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- Restless Hearts

220th Long Range Reconnaissance Platoon

Unclassified Information => Stories => : Theodorik December 30, 2010, 04:04:00 AM

: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik December 30, 2010, 04:04:00 AM
Chapter 1

There's a story in my eyes, turn the pages of desire.
Now it's time to trade those dreams, for the rush of passions fire.


Gallo Mountains, Naboo

Daylight peeked through the lush forest canopy, extending gentle fingers of warmth to the planet’s surface.  A pair of hikers meandered through a winding mountain trail, exploring some of Naboo’s most pristine countryside.  According to the map held by Heemo Tossa, human male, age 21, the travelers were nearing an outcropping which offered a magnificent view.

The young man proudly clutched the map tightly in his right hand. He stole a glance of the purple female twi’lek escorting him and beamed.  Koyi Lom was not so much the outdoors type. She was here with Heemo because she had a crush on him, he had promised her a scenic overlook. Thoughts of a romantic first kiss filled her head.  Currently, however, she was struggling with the terrain, and her extremely fashionable attire was anything but functional.  Koyi was only 18 years of age, and a child of privilege, her parents both belonging to the Royal Nabooian Court.

The girl paused near a tree and sighed, her small frame dwarfed by its massive trunk.  There was a part of Koyi that wanted to take this trip just to disprove her reputation as a spoiled rich brat from Theed.  Now, she was cursing that notion, two kilometers into the journey and the wilderness had done anything but let up.  Dirt caked her bare knees and elbows, and there was a constant buzz of insects that she abhorred.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad being a spoiled brat from (and in) Theed.

Heemo, on the other hand, was beyond thrilled.  He looked down at the map in his clenched fist and broke into an even wider, hopeful smile.  The map had come from a friend of his fathers, who had been a liaison for the Queen around the time of the Blockade of Naboo.  He had frequent contact with the Gungans of the Lasay Swamps, due south of Heemo and Koyi’s position.  The man had claimed to know of several secluded and romantic places in the area, breath taking enough to charm a wealthy twi’lek.  One location in particular had caught Heemo’s attention, a rocky ledge that offered an alluring view of a crystal lake, and the Royal Lake Retreat alongside.

For what it was worth, this was Heemo’s first time trying to read a topographical map. He thought he was doing a fairly decent job navigating, all the while concealing from his date that he was strictly a beginner.  Unfortunately for the human, he was wrong on both accounts, and the patience of his companion had grown very thin.  Koyi began to vocalize her frustrations, subtly at first with exasperated sighs, then with more obvious grunts.   Her semi-audible protests were lost on Heemo, however, as he continued to ascend the increasingly difficult landscape.

“This is it!” Heemo exclaimed, abruptly halting his footsteps.

Koyi carefully tiptoed to join him, lightly clasping her hands onto his wrist.  Heemo stood at the rim of a precipice and peered onto the valley below. She gently edged forward to share his gaze.

“Oh my stars!” she screeched with delight.

It was a perfect vantage point, the lake and the Royal Lake Retreat in full view, from almost two kilometers away.  Heemo was satisfied with himself, and for the moment, Koyi was impressed.  The young man smiled broadly at his next thought; perhaps he could steal a kiss?  He rapidly spun on his right foot to face his consort, left leg dangling in the air gracefully.  The twi’lek let a giggle escape her lips as he energetically flirted with her.

It was when Heemo attempted to plant his left leg onto the soil in front of her that things went wrong.  At first, Koyi didn’t realize what was happening, as Heemo shot her a stunned look.  Words failed her as she stood wide eyed, watching the young man’s footing begin to falter.

“Koy-“, he gasped, reaching out to her.

Koyi had balled her hands into tight fists and drawn them to her mouth, frozen in terror.  She screamed as she watched Heemo tumble headlong down the steep embankment.  She dropped to her knees and attempted to look over the edge for him, but tears now began to cloud her vision.

Regaining her feet, Koyi turned to run, not entirely knowing where to, but she needed to get help.  She took a deep breath, in a failed attempt to calm herself, and began to bolt back down the winding trail. Branches ripped at her arms and legs as she did her best to recall the way back to the nearby village.  She was in a full sprint now, nearly blinded by tears as she struggled to remain on the path in front of her.  Suddenly, Koyi smashed solidly into something in front of her.

Her momentum coupled with the solidity of the object translated into her being tossed back several yards.  She immediately reached up to her nose, as blood began to pour from it.  X-Rays later on would confirm it had indeed broken, when she ran directly into …

“What the hell did I run into?” she shrieked.

The rush of pain in her body pushed thoughts of Heemo aside as she lie stunned on the muddy trail.  She now bled from several places, most profusely her nose. The twi’lek fought to stay conscious, positioning herself on all fours, ready to crawl for help if need be.  Part of her had written Heemo off as dead, she would be lucky if she would emerge from these woods alive.

Koyi lifted her forearm to wipe her eyes.  She suddenly became aware of something looming above her. She raised her eyes to meet a menacing looking figure in camouflaged armor, weapon at the ready.  Koyi leaned into a sitting position. From all around her, four other armor clad figures rose up out of the underbrush, all with weapons drawn and ready.  Her hands rose to her now gaping mouth, blood continuing to flow down her face.   The twi’lek began to sob uncontrollably, she was unsure of who these figures were, but she was sure they were about to end her life.


A patrol of five Imperial Scout troopers, known as a “lance”, took cover beside the winding mountain trail.  As the patrol’s leader, Lieutenant Theodorik “Outlaw” Sturmwolke took the second or “slack” position.  The patrol’s first position or “point man” abruptly raised his hand towards his teammates, palm out, indicating for the troopers to stop.  An assortment of strange noises could be heard from ahead of the group.  The point man, Corporal Melke “Milky” Berran, turned to Outlaw and tapped his index and middle fingers to his forehead twice, indicating for Outlaw, the patrol leader, to come to his position. Outlaw carefully moved next to his point man, scanning the terrain as he crouched beside him.  He swore he heard a woman crying.

“’Law, do you hear that?” whispered the trooper.

He nodded slowly and shifted his weight to look at the trail they were alongside.  There was something moving through the brush, coming directly at them.  Outlaw thought it might be an animal of some sort at first, and then as she came closer, he realized a twi’lek girl was charging at him, crying uncontrollably.  The Lieutenant stood, holding his arms open slightly, a gesture he hoped made him look less threatening.

“Ma’am, are you –“

That’s when Koyi collided with Outlaw at full speed.  Instinctively, Outlaw leveled his weapon at her.  The remaining four patrol members did the same.  Even though they were on an exercise, they were wary of anyone this deep in the forest acting so completely delirious.  The girl leaned back, innocent blue eyes growing wide.  The patrol leader waved off his men.

“Frack, she’s a mess,” shouted one of the troopers.

“Ma’am, we’re not gonna hurt you,” Outlaw promised as he knelt down to her.

“You definitely need our help, young lady, don’t you?” he continued, realizing she was shaking vigorously.

Koyi was startled when Outlaw began removing his helmet.  She hadn’t expected him to look so, well, normal.  Theodorik’s emerald green eyes met hers for a moment; she saw something there, something soothing.  The other troopers began to gather around her now.

“I’m Theo.”

She nodded, instantly feeling very calm.

“Koyi.”

“Commo,” Outlaw calmly commanded, “call off the exercise and tell them we are bringing in a wounded civilian.”

One of the troopers had set a medical bag on the dirt in front of her and was beginning to pull out bandages and tape.  Another trooper was standing behind Theo with her hand to his ear, seemingly talking to himself.

“Wait! Wait!” she blurted out, losing control once again, “My friend, he’s really hurt, he fell off of that cliff!”

Koyi frantically pointed where she surmised the rocky ledge was.  Being honest with herself, she wasn’t really sure what direction she had come from.  Again, Theodorik’s eyes locked onto hers.

“Okay, Koyi, your friend, what’s his name?”

“Heemo, Heemo Tossa,” she paused as the team medic pinched her nose closed with gauze.

“He lost his balance and fell, I am not certain of where, but we had a view of the retreat, and …”

Outlaw gently held his hand up.

“Koyi, we’ve got this covered,” he assured her as he rose to his feet.

“Milky, Hammer, get up to that ledge and find Mr. Tossa,” he pointed up the trail as he spoke.

“Hooah, you got it El-Tee,” grunted Staff Sergeant Tobias “Hammer” Abstreiter.

Outlaw turned to the trooper behind him.

“Buzz, you’d better get Royal Fire Rescue out here, I don’t think we have any Medevacs available.”

Sergeant Sylvain “Buzz” Candro had already radioed both the field base for the exercise and the sectional headquarters notifying them of the situation.  He now selected a new channel on his terrestrial radio.

“Imperial Patrol Outlaw One-One-Nine calling Royal Fire Rescue communications, urgent message, over.”

“Imperial Patrol: go with your urgent, over.”

“R-F-R Communications, we have two civilian injuries, one possibly critical, south of the Lake Retreat, in the Gallo Mountain range. We are requesting STAR unit for removal, stand by for grid square.”
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik December 30, 2010, 09:58:00 PM
Hammer and Milky meanwhile, had spotted Heemo, lying about 20 meters below them, clinging to the steep embankment.  He was noticeably bleeding and may have had a compound fracture of right leg, Milky noticed.  He zoomed in with his macrobinoculars to confirm.

“Yep,” he nodded, “That must’ve been nasty. Right leg, compound tib-fib, can see the bones sticking out from here.”

“Yeah, he looks like he’s had a bad day, no?” Hammer almost chuckled as he said it.

 Milky just shrugged, “Yeah, let’s get ‘em then, eh Sarge?”

Lucky for Heemo, the two Scout Troopers were esteemed graduates of Lancer School, and were both expert assault climbers.  Hammer selected a large tree 10 meters from the edge as an anchor point as Milky donned a seat harness.  The Corporal was both lighter in weight, and more experienced as a mountaineer, growing up in Doaba Guerfel, Corellia.  Hammer wrapped the tree with a piece of webbing, resembling a long woven belt, and then secured it with an aluminum d-ring.  Attached to the d-ring, he then connected a decent device, which would provide the friction as the Staff Sergeant lowered his man to the victim.

Milky took the end of the rope and worked it into a rescue knot, then clipped it to the front of his harness with another d-ring.  He ran the length of rope back to the Hammer, who laced the line through the friction device and locked it.

“This is 50 meters of line, right?” asked Milky.

The Staff Sergeant nodded. Corporal Berran knew it was 50 meters, but he was thorough enough in his work to double check everything.   Satisfied with his gear, Milky tapped his helmet with his gloved hand.

“Ready to lower?” he asked.

“Ready to lower,” Hammer repeated.

The trooper located topside slowly lowered the rescuer until he heard him call for a stop.

Milky’s decent had been halted as he reached the victim, as per his command.  He made quick work of tying a makeshift safety harness on the man with some more of the belt-like webbing.  He then attached the man’s hasty harness to the rescue line with a rope grab device.

“Milky calling Outlaw, come in Outlaw.”

“This is Outlaw.”

“Hey Lou, I’m on the cliff face with the victim, unconscious, breathing, some bleeding. I’ve got him secured and Sarge is gonna bring us up. We need Doc to look at him P-D-Q.”

“I copy, I wish we could give him proper packaging, but we just don’t have the gear for it.”

“Roger, we’re moving then.”

“Roger that Milky, keep me advised.”

Milky rolled the man onto his back as gently as the situation allowed, which wasn’t very much.  He leaned over, snaking one arm around the unconscious man’s middle. He pulled Heemo tight to him, resting the man’s arms over his shoulders.  The “embrace” was actually a tried and true rescue maneuver, and while it was normally uncomfortable at best, Milky was positive it would have been extremely painful for the victim had he been alert.

“I have him Sarge, let me know when you can haul us up.”

“Roger,” supplied Hammer, who had already begun to rig the rescue line for retrieval.

The pair dangling precariously below him weighed nearly 500 lbs combined. While Hammer was strong, possibly the strongest in the group, that was too much weight for one man to lift.  Fortunately, the decent device was also a pulley, and with the addition of another pair of pulleys and a rope grab, Hammer had created a block and tackle.  He would be lifting only 100 lbs, as the devices would give him a 5:1 mechanical advantage. This, 100 lbs, was very manageable for SSG “Hammer” Abstreiter. He gave Milky the appropriate warning and then began to haul the two men up the cliff face.


“R-F-R, we are located at negative five-seven-three-seven negative eight-eight-seven, how copy?”

“This is Royal Fire Rescue, we copy. STAR One will be inbound.  Imperial Patrol, can you move the patients to a secure landing site or do we need to airlift them?”

“Not known at this time, we will advise. We will stand by for STAR 1 on this network. Imperial Patrol Outlaw out.”

Outlaw walked over to Buzz, leaving Koyi with his medic, Sergeant Gavon “Doc” Zach.  Zach was a six year veteran Stormtrooper, and an accomplished and decorated combat medic.  The group called him Doctor Z, and he was the second best medic Theodorik Sturmwolke had ever met.  Koyi would be well cared for he knew.  It was her companion that was another matter entirely.

Outlaw crouched next to Buzz, and the communications specialist quickly relayed the transmissions with RFR to his Lieutenant.  Outlaw actually did know of a nearby clearing, large enough to set an airship down.  He had planned on using it as a back-up extraction site if they had anything unexpected happen. Theo suddenly let out a laugh.

“I guess something unexpected did happen.”
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik December 31, 2010, 01:19:00 AM
Hammer and Milky had completely hoisted Heemo safely onto the cliff side when he began to regain consciousness. The pair carried the man, one grasping him under his knees, the other in his armpits, and made their way to the clearing as per their Lieutenant. Koyi, now sufficiently patched up, and her three scout trooper escorts also began to trudge toward the landing zone. They were just a few meters from the clearing when the roar of an airspeeder engine could be heard overhead.

“Royal Fire Rescue STAR 1 to Imperial ground patrol, we are inbound ETA of 2 mikes, how do you copy ground?”

Outlaw rolled his eyes. Frelling pilots, they had to always remind everyone that they were in the air and you weren’t.  They tended to throw the word “ground” or “on foot” in infantry men’s faces.
 
“You want me to answer the flying ego or do you want to talk to him?” Buzz quipped.

“I’ve got this one Buzzy.”

“STAR 1, this Imperial Patrol Outlaw One-One-Nine, redirect to my homing beacon which I am turning on … now.”

There you go, you civilian pilot puke, take orders from a lowly ground pounder, Outlaw thought.  The pilot acknowledged, the slightest touch of annoyance seeping into his voice.  The quartet reached the edge of the clearing, Doc Z paused at the edge holding his hand up.  After scanning the perimeter, he motioned everyone forward.  The move may have been a bit much considering the surroundings, but you never took anything for granted if you wanted a long healthy career as a scout trooper.

As the airspeeder loomed closer, Outlaw heard Hammer and Milky struggling up the trail with their patient.

“It’s us, don’t fracking shoot us,” Hammer supplied acerbically.

Doctor Z indicated that it was clear to come forward, and rushed to meet them.  The troopers exchanged information regarding the condition they had found Heemo in, as well as what they had done to treat him.  Doc would take over treatment of the young man, and without so much as looking at the boy, Outlaw knew it was the best chance he would have to survive.

The men lay Heemo down supine on the soft grass; Doc knelt down and dropped his medical bag in front of him, taking his helmet off as he often did when looking over a patient.

“Heemo, can you hear me?” he asked.

“Ungh … yeah man, I can hear you,” Heemo barely managed.

Doc rapidly ran through his trauma assessment using his medical datapad.  The device recorded the patient’s vitals: blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, etc.  He changed modes with a press of a few buttons and scanned the man’s body again.

“Other than the leg, the only thing I’m worried about is the deformity he has at T-10 on his spine … uh, that’s the tenth Thoracic vertebrae … the abrasions are what they are, he has no significant blood loss … his difficulty breathing is probably due to severely bruised ribs, all I can really see is that they aren’t broken.”

Outlaw wasn’t sure if that was the end of his assessment or not, but he stopped talking as the roar of the inbound airspeeder droned louder.  Doc continued to monitor the device and speak to Heemo, offering encouragement to the youth.  It was a scary time for anyone, especially someone of his young age.  The medic did his best to keep Heemo at ease.

Royal Fire Rescue Shock Trauma Air Rescue 1 began to descend into the clearing 50 meters from the gathered group.  The craft was an Incom T-29, built primarily as an atmospheric shuttle, modified for use as a Medical Evacuation transport.  She was just shy of 11 meters end to end, and was a bit of a tight fit for her patients and crew when fully laden.  While it was less maneuverable than an Imperial Larty, she was a workhorse, and the ship had personality.

The downdraft from the airspeeder began whipping the tall grass and leaves around them into a fury.  Outlaw clutched Koyi tight around the shoulders, shielding her from the debris. The twi'lek exhaled sharply as she felt her spine tingle, this man had such a gentle way about him. She was sure that he was a stone cold killer when he had to be, however.  The thought frightened her and thrilled her all at the same time.

STAR 1 touched down and its huge side door slid open with an unapologetic bang.  A pair of medics bounded out, one male and one female, equipment slung over each shoulder.  They strode towards Doc as the engines of the airspeeder wound down.  The female spoke first; she dropped one of the bags she was carrying as the team medic rose to meet her.

“Hey there, what do you have for us?”

The voice sounded strangely familiar to Outlaw. He began to walk in their direction as she and Doc exchanged information on the patient.  She turned to her partner and asked him to get something from the “bird” as she called it.  As he turned to the craft to oblige, the female medic began to pull off her helmet.  Theodorik froze in his tracks. Standing before him was the love of his life, the woman that had captured his heart all those years ago back in Tyrena.  He had thought his feelings for her had eroded away with their time apart, but apparently he was wrong. As he set his eyes upon her, all the feelings came rushing back to him.  She glanced over momentarily and met his eyes, suddenly her expression changed.  Her old forgotten feelings came rushing back to her as well.

Another shooting star goes by, and in the night the silence speaks to you and I.
And now the time has come at last, don't let the moment run too fast.
I can feel you tremble when we touch, and I feel the hand of fate, reaching out to both of us.
There's a story in my eyes, turn the pages of desire.
Now it's time to trade those dreams, for the rush of passion's fire.
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 02, 2011, 02:02:00 PM
Chapter 2

This time, this place, misused, mistakes.
Too long, too late, who was I to make you wait?
Just one chance, just one breath, just in case there's just one left.
'Cause you know, you know, you know …


The last time Theodorik saw her, they were back on Corellia. She stood by the starport entrance in Tyrena, Corellian cherry blossoms in her jet black hair.  She was like a cherry blossom to him, lighter than air, delicate, and rare.  The flower was only in bloom for a very short time on Corellia, only about a week. The velvet petals would gently fall like pinkish-white snow, generously blanketing the ground below the majestic trees that had begotten them.  He thought back to the day they had parted ways, how they promised each other that it was not a goodbye, just a temporary separation.  His mouth formed her name tenderly, barely above a whisper.

“Kamiko.”

Three years had passed since then. He had promised to visit her, but he hadn’t.  She had promised to write him, but she hadn’t.   The Rebels destroyed the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, and the young scout trooper Sergeant was thrust into battle.  Kamiko followed her mother’s career path into medicine.  The two had always intended to reconnect. The war had other plans however, and as the fighting raged on, Theodorik found himself in officer school, and then in command of a team of Special Forces Operatives on Lok.
 
Possibly just to stave off her boredom, Kamiko Sakura had chosen to become a firefighter and a paramedic.  She was always the adventurous type, but far too placid to join the military and take other lives.  Her usual partner in crime was gone, and she filled that empty space in her heart with the thrill and challenge of the Royal Fire & Rescue Service.

Time stood still as they looked at each other.  She still had the same jet black hair, pulled back in the familiar pony tail that Theo had loved to toy with.  Her bangs dangled loosely in her face, he remembered how she was constantly blowing them aside with a huff.  Her complexion was fair, contrasted by pouty pink lips, and her radiant, violet eyes.   It was those eyes that Theo had missed the most, so full of emotion.  They could be lively and playful, as Kamiko was rather animated when she was happy. Her eyes could also be stormy and menacing, when she confronted pain or wrong or death.  Kamiko was passionate about the things she loved and loathed equally.

Firefighter/Paramedic Kamiko Sakura’s normal professional demeanor was clearly unsettled.  She could still picture him standing there in his uniform.  He gently tucked her troublesome bangs behind her ears before kissing her.   He refused to say good bye, it was only for a little while, and he would get his older brother, an Imperial Stormtrooper Colonel, to station him near a good University.  They were going to be together forever.  He gazed at her with those hypnotizing green eyes of his and promised her it would be all right.  Kamiko traced her finger down his strong jaw line to his lips, hoping it would happen the way he depicted it.  A month later she heard about Yavin and she knew. Theodorik's sense of duty would kick in and Kamiko might never see her scout trooper again.


The former couple was jolted back to reality by Sergeant Zach.

“Here comes your rescue board and your immobilization gear.”

She turned to him with pursed lips, wearing a slightly confused face.
 
“Hmm? Oh my gosh, I’m sorry sir, yes … let’s get this man packaged,” she stammered.

They worked quickly to get Heemo immobilized and ready to take an airspeeder trip to Theed University Medical Center.  Kamiko confirmed his fractured vertebrae and commended the troopers on their interventions with both patients.  She had only been distracted by her former flame for a mere 30 seconds, she was hopeful the group had not noticed.  Quite the contrary, everyone had noticed.  For his part, Theodorik knew they noticed, but he was their Lieutenant and didn't care. Honestly, he was so in love with the girl that they could kiss his Corellian ass if they took issue with it.  Kamiko was visibly blushing now, and it made her look even more resplendent.

The young female medic and her crew moved Heemo into the airspeeder with well rehearsed ease.  The pilot climbed into the flight deck and the engines of the T-29 began to rumble.  The two medics stored all their gear and were securing everything for their flight. Koyi settled into a seat in the back, the male medic smiled as he buckled her in.  Theo was standing a few feet from the craft, unsure of what to say to his long lost love.  That’s when Milky came jogging over with Kammi’s flight helmet, she’d left it on the ground where they packaged Heemo.

“Hey Ma’am, you’re forgetting y-“

His Lieutenant snatched it from his grip.

“Kammi!” he shouted, holding the helmet just out of her reach. Maybe if he could get her to lean over enough …

Kamiko gracefully swung her body out of the airspeeder, one hand clutching a grab rail, the other poised to grab the headgear.  Theo smiled sheepishly at the woman; she fixed her eyes on him in a sultry gaze, eyebrow raised.  He exhaled sharply, surrendering her helmet.

“Theo,” she locked eyes with him,”it was great to see you.”

Theodorik “Outlaw” Sturmwolke stepped clear of the airspeeder as the male medic grabbed for the door.  He shrugged at the Lieutenant and banged it closed.  The craft awkwardly lifted off the ground and rocketed off over the trees and out of sight.

“STAR 1 to Imperial Ground Patrol, we appreciate your business. You gentleman enjoy your hike. STAR 1, out.”

Outlaw spun around to his crew and paused as the drone of the airspeeder faded into the afternoon.

“Fracker,” Outlaw muttered. Hammer spoke up.

“Hey ‘Law, you know the difference between a pilot and his ship?”

‘What’s that Ham?”

“The ship stops whining after you shut off the motor.”

The quintet erupted into laughter.
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 03, 2011, 02:18:00 PM
Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0343 Hours, Tuesday

Outlaw rolled over in his cot to look at his datapad. Damn. Almost 0400 hours and he hadn’t gotten any sleep; he couldn’t stop thinking about Kammi.  He had played yesterday’s events over and over in his head, still unsure what he was going to do, if he did anything, about the situation.  He attempted to get comfortable, repositioning onto his back, hands threaded behind his neck.  He sighed vigorously, staring at the ceiling of his tent.  He silently chastised himself for not returning like he had promised.  They had always been together, in one way or another.

It was hard to really say when they first met, technically speaking they had met when Kammi was eight years old and Theo was eleven.  Kammi and her parents moved from a small town in the hills to Tyrena, and she went to school with the youngest Sturmwolke, Danyella.   The two girls were fast friends, and it seemed like “Little K” was always around the Sturmwolke house.  By the time she was 12, she was almost like family and she had become as close to Theo as she was to his sister.

Danyella was always a bit of a princess, her parent’s only female child.  Kammi’s parents on the other hand, were always working at the Hospital, and they took a stand-offish approach to child rearing.  As a result, Kammi became more comfortable with 15 year old Theodorik.  They shared a love for practical jokes and sarcasm, spending days out on the city streets talking smart and picking fights.  The small framed girl became quite a scrapper, although it was often left to her partner to bail her out when her mouth overran her muscle.

Had it not been for Kamiko Sakura, it’s altogether likely that Theodorik wouldn’t have earned the reputation as a dangerous character.   Ten years separated him from his twin brothers, and they had grown up on Ordo with their uncle as warriors.  Their father had softened in the years since the Clone Wars, where he fought alongside the clones he had trained on Kamino.  Theo could have stayed away from violence if he chose, the only one that seemed to lead him there was his little sidekick.

Perhaps as a survival mechanism, Theodorik had developed into a street wise smooth talker.  He didn’t have to throw knuckles with someone to get them to see things his way.  He could charm everyone and anyone and see through any scam.  The only thing that had escaped his attention was the massive crush that Kamiko harbored for him.  Not really having a female’s influence in her life, she didn’t have the first clue how to approach the subject with him.  She managed, for the most part, to put the feelings aside and merely savored the time they spent together.

As he grew older, Theo caught the attention of more than a few of the ladies.  These times would bring Kammi to tears in private, but she would always put on a happy exterior for her Theo.  She would gleefully tag along with him on many of his dates.  Occasionally, one of Theo’s girlfriends took issue with Kamiko always being around.   One of his most fond memories, her 15th birthday party, had begun with such an argument.


It was early April, and the cherry blossoms were in bloom in Tyrena.  Anna and Theodorik had been dating for 5 months, and things were going well enough.  Theodorik had just turned eighteen, and the lovely Anna was a few months shy of her eighteenth birthday as well.  The young couple occupied the sofa in the Sturmwolke living room, legs intertwined.  Theo was leaned back, hands on his chest, eyes closed with a pair of headphones in his ears. Anna was reading a hardcover book from Mr. Sturmwolke’s collection.

The girl was the complete package, what could be described as every boy’s dream.  She was a statuesque 5’9’’, with long pin straight platinum blonde hair.  Her eyes were calm and confident, a cool shade of blue.  She was intelligent, analytical, and most times, emotionless.  Things needed to have an order, a purpose; everything she did was carefully planned.  Theo had tried wooing her because she was so unattainable, turning away nearly every potential mate.

Anna was intrigued by the boy, fascinated even.  Of course he was what any girl, herself included, would consider gorgeous: tall and muscular, stunning green eyes and wild brownish-blonde hair.  More important to her, was she was intrigued by his family history. His father had fought in the Clone Wars, in the 75th Shadow Troopers Regiment, but what she found most interesting was his heritage. His parents, Nicholae and Katara Sturmwolke were both born on the Outer Rim planet of Ordo, into a Mandalorian Clan. The family had been very tight lipped about their emigration here to Corellia, Anna doubted even Theodorik had all the details of the story.
 
For the moment, however, Anna was content to spend her days with Theo, and thumb through his father’s books.  Theodorik didn’t understand why people chose to read hardcover books these days, especially with datapads and holographic imagers accessible to everyone.  His female companion would often rebuke him for such thoughts, citing the benefits of reading a ‘classic’ novel in the manner it had been written. As she worded it, “the way the author intended you to read it.”

The young man would’ve joked, “If that was the case, it would be just ink on paper, ya know, in the author’s hand.”

She wouldn’t have laughed. Honestly, she never laughed, not really, not the way he and Kammi laughed.  He remained in silence, lost in his music.

He sang to himself, “Still don’t know what I was waiting for, and my time was running wild.  A million dead-end streets.  Every time I thought I’d got it made; it seemed the taste was not so sweet.”

Theodorik grimaced at the words.  Kamiko loved this song.  She had introduced Theo to it, and he was instantly very fond of it.  That little girl knew him well, he thought.  He laughed to himself, “little”.  She was turning 15 tomorrow, and she was becoming a beautiful young woman.   A smile returned to his lips when he thought about her.  He had been noticing her much more lately; he had been barely able to ignore the jolt he felt in his stomach when they were together. Lost in thought, he unknowingly sang the chorus to the song aloud.

“Ch-ch-ch-changes! Turn and face the strain, ch-ch-changes! Don’t wanna be a richer man! Ch-ch-ch-changes! Turn and face the strain, ch-ch-changes! Time may change me, but I can’t trace time!”

Anna wound up and gave him a solid whack with her book.

“Valorum’s ghost! What was that for?” he whined.

“I’m reading. Stop singing!” she hissed.

“Sorry,” he muttered. Okay, subject change, he thought.

“Anna, we still on for Kammi’s birthday party tomorrow? She said she really wants us to be there.”

“You mean, she really wants you there.”

“What’s that mean?”

“That she has a blinding crush on you, and would do anything to be close to you and only you.”

“Anna, that’s not true at all! Wait … What’s that seeping into your voice? Jealousy?”

Anna scoffed, “Spare me Theodorik, jealous? Of that street urchin?”

Theo’s voice became very even.

“Anna, watch the words you choose when you talk about my Kammi.”

Theodorik cringed at his choice of words, more specifically, word.  My Kammi, as in mine.  Anna was silent at first, not even lowering the book from her face.  Slowly her hands retreated to her lap, still tightly grasping the novel; she glared at her boyfriend, her voice measured.

“If you ever for one second think … that that girl …” she hung on the last word icily.

“Could ever … ever … offer you more than I can …”

She squinted and jabbed a finger in his direction.

“Then you are sorely mistaken.”

“Okay Anna, poor choice of words … listen …” he paused gathering his thoughts.

“I know that Kammi has a crush on me, but trust me, it’s just puppy love. What we have is a little more real than that? Dontcha think?”

She crossed her arms and dropped her face into a tight scowl.

“Anna, baby, she’s just a kid,” he lied, “but she’s like family. I am just protecting her and her big mouth.”

Anna finally softened, her chest heaving with a dramatic sigh.  Theodorik realized the possibility that his young sidekick was more than just “like a sister” to him.  It wasn’t exactly an “Aha!” moment for the boy, not as if he suddenly admitted he was in love with Little Kammi, but it was a seed.  A seed that unbeknownst to Theodorik was taking hold and growing roots.  Inwardly, he admitted that Anna was a trophy for him, now that the thrill of the chase was over, it was boring; she was boring.

Later that night at the party, Anna put on her good girlfriend act, smiling and mingling.  Danyella, still months away from her own 15th birthday, was the center of attention, at least as far as all the 15 year old boys were concerned.  Theo found it amusing, the sharp looks and chiseled features of Clan Sturmwolke weren’t wasted on the men.  He did his best not to dwell on it, but his younger sister was devastatingly gorgeous.  Her skin was darker than Theo’s, an olive color more reminiscent of their father’s side of the family. Her brown hair was shoulder length and wavy, and it had a playful bounce as she moved.  Hey eyes were a little bluer than the rest of her siblings, but they were bright against her darker features, giving her an exotic look.

Danyella was flirty and carefree, so much so that she came off as a dunce.  But caution to the poor soul that underestimated Dee-Dee.  She was every bit a Sturmwolke, calculating and devious.  Those that crossed her would suffer her revenge. It was nothing more than teenage drama, of course, because after all, the girl was only fourteen.  But she had "ruined" a few of her enemies, even if it was merely socially.  Theodorik shook his head, noticing his sister smiling coyly at a young man who was telling a few jokes.  Looking around the room, he noticed all the girls around their age were mirroring the same coy, reserved smile.

Then Theodorik's eyes settled on Kamiko. She was grinning that wild wide mouth smile of hers, howling like the boys of the group were.  He gave her a smirk, that’s my Kammi, he thought.  He said the words again to himself, my Kammi.  For a moment, he thought about what it would be like to be with her.  He pondered the age difference, and the possibility that kissing her would be like kissing his sister.  They had grown so close, maybe she thought of him as a brother and he was misreading her feelings? What if they didn’t work out as a couple, would their friendship survive?  So many questions swam through his head.

“Theodorik,” Anna said, “Baby, are you okay?”

Theo realized his face was contorted with pain.

“Yeah, yeah … I need to visit the refresher …”he replied nauseously.

He rose, went into the refresher, and promptly vomited.  He wiped his mouth and looked at himself in the mirror.  It occurred to him suddenly, he was nervous.  He had never felt nerves like this over anything, let alone a girl.  Theo took a long deep breath.
 
“I have to talk to her tonight,” he told his reflection,“I have to see how she feels.”
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 03, 2011, 05:26:00 PM
The hour was now late, and all but a handful of the party guests had gone home.  Kammi’s mother sat with Theo’s parents at a small round table sipping at mugs of hot Caf.  Anna had long since gone home, Theo figured she had not been intellectually stimulated enough to stay.  Danyella was seated between a pair of boys on the sofa, giggling away.  Her father stole a peek at her often enough to keep her honest, usually Theo’s job he mused.
 
Theodorik found himself walking the city streets with his best friend, as they’d done hundreds of times before.  This time it felt different, to both of them, and Kamiko was puzzled as to the cause.  It was then that the young man noticed the churning in his stomach subsided, and he wasn’t really that nervous around Kammi, even though he was seeing her differently.  The two of them were as easy as breathing.  While they walked along, neither said a word, but it was far from an uncomfortable silence.

With Kamiko, he didn’t feel like he needed to fill up the empty space with meaningless chatter, which was the norm for every girlfriend he had in the past.  The pair stopped on the bridge that separated East Tyrena from West and peered out onto the river. Kammi was just arms length from him, leaning her elbows on the railing, resting her chin on her hands.

“Beautiful,” Theodorik said smoothly.

“Yeah,” she breathed softly.

“Not the river, Kammi.”

He turned his body and leaned his back against the stone railing, folding his hands in front of him.

“What then?”

“You.”

She gasped lightly, trying to remain calm. He had called her pretty before, but usually it was to reassure her when she was feeling down.  She stood a little straighter and placed her hands on the cold stone in front of her.

“Thanks, I guess,” she replied, trying to remain guarded, he could be playing a joke on her after all.

He saw her delicate hand resting on the railing. She had on her trademark black nail polish, which he had always thought was incredibly sexy.  He turned to face her, casually leaning on his right elbow. Unexpectedly, he reached out and took her hand in his; a surreal moment for him, as if he was watching someone else.  Kamiko, however, was rather startled, especially when he interlaced his fingers with hers.

