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Nar Shaddaa - Rebel Alliance Headquarters


Raven Nasra
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The spear fractured, the darkmetal tip having dug deep into the shoulder of her opponent before snapping off, leaving her with only a broken shaft of oiled, fire-hardened veshok-wook in battle-numb fingers. The wood clattered noisily on the shattered stone about them, two titans of combat alone upon a rooftop with only silent gods as witness.

 

Oya… Tros.

 

The man, that former friend and crusader was not dead, having only fallen to his knees by the force of the spear, but the battle was over. The hands had been locked in, and she had come out with an idiot’s array, but only barely. It had cost her far more than perhaps it had her opponent.

 

Faith was gone. Blessing was gone. The gods had never spoken, no matter how hard she had prayed and chanted. No matter the sacrifice. The divine right to her title had gone with it. She had raised a hand against a brother.

 

Terra smiled ruefully, her scarred and metallic jaw twisting to show bloody fangs. She bent, the plait of tangled braids streaming around her to pick up her buyce. No. To pick up her helmet. With cold fingers she found the bronzium circlet that had adorned her brow for so many years, what had marked her as Mand’alor, and wrenched it from the darkmetal clasps.

 

With steps that seemed to shake, Terra approached Tros, before stumbling to join him on her knees. She stared into his T-visor, seeing nothing beyond the wraithlike reflection of the broken woman she was now. A victor in name only. She placed to circlet in his hands.

 

The girl placed her helmet before him, watching for a moment the twilight dwindle in the dark mirror of its metallic gleam, and stripped slowly each piece of her armor from her body, piling it ceremoniously before him. She transformed before her friend from that imposing warrior who had almost conquered the galaxy with each piece of discarded beskar. With each cracked and fallen façade Mandalore the Bloody faded into a gaunt and sickly girl, the marks of self-harm badly bandaged on torn forearms. Bones outlined harshly on malnourished skin.

 

She had aged little from the young woman that Piccalo had picked up from Aeton, but the horror of her life was stained upon pale, bruised skin. Sharpened darkmetal teeth streamed with saliva thick with crimson blood. Corruption, rape and torturous modification by the Sith. Being forcibly ripped from the Force and made a Pariah. It all played into the lurid form that knelt before Tros Ardell. A broken form in a ripped, sweatstained and bloody undertunic. The only thing that stood out was the wild, crimson eyes which belonged more to a rabid dog than the morose woman before him.

 

“Goodbye. My friend.”

 

The former Mandalorian stood, touching the forehead of Tros’ helm with her own, before walking into the night, bare feet leaving a trail of blood. She left him there, with her armor and weapons. There would be no return.

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To the Death...

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The pain was something that came later upon Tros coming around. Kami Larkin stood pulling him along with another that he couldn't figure out. His vision blurred in and out as his own mind was coming back to. Locked tightly within his hands was a circlet given to him by Terra after she took him down in combat. All that remained within his own mind was the image of Terra walking away, armorless before him. The battle took a turn that he didn't want. The outcome, while he survived it, he lost yet again. Another vod taken from him. But this one walked away herself. For the first time since losing others along the way, a tear found its way onto his face. It remained hidden due to his own buy'ce that covered it. A muffled sniffle must of sounded like something else, as he felt the sting of a stimpack before he heard Kami call out "Hit him with another one." The pain raced through him from his shoulder where Terra caught him with the spear. The pain forced him to hold even tighter to the circlet. His eyes closed from a mix of pain and sadness. 

 

Time must have moved, as when he opened his eyes again, there were a few tubes and wires connected to him and his buy'ce was on a bench near him. He was back on the Justice, and it was moving. Kami leaned in and looked him over. Her own buy'ce off as she held a curiosity within her eyes. "...Tros... what did you do to Terra's body?..."  Pain came flooding back into his shoulder as he turned slightly to see that they had made a makeshift medbay within the cargo hold of the Swift Justice. He tried to see if any of the others had made it back, but he couldn't see anyone else. 

 

"...No... She won..." There was chatter of some sort that began to pick up from the cockpit of his own ship. He recognized Sutu's voice yelling something about Tyrant Adventure getting destroyed. More sounds that were coming in from comms about quick exits and excitement over the news of Tros defeating Terra. He was too weak to shout that he didn't win, that the circlet he held was given to him by a fellow warrior whom chose to walk away from oath. His sadness over the news must have been strong enough that Kami could see it. With a look of sadness of her own, she placed one hand upon his chest, while the other carefully upon his shoulder. She spoke in a hushed tone. "...Ner Vod..." Those were the last words he could focus on as the ship blasted into hyperspace, bringing Tros injured back to the Capital for House Solus...

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Mishuk gotal'u meshuroke, pako kyore.

 

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The alarm that warned of hyperspace reversion steadily grew more urgent in the cockpit of the Machine, rising from a polite buzz and a little warning light, to an urgent screech and crimson lights pulsing throughout the cockpit. Those final seconds were enough to jolt Sophia out of her daze–the possibility of wrecking a hyperdrive and having to limp on a backup or effect repairs loomed into her conscious mind. The historian reached over to pull the freighter out of hyperspace…

 

…and revealed an abattoir of a star system. Wreckage from capital ships, starfighters, and civilian freighters littered the starways and filled the sensor boards with thousands of false returns. Leaking reactors and competing comms traffic were bombarding the civilian transmitters aboard the Machine and rendered them useless. In a maneuver that sent their stomachs into the bowels and then back into their throats, Sophia hauled back on the steering yoke and then pushed it forward to evade a hulk of a Nebulon frigate that had been ripped from its engines–and a cloud of vacuum-preserved bodies that it had left in its wake.

 

Past that butchery was Nar Shaddaa. The lights of the night side cityscape were eclipsed by a daggerlike shadow.

 

The reverberations of that shadow’s impact discombobulated Sophia as thoroughly as a slap across the face. The pain of tens of millions of people dying–of being incinerated, of being torn to pieces, of being crushed, of being blown from rooftops and windows and falling to their deaths–shrieked through the music of The Force like a record player being tortured with a blowtorch. All around the historian, her walls were closing in and breaking apart; the air was burning her skin, the vacuum was pouring in–and the screams and curses would–not–stop.

