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Old 07-02-2006, 02:39 AM   #151
machievelli
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Counting the cost

Master Soo-chin stepped down from the ramp. There was still firing going on at the Citadel about fifteen kilometers away. A third of the building had been blown down by traitorous defenders, making it look like a cake that had been left where the hounds could get to it.

Here at the Capitol complex, it was quiet in comparison. The Courier Padawan Sani of Naboo would need repairs, but that could wait until the ground battle was over.

She went down the stairs, and stopped. Breia was kneeling beside the body of her Padawan learner. Soo-chin wasn’t sure how many times the Ithorian had been shot, but her body had literally been riddled. There were bodies or parts of bodies scattered around her, from the base of the stairs to the lift on both access hall.

“There were a dozen of them.” Breia whispered. “Meeri didn’t like the idea of fighting. She wanted to... Damn it she wanted to go into the Conservation Corps!” The woman touched the body, her shoulder’s quivering.

“She did what she had to do.” Soo-chin said.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No. It is just the truth.”

Breia knelt for another long moment, then picked up her helmet. She turned, facing the master.

“Did you also know that the Prime Minister is the one that ordered my father killed because he might know what had happened? Not because he did, but just because he might?” She asked bitterly.

“Yes.” Soo-chin looked at her. “Is that why Sienna delivered the prisoner without you?”

Breia nodded. “I was so furious I would have killed him if I had been near.” Her fists clenched tightly. “Master, I request permission to assist in the assault on the citadel.”

“Breia-”

“Master, I will not rest until the last of this cancer had been cut out.” She looked down at the body. “My own beloved dead demand it of me.”

Soo-chin nodded. “They have reached the third floor of the citadel.”

Breia looked at her. “Then it makes my job easier.” She walked past the master and up the stairs to the landing stage. Hawk Flight was coming in to land.

“What do you mean?”

Breia gave her a feral smile. “They won’t expect me to come in through the front door.”

“Before you go, there is something you need to know.”

“Master?”

“When Padawan Zardan Landru went to the darkness, he bought ships.”

“Yes, I know that. Feradi and Bondrant.”

“The records according to Ramadora’s memory were that he had three. All bought through Wayfarer Corporation. She remembers records of weapons that were later linked to all of the mines and booby traps during that affair.

That third ship was operated by a young ONI officer named Captain Costi.” Breia looked up. “Yes. He is the same man.”

Breia looked up the ramp. “Then I have more beloved dead to satisfy.”

*****

The situation was static, and had been for the last half an hour. On level 2 the defenders, still believing that they were actually resisting a coup, had scattered mines and covered every corridor with heavy weapons. Above them the Marines had taken horrendous losses. Of the full regiment, two thousand troops, assigned to home fleet, plus the men from Star Trader, an additional three shuttles full, there were already over seven hundred dead and an equal amount wounded.

Most of them had been on the initial assault. almost 90 shuttles had crashed, and the suburb around the Citadel looked like it had been under a full scale carpet bombing mission. Of those from Star Trader and Salutation, only three shuttles had survived to land, one from Star Trader, the other two from the frigate.

Of the six droids that had done such yeoman work, only two were still operational, A4C3 and A4L7. The other four had been shattered by gunfire, and in one case, melted into a puddle by a plasma cannon.

C3 swiveled an eye around the corner. “Plasma cannon.” It reported. The marine behind him paused.

“Want to charge it?” L7 asked.

“Not in this life time.” C3 replied. It took the grenade launcher it had acquired from a defender, and began tinkering with the grenades in a clip.

“What are you doing? Captain Hostin asked.

“There is no delay function in the grenades fired from a launcher.” It mused as it worked. A microscopic vision lens popped up. “But right now we need it. So I’m going to rig one.” It took a tube of hull sealant from a small compartment in it’s abdomen, and picked up a scrap of metal from the floor. It used the hull sealant to spot weld the scrap onto the nose of the shell. Then repeated it with three more, trimming the impromptu caps. “I need two more people with launchers, Captain, if you don’t mind.” Bemused, Hostin signaled. Two men came from the ranks, and the droid delicately loaded the jury-rigged shells into it‘s own launcher, the one L7 held, and the ones held by the men. It computed, then moved to stand against the opposite wall.

“If you gentlemen will attend, I will fire, them over right.” A leg lifted to show where he intended to move. “When I am out of the way L7 can fire, then if you will both fire on the same trajectory, we can deal with this problem.” It took a leg, scoring an arrow into the tile of the floor. “When you are ready, Captain?”

Hostin signaled a fire team forward, and they knelt. He nodded to the droid.

The droid lifted the weapon, paused, and fired. There was a choonk sound of the launcher going off, and it was rolling aside at high speed even as the sound reached them. L7 rolled forward, stopping in the exact same place, and fired. The two men ran forward, one kneeling, the other standing, and fired.