“W-What are you doing?” she blurted nervously.

“I can’t hold hands with my best friend?”

“Theo, think about what you’re doing right now, if you are playing with me, you’re going in this fracking river,” she scolded.

He chuckled and gave her a wide smile. That was the response he expected from her.  Her eyes widened and she let go of a sigh.

“I’m confused right now Theo, you’re with Anna, and I’m feeling like … like … maybe she won’t sleep with you so you are trying your luck with me …”

“Kammi, I’m not holding your hand so you will sleep with me, or anything else. I’m holding your hand because … well, I will be honest, I just felt like touching you.”

She shivered at his words.  She had been in love with him for years now, could this be really happening?

“Listen, I know you have a crush on me Kammi,” he supplied.

Inwardly, she jumped. Calling it a “crush” was the understatement of the century Sturmy.

“I just wanted you to know, I have a crush on you too.”

He gently pulled her by her hand until she was inches from him.  Their height differential was grossly apparent as she looked up at him.  She stood on the tips of her toes until she could feel his breath on her lips.  She blinked slowly, placing her hands on his chest. He encircled her middle with his arms, helping support her weight.

“Theo.”

“Yes, Kammi.”

“Kiss me.”

Theodorik closed the gap between them, tenderly placing his lips onto hers.  She closed her eyes and placed her slight hands onto his face.  They stayed locked in the kiss for what seemed like several minutes.  When Theo finally pulled away, Kammi held her pose, eyes closed, lips drawn together.

For years after that, Theodorik could close his eyes, and see with the clearest vision, 15 year old Kamiko standing there on that bridge, a moment after their first kiss.

On my knees, I'll ask, last chance for one last dance.
'Cause with you, I'd withstand, all of hell to hold your hand.
I'd give it all, I'd give for us, give anything but I won't give up.
'Cause you know, you know, you know …
That I love you, I have loved you all along.
And I miss you, been far away for far too long.
I keep dreaming you'll be with me and you'll never go.
Stop breathing if I don't see you anymore.


Theodorik was violently brought back to the present to the sounds of shouting.

“Lieutenant, you’ve got a visitor!” shouted Hammer.

He threw the covers off of himself and jumped off of the cot.

“Omigosh, she’s here.”

He raced around the tent, getting dressed as best he could. He excitedly rushed out into the sunlight.

“Kammi?”

“Who’s Kammi?” asked the purple skinned twi’lek in front of him.

“Koyi?”
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 07, 2011, 12:45:00 AM
Chapter 3

Yes, I could tell you his favorite colors green.
He loves to argue, born on the seventeenth.
His sister's beautiful; he has his father's eyes.
And if you ask me if I love him, I'd lie.


Theed, Naboo

0343 Hours, Tuesday

Kamiko slipped out of her bed and padded down the hall to her modest kitchen.  She eyed the clock on her refrigerator.

“Almost 4 in the morning,” she grumbled.

Kammi fetched herself a glass of Falumpset milk and leaned back onto her kitchen counter.  Her red night shirt extended past her hips, but just barely.  She was beyond restless, and it had every bit to do with her encounter with Theodorik the day before.  She wondered if she did the right thing just leaving him standing in that field.  It took every ounce of her strength not to cry as the ship took off and he disappeared from her sight.  She caught her reflection on the oven door and saw just how puffy her eyes were from crying.

“I should get a fracking valor award for what you’ve out me through Sturmwolke.”

Kammi crossed her apartment and flopped into an oversized sofa chair.  She sat in the dark with her milk and tried to sort through everything.  The easiest thing to do was to continue on with her life as if yesterday never happened. She furrowed her brow at the thought; it was the hardest thing to do, not the easiest.  Years spent as his best friend yearning for more had probably cost her several other relationships.  Every man she’d met was compared to Theo, and there were very few contenders, and absolutely no one able to take his place.

It seemed as if Kamiko was joined at the hip with the older boy from first moving to Tyrena until he went into boot camp eight years later.  Thinking back, she couldn’t think of a childhood memory without him in it.  When she came to the city from the hills, she had a difficult time adjusting in school, and the only people that had reached out to her were Danyella and Theodorik Sturmwolke.  She marveled at their amazing family dynamic, how they took care of each other, how they took care of everyone.

Whenever Kammi had gotten into trouble, Theo was there for her.  When she was feeling down, it was he that lifted her spirits.  She got to know him so intimately, that it felt like more than a crush to her.  There were even times when he offered her a glimmer of hope, that maybe he felt the same way she did, or could someday.  There were rare occasions when his hand would linger near hers for just a few extra seconds. There were the friendly hugs that lasted longer than usual, little pecks on the cheek that were more affectionate than they ought to be. All of it was a source of bewilderment for the young girl.


Kamiko traveled back in her memory to March 17th, seven years ago, Theodorik’s 18th birthday.  On Corellia, you were legally considered an adult, and no longer the responsibility of your parents. You could vote, own property, and apply to an institute of higher learning.   Tucked in the back of Kamiko’s mind was the worry of the another opportunity available to eighteen year olds, service in the Imperial Armed Forces.  Theodorik’s twin brothers were both Imperial Stormtrooper Officers, and with his father being a retired Captain and Clone War Veteran, it seemed the natural step for him.  The thought of Theo in combat made her nauseous.  So far, he hadn’t mentioned the prospect of doing anything other than a job as a cook in his Uncle Irwin’s restaurant.

Kamiko smiled out of her front window as Theodorik’s AV-21 halted in front of her apartment building.  As if she needed another reason to be attracted to the young man, he had a pretty sweet landspeeder, a rare, high performance landspeeder to be exact.  Flanking the vehicle behind the driver and passenger were two powerful engines, which were by no means quiet.  Nearly every CorSec agent in Tyrena and Coronet knew about the “Outlaw”, a nickname given to the sled by Kammi herself because of its flat black paint job.  The speeder sat two comfortably, and the 14 year old Kammi was a permanent fixture in the passenger seat.  It unnerved most of Theo’s girlfriends, only his current, Anna, was able to remain stoic on the subject.

He would often shrug, “she’s my best friend in the galaxy. If you want me, we are a package deal.”

The first few times she’s heard him say it, she would hide her smile, but lately, she allowed herself to enjoy it.  When one of his relationships would end, it was always her that he scooped up in his arms and swung around the room.

“I just needed a hug from someone worthy of my affection,” he had said once, Kammi just about died.

And now, here he was, parked out in front of her parent’s apartment, on his own 18th birthday, not out with his best “guy” friend Skitch or his girlfriend, but here.  Kamiko flew down the stairs of her building and into the street, stopping abruptly when she saw the freshly painted forest green racing stripes on the hood of the “Outlaw”.

“Now that’s sick,” she said as she softly patted the speeder’s nose.

“Yeah, you know how I dig on green.”

 Of course she knew.  She knew every blessed detail of the young man.  The humorous part of the crush was that everybody knew about it, everybody besides Theodorik Sturmwolke of course.  If he had known, then all the touching and unintentional innuendo would have made him a serious jerk.  But Kammi knew there was no way, he was a flirt to be sure, but he would never lead her on purposely.  Their friendship had taken years to grow to this strength, and he would put Kammi’s well being, physical and emotional, above anyone else’s. The complication was, she was so shy that if anyone asked her if she loved him, she would lie and say "no".  So, she prayed for him to make the first move.

“So, why are you here at my place on your own birthday? Showing off the paint job?”

“Yeah, partly,” he admitted.

She giggled at him, standing there leaning on the driver’s side door.

“By the stars Theo, why do you look so damn delicious?” she mumbled.

“What’s that babe?”

Oh how she loved when he called her that!

“Oh nothing at all … so, are we taking a ride somewhere?”

She hoped to cover her tracks with a subject change, but there was no disguising the redness spreading onto her cheeks.

“Absolutely, and you’re driving.”

Her reddening face was suddenly not an issue, all the color quickly draining.

“I’m what?”

“You heard me kid, you have a driving exam in less than a month, you gotta pass that thing. I’m not gonna be driving your little ass around this city forever.”

She was completely frozen in front of him.  The AV-21 was an expensive vehicle, acquired by Theodorik’s father, details on the where and when were extremely sketchy.  Kamiko was now fearful of wrecking the thing. Not because he would be angry with her, but because she knew it would bring him trouble from his father, who was always warning him to be careful with it. Furthering the point that Nicholae Sturmwolke had come about the speeder less than honestly.

After some cajoling, Kammi finally did get into that driver’s seat, and she drove it around her neighborhood, albeit at half the speed Theo was used to cruising at.  Her grin was unmistakable, however. Her smile spread ear to ear until her cheeks hurt.   He made her feel so comfortable at the wheel, so comfortable anywhere actually.  How could this just be puppy love?

“I’ll tell you Kay-bear, I frelling can’t stand Anna anymore,” he offered suddenly.

“Oh?” she answered lamely.

“Yeah, another stupid fight last night.  I’ll never fall in love, not at this rate.”

Her heart began to race.

“She’s a great girl I guess, I don’t know. I was just expecting something different.”

“I’m sorry Theo,’ was all she could manage.

“Not your fault babe,” he said turning to look at her.

She felt his eyes on her, holding their gaze longer than normal.

“What?” she blurted out, suddenly feeling self conscious.

“Was just going to mention that I like your hair down like that,” he sounded almost shy to her.

 She brought the vehicle to a screeching halt.  She stared at him wide eyed, and then the two of them burst out laughing, both of them trying to hide true feelings.  Unfamiliar thoughts regarding his sidekick had been swirling in his head.  Unfortunately for the young miss, later that night, he and Anna would patch things up, and Theo continue would hide his own true feelings.  He held onto the array of excuses he had drummed up regarding the dark haired young girl.

Nevertheless, on her birthday he finally admitted it to himself, and ultimately, to her, that he might be crazy about this girl.  It was too much for him, the way she looked that night, the way he felt when he was around her. And then the kiss on the bridge, her first kiss, their first kiss.  She remembered how she nearly ruined the mood when he took her hand.  Her first reaction was to pull it away from him, thinking he was playing games with her.  But he was so reassuring, she trusted him, ignoring her misgivings.  It was a good move on her part, because the kiss was utterly magical, and totally worth the wait.
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 09, 2011, 01:06:00 AM
Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0930 Hours, Tuesday


Koyi looked around the scout troopers’ camp with incredulity.  Music was already blaring at 9:30 in the morning, and there was a distinct clinking of weights and clicking of weapons.  A tall lanky man wearing nothing but a kitchen apron, a pair of PT shorts, and sandals, was flipping some form of meat on a massive grill.   To her left, an athletically built man sipped at a can of Corellian Ale as he sat in a makeshift wooden hot tub.   Her eyes narrowed on Theodorik, hands on her hips, ready to issue him a smarmy comment about their living conditions.  But he stood in between her and his pre-fabbbed shelter entrance, wearing only forest camo utility pants and a rancor tooth necklace, and she flustered.

“So, who is this Kammi?” She repeated shyly after an awkward pause.

“No one, what are you doing here? How did they let you in the perimeter?” he crossed his arms annoyed.

“I just wanted to say thank you, and maybe bring you some comforts from home, so to speak. They let me in because I have gifts.”

Koyi slung a back pack off of her shoulder and set it down in front of her, smiling.  She heard the clinking of weights stop and felt a few dozen pairs of eyes on her.  The purple skinned twi’lek unzipped the pack and produced two bottles of “Breath of Heaven”, an alcoholic beverage that was expensive and difficult to obtain on Naboo.

“Nice, thanks Koyi,” supplied Outlaw, still holding on to some slight discontent.

“Where do you want them?” she asked, wearing a wily smile.

He motioned to a nearby pair of large refrigerators under a canopy to his right.   The men all watched her as she sauntered to the large appliances and opened one of them.  It was jammed top to bottom with all a wide variety of food.

“Sorry dear, the drink ‘fridge is on the left,” Outlaw called.

She opened the second refrigerator to see it was loaded as well, this time with beverages of various sorts.  She found some room for the Breath of Heaven on the bottom shelf … next to four other bottles of Breath of Heaven.

“You guy are living like rock stars!” Koyi exclaimed as she walked over to her host.

“Hey young lady, how ‘bout some breakfast?” asked Milky of their guest, ignoring her insinuation.

She gave Corporal Berran a sideways look.  Outlaw looked at the young girl; he hadn’t given her body a visual once over until now.  She was actually pretty attractive, she was small, but had a thicker build, curves where a woman was supposed to have curves.  He had some experience romancing twi’leks, but not much.  He smiled at his next thought; they very much enjoyed pleasing their partners in the bedroom. Koyi was looking at him with those light blue eyes, her lekku springing from her headdress and dancing flirtatiously with her petite shoulders. Outlaw shrugged off his momentary annoyance and decided to make the best out of the female company.
 
“Let’s have some breakfast … Whatcha got for us today Milk?” Outlaw asked the cook while leading the twi’lek over to a group of picnic tables.

Three of the tables were clear, but four others were covered in weapons, carbines, rifles, detonators, flash bangs, and more.  Koyi swallowed hard.

“Gnort bacon," the cook answered, “sliced it myself this morning.  The slabs been curing for ‘bout three days, so it’s going to be good eatin’.”

Koyi took note of his accent, he sounded like mountain folk from Corellia.  Outlaw smiled at the menu and turned to a large tent behind Milky, cupped his hand around his mouth and shouted.

“Finn, Takoo, breakfast time.”

Koyi watched curiously as a human couple, both advanced in age, came out of the large carrying piles of dishes and utensils.  They worked quickly to set about 25 places at the three tables, rushing back into the large tent as they finished.  They emerged with baskets of bread and fresh fruit, and then set them on the table as well, and once again, scurried off into the large tent.

“You have servants?” Koyi sounded almost jealous.

“I guess if you wanted to break it down to actual job title, then yeah,” Outlaw bristled.

The purple skinned twi’lek recoiled slightly.

“Finn and Takoo take good care of us, and we pay them well for it,” he stated, then paused for effect.

“And they are well paid, believe me, and in Galactic Credits, not that worthless guallama shit trinkets and stuff the fracking Gungans pay the locals with.”

“I’m sorry Theo, I didn’t mean it like that,” she lowered her head, her hands retreating into her chest.
 
“It’s okay.  I just get defensive of them. I’m sorry. They make life out here bearable for us.”

Milky laughed out loud at the last statement, as did a few other troopers.  He wondered what any high ranking Imperial Officer with a stick up his ass would have to say about the way the camp was being run.  Outlaw had opted to keep the teams out here during their exercises to keep morale high, and any one of the men would tell you, it was mission accomplished.  To think they wanted to put them up in a weapons development facility due west of here, the Lieutenant was having none of that.

“So Theo, you’re going to treat me to breakfast then?” Koyi asked, ditching the shy routine for the direct approach.

“Sure, why not. Have a seat. I meant to ask you, how is your nose doing?”

The handsome Stormtrooper Officer and the pretty young twi’lek girl shared conversation as they sat together and ate breakfast.  The awkwardness of her arrival at the camp was dwindling, and as the man opened up, she became all the more smitten with him.  True, they were living like rock stars on a camp-out in the woods, but that made him all the more attractive to her.  It gave him that sexy rogue kind of vibe that she was looking for, the kind of man that would make her parents drop their tea cups.  As they talked, she edged closer to him, hoping the attraction was mutual.

“So, when are we going out?” she finally asked.

Outlaw looked down at his plate for a few seconds, and then turned his head slowly to her.  Kamiko was his one true love; he realized how much he needed her after the last night’s restlessness.   The way they parted out there in that field made the situation hard to read.  This girl was here, she was beautiful, and interested in him.
 
“Today is Tuesday, so how about Friday night?

She smiled daintily.

“Solid,” she said finally.
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 11, 2011, 11:53:00 PM
Theed, Naboo

0930 Hours, Tuesday


Kammi awoke with a startle, realizing she had slept all night in the huge plushy chair.  She settled back into the pieceof furniture as the daylight broke through her window.  The apartment had a spectacular view of the Royal Palace, and was a short speeder bike trip to STAR 1’s hanger.  A smile grew on her face as she recollected her dream.

“Theo,” she whispered softly.

The thought of him gave her such a warm feeling inside.  He was her first crush, her first kiss, her first love.  What was she thinking? She had to go try and find him out there in the forest.  She sighed. How in the heck was she going to track him down?

“Kamiko, did you sleep on that chair all night?”

She suddenly realized that finding Theo in the forest might be the least of her problems.

“Yeah, sorry Marc, I couldn’t sleep and I came out for some milk,” she smiled sheepishly.

“Guess I fell asleep.”

Marcus Draven was pulling on a pair of sneakers as he looked at his girlfriend of five months.  He could tell something was on her mind, he had felt that way ever since they had airlifted that couple out of the Gallo Mountains.  He smirked to himself, recalling how he had curtly put those Scout Troopers in their ground pounding place.

“Where are you going this early?” she asked, trying not to look troubled.

He ran his hands through his dark brown hair as he looked at his reflection in the living room mirror.  He stood around 5’9” and had a medium build, a fraction of the muscle Theodorik had.  Marc had smooth skin and soft features, very characteristic of his regal upbringing.  He was well mannered, considerate, punctual and astute.  In other words, he was completely frelling dull.

“I’m going to run down to the hangar this morning, get some exercise in before the pre-flight. You okay? You seem distracted?”
 
“Yeah … no … I mean, yeah, I’m okay,” she finished lamely.

“I guess I am distracted, I should have told you before …”

She paused for a long time, selecting the proper words.  Marc stood upright and placed a hand on his hip.

“What?”

“On the airlift yesterday, one of the Scout Troopers was an old boyfriend.”

To be fair to everyone involved, that was where she was going to leave the story. Theodorik was an old boyfriend. She was instantly ashamed of herself for the words, as if she was downgrading what he meant to her.   Marc only shook his head slowly, hiding his concern.

“Did it end badly?”

“Not at all, he was a sweetheart, really.  We were just kids, and well, he went away to boot camp and we both just …grew up.”

Marcus was only partly satisfied with the answer, and let his body language reflect as such.

“So, why the distraction, do you still love him?”

She leaned back into the chair, closing her eyes, screaming at herself in her head.  Just yell it out Kammi, just tell him that you are still madly in love with that scout trooper, that you would do anything to hold him again.

“Kamiko? You still love him?”

Kammi wasn’t sure why, but she couldn’t admit it, at least not to anyone else.  As much as she loved Theodorik, she was filled with fear and doubt.  Marcus was a great pilot, he was attractive, and a pretty good catch, just not for her.  She wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on ending it with him, maybe because she had to work with him every day.  She mentally face palmed herself for getting involved with someone at the hangar.

“No, Marc, I don’t love him anymore,” she lied.

Yes, I could tell you, his favorite color's green.
And he loves to argue, oh, and it kills me.
His sister's beautiful; he has his father's eyes.
And if you ask me if I love him ...
If you ask me if I love him ...
I'd lie.
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 13, 2011, 09:44:00 PM
Chapter 4

Girl you've never known no one like me, up there in your high society.
They might tell you I'm no good, girl they need to understand …
Just who I am.
I may be a real bad boy, but baby I'm a real good man.


Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1657 Hours, Thursday


Outlaw was casually striding through the camp, carbine slung over his shoulder, helmet tucked under his arm.  His left hand was holding a comm device to his ear, and he was engaged in a conversation as he weaved through the crowded field base.

“Oh yeah, baby? That sounds good, can’t wait to see you,” he said dripping with charm.

“What’s that girl? Ha, yeah, well thanks for that, you are pretty hot yourself.”

He came to rest in front of the refrigerators, winking to another trooper standing there.

“Yeah babe, I don’t have a lot of nice stuff to wear out here, but I will do my best to look good for you.”

The other trooper smirked and held out a bottle of Corellian Ale for him. Outlaw turned his helmet upside down and held it out towards the other soldier, who promptly deposited the bottle into Outlaw’s brain bucket.  The Lieutenant winked again and started toward his tent.

“Uh huh. Sounds good, babe, I’m looking forward to seeing the place up close. Where should I meet you?”

He stepped into his tent and dumped his helmet onto his cot, immediately realizing there was a beer bottle in it.  He cringed, waiting for the sound of broken glass, but none came.

“Whats that? Yeah doll, I’m writing it down, keep going.”

Outlaw plopped on the cot, his hand finding the bottle of Ale in the blankets.  He tucked the bottle’s top under the edge of the armor plating on his bicep and yanked hard, popping the bottle cap off with a hiss.  The scout trooper took a long drink of the cold ale and then exhaled sharply as he placed the bottle on an end table.

“Oh, nothing at all babe, yep, I’ve got it all.  Eight O’clock at the trellis, I will be there. Okay? Bye bye babe.”

He snapped the device closed and dumped it onto the end table, the bottle of ale taking its place in his hand.  It had been a long day thus far; his team ran another exercise into the hills to the West today.  They were acquainting themselves with the terrain, and with each other.  Task Force “Grim Reaper” had been assembled to deal with insurgency stemming from a pair of villages and the swamps surrounding them.  Field Base Baz Nitch was one of two established as launching points for Long Range Patrols, the other was Field Base Acklay, about 60 kilometers Southwest.

“Frack, my back is killing me,” Outlaw complained, beginning to remove his armor plating.

This was a massive operation, and while the teams prepared all week, an artillery fan was being established to support their patrols.  The Empire had learned a hard lesson in the past two months out here in the remote swamps of Naboo.  It began with the construction of a classified weapons development laboratory in the swamp a few years ago.  The Imperial Army’s 196th Infantry Regiment was given the task of guarding the facility and the outlying area.  Naboo being a low risk planet, and the lab’s location, it was expected to be perfectly secure.

While they were kilometers away from any human settlement, the Gungans did have a minor presence in the area. The Gungans resented the facilty, and its effect on the local ecosystem. As a result, clashes between the Gungans and the Imperials were frequent.  The 196th had little trouble with the technologically inferior and much less organized Gungan Army.  The 2500 soldier garrison of Imperial regulars was holding the area with little help from anyone.
 
“Damn Army and their ego,” he scoffed as the thought crossed his mind.

The skirmishes with the Gungans had always been on patrols, or while defending incoming supply convoys. That was until six weeks ago, when a twilight direct assault on the weapons lab inflicted heavy casualties. During the raid, heavy weapons were used by the opposing force, inciting the Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 196th to seek immediate retaliation.  He promptly sent a scout platoon and a special mission platoon into the swamps, to locate the offenders’ base of operation.  He prepared his assault battalion, 662 troopers and 30 vehicles, to smash the enemy stronghold at first light.

Frantic calls from the field platoons a few hours later confirmed heavy enemy contact, and requested emergency extraction.  The Infantry Regiment was ill prepared for such an event, the best they could do was dispatch the few vehicles from the repulsorlift company that were already fueled and armed for the morning assault.  Shortly before 0400, three APCs and two AT-ST walkers attempted a rescue.  The results were disastrous, of the 68 troopers on the initial recon mission, only 14 were recovered alive.

“Those poor bastards never had a chance,” Outlaw sighed at the thought.

The rescue vehicles fared no better, with all 3 APCs receiving heavy damage and one of the walkers being destroyed altogether.  The Regiment’s casualties in that 24 hour span were staggering.  The Lieutenant Colonel swallowed his pride, and placed a call to his Battlegroup headquarters in Theed.  It took very little time from that call until the Chommell Sector Moff, whose headquarters was also located in Theed, to be briefed on the defeat.  The Moff’s response was typical, and within 48 hours, there were two battalions of Stormtroopers on the ground in Kadaara preparing to turn the Southwestern end of the continent upside down.

An entire month in the area had yielded nothing for the Stormtroopers or the Army.  A few raids were led on Gungan camps, but little progress was made against the bigger problem.  Imperial patrols were constantly harassing the villages of Lianorm and Lassay, and law abiding citizens were often the target for searches.  Over those four weeks, the actions of the Stormtroopers only exacerbated the problem.  They were turning Imperial loyalist locals into Rebel collaborators.  AT-ATs and AT-STs were constantly being sabotaged in the dark of night, or stepping on anti-vehicle mines.  Countless patrols were ambushed, and when armor or air support was called in, no enemy was ever found.  It was like fighting ghosts.

“You can’t fight insurgency with massive firepower.”

The words belonged to Brigadier General Krienz “Mastermind” Sturmwolke of Stormtrooper Special Forces.  Outlaw’s older brother was a rising star within the Corps, mostly due to the success of his brainchild, the 220th Stormtrooper Reconnaissance Platoon (Long Range).  On paper, the 220th existed for long range observation and surveillance of enemy targets.  But Mastermind’s aim for the platoon was far greater. He envisioned a covert force, capable of the full range of Special Forces activities: unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, and counter insurgency.  The unit recently received accolades for Operation Sandcastle, earning Mastermind a promotion and direct control of  Stormtrooper Special Forces.

The newly promoted General used his recent success and the repeated failures on Naboo to get his people invited to the party.  Stormtrooper Corps Command gave Mastermind total control of the operation there.  It was of no small embarrassment that they were having major difficulty with insurgency on Emperor Palpatine’s home planet, not to mention less than 100 kilometers from his retreat.   So, Mastermind plucked Outlaw from his unit on Lok, and began sending him the best Scout Troopers he had in the Special Forces.  The 268th Intelligence Detachment, who had worked with them on Operation Sandcastles, would supply signals and electronic intelligence, as well as infiltrate the villages.  A massive campaign to treat the locals with respect and help build their infrastructure would be underway, and the appearance of an Imperial uniform or the dreaded Stormtrooper armor would be very minimal.

The 196th Infantry and the two Stormtrooper battalions were immediately withdrawn, a new reinforced regiment was deployed to protect the weapons laboratory, and Outlaw and the handpicked troopers began training in the area.  The artillery fan would be completely operational within the next 24 hours, and Operation Ghost Viper was underway.

Outlaw finished removing his armor and underclothes and wrapped himself in a towel. He stepped into a pair of sandals and picked up a small mesh bag containing his soap and shampoo.  His eyes settled on the last half of his beer resting on the table.  He shrugged to himself and scooped it up.

“Frack it, I’ll drink it in the shower.”
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 21, 2011, 10:36:00 PM
Varykino, the Royal Lake Retreat, Naboo

1944 Hours, Friday

Koyi Lom strolled slowly across the grounds of the retreat, taking in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings.  The villa had been property of the Naberrie family for generations, its current status as a Royal resort was established upon Queen Amidala’s appointment to the Senate.  The palatial estate held many memories for her, however she felt it should belong to the people, and turned it over to the Crown.  It is unclear whether she meant for it to be used exclusively by nobles and royalty, but that was its current status, nearly 20 years after Senator Amidala had passed.  Advisor Lom, the Minister of the Interior for the Queen, had arranged for his daughter and her date to be received at the villa. 

The purple skinned twi’lek smiled broadly as she sashayed about the estate, her long silver dress flowing gracefully as she did so.  Only the toes of her shoes were visible from underneath, black patent leather, six inch stiletto heels with little holes allowing her silver pedicure to peek out.  Despite having hundreds of pairs of shoes, they were her favorite pair.

Her dress was cut low, but not overly revealing, and hung from her shoulders on thin strips of fabric.  It clung to her shapely figure in a few places, most notably her ample backside, which most of the troopers at the field base had been discussing the past few days.  Koyi was adorned with bracelets on each wrist and a diamond necklace, probably worth the price of a modest home.  She wore a simple black lekku wrap, cresting her forehead just above her tattooed on eyebrows.   Twi’leks didn’t have eyebrows naturally; the only body hair they had at all was their eyelashes.  Koyi, and most other twi’lek women on Naboo, tattooed them onto herself to look more appealing to human males and to look less alien.

Koyi rounded a corner towards the agreed upon meeting place, noting she was still a few minutes early.  She was surprised to see her beau already standing beneath the trellis, arms crossed casually.

“Hey, you’re here early,” she flashed him her sexiest smile as he looked her over.

“Of course, I’ve actually been here about an hour, checking the place out,” he offered casually.

“You look stunning tonight Koyi.”

“Thank you,” she blushed.

The twi’lek placed her hand on her hip and looked him over.  His outfit was simple, white dress slacks, black leather belt, black dress shoes exceptionally polished, and a skin tight short sleeve shirt.  Just as when he emerged from his shelter a few days before, she was flustered at the sight of his muscular form.  She had been hoping to be here first, waiting for him. The young lady wanted him to first cast eyes on her against the back drop of the flowered trellis and Rori brightly filling the sky.

“What do you mean by checking the place out?”

“Just making sure it’s safe and all,” he lied.

Lieutenant Sturmwolke had tested the security, checked all the lines of sight, the escape routes, and possible sniper positions.  Besides that, he had done extensive checking on Koyi Lom and her family this week.  Buzz had scanned her ID the other day at the field base while she was distracted by his squad leader.  Advisor Adon Lom had been the advisor to the Queen since she ascended to the throne.  He was an Imperial Loyalist in every sense of the word, but was disconnected from both the war, and the people fighting it.  He had used his influence to locate the field base for his daughter, a move that didn’t sit well with Theo and company.  Investigation into that situation was in the hands of Imperial Intelligence.

“You look very handsome Theo. Are you hungry?”

“Thank you, and yes, I’m actually very hungry.”

“Come with me,” she said, extending her hand to her date.

Theo took her small hand in his, smiling at the contrast of her silver nail polish against her purple skin.  This young twi’lek had put a lot of thought into her preparations for this evening, Theo laughed to himself.  He had barely scraped his outfit together, only spending extra time to immaculately shine his footwear out of habit.  He allowed his diminutive escort to lead him to an ornate structure, with intricate brick work and massive columns standing guard at the entrance.  The faade revealed it was a restaurant, reserved exclusively for the guests of the retreat.

Even Theodorik was impressed as they entered, the lobby featured a pair of grand staircases which flanked the room and rose to a massive balcony.  Two sets of double doors no doubt led to a banquet hall.  The center of the room featured a quartet of musicians dressed in tuxedos, gently playing classical Nabooian music. The ceiling was dominated by an awe-inspiring crystal chandelier, sparkling in the soft white lights surrounding the fixture.  This place was expensive, Theo thought to himself.  This was a good opportunity for a little gag at the expense of his date.

“Good evening sir, Lom party of two,” Koyi announced as she approached the maitre d.

“Um yes, I have it right here, Miss Lom, party of two,” the man was clearly uncomfortable about something.

Koyi suddenly identified the problem, a sign behind the maitre d said Dinner Jackets Required.  She turned to look at Theo in his simple black t-shirt. He had his chest puffed out even larger than normal, making himself appear extremely dangerous.  The normally snooty host was not going to offer any objections to this man, probably the young ingenue’s body guard.

As they were seated, Theo could feel eyes on him and some whispers from the tables.  He had gotten used to it, and from appearances, Koyi was glowing with all the attention. The soldier surprised all the on-lookers by pulling the chair out for his date before he took his own seat.  Theo took his menu and played up his reaction to the high prices.

“Theo, you know this is my treat,” she said, “I know you are probably opposed to that being such a gentleman and all.”

Score one for Theodorik.

“Alright sweetie, but just this once,” he replied.

What followed could only be described as pure gluttony.  Theodorik Sturmwolke began by tearing into the appetizer with gusto.  He ordered the most expensive cut of Falumpset steak, and was on his second basket of dinner rolls by the time the soup arrived.  The twi’lek was surprised that he didn’t pick up the bowl and drink the soup directly out of the bowl he ate it so fast.  Next came the mixed greens, and even though he didn’t care for most of what was on his salad plate, he smashed through it as if he hadn’t eaten in a month.  Had Koyi not seen their living conditions with her own eyes, she might have believed it was the case.  The panicked waiter brought Theo his sorbet early, which was also done away with quickly.

But now, the fish course would be a few more minutes, and Theo took the time to look over his date.  The beautiful young twi’lek sat staring across the table, mouth agape.  He shot her a coy smile, clearly she didn’t know what to think and that was fine with the scout trooper.  It wasn’t that he had distaste for fine dining. Theo’s ire was the disconnection between the Nabooian elite in the room and the struggling peasants not more than 2 kilometers away.  Koyi herself was not the problem; she was raised not knowing any better. Perhaps he would open her eyes a little tonight.

“So Koyi, what do you do for a living?” Theo asked as the fish course was brought out.

“I’m a student, I guess.”

“You go to a university?”

“No, I get lessons in etiquette and stuff,” she shrugged.

“What about that boy from the forest, what’s his story?” Theo prodded.

“Heemo? He’s the Minister of Trade’s son.  I went to see him in the hospital the next morning and all he did was blame me for his injuries.  He’s recovering well, thanks to you guys I might add.”

Theodorik didn’t reply, instead he tore through the fish course, herb encrusted Laa or Faa, or maybe something else entirely, he wasn’t sure.  All he knew was, he was breaking through the girl’s pretentious exterior.  The trooper finished every ounce of food on his plate and set his fork down upon it.  Koyi was afraid he would top it off with a loud burp, Theo had actually thought about it, but reconsidered.

Then the steak arrived, which was so large that it hung over the sides of the already oversized plate.  By now most of the other guests were staring wide eyed at the young couple, but not with the expected disdain.  The women were transfixed by his confident eyes and impressive physique.  The men in the room were waiting to see just how much food this beast of a man could put away. This man-animal was plowing through a seven course meal without slowing down, and making no apologies for such.  Besides, it was amusing to watch the staff try to keep up with him.  Keeping a full glass of Aitha in front of him was nearly impossible.

Koyi began to feel the atmosphere in the room relax, and while she was puzzled by it, she was enjoying it.  Theodorik finished mauling his main course, including the requisite potatoes, mushrooms, and vegetables, and then killed his eighth glass of hot Aitha.  The most intriguing part of the man’s eating habits was that while they may not have been particularly regal, they weren’t rude.  He didn’t pick anything up with his hands, chewed with his mouth closed, and was able to avoid scarfing and slurping noises.

“Are you ready for the desert cart? Koyi asked, amused.

Theo looked around the room; all eyes were on him, the other guests smiling almost as if to cheer him on.

“I’m sorry everybody, I get my eating habits from my father, Fatty the Hutt.”

This elicited some snickers from the room.

“No, really, he was so fat, that when he fell to the dark side, he couldn’t get back up.”

A few of the guests outright laughed at Theo’s joke, his twi’lek companion could not believe what was happening.  This rugged scout trooper was charming the pants off of the Nabooian elite.

“Hey who wants desert?” Theo asked as a waiter brought the desert cart toward his table.

This earned him a few confused looks.

“Everybody, desert is on us, come and help yourselves.”

