Note: This story is only recently finished after almost three years of being on ice. If you think you've read this before on this web page (before April 99) you havent read the last two chapters, so scroll down and check it out. Anyway, i hope ya like it!
"Nice of you to join us Lieutenant Daggerscout." The grey near-human greeted as Teke sauntered into the small briefing room. "I was just about to tell the team of it's newest addition." The near-human, Captain Xpian, explained as he turned toward the ten Special Forces commandos sitting in the chairs in the room. All of the commandos were human save for the captain, a Wookie, a red hairy ZeHethbra, and a pointed eared Elomin.
"Lt. Daggerscout here," Captain Xpian continued, "is a tech, although it's rumored you showed many skills during your training."
Teke nodded. "That's probably true sir. I may have just comme out of training, but I'm not exactly what you'd call green, sir."
"Well, I'm glad to see that you have an ego worthy of Thumper Team." Xpian said jokingly, with a quiet chuckle from the commandos. "Please Lieutenant, have a seat."
Captain Xpian went on to brief his SpecForce team about their next mission. They would be boarding the transport in three hours, so he asked them to stay together until then. When the captain finished his briefing, the commandos stood and began to file out of the room.
"Hi. I'm Lt. Derik Pike. I'm a technician too." A commando with shaggy brown hair introduced himself to Teke as they followed the rest of the group down the corridor.
"Hello." Teke nodded. "Uh, just out of curiosity, where are we going?"
"We're going to the place we usually hang out at when we're here in Imperial City. It's a little cantina called The Escape Pod, where most of the SpecForce hotshots go on the occasion we have time to waste."
Teke followed the group through the building, trying to listen in on other people's conversations, when someone began conversing with him.
"Hi. I'm Alice Pieg, but everyone calls me Al." A young woman introduced herself. "I'm supposed to give you this." She said, handing Teke a circle of stiff cloth.
Teke looked at the insignia of the unit. It was the typical New Republic seal, but had the face of a particularly angry looking Cracian Thumper on the bottom part, and said "Thumper Commandos" around the edge of the patch.
Cracian thumpers, the animal for which the special forces team had been named, was a beast heavily used by Alliance forces. The fast and silent riding beasts were extremely loyal creatures. Thumpers could be trained to distinguish friend from enemy and were quite fierce in a fight.
"Thanks." Teke said as he put the patch in his pocket. Forcing himself to be friendly, which wasn't easy for him to do with people he just met, and asked Al where she was from.
"I was born on Alderaan."
"Alderaan? I don't think I've ever met an Alderaanian."
"My family and I were on a vacation when it happened. In one day we lost our beautiful planet and everything else we had." She gazed at the ground as they walked, and ran her fingers over her ear as if to brush her hair back, but her dark brown hair was too short, and the gesture did nothing. "After a short while of wandering around, my father met up with someone who got us on a transport to an Alliance safe world. And as soon as my parents felt I was old enough, I enlisted in Special Forces. My life-long dream of being an Infiltrator has come true."
Her eyes finally returned to Teke, and she forced a smile. "So what about you? Where are you from?"
A man walking in front of Teke who had long blond hair that was tied back stopped dead in his tracks and turned to approach Teke.
"Did you say you were from Tatooine?" The young man asked with an excited look in his eyes.
Teke nodded and waited for the same question he was almost always asked by similar excited young beings since he decided to join the forces of the New Republic.
"Did you know the Jedi Skywalker?"
"No." Teke answered.
The man looked genuinely disappointed. "Oh."
"Although when I was little, I was friends with a Darklighter or two." Teke offered.
"Really? What were their names? Did you know Biggs or Gavin?"
"Oh, I don't know, it was a long time ago." Teke answered in a teasing tone of voice.
The young man nodded and in a few moments starting walking faster to resume the conversation he was having with one of the other commandos.
"That's Lawrence Parker." Pike explained when he felt the young man was out of earshot. "He's obsessed with heros. Sometimes he can be a little tiring, but you can always count on him for a morale boost."
They followed the corridor out of the building that left them at Coruscant's street level. They then followed the street for a couple of blocks, and entered the cantina called The Escape Pod.
It was a clean place, quite different from most of the places Teke was used to. Instead a dark, smokey place filled with seedy characters suspicious of all the other seedy characters in the joint, The Escape Pod was a tidy well-kept establishment filled with SpecForce troopers and exhausted New Republic bureaucrats.
The rest of the Thumper Team took two booths while Pike followed Teke to the bar. Teke ordered a non-intoxicating drink, and Pike ordered another of the same.
"So tell me about the rest of the team." Teke suggested as the barkeep handed him his drink.
Pike took a sip from his own drink, and looked over to the two booths. "Well, you met Al and Parker; they're both infiltrators. The Wookie is named Ruggambwa, she's one of our wilderness specialists. The guy next to her with the black hair is Henrik, our medic. The intense-looking guy next to him is Jarvis Jarrow. Jarrow is our pilot. He's got a Corellian YT-1300, Giedi's Chameleon, that usually manages to get us in and out.
"Sitting across from him is Laffite Neness. She's an urban guerrilla. The big red hairy fellow at the other table is Roux Montagnard, the ZeHethbra. He's the other wilderness fighter. By him is Sungari, our heavy weapons specialist. And then there's Murat, the Elomin.
"Elomin usually only work in groups of their own species, but Murat insisted she be treated like any other species in the New Republic. Anyway, she can sometimes get a little cranky when things get out of what I think she calls 'The Order' of things, but she's a good soldier."
Teke nodded. "I met an Elomin once in a cantina. He was drunk and kept raving on about how there was too much chaos and that he wanted to go home." Teke took another sip of his drink. "So what's the low-down on Xpian?"
"Ah yes, Xpian. Well, he's only been commander of this team for the past few months, so he's still learning how we work together. Actually, all but four of us are new to the team." Pike paused for a moment. "See, eight months ago we were on this mission. And, we underestimated the number of Imps in the place. We got in a pretty bad jam and everyone in the team except Al, Parker, Jarrow, and myself were killed. I don't feel like going into details, but we barely got out alive.
"So the four of us got some time off to recuperate, and then after a couple of months they started making the Thumpers battle ready again. You're our last addition. We're back to being twelve again, although we've been taking easy missions since we were nine." Pike chugged the rest of his drink and ordered another. "So what about you? You don't get away with all this information without telling me more about yourself."
"Well," Teke sighed. He didn't like talking about his past. Not because it reminded him of all the bad things that happened to him, but because it reminded him all the good things he didn't have any more.
"Like I said, I was born on Tatooine. Anchorhead to be exact, I was raised mostly in Mos Eisely, and as you might guess, it wasn't a particularly nice place to grow up. So by the time I was ten I was selling weapons on the black market, by the time I was fifteen I went into smuggling with my brother, and here I am with you at twenty-one."
Pike nodded. "I knew you had some kind of fringe connection."
"What makes you say that?"
"It's pretty obvious, actually. The way you looked around the room when you came in, the way you walk, the way you carry your blaster low on your hip, the fact that you're carrying a vibroknife in your sleeve even though this is one of the safest places in the galaxy for you to be."
"So what about you?" Teke asked, laughing. "You seem to know the breed pretty well. Surely you didn't learn about spotting a smuggler from watching holovids."
"You're right there. I was never a criminal myself, but I grew up on Bespin's Cloud City, and there's not much as far as exciting things go for a kid to do except watch the gamblers and smugglers, and mess with computers."
"We went to Cloud City." Teke mused as a sorrowful expression spread across his face.
"Well hey." Pike said in a cheerful tone. "Let's stop being snobs and go join the rest of the group."
Teke acknowledged and followed Pike to the booths.
"Alright, listen up." Captain Xpian commanded as he sat crouched in the main hallway by the entrance ramp of the light freighter Geidi's Chameleon with the rest of the team. "The factory is on a hill just to the southeast. It shouldn't be hard to find. Lets move."
Geidi's Chameleon wasn't even on the ground yet when one by one, ten of the team leaped from the opening ramp onto the ground of the planet. The terrain of the area was browned grass and deciduous tree covered hills, with distant snow-capped mountains for a backdrop.
Everyone followed the captain as he jogged off in a steady gait. They found their way to the Imperial factory with ease in a little short of half a standard hour.
The grey pre-fabricated factory sat atop a steep hill directly across from the hill the Thumpers were perched on. While the squad took a breather, Xpian took out his macrobinouculars to inspect the premises.
Teke took a look at the factory where the Imperials have been manufacturing assassin droids and shook his head.
"How can we bust into that place?" He asked Al. "We'll stick out like a krayt dragon in Imperial Palace coming up that hill."
"That's why we're going to look for an alternative entrance." Al explained. "Chances are, they have sub-terrainian levels, and that would require a back door."
"There it is." Xpian mumbled, still looking through the macrobinoculars. "It's at the base of a neighboring hill." He lowered the macrobinoculars. "I still don't like it though. Way too visible. We need to create a diversion."
"What stunt should we pull this time?" Al asked.
Teke looked down at the brown, dry, brittle grass.
Ruggambwa, the Wookie, growled something, and Teke knew she must be thinking the same thing he was.
Heavy, ash-filled smoke billowed up into the previously blue sky. The wind was strong, and the fire was quickly spreading toward the assassin droid factory. Sirens began wailing as Imperial firefighting crews rushed to defend the building, which was conveniently shrouded in thick smoke.
"All right folks." Xpian announced as he removed his blaster from it's holster. "Lets go take some Imps out."
The team followed Xpian in a single file line as they made their way down the hill, toward the bunker that served as a back door to the factory.
When they arrived at the bunker, Pike started working on the control panel to the door and in a matter of seconds, the blast door opened for them.
Once inside, they doffed their camouflaged ponchos and moved like shadows through the subterranean corridors. Occasionally they came across a guard, but that guard met a swift and silent death as a garotte was expertly used by one of the team's many infiltrators to strangle him.
When the squad made their way to the lowest level, the storage facilities of the factory, Teke began carefully handing out thermal detonators. The commandos began attaching the powerful explosives to the support beams of the building while Pike and Roux separated from the group and made sure the power generators got some attention.
Once the detonators were in place, the squad left the building as quickly and quietly as they got into it. They returned to the hills, and assembled outside of the blast zone. Al counted heads.
"All clear Captain."
Xpian held the remote detonator and nodded. He flicked the activation switch and announced, "Four seconds, three, two, one..."
The commandos shielded their faces from the intense heat and light of the powerful blast that shook the ground beneath them. They got low to the ground as dirt, rocks, and other debris blasted into the air. Teke peeked up just in time to see the flaming hill collapse in on itself as the explosion proceeded to implode.
When the sky ceased to rain rocks, Parker jumped up and threw his arms into the air, and at the top of his lungs let out a proud war cry. The rest of the Thumpers stood and joined him.
