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or, enter your birth date.*
Keyla ran her hand over the array the stack of holoprojectors soberly. She counted them one last time though she well knew the number. Twenty. With a hitch in her throat as she closed the crate.
She rose and rubbed her face ignoring the slight tremble in her hand. Keyla looked around her hut on Gymnos 1 from the cracked mirror to a collection of data pads and various other pieces of gears. She turned to a simple metal locker that looked out of place in all this green and opened it.
There hanging neatly pressed was her dress uniform the rebel green with brass buttons. She studied it levelly memories welling within her. With a sigh, she reached out and grabbed it and with practice only a soldier could achieve she donned it.
Keyla winced at the way the uniform bit into her flesh. Almost a year of being near-constantly nude she had grown unused to the feel of clothes. Not that dress uniform had ever been particularly comfortable to her but still. As she smoothed the front and donned her cap she looked at herself and remembered.
The one-eyed human growled as he inspected her uniform. “Corporal Kaeno is this anyway for a soldier of the rebellion to dress?”
“Sir no sir Sargent Dario!” Keyla stood at ramrod as the sergeant brusquely asked.
“Permission to touch?”
The man fixed her buttoning and gave her a slight smile. “Remember Keys the fight isn’t always on the battlefield. We need to present ourselves as not only the Imp’s equals but as their betters. You can’t go running around dirty as sin like you and Morg used to do. You got that?”
Keyla smiled. “Yes, sir!”
Keyla nodded at her reflection and turned to a polite rap at her door. She opened it revealing Mhisha in his own dress uniform. His was the blue of the Republic and had clearly been through some wear and tear. He wore it and his medals proudly as he saluted.
No matter how impersonal their usual relationship may be today was not the time nor place. Keyla returned his salute with one of her own.
“Lieutenant, at ease.”
Mhisha relaxed and entered the hut. He gave her his usual big familiar smile.
Keyla laughed highly as she looked at the weapon in front of her. “I’m sorry, you carry that into battle?”
The big Wookiee warbled as he hefted the lightbow and sighted down it. His smiling friend a Trandoshan of all things translated.
“Barik here says he could shoot a leaf off your shoulder at a thousand yards with this thing.”
“Bullshit Jamns!” Keyla declared throwing up her hands, “If that’s true I what to know what you two are smoking and where I can get some!”
Barik grabbed Keyla bodily and pulled into her crushing embrace as Jamns tickled her sides.
“Say it’s not bullshit! Come on say it!”
Keyla and Mhisha stood for a moment looking one another over.
“You look good Captain. Speaking freely,” Keyla nodded for the heavy gunner to continue, “Not as beautiful as when you’re nude but, that’s to be expected.”
Keyla blushed slightly and coughed. “Yes well, you as well. Come this heats murder.” The two hefted the crate between them and left the hut heading towards the landing strip.
As they walked Keyla watched Malya, Efia, Alana and little Kiki playing tag. Around and around the four chased one another laughing uproariously as they simply enjoyed the beauty of life.
“Vari! Vari! Wait up!” Keyla called as she struggled to scramble up the stone wall. In front of her, the giggling form of a female Cathar scrambled easily vaulting to the top of their climb. Puffing and blowing Keyla scrambled up beside her and looked out at the view.
The Rebel Alliance’s Base on Yavin Four was in early stages yet. The two had spent the day reinforcing ancient columns and clearing out nests of various vermin. Despite this, they felt good. This felt like a start.
Vari leaned out over the edge. Keyla still puffing grabbed her shoulder as the blue-furred girl stood on her hands balanced over the edge laughing as she held the pose. Keyla spluttered.
“Vari do you know how dangerous that is?”
“Kaeno it’s like I always say rebelling’s all well and good but sometimes you just need to cut loose. Come on.”
With a gulp, Keyla joined her at the edge of the ledge. As the two suspended themselves there Keyla stared to laugh at the sheer joy of it. Vari joined in as together rolled backwards and landed on their backs cackling as they looked at the stars.
As Malya pelted past chasing Efia down Keyla smiled at their passing. As she and Mhisha plodded on she spied Jace and Mera arms around one another whispering sweet nothings as Ray played with HK-JR. The two exchanged a passionate kiss, lips locked.
Keyla ducked as stormtrooper bolt nearly took off her head. She swore jamming a fresh plasma pack into her rifle as she lay in the foxhole. To either side of her, a pair Ishi Tib crouched. The male was armed with a heavy repeating blaster while the female was armed with a light blaster.
“Shit! Scarn lay down some covering fire, would you?” The fierce-looking male clicked his beak in acknowledgement as he crawled up to the edge of the hole. Sticking his gun over he blazed away in short bursts.
Keyla twisted on her back looking at her other comrade. “Uri, you good?” Uri shrugged her usual shrug as she checked the barrel of her blaster. The bird-like alien’s bright pink eyes gazed inquisitively at her making Keyla all the more aware of the Lieutenant stripes upon her shoulder. Reloading her own gun she breathed. “Alright. Here’s the plan. Scarn keeps on laying the cover fire down. Uri, you go right I got let. We’ll catch him in a crossfire. Good?”
Uri whistled ascent before crawling across to kiss Scarn. The two locked beaks for a time smiling lovingly at one another. Keyla breathed deeply.
“Alright! Let’s go! Over the top!”
In a spray of mud and gravel, Keyla left the foxhole as plasma bolts flew by.
As they walked on Jace and Mera smiled. Jace rose stiffly and gave a crisp salute with his organic arm. Mera for her part merely inclined her head respectfully.
Cal and Kara who had been playing a game of dice looked up. Kara frowned and got up rushing toward the two uniformed soldiers. She paused in front of them and asked.
“Why are you guys clothed? You should be naked! Be free!”
Cal dashed up behind Kara and grabbed her by the arm pulling her backwards hissing. “Kara! Don’t.”
“But Cal-“ Kara whined.
“But nothing! Show some respect!”
The three fresh-faced humans stood at perfect rigid attention. All bore similar buzzed haircuts and on each of there faces. Keyla sauntered around them examining them critically.
“At ease recruits.” The three in perfect sync relaxed hands behind their back as they regarded their new captain levelly. Despite their poise, despite their professionalism, something about their faces seemed distressingly young to Keyla. “Sound off.”
A blonde blue-eyed boy barked, “Recruit Pel formerly of the 15th Stormtrooper training corps, sir!
A tanned brown haired girl was next yelling, “Recruit Mel, formerly of the 15th Stormtrooper training corps, sir!”
A ginger lad with the faintest hint of a moustache finished, “Recruit Nel, formerly of the 15th Stormtrooper training corps, sir!”
Keyla blinked and ordered, “Stand easy recruits. Tell me something unique about each of you.”
Pel and the others reluctantly dropped their hands as he ventured. “Speaking freely captain I’m not sure if that’s showing you the proper… respect.” He finished lamely.
Keyla smiled. “Listen, kid, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we do things differently here then they do in the Empire. Listen we have an important mission on Felucia coming up and I like to know who my people are. So tell me something unique about yourselves."
Keyla smiled and ruffled both Kara and Cal’s heads and with a choked whisper remarked. “It’s fine Cal. Kara, I’m dressed up for… some old friends. Heroes.”
“Can I meet them?” Kara asked innocently.
“I wish you could, kid. I really wish you could.” Keyla blinking sharply patted the young girl’s shoulder tenderly before moving on. Cal pulled a crestfallen Kara off and away.
As they approached the landing strip Keyla spied Ooben sitting crouched in front of a holoprojector. It displayed a variety of faces that the blue sentient seemed to be praying for. He clasped his hands together and lowered his head.
Keyla peered through the scope of her rifle at the Empire’s distant picket line. The battle on Flandor 1 had ground on for almost a month now since the destruction of the Death Star. The newly appointed Captain was looking to break the line today all she needed was an opening.
The low sonorous chant caused her to wince in annoyance at her spotter. Wrapped in a sand coloured robe the grey coloured Bid Okai looked like nothing more than a Twilek nomad as he prayed over his meal. He touched his head to the ground after every mantra before rising and unwrapping his MRE.
“Why do you bother with that shit?” She asked counting the space between each artillery encampment. Bid glanced at her levelly.
“Faith is something we all can use, Keyla. Faith in a better tomorrow, faith in the righteousness of our cause.”
Keyla placed her gun down turning to face him. “Maybe so but is it really necessary to do all this that before eating?”
“Faith is not easy. One can believe all they want but they shall not reap the benefits unless they’re willing to put in the work. We aren’t so different. I pray to my god for victory for our safety. You plan our attack then have faith we can undertake it.”
Keyla snorted and shook her head returning to her rifle. “Well, that’s one way to look at it.”
“As is my right,” The cleric responded with a dip of his head.
“Well you best start praying some more,” Keyla observed with a grin, “I think I see our opening!”
Mhisha and Keyla passed by leaving the squat warrior undisturbed. The two approached the Kad sweating in the heat. Keyla relaxed as she entered the cool familiar shadow of the Longclaw.
“And there we go!” Keyla grinned as she finished her weld. With a happy hum, the repaired power conduit lit up again.
“Nice job Kaeno!” A rough voice remarked as it’s owner stuck out a pale red hand. Accepting it Keyla walked up out of her harness to the top of the Longclaw beaming with satisfaction. The Torguta in front of her wore a pair of welding goggles over his lined face. The two embraced laughing.
“Was there ever any doubt Xerx?” Keyla laughed breaking the embrace with a grin. Xerx lined face crinkled fished a flask out of his dirty overall handing it to her. Keyla took a swig as they sauntered off to the cockpit handing it back as he dropped on his ass.
The two sat in companionable silence before Xerx said, “She’s yours if you want her, you know.”
“What?” Keyla snorted with a grin. Xerx’s face was serious he patted the ships hull fondly.
“A Captain should have her own ship. I’m getting old Kaeno. I’m not as young as I was when I first started smuggling refugees all those years ago and hell I wasn’t even young then. Anyone of these missions I could just go,” He snapped his gloved fingers, “Like that. If I do, I want my old girl in capable hands. Loving hands. I’d give it to my children but well…” He shrugged awkwardly.
Keyla blinked away some moisture and put an arm around his shoulders and squeezed. “Don’t talk like that, but if it came to it… I’d be honoured.”
The two Togruta sat in silence, as they looked out towards the setting sun the warmth of the Longclaw below them.
As they passed under the belly of the old yacht Keyla smiled up at it. The two entered the Kad through its ramp a still nude Jemini in the midst of converting from her living space to that of a dropship. The two waited patiently as snapped her bunk into place and bowed theatrically.
“All aboard the Jemini express travellers!”
“All aboard!” The pilot yelled. Keyla along with dozens of other dirty displaced people shuffled onboard. The young woman prayed that no one would remark upon her singed clothes or the specks of blood on her boots. Her father's blaster still sat heavy on her hip as she shuffled past the pilot.
She collapsed into one of the window seats looking out at the old spaceport. With a grunt, a person sat beside her shifting to get comfortable. Keyla tensed but carried on staring out at the window.
They took off with a low rumble and with a cough her seatmate spoke. “Got a light?”
Keyla turned to regard the sand skinned Klantoonian. He wore a beat up bantha hide jacket and what looked like a pair of old clone trooper bracers. Clutched in his sharp canines was a wood pipe. His dark eyes regarded her thoughtfully.
“No... no, I don’t, sorry.”
“Pity,” The man said puffing out his lips, “You were so good at starting one back on Shilli.” Keyla froze hand reaching for her fathers gun. The paw-like hand of the Klantoonian stopped her. Keyla looked into his eyes and found no malice as he continued, “You were a regular little pyro there weren’t ya Keyla Kaeno?”
“Are you a bounty hunter?” Keyla hissed low and quiet. He laughed removing his pipe and sticking it in his breast pocket.
“No, though what if I was huh?” Keyla stayed quiet as he let her hand go. Her relaxed back into his seat observing, “So Nar Shadda huh? What’s there for you?”
Keyla frowned and remarked, “Not that it’s any of your business but a place to disappear a place to put my… talents to work. The Hutts always need a good enforcer right?”
“Take it from a species who has served the Hutts for years, you’d make a better exotic dancer. All that talent would just go to waste…” He trailed off scratching his chin with a dog like yawn.
“It’s the best I can hope for. You know what I did, the Empire will never not want me dead.” Keyla growled sticking out her chin defiantly.
“Maybe so but wouldn’t you rather do something about that?” The two’s eyes met both questioning. At Keyla’s suspicious nod he grinned widely. “I represent a group of people pissed off at being treated like poodoo. People willing to do something about it. A cell you might even say.”
“An army?” Keyla asked thinking of her father standing in the doorway saying he’d be back soon.
“No, not an army, not yet. But we are a Squadron. What do you say, kid? Life of looking over one shoulder or a life leading the charge?” He held out a hand. Keyla thought of the sounds her mother had made before she died. Of the fires of the Imperial barracks that same night not so long ago. She took the hand with a savage grin. “Keyla Kaeno allow me to introduce myself. My names Iwisia Morg, we’re going to great things together, me and you.”
Keyla rolled her eyes at Jemini’s antics as she and Mhisha plodded into the dropships interior. Dropping off the crate they settled into the copilots' seats. Jemini swung into her pilots' seat and after running some pre-flight checks she lifted off heading for the stars.
Keyla breathed in deeply as the broke atmosphere. Mhisha laid a comforting hand on her leg which she smiled at. Flipping a switch Jemini entered the coordinates and jumped to light speed. The stars blurred away to blue streaks washing over them all.
Keyla yawned as she opened the Longclaw’s observation room. Back when Xerx had been a businessman he used to hold meetings in this clear domed room while in hyperspace. The old man had never had the heart to replace it with armour and so it remained.
The form of a bald human clad in nothing sitting cross-legged on a mat came into Keyla’s field of view. She blinked but came in all the same. The man was staring out into hyperspace face serene.
“Join me Keyla?” He asked with a soft smile. Keyla who was clad only in a simple top and long pants shrugged and removed them. It was their unspoken rule to have no barriers in these talks. She padded over to where he sat and joined him staring out into hyperspace. “Can’t sleep?” He asked softly.
“You know damn well Wu-shan I’m hungover,” Keyla groused, “As it turns out a Wookiee liver does beat mine.”
Wu-shan smiled, “I could’ve have told you that but like many things in this life, one must learn for themselves.”
“Funny.” Keyla growled breathing deeply, “Actually I could do with picking that big brain of yours.” The slight man raised an eyebrow in interest.
“Keyla Kaeno needing my help? Imagine that.”
With a sigh the orange-skinned woman rested her hands on her knees as she asked, “This Alliance business, do you think we should join it?”
Wu-shan nodded gaze never wavering from the blue field outside of them. He hummed softly under his breath as he rubbed his own legs. Finally after a good long spot of deliberation he spoke.
“For nigh of ten years now we have survived by keeping our operation small. Hit and run tactics. Some days we’re more pirates then rebels. This has worked well it is true. This will not bring down the Empire, however. A shard of iron on its own will not slay a great beast. But take many shards and join them into one and forge a sword… then such a beast can be felled yes.”
They sat in more silence Keyla forcing down the bile of her drinking from the night before. Wu-shan closed his eyes and nodded. “What say the others?”
“Captain Onyx wants to join. He says we’ll be real military then. Iwisia says it’s too soon and that we’d be exposing ourselves to needless danger.”
“And you are the deciding vote,” Wu-shan guessed with a kind smile. He placed a hand on Keyla’s shoulder, “You must do what you feel is right but I will leave you with this advice. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. We have tried our way. What’s the harm in trying a new one?”
The two sat in companionable silence as Keyla made her decision. “I hope we get to have more of these talks, Wu-shan.”
“As do I my friend.”
Jemini turned in her seat with a clap of her hands. Rising she brushed past Keyla and Mhisha and rummaged through a few storage containers with a few muttered curses. Coming up with a grin she pulled forth a dusty bottle.
“Knew I missed one of these shabuir’s!” She crowed opening it with a hiss. Keyla and Mhisha exchanged a glance as she busied herself pouring a trio of shots. With a smile, she turned back to the two uniformed soldiers and offered them a glass each. The two accepted them with a nod and smile.
“Shereshoy!” The Mandalorian toasted shooting her drink in one go. Keyla followed suit the alcohol burning a familiar trail down her throat.
Keyla whooped as the last of the liquor settled in her stomach. The rebel Lieutenant grinned at her four drinking partners. Brose the Corellian was rip-roaring already, Syya the Zabrak grinned as she poured herself another glass, while Hawq the green-skinned Twilek and Zo-en the Chandra Fan arm-wrestled.
Their latest mission had gone off without a hitch and they were celebrating their success. They had stopped for refuelling at the Chop Shop and had found their way to the grand opening of Jeg’s Karaoke bar. The place was filled with soldiers carousing happy for one moment to be free of the war.
Hawq cheered as he won his contest punching Keyla on the arm in celebration. Keyla grabbed the loser by the waist and twirled him in the air laughing as they did. Zo-en kicked his feet in mock protest but chortled all the same as his CO dropped him carefully to the floor.
“Guyszz,” Brose slurred, “Oi mean it when Oi say I love all of you! U are my brothers in sisters in arms and in all things!” That garnered a cheer as the group went in for a hug.
The unmistakable beat of the marching drum quieted everyone in the establishment as the karaoke machine was turned to full blast. Almost as one every rebel in the place rose to their feet and started stomping in time to it before belting out the lyrics to the chords of guitars.
“I’ve got the reach and the
teeth of a killin’ machine,
with a need to bleed you
when the light goes green,
I’m in a zone to be, from my Yin to
My Yang to my Yang Tze. Put a
Grin on my chin when you come to me,
‘cuz I’ll win, I’m a-one-of-a-kind
and I’ll bring death to the place you’re about to be: another
river of blood runnin’ under my feet.”
Keyla linked arm with her comrades at the next verse as she sang.
“Forged in a fire lit long ago,
stand next to me, you’ll
never stand alone. I’m last
to leave, but first to go.
Lord, make me dead before you make me old.
I feed on the fear of the devil inside
Of the enemy faces in my sights:
the hand, shoot with the mind, kill
with a heart like artic ice!”
Keyla called out loud and proud.
“I am a soldier an I’m marching on!”
She was met by a thunderous reply. “I AM A SOLDIER AND I’M MARCHIN ON!”
Keyla leapt on to their table fist held high. “I am a warrior and this is my song!”
“I AM A WARRIOR AND THIS IS MY SONG!”