 

Sophia let go of the steering yoke and placed her hands over her ears, as though the barrier could somehow mute the shriek of pain that was bombarding her from all around. Her fingernails left red marks against her brown skin as she scratched down her neck–pain, perhaps, to try and distract herself from that which was throbbing in The Force. Finally, she reached for her helmet and shoved the T-visor over her face, keeping the helmet in place with both hands.


Muffled moans could be heard from within: “Please, no, stop them stop them stop them those fracking bastards!

 

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As the freighter slowed, dropping back to realspace, the weight of the space around them pressed in heavily, even for those who were not attuned to the intricacies of the force. Back in the hold, Rags stood up, offering a hand to Christoph as Steve pulled on his gloves, the rest of his freshly cleaned scout trooper armor already in place, save for the helmet atop his speeder bike. 
 

“Oof. You feel that?” Christoph wondered aloud. “Like a ton of bricks.”

 

”Way too much death. If only people would have listened.” Rags responded as he began to slip into his black body glove. The comment left hanging in the air as Steve and Christoph stopped what they were doing to exchange curious glanced.

 

____________________
 

In the cockpit, Benjamin inhaled sharply at the site of devastation that laid out before them. “My god.” He hissed. “Its worse than Kuat.” That was as far as the Gunnery Seegeant’s contemplations went as his attention was drawn to their pilot. She seemed to be going into some sort of seizure. “Hey! Doc!” He shouted, grabbing her shoulder and shaking it violently. It did not do much.

 

The freighter began to bank hard to starboard as Sophia released the yoke and an unidentified chunk of spaceship grazed the hull with a screech that could be felt throughout the ship.

 

____________________

 

“Whoa!” Rags shouted as he grabbed for a handhold. The ship rocked around the trio. Steve grimaced as he dropped to a crouch, his feet spread and a hand on the deck plating making a third point to stay upright.

 

Christoph, less graceful, toppled back to the floor, the sound of his breath being forcibly ejected from his lungs as he hit a pile of armor skittering across the floor. 
 

“Rags, the hell was that?” Steve snarled, the surprise in his voice not entirely masked.

 

”Hey!! Get up here! NOW!!” Benjamin’s voice carried through the ship, a sense of urgency apparent.

 

 ____________________

 

By now, Sophia had adorned her helmet and was rocking and moaning. Benjamin was sprawled out across the cockpit and console. One foot was looped into the yoke trying to keep the yawing craft on some sort of straight away. Both of his hands were wrapped around Sophia’s wrists to try and keep her from clawing at herself anymore. “Hey! Get in here!” He bellowed out the open cockpit door, hoping the others could hear him as another unidentified object thudded heavily, skipping across the hull. “NOW!!”

 

____________________

 

”Help Christoph,” Steve nodded at the gasping body of his fellow scout who was curled up on the floor. “I’ll go.” the blue-skinned Chiss pushed himself up, lurching towards the wall to catch himself against a bulkhead as the ship shook again.

 

Dropping to his knees, Rags, took Christoph by the shoulder. “You ought to know better scout. Who trained you anyway? Falling down on the job like that. Very unprofessional.” The corporal tsk tsk’d his squadmate as he checked him over.

 

____________________

 

Steve more fell than ran into the cockpit, his gloved hand catching the door of the cockpit to keep him from entirely stumbling in. “What happ…” he began, stopping as the sight before him registered. Without hesitation, the operative dove forward to grab at Sophia’s arms and haul her backwards over the top of the chair.

 

”Thanks,” Benjamin sighed in relief as he righted himself in the still warm pilot’s seat and grabbed the yoke. “She just sorta started to seize.” He offered by way of explanation as his eyes scanned the disheveled console and his one hand began to flip switches and knobs. The other remained heavily on the yoke, not desiring another episode of off-course veering. Benjamin’s eyes scanned the fields of debris before them. “Hold on.” He warned as he brought the ship into a sharp nosedive to avoid an oncoming hunk of star destroyer. 
 

Steve lowered their pilot to the floor, cradling her head so it did not slam into the floor. His eyes did not leave her as he listened to her mutter. “Hey. Lady. Listen to me. You’ll be alright. You just gotta snap out of it.” He lightly tapped the viewscreen of the helmet as if that might do something productive.

 

Meanwhile, Benjamin carefully began to maneuver the freighter closer to the planet, beginning their descent towards the devastated world below. The Red and Black, devastated and scorched well beyond definitive recognition was their target.

 

A rubble strewn field that had been a barracks was the best place to land, the repulsor rockets clearing the area enough to allow the craft to gingerly land.

Trill_Scout_Squadron.jpg

Benjamin Wood

Ragnar Kran
Christoph Sokol

Krilst’eve’nuruodo

 

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Sophia, at that moment, was a bit beyond conscious response. She was pressing down on the sides of the helmet so fiercely that the plastoid interior was scraping painfully against her scalp. Her eyes were screwed shut. She couldn’t even hear the tap of the fingernail against the visor of the helmet.

 

It was like the historian was being bombarded by every terrible sound that she had ever heard, standing point-blank to the speakers in one of the larger arenas on Coruscant. It was the sound of an infant crying, the screams that followed the stampede of a panicked crowd, the snap-hiss of a lightsaber’s ignition, the whoop of a police siren only meters behind her. It was the shriek of the frozen winds slicing through the caves of Ilum, the security klaxons that screamed unwaveringly when the war began. It was the unholy wail that Sophia had made through unpracticed lungs when she had been created.

 

Yeah, that’s mortality for you. It’s cold and painful a lot of the time. You’ll get used to it.” It was the cold voice of her creator when she was brought into a frozen homeworld.

 

“Stop it, Sophia.” A guttural voice with the warmth and softness of sandpaper growled from somewhere under her larynx. Her fingernails scraped down the sides of the helmet, not really accomplishing anything but removing a layer of caked dirt where they traveled down to the lower ring of the helmet. “Stop it, get them out, out! Damn! Them!

 

That last outburst was matched by three hollow thunks when Sophia tore the orange helm from her head and slammed it against the deckplate, as though assaulting an opponent. Despite the violence in her enraged expression, the blows didn’t cause any damage to either the metal floor or the helmet, aside from scuffing the paint on the front plate. It might not have been Mandalorian iron, but the helmet was still armor-rated plastoid and the historian wasn’t particularly strong.

 

But something about the outburst–and the pain in her wrists that came from assaulting an inanimate object–was satisfying. It was certainly distracting from the voices of suffering in her head. Her vision cleared and the lights that were previously accompanying the screams with the blade of a migraine faded to merely irritating brightness.