"Excuse me!?" Parker yelled at the pile of rubble, "You were gonna assassinate who?"
When the team began to quiet down, Xpian began barking orders.
"Parker and Daggerscout, come with me to make sure we did a thorough job. Al, stay here with everyone else and signal Jarrow."
After the Thumper Commandos returned to Coruscant following the completion of their mission, they were once again hanging out at The Escape Pod. This time Jarrow, Pike, and Teke were deeply involved in a fairly low-stake sabacc game, with the rest of the team watching.
Teke watched as Jarrow scooted the hand pot into his pile of credits. Pike handed Jarrow the deck and looked at Teke.
Teke studied his cards for a moment. He had the two of staves, the Idiot, and Demise, which gave him a total of negative eleven. Not too good, but it could be worse. He went ahead and threw a few credits into the hand pot just to be a sport.
Pike and Jarrow saw his bet, neither of them raising him. Teke was about to ask them if anyone wanted to call when his Demise card began to shift. He waited in silence and watched as the card that represented a negative
thirteen stopped flickering and became the three of sabers.
Teke had to use every ounce of his self-control to keep himself from freaking out. What he held in his hand was what was known as the 'Idiot's Array', which was the best hand possible in the game of sabacc, and would make him the winner of the game, and the winner of the sabacc pot. However, since it was his turn he was not allowed to call the hand. Unless Pike or Jarrow thought they had the best hand, Teke's Idiot's Array would mean absolutely nothing.
"Anyone want to call?" Teke asked, trying to keep his cool.
"I do." Pike answered as Jarrow rolled his eyes. The three players placed their cards in the table's suspension field.
"You wanna draw Daggerscout?" Jarrow asked, as the dealer should.
"No thanks." Teke answered with a smile.
"Alright then boys, whatcha got?" Jarrow asked as he turned his cards over. "I bombed out. How much is that in the hand pot?" He asked, prepared to put what he had to as a penalty for 'bombing out' or having either a zero, above
a twenty-three or below a negative twenty-three.
"Don't bother." Pike said proudly as he revealed his cards. "I have a Pure Sabacc." Pike said smartly as he began reaching towards the sabacc pot. Teke raised his index finger.
"Um, excuse me, but you might be interested in seeing my hand."
Pike looked at Teke and smiled nervously. "You're just kidding. Right?" Pike just couldn't believe the chances that Teke would have the only hand that beat his.
"Sorry friend. Idiot's Array." Teke said as he allowed Pike to examine his three cards.
Pike sighed and sat back in his chair. "You earned it."
As Teke began collecting his winnings, he heard a familiar voice behind him.
"That was beautifully done. I'm not particularly surprised though."
"Koe?" Teke turned around to find his older brother standing right behind him. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be floating around on a ship somewhere?"
"Yeah, it's nice to see you too." Koe said jokingly. "Actually, I'm on shore leave. Did you just get back?"
"Yeah, but the mission was just too easy."
"Don't worry, it won't stay that way. Anyway, whatever this mission was that seemed so easy probably could've gotten pretty messy if someone screwed up."
Teke nodded. "I guess you're right."
"We should go sit at our regular booths so others may play sabacc if they choose to do so." Murat, the Elomin, suggested.
"I agree." Koe said as the group started making their way to their usual seats. "I assume this is your unit?"
"Oh, sorry. Hey everybody," Teke said getting everybody's attention. "This is my older brother Koe. Older brother Koe, this is everybody."
The Thumpers waved nonchalantly in Koe's general direction and mumbled hellos as they took their seats. Koe sat beside Teke at the same table as several of his little brother's new comrades. The young lady who sat across from Koe, obviously dissatisfied with Teke's sparing presentation, formally introduced herself.
"Lieutenant Alice Pieg." She said as she offered her hand. "But I just go by Al."
"Pleasure to meet you, Al." Koe said, shaking her hand.
"So what have you been up to?" Teke asked Koe.
"My people and I have been serving aboard an MC80 near the Dulfilvian System. Security stuff mostly. We haven't had much trouble out there."
"So Commander," Al began to ask Koe, "I'm guessing you're a marine?"
Koe nodded. "You got it. Years ago I was a member of an underground cell, and shortly after the victory at Yavin, when I was around your age, I transferred from the Sector Forces to the Alliance Forces, and I've been a SpecForce Marine ever since."
Just as Al was about to question what working in an underground cell was like, an SE4 servant droid approached the table an began taking the customers lunch orders. Before she could tell the droid what she wanted, her comlink beeped.
As Teke was in the process of ordering a thick juicy bantha steak and a cold mug of lum, Al interrupted him.
"I just got an order from Xpian. We have our next mission and have to report to the briefing room immediately."
A SpecForce officer with bright red hair and striking green eyes walked to the front of the briefing room, cleared his throat, and began to address the group.
"It appears that everyone is present, so I'll begin. For those beings here who don't know me, I'm Major Jonn Galen, a SpecForce Infiltrator, and I have been given temporary command of this task force. Don't worry though, Captain Xpian and I will be working together on this mission. It seems that High Command believes this operation is of considerable importance, and I have been given the opportunity to oversee the mission personally.
"The story begins in the far reaches of the Outer Rim, in the Truidex system, on a planet by the same name. As we all know, the disgusting business of slaving is booming. Most often, slaving guilds acquire slaves by raiding communities, and kidnaping the residents. However, we have learned that there is a small slaving enterprise, the Nebulon 14 Slaving Enterprise, to be exact, that is buying most of its unfortunate quarry from Imperials, who find it more profitable to sell certain prisoners instead of killing them or holding them prisoner.
"Many of these people are political prisoners, tax evaders, and various small-time offenders who act as no real threat to the desperate Imps. Our mission is to get these people to an Allied world safely.
"We have reason to believe from intercepted messages from that system that the Imps are closely monitoring the slavers, but we still don't know by what degree. Imperial Captain Bryson Foxfire is the officer that appears to be in charge of the Imp forces there. The thing is, we have no idea how strong the forces there are. If the Imps are too many, we may need to abort the mission.
"Nebulon 14 is owned and mostly operated, by a previously unknown species of alien. Their native world remains a mystery, and their native tongue is yet to be deciphered. However, they are sapient, and they are able to speak Basic. The name given to their species is Unh'Keam, derived from their own language. The Unh'Keam in charge of Nebulon 14 goes by the name Kia'Nar, but little else is known about him or her.
"High Command wants us get to those people out of there ASAP, so we didn't have time to collect very much intelligence on the situation. We'll do our own recon as we go and will decide how we will go about freeing the slaves when we see the premises of the Nebulon 14 Slaving Enterprise, and further assess the situation.
"Truidex's main export is a whiskey, so will use this to infiltrate the planet. We will take a freighter and pose as traders, or smugglers, if you will.
"Our largest advantage is the element of surprise, so keeping our identities secret while we scout is of utmost importance. NRI has secured for each of us a false identity, which I will give to you once we are in hyperspace. Obviously, if our cover is blown we will abort the mission.
"Do any of you have any questions?"
"Yes." Laffite Neness, the urban guerilla from Ord Mantell partially raised her hand. "Where are we taking the prisoners once we have them, and then what becomes of them?"
"That location is to remain unknown to even your pilot until we actually have the prisoners off planet. From there we will make a short jump to a neighboring system, and then I will release the location of our destination. We just want to make sure no vengeful Imps will try to intercept us.
"As for what happens to the freed prisoners, it's really none of our business. But just so you know we're not going to just dump them somewhere, each ex-slave will be individually reviewed and their situations will be analyzed. Those who are felt by the reviewers to be unjustly imprisoned or have paid for their crimes will be released and transportation will be provided for return home. Those who are believed to be a danger to society will be held, and will receive a proper rehabilitation."
"Any other questions?" Silence. "Alright, we leave first thing in the morning at 0600."
Everybody stood up and began to slowly file out of the room.
"So much for resting for the next few days." Teke whispered.
As Teke strolled along the curved hallway of Geidi's Chameleon on his way to the cockpit, he mentally went through the information Major Galen had given him on his cover identity. His name was Frederich Zenashen. He was a young adventurer from Farrfin who signed on to be part of Captain Lioncourt's shipping crew so he could get off the planet.
It was obvious to Teke that Intelligence had done their homework. Teke had spent some time on Farrfin when he had been a smuggler with his late brother, Tap, and Kit Kole. Since he had been there before, he could talk about it to people if he needed to. Plus, he also grew up in a similarly lawless place, Mos Eisley.
They had already been in hyperspace for a few days now. Their destination was pretty remote. They also had to make a few drops to realspace, not only to make the trip shorter, but to disguise their point of origin.
He opened the bulkhead door and entered the cramped cockpit. Inside sat Jarrow at the controls, with Xpian in the co-pilot seat, and Major Galen sitting behind him. Teke saluted the superior officers as he entered the cockpit and took the empty seat. Pike followed Teke into the cramped cockpit and saluted the superior officers as well.
"Lieutenant Pike, have you finished altering the transponder code?" Galen asked.
"Yes sir. We'll now be ID'd as being the Cosmic Rage, a smuggling ship registered in Corellia." Pike answered, still standing at attention.
"Excellent." Galen nodded at the younger man. "We'll be coming out of hyperspace soon, so go to the cargo hold and notify the team."
Pike made a beautiful about face and left the cockpit. Since the ship was designed to be a cargo hauler, there wasn't too much room to accommodate thirteen troopers. So the Thumpers spent their time in the large cargo hold when they weren't in the ships tiny lounge.
"Thirty seconds to realspace." Jarrow announced with his hand on the lever and his eye on the chronometer. Captain Xpian quickly gave the co-pilot chair to Teke, and strapped himself into the back seat.
When the countdown reached zero, Jarrow pushed the lever forward. The blue swirl of hyperspace turned into thousands of white starlines which soon sucked themselves into the way stars should look.
"Teke, set three-eight-four." Jarrow instructed as the planet, Truidex, came into view. It was a rather small planet with no moon. Teke glanced at the sensors, and saw that there were only a few tiny areas on the planet indicating technology. The largest of those areas, but still tiny by all means, was identified as being Nekkar, the town nearest to the Nebulon 14 Slaving Enterprise, and the closest thing Truidex had to a capitol.
As Jarrow brought the freighter closer to the planet that seemed to be made up of lakes, low plains valleys and high craggy mountains, the comm beeped and the traffic controller's filtered voice came over the speaker.
"Incoming ship, this is Truidex Control. Please identify." The technician requested as his computer checked the ships transponder code.
"This is Captain Lioncourt of the independent freighter Cosmic Rage requesting clearance to land in Nekkar." Jarrow answered.
The comm was quiet for a moment, and the controller resumed. "Please state previous port, the purpose for your visit, and the duration of your stay."
"Coming from Farrfin to trade in medical supplies, and We'll stay for three weeks." They weren't actually going to stay for three weeks, but it would be good to have extra time if they needed it.