Before Keyla leapt down to join in with next verse she swayed and spied the bartender. While Jeg was beating his head to music on his stubble face their was a look of… melancholy. The battered rebel reached a hand down and rubbed his prosthetic leg as he locked eyes with Keyla giving her a sad smile.
With a mad giggle Svya dragged Keyla back down to join in the song and the moment was gone.
Keyla blinked and whispered. “I am a warrior and this is my song.”
After several hours in hyperspace Jemini prepared to drop them out. The Mando had clad herself in her armour since their departure and affixed her helmet before dropping them out to a familiar vista.
The colourful world of Felucia had changed little since last Keyla saw it. It was still a multi-coloured green sphere that hung like some exotic jewel. Keyla’s chest grew tight at the sight of it.
“Felucia.” Keyla remarked studying the planet in front of them. Old Xerx held their drop ship in position as his captain studied the planet with interest. Beside her a scarred human female stood face covered with metal grafts. She tapped the holo pad she was holding with a crease to her forehead.
“What’s up Uderzo?” Keyla asked arms crossed over her combat uniform.
“Boss I don’t know it’s just this data something seems off. Inconsistent even.” Uderzo replied running hand through her rat tail nervously.
“Do we still have confirmation the package is on site?” Keyla inquired hands behind her back.
“Yes marm. Maybe it’s just pre-mission jitters.”
“Hey, “ Keyla smiled placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder, “We are the Fighting Seventh. There ain’t nothing we can’ do. This is a simple extraction we got this. Xerx bring us in. Let’s get the lad’s ready.”
Keyla shook her head at Phara dived into atmosphere. Since Keyla and Mhisha’’s revolt and subsequent battle the Empire had diverted resources from the jungle world retreating to the other side of the planet which for their purposes was perfect.
As Jemini guided their ship down through the jungle Mhisha rose and from his duffle bag removed a collection of pipes and cloth. He fluffed it out and hung it so it rested under his left armpit. Keyla remembered how after the fighting was done on Felucia with the Rebellion on the way the injured soldier had insisted on retrieving it.
With a hiss the shuttle landed in a nearby clearing. Keyla body quivering rose to take up the crate. Mhisha, Jemini and her all proceeded down the ramp and onto the floor of the jungles of Felucia.
Keyla’s nose flared as she breathed in familiar scents of the planet. Memories flashed through her head of hunting, running nearly going fully feral. Of loneliness, fear and despair.
As the started walking through a partially overgrown trail of destruction Keyla started breathing heavily. She could smell the smoke; feel hands shoving her clear, the explosion as the shuttle crashed. With a sob she feel to one knee. Immediately Jemini was there to lift her up.
With a ground-shaking boom the artillery blast threw Keyla through the air. With a crunch she landed on her side head spinning. Sitting up drunkenly Keyla stared at her twisted left leg and spat blood.
The entire rebel line was in retreat in the teeth of the Empire’s advance. She raised her comlink to her mouth and growled. “Kaeno to all units fall back. I’ll cover your escape.” Ignoring the fiery pain that was her body Keyla crawled to her nearby rifle and shouldered it lying like the dead in wait.
She hadn’t long to wait. A squad of eight Stormtroopers broke through the smoke firing off where the rebels had fled. Keyla waited will they drew close before opening up. Three were downed before they rallied and returned fire.
With nerves of steel and discipline Keyla brought down one more before her rifle ran dry. Tossing it away she drew forth her pistol and shot a charging trooper through the chest. She twisted around to see another level his gun at her head. Keyla fancied for a second she met his eyes as his finger tightened on the trigger.
With a yell a green-clad burly woman shoulder checked him knocking him to the ground. Grabbing a nearby piece of twisted metal she shoved into the soldiers neck.
Taking his gun she rolled off him as his companions fired on her. With equal mix precision and luck the ruddy-faced human dropped the two of them before scrambling over to Keyla.
“Brimbor, not that I don’t but I appreciate the assist but I gave you explicit orders to get the hell out!”
“Hey,” Brimbor beamed as she checked her captain for serious wounds, “You know what we always say no man left behind. I’ll be dammed if we lose another captain this week. Can you walk?”
Keyla shook her head. “My leg’s Fubar just go.”
“That wasn’t and order,” Brimbor grinned priming a smoke grenade and tossing it not far from them, “Sorry about this Keys. Up you come!” With a grunt on the humans part and a screech from Keyla Brimbor lifted the orange woman onto her shoulders. Adjusting she grinned back at Keyla.
“Now we go! Hold on!” The two dashed through the smoke and wreckage towards freedom.
Keyla breathed in and allowed Jemini to guide her to her feet. Nodding the three carried on in silence down the forest path. They emerged into a partially over grown clearing where the wreckage of her shuttle lay.
In the last few months since she’d been there the metal had rusted while small shrubs almost completely covered the scorched ground. Her shelter the remains of the cockpit and a piece of wing still stood. She gazed at the scored wing as they passed it.
Keyla dashed through the smoke coughing. She’d wrapped the remains of her uniform around her hands and feet as she searched through the debris desperately for survivors. Surely others had survived, she couldn’t be the only one.
A wet cough snapped her head around. Heaving a piece of wing aside Keyla gasped at what she saw. A badly burned figure lay their identifiable only by his head tentacles. It was Maui the medic one of the original crew she’d joined so many years ago. Keyla tugged him free before attempting to tend to his wounds.
Opening the one eye that hadn’t been burned from it’s socket Maui croaked, “Keyla.” Keyla’s eyes rolled over his body searching desperately. “I… lost my… satchel in… fire, Keyla STOP!” He coughed stilling Keyla from rushing back into the flames. “Nothing you can do.” He breathed weakly.
Keyla cradled him in her arms sobbing quietly. He reached out one burnt hand and touched her chin, “Hey now… it’s alright…”
“No it‘s not! If I’d just listened if we’d shoved someone else out if I’d-”
“Keyla do you… remember…when Onyx died.” The dying medic asked one eye bright. “It was after… our first real mission… with the Alliance. Iwisia wanted to leave but you said…”
“The torch he bore has fallen. It is our now ours to bear.” Keyla responded quietly tears dripping down her face.
“You were… the best of us. So smart so… eager to learn. A warrior and a soldier… Keyla the torch be yours now.” His grip on her chin loosened arm falling to his side.
“No.” Keyla cried as the light started to fade from his eyes.
“Carry on… the fight… carry on…our legacy…” Maui gave his final death rattle as his burned body gave up the ghost. Keyla howled into the night for her comrades, her friends, her family.
They passed her old shack and quite suddenly and finally they were there. Twenty mounds of dirt that red flowers had bloomed upon. Two rows of ten dug by her own hand and watched over for a long time after.
Keyla opened the crate and removed the holo projectors. Under her direction Jemini and Mhisha drove them one by one into the heads of each grave. With their task finished Keyla activated them as one.
With a hum her old squad’s faces appeared. Young and old, friends and comrades, soldiers and warriors. Keyla gazed at the closest one Iwisia’s face and lowered her head respectfully.
Tears welled in her eyes as she raised her head and gazed across them. For a moment it seemed they were standing in front of her. Varri grinning playfully, Scarn and Uri arm in arm, Xerx with his flask, Dario firm but gentle smile. They were all there and more. Dozens of folks she’d fought with who had died stood in rank with her squad. As one they seemed to salute. Keyla responded in kind holding the position for more then a minute.
Dropping her hand she nodded at Mhisha who dropped his own salute and took up the pipes. As the first mournful notes came from the bagpipes Keyla breathed in sharply.
Brose’s pipes echoed throughout the ships hull as the crew of the Longclaw stood in silence around three caskets. Keyla was crying quietly as she gazed upon them till she felt a hand rest upon her shoulder.
Onxy’s care worn face smiled at her comfortingly as the grey haired human squeezed her shoulder. Keyla wiped her eyes and straightened saying thickly. “Sir.”
“It is all right to grieve Keyla. This is war we lose people. Delworth, Othja and Joe will not be the last.” The old human stated gazing upon the three coffins sadly.
“How do you deal with it?’ She asked thickly hands clenched by her sides.
“By honouring them with our traditions. By carrying on the fight. By remembering them and their sacrifice. By bearing the torch high. That is how we deal with it. This pain this trauma it never truly fades and nor should it. You ken?”
“Aye,” Keyla said breathing deep and nodding.
“Once a year and whenever someone passes we honour them in song. Pay attention now.”
Keyla held out a hand towards Mhisha. The big man let his final note trail off to a low hum and as she had been taught so many years ago Keyla sang. She san high and true voice thick with emotion. Across the years Onyx’s rough voice echoed merging in harmony.
“Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
whaur afore monie mair huv gaun
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
When they come a wull staun ma groon.
Stan ma groon al nae be afraid.
When they come I will stand my ground.
Stand my ground I’ll not be afraid.
Thoughts awe hame tak awa ma fear.
Sweat an bluid hide ma veil awe tears.
Thoughts of home take away my fear.
Sweat and blood hide my veil of tears.
Ains a year say a prayer faur me
Close yir een an remember me.
Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes and remember me.
Nair mair shala see the sun
For a fell tae a Imperials gun.
Never more shall I see the sun
For I fell to a Imperials gun.
Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
whaur afore monie mair huv gaun.
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone.”
As the last haunting notes of Mhisha’s bagpipes faded away Keyla steeped forward. She kneeled upon one knee and put her hand to the ground. With a soft smile she whispered.
“Thank you. You are remembered.”
or, enter your birth date.*
One Year After Zester’s Defeat, Robertsville
The yellow punch buggy spluttered to a stop outside the imposing building. Rising hundreds of feet into the sky, it easily dwarfed every other structure in the city, with fellow skyscrapers barely reaching its halfway mark. The buggies occupants stared up at it before glancing at each other.
The driver put the car in park, removing the keys from the ignition. Reclining back the short curvy Asian woman ran a hand through her short black hair and sighed. Clad in an open-collared shirt, a pair of denim shorts and flip-flops, she looked like a tourist. Glancing to her companion, brown eyes warm with concern, she asked.
“You sure about this, Maria?”
The woman sitting beside the driver was clothed in a yellow short skirt, a matching crop top and a pair of pink suspenders. Around her neck hung a bell, while on her right shoulder blade a fresh tattoo of a cursive F could be seen. Her hair was long and tied into two bushy pigtails. Despite all this, she shared a body so similar to her companions it could only be that of a sister, with only a slightly larger bust and height marking a major difference.
“Gloria, I’m sure,” Maria replied with a smile. “This is what Faite is calling me to do!”
“Ohh, hell that shit again,” Gloria sighed rolling her eyes.
“Glo!” Maria snapped swatting her sister's right tit, “Language!”
The elder sister hissed grabbing her breast, “Mari! Damn it, what have I told you about doing that?!”
“And what have I told you about speaking like a Faite fearing woman? Honestly, you’re the eldest you should be correcting me.”
“Huh,” Gloria snorted. “I think we both know you did a far better job as a role model than I ever did.”
Maria frowned brown eyes soulful, “Hey, don’t say that sis. It's because of what you do I want to do this!”
“You mean get paid to shoot things and blow shit up?” Maria raised her hand with a scowl. “Right, right Faite forgive me. Listen, if you want to do that come work with me for the Falconeers. Pays a heck of a lot better and, best of all, no uniform. You know they’re going to make you wear one of those stupid suits of body armour, hey?” Gloria ran her hands over her body in revulsion. “Faite, I’m getting fucking goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Maria pinched the bridge of her nose and gave a long-suffering sigh, “Language, darn it. Listen, what you do is awesome, but Faite teaches us we should do something for more than just material gain. If we are to fight then let us do so wisely, with compassion for our enemies, restraint but most of all for a higher purpose.” The pigtailed beauty gushed.
A loud snicker met her proclamation. Gloria, a hand over her mouth, wheezed, “Oh they are just going to eat you up! I guarantee your cute little arse is going to be on a poster within the year saying “Faite wills that we fight disorder!’ Hahahaha.”
“Jerkface!” Maria huffed crossing her arms under her ample bust.
“Hey! Language, young lady. What would mum and dad think?”
“Not sure it matters,” Maria sighed resting her head against the window.
“Oh,” Gloria’s joviality evaporated. “So the counselling didn’t work, eh?”
“No. Why else do you think I asked you to come to pick me up? I just couldn’t… stay in that house anymore.”
“Hey, none of that little sis,” Gloria soothed rubbing her sister's shoulder. “Today is about your new beginning. You’re finally living your dream, don’t let them wreck that. It was scary for me too, but look at me now!”
Maria sniffed, “A blaspheming gun for hire?”
“No, a happy, successful, independent woman with her own car and a monogrammed gun!” Gloria remarked gesturing to the SMG mounted on her door. “Now come on, dry those cheeks of yours and let do this already.” So saying she popped the trunk and left the car, pulling a sun hat on cheerfully.
Maria breathed deeply wiping away a stray tear. Looking at herself in the mirror she smiled and nodded. She could do this, no, she was meant to do this. Kissing her necklace and looking to the sky she offered up a prayer for strength before exiting the car.
Her sister slammed the trunk shut and walked up with Maria’s duffle bag over one shoulder. Grinning, she glanced towards the building than at her sister. “Maria Anna the MP! Has a nice ring to it I got to admit.”
“Gloria Anna the MP would be cool too, sis.” Maria beamed.
“Pffttt, nah, Gloria Anna the sexy mercenary who actually makes money unlike her dumbarse little sister sounds far better,” Gloria giggled as Maria swiped at her. “Now come here you!”
The two gathered each other into a full warm body hug. Maria clutched her big sister tightly. Even if she was smaller and more petite then her, there had always been something about Gloria that screamed MORE. As she was held by her, the younger sister felt the elder run her hand through her long hair.
“So pretty. Pity you’re going to lose it.”
“Gloriaaa they don’t do that anymore! That’s just in the movies!” Maria whined.
“Keep telling yourself that nun.” Gloria quipped squeezing her sister tight before letting good. “Now go out and knock 'em dead!”
Maria picked up her bag and smiled, “I love you, Gloria.”
“Yeah, I love you too Maria. Now get going!” Gloria remarked waving. Maria set off, glancing back frequently at her waving sister and then back to her destination. Turning around at the door, flanked by two MPs in full body armour she waved back one last time.
Steeling herself she walked through into the doors into the lobby. There a wealth of milling recruits, MPs and officials greeted her. Following along towards a bored looking clerk with a stack of forms, she cleared her throat.
The man didn’t even look up as he growled, “Race?”
“Ah, Hale Human, sir.”
The man glanced up eyes widening behind his spectacles, “Decidedly female.” Grabbing a stack of forms he handed them to her, “Get into line H. Read these carefully and be ready to sign them. If you have any questions they will help you there. Next!”
Maria stumbled off towards line H, head on a swivel. Never before had she seen so many people of different races crowded together in one place. Blue Skinned Borealians rubbed shoulders with a group of six towering craggy-faced Golems. A variety of Harpies clad in silk and veils chattered together while Wood Elves passed through their midst. The largest line, by far, however, was the one she approached.
The baseline of humanity, Hale Humans were considered the most ‘normal’ of all the races. Possessing no unique markings, elemental powers or advanced adaptations, her race, despite that, was a hardy adaptive bunch, found across the known universe. Before her a mix of all ages, ethnicities and cultures milled, some clothed from head to toe, others drssed like her, with a few dressed in nothing but a smile.
Joining the line, Maria spent the next half hour talking with her fellow recruits, reading dutifully through the papers and generally experiencing the subtle joys of bureaucracy. She noticed however that as each person was accepted they removed all articles of clothing or other personal effects and placed them in their bags. They then went on through one of two doors, while their bag was placed upon a baggage train.
Maria swallowed with nervous excitement as the woman before her, a comely caramel skinned wood elf lass with an afro, removed her shorts and handed her bag off to an MP. As she strode off, Mara walked up to the counter and gave her most winning smile.
“Maria Anna, reporting for duty!”
“You’ve read the document?” The officer behind the counter, a tall lanky Celestial Elf with purple hair, asked eyebrows raised expectantly.
“Every Faite blessed word, marm!” Maria chirped excitedly.
“You’d be the first. Alright, I need to go over each section with you and get your signature. Now regarding your duties…” After five minutes of filling in details about herself and signing forms, Maria prepared to make the final pen stroke. “Now, here you commit to a service of no less than two years, with the understanding that upon leaving you will join the Airies III reserves. Understood?”
Maria breathed deep and exhaled as she studied the blank line. Putting the pen to paper she signed her name in beautiful cursive. The elf gave a short smile. “Congratulations, Cadet Anna. Please remove all personal effects and place them in your bag. They’ll be waiting for you at your bunk after processing.”
Maria smiled and shook the elf’s hand before stepping off to the side. Whistling she removed her shoes and socks, slipping them into her bag. Removing her earrings, necklace and hair ties next she hopped with excitement. Pulling her top off quickly Maria unhooked her suspenders and removed her skirt, careful not to spread her legs too far as she bent over.
Tossing her hair back she zipped up her bag and handed it off to guard who seemed to be staring straight at her chest. Maria sighed and walked through the designated door. There a man in a lab coat with a touchscreen pad in hand stood awaiting her.
“Maria Anna?” He asked giving her a once over in a detached sort of way.
“Do you prefer your physical to be done by a male or a female?”
“Female,” Maria blushed, “I hardly think it would be appropriate otherwise.”
“Right, head down to room 22F. Welcome to the MPs Cadet.”
Skipping down the hall, Maria felt a nervous ball of energy and hope bounce around within her like her breasts upon her chest. Coming to the door she paused, smoothed her hair and knocked. At a cheerful word of entry, she hopped in with a smile.
A woman in medical scrubs with the unmistakable eyes of a Statuesque was there to meet her. The woman’s skin was an ebony black, contrasting sharply with her sterile scrubs. She smiled as she pulled on a pair of gloves.
“Cadet Anna? My name is Doctor Maroue, I’ll be handling your examination today. I’ll have to touch you, is that ok?” She asked gesturing for Maria to stand on a strange medal pad at the rooms centre. She nodded as she complied, “Great, I’ll be asking you a few personal questions as I do.”
“It’s ok to doctor. Woman to woman, right?”
Maroue crystalline purple eyes gleamed with light, “Of course.” Stepping forward the doctor ran her hands over Maria’s body in a professional non-erotic way. Feeling the muscles in her arms, examining her dainty hands, shining a light in her eye and checking her teeth. As she did a warm light from the metal device bathed Maria’s body, tickling her.
The questions were mostly banal, asking about any natural symbiotic, family health history and age. As she neared the end of the examination, things got awkward.