Koyi’s jaw hung wide open as a few guests exchanged looks, then a few rose and went to the cart.

“Don’t be shy guys, my lovely lady and I are buying you all desert.”

Within minutes, the cart was empty, and the guests were talking and laughing.  The scout trooper turned to a couple at his right enjoying slices of cake.

“What are you guys drinking? Veronian berry wine?”

The man nodded; his mouth full of the decadent desert.

“Unacceptable! Waiter, I need four, no, five bottles of Breath of Heaven.”

Theodorik looked across the table at the young beautiful twi’lek, who was completely dumbfounded.

“Hey, you guys know how Lord Vader spoils Life Day for everyone? He feels their presents.”

Everyone erupted into laughter, even the harried wait staff.  The only one not enjoying the revelry was the purple skinned twi’lek, who was mentally adding up the cost of the impromptu party.  After another thirty minutes, Theo had signaled for the check. Her date reached his hand across the table and placed it on her own.

“Relax Koyi; I’m going to take care of it.”

 Her bewildered look turned to outright shock when the bill arrived, and Theodorik began producing 1000 credit chips, one at a time from his pocket, until there were ten on the table.

“Does that cover it my good man?”

“Yes sir, and then some!” shouted the “Table Captain”, a title that amused Theo to no end.

“You keep the change my friend and extend my compliments to the chef.”

“Absolutely good sir!” the waiter exclaimed.

“You guys were good sports too, thanks for the excellent service.”

The Table Captain burst his way into the kitchen and shouted something excitedly.  The entire kitchen answered him with a chorus of cheers, complete with the clanging of spoons against pots and pans.  Theo rose from his seat, still clutching Koyi’s hand, and guided her to her feet.   She was absolutely beaming at him now; for the first time in her life, she was taken aback by a man, and this one was a common soldier.  She now admitted, he may be a soldier, but there was nothing common about him.

As the couple reached the door, Theodorik paused and whispered to his lady.

“Watch this.”

He quickly turned around to face the crowded room, and raised his hands skyward.   Everyone went berserk, as if they were at a Limmie match.  Koyi thought she would need a plastic surgeon to remove the massive smile from her face.  There was a heat rising through her body, settling in her chest, as she held the muscular man’s hand.  The attraction to him was deeply rooted in her now, she was almost afraid she would throw herself at him if given the opportunity.  They emerged onto the stone street, leaving what was now a raucous gathering behind them.

“Theodorik, I apologize.”

He stopped walking and turned to her.

“What?” He hadn’t expected her to crumble so easily.

“I misjudged you, it’s clear to me now that you are more than just a good looking guy.  I was hoping to ‘wow’ you tonight, instead it was you that has done the ‘wowing’.”

“Don’t sweat it babe, I am glad you could come out of that rich girl shell for a little bit.”

“That’s not the kind of person I want to be, all stuffy like that. I think you showed everyone here tonight that we are all taking ourselves too seriously.”

Theodorik gave her a mischievous grin.

 “Well, it’s only 9:30, feel like some more ‘wowing’?”
: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 23, 2011, 01:21:00 AM
Koyi was clinging to the arm of her man, as he led her along the stone walkway surrounding the peaceful waters of the lake.  The largest of Naboo’s three moons, Ohma-D’un, had taken its place in the sky. It was also brighter than Rori, reflecting light from Naboo the star, and illuminating the night sky on Naboo the planet.  For a moment, the girl thought that maybe she was being led to a romantic spot for a kiss, but she thought better of it.  As much fun as she was having, she doubted such a bad boy like Theodorik could be much of a romantic.  The twi’lek didn’t have a problem making the first move, not int his case.

Theodorik led his young date to the end of the stone walkway, and then down a set of stone steps to the grass below.  Koyi gave him an inquisitive look, noticing they were leaving the grounds of the villa.  He merely shot her a grin, raising both eyebrows over his glowing eyes.  The couple walked a few feet into the grass until they came upon a stone path which wound its way into the darkness.

“Stay close to me,” he whispered.

Koyi gladly obliged, wrapping both of her arms around the scout troopers left arm, and pressing the side of her face into his shoulder.  She deeply inhaled, failing miserably to take in his scent subtly.  Either the man didn’t notice, or didn’t mind.  He was fidgeting with something around his neck, something that had been tucked beneath his t-shirt.  He produced a thin strand of cord with a flat round object at the end of it, barely an inch wide.

“What is that?” she asked.

“My flashlight,” he grinned, pressing his thumb and forefinger together on the disc-like object.

It suddenly lit up in a yellow/green glow, illuminating the path in front of them.  The twi’lek simply shook her head and grinned.  After a few minutes of walking, Koyi noticed they were on the opposite side of the lake from the villa.

“We’re here babe,” Theodorik announced.

She had no doubt the walk took longer than it should have, partly because of her clunky shoes, and partly because she was clinging to him so tightly. It was apparent the two of them enjoyed the closeness, however.

“Where is here?” Koyi said, straining her eyes.

The path narrowed before them, snaking through a small hole in a waist high stone wall.  Theodorik led her to the gap in the obstacle, and then gestured to a collection of small buildings on the other side.

“The staff’s quarters,” he proclaimed proudly, “They’ve got a great bar out here.”

“I’m going to trust you Theo; you haven’t let me down all night.”

“We need to modify your outfit for this place though,” he opined.

“Think you can dance in those shoes?”

“Of course, I’m a twi’lek after all. The dress being this long will be a problem though.”

“Is it expensive?” he asked.

Koyi hiked up her hemline with both hands and tore her dress up the side, exposing her right leg nearly to her hip.  Theo looked on dumbfounded as she then tore the opposing side of the dress in the same manner, leaving two enormous slits up the length of the material.

“Now we can dance,” she said happily.

This time it was Theodorik that was impressed.

“Well then, let’s show these people how to party.” 

Within only a few minutes of walking in the door, Theo and his lovely twi’lek guest were laughing, joking, and drinking with the locals.  Koyi surmised he had been here a time or two before; or perhaps not, considering the performance in the restaurant.  It only took a few drinks to bring the pair out onto the dance floor, bumping and grinding to the boom-thump-boom-boom-thump of the music.

“It takes two to make a thing go right.
It takes two to make it outta sight.”


Theo was right, Koyi thought, the bar was great. The bartender was humorous and the company was spirited.   The only negative side was that everyone in the room seemed to want her date’s attention, he was being dragged off of the dance floor to do a shot every few minutes. Finally, the sultry twi'lek was thoroughly annoyed, and sneakily tagged along behind him on his next trip to the bar with the ‘fellas”.  She tapped him on the shoulder as some glasses were being lined up in front of him and some other men.

“What are you drinking, sweetie?”

Theodorik was startled by the seductive young miss.

“Powerful stuff babe, don’t know if ya want any of this noise,” he said, his days on the city streets seeping into his accent.

“Try me.”

“Okay, set up one for her too J.D.,” he said gesturing to the bartender, who slapped the bar and pointed at Theo.

“You got it boss!” he shouted.

“It’s called a Core Bomb, it’s a shot of Reactor Core dropped into a glass of beer, in this case, it’s Corellian Ale,” he explained.

She grimaced slightly, but realized she was in too deep to back out now.

“Okay, so what do you do?”

“You just drop the shot glass into the beer, and chug it, all at once.”

“Okay,” she answered, regretting her decision to follow him to the bar.

“It’s not bad, and here is the fun part,” he said turning away from her to the crowd.

“Hey, this fine ass lady is going to do a Core Bomb with me!”

A dozen or so people shouted “CORE BOMB!!!”

Koyi noticed there were now six glasses on the bar, one in front of each of five men, and one in front of her.  She tried to gulp down the lump developing in her throat.  Each of them picked up their shot glass, and plunked it into the beer, and began chugging its contents.  After a few seconds, Koyi mimicked the group, awkwardly plunking the shot into her own glass light brown liquid and chugging the concoction.   Cheers rose from the mob as they watched Koyi set her empty glass down on the bar.

“Looks like it’s your turn to ‘wow’ me,” Theo grinned.

“Let’s get out of here, and I’ll give you something to ‘wow’ over.”

Koyi held her hand out to her date, who was wearing a wide eyed grin.  Without hesitation, Theodorik plunked down a credit chip in front of the bartender, rose and took her hand. The couple weaved through the crowd, bidding everyone farewell as they did.  They were getting gleaming looks from everyone, pleased that such a nice couple was likely about to “enjoy each other’s company”.

As they broke into the cooler night air, Koyi realized she was feeling the alcohol. She wasn’t cross-eyed drunk, but she was a little beyond tipsy.  For his part, Theodorik was also in possession of his senses, but he was happy he didn’t have to drive to the base.  Buzz and Hammer were driving out to get him in a repulsor vehicle at 0200, which gave them a little bit more than an hour together.

The couple began to walk hand in hand down the stone path, pausing at the wall so Koyi could remove her shoes.  She stumbled slightly, possibly from the effects of the alcohol, but Theo held her steady.

“Thank you,” she whispered breathlessly, clutching her shoes in her left hand.

The scout trooper looked down at the suddenly much shorter twi’lek and pulled her tightly to him, pressing his lips onto hers.  Koyi didn’t resist, instead closing her eyes and throwing her arms around his neck, casting her footwear to the ground.  Theo bent slightly at the knees, and reached his hands under the curvy twi’leks supple posterior, lifting her into the seated position on the wall.  The two lovers leaned into one another, pressing their chests together as they explored each other’s lips.

Koyi was pleasantly surprised with the gentle touch of his fingertips on her bare shoulders.  His hands were rough and calloused, but they felt feather-light as they danced on her skin.  She gripped the back of his neck tightly, her breathing growing increasingly rapid as his hands lightly caressed her curves.  He broke their kiss, exhaling sharply to catch his breath.  Koyi opened her soft blue eyes and looked into his.  She realized they were in relative darkness, with only a few lamp posts behind her mate to offer any illumination.

“I wish I could see you a little better,” she breathed, as he moved his lips a hairs breadth from hers.

“Guess you’ll have to feel me then.”

Koyi responded by wrapping her legs around the soldiers waist, pulling him tighter to her, meeting his lips with her own.  She wasn’t sure what she was feeling when she kissed this man, but she had to have more of him.  Her hands wandered up under his shirt to his back, and as they kissed, she began trailing her fingernails down the length of it.  After what seemed like only a few minutes, Theo stopped her.

“Koyi, my ride is coming for me in about fifteen minutes, and they are picking me up where they dropped me off.”

She replied without hesitation, “call them and tell them to get you here, they can drop me off back at the retreat.”

“Ah, great idea,” he supplied, reaching into his pants pocket for his comm device.

It was a difficult call to make, trying to explain the situation to Buzz, while trying to ignore a sensual young twi’lek nibbling on his neck.  Fortunately, both Buzz and Hammer knew the bar, having been there a few times already for some liquid therapy of their own.  Ending the call, he gazed at the girl in his arms.

“Okay, that just bought us about fifteen minutes.”

“Where were we?” she asked flashing him a provocative grin.

“Right here,” he replied as he lowered his face to hers.

I might have a reckless streak at least a country-mile wide.
If you're gonna run with me, it's gonna be a wild ride.
When it comes to loving you, I've got velvet hands.
Let me show you how a real bad boy, can be a real good man.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 25, 2011, 09:12:51 PM
Chapter 5

Where have all the good men gone and where are all the gods?
Where's the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need.


Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1043 Hours, Saturday


The sound started out as a far off droning, barely noticable, but slowly it got louder.  Outlaw screwed his eyes shut, pillow over his head, trying to block the unwelcome audio.   The scout trooper’s mind could hardly analyze the incoming stimuli, as he stirred in his bed slightly. It kind of sounded like an Imperial Lambda Shuttle, not entirely unusual; but this one sounded close.  Outlaw yawned and stretched. He was still mentally debating getting up, when he realized the droning had turned into a roar, and the Lambda sounded as if it would come down right onto his shelter.

“Gaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh Frackin Duuuuuuude,” shouted Outlaw, springing from his bed.

The Lieutenant poked his head out of the shelter with squinted eyes.   Dust and debris was flying around the camp, and sure enough, the massive form of a Lambda Shuttle was flaring out in the grass behind the field base.  Outlaw ducked into his shelter and jumped into a pair of utility pants.  He stepped into a pair of worn looking leather boots, and grabbed a t-shirt, his face still twisted in a grimace as he exited the shelter.  He spotted Doctor Z jogging up to him.

“What’s going on Doc?” Outlaw asked his medical sergeant.

“It’s an Imperial Major, she is coming in to brief you on some activity in the area, just called the Command Post about 2 minutes ago.  I was on my way to tell you, but I guess the shuttle took care of that.”

Outlaw was still groggy from last night’s festivities; he played back Doc’s statement in his mind.

“Wait … a she?”

“Yes sir, Major Kassel from Imperial Intelligence.”

“For the love of … why now?” he complained.

Sergeant Zach only shrugged, and began to trot toward the landing site.  Outlaw awkwardly threw on his t-shirt and followed close behind.  When the shuttle came into view, the men could see that the access ramp was already lowered to the ground, and a pair of dangerous looking guards was descending it. They were clad completely in black, long trench coat, pants, shirt, and military style boots. A white Imperial Symbol adorned the left breast of the coat, the only piece of contrast in the outfit. Their faces and heads were uncovered, but each wore a serious expression.  It was no doubt these men were handpicked from some Special Forces unit to serve on this detail.

“Gentlemen,” Outlaw greeted them as he approached.

“First Lieutenant Theodorik Sturmwolke, the Major is here to see me I presume.”

“Outlaw Sturmwolke,” stated one of the guards, Theodorik offered a nod in reply.

“You are two hundred twentieth?” the guard continued.

“Affirmative.”

“I heard about your Op on Tatooine, strong frelling work Lieutenant.”

The two men saluted him; he quickly returned it.  That was when a shorter figure emerged from the shuttle, and Outlaw immediately recognized the woman, Major Melyssa Kassel.  She was also clad in black, black leather boots, tight black slacks, and black leather jacket. Beneath her jacket was a rather revealing top, out of character for an ordinary Imperial Officer.  The men at this camp were going to learn that Jezebel was anything but ordinary. Her soft blue eyes and shoulder length blonde hair starkly contrasted her attire.  A pair of leather gloves completed her outfit, which she ran through her parted hair, neatly tucking one side behind her ear.

Major Kassel didn’t look particularly dangerous, standing 5’7’’ and weighing a less than foreboding 138lbs.  Her expertise was in the intelligence field, collecting and analyzing information.  Her mind was sharp, and her ability to predict the enemy had earned her several accolades.  She was a legendary interrogator and manipulator, and had created a fiercely loyal squad of agents, identities of which was closely guarded secrets.  It was her network of spies and operatives that made her really powerful.  It would explain why one of her guards had heard about Operation Sandcastle, a file that offered very little information to anyone without Most Secret clearance.

“Good Morning Lieutenant,” greeted the Major.

“Good Morning Major,” Outlaw replied, not saluting her as per her request the last time they met.

“Let’s go somewhere we can talk, 'Law.”

Outlaw led her to the command and control center or CNC, a shelter slightly larger than an officer’s individual shelter. It was divided into two rooms; the first was the watch desk, where a comm operator sat 24 hours a day.  The second half was a secure conference room, not much bigger than the table and six chairs that occupied it.  The room was unused until Outlaw and Melyssa clicked the door behind them and activated the anti-listening device.

“Theo, it’s good to see you. You look like hell though I must admit.”

The haggard look and the headache were well earned, and well worth it, he didn’t say.

“Yeah, sorry, Jez … rough night, you know how I get down ..” he let his voice trail off.

“Yes, Theo, I know how you get down.”

The scout trooper thought she might be angry, but then he saw a wry smile form on the Major’s lips.

“I must apologize my dear, I have some news, you decide if it’s good or bad.”

Theodorik nodded.

“We haven’t lost any people because of it yet, but Field Base Duxun has been taking sporadic rocket attacks the last few nights.  Last night, an attempted resupply of the artillery platoon was aborted because it was taking small arms fire.  The shooting in all cases has been terribly inaccurate, but …”

“But it’s making life difficult for the artie guys, and one of these days, whoever is firing is going to get lucky,” Outlaw finished.

“Correct.”

“Okay, where do you need me to go?” he asked.

“Duxun is on a plateau overlooking the Village of Lianorm, only 2 kilometers from it.  The nature of the attacks is making me think its local insurgents and not organized soldiers. Could even be criminals or pirates who would rather not have a big Imperial presence out here. At any rate, start there, see if anyone knows anything, try and offer them something in return for information, the usual.”

“And since I don’t want anyone to dummy up when we start asking questions, we take a small team and nothing outwardly saying we are Stormtroopers, correct?”

“Take two squads. We will have air ships ready for extraction, and some gunships for support should things really start to loosen up down there.  And if it all goes to hell, Duxun has four SPMA’s ready to make it rain fire and brimstone.”

“A legitimate Combat Rescue Team? Or is it Royal Fire Rescue?”

“They are Lartys with Imperial Army Troopers, so don’t worry, your girlfriend will not be in harm’s way.”

Outlaw bristled at the comment, partly at the thought or Kammi landing in a hot LZ, and partly because Jezebel had done her homework on him.  He ignored both thoughts for the time being.

“I know it’s going to take some time, but I want some of my people from the 220th out here, I want 160th pilots too, but I want our people for combat rescue.”

“You go out into this village tomorrow evening, so you aren’t getting them for this Op. I will ask command if we can have their support, for more than just CR.  They are involved in a few … things … right now already, however.”

Jezebel ran through the available intelligence on the Village, who the major players were, who the leaders were, and who enforced the law.  She provided Outlaw with three dimensional maps of the village, and they reviewed the overall objectives.  The Major made it very clear that while there was overwhelming fire power available to them, it was recommended they use it as a last possible resort.  Any breach in trust with the villagers who were on the fence about Imperial occupation would surely defect to the Rebel cause should they be subjected to Imperial violence.

When the briefing was over, Outlaw retired to his shelter.  Almost two hours had passed, and he was still drained from the night before.  Entering his shelter, he sighed and said aloud,

“I need to go back to sleep.”

“Well, you can come back to bed, but I have plans for you other than sleep,” a familiar voice whispered from under the covers.

Koyi poked her head out from under a blanket and gave Theo a come-hither smile.  He responded with his own relaxed smile.

“Come over here lover boy, I’m hungry for some more of you.”

Theodorik shrugged and playfully launched himself into the pile of blankets.  He had an Operation tomorrow, but today, he had a gorgeous twi'lek in his bed.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 27, 2011, 03:38:13 PM
Village of Lianorm, Naboo
 
1745 Hours, Sunday
 
1 Hour before Sunset

Had it not been for the seriousness of their mission, this would have been a beautiful scene in front of them.  The sky was bathed in a swathe of oranges and reds as the sun (Naboo the star) began its journey over the horizon, offering its light to the opposite side of the world (Naboo the planet).  Ten men, separated into two squads, each occupying its own side of the cobblestone street.  Lianorm was a small settlement, only about 150 people held residence there, including some farms and ranches on its outskirts.  One stone roadway snaked its way down from the hills into the village, and it served as the main thoroughfare.  The road divided the town along the North/South axis, and continued to Lasay, an even smaller village 21 kilometers in the distance.  Royal Security Force once described that road, known only as “Roadway 1”, as the most dangerous travel route on Naboo.
 
Roadway 1 was flanked on both sides by swampland, unfit for farming or the raising of animals.  It was home to all manner of thieves, thugs, and pirates.  The Imperial presence on Naboo had allowed the RSF to dedicate more resources to cleaning up the area, and the locals enjoyed a new level of peace and prosperity. But Outlaw feared the actions of the Imperial Army recently had put that in jeopardy.
 
“Uptown, this is Downtown One, we are entering the village,” Outlaw reported.
 
“Downtown One, we have nothing unusual in our sights, will continue to advise,” replied the sniper/spotter team, located on a hilltop a few hundred meters away.
 
‘Downtown One’ was Outlaw’s team, himself, Candro, Zach, Berran, and Abstreiter.  Across the street was ‘Downtown Two’, five troopers from another long range team.  Uptown was the sniper and spotter on the hilltop, positioned to see most of the village.  The sniper was equipped with a Czerka 6-2Aug2 sniper rifle with a laser sight, a weapon boasting incredible range and accuracy.  It was especially dangerous in the hands of a Special Forces sniper, and had a high enough caliber round to disable a land speeder’s engine.
 
The center of Lianorm featured two more cobblestone streets, running parallel to each other, intersecting Roadway 1, giving the settlement an “H” like appearance from overhead.  Centrally located were a town hall, some small shops, a tavern, a theater, and a hotel.  While the village did not have a large population, visitors were frequent, mostly trying to purchase livestock or produce.  The theory Task Force Grim Reaper was subscribing to was that this village was being used to resupply local insurgent groups.  This is why the troopers had to tread lightly.
 
There were about two dozen people walking about the village’s street, most gave the troopers only cursory looks.  Each man had his weapon drawn, but Outlaw had ordered them to appear as non-threatening as possible.  They had left all of their heavier weapons at the base, the majority of the crews opting for carbines.  Special Forces troopers had the option of using whatever weapon they felt comfortable with, what was best suited for the mission, and the best weapon for their particular job on the team.  This is why marksmanship with a wide variety of weapons was important for an SF Operator.
 
“Hold up guys,” Outlaw spoke into his headset.
 
The team held its progress, and Outlaw rubbed the stubble on his chin momentarily as he looked around.  Part of their attempt to look less threatening was foregoing the helmets on their armor.  Each man instead wore a headset with a monocle Heads-up Display (HUD) that could be moved in front of one eye.  The teams were totally integrated information-wise, with access to real time global positioning and three dimensional maps.  In order to compensate for the lack of night and thermal vision options, both of which were contained in the SF Operator’s helmet, the team carried standard Army issue light amplification goggles in their rucksacks.
 
“Hey, ‘Law … No one seems to be worried about us just yet,” observed Hammer.
 
“Yeah, I noticed,” Outlaw replied, taking note that so far, no one had even blinked at their presence.
 
Hammer casually took a few steps forward and peeked between two modest houses, both looking rather empty.  The broad shouldered Staff Sergeant had his TC-22 rifle slung in front of him, one hand loosely on the grip and the other resting on the muzzle.  He and Doc were the security element for Downtown One, which is why he selected a longer range weapon with some more punch.  The teams were trying to maintain some form of security without fanning out aggressively into combat positions.  Despite their intense training and extreme level of experience, they were all on edge.   They were taking a massive risk being here, but it was necessary for the larger mission, so they prepared as best they could and went out and did their job.
 
A pair of human men approached Outlaw’s team, teenage boys really, judging by their smaller stature.  They strolled casually; wearing the baggy clothes the locals often wore, usually to conceal weapons.  The two villagers didn’t look particularly threatening, more like curious at the armed group moving down the street.  One of them raised his hands in front of him and spoke to Milky, who was at the lead of the column.
 
“Hey guys.  What are you doing here?” the boy asked casually.
 
“Hey young man,” Outlaw replied, stepping forward, “We’re just looking around, got a few questions for somebody.”
 
Outlaw held out a holo-projector in his right palm, an image of Leerlalli Merkrit, a Mon Calamarian who owned a large homestead on the east end of the village.  He had been investigated by the RSF several times before for extortion and selling stolen property.  Merkrit went by the name of “Poppy” and liked to think Lianorm was his private little empire, enforced by his two sons and their gang of miscreants.  The attention the area had gotten recently had forced him into more low key endeavors, but Outlaw knew he would be a good place to start.
 
 “Poppy? It’s his dinner time, he’s at the Town Tap, his tavern over there,” answered the young man, hoisting a thumb over his shoulder.
 
The troopers noticed that more people were wandering up to them now, mostly curious young people and children.  Outlaw exhaled sharply, young kids caught in the crossfire were what he wanted the least right now.
 
“Stay sharp boys, head on a swivel,” the lieutenant warned.
 
Gradually, the crowd around the two knots of troopers grew to about 2 dozen each.  The men of Task Force Grim Reaper began passing out candy and little trinkets to the locals, and a few of them snapped pictures with the armed troopers.  Outlaw walked up to an older man, who was walking a guallama behind him.
 
“Greetings my friend,” Outlaw began, extending his hand to the man, allowing his carbine to sling to his side.
 
“Greetings to you soldier,” replied the man, briefly shaking hands with the visitor.
 
“I’m Theodorik.  To what do we owe this warm reception?” asked the lieutenant.
 
“These folks assume you’re here to protect them from the pirates,” the old man shrugged.
 
“Pirates? Tell me more,” Outlaw said raising an eyebrow.
 
“Well, we’ve always had a problem with Poppy and his sons, I’m sure you know who Poppy is already  … anyway, Poppy, while he took our money and basically whatever else he wanted from us, he did offer us protection from the thugs out in the hills.”
 
Outlaw wore an interested look; he had already activated a recording device in his wrist and would take a picture of the man with his data pad momentarily.
 
“When the Army came through town, and started roughing everybody up, they sort of scared the frell out of him, ‘scuse my language.”
 
“And these pirates, they took advantage of the situation?” Outlaw concluded.
 
“Yep, with Poppy’s gang lying low, the pirates have had free reign of this village.  It’s got a lotta people scared, ya know? Anyway, when the children saw you guys get off of that ship a few kilometers from here; we figured you were way too organized to be pirates.”
 
Outlaw pursed his lips at that statement.  Using kids as a look-out was an old tactic they used to use on the streets of Tyrena.  The pirate situation was a common one too, the familiar “power vacuum”.  The military thinks it’s doing a good thing by removing the local warlord, but once that power figure is gone and the military leaves, it’s a perfect opportunity for someone else to seize control.  Nine out of ten times the one seizing control is far worse than the local thug that was ousted in the first place.  It was a conundrum that they hadn’t figured a solution for yet, and it was presenting itself all over the galaxy.  For now, his orders were to find out what the Mon Calamarian knew about these rocket attacks, he would deal with the pirates later.
 
“Downtown Two, move out to Merkrit’s house and talk to the staff there, I still want to know who is responsible for these rocket attacks.  I want to talk to Poppy and see what he knows,” Outlaw spoke into his mic.
 
“Roger that, Downtown Two is moving out,” replied the other team’s squad leader.
 
Staff Sergeant Kurhet “Krayt” A’Sardu led his squad of five operators east through the village, toward Poppy’s modest estate.  While the mention of pirates had been something worth investigating, the rocket attacks on the troops were more pressing.   Krayt was an intelligence expert and an accomplished recon trooper, making him an easy selection for Krienz on this detail.  His bald head and sinister gold eyes served as effective intimidation tools as well.  Outlaw knew he would put that to good use at Merkrit’s place.
 
“Let’s go give this Poppy guy a visit,” Outlaw ordered his team.
 
Downtown One moved slowly through the small crowd to the front doors of the tavern. Outlaw noticed a frantic young man standing there, look at them, and then race inside.
 
“He’s going to try and go out the back door!’ shouted Outlaw.
 
Doc and Hammer began to double time it to the rear of the building, one of the largest the village had to offer.  Milky and Outlaw cautiously moved into the front doors of the establishment; Buzz took a position guarding their entry. There was a “U” shaped bar, located in the center of the room, with tables all around it.  The pair was largely ignored by the twenty or so patrons sipping drinks or having a meal at one of the tables.  Milky’s eyes trailed back to a table near the back, with a half eaten meal centered on it. The chair accompanying it was knocked backwards on the floor.  Outlaw spotted the nervous young man from outside, sitting at the far end of the room trying to look natural, and failing.
 
“Downtown Two Security, Poppy is headed your way,” Outlaw warned.
 
“We’ve got him,” replied Hammer, breathing hard.
 
“Fracker ran from us, but we caught him,” supplied Doc.
 
“Good, I’ve got one here that’s going to join us outside too,” the Lieutenant said, looming over the shoulder of the nervous man.
 
“Hey buddy, come on outside with me, will ya? It won’t take long,” Outlaw said casually.
 
The man turned slowly, and looked wide eyed at Theodorik. His cheek was stuffed with food, obviously caught in mid chew.
 
“You can finish that, my man, take your time,” Outlaw said calmly.
 
The young stranger turned back to his plate, shut his eyes tight and gulped down the contents of his mouth.  He picked up his glass and looked at Outlaw, silently seeking approval. The trooper nodded and grinned, so the man washed down his hastily consumed food.  Moments later they were outside, and Outlaw noticed right away that Buzz had his hands full with a gathering crowd.  Doc and Hammer were searching Merkrit, who was standing in front of them with hands raised.  It seems some of the locals took exception to this.
 
“Step the frack away!” shouted Buzz, swinging to his right toward some of the civilians.
 
Outlaw rushed out into the cobblestone street to meet them.
 
“Whoa, whoa, we’re okay here, everybody relax,” he attempted to soothe the crowd.
 
He pointed to the group of around fifteen men that was now edging uncomfortably close to Buzz.
 
“You there, move back, I’m not kidding. I don’t want to shoot anybody today.” Outlaw commanded gruffly.
 
The men relented, the shouts from the crowd settling slightly, but only slightly.  Altogether the squad estimated a crowd of thirty onlookers, and it was growing as curious people began filtering out of the tavern.
 
“Greetings Poppy, you can put you can put your hands down. I’m Lieutenant Outlaw with Task Force 3242. I have some questions for you.”
 
“Of course, everyone has questions for Poppy,” he responded blandly, complying with the order and lowering his hands.
 
“Poppy, I want to know about the rocket attacks,” asked Outlaw.
 
“Rockets? No, we don’t use rockets.  You have my word as the warlord of this village, we do no such thing,” was Poppy’s answer.
 
“You’re lying, Poppy,” Outlaw observed, “Don’t insult me dude, and don’t lie to me.”
 
“I’m telling you, we don’t do that, we have nothing to do with that.”
 
 The Mon Cal was mildly insulted at being referred to as ‘dude’, of Corellian street slang, but complied nonetheless.
 
“I don’t give a frack about your extortion or your petty theft.  I want to protect this village from those pirates and I can’t do it if you and your thugs are firing rockets at us.”
 
Poppy gave his interrogator an exaggerated shrug.
 
“Sir, I don’t know what to tell you.”
 
Outlaw had both hands on his hips; the crowd had now grown to over fifty people.  They had to either take Poppy in right now or let him go.  He moved his HUD screen away from his eye, and took a step back.
 
“Who is this character?” Outlaw asked, referring to the nervous young man he plucked from the bar.
 
“Bah, that’s just my look-out, Rex, he warns me whenever the pirates come into town. The less I talk to them, the better, you know?”
 
“Hey, junior,” Outlaw shouted to Rex, who answered with an inquisitive look.
 
“Yes, you, go back and finish your meal.”
 
Rex hesitantly started for the tavern door, Outlaw offered a reassuring gesture.  Finally, the young man picked up his feet into a run, and disappeared through the saloon’s entrance.  Outlaw turned toward Merkrit, and took two steps, closing the gap between them to mere inches.  He bore his green eyes directly into the huge orange eyes of the Mon Calamarian.
 
“If you’re lying, then you’re dying, you dig that, fool?”
 
The Mon Cal shuddered at the vernacular; obviously this trooper was southern Corellian, possibly from “the Skids”, a particularly nasty section of Tyrena.  It suddenly occurred to Poppy that these men might not be Imperial soldiers at all, they might be hired mercenaries.  They probably did not receive the standard predictable Imperial training, which made them very unpredictable.  Poppy was about to speak when he noticed all of the operatives suddenly wore very serious faces.
 
“Downtown One, this is Downtown Two, we are taking small arms fire here at the Merkrit house.”
 
“Hammer, Doc, Milky, go!” Outlaw shouted, he then spoke into his microphone.
 
“Downtown One is en route; we have your location on the global.”
 
The Lieutenant then turned to Buzz, who still held their detainee by his long brown robe.
 
“Let him go, let’s get over there.”
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 27, 2011, 10:33:26 PM
Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1813 Hours, Sunday
 
Kamiko Sakura had finally gathered up the nerve to venture out to Theodrik’s encampment.  In fact, the petite brunette had become rather gutsy in the past 24 hours. She had thrown Marcus out, and demanded all the vacation time from the Fire Department that she hadn’t taken in the last three years.  Kammi was stopped at the permiter of the base by an armed man.  She flashed her RFR badge and proudly announced that she was there to see Lieutenant Theodrik Sturmwolke.  The trooper scanned her for weapons and took her ID.
 
“He’s in the field, you can wait over there,” he said pointing to a collection of tables.
 
Kammi noticed several men were huddled around a crackling radio. Suddenly she heard her love's voice coming from the device.
 
“Downtown One is en route; we have your location on the global.”
 
“My stars, whats going on?” she asked.
 
“Two teams are in Lianorm, and they taking small arms fire.”
 
Kammi closed her eyes and swallowed hard.  She said a silent prayer that the spirits protect Theodorik once again.
 
 
 
The Merkrit house was only a half kilometer, and at full running speed, Outlaw and company covered it in about three minutes.  They approached Krayt and his team, who were taking cover behind the stone walls surrounding the house.  It looked like someone had set off several smoke bombs in the front and side yards, obscuring the house, garage, and nearby shed.
 
“Downtown Two, we’re coming in behind you. Uptown, what can you see?”
 
“Vision is obscured, we are repositioning, Downtown Two, and switching to thermal on our bino’s, the fire is coming from Merkrit’s house for sure. I can tell you that, the surrounding hills are clear.”
 
“Copy.”
 
Outlaw walked in a crouch to Krayt’s position along the south wall, he was dialing in a radio frequency with his wrist mounted information center.
 
“’Law, do you want gunships? Maybe a strafing run?” Krayt shouted over the gunfire.
 
“Damn it … yeah, that would do the trick, but I don’t know who is in that house brother,” Outlaw replied.
 
“Yeah I agree, maybe Uptown can give us something to work with,” Krayt replied loudly, but calmly.
 
Blaster fire whistled over their heads, punctuated by an occasional crack of a projectile weapon.  As ordered, the troopers were not firing very often, they all feared collateral damage at this point.  The sniper team had thermal imaging capabilities, something the ground teams had decided against to save weight.
 
“Downtown One, Uptown is in position, using thermal imaging; I have an excellent view of four gunmen. But we have a problem.”
 
“What is it?” Outlaw shouted.
 
“On the opposite side of the south wall from your position, there is a small shed.  I have three figures huddled on the ground next to it, looks like a woman and two children. The rounds coming from the house are hitting dangerously close to them.  I cannot see the actual front of the house, the east side, at all.”
 
“Frack, I knew it,” Outlaw cursed.
 