The comm was silent for another moment.
"Cosmic Rage cleared for landing at Docking Bay Four. Clearance for stay: two weeks. Docking bay fee will be fifty credits a day. Transferring landing coordinates to you now. Have a nice day."
While Teke waited for the ships computers to receive the landing coordinates from the controller's computer, he couldn't help but feel something was weird. Not necessarily wrong, just weird. It was weird that the docking bay fee was so high. He expected it to be low, to encourage visitors to stay. perhaps someone doesn't want visitors.
Then it donned on Teke what gave him the weird feeling. The traffic controller didn't sound bored. He was used to hearing the monotonous mumbling of a bored out of his mind, half asleep controller. This controller was wide awake and enthusiastic. It could mean they don't get visitors very often. Teke thought. Now you're jumping to conclusions, and that's a good way to get killed. He's probably just new at the job.
As they swooped closer to the town, Jarrow picked up a personal comlink. "Pike, go to the technical station and switch on the holorecorder."
Before they left Coruscant, Pike and Teke mounted a holorecorder on the bottom of the ship so Jarrow could do a flyby over the town and use the visual information to help plan the operation to free the slaves.
Jarrow did the flyby and returned to the course to their assigned docking bay. The town looked more primitive than the sensors claimed it to be. That could be bad. They were pretty sure there was a fair amount of Imperial activity in the system, but they wished to the Force that it was very limited. If the Imps owned all the technology on the planet, that wouldn't be good news.
Captain Bryson Foxfire sat in his spacious office in Nekkar, and opened a bottle of the Truidex Whiskey. He slowly filled his glass with the fiery liquid, and sat back in the comfortable chair. Putting the glass near his nose, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He studied the liquor for a few more moments, and then drank the glass whiskey in one swallow.
He loved this planet. Here, he had real power. Although he was only the captain of a Dreadnaught Cruiser which he practically abandoned in orbit, he was the highest ranking officer in the system, and could do anything he wanted. He hadn't received a single word from a superior officer in over two standard years, but of course, he would never tell his subordinates that. He knew his previous commanding officer was dead. He was tempted to aid Grand Admiral Thrawn's campaign, even if he was an alien, but he had just learned a few days ago over the holonet that Thrawn had been killed. So much for that.
He decided that there was no Empire to serve anymore, so he would serve himself. His last order was to simply occupy the system. And occupy, he did. He held tight control of the communities of the planet, and kept his troops happy. Best of all, he was making money. His "partnership" with the disgusting Unh'Keam aliens was going well. They did all the work, he made all the money. And in return, he promised he wouldn't kill them.
This is the life. He thought. He controlled the inferior aliens that ran the slaving operation and whiskey production, and they didn't even realize it!
He sat up straight in his chair and made sure his uniform was wrinkle free before he reached for the comm unit on his desk.
"Lieutenant, I am ready to start with the day's business."
"Sir, we have a smuggler here who wants to speak with you"
Foxfire grinned. "Show her in." Foxfire switched off the comm unit and stood up to make sure his rank badge and cylinder were straight.
The blast door slid open with a hiss and the civilian, a tall elegant woman, was escorted in by six Stormtroopers.
Captain Foxfire let an icy smile spread over his face. He removed a blaster pistol from a drawer in his desk, and set it on top. He looked at the smuggler, and then the troopers. "Guards, you may leave us. I can handle her." The Stormtroopers immediately obeyed and left the office.
Foxfire sat on the corner of his desk, and began inspecting his fingernails. "I thought I told you to call me ahead of time."
"I don't take orders." The woman said, fighting a smile.
Foxfire let out short burst of laughter. "You'll do anything to spite me, won't you Lyra?"
"Of course I will Bryson." She said, letting herself smile this time. She was calling him by his first name to prove her point.
"Please Lyra, lets get down to business." Foxfire hopped off his desk and took his seat, while the smuggler took the one opposite him. "Do you have anything for me?"
"As a matter of fact I do. I have four class-three droids and two hundred fifty rations."
"How much do you want for them?"
"Well, the droids are all pretty unused, so I'll give everything to you for seventy thousand credits."
Foxfire sat in silence for a moment. Seventy thousand was a lot of credits. But it was only about the cost of a single new TIE fighter. "I can agree to those terms. And I have something that will make you very happy."
"And what is that?"
"A very large shipment of my whiskey." Foxfire looked at the smuggler a moment before continuing. "I'm warning you though, if this planet's economy suffers because of you, you'll find yourself working as a slave. Do you understand?"
"Yeah whatever. So how much is there?"
"Fifty-three thousand credits worth. I'll trade it for your goods, and I'm good for the seventeen thousand. Is that acceptable?
"You know it is." Lyra said eagerly.
"Good then." Replied Foxfire before turning to the computer terminal to the right of his desk, against the wall.
He entered some data and studied the screen. "Move your ship to Docking Bay Six at your convenience. I'll take care of the Customs Inspector and the docking fees, as usual. I'll send my assistant to meet you and make the transaction."
"That sounds good, but is it okay if my co-pilot and I stay groundside for a few days to rest?" Lyra hated asking permission to do things, but she knew how such things flattered the Imperials.
"Of course you may." Foxfire said, folding his hands in his lap. He called the stormtroopers to escort the smuggler out. "How many Seventeens do we have this week?" He asked his assistant who was standing near the door.
"Three Sir." Foxfire loved Seventeen day. There's nothing more enjoyable than choosing a young man's future for him.
"Bring them in." The assistant left and returned with three boys who all turned seventeen years old this week, along with the officer directly in charge of them.
Foxfire approached the first boy who glared defiantly at him. "Is he physically fit?" Foxfire asked the officer.
"How do you feel about serving in the Empire's glorious forces?" Foxfire asked the boy.
The boy scowled for a moment before spitting on Foxfire's uniform.
"Very well. Re-educate him, and take him to our training facilities." The officer nodded as a stormtrooper removed the boy from Foxfire's office.
The dreadnaught captain turned to the next boy. "He looks physically fit."
"Excellently so, Sir." The officer answered. "He also did quite well on the intelligence tests."
Foxfire smiled. "And how do you feel about serving the Empire?"
The young man looked from Foxfire to the stormtroopers, back to Foxfire again. He hated the Imperials, but wasn't particularly interested in being "re-educated".
"Very excited Sir."
"Excellent. Take him to training and make sure he goes on to officers training."
The troopers removed that boy as well as Foxfire turned his attentions to the last Seventeen. He was rather small looking, but had intelligence in his eyes.
"What about him?" Foxfire asked.
"He failed both the physical and mental tests. I believe him to be useless."
Foxfire furrowed his dark eyebrows, and wondered when he became such a bad judge of character. Certainly, the Empire's tests could not have been wrong.
"What's your name boy?"
"Do you have a family?"
"What does she do?"
"She owns Docking Bay Four."
Foxfire nodded. "This one won't cause any trouble. He is free to stay with his mother, and do... whatever he did before."
Jarrow extended the ramp to his ship to find an Imperial Customs Inspector standing at the bottom of it. Jarrow, Teke, Xpian, and Galen went to meet him.
"Captain Lioncourt?" The official asked.
"Yeah, that's me." Jarrow answered.
"You have a shipment of medical supplies, is that right?"
"Yes it is."
"You mind if I take a look?"
Teke stepped forward and slipped an Imperial two hundred credit coin in the inspector's hand. "That won't be necessary."
The inspector smoothly dropped the coin into his pocket and looked at his datapad.
"It seems you are correct. Everything checks out here. You will still be required to fill out a cargo manifest, which will have to go through the owner of this docking bay. Enjoy your visit." And the inspector was gone.
The two commanding officers looked relieved to see him go, as did the thin, starved looking woman who came out of the docking bay owner's office.
"I'm Ariel Saratak. I own the bay. They told you my price?"
Jarrow nodded at her. "Lemuel Lioncourt. Fifty credits per day."
"That's right. I don't suppose you have a place to stay?"
"Actually, we don't."
"Well there's no hotel, so I have a place right across the street you can rent for ten credits a day. You want it?"
Jarrow glanced at Xpian. "Uh, yeah. Across the street?"
"Yeah, straight across. I'll give you the security code.
The townhouse across from Docking Bay Four was nicer than the SpecForce team had expected. It wasn't the Imperial Palace, but it had plenty of room. It was well worth the ten credits a day they were paying for it.
Teke was getting bored and anxious. Galen and Xpian had been aboard the Chameleon for hours reviewing the holorecording of Jarrow's flyby over the town, while the rest of the group waited for them in the townhouse.
Staring out of the window, Teke sighed. He couldn't think of anything to do. He, along with the rest of the team, had already searched the townhouse for bugs, coming up negative. During the long days in hyperspace he had already checked all the team's weapons to make sure they were all in top condition, and he had also studied the Chameleon's systems and discussed them with Pike.
Just as Teke began considering the possibility of taking a nap, he saw Galen and Xpian exit the docking bay and head toward the door to the townhouse. He waited a moment, staring at the deserted street, before he started down the hall that would take him to the main living area, and to the door.
"So how do things look?" Parker was asking the superior officers as Teke entered the room.
"The target is about five clicks from the northwestern edge of town." Xpian explained. "There's three large single story buildings in a fenced in enclosure."
"I think we need to find our way into the facility prior to our attack." Major Galen added. "I think we can get some people in posing as potential buyers. What do you think?" He asked Xpian.
"Excellent idea sir. It shouldn't be too difficult." The grey near-human agreed.
"But there is another thing you people need to be aware of." Galen added, addressing the whole group. "We could tell from the holovid that there is a rather high concentration of stormtroopers throughout the town. We don't know if they were there for some kind of event or if they always have such a presence throughout the town."
"How many are we talking about? And what were they doing?" Al asked with concern.
"There was quite a bit of them. I'd say possibly more than half the town's population is made up of Imperial personnel. Why there's such a force here, I have no idea, but they appeared to be making patrols." Galen answered.
"You're not going to abort the mission are you?" Parker asked with an unhappy face.
"No. Not yet anyway. I want to know why there needs to be such a large Imp force here. I also want to see the type of relationship between the Imps and the people at Nebulon 14, along with that look at the facilities. Once I know those things..."
Everyones eyes widened as a knocking on the door interrupted Major Galen. Xpian gave a silent hand signal that prompted the soldiers to scatter and hide the weapons and other military equipment out of plain view.
"Who is it?" Galen asked through the comm unit at the door.
* * *
Petyr Saratak whistled as he strolled down the quiet Nekkar street. His seventeenth birthday had comme and gone, and he was still a free man. Definitely something worth celebrating. Well, I'm as free as it gets in this stupid place.