“You’re doing great Maria,” The Doc remarked, feeling her breasts, “Any enhancements here?”
“No, marm, all natural as Faite intended,” Maria answered blushing with a bit of pride.
“Good,” The doctor remarked before patting her thighs, “Spread em.”
“Need to check for STDs and the like. The machine is good but a practised eye is still better. Come on, I’ve seen everything, Maria.”
“I’m um a v-v-virgin…”
“What was that sweetie?”
“I’m A VIRGIN, OK? No need to spread the legs!” Maria yelled blushing red.
Maroue blinked up at her from her crouched position, “Huh really? A beautiful young woman your age?” At Maria’s glare mixed with a whine, the doctor rose. “Well, good for you. Glad to see some people still wait for a special someone. All right, Maria, everything checks out. When they ask, tell them you’re a Super Class 1. Head out that door and follow the signs to the showers.”
Bowing in thanks, as she’d been raised, Maria stepped off the device and out the opposite door. Glancing up at a neon sign pointing right she headed off down the hall. Other cadets, some still visibly ‘excited’ by their examination, soon joined her as they headed for the end. Coming into a large foyer with hundreds of cadets getting onto to an escalator, Maria spied the girl she’d been waiting behind. Bushy afro bouncing she gave Maria a wave, who bashfully returned the favour.
As she stepped on the moving stairs Maria smelled the unmistakable scent of shampoo, soap and hot water. As she stepped off the escalator she beheld a large set of glass doors, opening and closing to admit new cadets in. An MP wordlessly handed her a bar of soap and blot of shampoo and herded her into a group of twenty others.
Stepping through the doors into what could only be described as a warm artificial monsoon, Maria gasped was the water broke over her body. Following the others lead she lathered up while moving forward through the warehouse like shower facility. Arrows along the walls pointed the way out as the cadets walked forward, scrubbing away.
Maria gasped as a pair of women ran to one another and began passionately making out. The two stumbled into her before falling to the floor giggling. Maria walked on blushing, noting this wasn’t the only impromptu hook-up, though thankfully most of the cadets had the decency like her to simply wash up.
As she moved towards the exit she spied the woman in front of her once again, who once more gave another smile and a wave. As she and her group walked into what looked a giant blow dryer, Maria giggled as the woman’s soggy afro popped back to life. Shaking her head she focused on washing her long hair, making the most out the shampoo and soap.
After another minute of scrubbing and rinsing, she and her group finally came to the end of the room. Stepping though she was immediately hit by a blast of warm air, tickling every part of her body. Laughing Maria held out her arms as she moved through the smaller room with her companions, feeling the water fly away.
As she stepped out into another foyer, she was pulled aside by an MP, “This way, cadet.”
Maria frowned as she watched others move on, “Why am I-oh.” She remarked as was led to a line of long and shaggy-haired recruits. From the room they were waiting to enter the familiar sound of a razor and shears could be heard. “Oh, Gloria is going to love this...”
Maria blinked at her reflection in the mirror as the barber, a bald thuggish looking hale human, gave her head a final pass over. While not bald, sheared of her long locks she looked smaller in the mirror. He’d left her a spiky fauxhawk styled hair to work with at the very least but still…
“Want a full-service cadet?” The man asked as he summoned a small cleaning bot to suck up her hair. At her questioning look, he picked up a shaving razor and pointed down. Maria blushed and placed a hand over her maidenhair, “No, thank you.”
“As you like. Right out that door cadet. NEXT! Ohh would you look at this Chia-Head? Boy did your mama not raise you proper?!”
Maria scampered free, happy to escape with any hair at all. Re-joining the crowd fresh from the showers she waited in line once more. An MP Officer handed her a slip and told her to find Omega Cohort.
Walking into another large open room, this time with a view of the city, Maria headed through the freshly cleaned and trimmed cadets. Eventually finding a group with the Omega symbol above them she joined the cohort with a bashful smile.
“Hey look at you! You came out all right cutie!” An accented husky voice remarked. Turning Maria beheld her friend from the line, now sporting a closely shaved head rather than an afro, revealing her pointed ears. Holding out a hand the tall muscled elven woman beamed, “I don’t think we got a chance to introduce ourselves earlier. Francesca Brodeur, but you can call me Foxy.”
“Maria Anna,” Maria replied accepting the handshake, “And I wouldn’t say that…”
“Girl, you kidding me? They actually left you some hair to work with! They practically gave me the Jack Manchester special.” The two giggled, Maria, glancing down at Foxy’s wild pubes, “Least they let me keep my bush. They may have cleared the rainforest up here but not down there, am I right?”
Maria blushed but laughed all the same, “So, what made you want to sign up Foxy?”
“Thing to fucking do isn’t it?” Foxy remarked leaning against the glass, mooning the city in the process. “We were all divided when Zester came and look at what he did to us! An over glorified pirate took over our world and slaughtered millions. If Haugron’s MPs are willing to train us so that we can defend ourselves from the next prick like him, sign me the fuck up!”
“Ohh,” The smaller girl blinked, “Well that’s one way to put it…”
“How about you Maria? Sick ink by the way.”
“Ohh thank you. Well, I just feel that Faite gave me the will and ability to fight for those who can’t so it’d be a disservice to not do so.” Maria remarked leaning beside Foxy. “Does that sound too preachy?”
Foxy giggled, “Kind of dorky, but sincere. What you specialize in? Knives, infiltration, swords maybe?”
“Firearms! Give me a gun and I can bull’s-eye just about anything!” Maria grinned.
“Right on! I enjoy a good baseball bat or a shotgun myself.” Foxy leaned over, pushing her cleavage forward, “So, Maria, you got yourself a special someone or…?”
“Omega Cohort, attention!” A shrill but powerful voice barked. Stumbling over themselves the cohort came to attention, Maria and Foxy standing side by side at the back.
A stocky but powerful looking Dwarf woman clad in the armour of the MP’s snorted as she approached. With a crack of her thick neck, the ginger freckle spotted woman smirked widely, “I am Dill Sergeant McGrew but, as far you lot are concerned, I am Sky Marshal Haugron himself. For the next six months, it’s my job to make you lot worthy of the armour of MP’s. I will not be kind but I will be fair. Now hands at your sides, legs together.” Shaking her head at the display she growled. “It will have to do. Follow me to your barracks. By the left, quick MARCH!”
As Maria and Foxy set off side by side she couldn’t help but grin. She may have left home, lost her hair and jumped straight into the unknown but somehow she wasn’t scared. If anything it felt like some great presence was looking down on her and smiling.
Glancing up she whispered, “Thank you Faite.”
One and a Half Years after Zester’s Defeat, Robertsville, MP Bootcamp
“Anna, cover me!” Foxy barked as she moved ahead, shotgun raised. The tall elf was clad in the armour of the Manchester MPs, green designating her trooper rank. Maria, similarly attired, followed behind SMG in hand.
“Watch your corner’s Brodeur, they could be anywhere.”
“I know, relax would ya?” Brodeur remarked slipping through the doorway. “What do you know, more dark and empty corridors. Team 2, you got anything?”
Maria slid in behind Foxy, gun pointed down the corridors opposite end. Foxy had neglected to watch her six, again.
“Nothing here, Team Four.”
“Three here, the west side is clear.”
“Five and Six reporting in. No dice on North Side.”
“This is Squad Leader, nothing at the food court. Let's meet up at,” An unmistakable sound of a gunshot cut him off, “Contact! They’re here! Fixx watch your left they’re on top of the-“ With a crackle, the transmission cut off.
Maria glanced at Foxy, who cocked her gun, “All units converge on that position! Let's kill these bastards.” She yelled running off recklessly. Dashing behind her far faster than her frame would suggest Maria yelled.
“Foxy! Slow down we can’t afford to-“ A dark space detached itself behind the charging woman. Dropping to one knee, Maria slid forward, aimed and fired. The crack of the SMG heralded the splat as she tagged their assailant square in the chest.
Foxy turned around shotgun raised in time to spy another enemy coming from a side room. With a boom, her gun blew the hostile away into a wall. Maria, scanning the corridor, noted one more figure fleeing and gunned him down.
The two women breathed heavily in the resulting silence as the first figure Maria shot toppled over. Hitting the ground with a clank the paint splattered MP Cadet moaned. “OHHH Come on! We had you!”
“Bitches,” The woman Foxy had shot moaned. “That was blind luck.”
Foxy placed a hand to her hip as she ejected the spent paintball shell, “Nah just superior teamwork, Bravo. We Omega peeps stick together.”
Maria reloaded her gun, “Speaking of which, we should go.”
“Right. Later losers! Drinks are going to be on you.” The two women moved out leaving the groaning trio on the ground.
“As you can see, Commander Manchester, the first generation of Airies III, or the Manchester MPs, if you like, are well on their way to completing their training. I can honestly say, rarely have we had a group of recruits this promising and dedicated.” A Slender purple haired elf stated with a smile. Gesturing towards a giant monitor filled with screens from various camera’s, body cams and drones she added, “Three hundred some recruits to start, all being trained to your specifications, sir.”
Commander Jack Manchester crossed his arms over his bare and beefy chest and nodded. The sunglass-sporting and moustache rocking bald black man looked every inch the soldier he’d been for most of his 60 plus years of life. Clad in his usual steel-toed combat boots and parachute pants, Haugron’s number two man breathed authority.
“Excellent Captain Lazeer. The exercises you’re running, tell me about them.” Jack’s voice was smooth, almost melodic as he paced forward.
The elf smiled, “Of course sir. As per your instruction, we have them running a variety of drills. Hostage extraction, urban warfare, Super takedowns, crowd control and terrorist elimination.” As she spoke a screen depicting each example was superimposed before them. “We have them using special paintball guns. Each shot delivers a stun charge to their armour. The more fatal the shot would be, the more it immobilizes them.”
Jack stroked his chin, “And how are we evaluating them?”
“On a number of things, sir,” Lazeer remarked. “Kills, time spent securing the respective objective, teamwork and overall skill.”
“Hmmm,” The man mused, “What about heroics?”
“Well, the idea is to teach them how to be soldiers first, heroes second, sir.”
Manchester shook his head, “No, Captain. The idea is to foster a new generation of warriors to keep the peace here when you and Haugron move on. To do that, I’m going to need good people by my side. From here on, take note of anyone who goes above and beyond the call of duty. In fact, notify me.”
“Sir,” The Captain began carefully, “That’s not the way we do things in Haugron's Forces.”
“But this is the way we do it on Airies III, Captain. I’d ask that you respect that.” Jack stated shortly but not unkindly.
“Of course. In that case you may be interested in these individuals,” She said, handing him a touchpad with a list of names loaded. “They’ve shown the most promise thus far.”
Jack smiled widely as he began to scroll through the list, “Excellent.”
Maria and Foxy along with two other members of Omega Cohort crouched just short of the cafeteria’s entrance. Sporadic gunfire continued to break out from the wide-open space. Foxy, using a mirror, studied the battlefield.
“Shooters are on the second floor for sure. I think Toby is still alive and hunkered in the fountain. Does anyone know where the others are?”
Maria sighed as she glanced down the hallway. Each cohort was made up of twenty soldiers, each divided into five squads. When they’d begun clearing the building their leader had sent out ten pairs to search the outer mall and had led the remaining half of the unit right to the centre.
Since the enemy had made contact two more pairs had gone silent, leaving their numbers at just seven. Maria did not like that math. Counting the three she and Foxy had taken out, that left at least seventeen enemy troops left, less if they were lucky.
“Toby,” She asked trying her radio, “Toby can you hear us?” Nothing but static met her.
“Muzt be uzing a jammer,” The croaking hiss of Ziell observed. An amphibious Krietahn, the green-skinned man was whip thing and tall, holding his assault rifle like a lover. “That’d be my guezz.”
His partner, a silent Hale Human known only as Jerry, nodded agreement.
Maria sighed, “Well we got to do something, otherwise-“
“Toby!” A screeching voice yelled from across the cafeteria, “We’re coming! Sit tight!”
“Zofi!" Maria yelled. “Wait!”
The screeching green on purple form of her squadmate flew from the shadows. Zofi, metal mesh veil across her face and short blonde hair flying like a banner took to the skies. A Harpy, transformed her usually fair skin was a bright shade of violet, her hands turned to claws with a pair of bat wings on her back. Cocking two UZI’s she blazed away screeching at she strafed through the air.
Her partner, another Hale Human named Jonn armed with a grenade launcher dasher for Toby’s position. As the enemy returned fire Maria hissed in frustration.
“Guys! We got to cover them.”
Foxy smacked her breastplate, “Fucking right! Let's do this!”
The four broke cover as one firing on the balcony. Maria grinned as two shooters went down bodies caked in paint. They could do this they just had to-
A rolling boom echoed throughout the mall. With a splat, a paintball smashed into Jonn’s head. Body going limp as his exo-suit shut down, he crashed to the floor in a heap. Zofi hissed in anger.
“Bastards! I’ll-“ A shot took her in the shoulder, spinning her around. Before the harpy could recover multiple shots brought her down with an undignified squawk.
“Cover!” Maria screamed, diving behind a food cart with Foxy, “Now!”
Ziell and Jerry ducked behind an overturned table, rifles at the ready. Shortly after, a hail of fire splattered against the table pinning them. For a minute they hunkered down before the gunfire petered off.
Ziell looked to Jerry, “Well?”
Jerry held up six fingers and pointed up towards the balcony, three to the right, and two to the left and one in the middle. For the middle one, he mimed the sniper rifle they’d all heard. Holding up six fingers, he pointed towards the abandoned restaurant alcoves lining the cafeteria.
“Twelve shooters then,” Maria muttered, “Faite protect us.”
“Yo! Toby! Your punk arse alive or what?!?” Foxy yelled peeking her head over the side of the cart.
“Yeah!” Toby responded. “That fucking sniper got my legs though, I’m stuck.”
“Hold on guys,” Maria muttered, taking off her helmet, “I’m going to see if I can get our comms back. Sit tight.”
Jack shook his head as the paint bomb went off coating the ‘hostages’, captured ‘terrorists’ and MPs in orange. As the cadets in the session swore he switched his attention to another screen displaying a mock battle. The defenders had retreated into the courtyard of their fort and were picking off the attackers one by one as they came over the walls.
“They’re certainly disciplined if nothing else.” Jack mused.
Lazeer nodded, “In Haugron’s Forces, sir, discipline is valued just below loyalty. These Airies III cadets have an independent and stubborn streak mind you, might be the training and armour you advised.”
“That is what I’m looking for. Independence, creative thinking and most of all the spirit of a true warrior, unbowed and unbroken no matter what adversity they may face.” Jack remarked scrolling through the training simulations. “People who damn the odds and fight anyway. That is what our planet needs.”
“If you say so,” The Elf replied with a shrug.
A particular match abruptly caught Jack’s eye. A standard ‘eliminate the enemy' exercise was taking place in a faux mall. The breaching team had been decimated with only five active members left alive. By contrast fifteen of the defending team remained active, yet the attacking team seemed undaunted.
“Put that match on the centre screen,” Jack ordered, as he scrolled through the list of troopers mentally. He smiled as he realized two promising Super class Ones were still active on the attacking team. “This should get interesting.”
“-Everyone got it?” Maria asked over their private channel. Foxy nodded and beamed widely as she loaded a few more shells into her shotgun. Ziell and Jerry exchanged a look and shrugged at one another.
“Why not?” Ziell replied. “Better than waiting for ze zlaughter.”
“I can give you the window,” Toby stated, “Going to hurt like a mother though. We ready?”
“One moment,” Maria interjected, bowing her head, “Oh mighty Faite, we ask thou watch over us as we embark on this action. For yours is the glory, let it be so.”
“Let it be so,” Her squad mates chorused as one.
“Let's fuck em up!” Foxy added with her usual crassness. Maria rolled her eyes and cradled her SMG.
Toby smashed his barrel chest and cocked his gun, “Alright, you pricks! Do you want me? You can have me!” Screaming he flipped over and braced his gun against the fountain wall, opening up on the balcony.
As he did Jerry and Ziell charged forward, suppressing the shooters on the lower floor. Foxy and Maria tensed up, waiting for their moment to act. One of the downstairs shooters fell in a spray of paint, while another clattered to the ground above.
“Hey, it’s work-“ BOOM. Toby’s words were cut off as a heavy round took him in the forehead sending him slumping.
“NOW!” Maria yelled. Foxy was already sprinting forward, shotgun slung on her back. Maria dashed after her picking up speed. As they approached the centre of the food court, Foxy turned on her heel and cupped her hands.
Yelling, Maria dashed forward and place her foot in the stirrup of her friend’s hands. As her momentum carried her upwards Foxy, using her considerable strength, launched Maria like a shot put, sending her soaring up into the air. For a second Maria was flying like a Harpy or Griffon and she let out a laugh of delight. As she reached the zenith of her arc, she refocused her attention on the ground.
The five remaining balcony shooters gaped up at her flying form in disbelief. The sniper was still attempting to reload his gun while the other four still had their own pointed at her comrades. Smirking, Maria aimed her SMG and blazed away at the nearest trooper as she began to fall.
Her paintballs cut him down easily with a half dozen headshots, knocking him to his knees. Adjusting her aim Maria shot at a pink skinned Krietahn woman who was bringing her gun around. The woman fell backwards, gun firing wildly into the air.
As Maria approached the ground at peak velocity she twisted and aimed, firing a final burst at a man by the railing. Hitting him in the small of the back she watched as he tumbled over the ledge with a wail.
Rolling with the fall Maria took cover as the boom of sniper rang out again, coating her landing zone with paint. Coolly reloading, Maria mentally pictured where the final shooters were. As she heard the tell-tale sound of the rifle being reloaded, she popped up from cover and aimed for her left.
The final enemy armed with an assault rifle blanched as she saw Maria. A cute looking blonde hale human, her gun was held protectively in front of a modest bust. It would do her no good.
In a flurry of paintballs, Maria knocked her on her arse with a squawk. As she fell, Maria simply allowed herself to fall back mindlessly. As she landed behind cover, the boom and blur of a sniper round flashed through the air she’d just occupied.
Maria sprung to her feet and jumped over her cover, charging the sniper. Throwing the useless weapon aside, the thin-faced sniper drew a pistol and pointed at Mara. Twisting her body impossibly fast, Maria dodged every one of his shots, feeling them ruffle her skin and armour. Kicking his pistol from his hand, she jammed her SMG into his chest.
“Faite bless you.” With a chatter, she unloaded her remaining clip into his chest. As he fell back Mara squealed a little on the inside. “That was awesome!”