 

“We’re still alive. And on the ground. I’m sorry.” Her voice came at a lower register and if the scouts turned to glance at the historian as she collected herself, they would have seen a mess–Sophia was sweating profusely and her expression was that of cold rage. Her hands were shaking as though she had just arm-wrestled a Wookie. “I’d like a minute before we disembark.”

 

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The rest of the team came skittering into the doorway of the cockpit just as the ship rumbled and set down on the surface. Both Christoph and Rags eyes were wide as they took in the scene.

 

”Uh Gunny,” Christoph called out to Benjamin as he secured the ship aboard her makeshift landing platform with the docking clamps. “I didn’t know we allowed the newbie chances at . . . uhhh . . . extra curriculars” The Scout smiled as Steve shot him a heated glare, scurrying back from Soohia who seemed to be with it enough to not have to worry about her biting off her own tongue.

 

Leaning on the top of the back of the pilot’s chair, Benjamin regarded the sweat-soaked woman they had more or less press-ganged into Imperial Servicr. “Gave us a bit of a scare there Captain Moriarty. Take what time you need.” Directing his eyes to the other three, he nodded his chin towards the door. “Why don’t you boys gets the bikes offloaded. If we’re looking for survivors we should see if we can still get in through those tunnels.”

 

”Aye” the three echoed as Steve stood. Leaning forward, Rags and Christoph grabbed Sophia by the arms and helped her to a standing position. “You need some bacta for them scratches?” Rags nodded towards her scratched flesh.

 

 

Trill_Scout_Squadron.jpg

Benjamin Wood

Ragnar Kran
Christoph Sokol

Krilst’eve’nuruodo

 

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“Thanks, but no.” Some of the color had returned to Sophia’s face, but there was a lingering sensation of foulness that made the historian feel the need for a shower. The onboard sonic shower wouldn’t be sufficient. Neither would lukewarm water and soap. Perhaps a few liters of isopropyl alcohol and a nylon brush would banish the stench. “I’m getting a feeling that something dirtside is going to need it a lot more than my stupid bout of self-harm. Leggo, please, I’ll be just a moment.”

 

Moriarty, however, was clearly still affected by the reversion from hyperspace into the wreckage field around Nar Shaddaa. The two soldiers would have felt the cold sweat on her arms, and her vision faded faintly at the first steps from the cockpit, as though she had risen from a long nap. Those first unsettled steps turned into a quick trot, then turned into a trail of discarded clothing that led to the cargo hold. The light jacket and casual top were replaced by a black, rubbery bodyglove that clung tightly to Sophia’s figure and covered her from neck to ankle. Even if the garment–and that was describing it generously–offered virtually nothing in terms of protection to assault and just slightly more than that to the elements, there were a number of clips applied to stable locations that assisted in donning her armor.

 

Boots, greaves, breastplate, pauldrons, vambraces and gloves… and then finally a ragged, oversized, oil-soaked cloth that fitted around Sophia’s shoulders like a greasy, improvised poncho. The historian gave each plate a tug to test the lock of the plastoid against the clips in the bodyglove. The entire process of donning the armor took only a pair of minutes, and it transformed the scholar into an armored figure that could almost–almost–pass for a Mandalorian mercenary who was a bit down on her luck. Even if the orange plate was cut to the exact dimensions of modern-era Mandalorian armor–even if the rim of the helmet was lovingly lined with hand-painted sigils–anyone who got close to her would have been able to recognize the make of the armor as standard plastoid, a material that was almost unheard of amongst the Crusaders, the Deathwatch, or any other major faction of Mandalorians. It wasn’t beskar, or even the durasteel alloys were more common in the modern era, and no amount of paint would protect the fraud from an inspection by a knowledgeable party. The fact that Sophia’s only visible weapon was a light blaster pistol would be further evidence to the lie.

 

Even if the fact that Sophia owned a significant amount of armor-grade plastoid was likely to raise uncomfortable questions with the Rebellion’s scouts, it might cause any distant onlookers to dismiss Sophia as an auxiliary or guide, rather than a vulnerable civilian. It might only buy her a moment of hesitation, but even that second would be valuable. 

 

Now properly clothed, Sophia dug into an internal pocket within her discarded jacket and retrieved a little plastic cylinder stuffed with a number of white, chalky pills. Trotting back to the scout troopers, she found them waiting, their speeder bikes prepared, and no doubt wondering why their civilian pilot was now dressed in orange plastoid patterned after Mandalorian armor. The historian didn’t give them the opportunity to ask questions–she shook out five pills from that cylinder, swallowed one, and held her hand out to the scouts.

 

The cylinder was even clearly labeled with a pharmacist’s summary notes. Sophia explained. “It’s a radiological chelator. I… kept some of that cargo for my personal use. Just in case. I insist. It’s better to start with a prophylactic dose.”

 

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“Hey thanks.” Lance Corporal Christoph Sokol grinned as he grabbed the handful of pills from the Mando-clad woman. “Did not think that you were a Mando?” He stated questioningly as he took in the woman’s plastoid-formed gear beneath her open coat. He creased his gloved palm to keep one within, dumping the rest in Corporal Ragnar Kran’s adjacent hand.

 

Rags eyeballed the pills warily even as Christoph downed his without a second thought. “Don’t think most Mandalorians are ahhh nevermind,” he waived off the comment about the woman’s painted plastoid armor, letting her have whstever level of dignity she was purporting to portray. He picked a pill up with his opposite hand, his carbine swinging and clacking against his chest as he held the pill into the air to eyeball it proper. “Looks standard enough.” Watching Sophia swallow hers, Rags and then Steve, who seemed wary of the pill at first, followed suit.


When their commanding officer, Gunnery Sergeant Benjamin Wood, joined them from inside he took his offered medication and downed it without question. “Glad to see you’re feeling better ma’am. Time to get to work.” He swung his leg over a humming speeder bike and offered a hand to their pilot to let her climb on behind him. The other three quickly scrambled to mount their metal steeds as well. “We have to see how many we can find. With any luck, we’ll load your ship to the gills with refugees. Any space left we can see about finding any sensitive documents that might be scattered about.

 

”Scans come back clean gunny.” Steve interjected. “The underground rail tunnel is still open with a slight detour. Seems like the Sith ship spearing into the planet jarred lose some of the ceiling. Opened it up to the water mains. If we can go through there we’re back in the tunnel couple hundred yards down.” His analysis of his holo-readout was accurate enough if not fuzzy with all the interference in the air from the aftermath. 
 