Lolana Ryltans was crouched on the ground alongside the gardener’s shed, huddling her fourteen year old sister Mai Lee, and her eleven year old brother Kieren beneath her.  The twenty-one year old human girl was the part time gardener at the Merkrit house, and today, she had brought her younger siblings along.  She was cursing her decision, as blaster fire had erupted from the house as she had stood near the shed.  She was holding tightly to her brother and sister now, praying for the spirits to send an angel to save them.
 
“Uptown, I need an image of the four bad guys and their locations on the thermal uplinked to me. When I say the word, I need you to take out whoever is the most threatening weapon to those three innocents,” the Lieutenant ordered.
 
Outlaw suspected that the crack of the 6-2Aug2 would scare the remaining three targets, the question was, would it scare them into running, or just finding better cover.  He had to prepare for the worst.  After a few seconds, the thermal picture of the house downloaded to his information center, he held his wrist out for Krayt to see.
 
“You’re going to unleash hell on this son of a kriff, concentrate your fire in this area of the house,” he ordered, pointing to the screen, “and then pull it high and to the right, off of the house, when I call for it.”
 
“Gotcha L-T,” Krayt answered.
 
The squad sergeant relayed the information to his team, and Outlaw crouch-walked toward his own team.  He showed them the layout of the house, and was pointing to a side door, indicating their path of entry.  Just then an explosion shattered part of the wall behind them. Lolana was now lying flat on the ground, her arms pinning her brother and sister to the dirt as well.
 
“Aaaaaahhh, Frack … what was that?” Milky screamed.
 
“Uptown, talk to me,” Outlaw demanded.
 
“Rocket propelled grenade, the tango wielding it just disappeared from the window.”
 
“When you see him again, fracking ice him!” Outlaw was screaming now.
 
‘Downtown One, we are flanking them, we’ve got to clear that house.  Hammer, Doc, Buzz, enter through that side door by the garage.  Milky, you stay close to me, you are going to have to carry a civilian, possibly two, got it?”
 
“Got it!” the Corporal shouted back.
 
Another rocket propelled grenade whooshed overhead, this time from a different angle.  It exploded 30 meters behind them, ripping a massive hole in a small building.
 
“Damn it! Uptown, what happened?” Outlaw shouted, now in a full run to the west of the house, his team trailing behind. They took their positions near a stone archway over an opening in the west wall.
 
“We might have a second weapon being used,” Uptown answered, “wait, stand by Downtown One.”
 
Just then, the familiar crack of the sniper’s Auggie echoed from the hills, the firing from the house ceasing seconds later.
 
“Tango down,” the sniper reported nonchalantly.
 
“Okay, it’s now or never, let’s do the nasty.” Outlaw commanded, exhaling sharply, “Krayt, give them hell, NOW!”
 
Staff Sergeant Krayt A’Sardu and company unleashed a barrage of rifle and carbine fire toward the upper windows of the house.  The remaining three gunmen had now taken cover inside the building, startled by the loss of one of their compatriots and the accompanying crack of the Auggie.   They were down to one grenade launcher now, and the leader of the group, Rebar Merkrit, had called for the shooters to regroup on the main floor.
 
“Hey, get to that window and start firing back on these kriffs,” Rebar shouted to his two cronies.
 
‘We can’t Ree, they are laying down some serious hell on us.”
 
“Shoot a damn rocket through the window!” he hissed, “Our only chance is to get to the speeder bikes in the garage!”
 
Outlaw shouted into his microphone, “Pull fire! Pull your fire Downtown Two!”
 
Another rocket propelled grenade flew past Krayt’s team on the south wall, once again exploding just meters behind them.  Lolana began to pray for a painless death for all of them, she was certain she wouldn’t survive this.  Krayt’s squad pulled their fire to the right, away from the house; still giving the appearance they were raking the gunmen with blaster bolts.   Suddenly Lolana saw something coming out of the smoke towards her.
 
Rebar ran to the side door, knowing it was only a few meters to the garage from there. He was counting on that last grenade to buy him enough time to get to the speeder bikes.  The smoke bombs they had set off were also starting to dissipate, it was time to move.
 
“Hey, you two, let’s go!” he shouted, starting to press down the handle to open the side door, preparing to make a break for it.
 
Corporal Melky Berran was sprinting toward the shed and the three civilians, trailing closely behind his Lieutenant.  The trio of innocents suddenly came into view.
 
“Milky, get the woman,” Outlaw shouted.
 
Lolana looked up at the scout trooper as he hovered above her; the spirits had sent her an angel after all.  Milky unceremoniously lifted the woman off of the ground, cradling her against his chest like a new bride.  Outlaw scooped up the little boy with his right arm, and turned to the little girl.
 
“Climb on my back!” he shouted, the fourteen year old only paused for a few seconds before she obliged.
 
Buzz paused ten meters from the door, firing an explosive round from his Starlight Carbine into the side door.  The thick metal door fragmented into several pieces, cutting the Mon Calamarian thug behind it to ribbons.  The other two gangsters were knocked back from the concussion, one of them screaming, clawing at his now shattered eardrums.  Hammer and Doc broke into the room, taking advantage of the shock of the situation.  The remaining armed opponent in the room began to fire wildly at the two men.
 
Milky and Outlaw ran back to the west gate, considerably slower now with the three siblings as baggage.  The Corporal noticed the woman he held was bleeding from her temple.
 
“She’s hurt boss,” Milky announced.
 
“Skyhook, this is Downtown One, I need an extraction immediately. I say again, we have taken fire and need extraction.  Landing Zone will be Aurek.” Outlaw shouted into his headset.
 
Hammer spun to the source of the firing, and was greeted with a flash of bright red light.
 
“Unghhh!” he moaned, dropping his weapon as he tumbled backwards.
 
Buzz, who had just entered the room, sent a three round burst into the shooter on the floor, ending his life.  Doc had whirled around, spotting the man with the shattered ears writhing in pain on the floor.  He turned his attention to Hammer, who was also screaming on the floor.
 
“Ahhh, I can’t see, I can’t fracking see!” he was shouting.
 
“We have to get Hammer out of here!” Doc shouted.
 
The drone of the Lartys filled the sky as Doc struggled to throw the burly Staff Sergeant over his shoulder. He took a deep breath and began trudging out the door.  Buzz grabbed the screaming gangster by the wrist and dragged him out of the side door, knocking him into several pieces of debris in the process.
 
“Outlaw, Hammer’s been hit, we are bringing him and a prisoner to LZ Aurek,” Buzz reported.
 
“Uptown, Downtown Two, get to LZ Aurek, double time it!” Outlaw commanded.
 
The men from Krayt’s squad were already moving west, when they came upon Doc, Buzz, Hammer and their prisoner.  The second squad helped the laden men with their burdens, and as a group they rapidly moved off toward the LZ.  The spot was one of four Outlaw had pre determined based on several different scenarios, this one was labeled “Aurek”.  The Lieutenant and his Corporal arrived first, with the three family members still in tow.  The sniper team, Uptown, arrived next, and the four troopers fanned out around the civilians to ensure a secure LZ.
 
The Lartys were in view now, Outlaw made radio contact with them, announcing he was lighting a green flare, which he promptly did.  The pilot acknowledged and the drop ships began to slowly hover into position.  The rest of the operatives and their prisoner were now arriving at the zone as well. Doc was also able to look at Hammer for the first time.
 
“His left hand is burned,” Doc observed, “I think he took a blaster bolt off of his rifle.”
 
Doc had surmised correctly, a blaster bolt found its way onto Hammer’s TC-22, exploding it right in front of his face.  The flash from the event had blinded Hammer, most likely only temporarily, but he needed more definitive care.  The pair of Lartys touched down a few meters from the troopers, which the group eagerly boarded.  Once Outlaw confirmed they were all accounted for, civilians, troopers and their prisoner, he stepped into the craft and gave the pilot the signal to depart.
 
The twin airspeeders lifted off and lumbered off toward the field base.  Everyone wore a look of relief, except Doc, who was irrigating Hammer’s eyes, trying to ease his pain.  Lolana had wrapped her arms around Milky’s neck, and was now staring into the young man’s eyes.
 
“My angel … I thank the spirits they sent you to me,” she cooed.
 
“No problem miss, we’re going to get your head looked at. You will be fine,” Milky replied uncomfortably.
 
“You are my hero,” she said, then turned to Outlaw, “you as well, I feared men like you only existed in holo-movies and story books.  But here you are, in the flesh, real live heroes.”
 
I need a hero!
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night.
He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
and he's gotta be fresh from the fight.
I need a hero!
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light.
He's gotta be sure and it's gotta be soon
and he's gotta be larger than life.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 30, 2011, 08:40:37 PM
Chapter 6

Tonight it's very clear, as we're both lying here.
There's so many things I want to say.
I will always love you, I would never leave you alone.

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1831 Hours, Sunday
 
This wasn’t the first time Kamiko had prayed for Theodorik’s safety.  When he left Corellia for the Stormtrooper Corps, they had been dating just over a year, and the young brunette thought about him daily.  The reality of his job had never hit her, at least not until now, sitting by the radio, feeling physically ill.  Truth be told, the first time she had seen him dressed in anything militarily other than his uniform was in the mountains last week.  Now, it was all too real, and she felt ashamed that she could let him slip away, knowing now how easily she could lose him.
 
Kamiko was exhausted, wearing the night before on her face. Marcus had resisted the break-up of course, and after realizing she wouldn’t back down, had said some rather unkind things to her.  He had begun to show his true colors of late, and Kammi would have sent him packing sooner rather than later, Theodorik Sturmwolke being in the picture or not.  That was the part of the situation that caught her breath in her throat, Theo being in the picture, because he really wasn’t in the picture, not exactly.
 
The young miss had been in this situation with the scout trooper before, being with him, but at the same time not.  Their first kiss answered questions for both Kamiko and Theo, but it also asked a few new ones, the most poignant regarding Theo’s girlfriend.  What was he going to do about Anna?  The easy answer was to break up with her straight away, the very next time he saw her and Kammi and her true love could get on with being together.  But a storybook ending was not to be had; it wouldn’t befit the young lovers anyway.
 
Theodorik and Kamiko hadn’t arrived on that bridge that night after a passing glance or meeting eyes from across a crowded room.  It had taken years for the couple to find themselves on that bridge, it would be ridiculous to think they would be a together overnight.  It had taken another month … a month … before the young man had separated from Anna, and felt ready to move forward with Kammi.  The kiss they shared on the bridge was certainly one of her fondest memories, but it wasn’t her favorite.  Her favorite memory was when Theo left no doubt in her mind, they were a couple, and he had eyes for no one else.
 
 
They were at a party for a friend, and they hadn’t seen each other in almost a week.  Years later, the story would get jumbled and confused; the details of the party itself were long forgotten.  For the life of them, neither could recall who or what the party was for.  There was even some debate as to the location, and even the date (she said the 13th, he said the 15th of May).
 
Theodorik wouldn’t ever forget how she looked that night, however.  He remembered her dress, a green and yellow flowered print that accentuated her blossoming curves.   He remembered her hair, her wonderful hair, long black tresses spilling down her back, her bangs barely controlled by her intricate metal headband.   He remembered her eyes, those bright adventurous violet eyes, looking at him, looking right into him.
 
“You look beautiful tonight,” he said to her, voice clear and unwavering.
 
He took her hands in his, stepping back to look her over.  Kammi lowered her head shyly as her lips formed into a tight smile.  There was something special about the way he said it tonight, as if it was the first time he really meant it.  Maybe it was the first time he knew he meant it.  She brought her eyes to meet his.
 
“I’ve missed you Theo,” she offered, smile dropping away into a longing gaze.
 
He smiled at her, pulling her closer to him and wrapping his arms around her shoulders.  She rested her chin on his chest, her small hands linked around his midsection.   The music in the background began to change its pace to that of a slow love song.
 
“Dance with me, Kammi,” he asked.
 
She didn’t resist as he pulled her onto the dance floor. He encircled her miniature frame with his arms and kept his eyes locked on her face.  She returned his gaze, heat rising into her cheeks.  It was the perfect time for Theo to tell her that he loved her, but she knew that’s not how he did things.  The words of the song were speaking for him.
 
"Sometimes I just forget, say things I might regret. It breaks my heart to see you crying. I don't wanna lose you, I could never make it alone."
 
Kammi was pretty certain she was getting his message; it was time for her to take a chance.
 
“I heard you broke up with Anna,” she quipped.
 
“I did,” he answered playfully.
 
“Have you found someone else?” she asked, playing along.
 
“I have ... someone special,” he replied after a pause, without a hint of regret in his voice.
 
“Is it me?” she dared, holding her breath.
 
Rather than answer her, Theodorik looked into her eyes, and sang the next line of the song.
 
“I am the man who will fight for your honor. I’ll be the hero that you’re dreaming of.  We’ll live forever, knowing together that we did it all for the glory of love.”

He didn’t profess his undying love to her the way Prince Charming would to his beautiful princess, but Kammi would take it.  He told her he would love her forever in a way that was uniquely Theo, and that was what she wanted more than anything.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik January 31, 2011, 03:13:09 PM
“Ma’am, if you’re a paramedic like your ID says, we could really use your help,” the trooper said as he handed Kamiko her ID.
 
“Of course,” she answered right away.
 
She suddenly realized that she could end up working on Theo, a thought that sent chills through her body.
 
“Okay, breathe Kammi,” she whispered to herself, “you’re a professional; just do what you need to do.”
 
The roar of the drop ships drew near and the camp was responding accordingly.  The Imperial Army medical staff was generally a mockery of the urgent care community, usually relying on 21-B medical droids to treat patients.  But Kammi knew that the Stormtrooper Corps medics, more specifically the ones in the Special Forces, were extremely capable of treating traumatic wounds.  Despite his leadership role within his platoon, Theo’s brother Aliksander was one of the finest medics she had ever met, military or otherwise.
 
“Ninety seconds, the bird with the injured is coming in first,” the radio crackled with the voice of one of the pilots.
 
Kamiko was quickly ushered toward the landing zone, three stretchers lie on the grass with a gang of troopers prepared to carry them.  Littering the ground were bags of trauma gear, oxygen cylinders, and electronic medical devices.  The civilian paramedic had never seen some of them before.
 
“I’m a paramedic with Royal Fire Rescue, where do you need me?” she asked a group of troopers gathered near the equipment.
 
An older man dressed in utilities raised an eyebrow at her, then extended his hand.
 
“Welcome, I’m Doctor Elber, you can stick with me, you work in the city?” he said as she shook his hand.
 
“I’m Sakura, from Shock Trauma Air Rescue,” she responded, a touch of pride in her voice.
 
“Good, then you should be used to this,” he shouted, unimpressed, as the roar of the air speeder became almost deafening, “Look alive kid ... here they come.”
 
In the air above them, the Larty began its hovering decent when suddenly it groaned loudly and bucked to the right.  The loud bang of an engine blowing echoed across the valley, sounding like a sledge hammer smashing into metal.  A gasp washed over the crowd on the ground.
 
“What the hell was that?” shouted Outlaw, as the craft started to rock side to side.
 
“I lost the number two engine,” screamed the pilot, “Hang on you kriffs.”
 
Fortunately, the pilot was experienced, and could handle putting the bird down with only one engine.  The craft listed to the right as he brought it down, which he quickly compensated for, bolting it upright and level for the last few feet of its descent.  Outlaw was standing at the edge of the crafts open side, not prepared for the violent movement, and he tumbled into the air speeder landing on his back.
 
“Ahh my back!” the Lieutenant screamed as the craft finally touched the ground safely.
 
Kammi was right at the Doctor’s side when she scanned the inside of the transport.  Three men, on their backs, and one of them was screaming … wait … that was Theodorik screaming!
 
“Get me up, dammit, get me up,” he howled.
 
Kammi had tears streaming down her face as she leapt into the air craft.  Soldiers were spilling out of either side of the transport now, the medics swarming around the injured.  She knelt down next to her love, doing her best to compose herself.
 
“Theo, what’s wrong?” she said, expelling her breath slowly.
 
“My back, I’m laying on a hot weapon, my back is on fire!” he shouted, still not realizing it was Kamiko hovering over him.
 
Kammi rapidly rolled him onto his side and sure enough, there it was, Outlaw’s Bola Carbine on the deck, still red hot from firing.  She noticed the armor on his back had begun to scorch, and the heat from the weapon was conducting right through to his skin.  The first step was an easy one, get his chest plate off of him right way.  Doctor Elber turned to the her.
 
“You okay with that one?” he almost growled.
 
“Yesir!” she shouted back.
 
Elber had his hands full with the prisoner, who was bleeding from both ears and clearly had suffered quite a bit of head trauma.  It looked to him like the firefighter had things under control.  Kammi gained her feet and began to struggle with Outlaw’s chest plate.
 
“Kammi? What are you doing here?” he asked, suddenly confused.
 
“Help me get this damn chest plate off of you for fracks sakes,” she shouted back at him.
 
He obeyed her, sitting upright, unclipping the fasteners located on both sides of the composite armor.   Kammi removed the rear panel, revealing his soaked undershirt, very warm to the touch.  She tore her trauma shears through the garment, exposing her patient’s bare skin. Outlaw exhaled with relief.
 
“That feels so much better,” he said closing his eyes.
 
The medic grimaced when she saw the reddish-pink flesh.  The hot carbine had sent its heat coursing into the armor plating, turning his sweat into steam, and giving him a superficial burn.  It hurt like hell, but it wasn’t any more dangerous to his health than a sun burn.  She sprayed bacta onto his bare skin, and then began to help him take the armor plates off of his arms.
 
“Not that I’m not glad to see you Kammi … but what are you doing here?” he asked.
 
She continued at her work, finding the fasteners on each piece of armor, purposely not making eye contact.  The rest of the medical staff and patients had moved to the craft’s exterior by now, leaving nothing to answer Outlaw’s question but silence.
 
“Kammi, what’s going on?” he demanded.
 
She loosened the last piece of armor, and began to pull off his undershirt.
 
“I came to see you,” she finally replied, unable to meet his eyes.
 
“Kammi, what’s wrong?” he asked, softly placing his hand on her chin and turning her face to his.
 
He saw the tears streaming down both of her cheeks, her dark black bangs raining down over her eyes.
 
“Spirits Kammi, what’s going on?”
 
She sat back and slapped his bare shoulder; he winced, grabbing it with the opposite hand.  He opened his mouth to protest the blow, but she spoke first.
 
“I thought you were badly hurt!” she shrieked, throwing her arms around his neck.
 
Theodorik held her tightly, doing his best to ignore his sore back.  At first he didn’t understand why she was so emotional, she had seen hundreds of victims in much worse condition.   Then he thought about if things were reversed, and he had found an injured Kamiko, and he understood her tears.  He held her for a few minutes, he sobs slowly calming.  Eventually, she broke away from him and looked him in the eye.
 
“I can’t believe this is what you have to deal with everyday.”
 
“Everyday? This wasn’t a typical patrol baby girl. Some things went down that we weren’t expecting, that’s all.” he lied, “that kind of thing almost never happens.”
 
“Still, I’m a nervous wreck here,” she sighed, blowing her bangs out of her eyes.
 
Kammi knew better than to ask him if he would ever quit being a soldier.  They had split up the last time she suggested it, after his first year in the Stormtrooper Corps.  He had only been home five times that year, bouncing from the Academy to several special schools.  It was only for a week or two at a time, and it became difficult for the now 17 year old girl to handle.  Her friends were bringing dates to all their school functions, and she was always left unescorted.
 
It was early December, and Theodorik had just completed another difficult military course.  He was supposed to be home for the next month, and Kammi was looking forward to having him home for Life Day.  Two weeks into his leave, he announced he was packing up and heading out in two days. He was given an opportunity to attend Scout school, and he needed to be on the ground on Naboo in four days.  Kammi was infuriated, and an argument ensued.  In anger, she suggested he choose between his career as a Stormtrooper or her.  Broken hearted, he left for Naboo that night without saying good bye.  It devastated her, but she came to realize how much his career meant to him.
 
When he came back into her life, she apologized and accepted him with open arms.  The boys in her school were nothing in comparison to him.  All the while, she secretly harbored the wish that he leave the Corps after his three year enlistment was up.  Now, sitting with him in the transport, she still wished he would leave it all behind, but for a different reason altogether.  Kammi had been selfish, she realized, she had wanted him back with her, to be by her side.  This time, she wanted him to quit for his sake, she feared for his safety. Kamiko couldn’t live in a world where Theodorik Sturmwolke had given his life for the Empire.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik February 05, 2011, 03:50:53 PM
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo


0930 Hrs, Monday
 
Yesterday was a difficult day for Outlaw, both physically and emotionally.  The patrol turning sour on them was not completely unexpected, but the scale of the firefight was surprising.  Major Jezebel had a person on the ground in the city, and the report was 14 civilians injured, 3 dead, and 1 missing.  Amongst the dead was Rebar Merkrit, son of the local warlord.  To the troopers’ credit, none of their actions resulted in any civilian injuries other than the trio at the house.  They had even managed to rescue three locals, one of which was attached to Melky Berran most of the previous night.
 
The aftermath of the patrol was what was weighing on Outlaw’s mind, however.  Kammi stayed to share a meal, and the two sat in uncomfortable silence as they ate.  She left a short time after, with barely any words exchanged by the couple. Outlaw now had two women to think about.  He loved Kamiko, but their relationship was impossible to work out.   Then there was the little twi’lek girl who he really liked, who was here on Naboo, right now, and might just go anywhere he went if he asked her.  But, she was all of 18 years old and very accustomed to her comfortable living style.
 
 “Lieutenant Outlaw, you have anything to add?” asked Major Jezebel.
 
“No ma’am, you’ve covered everything,” he replied.
 
“I will be in a holo- meeting with Major “Ice Man” Sturmwolke from 220th Recon in one hour, discussing our next course of action.  Dismissed.”
 
Outlaw and the three other troopers all rose from their seats and made their way out of the shelter.  Major Kassel had noticed he was distracted, but it wasn’t worth dressing the soldier down in front of the other team Sergeants.  The important details he knew, most he had provided for the briefing actually.  Hammer was only temporarily blinded, but was off of combat duty until Doctor Elber gave him clearance.  Staff Sergeant “Krayt” A’Sardu was going to fill the spot on Outlaw’s team, which was a worthy replacement for the Hammer.
 
The thug the teams had captured was stabilized and resting in the medical center, under heavy guard.  He was having surgery this evening to repair his ruptured eardrum, not a complicated procedure for the staff, even considering their crude environment.  An agent was coming from Imperial Intelligence to have a crack at him the day after tomorrow.  There were a few dots that needed connecting in that village.

The Lieutenant didn’t need to speak to his brother to know what he would suggest next, bring in Poppy.  Outlaw was playing some possible scenarios in his head.  The most appealing to most of the men would be fast roping in from air speeders and then snatching their target from wherever he was. Then light to medium armored vehicles would swoop in and they would race out of the city.  That was an operation that Outlaw could guarantee would work.
 
The backlash for a daylight raid could be massive, however.  There was another possibility forming in Outlaw’s mind, something a little more delicate politically.  He would wait until the word came from Major Kassel on their next course of action before he explained his idea.  The best thing for him to do right now was sleep, between his sore back and his clouded mind, he had gotten very little.
 
 
Several Hours Later
 
“Wait a minute, Lolana, your father is who?” Milky asked the young woman.
 
“My father, Ferran Ryltans, is the deposed mayor of Lianorm.  Poppy and his thugs took over a month ago, and since we didn’t really have much in the way of a sheriff, there wasn’t anything we could do.”
 
“So how did you end up working for him?” the corporal asked skeptically.
 
“I used to work at the restaurant in the center of town.  But Poppy had it closed down because we were putting his place across the street out of business. So, work for Poppy, or don’t work.”
 
“That’s ridiculous, we have to go and arrest that bastard.”
 
“The people are so jaded right now, Poppy is only the last in a long line of local war lords.  When the RSF finally intervened and cleaned up the place, an election was held and my father won. But everyone predicted it wouldn't last.”
 
“So where is the RSF now?” asked the mountain man.
 
“They don’t get in the Empire’s way, especially Stormtroopers.  That attack in the jungle, had nothing to do with us.  But once the stormies took over in this area, they stopped coming around to make sure things were running smoothly.”
 
Melky could only shake his head.
 
“That makes no sense, the RSF is afraid of us?”
 
“On some level, yes, but the real problem is political.  They have been browbeaten enough times for getting in the way, so they chose the path of least resistance here.  Let the Empire deal with the consequences.”
 
The pathfinder had spent all day with the young woman; she was very intelligent, and easy to be around.  Her siblings were getting the royal treatment from the troopers at the camp, freshly prepared food, games, a tour of the gunships, to name a few things.  They were now tucked into beds at another Imperial pre-fabbed shelter nearby.  The soldiers enjoyed having young people around, as most of them were family men.  Melky and Theo were the only two men from Team Vampire who didn’t have children and a family at home. 
 
“I’m sorry it came to this, Lolana.  You don’t think arresting Merkrit and his son will help?”
 
“We can win the war, but the Empire is always good at losing the peace.”
 
Those words didn’t set well with Melky, who was really beginning to like Lolana.  She had wild dark brown hair and big brooding sultry dark brown eyes.  Her complexion was also dark, like much of the local humans.  Her full lips and bright smile brought a happy grin to Melky’s own face; she even had a pair of cute little dimples on her cheeks.  He wasn’t sure of the implications of such, but Melky was really attracted to this girl.
 
“We have to tell ‘Law about this,” he concluded, pressing some buttons on his data device.
 
Outlaw, got some news.
 
An immediate and automated reply popped onto his screen.
 
Long night … sleeping … if it’s important, come and get me, if not, don’t even think about it.
 
“Crap,” Melky muttered, "I'll have to tell him in the morning."
 
“Melky, you have a wife or a girlfriend back home?” Lolana asked, seemingly out of nowhere.
 
“Uh … no … I’m single …” the young man stammered.
 
“Would it be a bad thing if I asked you to come over here and kiss me?”
 
“No … I mean … if you want me to …” Melky continued to struggle with his words; still he crossed the room to sit next to her on his bed.
 
“My love, don’t be nervous, I owe you a great debt,” she whispered.
 
“You are my knight in shining armor, and now you’ve whisked me away to your castle,” she continued breathily, “there is only one thing left for us to do.”
 
The trooper shivered at the last part of her sentence, bringing his eyes to look into hers.  Lolana brought her hand up to tenderly touch his face.  Melky responded by placing his hand on her upper thigh.  He wasn’t terribly experienced in this field, having been a scout trooper deployed to various high risk assignments over the past three years.  The sultry young brunette had many lovers during her time as a waitress and bartender in Lianorm.  It was apparent to the Corellian that she knew what she wanted, and he would happily, albeit nervously, oblige.
 
Lolana pressed her lips gently to his, caressing his face as she did so.  He took her lead, returning the kiss, opening his mouth to allow his tongue to explore hers.  In a matter of moments, they were lying on the bed, passionately meeting lips, hands beginning to roam under each other’s clothes. The couple was amazingly comfortable together, every move by one complimented by the other.  Their movements were in sync, like long time partners engaged in a familiar dance.  The two shared one another that night, physically and emotionally, and woke up snuggling together the following morning.
 
“I hope that this wasn’t a onetime thing,” he asked her, trailing his fingers along her arm.
 
“It was supposed to be, but now …” her voice trailed off.
 
“But now?” he echoed.
 
“You’re my knight in shining armor, this could be our happy ending,” she smiled, rolling onto her back to meet his eyes.
 
“Seems to me that it’s more like a happy beginning,” he said with a wide smile.
 
 
Just like a knight in shining armor, from a long time ago.
Just in time I will save the day, take you to my castle far away.
I am a man who will fight for your honor; I'll be the hero you're dreaming of.
We're gonna live forever, knowing together that we did it all for the glory of love.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik February 18, 2011, 06:10:58 PM
Chapter 7

In this farewell, there’s no blood, there’s no alibi.
‘Cause I’ve drawn regret, from the truth of a thousand lies.
So let mercy come, and wash away …
What I’ve done.


Alliance Underground Headquarters

Lasay Swamps, Naboo

1320 hours, Tuesday
 
Major Lenard Monch sat in the dim light of the underground cavern, alone with his thoughts.  He detested living below the earth like an animal, but it was the only place his base of operations could be safe from the Empire.  The Alliance to Restore the Republic was the official name of their movement, not so much a grand army as a collection of several smaller armies.  The enemy was the establishment, the Galactic Empire, the oppressors of peace and freedom.  He would live below ground if it gave him the opportunity to inflict harm on the Empire’s troops.
 
“Monchi” as his friends called him, didn’t have the same typical overused excuse for wanting to fight the Empire.  His parents weren’t killed by Stormtroopers in his native land, he wasn’t raised a poor orphan, in a state of poverty created by the oppressive Imperial war machine.  In fact, Major Monch was just the recalcitrant youngest son of a successful Tralusian businessman.  He joined the rebellion because he didn’t know what else to do with himself, and who better to hate than the big bad Empire?
 
 He was leading a battalion sized element, nearly 600 infantry troops, responsible for creating a foothold on Naboo and rallying support for the Alliance with the locals.  His primary ally was the Gungans, the aquatic sentient people of the swamps of Naboo.  Together, they had led several raids against Imperial targets, with some impressive results.  The Major’s current worry was a rumor coming from the Village of Lianorm.  It seems a group of well trained mercenaries went head to head with one of the local warlords and inflicted quite a bit of damage.
 
“Sir,” Monch was jolted from his thoughts by his XO, “We have confirmed the prior intelligence reports.”
 
“Regarding?” asked Monch.
 
“The Imperial Artillery fan is fully operational, despite our support of the local bandits; they haven’t been able to disrupt the enemy activity.”
 
Monch hated the way military people spoke; they used terms like ‘enemy activity’ and ‘fully operational’.  The Major had risen to his current rank because of his money and political influence, not because he was a particularly good strategist.  His Executive Officer, Captain Dale Kreiger, was a former member of CorSec’s counter terrorism unit, and did most of the military planning and intelligence analysis.  His loyalty to the Alliance was the only thing that kept him from killing his Commanding Officer in his sleep.
 
The two officers disagreed on the strategy for the region. Captain Kreiger suggested greater infiltration of the villages and advocated hit and run attacks on the Imperial troops.  Major Monch insisted the weapons facility be their next target.  The XO knew why of course, the destruction of such a high profile target would most likely earn the Major a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, and he could leave this forsaken mud puddle.
 
“Does this jeopardize the villages as supply points?” Monch asked, touching on his only real area of expertise, logistics.
 
“Not yet, but if the Stormies were ever able to find this bunker, those artillery pieces would bring us a lot of problems.”
 
The Commanding Officer dismissed that notion.
 
“We’re a hundred feet underground Dale.”
 
“Lenard, for fracks sake, an SPMA can punch a hole in the ground twice that distance,” the Captain pleaded.
 
“Then we will just have to make sure they don’t find us,” the Major answered confidently.
 
Captain Kreiger did take small comfort in knowing the Empire’s usual tactics regarding insurgency in an area.  He made sure that they paid the price for it after the first raid on the weapons facility.  They did not do well fighting what they couldn’t see, and Kreiger’s people were ghosts.  As far as the Captain knew, there wasn’t an Imperial unit out there that could bring the fight into the wilderness.  His thoughts turned back to Lianorm.
 
“What about the bandits? We are scheduled to deliver some more rockets to them this evening.”
 
“No, cancel them.  We need that firepower for our next raid.  I’m afraid supporting those thugs didn’t work out for us, cut any ties we had to them,” the Major answered coldly.
 
Captain Kreiger shut his eyes tight, momentarily considering slapping his CO across his face.  He had made the deal with the pirates himself, he promised them full control of the Villages of Lianorm and Lassay and the firepower needed to do so.  In exchange, the bandits would make life very difficult for RSF and the Imperial troops.  Tonight, he was bringing rockets and grenades to them for an attempted assault on an artillery position.  He was also hoping for some news on these mercenaries operating in the area.
 
“You might be putting people lives in jeopardy with a move like that, Major,” Kreiger said finally.
 
“Honestly, I’m okay with it.  Those people are not my concern right now, hell, Dale, they’re criminals!” Monch finished by pounding his desk with his fist.
 
Major Monch had made his position on the matter very clear, his career was more important than the actual mission.  Captain Kreiger had no idea what he was going to do about his CO at the moment, but he knew he couldn’t let this go.  He would confer with a few of the other officers that also thought the Major was an idiot and maybe come up with a plan.  The XO was hoping that the entire situation wouldn’t end up in a military tribunal, or worse, his execution.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik February 21, 2011, 05:38:31 PM
Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1431 Hours, Tuesday
 
“Dammit Milky! Why didn’t you wake me up?” Theodorik roared.
 
“’Law, your comm message said-“
 
“That’s need to know information, her father is the deposed mayor? Come on Milk, that’s wake-your-lieutenant-up kind of information!”
 
Theodorik paced in front of his shelter, rubbing the stubble on his face.
 
“We’ve been holding the deposed Mayor’s three children here for three days,” the Lieutenant realized.
 
“Yeah, I figured that out this morning at breakfast, well, actually Lo did,” Milky supplied.
 
“We can’t bring them back, there is no way. Not until we put this Ryltans guy back in charge,” Outlaw steamrolled through Milky’s words.
 
Outlaw dropped his hands to his hips and exhaled through his mouth loudly.
 
“I’ve gotta run this by Major Kassel, but we have to get word to your Dad that you’re safe with us,” he continued, pointing to Lolana, who was clung tightly to Corporal Berran’s side.
 
Outlaw had spent the morning planning the operation for snatching Leerlalli “Poppy” Merkrit and questioning him.  An Agent from Imperial Intelligence arrived tomorrow to question their other guest; they would happily interrogate Merkrit as well.  Major Kassel has mentioned infiltrating the village, Outlaw wondered if that was a viable way to get a message across to Ryltans about his children.  The group turned as a trooper approached them, it was Buzz Candro, and he had news.
 
“Inbound Lambda with some of your friends, Outlaw,” he reported stoically.
 
“Friends?” Outlaw questioned.
 
“Some more shooters from your unit are coming in,” Buzz answered, “ETA 3 minutes.”
 
Outlaw rushed out to the landing pad, the hum of the shuttle already audible in the distance.  As the shuttle grew closer, and eventually flared out to its landing, the Lieutenant couldn’t help but wonder who his brother, Major Aliksander Sturmwolke, had sent on this mission.  The shuttle’s landing gear settled into the dirt and its engine slowly wound down.  Outlaw positioned himself at the base of the ramp as it lowered itself from the craft.  A figure stood waiting in the shadows of the shuttle’s entrance.
 