Skipping a little bit while she reloaded her gun Maria made her way to the balcony. Below the sounds of gunfire were ceasing, the boom of Foxy’s shotgun ringing out cheerfully. Sticking her head over the edge Maria watched as Ziell dropped the last shooter, who was fleeing in the direction of mall’s atrium.
“Ha! Take that weaklingz.” He crowed, firing a few extra rounds into the twitching cadet.
Foxy, face splattered with spare paint, looked up at Maria and beamed widely, “How’d you make out short and sexy?”
“Oh,” Maria blushed at the sudden compliment, “All clear up here! Thanks for the opening Toby!”
A distant moan from the aforementioned trooper elicited a giggle from the two girls. Jerry, visibly counting, stiffened and turned to Ziell, gesturing wildly. The amphibian-like man turned to him, gun on one shoulder and studied his hand signals intently.
“He zayz itz not over,” He related brow furrowed, “Counting the onez here, that meanz there are at leazt three more.”
The crack of a door being kicked in reached Maria’s ears. “YOUR SILENT FRIEND IS MOST PERCEPTIVE!” A mighty voice boomed out like an avalanche accompanied by the whir of a gun. “A PITY IT’S TO LATE!”
Maria watched as Ziel turned, cursing, and fired off a single shot before a stream of paintballs smashed into him. Stumbling backwards as ball after ball coated him in paint the man was flipped over and thrown by the rate of fire.
Jerry gave a wordless howl and blazed away at the unknown shooter. Foxy did the same while running for cover behind a pillar. The chain shot paintballs moved on from Ziell to his partner, sweeping his legs from under him. With unnerving persistence the hale human fell into prone and carried on firing, dropping an enemy invisible to Maria. For his troubles the rapid-fire burst splattered him in the head, sending him spinning across the floor.
“Foxy! What the hell is going on?!” Maria yelled as she heard a set of heavy crunching footsteps approach from under her.
“Well,” Foxy’s breathless voice replied. “Remember when I said I wanted to fuck a golem?”
Maria closed her brown eyes and snorted, “Vividly.”
“Well, let's just say Brike is about to FUCK me.”
“Oh shoot.” Maria cursed as the shooter came into view.
Brike Rockjaw was an intimidating specimen of both women and Golem-kind, towering over the battlefield at close to eight and a half feet. Brike’s bright red segmented skin and bulging muscles seemed a testament to her prowess’s on the battlefield she strode across. Further enhancing her intimating appearance was the rock-like texture of her body, while her thick and spiky quartz coloured hair was shaped in short Mohawk.
Her armour barely fit her, bulging off her body like the tin foil 'armour' Maria and Gloria used to play dress up with as kids. A visor covered her ruby coloured eyes while a ceremonial tattoo of a dragon roared on her rock hard abs. Hanging loosely from her hands meanwhile was a minigun, multi-barrelled and shining in the light.
“I didn’t know they had one of the blinking Golem’s!” Maria hissed ducking down.
“They do get deployed on rotation so I guess it was our shitty day!” Foxy replied, flinching as Brike blasted her column. “Ohh and she’s got a friend!”
Following in Brike’s wake was a nervous be-speckled Hale Human lugging the jamming device on his back. Maria recognized him as Simonn, a purported tech genius and a rather weak fighter. As her eyes drifted past him she spied the dropped grenade launcher.
“I got a plan.”
“Do tell?” Foxy yelled as the minigun’s fire smashed into her column. “I am open to ideas!”
“Distract them,” Maria ordered as she ran back towards the sniper's body and sunk into a sprinter's ready stance. “Shoot em, run from them, whatever it takes to keep their eyes on you.”
The Wood Elf response was strained in its drollness, “Well, while they’re taking me up my thick backdoor, what will you be doing?!”
“Getting us the firepower we need to take that walking slab of rock down,” Maria replied. “Ready?”
“Ughhh,” Foxy sighed as she reloaded her gun. “I was looking forward to not washing paint out of my pubes. Lets fucking do this!” Breaking cover as Brike reloaded Foxy screamed and fired her weapon.
Maria took off at a dead sprint, wincing as the armour chafed her bouncing bust. Leaping up onto the railing she pushed off with all her considerable strength and momentum, aiming for the grenade launcher. As she arced through the air, she twisted and looked at Foxy.
As she did, by doubtless chance and happenstance as much as skill, one of Foxy’s wildly aimed shots caught Simonn in the head, knocking him off his feet. As he fell Brike charged up her gun and aimed for Maria’s comrade roaring. “BAD MOVE, BITCH!”
“Hey!” Maria yelled pointing her SMG at Brike’s side “Big Red! Eat lead!” Squeezing the trigger she let loose a volley of bolts at her target’s head.
Making a sound like a geyser, Brike blocked the headshot with her armoured forearm, allowing Foxy to find fresh cover. Her eyes focused on Maria and a snarl broke on her face. Bringing her gun about, Brike squeezed the trigger.
Running, ducking and dodging Maria sprayed and prayed until her SMG was completely out of rounds. Tossing it aside, she drew her pistol and did the same, “Foxy! I can’t pull guns out of my butt! Some help!?”
“Just a moment-locked and loaded! All right you brick headed bitch lets fucking tango!” Letting out a fierce screech, the dark-skinned woman broke cover and shot Brike in the side. The woman grunted but remained standing fixing her eyes on the brash elf instead. Maria carried on running, skilfully reloading her pistol without looking.
As she ran she peppered Brike’s back with pistol fire interrupting her aim. Foxy meanwhile did the same with her shotgun, thoroughly dividing the gunner's attention. Despite this, she remained standing as Maria slid behind Jonn’s fallen form.
Maria tapped him on the back as she removed the grenade launcher from his grip, “All right Jonn?”
“Oh y’know,” He managed, rolling his eyes, “Paralyzed, loving life.”
“Ha, chipper attitude. This will be over soon,” She replied checking the drum with a smile, “Well, I’m off!”
“Good luck,” Jonn muttered as he watched her butt bounce as she sprinted away, “What a woman.”
“Maria! I’m running out of ammo here!” Foxy yelled as she bumped up against a mobile vendor's stall.
Brike chortled and aimed her gun square at Foxy. “I’M NOT, LITTLE ELF! COME, STOP RUNNING AND DIE A WARRIOR'S DEATH!”
“You first!” Maria yelled as she skidded into view, firing off a single grenade. It bounced off a table and exploded just shy of the Golem. Brike turned and raked the area behind her with paintball fire but Maria was already in motion.
Calculating the angle and time to impact Maria dashed behind a pillar and popped out, firing a grenade like a spring mine. It skipped along the floor and exploded by Brike’s feet, shaking her. As her hand left the trigger to support her stunned legs, Maria charged in rotating a fresh grenade in place.
“NO!” Brike yelled lifting her gun and firing directly at Maria. With quick thinking, Maria leapt off a table over the stream of fire and rapidly shot two grenades, one for each leg. “I WILL NOT CRUMBLE!”
As Brike fell to her knees, legs paralyzed, she grabbed her minigun only for a third grenade to blow it from her hands. Yanked her paint-smeared visor off she drew a giant magnum and aimed for Maria’s descending form. Gritting her teeth she fired one high-velocity shot that struck Maria’s grenade launcher as she fired, knocking the shot upwards.
Twisting through the air, Maria tracked the grenades arc as she moved her final shot into the chamber. Feeling one of Brike’s shots take her left leg out, Maria fell to one knee, aimed and fired.
Brike laughed as the shot arced above her and aimed for Maria’s forehead, “MISS.” Maria simply smirked and pointed up. Brow furrowed Brike followed her finger and watched as the two grenades collided midair, velocity knocked the falling one right towards Brike’s head. “NO-“ She screamed aiming her gun.
“Hit,” Maria muttered as the redirected grenade blew up right above Brike’s head in a shower of paint. The Golem’s final shot whistled by Maria’s own head as her paint caked form fell forward with an echoing thud.
“Ohhh, fuck yeah girl!” Foxy screamed firing her shotgun off in celebration, “That was fucking amazing!”
“SIMULATION OVER. WINNERS, ATTACKING TEAM.” An automated voice droned.
Maria squealed and leapt to her feet running to embrace Foxy. All around them meanwhile their enemies and comrades rose with groans and cheers of their own, dripping paint. As the two danced around, a sudden shadow was cast over them.
Brike moved a hand across her face, clearing a layer of paint from her stormy visage. Maria and Foxy quailed visibly as the Golem took one of her terrifying steps forward. Then, like the sun breaking on a cloudy day, she smiled widely.
“That was totally smooth ladies!” The big woman boomed in her normal voice. Scooping the two up before they could protest she wrapped them in a bear hug pressing them close. Up close Maria was surprised to find Brike’s skin was actually quite soft but dismayed to find her grip was like bedrock. “No one has defeated me so epically before, or bravely!”
Foxy, on her tip toe’s, smiled and gave the Golem a cheeky peck on the lips. With a grin, Brike locked her lips with the elf before smooching Maria on the forehead. Finally releasing them, she patted both of their heads, “Very smooth indeed, I’ll remember you two! NEXT TIME I WILL DESTROY YOU!” Laughing she lightly smacked the two on their bums as she walked back towards her team.
“I’m a totally hit that,” Foxy drawled with a grin.
Maria growled, “Honestly would it kill you to not be crass for like one minute?”
“That right there is what I’m looking for,” Jack remarked clapping his hands together. “Did you see how that cadet single handily turned that situation around?”
The Captain nodded as she brought up some records, “That’s Cadet Maria Anna, sir. Super Class One, natural markswoman and a tenacious fighter.” Mazeer handed Jack the pad and stepped back.
As Jack read her file he smiled wide, “Put her and her friend on my list. I think she just might be perfect.”
or, enter your birth date.*
Imperial Prison Camp Zeta-1S42H, Felucia
Phara stalked back into the compound with a face like thunder. Fuming she punched the wall of a hallway and growled.
“Dumbarse little brothers! By the Force what a prick…” She sighed as the image of Cal crouching beside that girl swam into her mind. “Serves him right, see how he likes waiting for me this time.”
Muttering Phara headed for her room, nose wrinkling at the mud that stained her armour and coat. She could feel it seeping in and causing her skin to chafe. She needed a shower and a change of clothes, stat.
“Uhh, Inquisitor!” A distant voice called her.
Phara shouldered on, rolling her eyes.
“Inquisitor Pyso! Marm, wait up!’ The pathetic bleating of Captain Fueller was not something she needed to hear right now. Yet, it was her duty. Sighing Phara came to a halt and turned to face the puffing bureaucrat.
“You are…. Huh… very fast… on those… long legs of yours.” The man gave his ‘devil may care grin.’ “Not that I’ve been looking.”
Phara ignored the sensation of her skin crawling, “What it is it, Captain?”
“Well, we helped you capture that naked savage, his consort and their buxom leader so, time to make good on your end.”
“Firstly, that… feral with the terrible hair is NOT his consort. Secondly, I will deal with Filma before I leave.”
As Phara turned the Captain grabbed her arm. Blanching he released her as she turned on him and glared. “Ahh, Inquisitor that wasn’t our deal…”
“The fact there is a ‘deal’ at all is based solely on what little mercy I possess,” Phara hissed, letting her eyes ignite. “Pray I do not alter it as I see fit.”
“Well,” Gray remarked bowing in supplication, “You are the expert, my lady. I will just, ahh, let him stew then yes?”
“And leave me in peace,” Phara ordered.
“Ahh, yes, of course. You will find a bottle of wine in your quarters, my compliments. Unopened of course hahaha…” He trailed off lamely as Phara continued to stare at him. “Well, I have two new prisoners to draft papers for! You know we could save if we don’t give them uniforms…” The man carried on bowing and scraping before marching off hastily.
The Dathomirian woman rubbed a hand on her face, “Idiot.”
Making her way through the sterile corridors Phara loosened her armour and removed her gloves sighing as she felt the tension leave her. As her frustration and anger bled away she felt a new emotion take its place: joy. It may not have been all she was hoping for, but she finally had gotten Cal back.
Unconsciously Phara raised one leg and did a little pirouette through the hallway. A memory of doing that in a warm friendly home naked and free filled her mind. She frowned. No, surely that was incorrect. She could never have done what Cal was doing…
Remembering herself, Phara ceased spinning and marched on to her room. Entering it she sighed with relief, removing her overcoat. Hanging it on a coat rack beside the door controls, she sealed the door.
Unbuckling her breastplate Phara moved around her room. Earlier she’d simply dropped a black duffle bag filled with gear in the room and not given it a second glance. She’d had more pressing matters on her mind.
Now, as she stripped off each piece of armour, she had the chance to more closely examine it. Much like Fueller’s office, it had the air of faded grandeur, though less tacky.
As she removed the last of her armour Phara stood in a collared white shirt, stained and wet with mud, a pair of black slacks and her boots. Clicking her tongue at the stains, and the feeling of her bra absorbing the liquids, Phara began to unbutton her shirt as she checked out the fresher.
Phara whistled at what she saw inside. Rather then a simple shower and toilet, a lavish sight awaited her. A small washroom tiled with, doubtlessly, fake marble awaited her. Beside a toilet was a clear glass luxury shower, a Mon Calamari model unless she missed her guess, alongside a washer-dryer. What truly made it was the lavish deep bathtub at the centre, appearing to be almost a mini Jacuzzi.
Phara popped open the front of her shirt revealing a toned stomach and sensible black sports bra. “Ohh, I think yes, please.” Making her way over she turned on the jets, watching as soapy hot water filled the tub.
Humming happily to herself, Phara tossed her shirt into the washer-dryer and bent down to unlace her boots. Pulling her socks off she threw them in as well and unbuckled her belt, sliding her pants off. Standing there in nothing but her underwear she glanced at herself in the mirror.
Her skin pigmentation, while paler then Cal’s, was still as grey as ever. Unlike him, her traditional tattoos ran across her body, usually hidden by her clothes. Jagged yet graceful, they coiled on her limbs and joints as if they had always been there. Phara broke the spell, tossing her pants in the dryer.
As she made to leave she hissed at the way the wet fabric of her bra chafed her firm bust. A flash of daring inspiration struck her. Grabbing the garment underhanded she pulled it off letting her chest bounce free. With a smile she tossed it into the washer, quickly followed by her shorts.
Letting the air dry her Phara moved into her room, rubbing a hand through her trimmed bush. Satisfied she began undoing her braid as she searched through her duffle bag. As she let the braid loose, hair falling free on her back, she found her holopad. Flipping it open the naked Inquisitor scrolled through her files before selecting one marked: Research.
The familiar smile of a Twi’lek woman clad only in a fur loincloth and bra filled her eyes with the title ‘Melody of the Wyld Dance’. Humming she turned to the washroom, eyes spying the aforementioned bottle. Summoning it to herself with the force, Phara waltzed into the washroom and approached the bath.
Sighing she sank into the warm waters, pouring a glass of white wine with the force. Settling down, she flipped to her page and sipped the wine.
“Oh, I deserve this…” She mused aloud feeling the tension release from her shoulders. Shutting herself off from the force, she began to read.
Nuree giggled as she felt the big strong arms of Baz’uk wrap around her bust. The savage warrior breathed into her neck, touch promising delight. Giggling she pulled away, twirling in the moonlight.
“Come, dance with me my warrior but leave that on the floor.” The red Twi’lek blushed as pointed down.
The warrior chuckled and undid his loincloth, which did little to hide his manhood, and let it fall, “As my lady commands.”
Extending his arm the two embraced and began a slow, sensual waltz under the light of the Gymnos One moon…
The cold mud was thoroughly uncomfortable for Cal. More so, perhaps, was the apparent rage Keyla was feeling. The tall woman was pacing back and forth between each wall growling. Kara and Cal crouched in front of her, both electing to not let their extremities rest in the mud.
In a low voice, Keyla asked. “So, you were trained to be an Inquisitor then?”
“As much as a toddler can be,” Cal replied in a soft voice. “Phara and I were on our own until two Inquisitors found us. She would’ve been younger then Kara and I are now while providing for herself and her idiot brother.”
“So she saw a way out and leapt at it,” Keyla replied shortly, “Coward.”
Cal shook his head, “No. I think, if she hadn’t agreed, they would have taken us regardless.”
“But you ran.” Kara reminded him with a comforting hand, “And became a drifter.”
“That’s right. Phara was… losing herself. They made her do things, terrible things and I think it fractured her. I couldn’t bring myself to stay so when I was ten, before my initiation, me and a friend, Eiru, we escaped in the supply shuttle.” Cal sighed. “That was close to six years ago now.”
Keyla maintained her pacing and tone, “For the record, she’s a bitch, no offence. I understand though, not many in my position… would… huh.” She grinned.
A light was shone through the grate onto Keyla’s pacing form. A series of wolf whistles accompanied it.
“Oh shit, she really is naked! Bounce for us girl!”
Keyla smiled, bent down and slung a fistful of mud through the grate. It was slammed shut the troopers outside cackling amongst themselves. As the guards told them to move on Keyla looked back at them.
“Do you two trust me?”
“Course,” Cal replied as Kara nodded.
“Good, now, tell me that story again and play along.” Keyla winked, “Also apologies in advance. Kara, you got those chains free?”
Kara, who had been using her free hand to loosen a pair of old chains, grunted and popped them free of the mortar. “Ayep.”
“Alright, follow my lead.” Rising up to her full height Keyla bellowed, “YOUR SISTER?! An Imperial dog?!”
“C—captain calm down!” Cal stammered.
Kara moved away from him, hiding the chain in the mud, “Yeah, ya big meanie, leave him alone!”
“I will not! This little snivelling bitch has an even bigger bitch of a sister! How long have you been working together huh?!”
“Hey!” Cal protested. “I could never do that!”
“Oh, please!” Keyla punched the side of the shed, making it rattle as she gave Cal a wink. “You expect to me to believe a little so-called Jedi like you was my backup? Come on! You clearly were sent to flush me and the girl out!”
“That’s not true!” Kara whined, rolling her eyes, “Guards! Please, we need help!”
“Pipe down ya kriffing animals!” A brusque voice yelled from outside.
Scowling Keyla approached Cal muttering, “Sorry.” Aloud, she screamed. “Nah, you were a mole from the beginning! I bet you and your sister got my squad killed! Probably laughed while you did it!”
“I could never-“ Cal was cut off as, abruptly, Keyla grabbed him by the neck and slammed him into the wall. “Ahhh!”