Boy did I outsmart those stupid Imperials! Petyr thought to himself, smiling. He had purposely failed the intelligence and physical tests, although he might have failed the physical test, even if he did decide to try to pass. He was a little small and thin for his age, but he never thought of himself as weak.
He arrived at his mother's docking bay to find a surprise inside. A Corellian YT-1300 surprise to be exact. Could his day get any better? People didn't comme very often to Truidex, and when they came to Docking Bay Four, it was a special occasion.
Along with the badly needed money, Petyr was excited about seeing the people who came in the ships. He had never been off Truidex before, and the only people he saw regularly were other humans, and an occasional Unh'Keam. He knew that long ago Truidex was inhabited by some kind of alien, but his mom told him the Imperials killed them off years and years ago.
But when the smugglers and merchants came, he met all kinds of aliens, and heard of hundreds more. He asked the offworlders to tell him what other cultures and planets were like, and heard all kinds of stories. He even heard once that the Imperials lost a big war and that a New Republic was in charge of most of the galaxy now. He would believe that only when Captain Foxfire and his stormtroopers were dead.
Petyr entered his mothers office with a huge grin. His mother started crying and laughing at the same time, as she gave him a hug that Petyr thought might have broken his ribs. He knew his mother hadn't expected to ever see him again.
She was panicking and screaming when the stormtroopers broke down their door and took Petyr. He knew they would be coming, and didnt try to fight. Those who decided to fight were sent to "re-education". That was probably the scariest word he had ever heard in his life.
One of his friends who was older had ran away into the mountains when his seventeenth birthday came near. The stormtroopers had a grand old time hunting him down, killing him, and parading his body through the streets.
But Petyr was home now, and in one piece. His mother didn't ask him any questions, and just enjoyed the fact that her son would not become a servant of evil.
After spending some time with his mother, he finally asked the question he had been patiently waiting for the appropriate time to ask.
"So where are they?"
"In the townhouse." She answered quietly.
Petyr left his mother and crossed the narrow street between Docking Bay Four and the townhouse his mother owned.
He knocked lightly on the metal blast door and waited for a response. After a few brief moments the filtered voice of a man answered.
"Who is it?" The voice asked.
"My name is Petyr Saratak. My mother owns this building and the docking bay you're parked in. Mind if I comme in?"
There was a long pause before the door slid open with a hiss. On the other side of the door, Petyr saw a man with bright red hair and green eyes, which shocked him. most of the residents of Truidex had brown hair and brown eyes. He had glimpsed a few of the Imperial officers from offworld who had yellow hair, but he didn't know humans could have their hair red.
Petyr quickly regained his composure as the red haired man invited him in. Petyr accepted and entered the familiar room.
"Hi." Petyr said, offering his hand.
"I'm Jens Riley." Galen said taking Petyr's hand and giving it a friendly shake.
"I just came to see if you needed anything." Petyr explained as he glanced at some of the people sitting around in the comfortable room.
Jens Riley glanced at a hairless gray man sitting on one of the couches and nodded at Petyr. "Have a seat."
Petyr got a little nervous. He knew that some of the offworlders were mean people, but he couldn't say no. He took a seat on the couch and couldn't help but stare at the gray man.
"So what can I do for you?" Petyr asked returning his gaze to the red haired man, Jens Riley.
"My friends and I were just having an argument about why the Imperials are here. They think the Imps came here to hide, but I think they have a better reason. You live here. Perhaps you can tell us the real reason."
Petyr looked around the room again. There were only about five people and other than the gray man, they were all human.
"Actually, I can't help you with that one. I don't know if they have a very good reason to be here, but I'm pretty sure they're not hiding from anything. I can't even think of anything those creeps would hide from."
"Haven't you heard of the New Republic kid? They have a lot to hide from if you ask me." A young man with long yellow hair said.
Petyr shrugged. "Well I've heard of 'em, but they mean nothing to us here. We're the Empire's puppets on this planet, and there's nothing we can do about it."
"Don't your people want freedom?" The blond man asked.
"Of course we do!" Petyr answered, looking at the blond man as if he was some kind of idiot. "A few people have tried to fight back, but lets just say they're not around to tell their stories."
The blond man looked at Jens Riley for a moment.
"Hey Jens, can I talk to you in private?"
"Absolutely not!" Galen said sternly to Parker as the part of the team that was in the living area joined the rest of the team in one of the bedrooms.
"What is it?" Xpian asked as he entered the room.
"I requested that we guide the people of Truidex in their own rebellion, Sir." Parker explained.
Xpian shook his head. "The Major is right. That is not part of our mission here. If we did what you ask, we might jeopardize our mission, along with many civilian lives."
"The best we can do is make a request of sending a larger task force to blast the Imps out of the system when we get back to our base."
Parker nodded in understanding and disappointment. Parker was young and had never been involved in the Rebellion, but had always dreamed of being a part of it. Losing the opportunity to help an oppressed planet fight for its freedom made pangs of longing float through his stomach.
Teke stepped forward to the center of the group.
"Do you mind if I make a suggestion?"
"Talk Daggerscout." Galen said, crossing his arms.
"It's obvious that the Empire is this boy's enemy. I think that he could be valuable if used properly. If you think about it, he knows this place better than we do, and could find the answers to your questions much faster than we can."
Major Galen studied Teke for a moment, running the possibilities through his head.
"No. To do that would put an innocent, and untrained, boy in danger. Besides, what if he's an Imp spy. What if he's not, but is captured and tells them everything?"
Teke shrugged. "I think the benefit outweighs the risk, but that's just my opinion."
"Lieutenant Daggerscout, we will not gamble with some farmboy's life." Major Galen argued.
"I agree with Daggerscout." Sungari, the group's heavy weapons specialist put in.
"Yeah," Parker added, "Some of the Alliance's greatest heros were just farmboys before someone gave them the opportunity to take some control over their own lives."
Parker was making an obvious reference to the Jedi Skywalker, but he also had himself in mind. He had grown up on a little known backwater planet called Mentra Three. When he was eleven years old, the Empire thought there might be some kind of rare ore to be found in the hills surrounding his home. Instead of using the usual mining procedures, the Imperial Governor decided that to blast the countryside to smithereens would be more appropriate. Parker's entire family was killed, and the Imperials decided there was no ore there after all.
Major Galen studied the faces of the Thumper Commandos, and knew that they all agreed with the rookie. Daggerscout and Parker both have good points. Galen acknowledged to himself. And he himself believed they could trust the boy. We all used to be like him when we were young.
"Alright, but if anything happens to him, his blood will be on your hands." everyone smiled. "He'll be on a need to know basis, and of course he will be given a choice on whether he wants to help us or not."
"Get up, uh, Fred." The voice from a thousand light years away yelled, interrupting Teke's dream. A dull pain came into being on Teke's right shoulder, and when his mind returned to consciousness, he realized that he was holding the boot that had put the dull pain there.
"You're coming with us." The voice said, now much closer.
Teke scanned the room with unfocused eyes. He should have gone to bed earlier. Bed? When did I start considering the floor a bed? He had been sleeping on this floor every night for almost a week. He spotted the face of Major Galen, and decided that he must have been the source of both the voice and the boot.
Teke forced his sleep numbed body into a sitting position. Everyone but Galen, Xpian, and himself was still sleeping, except for those who were guarding the ship across the street.
"Where are we going?" Teke asked.
"We're going to pay a visit to our slaver friends. Get Drusus up and meet us in the bay. We have a hovercar there waiting for us."
Drusus? It took Teke a second to realize the major was referring to Derik Pike. Drusus was his cover identity. the major had gotten himself into the habit of using the fake names. Not a bad idea. Teke nodded and did as he was told.
On the way out of the townhouse, Teke noticed that the local boy, Petyr, had spent the night with them. It was then that Teke realized exactly how much the boy depended on them. Teke started having second thoughts about what he got the boy into, but quickly pushed the thoughts out of his mind and followed Pike out the door.
They had already spent four days now on Truidex, gathering information. Petyr made the job much faster and easier. But what's in it for him? Teke wondered, but once again stopped himself. He knew full well what was in it for Petyr, even if Petyr did not think of it consciously yet. Besides the adventure and excitement, Petyr would most likely get an all expenses paid trip off this rock. After the mission was competed, they could not possibly leave the boy here, to face Imperial retribution for his involvement.
Most of the things the Special Forces troopers knew, they got from Petyr. They had learned that perhaps half, if not more, of the planets population really was made up of Imperial troops. But thanks to Petyr, they knew that most of, but not all, of these troops were not true Imps. They took most of their strength from the civilian population, who they brainwashed, trained, and put a uniform on. These troops were nothing like the well-trained troops of the Empire that were produced on Carida, and were definitely no match to the Thumper Commandos, twelve of the New Republic's finest, most highly trained, highly motivated, and most deadly ground troops.
Teke and Pike entered the docking bay where the Chameleon was resting, and found Galen and Xpian standing near a beat-up landspeeder. SoroSuub XP-291 Skimmer. Teke thought to himself as all the specs of a stock XP-291 flooded into his brain.
Before anyone could say anything, Major Galen signaled that he wanted talk aboard the Chameleon to avoid eavesdroppers. They silently went around to the ramp of the freighter, where they were met by Ruggambwa. Teke smiled to himself. A Wookie worked well to discourage anyone from tampering with it's property.
Once they were aboard, Galen looked at the other three present with a very serious frown.
"Today, we will visit the Nebulon 14 Complex. I have chosen the both of you to comme for some very obvious reasons. I want you techs to observe the security systems in the place, both external and internal. We need to locate their weaknesses and strengths. We also need to locate certain places of importance. The central commuter, the power generator, the barracks, and the prison cells. You two need to concentrate on this from a techs point of view, while the captain and I worry about the rest. Got it?" They nodded. "We'll of course be using our cover ID's, so be careful not to make any slips. I'll be doing most of the talking, but feel free to ask them a question or two if it'll get you some usable info. I trust that both of you know how to act around these criminal types without blowing our vac-suit."
The four troopers loaded into the speeder and started the short journey to the headquarters of the Nebulon 14 Slaving Enterprise. As they left the small town, they got a better look at the wheat fields. While the beauty of the wind swept fields caught Teke's eye, there was something else that didn't escape his notice. All the laborers out in the fields wore the bright orange jumpsuits of prisoners. Did the slavers make the whiskey as well?
As Galen pulled the speeder up the main gate of the Nebulon 14 Complex, Teke double checked that his pocket blaster and vibroknife was hidden but easily accessible if they met with danger. The baggy sleeves of the civilian clothes NRI provided via Major Galen were perfect for hiding such a weapons.
Posing as customers, the four men had no trouble getting in. Galen did most of the talking as the tall brown skinned Unh'Keam alien led them to where the slaves were housed. Teke walked behind Galen, and soaked in the surroundings.