“Lieutenant Sturmwolke,” the figure called out.
 
Outlaw recognized the voice immediately.
 
“Fixer!”
 
Sergeant Kah “Fixer” Freedark emerged from the shuttle and strode down the ramp, stopping abruptly a few paces in front of him to offer a tight salute.  He was followed closely by Sergeant Gart “Spider” Beza and Sergeant Visk “Hawkbat” Chobrea, who wore similar grins as they too halted and saluted.
 
“Sergeant Freedark reporting as ordered, sir,” Kah said with a wide grin.
 
Outlaw instinctively returned the salute and then extended his hand to his old friend.
 
“Kah, don’t salute me, we’re friends, man,” Outlaw laughed.
 
“I know brother, just trying to be official,” he laughed, grabbing his long time friend’s hand.
 
Outlaw looked over his shoulder at the pair of troopers descending the ramp behind him.
 
“You remember Spider and Hawkbat,” Fixer said as he turned to his teammates.
 
“Of course,” Outlaw nodded, shaking their hands, “Gents, welcome.”
 
The group diverted their attention as the remaining two members of the team began to descend the ramp.  Corporal Alairon “Hotshot” Firestone and 1st Sergeant Allison “Slice” Ravenheart stepped out into the daylight and acknowledged their colleagues.
 
“Hey ‘Law, good to see you again,” Slice said smugly.
 
“Hey Allie, what’s good?” Outlaw asked raising his eyebrow flirtatiously.

Allison Ravenheart was no woman to trifle with, 5’10”, solidly built, and a twelve year veteran of the Stormtrooper Corps.  She looked far younger than her 34 years; brownish-black hair cropped short, steel grey eyes still glowing with the life of a younger woman.  For what it was worth, no one had ever known Slice to have a romantic thought towards anyone, especially the men of her unit.  Anyone that had tried had gotten the coldest of shoulders.  As usual, she dismissed Outlaw’s playful question with a sigh.
 
“Let’s get these boys to the CNC so we can get the details of this snatch and grab,” she huffed, purposely not saluting Outlaw.
 
The troopers followed Outlaw as he led the way toward the Command and Control shelter for the mission briefing.  He welcomed the addition of the team from the 220th; it added another level of experience to the mission.  Krienz had done a masterful job of selecting quality troopers for Task Force Grim Reaper, but Outlaw’s next plan called for more subtlety.  They were going to sneak into the village in the middle of the night and kidnap the Mon Calamarian.  Major Kassel had been impressed with the plan, and agreed that a team from the 220th was the right way to pull the mission off.
 
The rest of the afternoon was spent acquainting the team with the mission’s details, with the camp, and with the other teams.  Their operation was to take place tomorrow night, well after dark, the details of which were closely guarded.  Two Low Altitude Assault Transport – Infantry (LAAT/I) gunships, otherwise known as the infamous “Larty”, were arriving on Naboo in the morning.  Despite the presence of several Larty’s on Naboo, these were specially modified and outfitted for Special Operations use, and flown by the pilots of the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.  The 160th’s 3rd Battalion was stationed on Lok with the 220th, and had trained and worked with the recon troopers extensively.
 
The next night’s mission would not require the elite aviators, but Outlaw again felt more comfortable bringing in battle tested pilots and crew.  The aviators, crew, and mechanics were holed up at the Emperor’s Mountain Retreat, already heavily guarded.  They would fly in for their missions and then recoil to the retreat afterwards, to keep the highly advanced aircraft out of the sight of prying eyes.
 
There was also a matter of Lolana and her siblings, the deposed Mayor’s children.  Major Kassel took the information as good news when she’d heard.  The blonde intelligence officer mentioned there were already two assets from the 220th moving in to infiltrate the town. The Lieutenant suggested that one of them would pass a message along about the trio they were harboring in the camp, an idea the Major supported.
 
Outlaw was calmly walking back to his shelter after the mission briefing had ended when his wandering mind settled on a certain twi’lek.
 
“Frack!” he exclaimed suddenly.
 
He had completely forgotten he had arranged a date with Koyi tonight.
 
“Well, Theodorik, it’s time to go make yourself presentable,” he said aloud, as he hurried to close the distance to his shelter.
 
A night out with a pretty young girl was just the type of distraction that he needed right now.
 
 
Varykino, the Royal Lake Retreat, Naboo

1800 Hours, Tuesday
 
Pressed for time, Theo arrived at the exact minute he and his lovely lady had agreed to meet.  Koyi was already there, gazing absentmindedly over the water.  The late day sun was scattering tiny specks of golden light across the lake, twinkling like fireflies in a meadow.  She asked to meet him here after he mentioned they needed to get together earlier this evening.  Koyi regarded this as one of the most perfect places to watch the sunset on Naboo, and up until now, she hadn’t offered to share it with anyone.  The twi’lek was unsure of her future with the scout trooper, but she did know he already had a special place in her heart.
 
“You’re right on time, my dear,” she said with her usual sprightlysmile.
 
“Which means I’m late,” Theo chuckled.
 
The couple had grown incredibly comfortable with one another, and this was only their second actual date.  The thought brought a smile to Theo’s lips, second date, and same place as the first one.  Not that he had much of a choice; the encampment was nestled in a quiet little valley, with not much in the way of entertainment other than the retreat.   Tonight, there would be no drinking on Theo’s part; he had to stay sharp for the mission tomorrow night.
 
Koyi was content to spend time with her man, just enjoying the serenity of the lake with him.  The time they spent together was an opportunity for both of them to get away from their complex life.  The scout trooper was able to leave behind the chaos of the war while he was in her company. And while his growing feelings for Koyi complicated things with Kamiko, while he was with the twi’lek, it was far from his mind.
 
The young lady reveled in her chance to escape her aristocratic surroundings back home, to see and appreciate real beauty.  She was able to finally realize what the saying - “the best things in life are free” - meant.  Her parents couldn’t grasp the concept, or maybe they simply wouldn’t.   It was an image she was desperately trying to escape from, the spoiled little rich girl who didn’t appreciate anything she had.   She could smile in the thought that Theo didn’t look at her that way, at least not since their first date.  Koyi was he own toughest critic, but with the handsome rogue, she could completely relax.  There was one thing on her mind at the moment however.
 
“Theo, I have a request,” she said coyly.
 
“Anything my dear,” he replied casually.
 
“Come and meet my parents this weekend,” she suggested.
 
Theodorik froze for a moment, pondering the outcome of a meeting with the girl’s father.
 
“What? I mean, why?” he stammered out finally.
 
“They wanted to meet you, since I’ve been spending so much time with you.”
 
“What have you told them about us?” Theodorik gulped.
 
“Oh Theo, stop,” she laughed, “I haven’t told them we’ve been, you know, active.”
 
“But I really want you to meet them,” she continued, “I tried to keep us a secret, but my mother noticed that I’ve been fluttering around the penthouse since we first met.”
 
“It would be really important to me, Theo,” she begged, suddenly worried by his silence.
 
Theo did his best to hide his apprehension. Maybe this could be a good thing, he finally convinced himself.  After a long pause, the warrior stooped down and pressed his forehead against the lovely young twi’lek.
 
“If it’s important to you, than its important to me too,” he said confidently, “should be easy.”
 
“My parents will love you,” she giggled.
 
“I’m sure they will,” he lied, realizing he would rather face an army of Rebels.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik February 22, 2011, 03:26:16 AM
Unknown Location Outside of Lianorm, Naboo

0229 Hours, Thursday

Outlaw turned his wrist over to confirm what his well trained body already told him, one minute until wake-up, and sixteen minutes until move-out.  His eyes scanned the darkness of his team’s NDP or night defensive position, where they had been hiding since 2300 the night before.  The other four operatives, Buzz, Milky, Doc, and Krayt, were already awake and silently erasing any trace they were there.
 
They were less than half a kilometer from the edge of the village, and not much farther to the objective, the tavern where Poppy was hiding out.  The Mon Calamarian warlord was under surveillance for the last 48 hours or so, courtesy of a pair of Imperial agents posing as travelers in the village.  At exactly 0230, a message to appeared on Outlaw’s information center from Agent “Diablo”, confirming the location of the target, including his the exact room and the number of guards around him.
 
The Lieutenant updated the HUD within each of his trooper’s helmets with the information.  All of the players in the operation were totally integrated, Outlaw’s team, the surveillance assets, the extraction team, even Major Kassel back at the CNC.  Everyone was able to communicate in real time, and Outlaw could see anything any of his men saw, just with some movement of his eyes.  Once his team had packed up the NDP, including retrieval of their anti personal mines, they cautiously awaited zero hour, which was 0245.
 
 
Staff Sergeant Cabod “Diablo” Nive stood in the shadows along the West wall of the now vacant village restaurant.  The last patron from the Town Tap, Poppy’s tavern, had left over an hour ago.  The blue skinned twi’lek spy calmly and patiently awaited the bartender to remove the evening trash, and then leave with the bar manager.  The manager glanced in all directions before finally locking the front doors.
 
Diablo changed the setting on his visor from light amplification to thermal imaging, and scanned the buildings surrounding him one by one.  He could detect only three heat signatures belonging to humanoids, and they were all in the supine position, meaning sleep or an attempt at it.  He then focused on the tavern, where Leerlani Merkrit aka “Poppy” was hiding out for the last two days.  The scan revealed the same as the last three, five armed guards, one female twi’lek, and Poppy.
 
Diablo hid his disgust for the twi’lek’s presence. He had found it difficult to accept how many females of his race made their living.  Nive allowed himself a smile, chuckling inwardly at the assumption the girl was being paid, maybe she was there because she found the fish faced warlord attractive? The twi’lek operative had to restrain himself from laughing out loud at the thought.  He put the twi’lek female to the back of his mind and focused on uploading his intel to Outlaw and company, they were less than 20 minutes until party time.
 
 
Team Vampire moved into town slowly, enjoying the relative darkness of the village streets.  It seems that someone had disabled the trio of artificial lights which illuminated this particular path into the settlement.  Outlaw gave the building layout one last look, and the location of Poppy and his makeshift security detail.    The Mon Cal occupied a room on the upper floor with a female guest, with one guard outside the door seated on a chair.   In a room across the hall, two more guards slept with weapons undoubtedly located close-by.  On the first floor, two more guards sat around a holo screen, indicating to Outlaw they were taking this assignment less than serious.
 
Diablo had set out to disable any security devices the previous evening, but none were in place.  Just to be safe, he had initiated a device that jammed security cameras and motion sensors.  Team Vampire crept quietly through the night until they were within a stone’s throw of the tavern.  Outlaw and his operatives carefully scanned the area with thermal sensors, no one inside the building had moved.  They couldn’t be professionals, the Lieutenant thought, how could they not be monitoring the exterior of the place?

Buzz and Milky skulked through a maze of trash cans and boxes to reach the rear window of the tavern.
 
“Security devices?” Milky asked in a whisper.
 
“None,” replied Outlaw immediately.
 
Buzz used a magnetic device to move the locking mechanism of the window, and then carefully slid it open.  Milky reached in and popped the pair of springs holding the window sash in the frame with a small pair of wire cutters.  The opening was now large enough for the two operatives to slip in, which they did silently.  Milky smoothly crossed the stock room floor to the wooden door which separated it from the main bar.  He snaked a small camera on a flexible rod under the door until the two men guarding the main floor came into view.  Milky thumbed a switch on the device allowing Outlaw to share the visual.
 
Two human males sat at a wooden table, carbine slung over the shoulder of one, a pistol in a holster of the other.  An old outdated comm device sat on the table in front of them, along with several empty soft drink bottles.  Outlaw whispered his next command.
 
“In. Go.”
 
Krayt copied the message and removed a small pistol from his bandolier.  He aimed the implement skyward and fired its pneumatic charge with a muffled whoosh.  A second later, a barely audible clink meant the tip of the device had punctured the skin of the roof.  A barely visible length of cord stretched from the tip down to Krayt, which he threaded deftly through a mechanism attached to his belt.  The trooper gave the line a tug, and after scanning the area slowly in all directions, placed both feet on the wall allowing the apparatus to carry his entire weight.
 
The Staff Sergeant methodically scaled the wall, being careful not to place his feet on anything that could make a sound or come loose.  When he reached the roofline, Krayt sliced the cord free of the anchor and gently stuffed it into a pocket on his bandolier.  He crept along the roof to a scuttle hatch, which he easily removed, as it lacked any locking mechanism.  The trooper inverted and swung his head into the opening, seeing nothing below; he paused to confirm the ladder was present and sturdy, and descended into the second floor utility closet. He whispered a single word into his comm.
 
“Up.”
 
Outlaw and Doc moved to flank the back door of the building; his team was now completely in place. Slice and her team were already in position just south of the village with a trio of Seraph class land speeders.  They would swoop in and grab the team and their prisoner and escape to a pair of Lartys waiting 2 kilometers west of the village. The conveyance’s was widely used by military units, as it boasted a quiet running engine and a speed so renowned it was nicknamed the “Flash Speeder”.
 
The 1st Sergeant had a team of six troopers manning the vehicles including herself, her usual squad plus an additional shooter from one of the other teams.  They were assembled in pairs, a driver and a gunner on each vessel.  The Lieutenant whispered into his headset.
 
“Front?”
 
“Clear,” replied Diablo.
 
“In?” he whispered next.
 
“Good,” answered Buzz.
 
“Go,” directed Outlaw.
 
 The wooden door creaked slightly as Buzz slid it open, eliciting a “Huh?” from one of the two men seated at the table.  Milky quickly fired two shots from a suppressed DC-19 Stealth Carbine into the two guards’ chests before they knew what hit them.  The only sound that could be heard was the wooden chair hitting the floor with a plunk.  The noise startled the remaining conscious member of the security team, and he rose from his chair to investigate.
 
“Guys?” he called out from the top of the stairs.
 
Before he could say another word or move another muscle, he was gasping for breath.  Krayt had snuck out of the closet and behind him, and used his dagger to open a massive gash in his neck. The man attempted to cry out for help, but only managed a muffled gurgling sound as Krayt allowed his body to slump to the floor.
 
“Up. Clear,” he whispered.
 
“Front clear,” whispered Diablo.
 
Milky stealthily made his way to the rear door, unlocking it for Outlaw and Doc to enter. Buzz meanwhile had slowly crept up the stairs to join Krayt.  The communications sergeant looked down at the corpse on the hallway floor and the expanding pool of blood beneath it.  He moved his eyes to his fellow operative and gave him a tight grin and a thumbs up.  Krayt offered a quick nod as a silent reply.  The two operatives then moved slowly to the doors of the two occupied rooms. 
 
Outlaw and company followed behind silently, Buzz and Milky took a position facing the door behind which was their intended target.  The rest of the group faced the door shielding the sleeping guards.  The squad leader glanced to the men flanking him and then sent his armored boot solidly into the door.  The startled security team was dead before they were fully awake, as several DC-19 bolts entered their bodies.
 
The Lieutenant turned and pointed to the opposite door.
 
“Break it down,” he said.
 
Buzz promptly smashed his boot into the door in similar fashion to that of his squad boss, so forcefully that it tore from its hinges.  Inside the room, the squad found a disrobed twi’lek cowering on the floor wrapped in a sheet, and Poppy on the bed in a pair of boxer shorts brandishing a pistol.
 
“We’re ready for our ride,” he spoke into his headset.
 
“W-What?” asked the Mon Calamarian.
 
“You,” Outlaw commanded as he took a step forward, “are coming with us.”
 
The warlord leveled the pistol at the armored figure before him and grimaced tightly.  The scout trooper officer was unfazed, stepping to the bed and a delivering a solid right hand to the thug's face in one motion.  Merkrit flung the pistol as he jerked back into the headboard.  A pair of armored figures raced in to bind his hands and feet and cover his head.  Outlaw ominously hovered over the terrified twi’lek.
 
“When anyone asks you what happened you tell them phantoms came in the middle of the night and took Merkrit,” his voice boomed as he jabbed a finger in her direction.
 
The trembling young twi'lek could only nod in agreement, and the operatives disappeared with her master.  Diablo had already faded into the night, and the caravan of Flash speeders was expected any second.
 
“Vampire, we have a problem,” reported Slice.
 
“What?” Outlaw asked as the operatives filed out into the street.
 
The 1st Sergeant didn’t have to answer, as the speeders coasted to the front of the tavern, the team leader counted only two of them, with six operatives crammed inside, leaving only two seats unoccupied.
 
“What the frack?” Outlaw cursed.
 
"One of them wouldn't start," Spider exclaimed.
 
“Okay, pile the hell on the thing, Poppy in the first speeder,” he ordered.
 
The first speeder was loaded with four operatives and their human baggage when the Lieutenant commanded them to leave.  He did not want to take a chance at leaving the Mon Cal behind.   Milky, Buzz, Krayt, Fixer, Spider, and Outlaw remained now for the second speeder, piloted by Hotshot.
 
“Get up on here,” Fixer said as he jumped out onto the ground.
 
Spider grabbed Buzz’s hand and helped him up onto the speeder; Milky and Krayt were also able to wedge themselves in.
 
“Fracks sakes, this isn’t going to work, ‘Law,” Fixer realized.
 
“I know,” his old friend agreed, “Hotshot, just frelling go.”
 
It took the Corporal a second to realize what he was being ordered to do, but as a Special Forces operative, he knew that sometimes you were forced to do the unusual.  The speeder lurched forward and began to pick up speed as it jetted westward.
 
“We’ve gotta run, buddy,” the platoon leader announced.
 
Fixer didn’t answer him, instead turning west and erupting into a full on sprint, Outlaw doing the same a split second later.  In the distance, the larty’s were warming up, and the platoon of Imperial troopers guarding them was fanned out into a security perimeter.  Within two minutes, both Flash speeders had arrived and were being unloaded.
 
“Outlaw, where are you and Fixer?” asked Slice.
 
The Lieutenant breathlessly answered that they were almost there, but at the three minute mark, they were still a full kilometer away.  The troopers began to collapse their perimeter, and as soon as the first transport was fully loaded, Slice signaled for it to take off.  She held the second transport for three more agonizing minutes, fearing the gunship made a far too appealing target for a random pirate with a rocket.
 
“There they are!” someone shouted finally.
 
Fixer and Outlaw heaved themselves onto the drop ship moments before it rocketed off toward the base camp.  Milky clapped his Lieutenant on his shoulder.
 
“Hey ‘Law, Poppy over here says we just killed a coupla hundred credits worth of hired thugs,” he joked.
 
The scout trooper officer shrugged, and then he shouted to make sure Poppy heard him over the roar of the aircraft’s engine.
 
“Its war Milky, it’s a bloody business, guess it’s expensive sometimes too.”
 
In his mind, Outlaw pondered the other side of it for a moment. Hired mercenaries, just making credits the only way they knew how, and they had been cut down without remorse.  Well, you live by the sword, you die by the sword, Outlaw reasoned.  Anyone who stood between him and an objective was an enemy.
 
 
What I’ve done, I’ll face myself.
To cross out what I’ve become,
Erase myself.
And let go of what I’ve done.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik March 03, 2011, 11:09:30 PM
Chapter 8

I still hear your voice when you sleep next to me.
I still feel your touch in my dreams.
Forgive me my weakness, but I don't know why,
without you it's hard to survive.


 
Theed, Naboo

1131 Hours, Friday
 
Kamiko clutched her pillow tightly, not knowing what else to do but wait.  The raven haired beauty had spent the better part of the last four days angry at herself for treating Theo the way she had.  It all came crashing down on her in that aircraft, what he had meant to her and what serving the Empire meant to him.  She regretted not keeping in touch with him, for even thinking he should quit the Corps for her.   He had fallen deeply in love with her, and she betrayed that by treating him like a prize she had won.
 
There were many realizations over the past few days. But the most troubling was that she could close her eyes and see him, smiling at her.  Kammi could feel him, hear his voice, and even smell him.  But she couldn’t hold him, which she longed for now more than she ever did as a young girl.  There wasn’t any denying it, she had screwed up and let him get away from her.
 
The paramedic knew that the best thing for her to do was to tell him how she felt, and tell him she was sorry.  When fate brought him to her again, she would hold on with both hands and never let go.  The reality of the situation was evident, that time was not now.  A shared meal spent in awkward silence was all the proof either of them needed; they had no idea what to say to each other.
 
 Theo had been hurt by the young woman and his instincts told him to scream at her for it. Unfortunately, he loved her so much that he couldn’t, so he sat without a word.  Kamiko’s silence stemmed from her guilt, and her inability to vocalize it.  There was only one solution now for the couple. Kamiko needed to assure her beloved that her contrition was sincere, and she needed to wait until he was ready to forgive her.
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1300 Hours, Friday
 
Major Melyssa “Jezebel” Kassel reclined in her metal chair slightly, feet resting on the metal table unapologetically.   She was digesting the information she had just received.  Across the room sat a mysterious red haired woman, by appearances in her late twenties, hands folded in silence.  Agent Wraith was one of Jezebel’s top intelligence experts, and her first and only choice to interrogate prisoners. Wraith had never attended any formal training sponsored by the Empire and the details behind her assignment to Imperial Intelligence were cloudy at best. Jezebel had convinced the powers that be to anoint the red head as an officer by warrant, thus recognizing her expertise in her field.
 
 So, Agent Wraith carried the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. This was a fact she didn’t flaunt, and not because it was a guarded secret, but because she simply had no use for titles or ranks.  She served the Intelligence agency with much zeal, and obeyed the orders from her Major, but in her heart, she had but one master.
 
“I’m not surprised that Poppy caved in so easily,” Jezebel said finally, Wraith only offered a nod.
 
The Warrant Officer’s grayish green eyes followed her Major’s relaxed figure slowly, sizing her up for signs of deceit.  It was part of Wraith’s training to trust no one, not even her master.  The Major knew this, and had come to terms with it.  The petite blond reasoned that the benefits outweighed the possible down side, which was that Wraith would lose her mind and destroy everyone within sight.
 
“So, let me go through this again.  The RSF turns tail at the sight of Stormtroopers, who abruptly wreak all kinds of havoc and get pulled from the area.  Seeing his chance to seize power, this Merkrit character and his band of thugs take over, ousting the Mayor.  Correct so far?”
 
“Yes, Jezebel, that is correct,” Wraith answered mildly.
 
“Then comes the family feud,” Jezebel continued, “Merkrit’s sons Rebar and Wawo have been rolling with a group of local smugglers prior to the Empire’s involvement.  These bandits are somehow able to get a hold of some real firepower.  The sons take control, of both the band of pirates, and the village, and they let their dear old Dad continue on as a figure head of the entire deal.  Am I still on track?”
 
“Completely on track Major,” the operative replied emotionlessly.
 
“Well, Rebar is dead and we have Leelani in custody, and we can thank Outlaw and company for both of those.  We have to find one Wawo Merkrit next.  He’s been dealt a significant blow to his organization, we should be able to eliminate him easily,” the Major concluded.
 
“I don’t believe removing this group of common smugglers from the area solves our problems completely,” Wraith calmly stated.
 
“Oh, I know there are Rebels and Gungans out there we are going to have to deal with sooner rather than later,” Jezebel explained, “This village needed to be squared away first.”
 
Agent Wraith remained silent. She knew the Major was one of the keenest strategic minds in the intelligence community.  Wraith knew that the Special Forces build up in the area meant the Empire was gearing up to deal with a heavy opposing force.  The Chief Warrant Officer would patiently await her turn to spill some of that opposing force’s blood.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik March 21, 2011, 08:42:17 PM
Theed, Naboo

1300 Hours, Saturday
 
Theodorik Sturmwolke shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the shuttle began its laggard decent into Theed.  The young man hated traveling this way, not just the speed, but the surroundings.  Mass transit, the bane of my existence, he thought.  The shuttle was mercifully empty, as not many people chose to travel to Theed from the Lake Retreat this early on a Friday; generally it was the other way around.  It was times like these that Theo missed the original “Outlaw”, his black and green AV-21 land speeder.
 
The scout trooper prematurely rose from his seat, catching the attention of the pilot, who had thought about admonishing him until he saw the scowl on the Corellian’s face.  His intense dislike of shuttle travel was allowing him to keep his mind from focusing on his actual worry, meeting Lord and Lady Lom.  He had practiced greeting them most of the day, fearing the alliteration in their name and titles alone was enough to make him stumble on his words.
 
The shuttle finally touched down and its doors opened with a whoosh of pressurized air, and Theo stepped out onto the platform.   He pulled his data pad out of his pants pocket and found the address he was looking for, a regal looking luxury apartment building a few minutes’ walk away.  The Lom’s occupied the entire top floor, which Koyi had called the “penthouse”.  His global positioning software selected a route for him to travel, but as usual, he would deviate from it in case he was being followed.  The unfortunate side effect of being a field spook was that you never could turn it off, at least not completely.  Theo would alter his routes and frequently double back to ensure no one was tailing him.
 
Within a few minutes of walking, the young man found himself at the Lom’s building.  He caught himself gazing skyward, admiring its height, a classic tourist move.  Theo silently cursed.  He had drawn the attention of a few people in the street, which dismissed him as a country rube in the city for the first time.  The humiliation starts before I even get in the building, he griped silently.
 
“Can I help you, sir?” asked a man in a red doorman’s uniform.
 
“Huh? Oh … Yeah, I’m here to see Lord and Lady Lom,” he blurted out.
 
Theodorik realized he had been standing there, directly in front of the doors for almost three full minutes.  He was sure he had removed any doubt in the door man’s mind that he was new to the city, still the man remained polite.  Theo figured it was the trooper’s imposing physique that kept the door man from treating him with complete disdain, much in the way of the maitre‘d at the Lake Retreat.
 
“They are expecting you, I presume,” the concierge stated rather than asked, quite respectfully Theo noted.
 
“Yes, yes sir, they are,” Theo replied.
 
“Come with me then, and no need to call me sir, I work for a living just like you, soldier,” the man grinned, leading the younger man into the expensively decorated lobby.
 
Theodorik suppressed a smile of his own; the man knew he was military.  The trooper fought back the urge to introduce himself, instead offering only his hand.
 
“Theo,” he stated as the man clasped his outstretched mitt in his own.
 
“Call me Skip,” the man said.
 
The man’s grip was strong, and it was then that Theo first noticed the attendant’s deep blue eyes, with the fiery glint of a Special Forces Operative.  The man looked about 50 to the Lieutenant, which meant he was probably older, and was simply maintaining his fighting shape.   The look was familiar to the Corellian, he had seen the same glow in his father’s eyes, before it was muted by the death of his beloved Katara, Theodorik’s mother.
 
Skip strode over to a rounded desk and reached behind the counter, thumbing a button.  A moment later a familiar female voice could be heard.
 
“Yes?” asked Koyi, her voice dripping with sweetness.
 
“I have a visitor for you, Miss Lom,” Skip reported.
 
That statement caught Theo’s attention, as he had stated he was there to see the Lord and Lady.  The attendant was astute, to be certain.  When you looked at the situation from the perspective of a field operative, it was really quite transparent.  His first clue was Koyi, a young girl, out all hours of the night, constantly wearing a goofy smile.  Then a slightly older man, handsome and muscular arrives, calling on her parents, and he looks as nervous as a long tailed jax in a room full of rocking chairs.
 
“Send him up, please, Skip,” Koyi replied excitedly.
 
Skip acknowledged politely, and then pressed another button. Moments later, the elevator doors across the lobby opened.
 
“It’s the fourteenth floor Theo,” Skip directed, as the Lieutenant moved toward the open doors.
 
“It was good to meet you, sir,” he added tipping his hat.
 
“Likewise,” Theo grinned as he pressed the button for the fourteenth floor, the doors sliding closed a moment later.
 
 
Gallo Mountains, Naboo

1300 Hours, Saturday
 
Spider was carefully stepping through the vines and shrubbery on the jungle floor, being careful to break as little vegetation as possible, disguising their presence.  It wasn’t known if the Rebels had any dedicated unit of pathfinders, but the varied background of its troops guaranteed there were trained hunters and woodsmen in their ranks.  The Empire had the advantage here however; the Rebels were unaware that their long range recon capabilities went beyond the conventional biker scout.  For that, they owed Outlaw’s brother, Brigadier General Kreinz Sturmwolke.
 
Four years prior, Major Krienz Sturmwolke was commanding Alpha Company, of the 1st Shadow Stormtrooper Battalion.  The officer had earned the trust of Darth Vader while completing several special missions for the Dark Lord.   After the Battle of Yavin, Sturmwolke was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to Vader’s Death Squadron, on a council responsible for furthering the Empire’s unconventional warfare capabilities.  The Imperial Defense Reform Act of 0 ABY established a unified Stormtrooper Special Forces; Lt Col Sturmwolke was the major contributor to the project.
 
Under the council’s direction, a series of special schools and courses were either created or formalized.  A school emphasizing small unit infantry tactics and advanced reconnaissance was created. The school would rely heavily on the doctrine employed by the ARC troopers during the Clone Wars, as well as borrowing elements of the Antarian Rangers and Shadow Troopers.  Its instructor cadre was formed from renowned survivalists and experts in small unit tactics hand selected by Lt. Col. Sturmwolke.  The first Recondo (Short for Recon Commando) School graduated 17 members less than a year later.  The school would be renamed Imperial Lancer School, as its focus was operation in teams of five, what the scout troopers referred to as a “lance”.
 
Sgt “Spider” Beza was a graduate of the fifth and latest Lancer School, and recently assigned to the 220th.  He noticed the jungle was eerily quiet in the secluded valley this afternoon.  He was walking “point” on a reconnaissance patrol a few kilometers North of Lianorm, in search of Wawo Merkrit’s bunker.  During his interrogation, Leerlani Merkrit, Wawo’s father, had given am approximate location of his son’s base of operations.  The captured Mon Calamarian warlord couldn’t offer much more, including the number of undesirables that might be hiding out in this bunker. It was that bit of information that worried Spider’s 1st Sergeant.
 
The team’s commo specialist Sgt “Hawkbat” Chobrea walked behind Spider, in the “slack” position.  1st Sgt “Slice” Ravenheart walked third as half of the security element, and Cpl “Hotshot” Firestone was the other half.  Sgt “Fixer” Freedark was the rear guard, and the team medic.  Fixer’s job was to lag behind the patrol and ensure they weren’t being followed.   This was particularly important for this patrol, which was moving through the jungle in daylight.
 
There was some apprehension amongst the squad on daylight maneuvers, but in this case, it was necessary.  The terrain in this valley sloped dangerously, and lacked a natural trail for humans to move.  Slice’s main concern was the fauna that populated the dense jungle, most of which chose to sleep during the day and hunt at night.  They were here to fight Rebels, not tusk cats.
 
The patrol scout was about to step over a log when he noticed something metallic looking on the ground in front of him. He quickly signaled the patrol to halt and scan the area for enemy activity.  When no threats were found, Spider crept slowly to the item, quietly announcing that he had found a wrapper from a field rations kit.  The squad leader, a graduate of the first Lancer school, moved forward carefully to examine the item.  1st Sergeant Allison Ravenheart was a galactic cultural expert, and could identify just about any item in use by any military in the known galaxy.
 
“It’s Chandrilan, this did not come from a band of common thugs,” Slice deadpanned.
 
Fixer was about 60 meters behind the rest of the patrol when he heard Slice’s transmission on his helmet mounted comm set.  Almost as if on cue, he heard movement in the vegetation behind him.  The rear guard dropped behind a felled tree and observed three armed human men, cautiously moving through the jungle.  Fixer held his breath as he noticed they were looking for signs of the patrol.  Slowly and methodically the trio grew closer to the Imperial, who remained patiently in hiding.  He noticed they wore light armor and sturdy boots, all brownish and green in color, but each of a different make and model.  They closed the gap between their unknown observer to less than ten meters, when Fixer leapt to his feet and sprayed blaster fire in their direction.
 
The three stalkers all tumbled violently backwards, each of them hit with a flurry of blaster bolts.  The Stormtrooper Sergeant sent another volley of blaster fire in their direction, this time aimed downward to where they had fallen.  Fixer then immediately returned to cover, his carbine pointed at his fallen enemies.  The other four members of the patrol also reacted to the blaster fire.
 
“Point team, cover us,” Slice ordered, as she and Hotshot turned and began to move toward their rear guard.
 
“Fixer, report,” she ordered next.
 
“Three, lightly armored and armed, I think I hit them all, but I am not certain.”
 
Slice acknowledged as she moved toward him, her and Hotshot alternating their field of vision.  Spider and Hawkbat were doing the same, observing 270 degrees at one time by alternating where they cast their eyes.  It went without saying that the weapon always went where the eyes went, it was a patrol fundamental ingrained in each of them.
 
The female patrol leader arrived at Fixer’s position quietly, followed a few meters behind by Hotshot.  Patrol discipline dictated that he not draw too close to Slice or Fixer, as incoming fire could possibly kill all of them at once.
 
“Cover us Hotshot. Fixer, let’s check these bodies and hide them,” the 1st Sergeant ordered.
 
The pair cautiously moved to the three felled enemies, now confirmed as corpses, and searched them methodically.  The Stormtroopers then covered the bodies in leaves and vines to conceal them, in case there were more interlopers on their trail.  When they were finished, Slice motioned for Hotshot to remain behind as the new rear guard, and called Fixer up to the security element.  She moved forward until Hawkbat was in her sights, about 15 meters behind him.  Fixer took the position behind her, and each trooper alternated their view from the team member in front of them once again.  They continued forward for another half kilometer, when Spider again held up the patrol.
 
“I see a man made structure to my 2 o’clock.  300 mikes,” he reported.
 
Slice switched to the electro-binocular view in her helmet and spotted the object indicated by her scout.  It was nothing more than a light gray metallic looking rectangular building, with a single door on one side.
 
“Visk, you’d better start recording this.  Uplink it to the CNC also,” she ordered.
 
Slice was checking her maps in the information center for anything that was supposed to be out here.   It would have been bad form to call in an artillery strike on a Water Authority pump station.  The 1st Sergeant shook her head; this was the entrance to an abandoned mine, once in use by the Mining Guild.  If there was a criminal organization in this area, this would be an excellent base of operations, as it was nearly invisible from the air.
 
“Sergeant, the door just opened. Three armed and armored persons are now out on open ground,” reported Spider.
 
Slice returned to her magnified view of the door, and the three figures that now appeared in front of it.  Suddenly, the sound of speeder bikes could be heard in the distance.  More people coming to the party, the patrol leader thought, we don’t want to be here anymore.
 
