“Cover the left flank!”
The Republic squad was surrounded. With Imperial soldiers rushing from both sides, the team had no chance but to take cover in a war-ravaged house, here on the remote planet of Agamar. A medical officer, an engineer, a soldier, an elite recon and a Jedi Master were stuck with seemingly no way out without a fight.
The one they called Ranger took two small spherical grenades from his utility belt. He tossed them through a wide crack in the adjacent wall, aimed towards the group of Imperial soldiers cautiously closing in on their position. The Republic squad ducked as the grenades rolled towards the unsuspecting enemy and went off with a sudden blast. At that very moment the Jedi and the soldier rushed out their right side, hoping to catch the other group by surprise. The soldier took cover behind one of the larger pieces of debris from the ruins, Ranger rushed in behind them and stood back against a tall wall which provided him with full cover. The Jedi sprinted, ran along the walls of the ruins, up a column and jumped the startled soldiers from the air. Before they were even aware of her presence she sliced through the silver armour of the two soldiers in the front line, her blue lightsaber leaving a burning cut on their chestplates. The others immediately began firing at the Jedi, who deflected their blasts with swift moves of the glowing blade. She began losing her ground, preoccupied by redirecting the blaster shots. At that moment the soldier and Ranger abandoned their cover to fire a stream of blaster shots at the enemy. The Imperials lost their momentum, and the Jedi knocked two of them off their feet with a wave of her hand. She rushed between their prone bodies, towards the troopers that were now the front line. She landed a two-handed swing across one of them and an instant backslash towards a soldier who tried to sneak up on her.
Ranger and the soldier moved in forward to provide cover for the Jedi, firing at the remaining troopers around her. Ranger shot his customized hand bowcasters at one of the Imperials, the green bolts making their way straight into the visor of his helmet and instantly dropping him to the ground. The Republic soldier mounted his heavy blaster rifle on the support handles of his powered armour and fired a torrent of blaster shots which moved across one soldier to the next, making four of them fall like they were being cut down by an invisible blade. The remaining few Imperials discarded their rifles and drew out their vibroblades to parry the Jedi. They flanked her and cautiously closed in to launch a coordinated offensive. Ranger holstered his bowcasters and drew a slightly shorter, stylish vibrosword; with Twi’lek insignia engraved across the surface of its shining silver-coated blade. As the Imperials were ready to attack he ran up to the Jedi, and the two assumed a back-to-back combat stance. The first opponent swung towards the Jedi but she easily stopped the blade from reaching her chest with her lightsaber. The other Imperial swung his blade at Ranger; he evaded the blow and grabbed the Imperial by his hand, using his own strength to knock him of balance and thrusting his short vibroblade into an opening on the side of the Imperial’s armour. The Jedi parried another blow from the attacker, but this time his wide swing left her an opening which she exploited, leaving a trail of melted metal and blood in his neck joint. Another two closed in on their positions, both equipped with vibroblades. The Jedi used the Force again, this time swinging her hand in a motion towards her, making the two Imperials fly towards them. Ranger and the Jedi both drove their blades through the armour of the grounded enemies, leaving them where they lay. Ranger scavenged the body of one Imperial for some grenades and power-packs, and rushed back to help hold off the rest of the enemy forces.
The medic and the engineer fired at the closing Imperials, emerging from the smoke and dust that Ranger’s grenades had raised. They were closing in fast, but the two Republic troopers had the upper hand of being on the side of the house which was better preserved than the other where the rest of the team held its front, so it provided them with lot more cover. They ducked under what once might have been a big window, raising their blaster pistols overhead to blindly fire at the Imperials. Support came fast – the soldier came back to assist them. He stood near the fallen wall through which Ranger threw his grenades, and unleashed heavy fire at the unsuspecting Imperials. They quickly found cover behind a broad wall of yet another ravaged house. The two sides exchanged fire for a while, until the Imperials ceased and began to fire seemingly at each other. Few moments later the Jedi Master emerged from the Imperials’ cover, lowering her blade to her side but not extinguishing it. The medic examined the bodies of the Imperials as Ranger, the soldier and the Jedi checked the perimeter. They were in a completely deserted town. The buildings were nearly all demolished, possibly by a massive air strike, and the dust from the immense battle had not yet completely settled down. The whole settlement reeked of decaying flesh and burnt-out duracrete. It seemed to be an agricultural town rather than a metropolis. The buildings were not as sky-high and lifeless as they usually were on industrial planets, but instead seemed to once have been relatively small and lively, built in various styles and sizes. The architecture was fairly modern for an agricultural world.