Benjamin nodded, “Lets roll out.”

Trill_Scout_Squadron.jpg

Benjamin Wood

Ragnar Kran
Christoph Sokol

Krilst’eve’nuruodo

 

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Sophia swallowed her pill with some labor. The pill was, in fact, a standard-issue radiological chelator, suitable for consumption by anyone from relief workers equipped with heavy machinery to newborn sapients. If any of the Rebel soldiers suffered any side-effects, it would be excessive thirst… and the Chiss might complain about his urine having a slightly greenish color. His build was somewhat slight. But regardless, it was a fairly large pill with an unpleasant, chalky taste.

 

The historianbegan to tap madly on her datapad when Steve returned. It was possible that some of the ancient and long-disorganized archives of Nar Shaddaa had survived the battle–and the centuries-old original blueprints for the maglev lines would be of significant value in the underground… She tapped insistently at its screen when it remained frozen for several seconds. As she probably should have expected, the Holonet was in a state of shambles in the Y’Toub system. The interstellar relays in hyperspace might have been intact, but the groundside transceivers were probably all rubble or overwhelmed by local transmissions. The datapad would continually ping the local servers in hopes of making contact with those local servers.

 

“Oh. Right. Where do I… I see the handles, gotcha.” She had become somewhat hyperfocused on her attempt at searching the civil archives and had ignored the Sergeant’s call to mount their vehicles. A quick glance at the command console showed that there were handholds for a passenger and her armored calves fitted neatly against a groove in the speeder bike’s engine block. It left her indirectly hugging the waist of the squad’s leader, but personal space was far from her mind at that moment. Survival came first, survivors second, surviving intelligence third… and her own dignity somewhere near the end of a rather long list.

 

The datapad gave a mild vibration on her wrist. It would be impossible to check the device until Sophia was dismounted. She gave the soldier in front of her a mild dig in the side with her pointed elbow and nodded. “Ready. I think.”

 

Edited by ObliviousKnight
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Even on speeder bikes with honed reflexes and advanced sensor arrays and computer guidance the going was slow(er). Well, at least slower than what Trill Scout Squadron was used to. Moving slightly faster than a pack of gundarks at full tilt was barely a quarter of what the fine-tuned Imperial machines between their thighs were capable of. So as they skimmed above the rubble-strewn metro tunnel and makeshift bypasses, the grumbling continued from both Christoph and Rags as they chided one another, Steve, and anything that moved or wouldn’t move under concentrated torrents of red blaster fire spewn from their machines. The tunnel had shifted, and while sensors, what was left of them, vaguely indicated there was passage though to the mediocre band of refugees the Squad had last met, it was not the same. Eventually they were forced to come to a complete stop, a fallen section of thick duracrete blocking their advance. Up above them, a hole large enough to shimmy through if one had skinny thoughts and a detachable duty belt and pack. 
 

Sloshing into the ankle deep unnervingly warm water at their feet, the four tried their best to secure their rides out of the waters.

 

”Probably radioactive,” Christoph smiled beneath his helmet as he elbowed Steve playfully in the ribs. “Enlarges things don’t ya know.”

 

Their commanding officer, Benjamin Wood, could not help but shake his head even as Steve tried to jump from the water at the though. There was never a dull moment with the group.

 

”Gods be damned,” Steve muttered. “I’m already too much for most women to

handle as is. Don’t need any more of that trouble.”

 

Silence fell in the heavy air of the tunnel as Steve’s three squad mates exchanged glances. Had Steve just cracked a joke? It was hard to tell over the comm units. Or was he actually being serious?

 

”You might want to see a doctor about that son.” Benjamin muttered stoically breaking the silence as he slipped a pair of spiked climbing gloves over his wet white boots and carefully began to climb towards the hole. once at the top, a black

line came trailing downward towards the others, secured to a rather jagged spike of rebar jutting from the broken stonework.

 

Once everyone was up, Rags growled, “Switching to thermals. Darker than the inside of an Tauntaun at night.”

 

”Just as warm too,” Christoph shkt back as he offered a hand to help Sophia over the jagged lip to the landing.

 

”Looks like we’re alone.” Rags reported, noting no signs of anything for some time, nothing but the dribbling muck and possibly radioactive water.

 

”Satellite feed is out.” Benjamin added to the conversation, “Looks like we do it the old fashioned way from here. This wasn’t the w we came last time. You got any ideas Captain?” He directed himself towards @ObliviousKnight gesturing forward into the darkness.

 

”Lets just not lose the bikes this time. We still gotta find a way to account for the ones we left behind last time.” Steve chimed in.

 

”Wait! Didn’t you tell them they were lost when we got shot down over this godforsaken hellhole?” Christoph asked, his voice nearing on indignant. 
 

“That is not what happened and you know it.” Steve shot back.

 

”Yeah but command don’t need to know where they really went. I mean, good as gone now anyways.” Christoph responded.

 

Shooting a glance at the other two, Rags added ominously, “we hope…”

 

 

Trill_Scout_Squadron.jpg

Benjamin Wood

Ragnar Kran
Christoph Sokol

Krilst’eve’nuruodo

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

“Oof, mind the rebar–I’m snagging… there.” With some difficulty, Sophia managed to haul herself up the climbing cord and into the tunnel. Her eyes darting from within the helmet, she squinted determinedly and saw precisely… nothing but inky blackness. Inky blackness, and a few tiny amber lights that were built into the walls of the maglev tunnel. Her armor’s rangefinder warned her that this tunnel stretched some hundreds of meters into the distance, but that was an infrared laser-based system that provided nothing in the way of visible data to her. She had brought a spot-luma in anticipation of this possibility, but this darkness was so opaque that it might as well have been a physical barrier.

 

The sound of velcro ripping filled the silence as the historian padded through multiple pouches, eventually thumbing the device to life to bathe the five in a sphere of white light so intense that it almost appeared blue. The white of the scout armor appeared almost incandescent, and the orange of Sophia’s turned an inky brown under that light. She waved the spot-luma over her shoulders as the scouts and their pilots trudged through the darkness, her eyes searching for reflections and movement.