“Let’s back out, Hawkbat, cover Spider’s withdrawal. Spider, you’re move,” she commanded.
 
But Spider did not move or speak, and suddenly she realized why, the trio of armed men was less than 20 meters from his position and closing.  It was obvious they hadn’t seen him, a credit to his selection of cover and his camouflage.  They finally stopped walking a mere 5 meters from the point man, as the buzzing of the speeder bikes drew nearer.
 
“They’re on an animal trail,” Fixer whispered, “Spider is only a few meters from it.”
 
1st Sergeant Ravenheart had a man in trouble, the only thing they could do was take out the threat.
 
 “Get ready to fire; I’m waiting for the bikes to arrive. No grenades, Gart is right on top of them,” she whispered, receiving a series of squelch breaks in reply.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik March 22, 2011, 10:21:44 PM
Theodorik was greeted at the elevator door by a very serious looking blue skinned twi’lek man, lekku resting neatly on his freshly pressed shirt.
 
“Mr. Sturmwolke, I presume,” Lord Lom stated sternly.
 
“Yes sir, Lord Lom, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Theo replied, knowing the Minister of the Interior from the picture in his intelligence file.
 
The Nabooian diplomat looked through rounded glasses at the Stormtrooper, lips pursed and both hands resting on his hips.  Theo began to close the distance between them, and offered his hand to Koyi’s father.
 
“You’re older looking than I expected,” he mused as he shook the younger man’s hand.
 
“I feel much younger than I look,” Theo said with a smile, the attempt at humor lost on the twi’lek.
 
The Interior Minister led his daughter’s guest further into the apartment, a large table adorned with flowers occupying the center of the vast foyer.  There was a second story balcony on the opposite side of the room, and a grand staircase emitting from it, large ornate banisters on either side.  The large foyer was filled with various sculptures and works of art.  But, of all the statues and artwork in the room, none was lovelier than what Theo saw next, Miss Koyi Lom on the balcony above them, hands delicately perched on the railing.
 
Words failed the Scout Trooper as he cast his eyes on the young twi’lek and her slinky black floor length dress.  She wore a seductive grin as she gracefully descended the stairs, her father looking on with arms crossed.
 
“Hello Daddy, I see you’ve met Theo,” she giggled as she reached the bottom of the steps.
 
Mr. Lom remained silent as he looked her over.  The pretty young twi’lek pressed her palms flat against the skirt of her dress and smoothed it over her shapely legs.  She flashed her boyfriend an absolutely devilish grin, causing his eyes to grow wide.
 
“You look stunning Koyi,” Theo finally mustered.
 
“Of course she does,” called a female voice from the other room, “she looks like her mother.”
 
An older female twi’lek, sporting the same purple skin tone as the younger girl, swiftly glided into the room.  Lady Lom wore a modest grey and silver frock, but her black patent leather high heels made her outfit anything but plain.  He noticed they were only slightly shorter than her daughter’s own footwear.  The lady of the house also wore the same black nail polish as the younger Miss Lom.  At least now he knew where his girlfriend got her sexual nature.  Lady Lom played with one of the several strings of pearls that adorned her neck as she reached her hand out to the Stormtrooper.
 
“Ilia Lom, welcome to our home,” she greeted him warmly, a seductive grin of her own forming on her face.
 
A male servant dressed in a white shirt and black bowtie strode into the foyer, towel draped over his arm.  Theo thought back to Koyi’s first time at the field base, and the surprise she exhibited at the encampment’s “servants”.  The Corellian had originally thought her disdain came from low-life soldiers having someone feed and clean up after them.  Now he realized Koyi had everything done for her, and she was probably weary of the hired help always hovering over her.
 
“Lunch is served in the dining room, Lord, Lady, Young Miss, and honored guest, please follow me,” directed the steward stiffly.
 
The nobles and guest casually ventured through huge double doors into a spacious dining room, the still very serious looking Lord Lom bringing up the rear of the group.
 

The speeder bikes finally coasted to a stop beside the three armed men, a total of four bikes, each with a single rider.  The conveyances were all different, all pieced together and haphazard looking. One of them looked like it could have been a Scout Trooper’s Aratech 74-Z speeder bike at one time, with very few original parts remaining.
 
Fracks sakes, seven of them, Fixer thought, this was going to be painful.

The men were loudly talking and slapping each other’s backs in greeting, oblivious to the danger that lie only meters away.  1st Sergeant Ravenheart steadied her breathing and moved the fire selector on her carbine out of safe mode, it was time to dance.  There was a saying that Theodorik’s brother Aliksander had always muttered before they were about to have contact with the enemy. Let’s do the nasty.

“Open fire,” she ordered calmly.
 
Five Scout Troopers began to spray blaster fire at the gang of criminals and their vehicles.  Almost immediately, one of the bikes erupted into a brilliant flash of light, obviously struck by a round.  Three of the bandits were dropped during the first volley of fire, another two lie on the ground disoriented or injured.   The final pair was able to return fire in the patrol’s general direction, but with questionable accuracy.
 
Spider had seized the opportunity and retreated behind Slice’s position.  Hawkbat alertly noticed his comrade’s retreat and hurled a fragmentation grenade into the group of bikes.  The resulting explosion momentarily blinded the patrol and silenced the remaining thugs, who now lay motionless beside the flaming chorus of bikes.  Suddenly a scream emerged from behind the slack man.
 
“We’re being flanked right!” shouted Hotshot, whose statement was punctuated by wild blaster fire from the 3 o’clock side.
 
The troopers swiveled to their right side, and returned fire at a gang of oncoming enemy.  Their numbers were obscured by the jungle growth, but the volume of fire indicated a minimum of five weapons being discharged.  Sgt “Fixer” Freedark was struck in the left forearm, rendering his information center useless, but otherwise causing him no harm.  Suddenly, the familiar sound of a grenade being tossed through foliage could be heard, and the patrol hit the deck.  Each member held their breath as an explosion ripped through the afternoon jungle.
 
Hotshot and Fixer shook their heads for a moment, realizing they were unscathed, continued to fire into the charging enemy.  Slice blinked her eyes a few times, and tried to assess the damage done by the explosive projectile.  To her left, Spider lay sprawled out motionless, camouflaged armor charred a sickening black and grey.
 
“Frack me, Spider’s been hit, we have to bail, now!”
 
“I’ve got him, Sarge,” Fixer shouted as he forearm crawled to his wounded squad mate.
 
“Rally 300 mikes, to my 4 o’clock!” she screamed.
 
Fixer slung the motionless body of the squad’s point man over his shoulder and began to run into the jungle, to the point indicated by the patrol leader.  The spot was a natural depression that Slice had identified on the map as a possible hide site.  It would hopefully provide enough cover to call in air support or an artillery strike, not to mention an extraction.
 
Hotshot and Slice rose and fired one last volley and then darted into the jungle behind Fixer.  Hawkbat remained on the ground, firing his carbine with gusto.
 
“Dammit Visk, let’s go!” Hotshot’s voice cracking as he screamed.
 
“I’m right behind you, one last trick up my sleeve,” he answered calmly.
 
Moments later, a foursome of enemy combatants came charging into view. Sergeant Visk “Hawkbat” Chobrea rose and removed his rucksack, tossing it a few meters behind him as he sprinted towards the Rally Point.  The pirate leading the charge paused momentarily as he spotted a camouflaged military rucksack bounding towards him.  What he didn’t see, was the length of para-cord stretched from the bottom of the sack to Hawkbat’s utility belt.  Nor did he notice the pin for the thermal detonator pull out through the bottom of the hurled item.
 
 
Theodorik had impressed the Lom’s throughout the dinner and the accompanying conversation.  It was clear where her father’s concern was rooted, the age difference and Theo’s profession.  It wasn’t that he felt a soldier was beneath her, in fact, her parents had called him a ‘hero’ and his cause ‘noble’ frequently. No, the real worry was the soldier’s life itself, mostly the uncertainty of where you would be sent from one day to the next.
 
As the afternoon wore on, the stern Lord Lom had relaxed his demeanor slightly.  His daughter was happy, and that was really all that mattered to him.  He did caution the young Stormtrooper from hurting his baby girl in any way.  One might think the much older and less fit Lord Lom would not last 8 seconds in a tangle with the rough and tumble Mr. Theo Sturmwolke. But the Lieutenant was sure the diplomat would be a force to be reckoned with regarding his only daughter.  The Corellian reasoned that Lord Lom could always pay someone to track him down.
 
The pleasant lunch had given way to afternoon tea, and the conversation grew more and more lighthearted.  Theodorik let out a sigh; he was beginning to feel at ease.  Koyi sat across from him, absolutely beaming from ear to ear.  This elicited a grin and a slight chuckle from the young man, his girlfriend was happy that he was getting along with her parents famously.  Theo’s smile faded as he abruptly bolted upright in his chair.
 
“Excuse me for a second,” he asked politely, rising from his chair and removing his data device from his pocket.
 
Need you here. Wawo’s base found. Team Bayonet being extracted; taking fire.  Air support en route.  BARC Speeder waiting out front five minutes. Jezebel.
 
 “Oh no,” Theo muttered as he pocketed the device “Lord, Lady, Koyi, I have to go.”
 
The twi’lek couple sat in mild shock as the young man suddenly departed.  Lady Lom raised her eyebrow at her husband who offered her a shrug.
“What is it Theo? What’s wrong?” Koyi asked as she rose to meet the young man, who was already halfway through the foyer.
 
“I’m sorry babe, I’ve gotta go, there’s been a development down in Lianorm. I’ve gotta go, please apologize to your parents for me. It was wonderful meeting them.”
 
 
The bandit sidestepped the tossed rucksack easily, scoffing out loud as he leveled his weapon on the now fleeing Scout Trooper.  A split second later, a powerful blast disintegrated the shooter’s lower body and ignited all the surrounding vegetation.  The other three pursuers had their bodies similarly shredded by the unexpected detonation.  The ensuing concussion flung Hawkbat forward onto his stomach, a temporary setback as he quickly rose and continued his retreat.
 
At the Rally Point, Slice was calling for the extraction and selecting a location for the Larty’s to land.  Fixer was attending to Spider and Hotshot was putting out a trio of anti-personnel mines in case they had more company.  Hawkbat had made it to the depression in the terrain and flopped down beside his 1st Sergeant.   He made an attempt to assist Fixer, but Slice waved him off.
 
“Call the Artie Boys, pummel that bunker,” she ordered.
 
Visk nodded, he would call for artillery aka the “Artie Boys” to unleash some hell on the pirate base of operations.  He selected the proper channel on his comm set just as some sporadic fire began to erupt in the distance.
 
“DX-1 this is Bayonet. Immediate suppression, grid 071078. Authentication is Kilo Romeo, over.”
 
“This is DX-1, Firing immediate suppression, grid 071078. Out.”
 
Hawkbat was going to suppress the incoming fire first, and then make it rain on the bunker.  Kilometers away, at Fire Base Dxun, the crews for a pair of Self Propelled Medium Artillery Turbolasers, or SPMA-T’s input the coordinates given to them by the forward observer.  Moments later, the pair of guns aimed skyward and each thumped two laser pulses into the sky.
 
“Incoming fire, take cover,” Sgt Chobrea announced.
 
A hundred meters away, the jungle exploded into bluish white light, and the enemy fire suddenly stopped.  Seconds later, another round of bluish white laser blasts rocked the ground, Hawkbat resumed his fire mission.
 
“DX-1, Adjust Fire, over.”
 
“This is DX-1, Adjust Fire, out.”
 
“Shift Fire, Left 60, add 400, Fire three rounds. Over”
 
“DX-1, Left 60, add 400, firing triple, authentication Alpha Juliet, over”
 
“Bayonet Authenticates, Whiskey, out”
 
The well trained observer watched as the artillery struck with precision, smashing into the bunker with several direct hits.  Multiple secondary detonations could be heard as the turbolasers penetrated deep into the concrete bunker, obliterating its occupants.  The hum of the incoming Larty’s could be heard over the din, music to everyone’s ears.
 
“Let’s move out, there is a clearing 300 mikes to the north,” 1st Sergeant commanded.
 
The patrol trudged toward their destination, and the awaiting transports.  Fixer carried Spider over his shoulder again, Hawkbat raced to him to offer his assistance.
 
“Hawk, I’ve got him,” Fixer reported seriously.
 
“Kah, I can help …”
 
“Visk, Spider’s dead, I’ve got him.”
 
The patrol remained silent all the way to the landing zone.
 
 
Koyi dutifully offered to accompany her boyfriend to the door, Theo was too preoccupied to refuse.  The Stormtrooper Lieutenant scratched the back of his neck as the pretty young twi’lek clung to his side.  The elevator suddenly stopped on the sixth floor, eliciting a muttered curse from the Imperial as he awaited the new passenger.   The doors whooshed open and Theo casually lifted his head to meet a familiar set of violet eyes.
 
“Theo?” asked the brunette.
 
“Kammi!” Theo exclaimed.
 
The young Corellian girl looked at the couple in the elevator, the rich twi’lek girl from the penthouse and the love of her life, standing there arm in arm.  Her eyes moved to the twi’lek, and the smug expression on her face as she tightly grasped the young man.
 
“I’ll take the next one,” Kammi sighed sadly, allowing the doors to close in front of her.
 
Theodorik stood awestruck as the elevator continued its descent.  When the doors to the lobby opened, he was greeted by a squad of Stormtroopers.
 
“Lieutenant, we have BARC speeder out front for you, we have to hurry,” stated the squad’s Sergeant.
 
Koyi hugged him one final time.
 
“Sorry Koyi, I’ll miss you.”
 
Sorry Koyi, I’ll miss Kammi more.

Cause every time we touch, I feel the static.
Every time we kiss, I reach for the sky.
Can’t you feel my heart beat so?
I can’t let you go.
I want you in my life.
 
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik March 31, 2011, 03:30:42 PM
Chapter 9

The changing of sunlight to moonlight,
Reflections of my life,
Oh how they fill my eyes.
The greetings of people in trouble,
Reflections of my life,
Oh how they fill my eyes.

 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0119 Hours, Sunday
 
Theodorik sat hunched forward in his chair, elbows resting on his knees, hands covering his face.  He exhaled hard, one of the paradoxes of the Special Forces, he thought. To be selected for specialized duty, you had to be combat tested as a conventional solider, likely seeing many of your friends and squad mates die in the process.  But once you were SF, you were surrounded by a higher caliber of trooper, and everything you did was so carefully rehearsed and planned.  Death of a teammate was much rarer, but much more difficult to handle, considering how intimate you knew your people.
 
Allison Ravenheart sat across from him in silence, leaned back, arms crossed, a weary expression draped over her face.  She loathed the position she was in, not only losing someone she knew well, but someone she was responsible for as a patrol leader.  Gart was young, and new to Special Forces, but by no means was he “green”.  He excelled as a scout and pathfinder, the ideal point man for a trooper lance.  The 1st Sergeant replayed everything in her mind over and over, wondering if she could have done something differently.  She sensed Outlaw was mentally going over the information from the incident, preparing to make his own assessment of her tactics.  Slice was not the tactician that the Lieutenant was, and her decision making was not as sharp or definitive.  No one’s was, Allison thought.
 
“After Kah made contact with your pursuers,” Outlaw spoke softly, posture unchanged.
 
“He called for me, Hotshot and I came to his position,” the patrol leader answered.
 
“Hotshot covered us while we went through the bodies, Spider and Hawk kept look out.”
 
“Okay, did you consider an extraction at that time?”
 
“I did, but there was no evidence that we had any more trackers, and we found no communications devices on the three that were behind us. I doubted they had called to warn anyone else of our presence.”
 
Outlaw inhaled deeply and then sighed dramatically once again.  He sat back in his chair, head tilted back slightly.  Slice wasn’t sure if it was the stress of the situation or that he just didn’t buy her answer, it was a true statement however.
 
“Okay, now to when you reached the abandoned building, Kah and Visk both told me that Gart was too close to the bad guys to move out.”
 
“Yes.”
 
“And you decided to wait for the bikes to arrive, which is a sound decision in my book.”
 
“Okay,” she answered, still not at ease.
 
“I’m just disappointed in your situational awareness, Allie.  You had tunnel vision.”
 
Tunnel vision was a result of the body’s high adrenaline production, and reduced the effectiveness of the peripheral vision.  It was constantly plaguing troops in the field, despite attempts to counteract it both medically and with specialized helmets.  The only practical solution was situational awareness, the intersection of perception and reality.  You had to continuously keep information regarding your surroundings coming into your brain.  If you focused on only one task, even something as taxing as a firefight, you could get caught unprepared.  It was why flanking was still a viable infantry tactic, despite being known to virtually everyone.
 
“I know ‘Law, it happened so fast,” she paused, drawing in a deep breath, “I know it’s not an excuse.”
 
“Hey, it’s a difficult situation you were put in, and I am not a hundred percent sure it contributed to how things ended.  Just keep it in mind, and make sure everyone in your squad understands this, or Gart will have gotten killed for nothing.”
 
“I understand,” she replied, relaxing slightly.
 
“I’m still mad at you for the night in Lianorm, though,” Outlaw continued, surprising the 1st Sergeant.
 
“What?”
 
“Why would you let the other Larty take off first? You left the transport with Poppy on the ground! He was our objective, getting him out of there should have been the first priority!” Outlaw straightened in his chair as made his point.
 
“I know,” she sighed, “I was more afraid of leaving you guys behind, I wanted to stay in case the other transport wouldn’t wait for you.  I should have gotten out and waited with the other Larty.”
 
“Well,” Outlaw yawned, “I appreciate the concern for us, but if any two idiots would have been okay with being left alone, it would have been Kah and I.”
 
“Yes Outlaw, I know this.  I felt responsible for the screw up with the Flash Speeders and I didn’t want to see you guys get left because of it.”
 
The Lieutenant sighed and dropped his hands to his knees.
 
“I guess that’s as good of an explanation as any.  Just keep your eyes on the prize next time, Slice.”
 
Allison nodded in acknowledgement, the long day apparent on her face.  Theodorik rose and scratched his head; the stress of the mission caused a throbbing to creep into his skull.
 
“I'm going to bed, Allie. Get some sleep,” he said, “They are shipping Gart out in the morning.”
 
Sleep, yeah, like hell, Allison thought.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik March 31, 2011, 11:12:23 PM
[Note: Contains excerpts of "For The Fallen" By Robert Laurence Binyon]
 
Alliance Underground Headquarters

Gallo Mountains, Naboo

0730 hours, Sunday
 
Major Monch was less than thrilled to be awake at what he considered an early hour, further confirmation that he was anything but a soldier.  His XO had actually held onto the news for almost five hours, Krieger could imagine the whining he would have endured if he woke him up at 2:30 in the morning.  The Major sat at his breakfast table with some incredulity at what he was hearing.
 
“Completely demolished?” the base commander asked sleepily.
 
“Completely, nothing left but charred metal, and to be honest, there wasn’t much of that left either,” Captain Krieger answered flatly.
 
“Well then,” Monch huffed out in a sigh.
 
“I want to point out Major, that we are only about thirty meters deeper underground than that mine.”
 
“We are much better at covering our tracks, Captain, wouldn’t you say?”
 
“Agreed, but-“
 
“But what? How can they hit what they can’t see? That mine was probably still on some of their maps, and I am sure those criminals weren’t trained as well as our men.”
 
Krieger bristled at the Major’s reasoning.
 
“Well sir, my men are well trained, that is certain, but I have a gut feeling we aren’t dealing with regular scout troopers here.  Those artillery strikes were precise; they had eyes on the ground calling in coordinates.”
 
“And what gives you the idea that they aren’t ordinary scout troopers?”
 
“I had two squads in the area, less than four hours after the explosions.  There was barely any evidence of an opposing force being on the ground, just some blown over trees from their extraction.  There was zero sign of any insertion, just bodies, and some sign of a retreat, but again, not much.”
 
“So what are the implications to the invasion?” Monch asked, seemingly missing the point.
 
“The invasion should be scrubbed, Major.  Lianorm is eliminated as a recruitment and supply point and we may be dealing with some very heavy hitters on the Imperial side.  Supplying Merkrit’s bandits did not give us the diversion we had hoped for, I think its further evidence we are dealing with some real deal, high speed, low drag, motivated mother frackers, sir.”
 
Major Lenard Monch listened intently to his Executive Officer, hands folded on the wooden table in front of him.  He had a strong desire to strike that Weapons development facility, despite the constant implorations to the contrary.  Krieger felt the best course of action was to find a new base of operations, utilize guerilla warfare and continue to recruit more people to their cause.  By the time the Rebellion was able to commit some real resources on Naboo, toppling the Imperial installed government would be simple.
 
“What about the Gungans?” Monch asked.
 
“They’ve established a supply route from Lassay, but its all hand carts and Kaadu drawn carriages.  It’s not an effective way to supply a force our size.”
 
The Battalion Commander sat in silence, and for a moment, Krieger thought he had gotten through to him.  The Major laid his palms flat on the table and looked up at the former CorSec officer.
 
“We have to hit the Weapons Facility soon then,” he stated.
 
“Lenard, are you serious? I think that’s a mistake,” Captain Krieger protested.
 
“Dale, consider that an order, I want you to report back to me after lunch, I want to know how fast we can pull off an invasion,” he demanded, glaring at his XO.
 
“Major,” an exasperated Captain Krieger began, “I don’t feel safe in this base, I wish you’d reconsider.”
 
“After the destruction of that facility, we move out of here, if it makes you feel better. Now, go and get me all the current intelligence you can on that place, I want to wipe it off the map.”
 
And get the hell out of here, he didn’t say.
 
Captain Dale Krieger let his arms flap against his sides, slowly exhaling from his nose, an attempt to remain calm.  Without another word, he turned and left his CO to his breakfast, and his misguided thoughts.
 
 
 
Landing Pad Aureck

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0857 Hours, Sunday
 
The lambda shuttle had landed nearly an hour before, its ramp resting silently on the dew covered ground.  The Imperial Mortuary Affairs Unit rarely dealt with the death of enlisted Stormtroopers.  The numbers of troopers killed in battle would easily overwhelm the unit, so they were often cremated locally or jettisoned into space.  Most of the IMAU’s missions were for commissioned officers, or on rare occasions, an enlisted soldier that served with distinction.  Krienz Sturmwolke had made certain that all of his Special Forces Stormtroopers were included in the latter.
 
Despite arriving ahead of schedule, the IMAU crew knew better than to try and take the body of the fallen trooper before his comrades were ready to give him up.  Outlaw stood near the ramp, his arms crossed.  The Lieutenant looked to his left at the swarm of serious faces, numbering well over fifty. The Special Forces Operative in the camp had formed two lines flanking the path leading to the shuttle.  At exactly 0900, the IMAU team descended the ramp, amid the complete silence of the gathered crowd of troopers.  Outlaw stood at attention as four troopers guided a small repulsorlift dolly carrying an Imperial flag draped coffin between the formed ranks.
 
1st Sergeant Allison Ravenheart looked crisp in her freshly pressed combat utilities; her green beret expertly perched on her head.  Her face was stern and unwavering, as was the faces of the other three members of the escort.  Each trooper held a salute as their fallen brother passed, the IMAU team stood at the end of the ramp silently waiting.  The sound of a lone valahorn could be heard nearby as the quartet of troopers reached the end of the ramp.  The mortuary team joined Ravenheart and company flanking the coffin.  Major Kassel, clad in combat utilities and black beret, stepped in front of the coffin, her back to the awaiting shuttle.  The valahorn stopped playing and the Major addressed the crowd.
 
“Sergeant Gartanon Beza, known to us as Spider, you shall not grow old, as those of us that are left grow old.  Age will not weary you, nor will the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, our brother, you shall be remembered.  Lest we forget!  Sergeant Beza, you are honorably relieved of your duty. Peaceful travels onto you.”
 
“Hand salute!” she ordered.
 
The eight soldiers snapped eight perfect salutes, all in unison.
 
“Two!” signaled the Major to end the salute.
 
Fixer, Hawkbat, Hotshot, and Slice all fished into their top pockets and withdrew small shiny gold objects, each fitting in the palm of the trooper’s hand.  They simultaneously plunked the objects onto the coffin of their comrade, suddenly, Major Kassel realized what the objects were.  Four gold pins in the shape of unfurled scrolls now lie on the casket, each etched with the single word, “LANCER”.  The Major stepped aside and gave the order to carry Gart into the lambda.
 
“Detail, commence!”
 
The eight troopers moved the coffin into the darkness of the lambda, then after four or five minutes, four of them emerged.  The ramp began to hum as it rose into the belly of the Imperial shuttle, and the gathered troopers began to fall out into an area safe from the shuttles jet blast.  The engines began to whine almost immediately, and in only a few seconds, the ground rumbled as they reached full take-off power.
 
Off on the horizon, a pair of Larty’s began to come into view, and the lambda began to hover a few feet off the ground.  In what looked like a well rehearsed maneuver, the shuttle rose straight into the air, and the drop ships eased in along her sides.  The trio of ships spun 180 degrees and flew off over the mountains.  The gathered crowd of troopers slowly dispersed, a fitting tribute to their brother concluded.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik April 07, 2011, 03:34:51 PM
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1140 Hours, Sunday
 
Major Kassel sat behind the computer terminal, pondering the words on the screen in front of her.  She had a reputation as a ice cold bitch, most Imperial Intelligence officers were viewed that way.  Her passion was in the completion of the mission and the defense of the Empire, and there were times when she detached herself from the risks her troops were facing.  It was necessary to do so; otherwise she would never order these rough and ready soldiers into harm’s way.  On a very rare occasion though, the consequences of her orders affected her emotionally.  She read the holo-mail one final time before deleting it and moving on with her duties.
 
Dear Mrs. Beza,

By now, you have regrettably been informed of the death of your son Gart in combat actions with the 220th Stormtrooper Reconnaissance Platoon.  While I cannot fathom the loss you are feeling during this time, I do share in your grief.  I hand selected Gart to be a member of the platoon, and followed his progress through Lancer school with great anticipation.  He was an exceptional soldier and was well liked by his teammates.  Gart will be posthumously receiving the Imperial Medal of Honor, and the Silver Star with Valor Device, which you are invited to receive on his behalf.  I cannot divulge the details of the mission which claimed his life. However, eyewitness testimony and a forensic analysis of his armor reveal that he laid his body on an explosive device, which would have otherwise killed his entire squad.  I know that this may come as no consolation to you currently, but your son gave his life representing the finest quality of a Stormtrooper and a Special Forces Operator, selfless service.  The Empire and I owe you and your family a great debt.  Henceforth, I will make it my duty to ensure the prosperity of your family, using my own personal resources if necessary.

With Utmost Regards and Sincerest Condolences,

Brigadier General Krienz F. Sturmwolke
Stormtrooper Special Forces Command

 
Former HQ of Wawo Merkrit
 
Gallo Mountains, Naboo
 
1335 Hours, Sunday

The transport ship landed quite a distance away from what was being called “Ground Zero”, an abandoned bunker in use as a criminal headquarters.  Or what’s left of it, Outlaw mused as he stepped off of the aircraft.  Analysts from Imperial Intelligence had descended on the battlefield early this morning.  Members of the Imperial Army’s 39th Assault Infantry Regiment had cordoned off the area at first light, and established a perimeter for the Intel people to work.  The Stormtrooper Lieutenant had been called to the location by SSG “Diablo” Nive, there was an interesting find in the area of the site.
 
“Lieutenant Outlaw to see Staff Sergeant Diablo,” he stated to the guards at the control point.
 
Outlaw showed his ID to the control point officer, and was ushered into the perimeter with a pair of troopers in escort.  They weaved their way into investigation site, through a corridor established by the investigation team as safe to trudge through.   Outlaw saw Diablo hunched over the shoulder of a technician using a piece of equipment.  The blue twi’lek intelligence officer looked up at the approaching trio.
 
“Outlaw, thanks for coming out here,” he supplied.
 
“Anytime. What do you have for me?” Outlaw responded, doing his best not to sound irritated; the events of this morning were still fresh in his mind.
 
“The technicians weren’t able to find much DNA in the bunker,” Diablo began his report as he rose to face the Lieutenant.
 
“It seems like that artillery strike was dead on target,” he continued, “What we were able to identify, we will compare to the sample from Leerlani Merkrit, as well as our database.”
 
“Okay, very well, but why did you need me out here? I could have been told that in a holo-mail?” Outlaw’s annoyance became apparent.
 
“I found sign that there were boots on the ground in this area early yesterday evening, definitely after Team Bayonet had been evacuated.”
 
“Whoa, that’s important, how many and any idea who?”
 
“At least seven or eight distinct sets of footprints, all the same kind of boots, Rebel Spec Ops.”
 
Outlaw was instantly glad that SSG Nive had been part of the initial investigation. That kind of information would have taken the analysts a week or more to come up with.  But Cabod  Nive was not only a superior field spook, but a trained long range reconnaissance trooper.  He had been shunned by the conventional troops because of the obvious reason, he was a twi’lek.  His route to the 220th was different from the other troopers because of this detail.  He was recruited into the ranks of Imperial Intelligence because of his strong belief in Imperial ideology.
 
Krienz Sturmwolke tapped him for assignment to the recon platoon because of his prior work with the Twi’lek Liberation Front.  His dossier was not accessible to anyone other than Krienz, not even Major Kassel.  All that was known was some information that had been accidentally leaked, in reference to the twi’lek, two words in the ewok language, Ehda Siz, meaning Evil Fire.  It was unclear what it was the code name for, a unit, an operation, or SSG Nive himself, but it indicated one hell of a back story existed. 
 
“Show me,” Outlaw demanded.
 
The pair of troopers moved about the scene, Cabod presenting Theodorik with the evidence he had located.  The Lieutenant confirmed what the spy had found; the two men knew the footprints Spec Ops boots left very well.  While the Rebel forces did have some very tough customers, they still had a lot to learn in the Special Forces field.  Lt. Sturmwolke would have used Gungans to infiltrate the area, or at least locals, someone who wouldn’t have left clear sign of their presence.
 
“I will forward these findings to Major Kassel, anything else you find, you notify me directly,” Outlaw commanded.
 
“Absolutely, it will be done,” replied Diablo with a smirk.
 
Before the Stormtrooper Lieutenant could reply, his data device began to chirp.
 
“Carry on,” he stated before turning his back on the intelligence officer and retrieving the device from his vest pocket.
 
It was a message from Kammi, sent to his holo mail.  The trooper gathered his escort and marched back through the control point and back to his transport.
 
“Get me back to the Baz Nitch,” he ordered the pilot, settling into his seat and opening the device to read the message.
 
My Dearest Theo,

I want to apologize to you.  I’ve been so selfish, since I don’t know when. Probably back to when we were kids.  You took me under your wing, got me through so much trouble.  You never left me during those times and I took it personal when you joined the Stormies.  I didn’t understand your sense of duty until a few days ago.  I had no right to be angry with you for the time you’ve spent protecting this galaxy.

I am telling you that I was wrong, that I’ve been treating you unfairly, and I understand you have a job to do.  I am going to wait for you to forgive me, wait until you are ready to come back to me.  Seeing you in that elevator was hard for me, and it reminded me how hard it was going to be for me to follow through with this.  I know you have moved on to another girl, and I don’t fault you for that, you or her.  But I know that you and she will not last forever. I know this, because you and I were meant to spend our entire lives together.

I will wait as patiently as I can for you to forgive me for what I’ve done. When you do, I will welcome you back into my life with open arms.  The distance that separates us will never change how I feel about you, not anymore.

Loving you Always,

Kammi

Outlaw closed the device and sighed heavily, turning to look out at the ground below as the infantry transport began to take off.  He hadn’t allowed himself to think about the accidental meeting that had taken place in the elevator the previous day.   The young man had to admit that Koyi Lom was not the girl he was going to spend his entire life with.  She was such a sweet girl, but still so young and naïve.  Looking back on his life on Corellia, Theo realized how intertwined he and Kammi’s life had been.  They had not only shared joy and happiness, but pain and wrong and death.  The bond they had was strong, and it made what he was doing with Koyi feel wrong when he really thought about it.  Outlaw brought his hands together in front of his face and sighed deeply once again, lost in his thoughts.
 
Oh my sorrows, sad tomorrows.
Take me back, to my own home.
Oh my crying, feel I’m dying … dying.
Take me back to my own home.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik April 08, 2011, 01:18:03 AM
Chapter 10

Ladies and gentlemen please,
Would you bring your attention to me?
For a feast for your eyes to see,
An explosion of catastrophe.
Like nothing you've ever seen before,
Watch closely as I open this door.
Your jaws will be on the floor,
After this you'll be begging for more.

 
Village of Lassay, Naboo

1615 Hours, Monday
 
The sky was cast in grey, as it normally was in the swampy southern hemisphere of Naboo.  The surrounding wetlands had given way for only a small parcel of land, occupied by nine or ten buildings that had the audacity to call itself a village.  The permanent population was less than two dozen, mostly employees in the tavern, the small shop, the rundown hotel, or the stable.   Historically, the Gungans and the local swamp people would come in for supplies, entertainment, or to visit the doctor.   Lately, the lack of law enforcement spurred a new type of population growth, an increased presence of undesirables.
 
A small band of ruffians congregated in front of the tavern, offering harassing comments to the people who went about their business.  The five thugs were members of a swoop gang, consisting mostly of petty thieves and spice dealers.  The gang didn’t give any of the robust locals any real trouble, because most of them carried weapons and traveled in groups.  The swoopers were just killing time, waiting for someone to leave something unattended just long enough for them to steal it.
 
“Hey Grohg, check this out,” a swooper wearing thick glasses piped up.
 
Slowly riding into town on the back of a Kaadu was lone figure wearing a long black hooded robe.  The five men watched the figure with interest as the rider dismounted in front of the stable and retrieved a black satchel from the back of the creature.  The stable boy came out to meet the traveler, who spoke to him briefly and then handed over the reins to the beast.  The figure slung the satchel over one shoulder and then casually pulled the hood back, revealing a dark haired woman.
 
“Well well well, looks like somebody is lost,” quipped another gang member with a mohawk.
 
The quintet stirred as the woman walked towards them, shoulder length dark hair, blue-green eyes, and a young, delicate face.  Clearly, she was no swamp woman, and she didn’t look like much of a threat.  The leader of this particular knot of swoopers was the aforementioned Grohg, about 25 years of age, with rough features, and bad teeth.  He stepped into the woman’s path, and offered her his most crooked smile.
 
“Going somewhere doll?” he chuckled.
 
The woman stopped a few feet from Grohg and smirked, unfazed.  Her expression remained unchanged even when the other gang members began to circle around her.
 
