to get a concrete answer from the Jedi, who seemed to be in a stupor.
She then suddenly leaped into the air and caught a medium-sized spacefighter as it flew above Wefive. She received a powerful impact as she landed on the blazing fighter. She punched it’s canopy hard, to no avail. The fighter rose and dived, and then took circles around the temple. It often rolled and swung, hoping to shake Seliqa off and fired recklessly on having Wefive within it’s sights. Wefive smartly dived into the debris where Irtan was buried alive and dug in to keep himself hidden.
Seliqa meanwhile, drew her lightsaber and noticed the rain evaporating off the lightsaber’s blade. She drove it into the canopy and dug a hole, only to greet a series of powerful blaster pistol shots. She ducked and hugged the front of the starfighter, while Xydan rolled precariously. She realised that his wizened acumen was starting to fade and the strings of desperation setting in. He punched into the air outside the breached canopy, only to feel serene raindrops on his gloved fist.
He dived his craft and got up, staring deep into Seliqa’s eyes. The few seconds, they stared at each other, waiting to see what the other would do. Wefive drew out his hand to smash Seliqa’s fist, which held onto the breach firmly. Seliqa quickly retracted it and in mid-air, drew her lightsaber and swung it swiftly, chopping off Xydan’s arm. She watched the fist fly off Xydan’s hand, and flee into the rain. Xydan dropped back, staring at his burning hand in horror. The smouldering sensation on his fist was intolerable. In a fit of rage, he drew out his blaster and fired a few clean shots out of the breach, none of which landed on his intended target.
He glanced down from his cockpit. The craft was losing altitude and spiralling downward. Seliqa, too looked down and then at a confused Xydan. She grabbed him and tried to draw him out. He shot her hand with his blaster, causing burns on his wrist. She retracted in pain and then grabbed him again, more firmly and drew him out. He protested, and dropped his blaster, watching in horror as it fell below him, with his beloved craft. It circled downwards, out of control like a toy. He saw himself falling down with Seliqa. He was some four metres above the surface, when he saw the massive explosion as the craft smashed into the edge of the Temple perimeter, a divider between the forest wall and the stone floor. The craft practically shattered to pieces and lit up in a magnificent yellow-red explosion. So engrossed was he in the blast, that he did not realise he had landed safely on the ground with Seliqa.
He jumped to his feet and stepped away, while Seliqa calmly watched his plight. His shattered craft had been broken into pieces and now no recognisable part was visible. He turned around to see Wefive approaching. He realised that he has appeared in the most critical position in his life. His death was only seconds away, and the worst part was, that he knew it well beforehand.
Blade was torn in a mental conflict. He had the perfect opportunity – he could wrap up the entire situation with a single shot. Because of their proximity to each other, the two would most probably die together. However that meant baiting Xydan. Without Xydan, DY44, (or what was left of it) was like a body without a spinal cord. Blade picked up his heavy anti-armour gun, a bulky weapon of great responsibility. He had seen his team-mates topple one by one. First it was Irtan, buried beneath the very rubble he wanted his enemies to be in. And now Jesqas had been personally executed by Wefive. Now only Xydan and Blade were left, and the knowledge bored a hole into Blade’s mind.
His mind drifted back to one of their first missions, on another temperate planet where the squad had to infiltrate a Separatist base and assassinate a bunch of Nemoidian conspirators. Then, DY44 had been in one of it’s most vulnerable positions. The squad had killed their targets, but could not complete their secondary objectives, or get out of the well fortified base. It was then, in that moment of desperation, that Xydan revealed his master strategy. “Complete your goals with whatever means possible, tie all the strings and escape as soon as possible.” These words now echoed in Blade’s mind. The cold truth that lay in the implication of these words now dawned upon him. The words were like candles that were extinguishing a dense darkness that surrounded him.
“Complete your goals with whatever means possible…”
Blade looked down from the edge of the forest, into Xydan’s exasperation and his utter helplessness, surrounded by two of his greatest foes. He looked at his large gun and pictured himself firing a rocket into the group of three, taking out all and completing his mission.
“Tie all the strings…”
Blade watched his dream with a dark delight, as Seliqa and Wefive flew like ragdolls and faced a miserable, yet quick defeat. They lay dead, in the rain.