 

Gratefully, there was no sign of movement besides the shadows of the five armored figures. Drips of some kind of solvent–maybe coolant, maybe ordinary water–rapped down on their helmets as beads of light. Sophia glanced at her shoulder as the beads dripped down–absolutely no absorption into the oily cloth, so it was probably water-based.

 

Sophia paused and studied a glimmer on the left wall. It was a sheet of light that kept reflecting back on her… windows, she decided. An office? Maintenance station? Some kind of place where sapient beings would have had access to, which meant a possible source of power, or maybe even computers or a SCOMP link that her datapad could interface with.

 

“Sergeant,” she indicated the windows with a wrist-flick of the spot-luma. She approached and fumbled blindly, her fingers finding the seam of a closed doorway. No door-knob, no handle–impossible to open this door without explosives or a cutting torch or some hydraulic override… but no matter. Sophia just unholstered her blaster pistol in a reverse grip, and smashed the metal butt against the window. As it happened, the window was not transparisteel–it was just cheap, glassy plastic, and came apart in twenty sharp shards and a cacophony of crashing. Climbing over the wreckage, Sophia searched the room just beyond.

 

It was as generic and depressing as an underground maintenance office could be expected to be–it was a small room with a few desks, a number of computers that were just as dark as the tunnel just outside, and a SCOMP link that was equally dead to all attempts to interface with it. Papers were scattered over one of the desks: probably technical blueprints or even segments of a map. A mug containing a cold, bitter liquid lay abandoned next to one of those desks, holding sentry next to a bobblehead of a Mon Calamari with a cartoonishly large head. A metal cabinet with helpful warning labels lay open on another one of the walls–probably circuit breakers or something to do with electrical currents.

 

Sophia ventured further into one of the unfinished corridors just to the side of that office, where the floor changed from dull, scuffed linoleum to matte concrete. Pipes and conduits lined both walls of this corridor. She studied the warning labels, then removed her helmet to place an ear against one of the pipes.

 

“I hear a current.” Her hand found the handle of a spigot and twisted–her greaves were soaked in a cold and clear liquid in an instant until Sophia cupped an armored hand under the current. No doubt to the horror of the scout troopers, she took a test sip and immediately spat it out in a spasm of coughing.

 

“I’m okay, I’m okay. It’s water, definitely water. Just metallic as frack, that’s all. Tastes like I’m drinking a pencil.” She grimaced and wiped a tear from her right eye. “It might actually be potable, though. Just who were you expecting to find down here, anyway?”

 

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Steve who was watching the group’s six jumped at the sound of Sophia’s blaster firing. It was something Rags and Christoph would tease him about for a long time. Of course, the Chiss would deny it.

 

”There goes any element of surprise,” Rags grumbled as Christoph chuckled, “Good. Steve is scared of the dark. He’d rather a straight up fight with whatever rathtar might be lurking down here.”

 

”damn straight.” The lowest rscked member of the team retorted as he simulated racking the barrel of his carbine. Not that it did anything; but it made the scout feel like a total operator.

 

Climbing through the broken glass, Benjamin looked over his shoulder. He knew better than to engage the tomfoolery of the group. “Just keep an eye out for rathtars while we check this out,” he gestured to the inky black tunnel. His helmet did little to illuminate the darkness, amplifying the light from his helmet enough to function but that was about it. In the office, he slowly took in the scene. Place had been abandoned in a hurry, probably during the attack. It made enough sense.

 

Behind his helmet, the Gunnery Sergeant canted an eyebrow os the woman removed her Mando helmet. He thought that Mandos never took those things off, especially in the field. He did not voice the concern though. It was not his culture, so what did it matter to him?

 

Then the woman tasted the liquid that came gushing from the pipe. “You kriffing mad??” The gunnery sergeant snarled as he pulled the woman back from the gushing water. These spacers really were something else weren’t they. Not a brain cell between all of them across the rim if someone asked him. As she sputtered, Benjamin let the woman go, “for your sake, I hope it is. We holed up with a large band of survivors down here when the shelling got too intense to survive on the surface.” He explained as they picked through the rubble finding another path. Keying his comm, he signaled his comrades to join them. “We got out. Left a lot of them safely down below. Seems like this might be the best route to try and get to them.”

 

”What up gunny?” Christoph queried as he and the others came up even with the duo.
 

Benjamin pointed down the hallway. “Looks like we’re walking.”

 

Tapping the map on the wall, Steve nodded. “If this access tunnel hasn’t fallen in, looks like we can exit at another access point several floors down. Might even get us into shouting distance of the camp.”

 

”No sense waiting. Lets get moving.” Benjamin waved the group forward as he started to walk, the plastoid armor creaking and clacking against the troopers’ weapons.


Down the hallway they went. Several times they had to clear partial obstructions where a portion of the ceiling or wall had caved in. A couple times they had to stop to clear adjacent rooms, many of which led off into separate complexes, some blocked, some untouched, but all vacant.

 

After a fair bit of walking the group came to an access hatch. A ladder led downward into the inky darkness. Rags kickrd a piece of rubble downwards into the blackness. It clinked and klanked as it fell before it clattered to a stop somewhere below. As the sound faded into the absolute stillness, the intelligence officer interrupted. “Good enough for me.” He looked at Steve and growled, “Your rathtar must be sleeping.”

 

Steve shoved the corporal’s shoulder

towards the tunnel and the group began to descend until they reached the bottom. Opening the door, the group began to fan out into a large clearing hewn into the natural rocky cavern beneath the complex.
 

Lights and infrared scanners searched the area as Rags held up a closed fist signaling the group to stop. “We are not alone.” In their HUDs a dozen crouched forms glowed red on the heat sensors. Each was positioned behind cover, clutching a variety of weapons, lying in wait.

 

”An ambush.” Steve hissed. The excitement apparent in his hushed voice as he checked his carbine and reached for a grenade.

 

”Could be looters Gunny,” Christoph noted as he readied his own weapon.

 

”Possibly,” the squad leader slowly nodded. “Or,” he added before pausing again. “They heard us coming and don’t know if we are Sith, Mandalorians,” he shot a glance at Sophia, “or a rescue party.”

 

”Yeah. Be a shame if we had another friendly fire incident wouldn’t it?” Rags chined in gruffly, the sarcasm heavy in his voice.