 “I’m just here to rest my Kaadu and have a meal, maybe get a good night’s sleep,” she answered cheerfully.
 
“I think you should hang out with us, tonight. We’re having a party, I think you would have fun,” Grohg growled, as the gang completely surrounded the young woman.
 
“No thank you, I’ll pass. Would you kindly step aside?” the woman replied, her words dripping with sweetness.
 
The gang leader snarled at her, growing angry at her lack of fear.
 
“I asked you to be my date to a party, and I don’t like being told no.”
 
“Well, I’m sorry, that’s the answer,” her tone grew instantly serious, “now, step aside or you won’t be going to any parties for awhile.”
 
The swoopers began to howl with laughter, amused by her threat.  Grohg lunged forward and grabbed the woman by the hair on the back of her head, a move that cowed every woman that refused him in the past.  But this pretty young woman looked him directly in the eyes and flashed him a wicked grin.
 
“Bad idea,” she chuckled.
 
Before Grohg could react, the heel of the woman’s left hand connected squarely with his nose, loosening his grip.  The young traveler closed her eyes and tossed her head back, flipping her hair in a way that would be considered sexy in any other circumstance.  The angered gangster shut his eyes tight, his hands covering his now bleeding nose.  The remaining thugs stood wide eyed and mouth agape.
 
“Hold her down so I can show her some manners,” Grohg shrieked.
 
Two men leapt at the young lady, attempting to wrestle her to the ground.  But she was ready for their advance, and was able to sweep their legs with a low kick, knocking them off of their feet violently.  She sprung into the opposite direction to face Four-eyes, sending her right fist into his throat.  As he flopped backwards choking on his own breath, Mohawk took hold of her left arm.  Without pausing a moment, the traveler pivoted on her left foot, pulling her arm from the man’s grip. She continued rotating her body into a full spin, smashing her left foot into the man’s face, spattering the ground with his blood.
 
“Enough of this!” Grohg spat, drawing a blade from his boot.
 
The swoop gang leader was incensed, his face and shirt covered in his own blood, his nose obviously broken.  The young beauty stared him down, wagging her index finger.
 
“Now now, is all of this worth it, just to have a date to a party?” she taunted him.
 
“Damn you, you little slut, I’m going to cut your fracking head off,” growled the angry thug.
 
The woman shrugged and took a fighting stance, and beckoned Grohg with her left hand.
 
“Come get some.”
 
Grohg charged at her, slashing haphazardly with his blade, trying to choke through the tears and blood.  Effortlessly, the woman dodged the blade, ducking low under the advancing arm of her lead attacker.  Turning her body, the woman sent a kick solidly into Grohg’s right forearm, sending his knife flying and eliciting a sickening crack.
 
“You broke my nose and my arm!” he screamed.
 
The woman turned to the other four men on the ground and sneered.
 
“You might want to get choppers over here to a doctor.”
 
Two men slowly rose and went to Grohg’s side, escorting him in the opposite direction that the woman was headed.  Four-eyes and Mohawk stayed on the ground, each struggling to catch their breath.
 
“Hey, hairdo, you want some more?” the woman taunted.
 
The man with the mohawk shook his head in the negative and slinked behind the other three gangsters.
 
“How about you, goggles?” she questioned her bespectacled foe.
 
“I was j-just l-leaving,” stuttered Four-eyes, and he joined his defeated squad of hooligans to lick their wounds.
 
The woman sighed heavily, dusted off her robe and replaced her hood.  She removed a small comlink from a pouch on her belt and spoke into it casually but quietly.
 
“Miss Jezebel, this is Vixen, I’ve arrived in Lassay.”
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik April 14, 2011, 10:02:44 PM
The Royal Footman Pub & Bistro

Theed, Naboo

1800 Hours, Monday
 
The establishment was brightly lit, with eye catching ornate crystal light fixtures in abundance.  Theodorik rolled his eyes and exhaled forcefully as he caught his reflection in a mirror.  Here I am at one of these places again, he thought.  This time, he looked a little more the part of a young urban professional, he wasn’t here to prove a point; he was here on official business.  A certain young twi’lek girl was already waiting for him at the bar. Okay, so maybe not all business, thought the Corellian.
 
Koyi rose to meet her beau, hugging him lightly.  He bent slightly forward to meet her lips for a quick kiss.   The purple skinned beauty settled back onto her impossibly high heeled shoes to examine her date.  The young man tugged at the white collar on his otherwise black button down shirt. Theodorik’s white tie and black slacks completed the look that was popular amongst the young social elite here in Naboo.
 
“You look incredibly handsome my dear,” she said gleefully.
 
“Thank you babe, you look great yourself,” he answered while looking around the bar.
 
She did look great, wonderful even, clad in a sultry little black dress.  Theo wondered how many of those little dresses she had, probably quite a few.  As amazing as his date looked, his attention was divided, as he scanned the crowd.  He was risking his own personal security by being here, not to mention by dating Koyi to begin with.  Theo didn’t anticipate this mission requiring him to venture into Theed for anything other than recreation.  She knew him by his real name, and although he had asked her to keep things quiet, the Stormtrooper was sure she told someone about him.  He couldn’t fault her, it’s just what young girls were apt to do, and Theo intentionally downplayed the Task Force’s presence on Naboo.
 
Theodorik was at the Royal Footman to speak to the bartender, an imposing human man named Kaece.  He was an acquaintance of Outlaw’s, introduced by a member of his platoon back on Lok. The professional ruffian made a living as a bounty hunter, assassin for hire, spy, and all things sneaky and underhanded.  The Empire had employed him in the past, most recently accepting his help tracking down a known terrorist on Dantooine.  He was outwardly good natured and friendly, yet had the keen ability to be threatening when needed.  While Outlaw did have some of his own people with such a skill set, Kaece had no ties to the Empire other than an occasional payday.  On short notice, it was easier to hire him than to build a cover story for an operative, Kaece had his own.  Not to mention, there were times when the Stormtrooper Lieutenant didn’t have official permission for certain aspects of a mission. One of those times was right now.
 
“Can I be of service to the gentleman or the lady?” Theo heard from over his shoulder.
 
The Corellian turned to the bartender, who was not Kaece, and offered him a feigned smile.  The man behind the bar was younger than Theo, and not particularly well built. The soldier sized people up in this way all the time, in case things got interesting.  Koyi suddenly attached herself to her boyfriend’s arm as if it was a magnet and she was made of metal.
 
“I’d like an Utozz, please,” she said playfully, looking up at her companion rather than at the barkeep.
 
“One Utozz for the lady, and what can I get for you sir?”
 
“Same, please,” Theo continued his false pleasantry as the bartender went to work on their drinks.
 
Moments later, the young man returned with a pair of glass bottles containing the popular liquor.  Theo leaned on the bar and placed a credit chip in front of the man, triple the cost of the libations.
 
“Hey buddy, I’m looking for another guy, I thought he was a bartender here but I could be mistaken.”
 
The smaller framed man nodded his head in interest.
 
“He’s a solidly built guy, not overly big but you’d want him on your side in a fight. Anyway, he’s pretty docile, sort of a gentle giant, you know who I’m referring to?”
 
“Yeah,” replied the bartender as he eyed the chip, “That’s Kaece; he’s out back talking to a guy right now.”
 
“He’s talking to a guy? Your boss?” asked Theodorik.
 
“No sir, some street punk came in here about fifteen minutes ago, dusty trench coat, sun glasses, and the whole nine.  He said he was going to teach Kaece a lesson, so he offered to go out back and straighten things out.”
 
“Thanks buddy, and thanks for the drink,” Theo said casually, and turned away as the bartender nodded.
 
“Who is this guy Kaece, a friend of yours?” asked Koyi.
 
“Yeah, I gotta go out back for a second and keep someone from getting their ass kicked,” Theo explained while gently pulling his arm away.
 
“Is this Kaece guy that much of a friend?”
 
“It’s not him I am worried about.”
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1830 Hours, Monday
 
Major Melyssa Kassel looked at her chronometer, and blinked her eyes hard.  A half eaten sandwich and a soft drink bottle rested on an adjacent table, spending most of the afternoon being untouched.  She had been at the desk for nearly seven hours, analyzing data and lab reports regarding the operation.  DNA evidence from the destroyed bunker indicated that Wawo Merkrit had indeed perished in the artillery strike.  The report went on to profile another fourteen DNA signatures, and the dossiers from several individuals that matched them.  All of them had extensive criminal records, but all were locals.
 
The Major had also scoured the satellite imagery of the planet, noting no evidence of a large military element.  The terrain and flora of the region was conducive to hiding a large base, it was the reason the weapons development lab was in the location it was.  Major Kassel had set aside the images to be looked over by her geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) specialist, Ensign Maryska Dunerunner. Ensign Dunerunner was officially in the Imperial Navy, but had been permanently borrowed to be a member of Major Kassel’s crew.  It was one of many times Jezebel stole a highly skilled operator away from another commander.
 
The bulk of the intelligence officer’s day had been spent looking at reports from analysts.  This was the unglamorous part of intelligence and counterinsurgency, reading and writing reports.  There were people analyzing electronics intelligence (ELINT), listening to holo conversations and reading electronic mail.  This data was both very important and very tedious, as sometimes the most mundane detail in a conversation can prove to be important.  The only drawback was, the mundane details were usually just that, mundane, useless details.  Her people were the best the Empire had to offer, but the task of ELINT was still daunting.
 
The last report she read was brief, but gave the most information, it was from Captain Shellbee Belle, also known as Agent Vixen.  Direct information from sources located in the area of operation was known as human intelligence (HUMINT).  In the intelligence community, this was the most vital, and if you had a capable agent, the most reliable.  The caveat was, it was very difficult to train a field agent, and sometimes impossible to insert them into a situation.  An alternative to having a field agent was to utilize information brokers, called “assets” by their handlers, but the frequency of misinformation made this impractical to Major Kassel.
 
Agent Vixen was the intelligence officer’s weapon of choice when it came to infiltration.  She came to the 268th Intelligence Detachment after graduating from the Imperial Officer Academy in only two years.  As impressive as it was, even more impressive was her getting into the Academy in the first place.  According to records, there was no such person as Shellbee Belle, yet somehow, she was able to convince the Academy’s Commandant to accept her.  Major Kassel had made only one attempt to investigate her background, and it earned her a visit some very serious customers.  This young woman’s past was to remain just that, her past.  Her abilities as an agent could not be denied by Jezebel however, regardless of her mysterious background.
 
 Currently, her field agent was reporting from Lassay, a particularly rough excuse for a town.  The message from Miss Vixen indicated she had dealt with a band of local trouble makers.  Jezebel was pretty sure by the language her agent had selected that her foes had gotten injured in the process.  More interesting was her notation that there were several Gungans in town, buying up supplies and carting them en masse due northwest
 
Now Major Melyssa “Jezebel” Kassel began preparing a report of her own, for the commanding officer of Task Force Reaper, General Krienz Sturmwolke.  We may have a new target, my dear General Mastermind, she mused.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik April 15, 2011, 12:02:47 AM
The Royal Footman Pub & Bistro

Theed, Naboo

1819 Hours, Monday
 
Outlaw excused himself from his date and deftly ducked into the kitchen behind a pair of busboys.  The staff largely ignored him as he weaved his way through the food factory, as the typical mass of bodies moved in organized chaos.  The Stormtrooper exited through a rickety swinging door into the alley behind the restaurant, finding nothing.  Outlaw scanned the narrow passageway for signs of his contact or his alleged enemy.  A few meters away, behind a pile of boxes, a man raising his voice could be heard.
 
“I’ve had just about enough of you Kaece, and now we are going to settle this like men,” shouted the voice.
 
“Listen Daf, as far as I’m concerned, this was all settled a month ago.  You wanted a fight, and you got one,” replied Kaece calmly.
 
“You didn’t fight fair!” shrieked “Daf”.
 
“Daf, seriously, I demolished you, that’s all there is to it, I am done with you now,” Kaece supplied matter-of-factly.
 
Outlaw began to wander out into the alley, trying to look like a lost patron.
 
“Hellooooo?” he called out in the direction of the men.
 
Dafido Hasimoto stepped out from behind the pile of boxes to face the Stormtrooper.  Outlaw nearly laughed out loud when he saw the man, long black trench coat, swoop biker boots, dark sunglasses, an outfit right out of a film.  What made it difficult for Outlaw to contain his laughter were the knives, probably about a dozen of them, adorning his body in various sized scabbards.  They were on his belt, on his ankles, inside his coat, everywhere.  There was even a modest sized machete sheathed onto his back.
 
“What do you want?” Dafido asked gruffly.
 
Kaece was smiling widely as he peered around the boxes and met eyes with Outlaw.
 
“Hey man, I’ll be with you in a second; I’m just taking out the trash.”
 
“Oh, so you’re friends with him,” the man growled, pointing one of his knives at Theo.
 
“Hey dude, I’ve got no static with you,” Theo raised his hands defensively; “I just came out here to see where my favorite bartender went.”
 
The trench coat clad interloper whirled around and pointed his blade at Kaece, who was standing with arms crossed, clearly not amused.
 
“Now, go inside and get something to duel me with, and then we will see who the big man is.”
 
Outlaw allowed a snicker to escape his lips, eliciting an icy stare from Dafido.
 
“I don’t like your face, stranger. After I deal with this one, I’m going to wipe you out too,” Dafido attempted to snarl.
 
“Fine, let me go inside and find something to stab you with,” Kaece huffed as he moved toward the back door.
 
He momentarily paused at the threshold, a step away from Outlaw, and gave him a serious look.  There was a reason he wasn’t smashing this man’s face in right now, probably because the guy had no idea who he was dealing with.  It was apparent to the Stormtrooper that this man was no professional, and he was trying to settle some score that was completely unimportant to Kaece.
 
“You want to tell me what this is all about, dude?” asked Theo.
 
“My name is Dafido, not dude, and it’s none of your business, ner’vod.”
 
Outlaw’s smirk disappeared into a scowl at the man’s use of the Mando’a word for brother.  This man was no Mandalorian; this wasn’t humorous to the Lieutenant anymore.
 
“I’m not your brother, and you are not a Mandalorian, I think it would be a good idea for you to go now, before I use one of your own knives to open you up from neck to nuts. Did you hear me … dude?” Outlaw growled.
 
“Oh really? So now you’re threatening me? I don’t think you want to tangle with me, not while I’ve got this,” he shot back, pulling the machete out to punctuate his threat.
 
“You’d better fetch another five or six of your fake Mandalorian buddies before you come at me tough guy.”
 
“That’s it!” Dafido screamed and lunged at the Special Forces Operator.
 
Outlaw sidestepped the incoming item and sent his right fist into the chest of his attacker.  Dafido stumbled backwards awkwardly, dropping both of his cutting implements.  The Stormtrooper stood and watched as his enemy struggled to regain his balance. Dafido clutched his chest and looked at Outlaw with squinted eyes.
 
“Dammit man, that really hurt!” he shouted.
 
Outlaw shrugged, “Was it supposed to tickle?”
 
A deep frown forming on his face, Dafido withdrew another small blade and flung it at the Corellian. Outlaw ducked expertly, the knife bouncing harmlessly off of the brick wall behind him.  The knife wielder withdrew another pair of knives, this time throwing them so wildly that Outlaw didn’t even have to move.
 
“Dafido, I think you better get the frack out of here before you end up hurt really bad.”
 
The man’s eyes dipped to the ground and he dejectedly hung his head .  He removed his trench coat and threw it down onto the ground, several knives clinking out onto the pavement.  Dafido offered one last angry look to Outlaw before he turned around and walked down the alley towards the street.
 
“And don’t even think about coming back here with a damned blaster!” Outlaw shouted after him.
 
Kaece poked his head out of the back door a moment later.
 
“Did you get rid of him or kill him?”
 
“I got rid of him, what the hell was that all about?” Theodorik asked.
 
“Kind of embarrassing really, I was messing around at the shooting range a few weeks ago, and Dafido was there. He was firing so wildly, holding the pistol wrong, not listening to any of the range masters.  They were about to kick him out when he asked me for advice. I tried being as gentle as I could, telling him he was standing wrong, holding the gun wrong.”
 
“So he didn’t like what he heard?”
 
“Understatement of the century, Theo, he tried to pistol whip me with the damn DL-44.”
 
“Frack sakes man,” Theo laughed.
 
“Yeah, I beat the crap out of him, and the staff dragged him outside. He saw me here two weeks ago, and he’s been coming in here talking trash every damn night. I took this job because I’m trying to get busy with one of the bar managers, and that idiot has been getting in the way.”
 
“And you didn’t want to kill him because he is just some idiot desk jockey who watches too many holomovies,” the trooper finished for him.
 
“Exactly.”
 
 “Well Kaece, don’t worry about the bar manager.  I’ve got a job for you; I need somebody without any direct ties to the Empire.”
 
“Sounds like my kind of work,” Kaece quipped, Outlaw wasn’t sure if it was sarcastic or not.
 
“There is a family that we need protected, in the Village of Lianorm,” the Lieutenant continued.
“Rough neighborhood, what’s the story of this family?” Kaece asked with arms crossed.
 
“It’s the Mayor of the Village and his daughters and son, well, mostly the eldest daughter, Lolana.  We rescued them during a raid on a house full of terrorists, and held them with us, not knowing they were the Mayor’s family,” Outlaw explained, Kaece nodded in acknowledgement.
 
“We need them to feel safe, and well, be safe. We aren’t sure the danger has passed in that area.  Command won’t approve resources to protect the Village or anyone in it,” he continued.
 
“Protect the family, I can do that. You have a cover dreamed up for me?” asked the bounty hunter.
 
“Yeah,” Theodorik laughed, “They own a restaurant, you’ll be their bartender.”
 
“Fantastic,” Kaece also laughed, the irony not lost on him.
 
“Lets talk details,” he continued, “on some different turf, in case that ass clown comes back with a rocket launcher.”
 
Outlaw laughed and shook his head before he answered.
 
“There is a bar on the opposite side of Varykino that I’ve become quite fond of, meet me there tomorrow night at eleven.”
 
“Done, see you there,” the strongman for hire replied, as the two men shook hands.
 
Theodorik dusted himself and reentered the bistro, retracing his steps through the kitchen to his awaiting date. The young twi’lek had a pair of empty Utozz bottles in front of her, and another half empty one in her hand.  He gave her an apologetic look.
 
“Sorry doll, he isn’t here after all, let’s get out of here, okay?”
 
“Sure thing,” she said, her words slurring ever so slightly.
 
Moments later, they were back on the street, walking casually toward another place that was a little less formal.  Theo halted his date as they reached the back of the Royal Footman.
 
“Hang on a second babe,” he asked, clearly up to something.
 
He quickly shuffled down the alley, emerging a minute later wearing a worn looking black trench coat.
 
“Where did you get that? I actually like it on you,” Koyi said cheerfully.
 
“You like it? I saw it lying on a box in the alley; I guess somebody didn’t want it anymore.”
 
“It looks great on you, makes you look a little more dangerous,” the twi’lek grinned as she clutched his arm.
 
Ladies and gentlemen good evening,
You've seen that seeing is believing.
Your ears and your eyes will be bleeding,
Please check to see if you're still breathing.
Hold tight cause the show is not over,
If you will please move in closer.
Your about to be bowled over,
By the wonders you're about to behold here.

 
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik April 28, 2011, 07:51:15 PM
 Chapter 11
 
Saying ‘I love you’ is not the words I want to hear from you.
It’s not that I want you not to say but,
If you only knew how easy it would be to show me how you feel.
‘More than words’ is all you have to do to make it real.
Then you wouldn’t have to say, that you love me.
‘Cause I’d already know.

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1110 Hours, Tuesday
 
Theodorik lay in his bed, an uneasy feeling in his stomach.  He wanted to blame the food or alcohol from the previous night, but he knew that there was more to his pain than that.  The operation at hand played a small part in it, the risk of which was punctuated with the death of Gart Beza.  Largely on his mind was the uncertainty of his romantic situation, now that he finally had the time to contemplate it.  It seemed trivial, when compared with the backdrop of raging insurgent activity and the death of one of his fellow troopers.  But he was well prepared for the latter, well trained in the art of combat and well hardened to the reality of death.  It was the life part he had a hard time with.
 
For years he had tried to make Kamiko understand it, serving the Empire in the Stormtrooper Corps.  It wasn’t a job or a career to Theodorik, it was a calling.  Looking at the overall picture, no one would choose such a profession unless stimulated by some sense of duty.  Or the overwhelming urge to kill people, Theodorik thought, because there were individuals that joined for that purpose alone.  Fortunately, the Special Forces rarely saw that attitude penetrate its ranks.  The members of his unit were not averse to killing the enemy, but their desire to protect the innocent is what drove them.
 
The Scout Trooper had read and reread the holo-mail from Kamiko, and her sentiment seemed to come directly from the heart this time.  But there was one obstacle in the young man’s mind; the words in the letter were just that, words.  It made him think back to a song from his school days, it was funny now because he hadn’t contemplated the gravity of the song’s lyrics until now.  It was easy to say you loved someone; it was much harder to show them.  For a long time, he forgave her dismissive attitude toward his military career.  He would chalk it up to Kammi’s rough and tumble nature, her need to say what was on her mind, and never pretend to like something when she didn’t.  There were times that brutal honesty wasn’t refreshing, times when Theo had hoped for a little more understanding and less close minded mentality.
 
The irony of the Kammi situation was that she was a Firefighter and a Flight Paramedic.  How could she not understand the need to protect others? The Fire and Rescue Service was the epitome of honor and self sacrifice in the name of keeping others safe.  Maybe that was just the outward appearance, he reasoned.
 
Theodorik rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling of his prefabricated shelter, hands behind his head.  There were actually two women on his mind, the Corellian admitted to himself.  A large part of him was hopeful that he and Kammi could actually work. He was hopeful that their love was strong enough to span the distance that was bound to separate them when his mission on Naboo was completed.  But, there was a certain twi’lek to consider, one that he enjoyed spending time with.  The reality struck him suddenly, what was the future with Koyi? Was it worth jeopardizing his future with his Corellian cherry blossom?
 
“Damn it all,” he cursed aloud.
 
He knew what the right answer was, the one that was the fairest to everyone’s emotions now and in the future.  But it was the hardest thing to do, to break it off with a sweet young girl and mend fences with Kammi.  His best shot at a meaningful relationship was with his long time partner in crime, even more so now that she came to some kind of an epiphany regarding what he meant to her.
 
The young warrior sighed heavily; he was really enjoying himself with Koyi.  There was a part of him that wished he hadn’t found the love of his life before he really had a chance to sample some of the women the galaxy had to offer.   That was the part of Theodorik’s mind that was making the decisions at present.   It required the least amount of work as far as the relationship was concerned, he would show up, Koyi would be there looking gorgeous, and the two of them would have a good time.  The physical relationship was beyond amazing, which did make him feel guilty when he thought about Kammi.
 
“What can I do?” he said aloud, “I’m just that irresistible.”
 
He allowed himself a laugh.  The Stormtrooper admitted to himself that he was destined to be with Kamiko Sakura.  But, for the time being, spending time with Koyi made it easy to take his mind off of the mission.   In the interest of keeping his own mind sharp and stress free, he would continue on his present course.  If feelings were hurt or if opportunities were lost in the future, he would deal with it then, not now.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik April 28, 2011, 11:54:53 PM
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

1335 Hours, Tuesday
 
Major Kassel looked at her chronometer just in time to realize she’d worked through lunch once again.  She huffed at the thought, stopping for a meal was out of the question today. All morning, the XO had been exchanging messages with the platoon commander of Field Base Acklay, the Task Force’s other launching point for long range patrols.  They hadn’t had the kind of hard contact that Baz Nitch had encountered, but the teams were finding clear sign of activity.  The Lieutenant running the base, Outlaw’s counterpart, felt they were zeroing in on several “hotspots”, clusters of activity that created a pattern.
 
Field Base Acklay’s platoon leader also reported that incursions with locals had halted.  There were no more attempts at sabotage, or hit and run attacks on Imperial assets in the area.  He was inclined to assume one of two things; the Rebels had left the area, or were changing tactics.  The report of Gungans moving supplies from Agent Vixen made her lean towards the latter.  The best news of the day came from her geospatial intelligence expert, Ensign Dunerunner.  There were a few abnormalities in the satellite imagery, all centered around one area.  A clearing exhibited signs of a large spacecraft landing and taking off, dating back a few weeks before Task Force Grim Reaper was established.
 
The Major was direct with her incredulity, but her GeoInt expert reassured her.  Ensign Dunerunner compared several clearings in Naboo’s Southern Hemisphere to the one in question.  She pointed toward the differences in the growth of the grass in the clearing.  It was obvious to the Ensign that large swathes of vegetation had been burned away by jet blast or hacked away by human hands.  The size of the Opposing Force (OpFor) was larger than anticipated, and there was the distinct possibility they had some serious firepower.  Jezebel’s space geek did have some more information reinforcing that notion, several mysterious clusters of underbrush that came from nowhere.
 
Comparing photos over the course of three weeks, there were a few breaks in the vegetation that were now overgrown.  Dunerunner noted that even in the lushest jungle, breaks in vegetation that exist for months or years don’t spontaneously begin to grow.  After looking at archival photographs, the Naval Officer opined the new undergrowth was an attempt to camouflage something.  Major Kassel could have just about thrown her arms around the Ensign and embraced her vigorously at that news.
 
Shortly after midday, the Major had also received the forensic report on Sergeant Beza’s armor.  There was residue from a type of explosive, the name of which Jezebel wasn’t about to try and pronounce, that was popular with the Rebel Army regulars.  She had all the information she needed, and presented it to the General and some other high ranking advisors in a holo-conference.  The General was impressed, and resisted the other advisors urges to saturate the area with resources.
 
“We have the people in place that we need,” he said confidently as he nodded toward Major Kassel’s holographic image.
 
His orders following the meeting were clear and concise, the words still echoing in her head.  Tell my brother to find that damned base.  That was the next order of business of course, to fill in Lieutenant Sturmwolke and 1st Sergeant Ravenheart and create an aggressive time table for long range patrols of their new target areas.  She would also have the pleasure of informing Outlaw that Sgt. Hammer Abstreiter was back to full duty and available for his next patrol.  So far, it looked promising to have boots on the ground in 48 hours.
 
 
Alliance Underground Headquarters

Gallo Mountains, Naboo

1500 hours, Tuesday
 
Captain Krieger had finally reached his boiling point with his Commander.  After a visit to the barracks he had noticed that his men were wearing some very identifiable Rebel Spec Ops gear.  He had gone through the trouble of acquiring some suitable outdoors attire that wouldn’t attract attention.  It should have arrived by Gungan Express ten days ago, but the soldiers indicated they were told to wear what they arrived with.  Kicking it up the chain of command, Captain Krieger discovered the order came directly from Major Lenard J. Fracking Monch.
 
The incensed Executive Officer stormed all the way down to Monch’s makeshift quarters to confront him. This was getting beyond ridiculous, he growled inwardly.  The Battalion Commander was pouring himself a drink, likely something alcoholic, reminding the Captain of an argument he had lost early in their deployment. 
 
“Lenard, what in Valorum’s ghost have you done?” he demanded.
 
“I thought we talked about this, Dale. I just have one drink in the afternoon and one before bed, it clears my head.”
 
The former Corellian law enforcement officer could no longer contain his fiery temper.
 
“Damn you to hell Lenard, what happened to the boots and clothes for my Spec Ops guys?”
 
“Oh, that’s what you’re down here all upset over? I had them leave that stuff in Lassay.  I needed the room for proton missiles for the T-3B’s.”
 
“You needed more missiles for the tanks? We only have two of them Major, how much ammunition are they supposed to carry? I’ve had my people traipsing all over the planet wearing gear that screams Alliance Special Operations!”
 
“Those two tanks are pivotal to my assault plan,” the Major stated cavalierly.
 
“I’m going to be honest, Dale,” he continued, “Your insubordination can no longer be ignored.”
 
Before the Captain could reply, Major Monch shouted for the pair of Sergeants that were his security detail.  They entered the room brandishing stun batons and headed directly for their XO.
 
“Wait a minute, what is this?” the Captain shouted as he reached for his pistol holster.
 
It was for naught however, as one of the security officers connected his baton with the Captain’s head, knocking him unconscious instantly.  The two men then dragged the Corellian away at the behest of their commander.
 
“Send for Lieutenant Burchenall,” he shouted after them, “And tell him he is the new Battalion XO.”
 
We’ve only got seven more days before we assault that weapons facility, he thought.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik May 11, 2011, 04:55:17 PM
Lanky’s Tavern

Lake Varykino, Naboo

2240 Hours, Tuesday
 
It was another peaceful night on the walkway surrounding the lake.  The moons were casting their light onto the serene water, a sparkling view familiar now to Theodorik.  The handsome Corellian was accompanied by the accidental couple, Lolana and Melky.   A bond had emerged between the two, the rough mountain man from Corellia, and the innkeeper country girl from Naboo.  She was confident and direct with her feelings; he was more reserved and even slightly socially inept.  There was one thing that Melky did know for certain, however; he had strong feelings for the mocha skinned beauty. As he guided them along the lakeside path, Theo couldn’t help but smile for them.
 
The wooded landscape finally gave way to a cluster of buildings. The wall on which Theodorik and his date had become acquainted a week prior stretched out in either direction in front of the trio.  The Lieutenant and his escorts were early, but Theo was certain Kaece was already there.  Hammer, Doc, and Buzz were also already at Lanky’s, refusing to let their leader go into this endeavor alone.  The Stormtrooper Officer didn’t even consider not asking Melky, knowing how strongly the man felt for his new companion.  The team was in this together, as they were with everything.
 
Outlaw entered the bar first, right away spotting Doc and Kaece seated together in a booth by the wall, drinks in hand.  They were engaged in spirited conversation, as if they had known each other for years.  Buzz was seated at the far end of the bar, disconnected from the aforementioned pair, appearing to be engrossed in his own drink.  Hammer wasn’t immediately visible, but Outlaw was sure he was keeping his eye out for his unit.  The team leader made very brief eye contact with Buzz, who responded by scratching his left cheek subtly.
 
Recognizing the all clear signal, Outlaw looked behind him to the couple waiting in the doorway and offered a slight nod.  Melky cautiously entered with Lolana following close behind, the three new visitors all walked directly to Kaece’s booth.
 
“Hey guys, grab a seat,” Kaece graciously offered.
 
“Thank you,” Outlaw responded cheerfully, “I see you’ve met the Doctor.”
 
“Yeah, we identified each other right away. The guy at the bar too,” Kaece answered while throwing a thumb toward Buzz.
 
Theo finally noticed Hammer in the back of the alehouse, playing a table game with the regulars.  By appearances, his bounty hunter friend had failed to identify the Staff Sergeant looming in the background.  It made no difference either way, they weren’t there to watch Kaece; they were there to make sure it was safe for Lolana.  She was a feisty character, Outlaw had learned, insisting on meeting the man protecting her.   The group shuffled into the booth and introductions were quickly made.
 
“So, you are going to be my bodyguard, yes?” Lolana got right to the point.
 
“That’s correct Miss, I am sure Outlaw has given you some of my credentials,” the assassin for hire replied.
 
“I’m confident in your abilities if ‘Law is,” Milky cut in, “but please, take this more seriously than just some paycheck.”
 
It was an uncharacteristic comment for the mountaineer to make, but to his credit, Kaece remained unfazed by the demand.  Outlaw noted that his friend was his usual cool but casual self, choosing to react positively to the statement.
 
“Good sir, I know you have this young lady’s best interests at heart, let me reassure you, I do also.”
 
Milky sat back and relaxed his shoulders, releasing a sigh.  He set his left hand onto the table, which Lolana promptly took into her hands.
 
“Sorry, Kaece, I know we just met, and Outlaw says you’re the best man for this,” the scout trooper said apologetically.
 
Everyone at the table knew where the sudden burst of emotion was coming from.  Doctor Z had some contempt for the entire situation, citing it as a security risk, which he had voiced to Outlaw alone.  He noted that he would stand by his team despite his reservations, and he asked that his Lieutenant keep the conversation in confidence.  While Outlaw agreed with the security risk of Lolana and Milky’s relationship, there were other advantages to having a pair of eyes with the Ryltans family.  Cabod “Diablo” Nive was already facilitating the return of Ferran, Lolana’s father, to the position of Mayor.  Rumors were already being spread that he, Ferran Ryltans, has strong ties to the Empire, and he has their support as the leader of Lianorm.
 
“Kaece, tomorrow evening, the family tavern reopens,” Outlaw began, leaning forward, “You will meet up with Ferran in the early afternoon; present yourself as his new barkeep.  Diablo has already given him the low down on you and his family, who will ride into town with one of our teams.  They will stay for a few hours, but then fade into the background before the end of the night. My boss has not authorized any other assets to that village other than Diablo.”
 
“And this Diablo, he and I will be in contact?” Kaece asked.
 
“Yes, but not in the public eye, you are not there at my request, understand?”
 
“I know all too well,” he grinned.
 
“All the details and available intelligence that I can give you is right here on this,” Outlaw stated, producing a small chip-like device and sliding it to the bartender in disguise.
 
“Excellent, one final detail and then we have a deal,” Kaece added coyly.
 
“Your payment, I did not forget, my friend,” Outlaw laughed, “It will be transferred into whatever account you wish.”
 
The bounty hunter slid a information chip of his own across to the Stormtrooper Officer with a smile.
 
“Got it, half will be deposited at midnight, and half when this is over. You will give me that account number at a later time, as per our usual arrangement I am sure,” Outlaw stated casually.
 
“As per our usual arrangement, yes,” the other man replied equally nonchalant.
 
After a few more moments of forced small talk, the group decided to disband for the evening.  Earlier in the day, Outlaw had been briefed on the latest intelligence regarding the mission.  The long range patrols were going to be deeper into the harsh terrain and longer in duration.  It was going to be more taxing on the crews, as well as requiring more discipline for the time between patrols.  He had to tell his men all of this in the morning; he wanted to get them back to the camp as soon as he could. This was also going to be Milky’s last night with Lolana for quite a while.

I should probably spend some time with Koyi, Theodorik thought.  The thought came into his head more like an obligation than a wish.  All at once, he wondered if he would have rather spent the night with Kammi.  A soldier did his best not to contemplate his own mortality, but what sort of mess would he leave if he was killed? He took notice of the way Lolana and Melky did not cling to eachother the way Koyi had glued herself to him.  They were a comfortable distance apart, yet their eyes found each other's often.  The couple was as easy as breathing, much like he and Kammi had been in the early days.  His last good-bye with Kammi came flooding back into his memory as the group walked back to the parking garage.
 