The complex was surrounded by a ten meter high high-voltage "death fence". Probably Imperial surplus, as the death fence was standard perimeter defense on Imperial garrison bases. Also, there was what looked like five towers manned with guards along the fence.
The complex itself was made up of three large one story buildings. As the lanky alien led them toward the building that contained the slaves, they passed the first building nearest to the front gate and entered a courtyard. One building was directly in front of them, and the other was adjacent to it.
Passing two Unh'Keam guards armed with blaster carbines and sleep inducers as sidearms, Teke carefully scanned the halls looking for sensors, security droids, armored blast doors and such things, while Galen tried to get the alien to talk more about their procedures concerning the slaves.
The group approached an armored blast door where the alien punched a security code in the door's control panel. The door hissed open, and they found themselves in a corridor lined with force fields, and several guards keeping watch. Behind the transparent blue force field on one side was humans, and on the other side was the aliens.
Their orange jumpsuits were soiled and torn, and Teke saw nothing but suffering in their eyes. Teke was about to throw one of his temper tantrums when he caught himself, and reminded himself to use his brain.
"Kind of pitiful looking, aren't they?" Teke said, forcing himself to sound arrogant.
The brown alien looked at Teke. "These creatures are in perfect physical health." The Unh'Keam answered in his heavily accented Basic. "They are unskilled. They are only good for physical labor. They are cheap."
"Why are the humans kept separate from the others?" Galen asked the alien.
"The Imperial Men like it better that way, as do many of our customers." Major Galen nodded. "Come, and I will show the skilled slaves. They cost a little more, but they are well worth it."
The alien led them to the other end of the hallway, and opened another armored blast door. The next room was exactly the same, except the people behind the windows looked better fed and taken care of, but had the same desperate look in their eyes.
Teke scanned the room for the controls for the force fields, and found them beneath the control panel for the blast door. As Major Galen and the alien talked, Teke looked at the human prisoners. While some of them screamed help with their eyes, many others glared at him in utter hatred.
Teke thought he saw a face that somewhat resembled that of his father's, and laughed to himself at the absurdity of it.
"How often are they let out of their cell?" Galen asked the alien.
"Every other day they are exercised, and once a week they are bathed. The unskilled ones are exercised every day, and bathed every other week."
"How do you exercise them?" Galen inquired.
"On days an individual doesnt work in the fields, we make them run. Would you like to see any of them individually?"
Galen looked around. "No, I don't think that'll be necessary right now."
"These slaves have a variety of skills. I am sure we have anything you want, and if we do not, I am sure we can acquire the merchandise for you."
"I have to talk with my boss before any deals can be made."
"I hope you return." The alien said as he led them out.
Galen smiled. "I guarantee we will."
The entire SpecForce unit, along with Petyr Saratak, met in the main cargo hold of Geidi's Chameleon for a special meeting called by Major Galen immediately after his return from the slavers headquarters. Once he was sure he had everyone's attention, Galen began.
"We, meaning Captain Xpian and Lieutenants Pike and Daggerscout, have just returned from our final reconnaissance mission. I have reviewed the rest of the information we have gathered, and I now officially give the mission a full green light.
"The attack on Nebulon 14 Slaving Enterprise will commence at 0200 local time tomorrow morning."
Teke was surprised at himself, but as he put his fatigues on after almost five days of wearing civilian clothes, he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He never saw himself as someone who would enjoy wearing a uniform.
I had been decided that the team would break up into three elements. The first was made up of Jarrow, Henrik, and Laffite. It was their responsibility to keep the Imperial forces too busy to offer the slavers aid. Once they had created the diversion, they were to go to the Chameleon and take her to the back gate of the slaving complex to pick everyone up.
The second element was made up of Al and Pike. Al's job was to get Pike into the room containing the complex's central computer. Once there, it was Pike's job to slice in to the computer and shut down the complex's security systems and communication. The third element was everyone else. They would be the ones to get the slaves and herd them out to the Chameleon.
Teke hated this part. The part where just before a battle, you had to force yourself to ignore the fact that you or one of your friends might very well be dead within the next few hours. Teke fastened his utility belt to his waist and slipped an ammo bandolier loaded with power packs over his shoulder.
"Hey man, we're about to move out." Parker announced, sticking his head in the doorway. Teke nodded solemnly and joined his squad.
Teke knew that he would at least be dying to save the lives of others, instead of dying trying to get a few credits. That was a fair enough trade for him.
"Alright Tech-Boy, you know the drill." Al whispered to Pike as they crouched behind a rock about one hundred meters from Nebulon 14's death fence.
"Shut up, stay close, and follow General Madine's third rule of war." Pike whispered back. "Use your brains."
"Fast learner." Al remarked with a wicked grin.
"Faster than you, Hero." Pike countered with an equally wicked grin. "You got your sensor scrambler on?"
"On and scrambling."
"Joy. Lets go do some slicing."
Laffite, Jarrow and Henrik crouched in the shadows of Nekkar's main power station. It was a calm, quiet night, and there were only two stormtroopers on patrol in the immediate area. Laffite switched her blaster setting to stun, grabbed the satchel at her feet, and glanced back at the pilot and the medic.
"Cover me." She whispered before she began to creep along the wall, careful to stay in the protection of the shadows.
When the urban guerilla felt she was in a good position, she quickly jumped out from her cover and stunned the first trooper. The other stormtrooper was obviously inexperienced and hesitated a moment before he could bring his carbine to bear. That moment of hesitation was all Laffite needed. In one smooth motion she stunned the second trooper, and began dragging the paralyzed bodies into the shadows.
Once the guards were out of the way, Laffite slunk like a Defel through the night to the power station's control room. She silently peeked through an open window near the door to find a sleeping officer in the chair in front of the main control panel. There didn't appear to be any security sensors in the room, so she leapt through the window and stunned the officer before he even knew there was an intruder.
Laffite opened the satchel and removed several fist sized cubes of detonite which she began placing on the control panels. She removed the pins and pressed the detonation switches. The room would blow in two minutes. The guerilla from Ord Mantell turned to leave the room, but paused for a moment.
She approached the comm unit and with a grin, switched it on.
"Sir!" She yelled, "There's, Oh no! Not that! Aahhh!" and smashed the handle of her blaster into the comm unit, cutting off the transmission. She smiled again and took her exit of the room.
She knew the Imperials wouldn't believe that the officer had made the distress call, but she knew the call would confuse them, and that was what she wanted. Laffite returned to the spot where she left her comrades, and thankfully, they were still there.
"Let's get back to the ship." The pilot and the medic nodded, and headed off toward Docking Bay Four.
A loud insistent knocking came on the door of Captain Foxfire's personal quarters waking the captain from a dream about twin Twi'Lek dancing girls. Foxfire got up and opened the door. On the other side stood a frightened looking young officer.
"This better be good, or I'll have you executed!" Foxfire growled.
The wide-eyed officer swallowed hard and licked his lips. "Sir! Someone has blown up the control station to the main power generator rendering it inoperative. The auxiliary systems have comme on."
It took a moment for the young man's words to soak into Foxfire's sleepy head. Whatever idiot in the town that terrorized the Empire would not live to sun rise in the morning. Foxfire thought as he turned to get dressed.
"There they go." Captain Xpian announced to his soldiers as he watched Pike and Al through his infrared macrobinoculars. "Now we hold here and wait for their signal."
Laying on her stomach in the tall grass, Al still wasn't sure how she would get Pike and herself into the complex. It was designed to keep people in, but also did an excellent job of keeping intruders out.
The infiltrator racked her brain, trying to comme up with a plan. Just as she was about to curse herself for not planning in advance, something occurred to her. The prisoners are all behind force fields, in a secure building, under guard. Al knew by the low frequency hum and smell of ozone that the death fence was on, but as she took out her scanner, she saw that her suspicions were correct, and she was very thankful.
The scanner reported that there were no life-forms in the nearest of the complex's five observation towers, which was not protected by the death fence.
Al crawled on her elbows to the base of the tower, with Pike following. Once she reached her destination, she pointed to the top of the twelve meter high tower and then pointed at the small grappler hook on her utility belt. Pike nodded as Al removed the hook and cable from her belt.
Staying low, she stood on her feet, backed away from the tower, and threw the hook at the open observation window at the top of the tower. She felt it catch on something, and gave it a good hard tug.
Thankful that she had gotten it right on the first try, she returned to the base and started pulling herself up. Once she was at the top, she flung herself over the ledge and took a look around the observation deck.
Pretty empty. Just a comm unit, a strange chair obviously not designed for humans, and a gun rack filled with what she guessed to be Prax Arms HB-4 projectile rifles.
As Pike climbed into the room, Al began thinking about her next move. In places like this with the guards relaxed, it was sometimes possible to just go around and enter the buildings through the front door. Al decided against the idea and took a look around the complex with her infrared scope.
From where they were on the tower, they were only a meter or two away from the roof of the building they needed to infiltrate. As she scanned the roof, she saw something that made her very happy. There's nothing like a good old-fashioned ventilation shaft.
She returned the scope to her pocket and crawled out onto the ledge. With a bounding leap she flew over the gap and found herself on the flat roof of the building containing the slaver's personal quarters, along with the complex's central computer.
She waited for Pike to join her before scrambling over to the top of the shaft. She removed the wire mesh grate and stuck her head into the hole. It looked like they would fit.
Al took out her glowrod and slipped into the vent. With Pike following her, Al followed the shaft until she could see a faint glow up ahead. She switched off her glowrod and continued forward. As she suspected, the light was a grate.
She looked through and saw that they were above a slavers barrack. Al could see another dim light ahead and silently headed toward it. Once again, she peeked down, but this time saw a hallway. She pointed to the grate and Pike nodded.
Al backed off so Pike could make use of himself and get to the grate. Derik Pike took out a pocket tool kit and removed some tool Al had never seen before. Pike easily unfastened the grate, and gestured to Al that she should go first.
Al sneered at the tech and jumped into the hole. The dark hallway was free of living guards, but Al had no idea of what other security might be in the building. It might be as heavy as it was in the other buildings that they had managed to scout, or it might have no security at all.
Pike dropped from the ceiling and looked around. There was a heavy blast door on one side of the hall, a door with a large lock on the opposite end of the hall, and another hall branching off to the left of them, along with weak doors without locks along the halls. Pike pointed to small but heavily locked door.
Al nodded in agreement and they headed toward it. Upon arrival at the door, they noticed that the door just to the right also had a heavy lock. Pike frowned and studied the two control panels. After a moment of consideration, Pike went to the control panel on the right and began pressing bottons.
Suddenly he pulled his hand away as if he had been burned. He shook his head and went to the other control panel and began pressing it's buttons. He nodded and studied the lock for a moment. He reached into one of his pockets and pulled out what Al called one of his Toys. Some technological doohickey of which Al had no idea of what in the Galaxy what it did or how it did it.