“The coast is clear, for now. I suggest we find a shelter and decide the best course of action” said the Jedi with a serene voice, clipping the lightsaber back on her utility belt. Underneath the bulky, brown Jedi robe she wore a light armour plating across her chest to her stomach.
“Course of action?! What course of action” spoke the soldier, removing his helmet and spitting on the parched soil “We’re stranded here, who knows how much far from our objective. What course of action can we hope to take, master Jedi?” He cast a rather unnerving, arrogant glance at the Jedi, as he hung his heavy blaster over his shoulder.
“M…Master Alya’s right. We should find shelter. It’s not safe out here.” spoke the medical officer, a young short Human female with short black hair and freckles all over her face. “We all could use some rest before we go on to do whatever we can.”
“She is right, you know. We should settle down and rest for now.” said the engineer, a middle-aged Duros in an orange, one-piece outfit. He wore a huge, brown backpack on his back, which had a myriad of little pockets all over it. He seemed to be the oldest in the entire team.
“Rest? Really, Rek, you want to rest? We should…no, we must get back on track before the night falls. That damn scum won’t wait for us to rest. We must continue our mission. This is just a minor setback, but it will cost us valuable time if we do not advance right away. We have to keep marching!” the soldier insisted.
“Gath, right?” Master Alya glanced at the hulking armoured Zabrak. “You might have been trained to go on for days without rest, but you fail to remember that this group was purposely chosen and it is not comprised solely of soldiers. Our young friend,” she pointed at the medic, “is not used to going on missions of this type and certainly does not possess your endurance or enthusiasm.” The Jedi stepped back and crouched to rest on the ground for a bit, before continuing. “We all need to rest our heads before deciding what we should do next. We do not know how far we are from our objective; it could be days, even weeks of walk away. We have no idea where we crashed, so the first logical step would be to determine just that.” The Jedi took her violet lekku which had unconsciously wrapped around her neck as she was talking and moved it behind her back. She tightened her leather headband, which kept the head tails tight during combat.
“Hide the bodies.” Wells said, almost whispering. He did not seem to have been paying attention to the heated argument of his squad mates, but instead scanned the ruins around them, leaning against one of the ruined walls.
“What?” Gath asked him. Wells snapped, like he was just woken from a dream and turned around to face the rest of his team.
“I said we should hide the bodies first. No doubt the Imperials will send a patrol once they fail to report in. We don’t know how soon it will be, but we must assume it could be any minute.” Wells concluded. “I suggest we hide them in a basement of a nearby house, for example, and then go on to seek shelter. As much as I am eager to keep on, I have to agree with the rest on this one. We need to have a few hours of rest before deciding anything. But first help me with our friends here, will you? Come to think of it again, I have a better plan for them.” Ranger grinned at Gath and fixed his grey helmet back on his neck with a click.
. . .
The group set camp in a nearby house. Although better preserved than the majority of the buildings in the area it was completely empty but for broken pieces of furniture here and there; the valuables probably scavenged by the Imperials or pirates who used the discord on the planet to pillage the settlement. The house was a short walk away from what seemed to be the town square, where the squad encountered the Imperial scouts. They made sure that the house was on a location that suited them – where no one could sneak up on them and that had as few ways in as possible. They found a perfect location after searching for about an hour. The house looked like a small castle. It was surrounded by a tall, broad wall and the only way in was the main gate. The walls of the residence itself were huge – the ceiling was at least five meters high. Judging by the ornaments on the columns, the walls and the overall exterior, the estate seemed to have belonged to a wealthy family. It had a huge garden, spreading all the way from the gate to the front door. All that was left of the garden now however were dead flowers which undoubtedly withered from the acrid air, contaminated during the bombardment. Although the house had been abandoned for quite some time, it did not have the putrid smell as the rest of the settlement. However the walls did manage to catch some moist here and there, and the group would feel uncomfortable because of its stench once their attention was diverted from arguing.
“I tell you, there’s no way that the landing point is that way! We were on a course heading north before the projectile hit us and made us spin 240˚, which makes it that way!” the Zabrak argued.
“It is, because when we crashed we were dragged directly opposite of the landing point” the Duros replied.
“I say we go that way!” Gath pointed at a wall, aiming at something he seemed to think had been right behind it.
The Jedi Master was meditating, seemingly unaffected by the two team-mates heated argument. She took off her robe and the Jedi armour plating, leaving her in loose light brown tunic, common for a Jedi Master. She appeared to be motionless; her breasts calm as though she was not even breathing. Only once in a while would her eyes slightly move as if she were dreaming. The young medic was lying not far from her, her legs crouched and hands under her head, peaceful like an infant – which made her look all the more innocent. She took off her light padded west and the rest of her gear – various pouches, bags, a utility belt and a shoulder holster, and arranged them beside her in a succession from the largest to the smallest piece.