 

 

Trill_Scout_Squadron.jpg

Benjamin Wood

Ragnar Kran
Christoph Sokol

Krilst’eve’nuruodo

 

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The muscles in the sides of Sophia’s jaw worked in irritation when she was manhandled away from the water line. “The point is that this area still has working water. Even if it tastes like…” The annoyance faded from Sophia’s expression when she reflected on the fact that drinking industrial water was probably a very bad idea–the kind of bad idea that required a future medical screening. “Like it could use purification, that’s not difficult to jury-rig. Water, nutrients, and heat–where you have those, you have life, and I’m pretty sure the POGs weren’t putting much of a priority on evacuating rations.”

 

As the Imperial Scouts advanced further into the maintenance offices, Sophia unconsciously checked the charge on her blaster pistol. The indicator lights were barely visible in the gloom, but she could make out that it was fully charged. The weapon had not been fired–not that shattering a plastic window with repeated percussive persuasion was much quieter. Her datapad let off an electronic chime as they began to climb further down, but at that point her arms had already started to burn with exertion.

 

Sophia glanced down to check once her feet touched rock. To her bemusement, the datapad had managed to connect to some civilian network in the maglev tunnels… and downloaded the technical holoprints of several hundred kilometers of the tunnel complex. All of that information was now useless. Although, perhaps not entirely useless. As the scouting party advanced through the caves, they came across a massive concrete support pillar that was buried deep into the bedrock.  Sophia held up her spot-luma towards the pillar and spied an identification marker inlaid in oxidized durasteel.

 

And then the scout troopers stopped as one and dispersed into a combat formation. A grim frown unseen in the gloom, Sophia glanced towards the positions that the scouts had taken… and then towards the rocky formations and jagged pieces of metal that the ambushers had taken. There was a strange tingling somewhere just next to her left ear, as though something or someone was trying to get her attention...

 

The historian considered her options. In this situation, her helmet was effectively useless–more of a hindrance than anything. Unlike the typical soldiers–and far from the walking arsenal that Mandalorians tended to carry–her helmet had few sensors, no light amplification or infrared scanners. All it really accomplished in this situation was to slightly hinder her peripheral vision. On the other hand, it certainly made a dramatic impression on strangers. It certainly accomplished that on the Trills.

 

The scouts would have heard a few sharp intakes of breath and a clatter of plastoid on plastoid as Sophia beat the center of her breastplate with a fist. And then they saw her striding forward as casually as she would have if she had been walking through a Coruscanti plaza, one hand pressing her removed helmet against her hip and the other holding a spot-luma aloft. It would have been impossible to miss that orange, Mando-patterned armor as it walked forward.

 

“Listen up, strangers! My friends in the Imperial scouts back there know exactly where you’re hiding. Pretty sure you have a good idea where they are as well. You might be thinking ‘sure, but we have a prepared position, we can take ‘em,’ but I’d really rather not end this day with strangers murdering strangers… and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be the first to go down ‘cause I’m walking towards you guys right now and I’m in the crossfire.” Sophia took a deep breath and continued onward. “So, pretty please with no murder on top, can we all start standing up and say hello before one of us gets twitchy?”

 

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“What is she…” Christoph growled in disbelief as he raised his weapon to peer over the top of the chunk of fallen ceiling at the situation playing out. He would have continued with the question had he not been harshly waived off by CO. 
 

“Can it Lance Corporal,” Benjamin snarled in his own comm unit. “If she wants to die, so be it.”

 

”We’re here to evacuate friendlies, NOT babysit idiot freelance andris junkies.” Rags cut in as he chanced a glance around the crate he was leaning against. Flicking his comm off for a moment, Rags let loose a string of explicatives at the woman in the Mandalorian outfit. What was she thinking announcing their presence. She might as well point them out one by one.

 

The subtle telltale signs of weapons that had been held dormant being flicked off of safety, cocked, cycled, and what not was a cacophony to the trained ear. Whoever it was posted up in the passageway had been there for a spell at the least. The arrival of anyone down that collapsed transit tube had been zero up until this point. Still, discretion being the better part of valor and all. The rebels holed up further down had sent some of their greener recruits to cover this particular ‘dead end’.

 

”Ha! And when did the stormies start walking around with the likes of you bucket heads?” A surprisingly cheerful voice called out from the darkness. Clearly some sort of commanding officer for the ragtag group of young commando-wannabes. 
 

Steve heard the commotion and raised a questioning eyebrow behind his helm. They made a valid point. Not that he was going to say or do anything about it. Like his brother had said, they were not there to babysit Sophia.

 

Nearby, the other Scouts were contemplating similarly. Exposing one’s self to a potential enemy went against a lot of protocols. So of course there was no chance someone wasn’t going to do exactly that. All that remained to be seen was who first.

 

”Hey kid!” Rags bellowed across the tension-thick cavern. “Just put your guns down and come on out.” Not likely. “Ain’t nobody here wanna hurt you. Especially not the beskar bimbo out front.”

 

”Yeah right. And we’re just a bunch of nerf-herders from the steppes of Makeb. You come out with your hands up and we’ll try not to blast you. Theres two dozen of us armed to the teeth.”

 

Liar. Ben rolled his eyes as he let his carbine clatter about his waist. There was no more than seven of them from here the half klick up before the tunnel took a sharp downward right turn. Carefully he stood up, hands held outward and at ear level. As he stood, he slowly reached over to flip on the floodlight alongside his helmet. “Right. Look. Battles over upstairs. We’re here to help.” Slowly the leader of the Scout team turned, his light sweeping over the entire scene. Gingerly jerking a thumb at Sophia he grunted. “She’s our ride. Not one of those mandos.”

 

There was some hushed whispers from beyond the battlefield barricade the group of rebel guards were behind. A shrill female voice rang out, “What’d you do with the last ship we gave you?”

 

Surprise gripped Benjamin and his three comrades followed by a level of relaxation. Popping up from behind his cover, Christoph leaned forward and pulled his helmet off letting it clatter to the floor. “Jenny that you? It’s me Christoph!” He smiled.
 

Had he  been able to, Benjamin would have facepalmed. Rags actually did before he slowly stood up, hands held out to each side. “Corporal Ragnar Krans, Imperial Scout Troopers Trill Squadron. You all know this is an absolutely terrible set up, right?”

 

”Ragsy!” The same female voice called. “You came back!”

 

It took a few minutes to deescalate things a bit more, but before the end of the hour the group had crossed behind the barricade. The Scouts had holes up at the underground encampment before they were able to evacuate. Thankfully they had spent more time than any report would admit carousing with other military units. They were due to be relieved the next morning. When that time came, the whole group could hitch a ride back to camp. From there they could coordinate services and evacuations. 