Pike hooked a wire hanging from the Toy into a jack on the lock's control panel. He pushed a few buttons on the Toy and all the red lights on the control panel turned green. Pike disconnected the Toy and returned it to his pocket.
Pike drew his sidearm and pressed a button on the panel. The door slid open and Al rushed in, blaster blazing. The two alien guards on duty in the computer room were dead before Pike could even step through the doorway.
The dead hallway came alive with confused, sleepy Unh'Keam aliens. Pike shot at those who were armed while Al secured the computer room.
"Sure could use a hand over here!" Pike called out over the blaster fire. Al rushed over and joined the firefight.
"Shut the door!" Al yelled.
Just as Pike turned toward the door's control panel, a blaster shot caught him in the leg. Pike crumpled to the ground, then crawled to the control panel. He looked up at it for a moment, made an angry face, shut the door, and then blasted the controls.
"How bad is it?" Al asked, rushing over to help Pike off the ground.
"Could be worse." Pike answered through gritted teeth.
Al examined the wound. Good. It didn't hit bone, and the heat of the blast charred the flesh, keeping it from bleeding. It was a painful hit, but wasn't anything that would kill him.
"Help me to the terminal." Pike muttered dizzily.
Al did as she was told, placing the tech in the alien chair. Pike immediately went to work with the computer's keypad.
Al took out her comlink and switched it on. The transmissions would be encoded, and while the code would not be impossible to break, by time the enemy decoded the message, it would be too late.
"This is Pieg, anyone hear me?"
"Loud and clear." Major Galen's voice answered.
"We're in the computer now. The slavers have been alerted to infiltration. You should begin your approach now. I'll signal you when security is dead."
Major Galen put his comlink back on his belt and picked up his heavy BlasTech A280 blaster rifle.
The Thumper Commandos readied their rifles and took of in a mad sprint toward the death fence.
Galen's comlink beeped again, and he answered while still running. "Yeah?"
"Sir," Henrik began, "we've got a little problem in town."
As Henrik spoke to Major Galen through the comlink, Laffite and Jarrow could do nothing but watch as the normally abandoned streets of Nekkar quickly filled with rioters.
It seems that after the commandos blew the power station, the Imperials decided to lock everyone into their homes. Well, one resident decided he had enough of the Imperials and decided to pick a fight. And what a fight it had become.
The once controlled residents of Nekkar ran rampant through the streets brutally killing anyone in a shiny white shell with anything they could. Many of the rioters had taken the weapons from their kills, and firefights had broken out across the village.
Henrik put his comlink away and turned to his friends.
"He said we have some time, but not much. They're just now advancing on the complex."
Jarrow stared at the ground in thought.
"Ya know, I got some spare blasters and grenades in the Chameleon. I think we should give them to the rebels."
The other two commandos agreed and rushed into the YT-1300.
* * *
Captain Bryson Foxfire watched from a second story, and thankfully blastproof, window as the town erupted in revolt.
He tried desperately to look calm even though his mind was as chaotic as his town.
"Sir!" The communications officer called out with panic. "We've lost the entire 3rd Company!"
The battle was going badly, and was quickly getting worse. The civilians were fighting better than any of his trained troops, and were steadily becoming better armed. Now they were carrying non-Imperial weapons, and some were even going around lobbing grenades at his troops. How did they get those weapons? They must have been planning this assault for quite some time. How could I have been so blind?
* * *
Teke could hear the explosions as the sky behind him lit up with not so distant fires.
What in the known galaxy had Laffite, Jarrow, and Henrik done to keep the Imps busy? Teke asked himself as he ran toward the death fence. Whatever they did, they did a very good job.
"The death fence is off!" Major Galen shouted, and even though Teke thought he was running as fast as he could, he felt himself speed up.
As he got closer to the fence, he slung his heavy but extremely powerful rifle onto his back. Still running he leapt onto the death fence, and thankfully discovered that Major Galen was not a liar.
He climbed the fence as fast as he could with his friends just behind him. He jumped off the fence when he was halfway down the other side and landed in roll to make the landing a little softer. He quickly grabbed his rifle and opened fire into the slaver's welcoming committee.
As soon as all the Thumpers were over the fence they took off toward the building containing the slaves. Ruggambwa and Roux, the Thumpers wilderness specialists, broke off from the group to secure their exit route.
When the Thumpers fought their way to the door they wanted, they let Teke have a look at the door lock. It was nothing too hard to break. No gene scanners or anything.
Teke took from his pocket one of the jury rigged lock breakers Pike had thrown together. He plugged it into the jack and watched as the small computer did its work.
Within moments the door was unlocked. Teke smiled as he returned the handy little device to his pocket. He punched some buttons which the door thought was the correct security code, and the heavy blast door hissed open for the Thumpers to make their entrance.
The commandos picked off the few guards in the room and blasted the automated weapons systems.
Teke turned to the control panel to the force field as the rest or the Thumpers watched his back and tried to calm the prisoners.
"Search the slaver's bodies for the force field key!" Teke ordered as he took out his pocket tool kit and began to work on picking the lock. The controls first needed to be unlocked before you could turn the force field off.
"Here it is!" Sungari, the heavy weapons specialist called out.
Teke found the key had been placed in his hand and threw his tools down. He slipped the key in and turned it. The force field dissipated and the frightened slaves poured out.
As the commandos did their best to keep the slaves together, the blast door to the second room opened. Pike had opened it through the computer.
The Thumpers took care of the guards in the next room and then herded the slaves over. They didn't need to worry about the automated weapons anymore because Pike had cut their power.
Teke went to the second force field controls, slipped the key in and turned it. Nothing happened.
"See if there's another key!" Teke yelled as he ran back into the other room to pick up his tools.
"Here's one." Parker announced as Teke returned to the control panel. It was the same key as the other one. Teke decided to try it anyway. He slipped in the key, turned it, and nothing happened. Teke's jaw dropped as his heart rate increased.
"Give me the comlink!" He yelled at Major Galen. The Major looked ready to argue with him about who should be giving orders to whom when he thought better of it and handed the comlink to the Lieutenant.
"Al! Let me talk to Pike!" A pause. "I know he's busy! Put him on!" Teke yelled looking like his face was about to explode.
"Pike, there's an override on the manual override! I can't shut off the second room's force field." Another pause. "Thank You!"
Teke gave the comlink back to the Major and tried to collect himself.
"He can do it from the computer. We have to wait a few seconds."
"Teke." A quiet voice called from behind the force field. If Teke's heart rate had been fast before, it stopped completely when he heard that voice.
Teke slowly turned around and faced what should have been a ghost. He felt his knees weaken, and a blackness began to close in around him.
Parker caught Teke before he collapsed to the ground and glared at the man that had shocked his friend enough to make him nearly faint.
"What did you do to him?" Parker asked accusingly.
"I'm his father."
"We have to go. Now." Henrik said softly to Petyr at the bottom of the Chameleon's ramp. Petyr's mother had decided she wanted to stay on Truidex to help her people rebuild their town and to create a government. So Petyr and his mother had been having a big emotional good-bye, while Jarrow waited ready to blast over to Nebulon 14.
The boy hugged his mom and ran up the freighter's ramp.
* * *
The battle was lost. Bryson Foxfire knew that for a fact as he blankly stared out the window. He was a naval captain, not army. He had no idea what to do. He didn't even have a place to retreat to. He could go to his Dreadnaught that sat in orbit, but he wouldn't have enough fuel to go very far. Plus his shuttles didn't have hyperdrives. He would just have to muster some troops to steal him a privately owned ship.
He continued to watch the slowing battle. Some of the officers who had not been re-educated were out there fighting for the enemy. He looked on as an old woman cut down half a stormtrooper squad before dashing for cover. How could some old lady fight better than his brainwashed young men reprogrammed to be killing machines?
Foxfire sighed and turned to look at one of his assistants. Just as he was about to order having a ship confiscated for his evacuation, the office's door hissed open.
Several troopers tried to hold back a very determined woman from trying to enter the room.
"Lyra! Let her go. What are you doing here?"
"Thought you might need some help." The smuggler said as she snatched her arms away from the guards.
Foxfire studied the smuggler cynically. "How much is this help going to cost me?"
Lyra looked hurt, then smiled. "I'll discuss that with you later. Do you want to get off this rock, or not?"
All eyes in the central control room turned to Captain Foxfire. He looked back at each pair of eyes in turn, and then returned his gaze out the window into the night.
"Order retreat." Foxfire commanded the communications officer.
"Retreat!" One of the officers yelled angrily as Foxfire walked out the door. "To where sir!? There's nowhere to go!"
* * *
Teke blinked the blackness from his eyes and focused them on the man in front of him: his father. The very father that was supposed to have died nine years ago. Major Galen grabbed Teke by the shirt and pulled him away.
"Get a grip Lieutenant! We're in the middle of a battle here."
Teke nodded, but the room was still spinning. Galen threw Teke at Parker.
"Make sure he doesnt get himself killed." The Major growled. Almost as if it was on cue, the last force field came down. "Alright everyone," Major Galen instructed the slaves, "Stay close together, and calmly go out the north exit."
Choosing to ignore the word "calmly", the mob of prisoners bumrushed the door to the north.
Outside, the group was met by a firefight in progress as the Unh'Keam attacked Giedi's Chameleon, which was just on the other side of the complex's open rear gate. Major Galen and the commandos herded the mob aboard the freighter while fighting off the attackers, who were quickly advancing.
Crouching behind one of the Chameleon's landing struts, Galen began picking off the tall brown aliens, and was soon joined by Murat.
"Cover me!" Galen instructed the Elomin as he lowered his rifle to search for his comlink. "Pieg! This is Galen. Report!"
"We're on the roof of Building One." Al's filtered voice explained, barely audible over blaster fire and grenade explosions. "We were about to start our way down. Should we proceed?"
Galen examined the fights progress. "Negative. Remain where you are. We'll pick you up."
"Roger that Major!"
The Chameleon was almost loaded and Major Galen knew that Lieutenant Pike was hit. He didn't see any other logical choice.
As the last of the now freed slaves boarded the freighter, the rest of the Thumpers followed.
On board, there was no less chaos then there was outside. Ragged, frightened, and many injured, people wandered around the ship. Some laughing, many crying.
Galen felt the ship's repulsors kick in as they left the ground. The Major helped herd the wandering people into the cargo hold before he began barking orders to his comlink.
"Jarrow, pick up a couple of friends on the roof of Building One."
"On my way sir."
"Henrik, set up a temporary sick bay in the lounge."
"Dearborn, get into the gun-well in case there's any surprises."
"Already there sir."
Major Galen nodded in satisfaction and headed toward the cockpit.
Jarrow eased the Chameleon to hover a few feet over the roof of the building designated Building One, and lowered the ramp.
"Light 'em and burn 'em Jarvis!" Al's voice called over the comm unit in the cockpit.