Ranger was standing near a window, smoking a cigarette. He was playing with the smoke, making all sorts of rings, which were showered by the moonlight that illuminated the entire cloudless night sky. He gazed at the stars, trying to name as many of them as he could. During his time as a teenager, he was working aboard a transport ship and travelled many star systems. He was assigned there as an assistant mechanic by the Jedi Order; like all those who failed to become Padawans were assigned to various posts that had a connection with the Jedi. Wells was always good with mechanics, often helping the locals on Coruscant with their broken equipment. He used to love spending his time in various facilities near the Jedi Temple – the noise and the commotion oddly provided him with peace he could not find silently meditating in his confined quarters. He loved to watch the gigantic complex machinery and figure out which wheel moved which piece of the sophisticated gear. The workers didn’t mind him being around all the time, and in fact they gladly showed him how to operate and repair the massive equipment.
His reminiscing was interrupted by a flashing light on his wristband. He threw the cigarette on the ground and as he stomped it, put his helmet back on. The long range sensors built in his armour revealed a distant, unidentified object closing in on their position. He double-checked the H.U.D. on his visor, and when he was certain that the object was approaching them he shouted:
“Wake them up. We’ve got company!”
“Ten minutes ’till destination, sir!” the Imperial pilot in a dark-blue flight suit informed his commander, who was sitting in the back of the transport shuttle, polishing his long two-sided vibroblade. Its blades were slightly curved, toothed along the inner edges.
“Very good. All units!” he shouted, “Prepare for deployment.” His dark skin was full of scars and tattoos, his eyes full of confidence and his black beard with a few grey strokes pointed out that he was a senior, experienced soldier. He wore his dark-brown dreadlocks in a bundle, various types of small bones and animal teeth attached to their ends. He put on his red helmet with a large black visor matching the rest of his elite red and black Imperial commander armour. He checked the suit’s straps again, tightening the few loose ones here and there. He stretched out and did a couple of short exercises as the ship started gradually losing velocity and its shaking became calmer. The rest of the soldiers, all ten of them, were doing the same thing as their commanding officer – checking their armour and doing some warming up. The ship landed with a mild shudder, and almost instantly the ramp opened. A group of four Imperials that were standing the furthest from the ramp rushed out first with their blaster rifles equipped and immediately upon exiting started cautiously scouting the terrain. When one of them waved a hand four more came out, surrounding and covering the ship. After glancing at each other and slightly nodding one of them gave a signal to the others in the craft. Commander Dash’er and two other soldiers came out last.
Dash’er looked at the war-ravaged settlement, and the sight of the destruction laid by the Imperial forces made him proud to be serving the Emperor. Behind his visor his stern expression was replaced by a crooked smile as he gave the orders to his squadron:
“You four check the perimeter by the town square. Two of you guard the ship!” he pointed at the two soldiers standing next to the exit ramp. “The rest of you will accompany me to check the patrol’s post and figure out what happened. Exercise caution!” The commander took out a customized blaster rifle, a blood-like pattern painted on its metallic shell. “For the Emperor!” he shouted.
“For the Emperor!” the rest of the squadron instantly replied.
The squad divided as ordered, the four Imperials losing the view on the ship and their team-mates as they entered a devastated street behind the corner. They cautiously moved through the ruins, their eyes out for the Imperial recon squad who failed to report in. The buildings around them were mostly ravaged, lying in ruins all around the settlement. The streets were covered in a thick layer of dirt and debris. The air was bone-dry and full of dust, the bronze horizon veiled in a layer of smog. The soldiers savoured the sight of a Republic world trampled by the Empire’s foot.
“Over here.” one of them spoke, standing on a pile of ruins that were most likely a small house once. The three rushed towards the sight, and helped the first one dig out two Imperial bodies from under the mass of duracrete. The Imperial bodies were lying still; one of them had a huge melted stroke across his chestplate and the other had a blaster crack on his visor – the fracture forming a web-like pattern across its entire surface. One of the troopers crouched beside one of their fallen team-mates to check his pulse, and that’s when suddenly the seemingly motionless hand grabbed the unsuspecting Imperial by the wrist and with a strong pull of his body threw the surprised scout beside him. The figure previously thought dead suddenly mounted on top of the frightened trooper, tightly pressing his neck with his elbow. The other allegedly dead body rolled towards the two grappled men and took a blaster pistol from the overpowered enemy, rolled back to fire two shots – one into the visor and one into an opening in the armour of a confused Imperial who rushed to help his team-mate as soon as he figured what was going on. The figure holding the scout by the throat took a short vibroblade from his utility belt and slid the throat of the prone man open – a stream of blood rushed through his neck joint. He took his blade out and threw it at another trooper; at the same time the other figure jumped the enemy he had previously shot at, throwing him over his shoulder and resting several blaster shots in his head as he’d tried to get up. The flying blade hit the Imperial as its owner rushed towards the Imperial, grabbing the knife’s handle as he jumped him and thrusting the blade deeper into the enemy’s chest. The last remaining scout had tried to run away, but was shot several times in the back. He fell face down in the dirt.