“Escape as soon as possible…”
Blade walked toward his craft, satisfied of killing his foes and completing his mission – but at a great risk. He could feel the hole in his heart as he walked alone. And then his mind jolted back to reality and he came to his senses.
The orange blade erupted out of the previously calm lightsaber hilt. Xydan watched the rain disintegrating instantly as it hit the lightsaber blade. A feeling of unease grew in him as he learned that soon he too would disintegrate in a very similar manner. He looked around like an outnumbered prey. It was Wefive, in his scarred armour, cocking his reloaded gun, ready to fire at the slightest provocation. Xydan was heaving, breathing heavily and only now did he realise that his body was bouncing up and down maniacally.
Suddenly the pit was lit up in the all-too-familiar yellow glow of an incoming rocket. Xydan turned around and saw the yellow-orange star fly towards him at more than fifty miles an hour. The view got brighter every second. A quick glance to the left and to the right revealed that Seliqa and Wefive were stepping away, preparing a sprint. Xydan stepped backwards, but he knew he was no match for the speeding rocket. Then suddenly his vision was covered by a bright white light, as pure as any, but possessing a pretension of death and destruction. The sound that followed it was literally deafening and after a very sudden explosion, Xydan heard nothing. When his vision returned, a darkness ensued. He could not hear, but realised he was flying. He was flying backwards, towards the temple. His body was on fire, his armour disintegrated and his mind slowly recovered. The searing heat spread through his body. A wild pain emerged from his legs and spread upwards, accompanying the fire. Another sharp pain wracked his spine as he crashed like a ragdoll against the edge of what was left of the temple’s roof. His body jolted and blazed. He felt himself falling, into infinity. The liberating flame doused his pains and seemed to lift him up, away from the sinful world. His front connected the wrecked stone floor below, but he did not feel it much. He screamed instinctively as the last strands of his life were sapped away. His mind was extinguished and suddenly, he was no more. In that instant, Xydan died.
Blade was in shambles. His mind had virtually committed suicide. He watched helplessly as the rocket hit Xydan fairly in the abdomen and drove him away, burning him alive. His ragdoll body struck against the temple roof at a high velocity and then fell limp on the debris. He was clearly lifeless. Blade could not believe he had to kill his own boss. If this got out, Blade would be court-martialled. He looked around frantically for the bodies of Wefive and Seliqa. His heart sank. Seliqa was bruised and had burn marks over her, but she was somehow getting to her feet. Wefive too was using a nearby stone pedestal for support as he got up, with heavy carbon scoring on his armour.
Blade went insane as he realised Xydan’s sacrifice was in vain. He had killed Xydan, but to no avail. His intended targets were very much alive. He pulled out his sniper rifle and with shaking hands, reloaded it and looked down it’s scope. He pointed it towards Seliqa’s neck and fired instinctively, feeling the mild jolt of a blue laser escaping the gun. He felt no emotion as the laser raced through the air towards Seliqa. The latter saw it approaching and quickly whipped out her lightsaber, striking the bolt with spectacular accuracy. The thin strand of laser reversed direction and bounced back at double velocity. It raced into the forest and struck Blade’s helmet at a dazzling speed. Blade flew back a few feet and stumbled over a log. His gun fell out of his hands. He took off his helmet. While the laser itself was harmless to him, because of his armour, it was the force that struck him. The impact of the laser had emanated a powerful wave, crushing Blade’s facial nerves and affecting his spinal cord. He had heard it crack as the laser had hit him. His vision blurred in an instant, and he felt an emancipating force surge through his body and gush into his brain. Suddenly he lost his senses and died quietly.
The rain had refused to cease, it’s endless torrents crashing down on forest. Seliqa turned off her lightsaber and moaned. Her robes had been burned, and her body had suffered carbon scoring. She saw Wefive get up and felt a ripple in the force, as another life was extinguished in the forest. She breathed a sigh of relief and limped a few feet, until she got her bearings. Wefive too got up and tended to his banged and bruised head. Seliqa staggered towards the stairs of the temple, or what were left of them. She was heaving and her body rose and fell as it greeted the soothing raindrops. She felt the contrast between the hot ait escaping her body and the cool water dripping from heaven. She put her first foot on the flight of stairs when a sudden burning sensation entered her back. She had been unaware of her surroundings in her state of euphoric distraction. More pangs of the burning entered her back and her lower neck. She moaned in pain as a blazing weakness overtook her. She dropped to her knees suddenly, sending shockwaves in her limp body. The smouldering sensation grew wilder and further increased as she fell on the stairs. She looked back, despite her weakness and saw a mosaic of raindrops, darkness and forest. The body of Wefive, his gun aimed, pierced the vista. His gun opened a burst of fire and Seliqa felt it dig into her back. The cold flame of realisation singed her body.