 

Trill_Scout_Squadron.jpg

Benjamin Wood

Ragnar Kran
Christoph Sokol

Krilst’eve’nuruodo

 

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During that tense hour of negotiation, Sophia sat uncomfortably in conversation with one of the rebel sentries: a young Twi’lek woman named Giz’aptel. The two were a study in contrasts, with Sophia’s bright orange Mandalorian-trimmed armor, seemingly intended to catch attention–Giza, on the other hand, wore only a darkly-patterned breastplate and a helmet. She supposed that the Twi’lek probably had blue skin–it appeared almost black in the darkness of the cave. The woman’s lekku periodically twitched in some unknown gesture of emotion as they spoke. It might have been disbelief, exhaustion, maybe revulsion, but Sophia had never known any Twi’lek closely enough to dare ask what the expressions might mean.

 

Even over a several minutes in the darkness, it was impossible to disguise the Core Worlds in her voice–every single person in the tunnel probably would have heard the Coruscant echoing against the walls.

 

“Is that Coruscant that I hear in your accent?” Giza asked of Sophia. The Twi’lek leaned forward, lekku slightly curled upwards. 

 

“...yes.” Sophia’s fingers clenched around the curvature of her helmet, gripping it so tightly that the the edges of the visor scratched against her gauntlets. “I lived there for a few years. Uh, seven, actually? Seven. After the war–”

 

Giza chuckled sardonically. “--which one?”

 

“It certainly has been a decade. Anyway, I finished my doctorate at Usk-Core.” That was the University of Coruscant, one of the largest universities in the Core Worlds, with hundreds of thousands of students on Corrie alone, to say nothing of its affiliates. There was some possibility that the two shared some remote connection through that world–there was more than a trace of Coruscant in the Twi’lek’s voice–but it was exceedingly unlikely that they could have crossed paths.

 

“Goooo Sand-Panthers!” The Twi’lek muttered out a quiet shock-ball cheer.

 

“Rawr.” Sophia hooked her fingers into claws and slashed feebly at the air. There was definitely some remote connection. “I was in the history program, you?”

 

“Nanotechnology, studying under Lavorre… but all for a single year, before you people showed up.”

 

Sophia fidgeted uncomfortably with the helmet in her lap, turning it end over end several times. She had found her false identity as a Mandalorian to be extremely useful on a number of occasions. Some had found the armor intimidating in close quarters. It had made for useful camouflage during an expedition to Coruscant when the wrecked planet was still under the control of the Mandalorian Crusaders. Adopting that identity held very different consequences when coming face to face with someone who had been driven into exile by their campaign.

 

The historian chewed on the inside of her lip for a few seconds. “I… was actually on Carida when the Lemon fell. I was on a research visit to the Imperial archives.”

 

“You’re… not much of a Mandalorian, are you?”

 

“Probably not.”

 

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It took two weeks to coordinate the evacuation of the entire settlement, and that was before a single ship would start to arrive. That was well enough. The people here had settled in. They would need time to gather their things, their families, and prepare to leave the devastated world they once had made their home. The men of Trill Scout Squadron lent their aid where and when they could, packing haphazardly salvaged supplies.

 

The camp here knew of other survivor groups scattered above and below the surface. They then knew of still others. Over the days and weeks these groups began to consolidate until the vast caverns and tunnels where the Scouts had found themselves became uncomfortably cramped. Slipping off into yet another ‘uncharted’ natural shaft that plunged deeper into the planet, the group alighted on something of interest.

 

 

”Hey Gunny!” Christoph hollered as he pulled a greasy tarp back to expose a trio of scout speeder bikes. “Now only Steve has gotta account for HIS lost ride.” He chortled to himself as Steve shot a red-eyes glare at the goofy Lance Corporal before returning to the box of b.

 

”Just going to have to amend the reports, again eh?” The team leader, Gunnery Sergeant Benjamin Wood asked, a hint of sarcasm playing at his monotone voice as he gingerly pried open a crate filled with a variety of grenades.


 

 

Nar Shaddaa was still considered an active military zone and while the bulk of the surviving fleet had moved on, there was still an active patrol presence overhead. It was not enough to evacuate the remaining locals and personnel; but they were able to offer emergency  services while needed until proper transport was secured. Transmission codes, travel authorizations, the whole nine yards, all of it was required to even think about approaching the destroyed world. All of that took time. On the other end of things, precious ships needed to be secured. In the galaxy’s state, that could have been anything from a star destroyer to fleets of ore haulers.

 

What was not expected; however, was an entire fleet of Tetan Corsairs as they dropped out of hyperspace over the devastated world. Their cannons carved a path through the jagged field of debris that encircled Nar Shaddaa.  Painted in the royal black and emerald green colors of the Tetan monarchy, the fleet glimmered against the dull jagged metals of the debris. Such a rate sight would have facilitated an immediate response, had the monarchy of Empress Teta not extended an olive branch to the war torn Alliance. The first step of that was to evacuate those that remained here to the deep core city world of Empress Teta, the beginnings of a newly formed and defensible capitol.

 

As the fleet carved a path towards the planet, exuding an aura of power and with it a hope for a better tomorrow, the survivors below began to heft their belongings to designated pick up points across the surface. Points free of radiological debris and decay. Locations that were relatively, or at least designed as, “safe”.

 

It was at one of these points, designated ‘Secure Landing Zone Nern-Sen-2’ that the four scouts swept the perimeter, infrared scanners taking in the destruction on an entirely other level.

 

”Not sure a blessed thing survived this apocalypse,” whispered Steve in sight.

 

”Right?” Rags nodded as his carbine swept the rubbled foundation of what had been a government hall. “If it did, its a hell of a lot tougher than the usual gundarks we bullseye.”

 

”Nothing over here,” Christoph growled.

 

”Same.” Benjamin added. “Send up the first wave. Ships should be cleared to land. Watch for green smoke.”

 

All four scouts ignited green smoke grenades and tossed them wide of the four corners of the landing zone. Minutes later the deep rumbling of the first Tetan Corsair could be heard above the unnatural stillness of the area. Soon enough it was descending through the smog and oily gray clouds.