Jarrow closed the ramp and kicked in the sublight engines, frying the building's roof to a crisp as they shot forward and headed out of the planet's atmosphere.
"Look!" Laffite, who was playing co-pilot exclaimed, pointing to the sensor display.
"I see it." Jarrow acknowledged, rather calmly Laffite thought, considering they were picking up a capital ship moving into their vector. "There's our Captain's Dreadnaught." Jarrow confirmed as the cruiser came into view.
Major Galen slipped into the cockpit just as the comm unit beeped.
"Unidentified ship, this system is under curfew. Please shut down your engines and prepare for docking."
Jarrow smiled broadly as reached over to the comm unit. "Imperial Scum Cruiser, this is New Republic Special Forces team, the Thumper Commandos. I'd like to see you try and stop us."
Sungari's voice came over the ship's in-ship comm. "Should I fire up the cannons?"
"Negative, that won't be necessary. Our people might want to comme back and take that ship."
"Excuse me Lieutenant," Galen interrupted. "Don't you think you're being a little overconfident?"
Jarrow smiled at the Major. "Not at all, sir." And as the Chameleon left Truidex's atmosphere and blasted past the Dreadnaught's engines, Galen saw why. "That ship's dead in orbit sir. It's broken or out of fuel, but either way, they're in no position to threaten us. It's just a sick coincidence that they're in our exit vector. Laffite, prepare for Lightspeed."
When Teke awoke he found himself in one of the Chameleon's bunks. He could tell by the throbbing in his head that he'd been sleeping for quite some time.
"How do you feel?" Henrik, who had been standing in the doorway, asked looking very concerned.
Teke sat up and tried to straighten his sleep-squashed hair. "Uh, just a little headache. Thats all. So where are we?"
"Hyperspace, en route to Ord Pardron. Are you thirsty?"
"Now that you mention it, I am."
The medic left and returned with a cup of stale recycled water. Teke thanked him and swallowed the whole thing down before continuing their conversation.
"So how is... everything going?"
"A few of the people were injured in the escape, but I've got them stabilized now. All they need now is a little Bacta. Pike was hit in the leg, and he'll need a dip too, but his leg be back to normal in a week. So how are you?" Henrik asked again.
"What?! I'm fine." Teke answered with a smile.
Henrik looked at him a little disbelievingly and nodded in resignation before leaving.
Teke sighed as his memories of yesterday's events flooded back to him. The mission was a success, and... and my father is alive and here, on this ship. Teke took another deep breath. He didn't know how he felt or what he thought, if he even felt or thought anything at all. He stood up and walked to the cargo bay.
The bay was crowded with people- humans and aliens alike- sitting around talking about what they were going to do and where they were going to go now that they were free, and telling their versions of the fight out of the complex. Teke smiled when he saw Parker lavishly telling stories of how the Rebels won the war, and answering their many questions about the state of the Galaxy. Teke saw that his father was part of that audience.
He watched in silence, staring intensely at Rey, as if the image might disappear at any moment. Much to Teke's satisfaction, it didn't.
Surprising to Teke, his father looked pretty much the way he remembered him. Other than the grey streaks in his dark hair and the need for a bath, Rey didn't look bad for a man who had spent the past eleven years of his life as a prisoner and slave.
Feeling Teke's stare, Rey turned his attention toward the door and smiled. Teke's heart jumped into his throat, leaving a vacuum in his chest, and he felt the urge to run away. As Rey got up and started walking toward his youngest son, Teke pushed away his unidentifiable fears and stood his ground.
When Rey reached Teke, they stood in silence for a moment, just looking at each other. Slowly, Rey reached up and felt the stubble on his son's cheek. Rey smiled weakly and wrapped his arms around his boy, who was now slightly taller than he was. Teke cautiously returned the hug, rested his chin on his father's shoulder, and tried valiantly not to cry.
"Here we are," Lyra announced as she put her ship down on a dirty and unkept landing pad. "Tresidiss. My home planet."
Foxfire looked out the viewport and winced. "What a very... charming settlement."
Lyra smiled. Tresidiss was a planet that was a well-known haven for criminals of all sorts, and to add to the planet's notoriety, everyone knew that the planet had certain... agreements with the Empire.
"So when are you going to tell me how I can repay you?" Foxfire asked carefully.
"Rhan," Lyra said, turning to her felineoid Farghul co-pilot, "Why don't you go try to get us a good deal on our docking fees. A very good deal."
The Farghul's eyes slanted in delight. If there was anything a Farghul loved more than stealing from somebody, it was conning someone. Rhan left the cockpit with a sleek agility Bryson was not surprised to see from the cat-like alien.
Lyra then returned her attention to the Imperial Captain who had deserted his men and his post to save his own hide. She liked that in him.
"You were going to say?" Foxfire urged.
"I have an idea that could make us both quite a bit of credits."
"Your UnhKeam aliens were holding a slave by the name of Rey Daggerscout."
"How do you know that?" Bryson asked accusingly.
"Don't ask. However, my boss, Farouk Narr has a grudge against him. I'm not sure why, but it doesnt matter. Narr is a very stupid man, I believe he will be willing to pay a large sum of money to exact revenge."
Foxfire nodded. "Then why didn't we pick him up before leaving Truidex?"
Lyra smiled crookedly. "It seems my dear Captain, that a New Republic team has attacked your little aliens and stolen your slaves." Foxfire looked at the smuggler questioningly. "Don't ask." She warned before he could ask.
"But then if the Rebels have taken him, how do we get him back?"
"We don't need to get him back. All we need to do is find him. Narr will find pleasure in taking care of that himself."
"So how do we find him? The galaxy is a very large place."
"Well the New Republic had to have his location on file. I have connections to a very good slicer who owes me for something I did for him. He can access the information, and then we sell it to Narr. Easy as pie."
"So how do we split the credits? You said we both gain from this." Foxfire asked cautiously.
Shocked, Foxfire kept his mouth shut. He shouldn't be getting that much. Actually, he shouldn't be getting anything at all. She didn't need him at all for this little operation. She could have left him on Truidex, could have still done what she is planning, and could have gotten all the credits for herself.
Foxfire nodded. "Sounds good."
* * *
After stopping at Ord Pardron and dropping off the freed slaves, Major Galen had managed to pull some strings and get the Thumpers on guard duty in the Imperial Palace so Pike could fully recover and Teke could spend time with his father.
Teke spent his free time talking to his father and taking Rey to see the sights of Coruscant. They had gone to Monument Park, the Galactic Museum, Skydome Botanical Gardens, and the Grand Corridor in the week that they have been on Coruscant.
Tonight, however, Teke had taken Rey out with his friends to the galactic capital's best nightclubs. Rey seemed to enjoy himself, but got tired and went back to Teke's room a little after midnight.
Teke left the bar area of the dark club and found a table where he had a good view of the dance floor and took a seat. Al came and took the seat next to him, laughing with a bottle in her hand. She handed the bottle to Teke, who sniffed it, shrugged, and took a drink.
"That's a nice suit you have on!" Al yelled over the blasting, angry sounding music.
"Thanks." Teke replied, looking down at the all black tailored suit, as if he forgot what he was wearing. Now that he served the New Republic and knew what one looked like, the suit reminded him of a black version of a pilot's ground uniform.
"Where'd you get it?" Teke smiled. He couldn't think of an occasion where Al didn't want to involve herself in a conversation with someone.
"A girl named Kit gave it to me for my birthday last year." Teke answered, smile fading as his mind's eye flashed images of his brother's and co-pilot's deaths, which he knew were his fault.
Al could tell by the look in Teke's blue eyes that she shouldn't pursue that subject further.
"Hey Daggerscout!" Parker's voice called out over the loud pulsing music. He could see Parker approaching, with Pike walking behind him.
"Yeah?" Teke asked as two of his comrades sat down across from him.
"This girl just gave me five tickets to tomorrow's swoop race."
"You mean today's." Teke yelled back as he glanced at his wrist chrono. The sun would be rising in only about an hour. "Why did she give them to you?"
Parker shrugged. "She was hitting on me. So do you and your dad want to go?" Teke nodded. "Good. Pike and Al already claimed the other two. We should go back to the barracks and freshen up. The race starts in only a few hours."
Teke slid his access card through the slot and entered the security code that would unlock the door to his small suite. He entered his darkened room.
"He must be asleep." Teke said to Al who was behind him.
"Of course he's asleep. He has common sense." Al commented dryly.
"Lights on." Teke commanded the room. The lights came on, slowly growing in brightness. As Teke's eyes adjusted, he found that Rey wasn't on the couch where he expected to find him. "Must be in my bed." Teke mumbled as he checked his bedroom. Empty.
"Hey Daggerscout." Al called from the living area. "There's a message for you." Teke came back into the living area and went to the comm center.
He hit the Receive control and sat down as an image of a grossly obese human appeared on the viewscreen; not at all the image he expected to see.
"All right boy, listen up." The recorded message began. "I'm sure you're wondering where Daddy is. I have him here with me." The man looked off to the side as Rey's face was shoved into view. He was gagged and blindfolded, and was being held roughly by the neck. "My name is Farouk Narr, and have no doubt that I have him in my possession. Now, here's where it gets good. You can have your daddy back, maybe even in one piece, if you meet me in exactly one week on Tresidiss in a bar called The Mangala at local midnight. Oh yeah, and bring twenty-one thousand credits while you're at it." The man grinned evilly. "It doesnt matter to me much what you decide to do. I win either way. If you come, I get money. If you dont, I have the pleasure of killing Daddy Daggerscout." The man made a kissy gesture, which did some pretty nasty things with his triple chins, pulled out a blaster and shot the recording device, effectively ending the message.
Teke sighed and rubbed his temples, fighting off the oncoming famous Teke Temper Tantrum.
"Do you know this Farouk Narr?" Al asked cautiously after waiting a proper amount of time.
Teke sighed again and dropped his hands. "No, not personally. He's a small smuggler boss."
"Why would a smuggler want to kidnap someone?"
Teke shook his head. "Narr is a known slimeball. Most smugglers have a sense of honor, though it may be a little twisted. But Narr has none whatsoever. Nobody likes him. He has so many enemies, I'm surprised he hasn't bought the Depp yet."
"Slimeball or no slimeball, why would he take a man who has no money or a rich family?"
"I don't know." Teke said thoughtfully. "And twenty one thousand isn't all that much to ask for a ransom."
"Does he have any reason to target you?"
"I don't think so. My brother and I were careful not to make anyone with an itchy trigger finger mad. Unless..."
"It was your father he was after. He implied he would particularly enjoy killing Rey."
Teke nodded in agreement. "I wonder where they ran into each other. Maybe..." Teke's eyes slowly wandered around the room, then widened. "That's it! That has to be it!"