The raindrops fell into her eyes, blurring her view. Wefive’s grey body splattered in her eyes and a darkness took over everything. And then the blaze stopped, as did her view. She felt the soothing raindrops pounce on her body, ignoring the flame that scorched her body. A debility overcame her and dissolved her, leaving only a lifeless, limp body on the cold stone steps.
The sleek UR-14 slid into into a quiet dock on the belly of the RAS Rapier. It settled on a docking bay, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the bay. Clones moved past swiftly, loading and unloading with clockwork efficiency. Wefive jumped out and made his way to the security checkpost at the exit of the bay. The clone trooper saw Wefive’s special armour and decided to enquire. He asked some short, obligatory questions and after sending a word to The Bridge, let Wefive pass.
The RAS Rapier was orbiting a large sun near the Coruscant system. The sun’s energy was being harnessed by several thousand Imperial Solar Energy Units to provide massive amounts of energy. This power would be used by the Empire for it’s ambitious projects. The Bridge faced the sun, and its black window coat prevented the sun’s glare from blinding the crew. Yet the sun’s brilliance shone into the Bridge, illuminating the already well-lit room in hues of yellow and ochre.
At the edge of the bridge was a dark, tall figure. It was staring into space through the window, supervising the multitudes of energy units. It was Darth Vader, the Imperial Executor, the right hand of the Emperor. Vader’s black armour shined in a golden tinge, reflecting the sun. His mind was dense, racing with thoughts, memories and plans. What was inside the monstrous contraption that held him alive was known to none. All that was known, was that Darth Vader was a tactile monster, capable of mass destruction. He was one of the few force-wielders in the galaxy, and was rightly feared by his subordinates.
A stormtrooper approached Darth Vader. The latter could sense his fear, his virtual perspiration as he prepared to address one of the most powerful personalities in the galaxy.
“Lord Vader,” the trooper began with much unease, “the secret operative you summoned has arrived.”
Darth Vader stood silent, as if non-existent. Only his apprehensive breathing announced his subsistence. He said nothing, and implied nothing.
“Sir, you’re orders?” the trooper prompted, his heart beat pounding in his ears.
Once again the Sith remained motionless, and then spoke abruptly.
“Send him to a private briefing chamber in the fifth wing of 6A Sector. Isolate the room. Cut off all communications and erase all evidence Wefive had been here.”
“Yes, yes Lord Vader.” The trooper stammered.
“I will receive him shortly. Tell him that. Dismissed.”
The trooper fumbled with another acknowledgement before walking away briskly and barking orders on his comlink.
Wefive took a seat uneasily and gingerly kept his rifle on the illuminated desk before him. The door opened and in stepped the tall, fearful figure called Darth Vader. Wefive had never seen Vader before, and his first impression of the Dark Lord was as terrifying as any – a lofty, dark, armour-clad silhouette against the bright hallway behind. Wefive shifted uneasily as Vader entered and closed the door. A few more electronic and mechanical sounds announced that the door had been sealed. Vader stepped ahead and his striking armour glowed ethereally in the blue light from the desk. His breathing, passive, yet dreadful suddenly struck Wefive’s ears.
“Former Captain W-E5S, you were the specially assigned special operative?” Vader rumbled.
“Yes.” Wefive answered, pertinent to the question. “Lord Vader.” He then added, in respect.
“My master informed me of your deeds. Your reconnaissance has provided invaluable information to the Empire and has helped further secure its position in the galaxy.”
Wefive did not know what to say. He sat motionless and uneasy.
“My master contacted you after your operation… FG-90. On Durankhia. He assigned you this new mission, which you accepted without hesitation. For this the Emperor is grateful. He could not commemorate you personally, or leave a holovision message, but assigned me to personally congratulate your efforts. And to inform you of the Empire’s offer to you.”
“Off-offer?” Wefive stammered.