“Nice job. At least for a recon!” Gath took off the Imperial helmet with a broken visor, revealing his horned head; he threw the headgear as far away as he possibly could.
“Thanks. You’re not bad yourself!” Wells complimented him as he was taking his helmet off. He pulled his blade from the body of the opponent, wiped it off his glove and put it back into his utility belt.
“How are you with a blaster?”
“Err…not that good” Rhya replied. “I mean, I can hold it, but I can’t promise where the shot would land” The young medic and Rek, the Duros engineer were hidden in a building slightly taller than the rest in town. Through a broken window they were looking at an Imperial transport, guarded by two soldiers in full silver body armour, equipped with blaster rifles of imperial design, sharp around the edges so they could be used efficiently in close combat and slightly longer than those of Republic design.
“What should we do?” Rhya asked, peeking through the window as though she was afraid that the enemy might notice her.
“Well, it’s two of us and two of them.” Rek concluded. “We could take them on, but we could probably use some sort of a diversion.” Rek took his heavy backpack off, and went rapidly through the numerous pockets. “Spikes, datapad, datadisc, datadisc, datadisc…here we are!” he said as he took a large metallic container from the backpack. “There’s our diversion. Let’s go, I have a plan!”
The Imperial soldiers guarding the ship were at full alert. They were patrolling around the ship, but spent most of the time leaning against the metallic surface by the landing ramp at its rear. The ship had landed on a clearing, most likely a market square surrounded by a number of medium-sized buildings. Just as things had started to seem quiet and the soldiers let their guard a little bit, a loud explosion echoed throughout the square. The soldiers, caught by surprise, moved cautiously towards the sound, looking back to look at the ship as they went further away from it. Their guns ready, they were expecting to see their team had engaged the enemy.
“Stay on this corner and keep an eye on the ship” one of the Imperials said to the other. “I’ll signal you if there’s any danger” He went through the wrecked street, slowly leaving the other guard’s sight. As ordered, he was glancing at the ship from time to time, but gradually moved towards the direction where his team-mate had gone. A loud noise filled his ears; a blaster shot flew from above and hit him in his shoulder pad, leaving a small circular mark on his armour. He instinctively fired his blaster blindly towards where the shot originated, as he tried to reach his belt for a small comlink.
“Under fire! I’m under fire!” he shouted into the device as he ran towards the corner where he had stood before, going behind it for cover. Another blaster shot fired from the building’s top, hit the ground before his feet. He came out of his cover and fired again, although he could not see the shooter. He quickly evaluated the situation, looking for a way to reach the tall roof. Another shot almost hit him, but landed into the wall beside his right arm instead. Moving from cover to cover, he swiftly ran towards a house next to the building where the shots had originated. He used a window to get some higher ground, got up on the top of the house, and from there took a loose drain pipe leading up to the rooftop where his attacker was. Once on top he ran towards a piece of collapsed roof near him that formed a bridge to the floor of the apartment below. It provided him with an improvised cover against the enemy. He stood there, trying to take a look at his shooter; but noticed no one. He left the cover to fire, and as he did, he saw a small portable sentry turret, which immediately fired upon him. He fired back at the device, but it was too small for him to get a clear aim. He peered out again and left his cover to shoot, but this time a rapid succession of bolts hit him across the chest making him lose his balance. He tumbled over the edge of the building, falling three stories down and remained motionless.
Rek and Rhya ran towards the imperial transport as soon as their trap sprung. The guard who watched over the ship from a distant corner was gone, probably occupied with Rek’s auto-turret trap. They carefully peaked inside the vast darkened room to check that no one was there, and cautiously entered. The first chamber in the ship was a wide passenger compartment. The ceiling inside the vehicle was low, so Rek had to duck a little while Rhya had no trouble moving inside of it. Two iron benches were placed on the side walls, and two large overhead compartments were hanging above them. Massive weapon racks were placed on the wall opposite the ramp; however, the weapons were missing. Next to a small durasteel door was a panel, its bright-red display shedding light on the two intruders.