“YOU PIECE OF IMPERIAL FILTH! Don’t lie to me!” Nodding at Kara, Keyla began miming slamming her fist into Cal, while Kara smacked her stomach in time.
The grate opened, “Yo, dude you can totally see that babe’s arse!”
“Idiot let me- hey she’s getting pretty physical there.”
“Who cares? This is the best view I’ve seen in six months.”
Growling with real anger Keyla let Cal drop and then grabbed both sides of his neck and squeezed, “Only one thing to do with a dirty rat!”
The brusque voice of earlier intervened, “Idiots! That’s the Inquisitor’s prisoner! Stop staring at her arse and get in there!”
“Ohh please hurry! She’s killing him!” Kara wailed, throwing an arm to her brow.
“Overdoing it much?” Cal hissed as he bugged his eyes out, gasping like a fish.
With a clank, the door opened and two stormtroopers rushed into the cell, shock batons raised. Keyla smirked and nodded at Cal. “Over and under.”
“Wait you mean.” Cal felt her hands switch to his shoulders. “Oh.”
“Get off him, sweetarse, I'd hate to run a butt like,” Grunting Keyla pushed Cal down and between her legs, the smaller man sliding under thanks to the mud. “Your’s?” Keyla’s elbow smacked into the confused trooper sending him stumbling into the wall.
Before the other soldier could react, Kara grabbed the chain and beamed him in the head. As he fell face first into the mud she jumped on his back and looped the chain around his neck and pulled.
Cal for his part sat up and focused on the final trooper, wearing a sergeant's pauldron. The man was moving to use his comlink so, with a snarl, Cal reached out his hand and called on the force.
“Idiots! Con-“ The man yelped as Cal’s force pull dragged him forward violently. The Dathomirian’s wild use of power caused the man to slam headfirst into the mantle, knocking him to the ground senseless.
The Catcaller swore as he turned back to Keyla shock baton raised. With a smirk Keyla yanked her necklace off, fitting the tooth into her fist. The Imperial made a clumsy swipe she easily dodged, knocking his guarding arm aside. Stepping within his guard she drove the point of the tooth into his throat with a single punch.
She dropped the gurgling guard to the ground and smirked, “It’s badass, not sweetarse, prick.”
Kara let her trooper go as he slumped into unconsciousness, turning him over so he didn’t drown in the mud. The three mud splattered Rebels stayed like that for a long moment.
Keyla reattached her necklace and began issuing orders, “Kara, get their blasters and belts. Cal, get that guy in here and make sure no one heard that.”
Cal nodded and grabbed the feat of the sergeant, dragging him in. Poking his head out, he spied nothing but the prisoner’s cabins and a distant patrolling guard with his back turned. Pulling the door half shut Cal nodded.
“You all saw that, right?” Mhisha asked as he stared at the Pit’s half closed door.
“Unless my eyes are playing tricks on me in my old age,” Sec groused.
The Zabrak snorted, “Ohh hush, you, your wrinkled arse is only 30.”
The clone raised one thick eyebrow, “You best watch yourself ner'vod.”
“The homoerotic tension thickens,” Ar’ul chimed in from her bunk.
Mhisha turned to faced the cramped room and raised his voice, “Everybody! We may have a chance to escape here. Ready yourselves. Sec, I want you to keep an eye on that hut. The moment they make a move, tell me.” The broad-shouldered commando punched his comrade’s shoulder. “We’re getting the hell out of here!”
Ar’ul rose from her bunk and touched her wound. Smirking the bounty hunter accepted a hand up from the Zabrak, “Tonight our enslavers die screaming!”
“Alright,” Keyla muttered as she checked the charge of her newly acquired blaster. “First things first, we need our gear.”
“Agreed,” Cal replied as he hefted a shock baton.
“Then we go to free everyone else,” Kara added as she hung a blaster off the makeshift belt she’d fashioned from the chain. “No buts.”
Keyla rubbed her mouth, “Kara we can’t risk it. All we can hope to do is see if we can rescue Filma and bug out.”
“Strength in numbers,” Cal muttered. “They may be resting on their laurels but they got a hundred times our number, not to mention my sister.”
“Hmmm,” The Torguta mused, “We’ll see. For now, let's get out of this mud pit. With me, quietly now.”
Keyla readied her blaster and poked her head out. Nodding at them, she dashed out keeping low. Kara and Cal followed her example into the shadows of a nearby hut.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Sec remarked.
“Have they made a move?” Mhisha asked moving over to his friend. “How do they look?”
Sec stroked his beard, “Well, free of a lot of things… they’re coming this way.”
Mhisha pushed his friend aside in time to see three shapes slip into his hut's shadow. Banging on the bar’s he whispered. “Hey! Rebels! Over here!”
He heard a muttered argument before a husky, feminine voice replied, “What you want, friend? We have a mission to complete…”
“That man you dragged into the cell using… the Force, it was the Force, wasn’t it? Anyway, did you take his belt?” Mhisha asked, orange eyes tracing dim shapes.
“Yeah, what of it?” The Woman replied.
“Ha!” Mhisha laughed, “That was the shift officer! Listen, he has the master key. You can free all of us!”
The Woman sighed. “Listen, I understand your position but we have a mission to complete. If we free everybody we risk…”
“Everything, yes, but trust me we can help you.”
“Why are you here friend? What’d you do?”
Mhisha rested his head against the bars, “I'm a war hero turned political activist. The Empire framed me for ‘immoral living’ and sent me here. Everyone in this hut has done things, but none of us deserves this. Please, lady, help us.”
A face rose up to look in his eye’s. Mhisha felt his heart skip a beat. A beautiful orange Torguta, face smeared with mud, stared with piercing blue eyes into his own. She nodded and smiled. “Alright then, sit tight.”
Mhisha turned away as she did, not noticing her bare backside, “Everyone up! This is our moment. All those able to move and fight, with me. The rest of you hang back.”
Ar’ul grinned savagely, “I have been dreaming about this for three weeks now.”
“Try three years,” Sec groused popping his neck.
“Long arse time for you old man.” The Tusken shot back.
“Double it, really.”
Clunking, the door unlocked and the first eager prisoners streamed out. As Mhisha emerged he ordered Sec and Ar’ul, “Get the tool shed open. We’ll need weapons to…” His eyes followed there’s and he was floored by the sight.
The Torguta was bent over handing the key to a wild-haired human. The girl dashed off to the next cabin and unlocked it. Mhisha paid her little attention, eyes only for his saviour.
She was clad in nothing but drying mud, a stained tooth necklace and a stolen Imperial utility belt. Every inch of her was taunt with muscle, body speaking of the life of a soldier. Her determined look put iron in Mhisha’s spine as he took her in.
The woman stuck out a hand, own eyes tracing his bare shirtless form, “Captain Keyla Kaeno, Rebel Alliance.”
Mhisha accepted her hand and bowed his head, almost in reverence, “Lieutenant Mhisha Shshvy, formerly of the Galactic Army of the Republic, at your service.”
Keyla raised an eyebrow, “Charmed. Now let's get moving…”
“Before we do, may I ask why you are skyclad?”
“Naked you mean? Hmm, circumstance but I’ve found it's been working for me. I feel far more free and capable while fighting this way…” She shook her head. “That’s not important, Follow my lead.”
The Zabrak grasped the front of Imperial issued pants, “Yes, ma’am.” With a grunt, he ripped the orange fabric clean off and casually tossed it aside. “I will not wear the shame they placed upon me any longer. I fight for you now.”
There was a moment of dead silence as Keyla took in the man before her. His body was muscled, tall, broad and strong. His face held nothing but honesty and faith. And his member was…
“Oh my, yes.” Keyla breathed.
Cal who had been freeing prisoners with Kara dashed up and blinked at the sight. Sec shook his head ruefully as he opened up the tool shed and began passing out pickaxes. Kara bounced up behind Cal and whistled. “Oh yeah! Spreading the nakey!”
Keyla snapped out of her spell, “Well, that wasn’t necessary Lieutenant but I appreciate the support. We have to move.”
The softness that had passed between them hardened on Mhisha’s face, “I have your back. We need to take that building down there. It's where they store all out personal effects.”
Ar’ul approached with two pickaxes and tossed one Mhisha’s way. Taking in the nudity she nodded, “Good call.” Yanking her shorts off unceremoniously she tested the weight of her pickaxe. “Shall we?”
“Lets,” Mhisha growled crouching down. Kara and Cal exchanged a glance, the latter grinning widely.
“Cal! It’s happening!”
“Escape now! Rejoice in the nakey later.”
The group of escaped prisoners, some following Mhisha and Ar'ul's example others remaining clothed, moved quietly through the camp. As they went Kara unlocked each cabin, swelling their numbers. Finally, as they approached the last four cabins, a pair of guards walked before them.
Keyla held up a closed fist, stopping the mob. Mhisha touched her shoulder gently and gestured to himself and Ar’ul. Keyla bit her lip but nodded.
Together the two dark-skinned nude prisoners approached the guards from behind, pickaxes in hand. Mhisha held his like an axe, while Ar’ul held hers like a club. Rising the two nodded at one another.
Grunting Mhisha raised his axe overhead, considered it, then tossed it aside. As the guards turned at the sound, Mhisha’s big arms reached out and grabbed his target’s head. With a grunt of effort, he snapped the stormtrooper's neck with a simple twist.
Before his fellow trooper could react, Ar’ul swung her pickaxe Tusken style up and under aiming for his chin. With a crunch, the axe buried itself in his head. As he fell gurgling, she winced placing a hand to her bandaged side. Hissing annoyance, she yanked the weapon from his body.
The big commando grabbed both men and dragged them into the shadows, where their guns were distributed to Sec and himself. Nodding to Keyla, Mhisha faded back to her right side. The Rebel smirked and gestured to move forward.
Four more stormtroopers were dispatched similarly as they approached the lock up. Their bodies were hidden in the cabins, while their weapons were granted to those they’d oppressed. Finally, they came to the edge of the dimly lit area and paused.
Three Stormtroopers armed with riot shields stood guard underneath a lamp outside their target. One had their back to the camp while the others flanked either side of the doorway into the long squat metal building.
Keyla and Mhisha huddled close together, with Kara and Cal joining the circle. As they edged up beside them Kara poked Mhisha’s bulging tricep and giggled at its firmness. Cal swatted her back and scowled.
“How do you want to handle it, captain?” He asked, smiling at Kara and Cal’s antics.
“Quietly and quickly. Those camera’s pose an issue.” The fierce rebel woman muttered, pointing to the two above the guards.
Ar’ul, hand still resting on her side, crouched beside Cal, “We could cover them?”
“With what?” Sec asked blaster raised. “We’d need something that could cover the entire lens.”
“Fabric would work best,” Keyla remarked. “Not subtle but once we have what we need it will hardly matter.”
“Where are we going to get the fabric?” Cal hissed. “Surely we could figure something else out.”
“No time,” Mhisha muttered, “The base’s comm check is in ten minutes.”
“Well,” Kara chirped. “I think I know where we can find some fabric and actually put those stupid things to use for once.” The other naked fighters followed her pointing finger to the pants sporting Sec.
The clone glanced down and up, “You must be joking.”
“It’s for the cause Sec,” Mhisha remarked with a grin. “Besides you always say orange isn’t your colour.”
Sec snorted and began unlacing his pants, “Y’all crazy nudists owe me for this.”
“How we going to take them then?” Cal asked as Kara gleefully tore the clone’s pants in two.
Keyla rose and brushed some dried mud from her body. “Trust me, they’ll be distracted. You lot be sure to use the opening.”
“Ohh, boys!” Keyla’s voice sang out as she sauntered into the light. Striking a confident pose she waved. “How goes it?”
“I’m a woman.” One of the stormtroopers barked, stepping forward, “And why the hell are you-“ A pair of thick brown arms wrapped around her, pulling her with a squawk into the darkness.
Before the other two could react Ar’ul, Cal and Sec emerged from the darkness and subdued them. Kara, bearing the ripped and muddied remains of Sec’s pants, skipped from cover and obscured the cameras with two skilled throws.
Keyla walked forward and opened the doors, beckoning a large group of able-bodied prisoners within. As they streamed past she beamed widely as her new team approached. United not by age, background or uniform, her new pack was instead bound together by, of all things, nudity. In a mere half hour, they’d turned a desperate situation into, well, not a victory but something that smelled like one.
Keyla sniffed her arm, “Kriff, that’s me.”
“C’mon chief!” Kara called as she rushed past her, Cal in orbit. “Let's get our stuff!”
Some of the prisoners immediately gravitated towards boxes marked with their prisoner numbers and freed their weapons and belongings. Keyla privately was pleased the Empire’s rules and regulations were coming around to bite them in the arse. As she cradled her lightbow, checking for any damage she grinned wide at Kara and Cal, who had retrieved their own weapons.
Kara twirled her spear with a peaceful smile, feeling its smooth grain against her palms. Cal meanwhile buckled his belt around his waist once more and placed a hand to his sabre. Reunited with their weapons the two felt a strange sense of peace, completion even.
Mhisha meanwhile let out a delighted, muffled laugh. Frowning Keyla moved towards him and watched as he grabbed a large reinforced crate from the top shelf, grunting at the weight. Keyla’s eyes lingered on his bulging abs as he lowered the box to the ground and popped it open.
“There you are, baby,” Mhisha whispered in the tone of a lover, gently rubbing his hand over the contents of the crate. Picking it up easily with one hand, he checked it for dust and made a cooing noise. “They touch you Valva? Where? Don’t worry girl, we'll give them the touch of death.”
“I’m sorry,” Keyla asked Sec. “Is he talking to a Z9 rotary blaster cannon like it’s a person?”
The clone, who had slung one of the riot shields on his back, shrugged, “His people believe a weapon and its wielder share a soul or some ossick like that. Don’t worry though he doesn’t make a habit of that.” Sec smiled as he found his box and drew forth a stylized pistol. “Now we’ve got ourselves a fight.” Twirling it with ease he removed its shoulder holster from the box and began buckling it on.
“A glorious fight,” Ar’ul rasped as she removed an ornate gaffi stick from its case reverently. She kissed it and twirled it overhead before wincing and grabbing her side once more. “Damn this wound to the sands!”
“My friend,” Mhisha remarked striding forward, Valva slung across his back. “You are not well.”
A patch of dark blood had appeared on the proud woman’s bandage. She snorted and clicked her teeth. “I can still fight.”
“I know. Keyla, we need someone to get the wounded and sick out of here. Ar’ul here is the best candidate for the job.”
Keyla nodded as she belted her knife to her thigh, “We do need someone to keep the non-combatants safe. Ar’ul, is it? Do you think you can do that for me, sister?”
Ar'ul sighed. "I’ll do it; on the condition, you slaughter these bastards for me.”
The Tusken woman held out a hand to Mhisha. He clasped it and nodded solemnly. After repeating the process with Keyla, Ar’ul and dozens of those unfit for fighting faded away into the night, heading for trenches of the Cut.
Keyla got up on a crate and surveyed those that remained critically. Numbering close to a hundred they were a tough lot of ex-military, gangsters and other Imperial undesirables. All were united under one cause, however, for tonight.
“Listen up,” Keyla called out. “For those of you who don’t know, I’m Captain Keyla Kaeno, Rebel Alliance. Me and my team here are the reason you’re free.” Kara and Cal smiled and saluted respectively. “Now, I won’t lie to you, we weren’t sent here to rescue you lot. That asshole, Fueller has a VIP integral to the Alliance cause. If you help us extract him I promise you the Alliance will help resettle each and every one of you to a planet of your choice.” There was muttering amongst the men and shifting eyes.
Mhisha stepped up, “All that in addition to some sweet, long-awaited payback on these fecking stormies! Come on lads, lasses. We’ve been waiting for this.”
“Who is with us?” Keyla asked. “For justice, vengeance and freedom?!”
“Hoorah!” The men belted out, softly.
Kara raised her spear high, “For the nakey!”
There was silence from the gathered prisoners. “What?”
“Never mind her,” Cal remarked with a strained smile. “Shall we Captain?”
Keyla hopped from her crate, “Move out.”
Moving swiftly and quietly the freshly armed prisoners streamed from the building and made a beeline for the main complex. As they padded past their former cells they growled and clenched their weapons tighter.
“What in the-“ A tinny voice jerked everyone's attention to the right. A squad of stormtroopers stood staring dumbly at the prisoners.
“Get them!” Keyla yelled.
“Ohh blast, its an escape call the-!“ The lead stormtrooper yelled before a pair of burly humans tackled him. Two of his fellows aimed their blasters and fired at the crowd while the third took to his heels, running for the compound outer walls.
Igniting his lightsaber, Cal batted the bolts away allowing Keyla to coolly blast one of the shooters off his feet. Before the other could so much as react a loud resounding boom echoed out and he fell to his knees with a hole seared through his helmet. Sec blew smoke from his barrel and grinned. “Still got it.”
The runner stumbled and fell, yelling at the top of his lungs. A sudden whirring caused him to turn around and look back. Mhisha grinned as Valva’s barrels spun like a turbine.
With a distinct humming choom, Valva opened up sending a stream of rapid-fire blue bolts through the air. With expert precision Mhisha aimed for the man, hitting his legs, back and head sending him stumbling into the mud. As Valva ceased firing there was a pregnant pause.
“PRISONER RIOT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. ALL UNITS REPORT TO YOUR STATIONS. “ A klaxon sounded out along with an automated message as the base lit up with red lights.
Raising her gun high Keyla bellowed, “CHARGE!” Screaming, the motley band obeyed charging through the gates of the inner wall.
Phara’s Quarters, Felucia
Baz’uk watched sadly as the great bird, no the spacecraft, left him behind. The vexing, stunning woman who had danced her way into his heart was gone. The noble savage fought against the tears as he turned away.
“My hunter!” A familiar voice called. “Wait!”
Breath baited, Baz’uk turned to spy the svelte form of Nuree dashing towards him. She was clad in that strange jumpsuit he had first found her in, but it was her. He raced forward arms outstretched and embraced her, feeling her familiar form through the harsh fabric.
“Why did you-?”
“For all my travels amongst the stars, I’ve never felt more at home than here. The dancing, the feasting, the peace,” The Red Twi’lek gushed. “But, most of all… this is the only planet with you.”
A manly tear traced the course of hunter’s face as he lowered her to the ground, “You would join me here? Be my bondmate for all time?”
Nuree smiled as she pulled off her jumpsuit, bit by bit revealing the powerful women he’d come to know, “I would, my love. Now come let us leave this all behind-“ She stepped away from her clothes carelessly, clad only in clothes he’d made for her.
