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Old 10-02-2006, 11:27 AM   #9
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Mumbai
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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 naďve.
“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.

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