The first two worked, but not perfectly. The caps had been knocked off as the rounds ricocheted, but they did not strike the primers on impact. The third acted the same, but by chance the primer hit and it exploded. The fourth was a dud. The shrapnel lashed the two man crew and their supporting squad. Two pieces of shrapnel hit, one punching through the casing, and shorting out one of the capacitor rings of the gun. The other hit the gunner, and his finger came down on the firing stud instinctively.

The capacitor ring is the most important part of a plasma weapon. The magnetic fields they generate keeps the fuel pellet from striking the barrel and accelerates the plasma to a tenth of light speed.

What happened next took under a second to occur.

The pellet, already beginning to change from compressed hydrogen to plasma passed through the shattered ring, which still exerted enough magnetic for to make it veer half a degree. At it’s speed even half a degree was sufficient. The plasma bloom hit the next capacitor, and instead of redirecting it accentuated the turn to just under half a degree, which meant it hit the barrel less than 30 centimeters from the chamber a microsecond after it became not hydrogen but plasma. Ten men, the weapon itself, and twenty meters of the corridor vanished in a superheated blaze.

C3 made a sound like a man clicking his tongue in a ‘tsk-tsk sound. “Damn it didn’t work right.”

“At least one of them did.” Hostin snapped.

“25% is not a good success rate, Captain.” The droid rolled around the corner, then shifted to walking mode as it delicately passed through the still super hot area. The sprinklers on this level unfortunately were already damaged, so the droid stopped, and L7 stopped before the hot spot. Before Hostin could comment the droid picked him up, and lobbed him into the waiting arms of C3, who set him down.

By this method the platoon continued on.

*****

A4D9 mulled over the reports it was getting. Of the seven droids in that first ever link, only three survived. It had recorded the deaths of four of them, for death was the only way it could describe their fate. They had achieved sentience, and that quality had made them attack the Citadel in support of the marines.

And they had paid for it with their very existence.

The droid walked forward. The two humans were at the controls, and had picked the main entrance as the place to hit. The droid computed their chances and wasn’t sanguine about it. The only chain guns still operational were on the approach way they were taking.

“Padawan Solo-”

“Not now, A4.”

“But this is suicide.”

“No.” She looked back at him. “It is not.” She turned to the console again. “We have the force as our ally.”

It considered. The problem with the force was it was something only a living being could sense. A Droid had to go with energy patterns that can be registered on instruments. It knew there was something beyond those sensors that these humans used, but since it could not record it, all knowledge was empirical, and as such suspect.

It had been with the Padawan for a long time. It knew her adamantine will. If she intended to do something, she would try, even if it killed her.

The gas canister in it’s abdomen spewed into the atmosphere. The women grabbed their helmets, but they were busy trying to activate the life support systems of the equipment. It caught them both up with a leg around each of them, spinning. It ran back to the cargo bay, stuffing them both into the lifepod, and hit the control.

*****

“Lifepod being jettisoned.” The gunner reported. “No life forms aboard the courier.” He watched the screen. “The ship is losing altitude.”

“Ignore it. Kill that damn pod.

*****

“What the hell is going through his mind!” Sienna screamed as the lifepod went through an emergency evasion program that was incredible vigorous. They bounced off every surface as the pod maneuvered to avoid being shot down.

*****
The gunner painted the pod, and was about to hit the button when suddenly the courier’s engines went to full thrust. He deleted the targeting information, and painted the courier instead.

He was too late.

Hawk Flight was passing through mach 5 as it slammed into the building. The doors, hardened battle steel resisted for less than a second, causing the nose to crumple as far back as the cockpit before ripping from their mounts. With a shriek that sounded like a soul in hell they flew inward. The gunner, his commanding officer, and the weapons control station was scraped away as if they had never been.

The ship slammed through another wall, the wings ripping free, then came to rest fifty meters into the building. For a long time, nothing happened. The raiders that had survived the collision were starting to dig themselves out when the escape hatch on the side flew out, and A4 leaped among them.

*****

“Sir! The Jedi have broken through on the ground floor!” The rating at the communications station screamed.

Costi shook his head. He turned to his aide. “Let’s get out of here.” He went to the rear of the control room, and keyed in the emergency escape hatch. He felt regret for those that would die because of his actions, but not much. After all, they were expendable. The hatch opened, and he was shoved back by falling debris. The aide looked up the shaft. “They must have collapsed it when the ship crashed, sir.”

“Fine. Wonderful! Costi stood up. “I want a fire team to come with me.” The men gathered. A dozen men, all loyal to him. “We’re going up to level minus 1 to access the subway.” He ordered. “Nothing stops us.”