Trill_Scout_Squadron.jpg

Benjamin Wood

Ragnar Kran
Christoph Sokol

Krilst’eve’nuruodo

 

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During those two weeks, Sophia was rarely to be seen. She frankly preferred not to be seen by the fireteam of the Scout squadron–she particularly tended to greet Corporal Kran with a hard stare on the few occasions that she crossed paths with the Kuati. Her scarceness was mutually beneficial. A vague sense of surreptitiousness–possibly even criminality–tended to lurk around her activities while the Trills were arranging for the evacuation of the settlement.

 

In truth, however, her activities were almost entirely legal. The historian was doing her job: poking around the settlement, the ad hoc sentry posts that protected the thousands of sapients who called it their home, and even going on a few patrols with some of their looting parties. At all times, unless she was being specifically instructed to shut up lest her jabbering attract the attention of some foul beastie in the depths of Nar Shaddaa’s underground–or possibly a punch to the jaw–Sophia was talking. Sometimes they were formal interviews with a veteran who wished to unburden themselves. Flattery sometimes worked. Mutual griping about vague orders or the apparent apathy of the higher-ups sometimes got an empathetic smile–whatever stellar-state they served, soldiers always loved to complain. A few outright lies helped grease the wheels. Sophia bribed a couple–some with credits, but mostly with processed sweets and insta-caf. One had even read her controversial article about Admiral Slaughter. Fortunately, that person was an Imperial.

 

Her historical investigation of the final few days of the Coalition War–that what the historian was calling it in her draft, anyway–was absolutely, one-hundred-percent legal. It wasn’t even illegal to properly compensate a primary source for their first-hand testimony. Military bureaucracies tended to frown upon their personnel divulging the finer points of ongoing operations to nosy scholars, however.

 

A few major questions needed to be clarified: Was the underground redeployment an improvisational decision made during the surface bombardment–or orders that had been dispatched prior to the Battle of Nar Shaddaa? Who dispatched those orders–Republican or Imperial elements of the Rebel Alliance, the late Empress, or had the Jedi Grandmaster done a run around the chain of command and issued the orders directly? Was this the only underground settlement that had been established after the surface bombardment? How many soldiers and civilians were surviving in these underground settlements? From what units did the soldiers deploy? Medical needs? Where were the others?

 

The answers she eventually managed to wheedle out were staggering.

 

“I’m honestly surprised that so many of you guys made it down here. The spacelanes were totally saturated–there was no way the entire garrison at the Red and Black would have been evacuated in time.”

 

“Yeah, thank frack we got the order before the bombardment. We sent a salvage party to headquarters about a week after–couldn’t make it. Radioactive desert. Every surface entrance smashed, all the way down to bedrock. No water, no power, no nothing, just a lot of glass and rubble. Can’t imagine anyone made it out of there alive.”

 

“Who gave that order?”

 

“Dunno.”

 

Other interviews revealed that units had been dispatched all over Nar Shaddaa. Individual soldiers named the Corellian Sector, Mezenti, Eastport, Lenstrum, Go-Toe, Nova Venture, Deucalon, New Vertica, and a dozen others that Sophia wrote down and knew nothing about. A glance at a map weeks later revealed that those sectors were separated by many thousands of kilometers

 

“Honestly, I’m not surprised to see so many survivors down here. People are… resourceful. Trained people even more so, ‘specially if they need to be. This one settlement is–maybe sixty thousand–”

 

Try twice that–I don’t know the most recent count, but I keep seeing new faces.

 

“That many?–oh, on multiple levels–”

 

Yeah, I still forget about the verticality of this place. Caves under tunnels under maglev shafts under turbolifts under–you get the idea.

 

Where the orders to evacuate the Red and Black came from remained a mystery. That was answered by sheer luck in two separate interviews. The first was with an Imperial scout sergeant who had fought side-by-side with the Jedi Grandmaster just days before the battle.

 

Things got a bit exciting for us. Apparently there had been a bit of a survey of the maglev tunnels when the Reps were setting up headquarters, but it was outdated by that point and it didn’t go past a few hundred klicks. Vertica is… about twenty-five thousand, just to give you an idea of the scale of how bad that is. Anyway, we got orders from Grandmaster Draygo to complete that survey, fill in the details, locate potential threats. We lost a couple guys who were supposed to map the route to Vertica. So my squad and the Gee-Em: complete that leg of the survey and locate the two missing scouts. We found one of them alive, the other…”

 

“He didn’t make it, did he? I’m sorry.”

 

“It was a bad way to go. There was some insect-spider-bug-thing I don’t even know what they were, but a whole hive of them. Dozens. We burned them out, completed the survey. We never found the body, or his armor.”

 

“So, it was the Jedi Grandmaster who started the subsurface evac?”

 

“I didn’t say that. I just said that she helped open up the evacuation routes. You’ll have to excuse me–I need to prep for patrol.”

 

Unofficial inquiries–that is, unwelcome snooping about–found that so many of those sentry posts were equipped with emplacement weapons and floodlights that transformed the inky blackness of the tunnels into eye-stinging daylight. Towards the end of the two weeks, Sophia had enjoyed the opportunity to join a patrol to the Corellian Sector and Go-Toe settlements–a routine status report, essentially to make sure that everyone was still alive. The Go-Toe settlement was comparatively small, but the Corellian settlement resembled one of the refugee camps that the Survivor’s Foundation was running on Ylesia, albeit more heavily armed. The Foundation tended to not deploy armored personnel carriers as its field command centers.

 

It was a few days later that Sophia finally returned, sleep-deprived and a little bug-eyed from overreliance on caffeine. Her datapad was stuffed almost to capacity with interview files and images–maps, recordings, census data, other data that was of potential use. Her pouch was almost empty, having expended most of her private stash of processed treats and credits.

 

One night, when she volunteered to help keep watch at one of the external sentry posts, Sophia idly turned over a challenge coin in her fingers and mused over the data she had collected. Slouching on the battery pack of the E-Web emplacement for warmth, the historian suddenly sat up bolt-straight, eyes wide inside her helmet. She ran the math in her head over and over again, realizing with growing excitement that one of the largest armies that the Rebel Alliance still possessed had never been deployed. It was still on Nar Shaddaa, fresh and with unspent equipment. It just needed to get off-world.

 

“Hey, you okay? You see something out there?” Her partner racked the E-Web in preparation.

 

“No, no, I mean, I’m fine. I think we’ve won the war.”

 

Edited by ObliviousKnight
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