“I would love nothing-“
“PRISONER RIOT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. ALL UNITS REPORT TO YOUR STATIONS.“
Phara jolted from her reading, face flushed with excitement. She scowled out at the corridor. Honestly, a drill like this when she was almost done her romance stories was just plain-
She stilled as she listened to the alarm. Dropping the holopad to one side, Phara rose from the bath, water cascading off her body. Closing her eyes, Phara fought though against the numbness the wine had brought and reached out with the force. What she found was a mix of chaos, panic, anger but most of all determination. Cal’s unmistakable aura was at its nexus.
“No, no, no.” Phara muttered leaping from the bath, slipping on the tiles. Grabbing a towel she dried off stalking into her room. "Bad move little brother!"
“HAHAHHAHAAH!” Mhisha cackled as he swept the inner wall with blaster fire. A half dozen Stormtroopers who had just rushed from a guard tower fell with smoking holes in them. “WHO IS THE BOY NOW BITCHES?!”
Sec grunted as he used his shield to catch the bolts of a panicked officer. Lowering his shield and raising his blaster viper quick, Sec squeezed off several shots downing the man.
“Oi, Paragon ease off a little huh?” He yelled.
“Gunslinger!” He replied jovially. “I am working out years of pent up anger!! Let me have my fun.”
“Less talking more shooting,” Keyla ordered as she pushed up beside them, lightbow destroying the ammo for an E-WEB encampment in a fiery explosion.
“God, you’re beautiful,” Mhisha remarked as he focused his fire on a squad of riot troopers.
Keyla blushed and shot a pilot heading for his TIE Fighter. “Well, you’re not hard on the eyes yourself.”
“Oh, Shab me,” Sec remarked rolling his eyes as he intercepted a flurry of blaster fire. “Where are the kids?”
The hum of a lighsaber heralded the deflection of a bolt meant for the clone’s head. Eyes focused and determined, Cal stood strong beside them and groused. “Young adults.”
Whooping Kara rode by on an Imperial security droid, her spear somehow lodged in its chassis. Ripping it free, she back flipped into their centre yelling, “Chief, the Imp’s are closing the main doors!”
Keyla glanced across the battlefield towards the main building. The fighters were scattered everywhere, though it was clear the prisoners were pushing the Empire back. The Rebel Captain’s immediate concern, however, was Fueller attempting to seal the gates.
“That won’t do,” Keyla muttered before yelling. “Lads! Make us a hole!”
As a path was formed for the five, Mhisha reloaded asking, “Anyone got explosives?”
Kara giggled and waved an Imperial belt full of them in the air. Mhisha smiled.
“My kind of lady!”
“Lieutenant! Covering fire with me. Sergeant, bum rush em. Kara, Cal get ready to do some weird force thing!” Keyla ordered. “Charge!”
The two non-humans rushed forward, Mhisha firing Valva wildly and Keyla attempting to snipe those clustered around the door. Clanging his pistol on his shield Sec yelled wordlessly and dashed forward. Kara and Cal followed in his wake wordlessly agreeing on their course of action.
As the man closing the doors finally succeeded Keyla’s shot took him in the back. Fueller let out a high-pitched squeal and scrambled deeper into the base, abandoning the door. A squad of five stormtroopers hesitated before opening fire.
Dodging around it the blaster fire, Keyla returned fire catching a trooper in the head. Mhisha merely let out a whoop and carried on, suppressing the enemy. Sec grunted as bolts bounced off his shield, but gamely kept pushing.
“Anytime now, ad’ikas!” He yelled back at Kara and Cal.
As the doors began to slid shut Kara finished arming the grenades. Nodding at Cal she long bombed the entire belt. Thrusting out his hand Cal let the force flow through him and sent the grenades to wrap around the closing door. The Imperials visibly blanched as Kara yelled, “BOOM!”
In a flash, a hole was blown in the partially closed doors. The five skidded to a halt as Mhisha took centre stage, charging up Valva. Sec took up a position on his right, Keyla his left with Kara and Cal falling in behind by gender. Laughing Mhisha unleashed his gun, blasting the hole open even wider.
Yelling the five charged in as one firing away. The remaining Stormtroopers returned fire desperately only to watch in disbelief as the sky clad heroes dodged every shot.
Howling Kara stabbed a camera and used her spear to cast it into the face of an officer. Opposite of her Cal leapt forward, blaster fire flying by his sides, eyes fixed on two familiar Stormtroopers armed with stun sticks. Keyla, Mhisha and Sec simply pushed forward, eliminating each patch of resistance with soldierly discipline.
The remaining Imperial resistance fell back as more prisoners streamed through the hole the five nudists had made, screaming murder. The five rested there for a moment smiling at one another. Keyla turned and jerked her hand at the remaining men outside.
“Come on you beasts! You want to live forever?!” As they approached the shattering of glass could suddenly be heard. A blurred dark figure smashed into the rioters' midst, sending them flying away.
The Pyso boy felt his confidence nearly die as the figure rose and ignited her red blade. Phara was pissed. Wet hair messily tied in a ponytail, armour and clothes looking to be sloppily put on, she radiated anger. Her eyes were fixated on Cal.
“Mhisha! Shoot that kriffing-“
“No,” Cal cut Keyla off, igniting his own sabre, “I got this.”
“Kid…” Sec muttered eyeing Phara’s stance.
“Cal?” Kara asked with worry.
“I need to face her. I’ve been running way too long. I’m ready, I can hold my own.” Cal declared striding forward, meeting Keyla’s eye. She nodded and clasped his shoulder.
“Don’t die, Caleb, that’s a direct order.”
Cal smiled and swung his lightsaber, “When I got something to live for? Not bloody likely.”
As Phara took a step Cal threw his blade overhand, spinning towards her. With a snarl, she batted it away only to find Cal already in motion. Running swift and fast Cal pelted by Phara, leaping up to catch his sabre.
Landing, Cal took off in a dead sprint, running towards the landing pad. With a roar Phara took off after him, leaving the rest of the prisoners unmolested.
Kara leant forward biting her lip as she watched them disappear. Face creased with worry she turned to Keyla. “Chief, I got to-“
“Go. Keep an eye on him,” Keyla ordered kindly removing the subspace comlink from her belt. “And take this. If we get separated, use it and I will come to find you. You got my word on that.”
“Thank you Keyla,” Kara remarked hugging the woman abruptly, “Be safe.”
Keyla raised a hand and smiled. “You to Kara.” Shaking herself free of the warm feelings, Keyla nodded at Mhisha and Sec. “Right, let's go free us a Vice-Admiral.”
Cal mediated atop the ramparts, sabre hilt clasped to his chest. His legs and lungs still burned from the run but he felt that all wash away as he mediated as Amaru the Bendu has taught him. As he felt Phara approach his fear was held at bay, for now.
“Oh very good Caleb!” Phara called out as she stalked forward, blade in hand. “Just had to throw a kriffing temper tantrum! Do you know you’ve done?!”
“Stood up for myself while freeing people falsely and unjustly imprisoned,” Cal replied turning to face her, heart conflicted. Rather then purely furious or murderous Phara’s face was pissed off, hurt and for some reason fearful.
Phara slashed the metal beside her, “Damn it Cal! You’re making it hard to keep you fucking safe!”
“It’s a dangerous galaxy,” He replied. “More so because of your Empire.”
“Our Empire, Cal, our Empire! They took us in after mom and dad- why do you fight?!”
Cal ignited his blade, “Because they would have, they did! Besides, it’s the right thing to do. I know you’d think so if your mind was clear.”
She stalked forward and stood tall, “You’re the one not thinking clearly, gallivanting around for the rebels with everything just hanging out.” Her voice was low, eyes scared. “They’ll destroy us if we resist Cal, just like Mom and Dad. Please, extinguish that blade and come with me.”
“No,” Cal sunk into a ready pose. “I don’t think so.”
Phara grit her teeth, “Don’t be a dumbarse and a barearse! I’m trying to save you from certain death!”
“I am trying to free you from darkness,” Cal replied, sneering at the Imperial insignia on her armour. “Come on Inquisitor.”
“Fine,” She hissed eyes shadowed. “I guess it’s wounded but alive.”
With a yell and hiss, the two sibling's blades met. Cal grunted as he held back Phara’s strength, staring into her eyes. Unlike in the interrogation room, they remained gold, conflicted as she looked upon him. Cal leapt away as her other blade came for his legs.
“Cal you can’t beat-“ Phara gasped as Cal moved within her guard, slicing her arm bracer, scoring the imperial seal from it. She swung back reflexively, only for him to duck away once more.
Cal smirked and waved his blade mockingly. Growling Phara let loose a flurry of attacks putting Cal on the defensive. Every so often, however, Cal’s blade would find a piece of armour damaging it. Each blow enraged Phara further yet her blows felt half-hearted to Cal as if she was holding back.
For the Pyso teen, it was the exact opposite. Cal was giving it his all and still was barely able to land any hits upon his sister. He was amazed he’d been able to do as well as he had without losing a limb.
Spinning under guard, Cal lashed out and clipped the armour on her hip, knocking it clear off. Jumping away he flipped over the battlements into the jungle below. Phara with a roar followed him.
Cal watched as his sister landed on the jungle floor and rose, studying the damage to her armour with irritation. Snorting she unbuckled her belt and tossed it aside, along with her long coat. Free of these garments, the damage Cal had done was even more extensive. Two-thirds of her armour and clothing were singed or damaged in some way, patches of skin visible through the holes.
Growling Phara tore off parts of the broken gauntlets along with the fabric underneath, baring her arms. Rolling her shoulders she swung her blade and sunk into a predatory stance, eyes fixated on Cal.
“No more playing around, Caleb.” When she looked up her eyes burned with Sith fire.
Behind her a familiar form dropped, spear in hand. Cal shook his head and gestured for Kara to stay back. He assumed a ready stance and smiled, “I’ve not been playing-“
A whisper from the force and a blur in his eyes was all the warning Cal got. Phara was FAST, blinding so. She’d covered a distance of ten feet in a single jump. By instinct and luck, Cal had caught her blade with his own. Snarling Phara withdrew and spun her blade with practised ease.
Screaming Phara unleashed a true assault on Cal’s defensive technique flipping and jumping through the air around him. Cal desperately defended against the wild blows, ducking and rolling as needed. Parrying a blow Cal yelled.
“Phara! Listen to me!”
“Why?!” Phara roared sending a rock flying Cal’s way with the force. As Cal cut it in half she jumped sideways off a tree, swinging her blade. “Seems you can’t give me the bloody courtesy!”
Cal intercepted the blow, grunting at the strain. “You don’t want to kill me! I can tell!”
“Not when we met!” Phara yelled beating him back with a flurry of blows. “You practically dared me, begged me, to do it! You think I’m nothing more than a monster!”
Cal caught her blade and grunted as he held it in place, “No! That’s not true! You’re still my sister and I see good in you, regardless of what you’ve done.” Cal felt her blade weaken. “Let me help you, big sister.”
Phara’s grip weakened at those words and Cal’s blade swung free and up towards her body. Phara leapt back as the blade scored its way through her armour on her hips, abs and chest. Cal gasped as he drew back raising his blade defensively.
Growling Phara locked blades once more and shoved him back, eyes enraged “You just said that to get my guard down!” Cal stumbled as he felt a wave of force energy break against him. A purplish glow was encasing Phara, emanating off of her every time she shoved forward. With each pulse though, Cal heard a ripping and cracking.
“Phara, calm down it was-“
“SHUT UP!” Phara screeched the strength of body and force causing Cal’s feet to make furrows in the soil. She didn’t notice as the armour on her legs began to peel away, hanging on by the fabric.
Cal struggled to match her strength digging in his heels and reaching for the force, “Neither of us wants to fight or kill each other! Please!”
Phara, eyes wet, screamed and let loose a blast of force energy rocking Cal back, “ENOUGH!” The two clashed back together, gazing into one another’s eyes.
A sudden clank accompanied by a ripping tear broke the tension. Cal and Phara both glanced down at Phara’s severed breastplate lying at their feet, trailing cloth. As Cal glanced up her realized his sister’s bust was completely bare.
With a variety of similar noises, bit by bit Phara’s abused damaged armour and clothes fell apart, freeing her body. Her eyes bugged out in shock as it happened while Cal looked simply dumbstruck. With a yelp she shoved him away, attempting to salvage what she could.
This move only exasperated the situation as her coverings peeled off like wet paper. In seconds she stood clad only a few scraps of tattered fabric and her boots. “Cal! Don’t you kriffing look!” Phara yelled as she extinguished her lightsaber, choosing perceived modesty over a weapon.
Cal looked away and then back as he extinguished his own blade. On the one hand, living with Kara had left him with very little hang-ups about nudity, on the other Phara was his sister and embarrassed. Swallowing he reached out a hand.
“Phara, I didn’t mean to. Here let’s-“
“Ahh yeah!” Kara crowed as she skipped towards them. “You freed her Cal! Right on! Hey, Inquisitor how does the all over breeze feel? Isn’t it glorious?”
Phara rose suddenly and glared at Kara, “You! You did this to my brother, to us!” Phara thrust out a hand and sent a burst of force wind straight for Kara. As the girl was blown away Phara coldly drawled. “You tell me how the all over wind feels?”
Kara slammed into a tree and dropped, boneless. Cal ran forward, hand outstretched, “No, Kara! Phara how could-“ His eyes widened as he ran past Phara. His sister had leapt into the air, booted foot lashing out roundhouse style right for his-
Clotheslined, Cal slammed to the ground, winded. As he lay on the ground, gasping, Phara stalked into a view and grabbed his lightsaber. Turning him over, she cuffed him and left him in the dirt.
Face pink and eyes flickering between gold and Sith red, Phara grabbed her discarded belt and buckled it over her hips. Muttering she grabbed her tattered overcoat and pulled it on. Ignoring its rough feel on her skin, she stalked back to Cal and lifted him bodily.
“Kriffing dumbarse little brother,” Phara muttered as she used the force to leap back onto the battlements. Surveying the base and seeing the last of the Imperial resistance being crushed, she snorted. “Kriffing backwoods amateurs.”
Leaping from the battlements, the wind playing with her coat more then she’d like, she made her way towards the landing field. She was getting out of here, no more excuses or delays.
or, enter your birth date.*
Imperial Prison Camp Zeta-1S42H, Felucia
Twelve’s Interceptor landed with a thunk on the camp’s metal landing pad. It had been a long flight, testing the limits of her ship. Still, she had arrived. Grabbing her helmet she pulled it on, popping the cockpits hatch with a casual wave of a hand.
Climbing out of her vessel and jumping down to the ground, she turned to face the welcome party. In the lead was a doughy-faced bureaucrat stuffed into a captain’s uniform. Following in his red-faced wake was a squad of Stormtroopers, marching double time.
“Inquisitor, it is an honour to have you, I must say. We don’t get too many of your kind out here since Marek dealt with our Jedi problem.“
“Charmed, I’m sure, Captain…?”
“Fueller, marm. Gray Fueller.”
Twelve rolled her eyes behind her helmet. Honestly, these small time officers had the stupidest names sometimes. Outwardly she nodded graciously, “Of course, Captain Fueller.”
Fueller blinked his eyes in what he must have thought was a charming way, “Indeed. Now, can I offer you any refreshments? I have an excellent selection of coffee-“
“That sounds wonderful, but I’m more interested in seeing Filma,” The Inquisitor remarked casually hands behind her back as she walked. “You do have the head of Alliance Intelligence in this facility, do you not?”
“H-How could you-“
“I’m an Inquisitor, Gray. It’s my business to know. You’ll take me to him now and yes, a cup of your finest caf sounds wonderful about now. Come along.”
Fueller wrung his hands nervously as he scampered off after the imposing woman. As she strode into the base, she glanced out into the jungle. Soon, she’d have what she really wanted.
The caf was geat. It helped chase away the weariness that had been bogging her down. She sipped it as she walked around Fueller’s lavishly shabby office, snapping her fingers impatiently.
The man clearly had possessed wealth at some point in his career but had since seen a decline in his fortunes. Desperation to impress practically oozed from every threadbare rug, gilded surface and decaying knick-knack.
“Inquisitor?” Fueller called out nervously as he re-entered his office, “Filma, is, ah in, the middle of enhanced interrogation, perhaps we should-“
“Hardly the first time I’ve seen someone tortured. Lead me to him. Now.” The Inquisitor ordered.
As they walked down sterile hallways, the officer continued to blather, “Now I just want you to know I had every intention of turning this Rebel Scum over to High Command. I merely wished to, prepare him, yes and ensure he was compliant.”
“No, what you wanted, Gray, was glory and riches. That’s why you ran this unsanctioned op and failed to properly file Filma as a high-value target.” She replied coldly, “Or do I have my facts wrong?”
“Well, it is the duty of every officer to eradicate rebel scum wherever we find it. Yes, I landed a big fish, if you’ll pardon the pun, but that is hardly-“
“Understand, captain,” Twelve growled, shoving her coffee cup into his chest, “I really could care less. Paying a rebel to betray his superior, shadily keeping a valuable asset out of the public eye, hell even acting high and mighty about it. I am interested in one thing: force users and I have it on excellent authority your asset is my quarry’s target. Are we clear?”
Fueller blinked and seemed to deflate somewhat, “Ah, yes; I suppose that’s all right then. I’m sorry, did you say your ‘quarry’s target’?”
“Walk and talk, Gray,” She replied shortly, “For some years now I have been pursuing an escapee of our Academy who recently turned Jedi and offered his services to the Alliance. We purged the Jedi for a reason, we hardly need young fools with laser swords running around trying to revive them.”
Twelve halted before a set of reinforced doors guarded by two Imperial Stormtroopers with riot shields. At their officer’s impatient nod they stood aside, opening the doors. As they proceeded in Fueller asked, “That’s all well and good, but how can you know he’s coming to me?”
“One,” Twelve remarked, “Your prisoner is the only high-value target I could see the Alliance sending any Jedi, pretender or not, after. Two, almost a month ago you reported a ‘brief rebel incursion.’ Upon reviewing the recordings, I was very interested to see you shot down an elite Rebel Strike Force, almost as if you knew they were coming.”
She paused to take a long sip of the coffee, “In the after-action report you reported a near-annihilation of rebel units. This leaves the possibility, of course, that some survived. No?”
“Well, the jungle is extremely hostile…”
The Inquisitor stopped just short of a secondary door to the holding cells properly, “Illuminate me please, captain, now.”