*****

C3 looked around the corner, then ducked back. A ship’s chain gun roared, the fire ravening across the wall then blasted a path trough the wall they were concealed behind. C3 was picked up by the first shell, the four behind it ripping the droid apart like a can opener. L7 gave a furious squeal, dropped until it was less than half a meter tall, wheels burning against the floor tiles as it went around the corner at speed. The marines heard frantic firing from down the corridor, then silence. Hostin looked around the corner. The droid was against the wall at the end of the corridor, pinning a man to it. The man struggled, then blood sprayed from his mouth as the arms pinioning him punched through him and his armor into the wall.

The tableau held for several seconds, then the droid collapsed backwards, and was still.

Hostin came around the corner. He looked at the men that had manned the gun. The droid had spun it around as it passed, and the condition of the bodies meant that they‘d need DNA testing to find out who they had been.

He knelt by the shattered chassis of the droid. “Rest well, Marine.” Then he stood. The stairway to the ground floor was ahead of him. “Follow me!”

*****

The Jedi crawled out of the escape pod, and Breia shook her head, drawing her sword. She charged the shattered doors, followed by Sienna. She could feel the man she hunted now, as if there was a scent she could smell. The entry hall was an abattoir. A4 had literally ripped one man apart, taken his gun, and turned it on the others. It had then charged on, ripping a door out of the wall. All of it before they were even close.

“Where does that go?” Breia asked.”

“Level minus one. The subway stations.”

They spun at the sound of boots. A captain who looked like he’d been through a campaign came out of another door farther down. He spun, then lifted his weapon away from them. “Jedi?”

“Padawans Solo and Dodonna.” Breia shouted.
He walked over to them, looking at the carnage. “I think you must have had an A4.”

“We did.”

“It looks like their handiwork. Best little fighters I have ever seen. Where did it go?”

“Where we’re going.” Breia answered running to the doorway down.

*****

Costi had already called the spaceport. There was a small private courier he secretly owned. As soon as he was aboard, he’d boot out, and be gone before they caught him. The accounts on Bothuwai were probably compromised, but he had money on both Ryloth and Nal Hutta. He wouldn’t be Chief of Naval operations, but he’d still be alive.

They came out in the subway station, and his men spread out facing the entry way to the upper complex. The next train was... Five minutes away.

There was a shrieking, and the door leading upward was peeled away from the wall by an eight legged horror. It saw them, and before anyone could aim, it lowered the door as an impromptu shield, and rolled toward them at high speed.

Guns roared, the bullets slowed but not stopped by the metal of the door. They could see pieces of the droid being ripped away. A leg fell, smashed beyond repair, then the droid gave a shriek, staggering to a stop.

“Sir, the train.”

Costi nodded. He stalked over, looking at the shattered machine. “Pathetic.” He kicked it petulantly.

A pedipalp caught his foot, making him scream as it crushed his ankle. There was the rushing of air as the train raced toward the station.
“I think we have a train to catch, Admiral.” It rolled over, dragging the screaming man after it as it fell onto the tracks. A second later, the train crushed both into an indistinguishable pulp.

The guards stared at the accident, then turned as a figure in black stepped from the stairway upward. Guns rose, but she lifted a hand, and they flew from their grips to land on the floor between them and her.

“If you want to die, I am happy to oblige you.”



Republic Dawn

The massive room was silent. The seats were packed with heads of state from a hundred planets and the Parliament of Corellia. The Meeting was being held less than two weeks after the attempted coup. Those who had been invited had flown over the shattered buildings of what was once the Citadel, the wreckage of the hospital, and the gutted shell of Salutation.
The door opened, and the Acting Prime Minister of Corellia came in, followed by half a dozen Jedi from as many Monasteries. They came to the podium. The politician went over the events of the coup attempt. Of the horrendous losses. The 3rd Marine Assault force had been gutted. Only two companies, about 200 men were unwounded. Salutation was a total loss, of her crew barely half had survived the crash.

He spoke of the elections that would be held in the upcoming months. then he looked at the people that lined the hall.

“But the problems of Corellia are not the most important. The fault lays not with our people, but greedy men. The criminal who held my office would not have been able to gather such support if we had curtailed the activities of the corporations of the Galactic Trade Authority. We restricted them at home, but the instant a ship left our atmosphere, the rules changed.

“In the last 30 years, we have had no rules that extend from planet to planet, and they have used that. The plunder the newly discovered worlds, or dump goods they cannot sell on the Core planets of those who cannot resist them. This must stop. There must be one law from Coruscant to Corellia, from Corellia to Ryloth, from Ryloth to Nal Hutta.

“At the behest of the Jedi order, I propose that we form a coalition, a Republic if you will, that will set the laws for all ships of all worlds. That will consider the good of the people everywhere, not on their own home planets. While I am suggesting this, I will ask that I not be named to this body. That none of us seated here be named. We must subordinate ourselves, our home worlds to it. I swear before this body, that Corellia will make itself the first member, that we will accept all laws written by it, and assure that all people on every planet knows that we no longer care about profit if it means harm to others.”