"My father always told us this story about how he ended up on Tatooine. When he was young, on Corellia, he sometimes went gambling on Treasure Ship Row. Well, once he made a bet with money he didn't have, and as luck would have it, he lost. So he sold everything he owned, but it still wasn't enough. However, it was enough for him to hitch a ride with a friendly smuggler to hide, and the smuggler dropped him off on Tatooine. Anyway, he would always comment on how incredibly fat the man he lost to was. Huge, I mean a real Hutt! It must have been Narr."
"It's possible. So do you have twenty one thousand credits?"
"But you're not going to give it to Narr are you?"
Teke gave Al a surprised look. "Of course I'm not."
The front door hissed open as Parker and Pike came into the room.
"What's taking you so long?"
Teke leaned on the ramp of the Chameleon with his arms crossed. He felt impatient, but only let it show through his menacing glare. Pike entered the docking bay and nodded to Teke as he boarded the ship. Teke only nodded back, and continued to wait. One by one, Al, Parker, and Jarrow, also boarded the ship silently. As the last commando boarded the ship, Teke followed and shut the ramp.
The rest of the Thumpers save Xpian knew about Teke's personal mission, and agreed to work their guard shifts double time to make up for the five that were sneaking away. They knew Xpian would notice their absence eventually, but they didnt care. They didnt expect to take that long anyway.
Teke sat in the Chameleons gun well, looking out into the blur of hyperspace, thinking quietly to himself.
"Hey Daggerscout." Jarrow called from the top of the well. "Well be coming up on Tresidiss soon. You know what you want to do yet?"
Teke slowly turned his gaze to Jarrow. "I think so. Its not a very good plan I guess, but if we can take out the Empire, Im sure we can handle this lump of sithspit."
"Just like old times." Teke mumbled to himself as he stood across the street from The Mangala. It was a cantina just like about every other cantina in the Galaxy. This one however was for the slightly wealthier criminal, and was a little more high class. Teke wore the black suit Kit Kole gave him for the occasion. He sighed and checked his chrono. Local midnight. It was time. He made the walk across the street.
As he entered The Mangala, he was greeted by a Duros doorman who offered to take his jacket. Teke declined and looked around the place. He acted like he was just looking for Narr, but he knew Jarrow and Pike were in there too, and wanted to find their exact location. They were sitting at a dark booth, where they had both a good view of Narrs table and all the exits to the room.
Al and Parker were nowhere to be seen. But that was part of the plan. They were the real backup for Teke. Jarrow and Pike were just supposed to communicate with them. Teke had no idea where Al and Parker were. They could have been in the walls for all he knew. Infiltrators were weird like that. Heck, they could be in Narrs back pocket and hed never know they were there.
Teke smiled to himself at the thought and started walking to Narrs table. Narr was in a booth at the far corner. Obviously a table reserved only for the best customers. Narr wasnt alone. With him sat a human female smuggler-type, and an uncomfortable looking man who looked at Teke with the most malicious glare Teke had ever seen. It sent chills down his spine. As he approached the table, Teke just glared back.
"Please, have a seat." Narr offered Teke with a smile. Teke watched Narrs chins jiggle around as he spoke.
"You better have what I came for." Teke threatened coldly, remaining standing.
Narr looked up at Teke for a moment. "Alright then. I suppose we can skip right to the business at hand. Follow me."
Teke took a step back from the table to allow Narr to get up, but Narr didnt move. Instead the Duros doorman approached with a repulsor chair, and helped the woman at the table slide Narrs body into it. Narr situated himself in the chair and sighed.
With the chairs manual controls, Narr maneuvered the chair over toward the door Teke thought was probably the kitchen. The woman and the glaring man followed them in, as Teke noticed several other people get up from their tables and follow them. Obviously some of Narrs henchmen. He must have more hidden around the place.
Narr led the entourage through the kitchen, and then into another room. This room was narrow and lined with plasteel crates. Jedi only knew what was in them. Teke truly doubted it was food. The room was dark, with only a thin blue light filtering in. The place gave him the creeps. They continued to the back of the room, where Teke paused at what he saw. His father, in binders and gagged, looked like he had gotten the beating of a lifetime. His face was bruised and smashed, blood splattered all over his shirt. Barely recognizable. Teke felt his heart catch in his throat, and hoped Al and Parker were in a good position.
The woman that was at the table stepped up to Tekes side and looked at Teke looking at Rey, and grinned. "Nice piece of work, huh?" She said in a cheerful tone.
Teke slowly turned to her and just stared at her. She quickly lost the grin as she looked into his cold blue eyes. That moment of hesitation was all that Teke needed. He kicked his leg out, clipping the back of her knees, which forced her to kneel on the ground. Before she or anyone else could even respond to the attack, he had her head in his grip. One snap is all it took and the woman was dead.
By the time her lifeless body slumped to the ground, the place was alive with blaster fire. Teke crouched down to avoid being hit, and saw the man from the table running after him with a snarl. Teke pulled his vibroknife from his sleeve and waited for the man. Angry and obviously not thinking, the man wasnt planning on doing anything to Teke but beating the stang out of him.
The man leapt at Teke as Teke ducked under him and flipped him. The man landed flat on his back, but quickly scrambled to his feet and ran at Teke again. This time Teke grabbed the man and swung him under his arm, ending in the position of Teke having a firm hold on him, with the knife to his throat.
"Kill him!" The man yelled over the blaster fire. Teke looked up to see who he was yelling at and saw the image of Narr holding a blaster to Reys head. Rey. In all the commotion, lost in his own anger, Teke had practically forgot about his father. A million images flashed through Teke mind. Images of Tap, and images of Tap being killed. The world seemed to go into slow motion as Teke saw the bodies of his brother and his friend - blaster charred, crumpled on the cold metal floor. Tekes fault. All his fault.
In the split second he had he looked at Narr pleadingly as he absorbed the image. The new image. The new image of yet another loved one being killed because of his own stupid mistakes. Narrs bloated lips curled into a grin as he squeezed the trigger.
Teke tried not to look. He knew he shouldnt, but he couldnt make himself look away. He watched as the blaster bolt tore its way through Reys skull, exploding out of the back and splattering his half melted brains all over the wall on the other side. Teke felt is body go numb as the vomit started making the journey back up his esophagus. Teke swallowed it down.
He was so numb, he didnt even feel it when the man he was clenching elbowed him in the stomach. The world was a swirling chaos around him, and he didnt feel a part of it. Didnt even feel that he was connected to his body. He felt he was flying. Flying at Narr. With a shuddering crunch, Teke realized he wasnt flying, he was running. But he WAS running at Narr. As Teke looked down at his hands, he stared at what caused the crunch.
In his hands he still held the vibroknife. Blood spurted all over the knife and his hands as he pulled the blade from Narrs skull. Teke shuddered as he looked into Narrs open, dead eyes, which in turn were looking back at him. The room was silent. There was no more blaster fire. Teke dropped the knife and looked up. Pike and Parker held the man from the table in a tight grip. Jarrow leaned against a stack of crates holding his side in pain, and Al stood in the middle of the room, her blaster lowered. All of them just standing there, all of them staring at Teke.
His nose was running, and he felt the tears coming. Not wanting to cry with people staring at him, Teke inhaled deeply, tightened his jaw, and sprinted directly at the man Parker and Pike held. Teke put his forearm out, striking the man across the chest and knocking him to the ground. Teke landed on top of the man and pulled his blaster and pressed it up against the mans head.
The man was wincing, not just because he was about to have his head blown off, but because Teke was pressing the barrel of the gun so hard against his head it was drawing blood.
"Daggerscout, dont." Parker said, trying to calm Teke down, but too afraid to come closer.
Teke felt a hand placed on his shoulder and almost jumped. He tore his penetrating gaze from the man and looked at Al over his shoulder. "Teke," She said quietly. He looked into her eyes, and at that moment, he knew that killing this man would gain him no satisfaction. There was enough blood on his hands. All his anger ever earned him was more misery. He was directly responsible for the deaths of three people he loved. All because of his anger.
He looked back at the man and lowered his blaster. Without looking up, he held his hand out as Al handed him a set of binders. He cuffed the man, then climbed off him and sat next to him on the floor, his head hanging between his knees.
Pike helped the man up and escorted him out, as Parker helped Jarrow out the door. Al sat down next to Teke and put her arm around his shoulder. Neither of them said a word.
Major Galen sat in his office with Captain Xpian. The air seemed too recycled and stuffy to be normal. Galen clicked on the comm.
"Send him in." The door slid open with the usual hiss of pressurized air, and Lieutenant Teke Daggerscout entered and saluted. "Have a seat Lieutenant." Galen said gravely.
Galen studied Tekes face. Hed seen that face before. That was the face of a combat veteran who had lost a large part of himself in battle, and was trying to pretend that he hadnt. Hed seen that look a lot. Too often. Hed even seen it in the mirror. The Major cleared his throat.
"The Security Officer has gone over the charges with you?"
Galen nodded as he glanced at his computer monitor. "Lieutenant, youre a lucky man."
Teke raised his eyebrows. "Sir?"
"Orders have been received to not press charges against you. Instead you will be demoted to Private and transferred to the far reaches of the Outer Rim, to a small but growing sector force calling themselves the Rebel Squadrons. Theyre in the process of setting up a Commando Division, and they need bodies. Your transport leaves in three hours. Be ready for it. Dismissed."
Teke flexed his jaw and took a deep breath. Better than going back to the brig. The Outer Rim wasnt so bad. There was a lot of disputed territory in those areas to keep any forces out there busy. Besides, in a sector force like the Rebel Squadrons, there might even be more room for career advancement...
Teke stood and snapped a clean military salute before turning in a sharp about face and making his exit of the office. As the door shut behind him, he closed is eyes, sighed and leaned back onto it. He heard a group of people approaching and opened his eyes. It was the rest of the Thumpers.
"Hey Teke." Al said with a hopeful smile that forced Teke to smile back despite his mood. "Guess what, that guy we brought home with us was the Imp, Bryson Foxfire."
Teke wrinkled his forehead. "Wow."
"No kidding. Apparently it was some kind of setup. Its in NR Security Force hands now, and theyre still conducting investigations. We didnt leave them much to work with though. But Foxfire is on his way to prison for war crimes anyway."
Teke nodded and pointed his thumb at the door behind him. "Just talked to Galen."
Al frowned. "We know. Xpian told us youre being transferred."
Teke nodded again and bit his bottom lip.
"I have some good news though." Pike offered. "Petyr got accepted to the Collus University of Political Science."
"Well how about that!" Teke said with a genuine smile. "I assume he wants to learn government and take it back to Truidex with him?"
"You got that right." Pike said grinning. "Well, you only have a couple of hours before youre shipped out, and I think theres a drink at The Escape Pod with your name on it. Lets go." Pike slapped a hand over Tekes shoulder and dragged him off down the hall with the rest of the Thumper Commandos following behind.