Fueller licked his lips and gave his best devil may care grin. “Well, some time ago a prisoner came into my care that claimed to have an in with the personal guard of a high ranking rebel. I worked the connection and was able to turn said guard with a ludicrous sum of money. My family comes from old wealth you see and-“
Twelve held up a hand, “I don’t need all the details, move on.”
“Yes, well, the man we turned, Uriyt and a few others turned on Filma and brought him here. We’ve been working on breaking them ever since.”
“Them?” At Fueller’s, assumedly, disarming grin, she sighed rubbing her temples, “You mean to tell me you did NOT pay them, you detained them?”
“Well, they ARE rebel scum. Anyway, they knew enough to tell us what to look out for in terms of Rebel response. Was like shooting fish in a barrel.“
Twelve turned away and opened the final door. As she strode into the detention block, she glanced around analytically. A dozen cells with observation windows stretched out before her. The sound of muted thuds echoed from further up the hall.
As she strode through the interrogation wing she glanced into the cells from time to time. Of the several she passed, only two were occupied. One held a fingerless Rodian in an old-fashioned stasis field while the other contained a beaten and bruised Weequay suspended from the roof.
At the sight of Fueller he spat blood and scowled, showing off a golden grill. The Inquisitor glanced back at him eyebrow raised, “Your man I presume?”
“Uriyt, yes, tough as durasteel that one and cold as it to. I think he quite enjoyed betraying Filma, up until I put him in that cell of course.” Fueller remarked with a sort of vile pride.
Twelve left the Weequay behind and came to the final cell on the right-hand side. Swishing the dregs of her coffee around in her cup she stared into the interrogation room critically. What awaited her was raw, even by her standards.
The Vice Admiral was noticeably naked, stripped of his uniform and much of his purported mystique. His file portrayed him as a mastermind, a maverick and a notorious philanderer. Laid bare the man's body was thin and waif-like, more feminine then Twelve would have expected.
Despite all this, however, Filma impressed. Every inch of his exposed body was covered in welts, bruises and burns. A month of constant abuse and the man remained unbroken.
Currently, a bloodstained officer was standing over him, fists slamming into his gut, his chest and his face rhythmically. Filma's purple eyes were unfocused as if his mind were in a different place then his body. Breathing heavily the interrogator stepped back and stared at the man in frustration.
“By the force…” Twelve growled in disgust.
“Yes, not a pretty sight. I could have lived without seeing a fish cock as well, it's so-“ At her long stare he gulped, “Ah, yes and I suppose the torture is bad too.”
“Sloppy more like and so clearly… ineffective.”
Fueller flushed red at that. “Well if you think you can do- that is to say, yes, indeed Inquisitor. I have worried we may have to take more extreme measures. Just a moment.” The captain tapped on the window to gain the man’s attention.
Twelve watched impassively as the interrogator screamed something at Filma, who merely smirked and spat blood. The Imperial grabbed a vibro-scalpel from a tray of evil looking instruments and approached the rebel’s head. Asking his question one last time he turned to look to Fueller for confirmation.
With a surprisingly sadistic smile, the captain nodded to the interrogator. Twelve’s brow furrowed, as she looked once more into the room. With a smile the Imperial dug the knife into Filma's brow and pulled down into his bulbous eye.
The rebel finally screamed and strained at his bonds. Twelve’s grip on her cup tightened at the display. As the Imperial withdrew the knife from the ruin of the rebel’s eye, he barked a question. Filma spat something and laughed openly. Hissing the Imperial grabbed the Mon Calamari’s head and raised his knife again.
The cup shattered in Twelve’s hand. Before Gray could protest she forced open the door and strode into the interrogation room. Catching the interrogators hand, she jerked the knife away from the rebel's remaining eye.
“Incompetent idiot! Any man who loses one eye and stays silent will certainly suffer a second! This is no way to conduct an interrogation.”
“Who the hell are you to say, woman-“ With an irritated snort Twelve snapped the interrogator's wrist. Screeching the man stumbled away.
“Inquisitor!” Gray roared bursting into the room. “That is to fa-!” At her baleful glare, he quailed, “That is to say, this is most irregular.”
“Everything about this is. I knew it would be bad but this?” Twelve’s nose wrinkled, “It’s just insulting.”
The Captain seemed to grow a backbone, “I am an officer in the Imperial Army you can’t-ughhh.” He grabbed for his throat.
The woman’s eyes burned with fire as she held out her hand, “And I am an Inquisitor of the Galactic Empire who answers only to Darth Vader and the Emperor himself. If I wanted I could simply replace you here and now.” Smirking she released her grip. “Thankfully for you, I’m here for your help.”
“Agghh!” Gray coughed, “Of course, my lady, I forgot myself.”
“See that you don’t again,” She sneered eyes dimming, “Now, I will need command of your garrison to help capture my fugitive. Effective immediately, they are at my disposal.”
“In exchange, I will help you with your… interrogation problem.” Twelve remarked as she approached the bleeding rebel.
“Ohh don’t mind me, girlfriend,” Filma chuckled shakily, “I loved what you did to that fat sack of shit and his sadistic lapdog. Next time stick the knife up his arse, he might like it, eh Barri?”
“I am called the Mind Ripper you know, Admiral.” Twelve began with a sinister smile. “When I was young, I discovered a way to reach into a person’s mind to get what I wanted.”
Filma’s one good eye blinked as he settled back in his chair, “That sounds… handy.”
“Not at first. It’s an art really and, like any art, it takes practice, sacrifice. Besides, some minds are more resilient than others. I can tell yours is.”
Any mirth left the Rebel’s face. “You’ll have nothing from me, Inquisitor. I will die first.”
“Heh, oh no, physical torture is over for you. Its so, ineffective. You can train a man to resist it but eventually either his body or spirit will break. Once that happens you either have a dead man or a gibbering mess who would lie about his own mother.” Twelve traced the side of his head almost tenderly. “My techniques are far more effective. I imagine the pain of losing your eye was substantial?”
At his defiant glare, she smirked, “Of course it was, now imagine experiencing that loss over and over again.”
She held her hand to his forehead and smirked. Filma nostrils flaring jerked away grinding his head against the chair. His one good eye began rolling crazily in his socket as he began to pant. Screaming he jerked at his bonds before Twelve stepped back and closed her hand.
“A taste rebel, of what I can do. Now, I’ll leave you to sit here and contemplate that pain and whether or not staying silent is worth it.” Twelve gestured curtly, “Everybody out.” In a rush, the officers left the room, Twelve waving at Filma as she left.
As Twelve stood collecting herself Gray smiled oily, "I must say you really got under his skin. I'm sure you'll break him in no time.
"Of course I will. But first, we have an ambush to plan."
Keyla's Cave, Felucia
Roast Acklay was rather flavourful. It reminded Cal of some crabmeat Jogi had nicked on a luxury cruise years ago, mixed, with steam frogs Tuvii had caught on Varozt. Indeed, so long as he kept Leg Slasher’s beady eyes and ripping claws from his mind's eye, the meal was delectable.
Keyla was whistling a merry little tune as she boiled the remains of his claw. With the beast's death she seemed, not whole, but in a strange way at peace. All the way back she’d made quips and jokes to the two young rebels.
Kara, for her part, was sucking the juice from a leg while weaving some fibres together in her hands, a tooth balanced on her knee. Humming she spat the empty shell out and plucked a hair from her head. As it joined the forming cord, she leaned over and took one from Cal.
“Owww! The hell?”
“Ohh suck it up. Your grey arse wasn’t thrown into a wall by a monster today, was it?”
Cal rubbed his scalp and scowled, “Fair.”
“Nyah,” Kara chirped, sticking her tongue out.
“You two really are adorable,” Keyla chuckled.
Kara and Cal exchanged a look and chorused, “Thanks…?”
“You are most welcome,” The Togruta remarked, flashing her canines as she smiled, “Now, who wants thirds?”
“I’m full,” Kara remarked, biting her lip as she wound the cord ever tighter.
“I could eat!” Cal remarked patting his stomach.
“Got to get those big manly muscles girls like, I get ya, dude. So skinny too, did your mother never feed you?”
The Pyso boy’s smile faded and he wrapped his arms around his legs, looking up to the nighttime sky, “She isn’t… wasn’t around actually.”
“Oh shit, sorry,” Keyla coughed glancing up from the pot.
“It’s ok,” Cal remarked with a smile, “I was on my own most my life until this one,” He nudged Kara’s side, “Brought me out of my shell.”
Kara didn’t look up from her project, “And his clothes, don’t forget that part.”
Cal pinched the brow of his nose, “How CAN I when you bring it up every time we meet someone?!”
“Well, excuse me for being PROUD of the awesome nakey dude you’ve become!”
“Get a room already,” Keyla muttered with a smirk as she used a probe droids arm to pull cooked meat from the pot, “Slasher’s up!”
As Cal accepted the hot food gingerly Keyla stepped back from the pot with a piece of meat for herself. As she chowed down she grabbed a stick. Smoothing a patch of dirt with her floor she clicked her tongue.
“You two! Eyes here.”
Kara and Cal glanced over as Keyla began to sketch on the ground. By the time Cal had finished his food and Kara her hemp rope, a faithful blueprint of the prison camp Kara and Cal had flown by earlier emerged.
A large central building took up the middle of the walled complex, with its own inner wall surrounding it. In front of it, a large rectangle with eyeball like shapes scattered across it illustrated a landing pad. Out back, several long rectangular shapes implied prison huts. Throughout the complex small dots with lines leading from them in circles were scattered.
“Alright, you two listening?” Keyla asked in a tone that brooked no disobedience. At their nods, she tapped her stick to the ground, “Now, this, right here, is our target. Imperial Prison Camp Zeta-1S42H, a labour camp commonly used for political prisoners and rebel POW’s.” The Togruta gestured to the jungle beyond. “Ostensibly, they’re free to leave once they’ve cleared the jungle to make a railway.”
“That’s horrible!’ Kara hissed as she stuck the blade of a knife into the campfire.
“Also impossible,” Cal remarked.
Keyla snapped her fingers and pointed at Cal, “That’s the point. Our intel before our OP went FUBAR suggested that the camp’s commander, one Captain Gray Fueller, was simply lucky and greedy. Filma’s capture was a fluke and, I believe at least, an inside job. Regardless, this is good for us.”
“Well, Cal, it means he has no idea how to properly interrogate someone. Moreover, he’s used to guarding this camp against the odd attack by the natives and particularly hungry predators. The patrol patterns I spent the last month analyzing confirms this.” Keyla gave a devilish grin, “That gives us an advantage.”
“An unwary, predictable prey,” Kara mused taking the white-hot knife from the fire, “Sounds perfect.” Taking the tooth from her leg she shoved the blade's tip through it.
“Exactly. Our best bet is a night-time infiltration. Our insertion point is an overgrown mushroom on the north wall. We’ll then proceed through the landing pad to the central complex.” Keyla traced the path above the dirt with her stick, pausing before each patrol line.
“After that, things will be tricky. We’ll need to make out way into the building without being seen. Thankfully, once in it’s a straight shot to Filma. All these Imp camps are the same so detention block will be on the south side of floor five. Once we got the package in tow, we’ll bug out to that ship of yours and exfil. Any questions?”
Cal raised a hand, “What if we’re compromised?”
“Cal,” Kara remarked, rising as she threaded the rope through the tooth, “We just took out a beast called Leg Slasher.” The girl stepped in front of him towards Keyla, careful not to disturb her map. “Moreover, we’re a pair of badasses being led by Captain Keyla Kaeno. Together, there ain’t nothing we can’t do.” She held out the newly made necklace with a smile. “For you, my chief.”
Keyla rose, eyes wet, before the girl. Accepting the newly made necklace she smiled and placed it around her neck. Coughing the woman ruffled Kara’s hair, “Damn right Kara. Now you two memorize this map before you go to sleep. Tomorrow night, we get Filma out of there.”
The Cut, Felucia
SWISH, CLANG, SCRAPE. This was the rhythm of the pickaxe as it bit into the soil of Felucia. A long line of close to a hundred men and women of all races stood, shackled together swinging picks overhead. Before them, fires burned, while behind them dozens more dragged giant metal rails into place. All around them, Imperial stormtroopers stood armed with electro-whips and blasters stood, supervising the work.
Near its centre, the pick of one man bit into the rock and soil particularly hard. His bare brown shoulders gleamed in the sunlight muscles coiled underneath the wing tattoos and scars upon his back. His orange eyes narrowed as the soil and dirt sprayed into his rugged face.
Rising, he wiped his brow and ran a hand through his horns, scowling at the guards. Mhisha Shshvy even chained, beaten and hard worked still cut an impressive figure. His muscled abs and broad shoulders remained unbroken, while his soul stood prouder than ever.
“Careful ner’vod, you don’t want to raise their ire.” His companion warned as he shovelled the loose rock and soil Mhisha had broken into a crate.
Mhisha chuckled as he buried his axe into the earth once more, “Come now, old friend, I thought you were the revolutionary among us?”
His companion snorted and shook his shaggy head. Older and shorter then his comrade, there was an unmistakable military air about the human. Indeed, CT-1122, better known as Second or Sec to his friends, with his beard and long hair looked a long way from a perfect, orderly clone trooper. His own bare torso sported grey hair on the arms and chest, along with more than his fair share of scars.
“Hey, don’t tell anyone Paragon. They might think I deserve hard labour!”
The two chuckled deeply, “Yeah, Gunslinger, because a political prisoner like me gets treated so much better. Fresh air, exercise, occasional beatings, what more could I want?”
“A woman to warm your bed?” A rough lilting voice, like sand rubbing against coarser sand, quipped. Its owner was a tall wiry woman, bent over a wheelbarrow. The woman’s side was heavily bandaged while her skin was a deep brown bronze, covered in intricate, savage-looking tattoos. She too was bare-chested and walked with no apparent shame at her modest bust. Her dark yellow eyes, all iris and no whites, glanced suspiciously at everyone from a curtain of short sandy blond hair.
“Ar’ul, how’s the side?” Mhisha asked by way of greeting.
“Better than last time you asked and the time before that.” The Tusken woman remarked touching it with a grimace, “Still can’t believe that bastard got me.”
Sec shovelled more dirt and rock into the bin, “You were attempting to collect a bounty on an Imperial Officer. Honestly, you’re lucky that they sent you here.”
“Could have ended up on Kessel.” Mhisha observed.
Sec put his foot behind his shovel, “Jakuu, even.”
Ar’ul raised a thick eyebrow, “Jakku?”
“Think Tatooine,” Mhisha remarked, “Only without the charm.”
“Or the culture.” Sec threw in. “Or solid ground.”
“So home without anything that makes it home and double the sand? Gods, no thanks.”
Mhisha chuckled deeply and paused looking out towards the jungle's edge. It had become a habit of his, looking at freedom so tantalizingly close, yet, just out of reach. As he scanned the perimeter he admitted to himself there was another reason. Perhaps he would spy the nymph a-
His eyes focused on the briefest of flashes at forests edge. A familiar flash of golden orange. It was followed this time by flashes of grey and pink. As he tracked them Mhisha nudged Sec and Ar'ul.
“Look there! The flash, do you see it?”
Sec grunted, “This again bro? You sure the sun isn’t- oh.”
“Huh, so you’re not crazy. I had wondered,” The mercenary woman observed.
Mhisha grinned, “There’s more than one now. Do you know what this could mean?”
Ar’ul rubbed her bandaged side, “Do you?”
“Compelling point, Ar’ul,” Sec remarked, filling the box with soil, “Who says it means anything?’
“Remember that light show last month? Sounded a hell of a lot like they shot a ship down. Could be survivors, could be Rebels. I don’t I just… have a good feeling all the sudden.” Mhisha remarked shouldering his pickaxe. “Like, something is about to change.”
“Reckon it has anything to do with the ship that landed last night?” Ar’ul asked as she disconnected the empty box from her wheelbarrow.
Mhisha frowned, “I can’t see the future, I’m no Jedi. My gut just tells me we should be… ready tonight.”
Sec smacked Mhsiah’s coiled abs, “Good to know there’s a gut under all that muscle!” The trio laughed before the crack of an electric whip overhead stilled them.
“Back to work, convicts.”
“Yessir.” The three chorused.
As Ar’ul hooked up her barrow to the box Mhisha took his axe on both hands, “Spread the word and stay vigilant tonight. Trust me.”
“Hmm,” She remarked with a smile, “Of course Paragon. Like I always say, I will gladly spill our captors' blood when the time comes.”
As she trundled away Sec cocked a bushy eyebrow, “You sure of this Lieutenant?”
Mhisha grinned wide, “I am Sergeant. For the first time in a long time, I really am.”
SWISH, CLANG, SCRAPE!
Imperial Prison Camp Zeta-1S42H’s North Wall, Felucia
Keyla rose from cover and breathed in the night air with a smile. “It's time.”
Kara and Cal rose readying their weapons and watched the jungle around them carefully. The wookiee girl stepped up beside Keyla and tapped her shoulder, “You’re sure we can’t free everyone else? I know you said we can’t but you saw what the Empire had them doing.“
“I did, as I have for weeks now.” Keyla sighed. “We can't risk it. When we’re back with the Fleet, I will personally request that we return with a cruiser and free everyone in that wretched place.”
“For now though,” Cal remarked, adjusting his belt, “It’s best we focus on the task at hand.”
“Well spoken, Pyso. Let's move.” Keyla ordered padding off into the night. The two nudists nodded at one another and followed their leader's example. They ran swift and surefooted through the bioluminescent jungle. As they approached the wall they slowed, panting quietly.
Following Keyla’s muscled backside closely, Cal and Kara padded along the perimeter of the wall, ducking the occasional searchlight, before arriving at a large spiral like fungi.
Keyla gestured upwards. “Alright, the patrol should be pat. Get up there, you two.”
After stowing her spear, Kara spat into her hands and rubbed her feet against her legs before leaping, monkey-like, onto the fungus. Scampering upwards the wookiee girl hopped easily over the wall, crouching in the darkness. Cal followed, albeit a good deal slower, with Keyla shimmying up just behind.
Keyla gestured in silence for the two to follow her onto the landing pad. Creeping behind crates and TIE Fighters the three made their way carefully across the cold sterile metal. As they moved in a crouch Cal felt a growing sense of unease. It was as if something familiar, but foreign, was just at the edge of his mind waiting for him…
“Cal!” Kara hissed, “Over here!” The wild-haired girl gestured towards a circle of crates she and Keyla had taken refuge in. Cal dashed over and vaulted in to join them.