“Your success in finding the Jedi hideout at Polis Massa helped the Empire in finding and eliminating traitors. Your actions are acknowledged, Captain. You must realise that you were on the verge of loyalty to the Empire, and that not even the Empire suspected you being a secret agent. The success of this operation has prompted the Emperor to plan more operations for you.
You have inaugurated the Special Operative Soldier of the Empire. You will fight as a traitor to the Empire and you will receive orders directly from me, or the Emperor. You will carry out operations for the Empire, without directly acting from it. It is a very risky, yet crucial step my Master is ready to take. Our soldiers will attack you and you will attack them. The unit W-E5S of the ARC-Clone Corps has been classified “Rogue” and “Rebel” under the Imperial Army Databanks. You are missing, non-existent in this world.
You will accept this offer, I take it. The rewards are plenty, as are the risks. I suppose you thoroughly understand the operation?”
Wefive thought silently, his head looking down. Vader observed him for a while and turned around.
“I am a patient man, Captain.” He spoke.
Wefive looked up and weighed the risks, the rewards and the consequences. Vader turned around suddenly and Wefive felt the searing heat of the Sith’s stare into his helmet.
“I… accept it, Lord Vader.” Wefive finally blurted out.
Vader strode to Wefive and shook his hand firmly.
“Excellent choice, Captain. You will be reassigned and you will officially now become SOS-1011. You are alone in this field, the pioneer of the Special Operatives. You will work alone and your first mission is ready for the taking. You have been commanded to rendezvous with the Emperor, on his Spire Palace at Coruscant. It is a secret location, and details regarding its position have been fed into your datapad. Dismissed, Captain.”
“Yes, Lord Vader.”
He turned around and walked away swiftly. His mind teemed with unanswerable questions and doubts as he waited for the seal on the door to open up. As soon as it did, he took one last look over his shoulder at Lord Vader, the dark sentinel staring into him. He hastily looked away and jogged away.
Everything flashed before his eyes – the Emperor secretly assigning him the mission, him killing his own comrades, flying with Seliqa, evading the DY44 and ultimately, killing Seliqa herself. He did not know whether to regret it, or forget it and look ahead to a new life.
He chose the latter option as he hopped into the UR-14 and dislodging from the dock, sped towards Coruscant. The new life had begun.
*It took exactly 7 Months and 20 Days to complete the Fanfic.
The primary theme for the beginning of the fic was "Crystals".
*"Seliqa" was derived from "Silica".
*"Camman" was taken from a company that manufactures compact binoculars.
*"Crysm" is a mixture of "Crystal" and "Prism".
*"On the Run" was chosen because of its similarity to "Onderon".
*"Callader" was based loosely from "Blackadder"
*"Xydan" was a combination of the random name "Xylophone Daniel".
*"Jesqas" was taken loosely from "Jus' Kiddin'"
*"Irtan" was based loosely on the Muslim name "Irfan"
*"Torrdemnon Wassi" is the anagram of "Norman's Rowdiest", as a tribute to a friend.
*"UR-14" originated when I was telling a friend of the chopper "Mi24". He replied, "You are 14", confused at the sudden change of topic.
*"DY44" stands for "Do it Yourself For Four", in reference to Xydan controlling all four all the time.
*Zivz 110011 is actually a codename. Zivz, when decoded through Atbash translates to "Area". 110011, is binary for "51". So Zivz 110011 can be translated to Area 51, the inspiration for the facility.
*The original plot did not have the last ending, but was supposed to carry the two through adventures to Polis Massa.
*Torrd was supposed to appear as a Deus Ex Machina on Crysm, but was postponed to Onderon, so as to make Wefive and Seliqa appear stronger.
*DY44 was loosely modelled over a more grim version of Delta Squad from Republic Commando.
*DY44 was supposed to fight the party at a refuelling station near Polis Massa. The plan was to kill off one member of DY44 there.
*The Kwayci Massacre at the end was supposed to be a major brawl between DY44 and Seliqa, Torrd and Wefive.
*Wefive kills Torrd in the facility. Torrd was originally going to die last, but ended up dying first, to give a hint on Wefive's intentions.
*The scientists at Zivz are killed in a clone operation, prior to the incident.
*The last two chapters, were actually one - The Ruins of Kwayci. They were broken up due to size.
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