“Can you slice this?” Rhya asked, obviously anxious that their path is blocked.
“No problem. I’ll be done with it in a second.” Rek replied, a hint of overconfidence in his voice. He took off his black gloves and stated running his fingers over the edges of the device. After a few seconds he felt the small crack he was looking for. He took a small utility knife from his backpack and used a sharp spike to force open the panel, revealing a bunch of interwoven colourful wires underneath it. He swapped the spike for a pair of miniature scissors which he used to cut two of the wires. He fused the cut ends and in a second the light on the loose panel turned green. The door moved aside, revealing a small corridor with three doors.
“The cockpit is straight forward.” Rek said assertively, “Cover my back.”
He equipped a hold-out blaster and pushed a button to open the door. The cockpit was a narrow, triangular room with a lot of diagnostic machinery, astrogation charts and naked cables hanging from the ceiling. The two pilots, who were resting, became startled and jumped from their seats. Rek fired his blaster at one of them, twice before the man finally lost consciousness and fell off the chair. The other one pressed a series of buttons – a loud alarm echoed throughout the ship and all the diagnostic screens froze. Rek fired at the man, who fell face down on the console. The Duros rapidly approached the console and examined it.
“No use, it’s jammed.” he said furiously. “I’ll try to fix it. Here, have my blaster and guard the entrance.” He gave his small blaster pistol to Rhya and ducked under the console, using his tools to disable the intruder protocol. Rhya stood by the door looking through the narrow hallway at the loading ramp. A few sparks ignited as Rek tried to reconnect the circuits. After several minutes the alarm stopped shrieking. A few moments more and the diagnostic screens came back online, listing various numbers and symbols in a manner too fast for almost anyone to follow.
“Done.” he said with relief, and sat in the co-pilot’s chair for a while. “I’ll carry these folks out of here; you keep an eye on the cockpit.” he suddenly jumped back to his feet, “Don’t worry; we’ll be out of here in no time,” Rek encouraged the girl who was obviously frightened by the thought of being left alone.
“Ok. Be careful” she replied.
He dragged the pilot first, grabbing him by the leg and pulling him all the way across to the landing ramp. Rhya sat at the console and observed the lights on the panel. Rek came back in and took the other pilot, dragging him slowly out of the cockpit. Rhya glanced at the ravaged world outside the dim ceraglass viewport of the pod. To see all this pain, all the ravage the war had brought on this innocent world was too much for her. In her few years as a medic, she had never been on a field mission – and although she nurtured a lot of injured soldiers, she never dreamt of experiencing what they did first hand. It came as a shock, especially to a pacifist such as Rhya.
A blaster shot shattered her daydream. “Rek!” she shouted “Are you okay?” No answer. She moved out of the pilot’s chair and carefully went for the door, when a figure entered the cockpit, looking like a giant compared to the small medic and wearing grey armour. She could see her terrified expression reflected in the Imperial’s visor. In a matter of seconds the man fired at the woman, who jumped over and behind the pilot’s seat for cover. His blaster hit the diagnostic panel on the cockpit. She fired a single shot at him, but it missed and hit the wall beside instead. Seeing that his opponent was weak, he went towards her. She fired at his head, but the shot hit a bundle of cables hanging from the ceiling instead. The cables sparked, and a few of them fell in front of the Imperial – an electroshock surged through his armour. The man spasmed for a while, before breaking loose and taking a few steps back towards the crew compartment. Rhya jumped from her seat and instinctively went for the enemy with all her strength while he was still distracted. They both fell on the floor, and the Imperial, recovering from the shock, grabbed the feeble medic by the throat. She struggled for breath, trying to break his tight arms out from their grip – but in vain. Her eyes widened, her conscience was slowly abandoning her, and just when she was ready to give up the man flew backwards, away from her. All that she could see was a silhouette of Ranger, kicking the prone Imperial, before lying on top of him and grabbing him by his neck. The Imperial struggled, but Ranger held him even tighter, kicking the enemy in the stomach with his knee. The Imperial’s resistance gradually weakened, before he finally went completely still. As Rhya stood up, gasping for her breath she saw Rek, lying unconscious on the floor not far from the exit. She ran towards him to examine the team-mate’s injuries. He had a single blaster wound a finger below his shoulder, and was losing a lot of blood.
“Is he all right?” Wells asked.
“I don’t know. Help me get him on the bench, please” Rhya replied. The two lifted the Duros and laid him down.
“And you?” Wells grabbed her hand “Are you injured?”
“Barely.” She replied “Thanks to you, I guess.” She smiled and looked at him. “Thank you!” The two stood in awkward silence for a while, before Rhya asked: “Where’s Gath?”