“Right, good stuff kids,” Keyla muttered. “A patrol should be passing in a minute, then it’s a straight shot to a service ladder on the North East corner. Once we’re in we’ll have to…”
Keyla’s voice faded away as Cal looked across the landing pad. Something was wrong, on a fundamental level. As his eyes wandered he spied a parked starship with a tattered tarp obscuring it. As his gold eyes traced its shape, they widened in horror.
“No…” Cal muttered leaping from cover and dashing towards the vessel.
“Pyso! The hell is he doing?”
Closer up Cal felt dread knot and clot within his chest. Reaching out a hand he threw back the tarp and gasped. The unmistakable shape of a TIE Interceptor, with several recent scorch marks, filled his vision. Stumbling back he whispered.
The unmistakable snap-hiss sound of a lightsaber being ignited cut through the silence. The humming whirl it made as it was swung lazily through the air, as was the mechanical piercing sound as it cut through metal. Cal, Keyla and Kara’s eyes were all drawn to its source.
Walking lazily from the entrance of the compound came a dark, feminine figure. Masked with a helmet that seemed to have horns and two red glaring eyes, the woman was clad in black armour and an elegant long coat. In her hands, a bright red saberstaff was held being lazily swung like a willow switch.
From three shuttle's parked on the edge of the lot, a swarm of Stormtroopers emerged, blasters at the ready. They swiftly encircled the landing pad, numbering close to sixty.
Cal swallowed fighting the shaking of his knees, dashing back towards Keyla and Kara. The girl turned and looked at Cal.
“Yes. We got to go we can’t-“
“They’ve got us trapped,” Keyla sighed, glancing at the Inquisitor and back to the soldiers. “Cal, what’s the over under on you being able to take that bitch?”
“What’s the chance of you and Kara being able to kill three-score stormtroopers, ready for you, while I do?” Cal shot back breathing heavily.
“Right. Shit! How did they know?” The Rebel Captain muttered.
“Ohhh, Caleb! Caleb Pyso! Cal! I know you’re here.” A distorted feminine voice with the slightest hint of an Imperial accent called across the landing pad. “Now, how about you and your friends come out and lay your weapons down.”
The Inquisitor considered her blade, “You know I won’t hurt you but your so-called friends… well, less so.”
Cal swallowed and rubbed his face, “She’s not lying guys.”
“Hunting for you I take it?” Keyla asked, glancing once more at his lightsaber. “Jedi. Damn useful but damn dangerous too.”
“Fueller! If Caleb and his friend’s continue to be irksome you have my permission to use, ‘excessive force’ did you call it? Come out boy, NOW.”
Kara bit her lip, “Captain… we can’t win this.”
“Not right now… but this is not the end. We’re enemy combatants, we should be afforded some rights. Stick with me, I will get you out of this.” The orange-skinned woman promised.
“My patience grows short. Captain send your men-“
“Wait!” Cal yelled. “We’re coming out.”
“HOLD!” The woman barked.
Slowly the three emerged into the open, hands raised. A chuckle went up from the Imperial troops at the sight of the trio. Keyla kept her head raised high.
“My name is Captain Keyla Kaeno of the Rebel Alliance! Under the Russan Reformations, Article 7, I am invoking our right to be treated as prisoners of war!”
A dumpy man in an Imperial Uniform turned to the Inquisitor, “Is this some kind of joke? Three naked savages spouting off about some ancient Republic legislation?”
The Inquisitor brushed him off, “Weapons and gear on the ground now. What little you have, that is.”
“NOW. Or they shoot you and the girl and I take my prize.”
Keyla hissed but removed her gun from her shoulder placing it, along with her knife, on the ground before them. Nodding to Kara and Cal she stepped back, arms still raised. Reluctantly Kara and Cal removed their respective belts and placed them, along with their weapons, on top of Keyla’s lightbow.
“Bind them, now. I’m taking no chances.” The Inquisitor ordered. Several Stormtroopers armed with shock batons, nooses and cuffs approached. Kara bared her teeth.
“Easy girl,” Keyla muttered, “We’ll get out of this. We have each other.”
Cal held out his hands together, “Yeah, stay calm Kara. For me?”
“Alright.” Kara growled as a noose was placed over her neck, “For you.”
Cuffed and grabbed the three were prodded towards the Inquisitor who, with a flourish, deactivated her blade. Striding forward she grabbed Cal’s chin looking him over. In barely a whisper she breathed, “Thank the force.”
“Sir,” Keyla growled, “As I was saying I demand you-“
“Shock the primitive, would you?” The Officer drawled. A shock caused Keyla to arch her back involuntary. “Honestly, I understand you aliens are less than us but I thought your kind at least possessed modesty. Soldier? Don’t make me laugh, harlot.”
“Bustard!” Keyla swore.
“Hmmm,” He mused openly staring at Keyla’s chest. “What now, Inquisitor?”
Twelve stepped back, “Well, I need to have a chat with this wannabe Jedi. Poor fool doesn’t even know they wore robes. Bring him.”
The two troopers escorting Cal nodded and shoved him forward. “Those two are yours.” His eyes widened at this news. Glancing at Kara’s scared face he felt a rage flare in his belly.
Cal kicked and bucked as the two Stormtroopers separated him from Keyla and Kara. The young man shocked the two men with his savagery bowling them over as he lunged backwards. The wild young woman, despite the noose stick around her neck, surged forward as well. With a growl the Inquisitor used the force to knock Cal back into his captors' arms, now tripled in number.
“Fueller! Get him to interrogation and get these exhibitionists, oh I don’t know, chained up! Honestly.” She hissed glaring at the camp’s commander. Fueller flushed and ordered his men accordingly.
“Bring their weapons to lockup! Throw these two in the Hole!”
As Cal was dragged away Keyla yelled, “Stay strong Cal! Don’t give them a force damned-!” Yelping at the touch of the shock baton she growled, “If you don’t lay off with that I’m going to turn you into a popsicle with it!”
Cal started hyperventilating as he was dragged away from his friends. Eventually, the Imperials were forced to carry him through the cold halls. As they came into a well lit sterile section of the compound, Cal felt the hair across his body stand on end from more than just the cold.
Glancing side to side, Cal beheld a series of interrogations rooms. As he was dragged past scenes of torture to the end of the hall, Cal’s gaze found that of the final occupant. A familiar one.
Stripped of his uniform and missing an eye, Jael Filma was still unmistakable. As they made eye contact he seemed to read Cal, his intentions, affiliations and panic. He gave him a nod, silently commanding strength. Cal felt his panic attack abate and he returned the gesture.
Breaking him from the moment, the troopers kicked open the final door and hustled Cal into it. Sending his bare arse into a seat, they attached his cuffs magnetically to the table. Two held him down while the other four snapped to attention at the Inquisitor’s arrival.
The Inquisitor rolled her shoulders and sighed. “Leave us.”
“Ma’am its camp policy to-“
“It,” The Inquisitor stated in clipped tones, “Is also standard policy in the Empire to give deference, nay, unquestioning respect to an Inquisitor. Is it not?”
“Well, you see Inquisitor umm,” The Stormtrooper’s spokesperson swallowed audibly as the woman used the force to gently shove the door open.
“Ma’am! Let's go boys.” The Stormtroopers didn’t quite fall over themselves exiting the interrogation room, but it was close enough. With the air of a self-satisfied cat, the Inquisitor firmly closed the door.
The Inquisitor walked to the window and turned a dial turning the screen black. Walking around to each of the four cameras in the room she turned them off. Removing a signal jammer from her belt she placed it on the table and sighed.
“Listen you may as well just get it over with. I’m ready.” Cal growled defiantly squaring his shoulders.
The Inquisitor turned her red visor to regard him, “Whatever do you mean?”
“Kill me. You sure went through a lot of trouble to make it happen.”
The woman grabbed her helmet and unlocked it. Cal, despite his bravado, felt a fresh surge of anxiety and fear. This was it, six years of running from her ended.
The woman shook her braid free of the helmet, blowing some spare hair from her golden eyes. She smiled as she looked on him, facial tattoos crinkling. Getting down on one knee the woman wrapped her arms around Cal and squeezed tight.
“I found you, little brother. Its ok, I’m here now.”
Cal closed his eyes battling with his emotions and choked out, “Phara.”
The two siblings stayed like that for a moment before Phara pulled away, brow furrowed crossly, “Cal why aren’t you hugging me-“ Eyes finding his cuffed hands she flicked her head, “Right, that.” Unlocking the cuffs Phara rose and headed over to the door, “I’ll get you something to warm you up too, don’t worry.”
Opening the door she stuck her head out. “You!”
“Get me some fatigues size,” She glanced back and sized Cal up, “Medium. Immediately.”
As Phara re-entered the room Cal leant back in the chair doing his best to shut out the happiness his heart was feeling. Despite everything she’d put him and Kara through, she was still his big sister and likely the only family he had left. A small part of him that was still a thoughtful little bookworm wanted to cling onto her and never let go.
“Inquisitor Pyso, huh?” Cal asked.
Phara smiled and dragged a chair over to him, “Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”
“Hmm,” Cal snorted, “So, how many lives did you have to destroy to earn it?”
A cloud passed over his sister’s face. “Cal…”
“Survival of the fittest right? You can’t be the winner without their being some losers. Tell me, where is your boyfriend huh? What was his name, Brandon?”
“Bandon,” Phara growled, smile gone.
“Right, Bandon Husk! I wonder how badly you screwed-“ Phara punched the table cutting Cal off. Her eyes burned a red-orange, whites red. She breathed heavily as Cal, despite his fear, pressed on, “There it is. Come on Inquisitor, do what you were trained for and take out the rouge force user. Here I am!”
For a second Cal expected the Inquisitor to just snap his neck then and there. Rather than get physical Phara simply closed her eyes and breathed.
“Cal, I’m your sister. I could never do that.” Her eyes were normal again, hurt. “You should know that. You and me, we’re all we got right?” When she didn’t receive the answer she hoped for Phara pressed on, “You caused me a lot of trouble Cal. People doubted my conviction after you… left. I had to fight to earn this title, so I could go looking for you.”
Cal cracked his still handcuffed wrists and kept his eyes on her as she came around to his side of the table. She reached out a hand nervously.
“Between the two of us,” Phara glanced around conspiringly, “I’m quite proud of you. You led the Empire, hell me even, on a merry chase. Shows you have what it takes to survive. When we get to the Academy you’ll have to emphasise that. Who better to find runaways and rouge force users than a former one?”
“Wow, wow. Back to the academy?! If you’re not going to kill me, they certainly will. What makes you think I’d even want to go back to Arkanis?”
Phara frowned, “They changed its location, actually. After you and Eiru’s little stunt they decided to move it closer to home.” She leaned forward, “But that’s all in the past Cal. We’ve suffered losses since you left. Most of the original Inquisitors are dead and even though you ran and BRIEFLY aligned yourself with the rebels, I know the Blademaster will accept you back into the fold. I’ve vouched for that every day since you left.”
“Hunted me every day since I left, you mean.”
Cal’s sister grit her teeth, “Well, what was I supposed to do?! My job is to protect you and its damn difficult to do so when your brother runs from you!”
“You ever stop to wonder why I ran?” Cal hissed rising from the table to stare up into her eyes. He was gratified to realize he came up almost to her chin. Phara eyes flickered over him briefly, “I’m not some little kid anymore that needs your protection.”
“Trust me, I am keenly aware of that given your… state.” Coughing Phara shook her head. “Honestly, I never thought the rebels would be complete savages.”
“Phara, just because I’m not wearing clothes doesn’t mean I’m-“
“Of course not. You did what you had to Cal, just like on Jardu 9. Running around naked is... better than drug dealing. Still, all that’s over now.”
A knocking on the door cut the conversation off. Striding to it Phara opened it and accepted a grey bundle. Thanking the Stormtrooper with a nod she closed the door. Walking over to Cal she tossed the bundle of clothes at his chest, which Cal clumsily caught.
“Put these on, then we’ll see about getting you a decent bed for the night. Tomorrow we’ll head for the Academy and we can finally put all this behind us.” She declared grabbing her seat.
Cal considered the ball of grey fabric in his hands closely. Its smell, its rough texture on his skin, its overall drabness. Part of him wanted to give up, do the easy thing as he’d always done. The part Kara had awoken however screamed against it, rebelled even.
“Don’t be bashful Cal. Not like I haven’t seen it before and recently. I know the colour sucks with our skin tone, but we’ll find you something better later. Just get decent.” Phara ordered.
Cal met her gaze and tossed the clothes to the ground, “No.”
“No? Cal, you don’t have to fit in with those two anymore. You can put something on! Force, you used to be so bashful as a kid you wouldn’t-“
“I’m not a kid anymore Phara! I am fully decent, there is nothing wrong with me.”
“Ohhh come on!” Phara cracked, “You can’t tell me that my shy baby brother, in six months, suddenly decided to say 'kriff clothes, what have they ever done for me'?!”
“Basically,” Cal drawled.
“Put the force dammed clothes on!” Phara roared tossing them at him, “I’m trying to-“
With a flick of the force, Cal sent to bundle of fabric straight into her face. Phara surged forward eyes burning like a Sith. Her brother breathed in slowly and lifted his chin exposing his neck. Phara stopped clawed, gloved hand twitching by Cal’s throat.
Cal frowned as he watched her fight visibly, face twitching. One moment her eyes would return to their soft, familiar gold, the next the blood red and orange of the Sith. A small part of him began to wonder if maybe, just maybe there was-
With a snarl, Phara whipped around and swiped her hand through the air. The heavy metal interrogation table was ripped from its mounting and sent smashing through the room’s window. Ignoring the cursing of the guards Phara turned back to Cal, one eye burning Sith the other normal.
“Last. Chance. Caleb.”
Despite the impulse of his actual balls to retract into him, Cal found a swinging pair within. Stepping forward, Cal looked at the bundle of fabric and back to Phara, “Unless, you want to dress me, no.”
“What are you a kriffing feral?!!” Phara hissed, “No, I see its worse. You think you’re a rebel. Well then, Pyso, I’ll show you we treat savage naked rebels like you.” Grabbing Cal by the arm Phara kicked open the door bowling over a stormtrooper. Glaring at his companion she hissed, “The other exhibitionists. Where are you holding them?”
“Uhhh Hut 28Z, the Hole ma’am. It's at the beginning of the prisoners quarters.”
“Good. Come!” Yanking Cal along Phara shoved the glass aside. As Cal followed in her wake he glanced back at Filma once more. The Mon Calamari was smiling and nodded wordlessly at Cal, moving his lips soundlessly.
Cal stumbled as they left the fluorescent lights of the main compound behind. His stumble turned into a trip, spilling him on the ground. As he lay there Phara nudged him with her boot.
“Gravel and dirt don’t feel so good on bare skin, huh Caleb?”
“I don’t know Phara, does the giant stick the Empire shoved up your arse feel good?” A half kick just above his groin left him coughing, “Guess you and Bandon weren't that kinky.”
Yanking him to his feet Phara shoved him ahead, “You don’t know a forcedamned thing, little brother.”
“You know, big sister, being big doesn’t mean being a colossal bi-“
“Cal,” Phara hissed into his ear, “When you have that easy of a target dangling free between your legs, I really wouldn’t push your luck.”
Cal chose to bite back his retort rather than risk his family jewels. As they approached a miserable looking concrete and corroded metal hut, Phara grabbed his shoulder, “It’s not too late, bro. We can get you some pants, a warm meal and a bed. Just say the word.”
“No. Phara, listen I’m not your responsibility anymore.”
Phara snorted and shoved him forward, “Of course you are, dumbass. We’ll see how you like being treated like a Rebel dog for the night.”
“Well, you’re the female dog here.”
“What was that?!”
“Prisoner for the Hole ma’am?” The Stormtroopers' guarding their destination asked, cutting the bickering short.
“Indeed. Little shit needs some time to contemplate his decisions. Open it up.”
Phara shoved Cal in through the doorway. The cell consisted of a ring of metal and brick sloping down into a mud-filled hole. Around the top of the hut slots for chains were placed.
Keyla was chained to the far wall, arms suspended above her head, knee deep in mud. Kara had been chained by the neck to the wall beside her and sat cross-legged just above the mud. Springing to her feet she reached out for Cal.
“Cal! You ok?!”
“Kid!” Keyla growled, “Get your hands off him!”
Phara frowned, “Are the chains strictly necessary?”
“Well, you did say, ma’am,“
“I know what I said,” Phara growled releasing Cal's arm, “Still seems barbaric.”
“Hey! Hey you! Blonde bitch! Is this how you treat POW’s?!” Keyla yelled. “Chaining us up like animals?”
Phara ignored her as she brushed Cal's shoulders down. Keyla, with a growl, kicked her leg up sending mud splattering across the Inquisitors armour.
“Well if you don’t want to be treated like animals,” Phara hissed wiping the mud from her coat. “Maybe you shouldn’t dress like them.”
“Well, using that logic, you must be pretty into kriffing BDSM and shit. All black leather and angst, tell me how does that work? Do you like all just hate yourselves or-“ Keyla was cut off by Phara smearing the removed mud on the Togruta’s face. “Pfft, what?”
“Animals shouldn’t throw shit at people trying to make the galaxy a better place.”
Keyla glanced around the cell, “Got to say, you’re doing a bang up job with the place.”
Cal followed Phara into the pit wading over to Kara grabbing her hand.
“Ohh you know the collar is totally clashing with my outfit, muds ruining my hair and the food is terrible,” Kara quipped squeezing his hand right back, “But I’m doing better now.” Her eyes focused on Phara’s confrontation with Keyla.
“Well, subversives like you need to be put to work somehow. Honestly, taking two kids and making them fight naked? Have you no shame?”
“Young adults.” Kara and Cal groused as one.
“Hey, they were naked before I met them. Besides I’m not the one chaining them up in a shitty mud pit, am I?”
“Why you impudent-!”
“Phara!” Cal barked. “Please.”
The Inquisitor gazed at Cal before sighing. Snapping her fingers, she released the lock around Kara’s neck and Keyla’s arms. As the rebel sagged to her knees before her she growled. “You got lucky, primitive. After I’m gone I’m sure you’ll become well accustomed to your new home.”
Sweeping her coat Phara leapt from the pit and turned on her heel. Glaring at Cal she growled, “You are coming back to the Academy with me. You always were the smart one Cal, you’ll see the light.”
As the door slammed shut Kara rubbed her chaffed neck ruefully, “Well, on the sunny side Cal, your sister is not a total bitch.”
“His WHAT?!” Keyla screeched.