For a long moment, there was silence. Then a pair of hands began clapping. It was the singular applause of the Twi-lek, a rhythmic beat that set the blood afire in men of that race. Premier Lassa stood as she clapped, and the others of her planet and their colonies joined in it.

Then the Chancellor of Coruscant stood, and his hands joined that beat. Then another, Naboo, Duros, Echana. One after another the people stood, adding their applause to the cry to unity.

*****

Breia sighed, walking with her onto the landing pad. A trio of new A19 couriers awaited her. Unlike most Jedi couriers, two of them was not named after a fallen member. Instead there was a caricature of an A4 with it’s legs up as if imitating a spider. Under that was the name Metal Heroes. Beside it, two other new ships carried it on. Padawan Meeri of Ithor, and Darshan and Holani Solo.

Soo-chin came down the ramp of Darshan and Holani Solo. followed by Sienna.She looked hard at Breia. “Try not to destroy this one.” Soo-chin warned.

“Yes Master.” The girl said.

Breia stopped as the abrasive superior walked past. She sniffed at Breia’s clothes, which were closer to what Sienna would have considered risque now.

“Congratulations Padawan teacher.” Breia said.

“I don’t think I am ready for this.” Sienna said.

“I wasn’t either. The position sort of grows on you. Like leaf mold.”
“That makes me feel so much better.” Sienna grumped. She looked toward the entry hall where two young Jedi approached.

The human stopped, bowing to Breia. “Master Solo, I am Dushin Sookor Bai Echana. My mother Revana was sister to your master Breia Sookor Bai Echana.”

Breia shook the young man’s hand. “It is a hard legacy to live up to.”

“Life is hard. We Echani know that.”

“I am Toorio of Duros.” The other reported, bowing to Sienna.

“Well met Padawan learner. Let’s go.”

They faced each other, and reached out. The handclasp became a hug.

“Take care of yourself, Sienna.”

“Be well, my sister.” Sienna replied.

Breia walked aboard Metal Heroes.

*****
The shuttle landed on the Naval Hospital roof. The newly assigned CNO of the Corellian navy walked down the ramp, entering the lift. She rode down in silence, her staff silent as well.

They got off on the fourth floor, and she paced down the corridor to the room. A southern exposure assured it was bright with the summer sun. Breia looked up at their approach. She hugged the woman wordlessly, touched the face delicately, opened the door and entered.

The man in the bed breathed slowly. Sala signalled the people with her to stay in the hall. Breia looked up from her brother, then turned to walk to the window. Sala pulled the chair over beside the bed, picking up a limp hand.

“I chaired my first meeting as CNO, Koori.” She whispered. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this. I don’t want to go on if you’re not there.” Fleet Admiral Sala Dodonna brushed the hair away from his forehead. “I would give anything for a smile.” She lifted the hand to her face, her tears running down it to the bed.

“I don’t want you to die. But I can’t go on. If I can’t have your love, I don’t want to treat your body like a machine! I spoke with Breia, and she agrees. I have to turn it off. I have to say good bye.” She leaned down, kissing him on the cheek. “Our children would have been beautiful.”

She stood, flipping the switches. Heart monitor, lung machine, waste disposal. They all fell silent. She sat, holding the hand until the body finally lay at rest. She scrubbed the tears from her face angrily, then walked out.

Breia cried for a long while, then followed. Her ship waited for her on the landing pad, and she went up the ramp. There was a shape at the top of it, and she stopped suddenly. It was an A4 unit.

“Admiral Dodonna suggested that you might need assistance on your present mission. I have been assigned to this vessel until you decide to get rid of me.”

“You are..?”

“A4L7. The only A4 reparable, from the assault, Master Solo.” There was a movement by the second pair of legs that looked suspiciously like a shrug. “From data I have gathered, the only A4 remaining. “Until the Corellian military makes a determination about arming droids, I am an embarrassment. Admiral Dodonna suggested I ‘stow away’ aboard your ship.”

She wanted to throw the damn thing off the ship, but another of her honored dead called to her. “From this point on, you will record all information you download, and store it. Just as A4D9 did.”

“They always told me I was a little slow.”

“Who told you that?”

“The other A4s I was with.”

“Then you’ll just have to play catch up.” Breia replied tartly. "Stow yourself, and let's go. She went forward.

“Where to, Master?”

Breia looked at the sky. Then she motioned vaguely. “I am sure there is somewhere they need help. Let the Force be your guide.”

Metal Heroes leaped from the building, racing into space.

“But take it easy on the driving, youngster.”

“Yes Master.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile

Last edited by machievelli; 07-03-2006 at 11:21 AM. Reason: rewrite
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