 
It was a month before the Battle of Yavin.  Theodorik was about to deploy for the first time as a Scout Trooper Sergeant, on his way to join the 42nd Stormtrooper Legion in the Kwymar Sector.  They were standing together, at the starport in Tyrena.  When he closed his eyes, this was the vision of her that he saw. Her coal black hair was pulled back into a pony tail; her eyes engaged in their familiar game of hide and seek with her bangs.  She had a head band interlaced with the pink-white flowers from the Corellian cherry trees in her hair.
 
Words were difficult to come by that day for the young man; they had parted on less than good terms the last time he left Corellia.  The best he could do was promise the separation was temporary.  Kamiko believed in his words, and she smiled at him as he held her.
 
“Krie will get me stationed near whatever university you want to go to. Just let me know as soon as you can,” he assured her.
 
“Do you have to go to Kwymar right now? It’s so far away from me,” she asked.
 
“It’s far from any fighting, I will just be a peacekeeper there,” he lied; Kwymar was a sector in turmoil.
 
“Hurry home to me, I love you,” she said cheerfully.
 
The young Sergeant was hopeful that this good-bye was different than the last.  Kammi seemed accepting of his choice this time; at least she said she was.  He contemplated asking her to marry him on his next trip home, but as his deployment crawled by, and no letters came, he knew she wasn’t ready to be a soldier’s wife.  For his part, he hadn’t been able to come home once the Death Star was destroyed.  Three years later and several battles later, the young Corellian found himself at a crossroads.
 
Now that I've tried to talk to you,
and make you understand.
All you have to do is close your eyes,
and just reach out your hands.
And touch me,
hold me close, don't ever let me go.

More than words, is all I ever needed you to show,
Then you wouldn’t have to say, that you loved me.
‘Cause I’d already know.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 08, 2011, 03:30:10 PM
Chapter 12
 
Well, my girl’s in the next room.
Sometimes I wish she was you.
I guess we never really moved on.
 
Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0148 Hours, Wednesday

The Imperial field base was much quieter than usual.  Rumors about new intelligence and an increased threat level had passed through the platoon, prompting the professional soldiers to bed down early.  The only exception to the silence of the encampment was the commotion in Theodorik’s mind.  He now lay on his back, staring at the ceiling in his shelter, sharing his bed with a soundly sleeping purple twi’lek.  It was another female that was dominating his thoughts at the moment, however.
 
Almost on cue, his data device began to chirp.  The young Corellian scrambled to silence the offending item, quickly taking note of the familiar incoming call’s comm number.  He rose, looking over his shoulder at the sleeping Nabooian girl in his bed.  Koyi’s resting form offered no evidence of being disturbed, so Theo moved carefully into the other room.  He stared at the device for a full five seconds, contemplating his next move, before he finally answered.
 
“Hello,” he said hoarsely.
 
At first he was met with only the sound of soft breathing, leaving him wondering if Kammi had been sleeping and accidentally activated the call.  He parted his lips to speak, but suddenly heard his own name breathed into the phone.
 
“Theo,” the voice whispered.
 
“Kammi, what’s wrong?” her beau asked, detecting sadness in her voice.
 
“I just wanted to hear your voice,” she answered, her own voice cracking.
 
Despite the distressed tone in her articulation, he couldn’t help but smile.
 
“It’s good to hear your voice babe,” he said, then after a long pause he added, “I miss you.”
 
“I miss you too,” she sniffled.
 
 “I know I said I would leave you alone until you were ready but …” her voice trailed off.
 
“It’s okay Kammi, I’m glad you called.  I wanted to talk to you anyway, forgive me if I have to whisper though.”
 
“You have company?” she asked cautiously.
 
“Yes,” he replied bashfully, “I’m sorry baby girl, are you mad at me?”
 
“No, no … I’m just glad to be able to talk to you,” she replied sincerely.
 
“Well, I wanted to talk to you because things are about to get serious around here.”
 
She shivered at the statement.  Things aren’t serious right now, she wondered.  The young couple talked for over an hour, mostly reminiscing on their days in Tyrena.  Theo did not offer any details about why or how things were going to get more serious. One theme did come across loud and clear from the young man to his longtime friend; I wanted to tell you I love you one last time in case I get killed.  She screwed her eyes shut, fighting back a floodgate of tears at the thought.  Kamiko had to accept the facts as they were, his job was dangerous and it was going to become more so. 

Finally, reluctantly, Theodorik and Kamiko said their goodbyes and ended the call.  The young man peeked into the bedroom to find Koyi had hardly moved an inch.  He crept into the room and slipped back into the bed to try and get some sleep.   As he sought a comfortable position, he looked over the young girl in the bed next to him.  She was such a sweet girl; he hated to break her heart.  It seemed like there was no way to avoid it now, unfortunately, he thought as he drifted to sleep.

Village of Lassay, Naboo

0715 Hours, Wednesday
 
The first thing Vixen took note of was the usual signs of a community’s early morning ritual weren’t present.   Not a soul stirred as she glided through the streets in her black hooded cloak.  It was early, but it wasn’t that early, she thought.  She had prepared her room the day before, sweeping for listening devices and creating a few traps for anyone that thought of dropping in on her.  Now she was out surveying her surroundings.
 
Captain Shellbee “Vixen” Belle was one of the finest field agents in Imperial Intelligence.  Her mission here in Lassay was to trace the supply line, both its origin and its destination.  Her first report regarding the Gungans loading the supply wagons was already some valuable intelligence.  It would give the long range patrols a place to start their search.  The beginning of the supply route was s different matter. The vendors of the goods were probably unknowing participants in the chain.  It was likely there was someone here in Lassay that was responsible for bringing the supplies in, and organizing everything on the Gungan wagons.   Her first task was to find this individual.
 
The Intelligence Officer pursed her lips as she cast her eyes on the stable at the end of the street.   Any beasts of burden used to move supply carts needed to fed and quartered, she reasoned.
 
“Hmm, let’s start there,” she said aloud.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 08, 2011, 06:34:02 PM
Vixen adopted a casual gait as she strolled toward the stable. Despite appearances, she was far from casual, ever vigilant to an approaching threat.  She had a supernatural ability to monitor her surroundings; her senses seemed connected to her environment.  As she approached the stable, the Captain noticed that the stable boy was already scurrying around tending to the animals.
 
“Good morning,” she called out from a short distance, as not to startle the young man.
 
“Good morning ma’am,” the boy called back, looking up from his work.
 
“Where is everyone this morning?” she asked.
 
Immediately, Vixen noticed the stable was filled end to end with Kaadu and Falumpset.  There had only been a few animals when she had brought in her own on Monday evening.
 
“This isn’t much of a break of dawn kind of village, ma’am,” he sighed.
 
“Except for you,” Shellbee mused.
 
“Yep, ‘cept for me, and you too, I guess,” he chuckled.
 
“And me too,” she returned the laugh.
 
“I have more work than most today, anyways; all these beasts arrived a few hours ago.”
 
“Oh?”
 
“Yeah, a guy who keeps a Falumpset in here came by last night and told me he needed the rest of the stable spots.  Good thing you had come in when you did, otherwise I’d have to turn you away.”
 
“No kidding, well good luck for me I suppose,” she replied casually, masking her intentions expertly.
 
“Yeah, it’s kind of strange that he brought in all of these creatures at such an early hour, considering this town mostly gets busy at night.”
 
“No kidding,” Shellbee replied as she tilted her head in interest.
 
“Yeah, it’s sort of been an after dark sort of town, especially lately. All the Gungans come and get their supplies right after supper and don’t stop until after midnight.”
 
Vixen had noticed a few Gungan carts being loaded on Monday evening; she finally realized the potential size of this supply line.
 
“That’s kind of strange, is it not?” the Intelligence Officer asked.
 
“I guess, they say it’s because it’s cooler at night, but I don’t buy it. I think it’s because they are bringing things out there that are illegal,” the boy offered.
 
“Wow, isn’t that something.  I guess that sort of thing is commonplace out here beyond the RSF’s reach.”
 
The young boy shrugged.
 
“I don’t pay attention; nobody gives me any trouble because my boss is pretty mean.”
 
“Is he some kind of gangster?” Vixen chuckled.
 
“Nah, he’s just known for busting people up who don’t pay or who try to give his business a hard time.”
 
“Well, then it’s a good thing that I paid in advance then,” she laughed.
 
The stable boy shook his head and laughed as well, moving his hair out of his eyes to get a better look at the friendly woman.  He grimaced as he wondered if he had said too much regarding the movements of the animals.  While his boss wasn’t involved in the smuggling, he always preached the protection of his customer’s privacy.  This woman came off as nothing but sweet, though he hadn’t forgotten how she handled the swoopers the day before yesterday.  He looked up at her once more, and looked into her blue-green eyes.
 
All at once, he decided she wasn’t a threat, and smiled at her.  She’s only a few years older than me, he realized.  The boy suddenly found himself smoothing his blonde hair into place with his hands.  That was when Vixen knew he would tell her anything she needed to know.
 
 
Theed, Naboo

0725 Hours, Wednesday
 
Lord Sillum Lom awoke early as usual, preferring the stillness of the morning to the meetings and dinner parties that filled his evenings.  He quietly peeked into his daughter’s room, sighing as he noted her bed had not been slept in.  While he wasn’t completely pleased with the reason for her absence, he reasoned there were worse things she could be doing.  The rough Corellian would certainly keep her safe.
 
The Minister of the Interior set himself behind his desktop data terminal, hoping to get a head start on his day by sorting through some of his holo mail.  He noted the usual business as he navigated through several of the items, replying to a few, outright deleting others.  He brought his face into a bewildered expression when he reached a particular piece of mail.
 
Lord Lom,

In regards to the relief supplies you have been sending to Lassay and its surrounding areas, I have noticed that you have failed to use the proper electronic signatures on the last shipment.  Being that you and I have a long history, and the new electronic signature encryption is quite new, I saw no reason to deny the passage of the cargo. I do ask that you follow the new procedures for the next shipment, in order to ensure that all movements of goods in the name of the Ministry of the Interior are secure.

Very Respectfully,

Baba Rylee
Royal Transportation Authority
 
Sillum Lom sat upright in his chair.
 
“I didn’t authorize any relief to Lassay,” he said aloud.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 14, 2011, 04:36:44 PM
Village of Lianorm, Naboo

1851 Hours, Wednesday
 
A crowd had gathered at the Ryltans family establishment, most were hopeful that the whispers of a reopening were more than just rumor.  The Lianormites were desperately in need of some good news, after being abandoned by the Crown.  Only a few kilometers from here, on the shores of the picturesque Lake Varykino, the rich and influential wined and dined, oblivious to the desperate existence of their “countrymen”.  They were victims of bureaucracy unfortunately; the Royal Security Forces were reluctant to be involved in the region because of the Empire.  The Empire on the other hand, had often made it clear to the local law enforcement, we are not a police force, upholding local laws continues to be your job. 
 
What ensued in the case of Lianorm were clashes between the RSF and the Imperial troops.  The Imperials had their mission, and often warned the RSF to stay out of their way. Meanwhile, the RSF resented the troops on their “turf”, and eventually the only solution was for the local cops to withdraw.  But the word on the street was that Ryltans had Imperial connections, and the Empire had a vested interest in his leadership of the area.  The dangerous looking individuals that took down Merkrit and his sons were in fact Special Forces Operatives.  They had taken the former warlord into custody, despite a scared twi’lek that insisted ghosts took Poppy in the middle of the night.
 
Ferran Ryltans emerged from the bar to the cheers of the assembled crowd, with a rather large fellow wearing a stern expression just to his right.  Ryltans introduced him as Mr. Black, the new bartender.  Of course, the crowd instantly began to surmise who he really was, bodyguard, hired mercenary, Imperial Stormtrooper in disguise, or a combination thereof.  The Mayor/Tavern owner purposely offered no details on the subject, only highlighting his ability to make over a thousand different drinks from across the galaxy.  “Mr. Black” aka Kaece only grinned and waved.
 
Before the gin joint could be officially opened, the crowd’s attention was drawn westward, to six Kaadu and their riders trotting down the thoroughfare.   A half dozen armed men rode towards the awaiting Mayor, three of the beasts carried passengers one observant onlooker pointed out.  Lolana, Mai Lee, and Kieren Ryltans occupied the rear seat of three of the mounted creatures.  The riders all dismounted a few meters from the crowd; the Ryltans children raced to their father and engulfed him in an embrace.
 
“Now that I have my little ones with me once again,” Ferran began.
 
“And my not so little one,” he nodded in Lolana’s direction, who wore a sheepish grin, feigning embarrassment, “I declare the Ryltans Family Bar and Restaurant officially reopened.”
 
As patrons filtered past her, Lolana exchanged looks with Kaece, who took note of her usual coy, easy smile.   The armed men remained away from the crowd, fanned out in defensive positions, but with decidedly unthreatening posture.  They dressed in the same loose fitting brown and green outfits the locals wore, complete with the large straw sun hats.  Eventually the Operatives became part of the background; no one even noticed when they rode out of town. 
 
Theed, Naboo

1920 Hours, Wednesday
 
An exasperated twi’lek nobleman sat at his desk, head perched in his right hand as he attempted to get some much needed answers.  The Royal Transportation Authority was far less than helpful, his longtime personal friend, Commissioner Rylee, had failed to answer any of his calls.  Rylee’s staff repeatedly told Lord Lom that he had not come to the office that day.  After leaving several messages on his personal communicator, Sillum Lom wondered if perhaps Rylee was setting him up.
 
Several other calls also went out that day from the Lom household, to just about anyone that would have any knowledge of relief supplies going to that region.  Everyone he had reached claimed ignorance.  He was able to get some information out of the Minister of Trade’s chief of staff.  Frolio Tossa’s top aide seemed to remember an executive order from the Queen for supplies to support the RSF in the Lassay Region.  The aide was pretty sure that Tossa and Lom’s signatures had both appeared on the request.  The Trade Minister had been involved because the bulk of the material was coming directly from Corellia, and needed his special approval to bypass the Royal Customs Service.  The problem was this, Lord Lom had never sponsored such a request, and now Tossa’s aide could not locate the document.
 
“I’m sure I’ve just misplaced it,” she reported, “I can have Lord Tossa comm you when he returns from his day trip.”
 
Lord Lom suddenly felt very uneasy.  Supplies were coming directly from Corellia, bypassing Customs and headed for a distressed area known for insurgent activity.   Now, everyone he was attempting to contact for answers was unavailable or unable to help.  He ended the call with the Trade Minister’s office and contemplated his next call.  He momentarily considered an RTA inspector that he knew, but this looked to be more far reaching than simple Customs fraud.  Lom removed a small holo-card from his desk and eyed the name, Captain Gavyn Sykes, Royal Security Forces, Counter Smuggling Operations.  The middle aged twi’lek took a massive deep breath before punching the accompanying number into his communicator.
 
A few rooms away, an 18 year old twi’lek had a dilemma of her own.  Koyi was very attracted to the young Corellian soldier that had courted her; he had shown her what had been missing from her sheltered life.  Now she knew she was destined for greater things, greater than the privileged daughter of a noble.  She also knew she could never be a military wife, at least not until she had tasted some more of what the galaxy had to offer.  The uncertainty of the whereabouts or welfare of her mate would prove to be too much.  Not to mention the prospect of being tied down to a military installation while she awaited his return. The irony was not lost on the young lady; the one who opened her eyes was now the one that she could never be with.
 
For her young age, she was quite perceptive, and she felt that Theo had come to the same conclusion.  Despite her young soldier’s penchant for spoiling her in the bedroom, she knew his heart lie elsewhere.  Clues were all around them, and she was not so dense as to overlook them just to continue to have exceptional sex.  In the end, that type of relationship could only end badly.  For Koyi, the final piece of evidence was the late night comm call.  While she heard not a word of the conversation, the mannerisms her boyfriend displayed during and after it had taken place spoke volumes.  The right thing to do was for all of them, Theo, she, and even the attractive firefighter from a few floors below, to follow their hearts.
 
And I, never want to say good bye
But girl you make it hard to be faithful,
With the lips of an angel.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 14, 2011, 10:14:11 PM
Chapter 13

You don’t know how you took it,
You just know what you’ve got.
Oh Lordy you’ve been stealing,
From the thieves and you got caught.
 
Somewhere Northwest of Lassay, Naboo

2204 Hours, Wednesday
 
It was just after ten pm local time in the jungle, the surroundings were completely different than during the daylight hours.  Fortunately for 1st Sergeant Ravenheart, she and her team were much more comfortable moving at night.  To fill the gap left by the deceased member of her team, Outlaw had selected SSG “Krayt” A’Sardu, whose own team was incomplete due to illness and injury.  It was a simple conclusion for the Lieutenant to make, keep Krayt from sitting on the shelf as well as lend some experience to Slice’s team.  Outlaw also didn’t want Ravenheart and company to sit out much longer, it was the old adage about getting right back on the horse that threw you off.
 
Staff Sergeant A’Sardu toted along his C-M Reaper Sniper Rifle for this mission in addition to his usual trusty E-11 rifle.  He laid prone, elbows in the dirt, with hands on the grip of the Reaper, its bipod steadying the weapon on the soft ground.   The highly accomplished sniper was using his rifle scope to view a patch of vegetation that had been identified by the satellite geeks as having some importance.  Ravenheart was less than a meter away, in a similar posture, surveying the terrain in front of them.  Sgt Visk Chobrea was 20 meters away from the pair, eyes on the 9 O’clock position. From another 20 meters away, Cpl Firestone and Sgt Freedark covered the 3 O’clock and 6 O’clock positions respectively.
 
“Slice, take a look at this,” Krayt whispered suddenly.
 
Ravenheart repositioned her macro binoculars to focus in front of her.
 
“Follow that line of trees directly in front of you until you get to a brownish bush, it looks like it’s dead,” the scout directed, his squad leader hummed an acknowledgment.
 
“Okay, now go about ten degrees in front of that, you should see a large patch of vegetation, you have it Sarge?”
 
“Okay, I see it Krayt … wait … there is something metallic below it … are you seeing what I am seeing?”
 
“Looks like a couple of hover tanks,” Krayt whispered.
 
“You bet your ass it is, I have to call this in,” Slice replied.
 
 
Theed, Naboo

2300 Hours, Wednesday
 
Despite being an advisor to the Queen for many years, Lord Lom had never experienced a day quite this stressful.  He explained in great detail the entire situation to Captain Sykes, who promised to begin an investigation in the morning.  The Interior Minister noted that the RSF Captain was quite reassuring, though he warned Lom not to speak to anyone else on the matter until he had heard back from him.  Feeling like the case was in good hands, the nobleman thought some sleep was in order.  Lord Lom peeked into his daughter’s room to note that she was asleep in her bed.  A smile came to his face, the reason he wasn’t readily sure of, perhaps it was just the relief of having her spend the night where he knew she was safe.

Sillum Lom padded slowly down the hall to the room he shared with his wife of nearly twenty years, when something caught his eye.  He turned to his right, toward the rooftop terrace, where he swore he had spotted some movement.  It was probably nothing; he admonished himself as he looked out the sliding glass doors, not seeing anything out of place.  He took a deep breath.
 
“I’m just being paranoid,” he said softly.
 
Suddenly, a loud ding announced the arrival of building’s elevator in the first level foyer.
 
“What in the hell?” exclaimed the diplomat as he spun around 180 degrees.
 
That was when Lord Sillum Lom’s breath caught in his throat.  A pair of armed figures in black fatigues and black masks bore down the hallway directly at him.  An astonished Lom attempted to turn back toward the terrace, when the glass behind him slid open, revealing another armed individual.
 
“What’s going on? Daddy, help me!” screamed Koyi from the other room.
 
“Baby!” shouted Lord Lom.
 
Similar muffled pleas for help could be heard from his own bedroom, as the trio of interlopers closed in on him quietly.  He watched in horror as his wife and daughter were brought out into the hallway by two separate pairs of armed intruders.
 
“What have I done?” Sillum Lom tearfully asked.
 
 
1st Sergeant Ravenheart reported her findings to Major Kassel at the CNC, and even uploaded several photographic images to her information center.  The patrol painstakingly combed the area, quietly and carefully, in search of any other information.  They confirmed that it was in fact a hide site for six T2-B Hover Tanks, fully armed and fueled.  Slice’s men were very cautious, wary of possible booby traps or motion sensors.  Unless the Alliance was extremely stupid, their base was probably very nearby.
 
When the patrol was satisfied with their survey of the area, they pulled back into a safe position to await orders from Command.  Within three minutes, the orders came from Major Kassel.  Place a tiny tracking device on the tanks and leave the area, leave no trace you were ever there.  It was clear to Slice and company that this was clearly a small part of a much bigger picture.  Major Jezebel could not take the chance at destroying the tanks, and alert the Rebels that the Task Force was on to them.  There was a much larger force out there, and the Empire needed to know where it was and what its intentions were.
 
Slice relayed the plan to her squad, who offered no objection.  After Hawkbat placed all four of his tracking devices, each on one of the tanks, the squad withdrew from the area.  Two of the tanks escaped an electronic monitoring device, but it was the best Chobrea could do.  He lost a substantial amount of his electronic “toys” when he detonated his ruck-sack on an enemy.  The squad had a second objective to complete now.
 
 
 Lord Lom dropped to his knees as the masked figures closed in on him, he felt them hovering over him now.  He was barely cognoscente of the unmasked man who was now stepping out of the elevator into the foyer.  Lom closed his eyes, noting that the muffled cries from his wife and daughter had now ceased.  He took a deep breath and raised his eyes, expecting to see the muzzle of a weapon pressed into his face.  Instead, he saw a gloved hand, reaching out to him.
 
“Come with me, Lord Lom,” spoke the robotic sounding voice.
 
A puzzled Lord Lom saw that his family was standing upright in the hallway of his apartment; guarded by the figures that he had assumed were there to kill them.  A familiar face emerged at the top of the stairs, the unmasked man from the elevator.
 
“Skip?” asked the shocked diplomat.
 
“Lord Lom, I apologize for all of this,” Skip replied cavalierly.
 
“What is the meaning of all of this?” demanded the perplexed royal advisor.
 
“My Lord, we have to get you and your family out of here, right now. But first, I suppose the least I can do is introduce myself,” the apparent faux doorman supplied.
 
“That would be a start,” Lom replied weakly.
 
“I am Drenan Novastriker, that’s Master Sergeant Drenan Novastriker of Corellian Security,” the undercover security officer revealed.
 
“Corellian Security? Is this in relation to the supplies? Sergeant, I assure you, I know nothing about those supplies,” Sillum Lom asserted.
 
“Its Master Sergeant and I know you didn’t my Lord, now you have to come with me right away, I will explain when we are safe.”
 
The armed security detail quickly ushered the Lom family downstairs and into a waiting speeder truck, and whisked them off into the night.  When Captain Sykes and company arrived 20 minutes later, the residents of the penthouse apartment were long gone.
 
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 14, 2011, 11:56:03 PM
Lassay, Naboo

2345 Hours, Wednesday
 
It had been a fruitful day for Agent Vixen, splitting her time between the stable and local cantina.  She had been given a name by the stable boy, Deel Pohar, as the man responsible for all of the late night movement.  Shellbee had tracked him down at the town’s only eatery, where she monitored him from a distance.  Just after lunch, Vixen sent a message to Jezebel on the man in question, and reported that she had a source of information within the village.
 
After some more flirting and questioning the ranch hand, a power nap, and a shower, Vixen received her reply from her Commander.  Deel Pohar was an alias, but the picture of the man closely matched a former RSF agent turned rogue named Sa-Vin Grifke.  Sa-Vin had disappeared only a few months ago after some questionable activities put him on the radar for Internal Affairs.  He was suddenly transferred to Lassay just before the RSF withdrew its people from there.  When the orders were given for that entire garrison to relocate to Keren, he never reported.  He was named a person of interest to the RSF, but currently, he wasn’t wanted for any crimes.
 
Now, at this late hour, Captain Belle watched as Deel Pohar/Sa-Vin Grifke left his modest home to attend to the latest shipment of supplies.  She followed him to another medium sized building, a large roll down door dominating its front. It was here that a Royal Transportation Authority speeder truck met Pohar.  The smuggler rolled open the large door, and several Gungans emerged, making quick work of unloading the speeder truck.  Pohar handed the driver something, and he turned and hopped into the driver’s seat of the truck, and sped off into the night.
 
Vixen sent an image of the speeder truck, including a close-up shot of its registration number, back to Major Kassel.  Deel Pohar made some sort of signal to the Gungans, who then made their way off into the night, in the direction of the stable.  It looked like they were going to move supplies tonight, and Agent Vixen would make sure they were tracked.
 
 
Imperial Garrison, Theed

0021 Hours, Thursday
 
The family of twi’lek sat in comfortable chairs in what had been a Colonel’s office until an hour ago.  Master Sergeant Novastriker was given use of the room to sequester the family in relative comfort, to assure them they were not in any kind of trouble.  The Garrison Colonel had initially protested the maneuver, until he received a direct call from Special Forces Command.  Apparently whomever he had spoken to had persuaded him that it was a good career move to allow CorSec access to his facility.
 
“Now that you are all reasonably comfortable, let me do some explaining,” Novastriker began.
 
“I am with Corellian Security’s Smuggling Interdiction Agency, going on almost 25 years in fact.”
 
“Good for you,” Koyi interrupted.
 
“A few months ago,” the Master Sergeant continued, ignoring the young girl, “one of our informants tipped us off in regards to a smuggling operation.”
 
“Smuggling items on and off of Corellia is not especially newsworthy, except this stuff was military hardware; I am talking serious fire power.  Most of the stuff was getting sent there disguised as mining equipment.  A local entrepreneur was rumored to be connected, but his tracks were covered very well.  Follow me so far?”
 
“Yes,” Lord Lom sighed, “I am waiting to hear the part that required you to break into my home this evening.”
 
“Right, very well.  What made it so difficult to track down the equipment was the speed at which it was moved.  It was becoming obvious it was not being stored for use on Corellia at all; it was just being used as a distribution point.  We directed our search here because the entrepreneur had made several visits here in the months prior; in fact, he had been seen with several dignitaries in public.”
 
Sillum Lom’s mind began to race, Corellian entrepreneur, frequent visits to Naboo, seen with many members of the Royal Court.  A name suddenly came to his lips as he closed his eyes.
 
“Vantiss,” he breathed.
 
“Yes, Lord Lom, Vantiss. I was sent undercover to track your business dealings, your movements, and the like.  Because you and he had several dealings, and we had to find out if and how he was getting the weapons onto Naboo.”
 
“I assure you, all of my dealings with him were legitimate!” Sillum shrieked.
 
“They may have been, but he and someone in the Royal Court have been using you to deliver supplies to terrorists in the Lassay region.”
 
Suddenly, Novastriker had Koyi’s attention. Before she could speak, the CorSec officer read the expression on her face.
 
“You, young lady, inadvertently helped get this case the proper amount of attention from the Imperial authorities.  When you had your Daddy look into the location of the Stormtrooper field base, it drew all sorts of attention from a lot of important people.”
 
He paused, arching his eyebrow at the young twi’lek.
 
“That’s when the Imperials started keeping tabs on all of you as well.”
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0135 Hours, Thursday
 
The makeshift command center was buzzing with activity, with a total of five people occupying the meager space.  Information had been streaming in from all sources, and the intelligence operators were expertly assembling it all.  Both long range patrols, a team from Field Base Acklay and Ravenheart’s team, had reported finding equipment at the sites in question.  Ensign Dunerunner wore a smug expression when her suspicions were confirmed.
 
Agent Vixen had nailed down the middle man in Lassay, and simply by flirting with a talkative stable boy.  She had also provided some intelligence involving a delivery vehicle, which Outlaw and company was currently en route to intercept.  Vixen would also place a tracking device somewhere with the supply caravan about to leave Lassay, hopefully leading to the Rebel base.
 
Major Kassel had also received a call from an Inspector from CorSec’s Smuggling Interdiction Agency, explaining that they had a break in a major case. He stated that the day’s event’s had yielded information that she would find useful.  Of course, Mastermind had already informed her of the Lom family being taken into protective custody. It was in fact a Stormtrooper Special Forces Detachment dressed as and RSF Tactical Entry Team that pulled off the operation.  General Sturmwolke had been vague on how it pertained to Operation Ghost Viper, but also added that the murder of an RTA Commissioner might be involved.  Jezebel was glad that Outlaw had vacated the camp before the news came in about his girlfriend and her parents; added stress right now was not needed.
 
The Intelligence Officer was running a tight operation at the moment, but she was on edge, almost nervous.  The amount of the Task Force’s resources currently committed was bordering on dangerous.  Gunships were poised to support the various operatives in the field, but not enough.  There were just enough infantry Lartys available to extract the long range patrols. Outlaw’s team was forced to take one of the back-ups, and they were going to be flying in as a single craft, without any immediate support.  The current Quick Reaction Force on stand-by was actually a pair of long range teams that were slated for insertion less than 24 hours from now.  The side effect of pushing this operation at such a rapid pace was the breaking down of the equipment and personnel, and it was threatening to get worse.
 
“Major, there is an encrypted message marked urgent for you. I am downloading it to your secure data device,” one of Jezebel’s aides said.
 
“Very good,” the Major replied, knowing already who the sender was.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 18, 2011, 12:37:11 AM
Somewhere Over “Roadway 1”, Naboo

0150 Hours, Thursday

“Things are starting to get interesting around here, eh Doc?” Milky shouted over the hum of the Larty engine.
 
Doctor Z turned and offered him a toothy smile.
 
“Yeah Milk, just like old times,” he shouted back.
 
The venerable Larty had delivered the Lancers to many battles over the last three years.  It was a robust craft, serving the Empire since before the days of the Clone Wars.  The ship was a welcome sight for the Clone Troopers, bringing much needed reinforcements, food, medical supplies, or just a much needed ride home.  The troopers affectionately coined the craft’s nickname, and crews grew quite attached to them.
 
Currently the old war horse was used sparingly in the Imperial Army, being replaced by the Imperial Dropship Transport (IDT) and the Multi Altitude Assault Transport (MAAT).  But it found new life within the Special Forces, being easily modified and much easier to maintain than the new transports.  Ship mechanics would often speak about the good old Larty with reverie, harkening back to a simpler time with less technology to go awry.
 
“What are we looking for ‘Law?” asked Buzz over his shoulder.
 
“A speeder truck, it should be pretty simple to find out here at this hour,” Outlaw answered.
 
Historically, the infantry transport was capable of carrying up to thirty troops and a pair of door gunners.  The Special Operations variants flown by the 160th SOAR held considerably less. In theory it could now carry nineteen, but fifteen fully laden SF operators was often a tight fit.  It was common for them to carry a single trooper lance, five operators, and the ship’s crew into battle.  The sacrificed crew room was the price of more powerful engines, larger fuel cells, and enhanced armor plating.  The SO-LAAT/I could stay in battle longer, and protect its occupants more easily.
 
“Lieutenant, I have located the speeder truck, 3 kilometers south, heading toward Lassay at a high rate of speed,” reported the ship’s co-pilot.
 
“Very well, we need to slow him down some, swoop in and light off the tree line a few hundred meters in front of him,” Outlaw ordered.
 
“Roger that!” came the reply from the cockpit, “hold on boys.”
 
The Larty turned to the south, picking up speed, then banked hard around until it was flying directly over the roadway.  The truck was still cruising northbound, its driver now wondering what the racket was behind him.  He focused on his rear view screen, which was pointed at the road behind him, and revealed nothing.  Suddenly, both sides of the road before him erupted in flames.
 
“What the frack?!” he screamed, bringing the repulsor craft to a rapid halt.
 
The driver gripped the steering yoke with both hands, breathing heavily.  The trees on either side of the roadway, a few hundred yards in front of him, were completely in flames.  He momentarily considered turning around and going back toward Lassay, but that would create a host of problems.  This was the only way back to Lianorm, and then to points north.  His boss and his girlfriend both expected him at a certain time tonight, and doubling back would risk raising suspicions with both of them.  No, he would continue forward, between the rows of flames.  There is plenty of room for the truck, I can make it, he thought.
 
As he was about to ease the truck forward however, he heard a low roar above his head.  Slowly hovering into position on the road in front of him, was a wicked looking air craft.
 
“What the …” stammered the truck driver, his body frozen in place.
 
Almost on cue, several armed figures leapt out of the sides of the craft, and advanced on the truck, weapons trained on him.  Still too petrified to move, the driver realized they were calling out to him as they slowly closed the distance between them.  Before his body could react, his door was being ripped open, and he was on the ground next to his delivery speeder.  Suddenly, it became apparent what was occurring, this had to do with his clandestine runs down to Lassay.  He only hoped that these dangerous fellows screaming at him were local law enforcement, and not rival pirates, or worse, imperials.
 
“Cuff him, throw a bag over his head, and throw him in the Larty,” shouted Outlaw.
 
The RTA driver had never heard of a Larty, so he was praying to the spirits that it was not some kind of torture device.  Suddenly, the lights went out, the aforementioned bag draped over his head.  The crooked delivery man did his best to follow what was going on, as best he could tell, he was aboard the flying machine.  I do hope this thing is the Larty, he thought.
 
He felt himself being sat upright, an uneasy feeling building in his stomach as the craft began to ascend.
 
“I hope you aren’t wasting your time thinking of excuses for what you did,” shot an angry voice, just inches from his face.
 
“What … wait … who are you?” he stammered through the fabric of the bag.
 
“We’re your worst nightmare,” shot another voice, from farther away, and then the first voice spoke up again.
 
“You were taking money from the wrong people, tough guy,” chided Outlaw.
 
The captured driver swallowed hard.
 
“I would just throw you out into the jungle if I could,” Buzz spat at the man.
 
“Me too,” Outlaw agreed, “But after Jezebel gets done with him, he’ll wish we did.”
 
The blinded and handcuffed man attempted to speak, but Outlaw shushed him.
 
“Quiet! Best thing for you to do, is to answer every question she has for you, and don’t concoct some ridiculous story, just tell the truth.”
 
The hooded man nodded and offered a muffled whimper of acknowledgement. It really wasn’t fair, Outlaw thought.  The guy was just a pawn, nowhere near a professional.  The Lieutenant was pretty sure he would have already cooperated without hesitation; he just wanted to make sure.
 
He gave Milky a smile, who responded with his own amused visage.  Too easy, Outlaw said to himself.
 

Village of Lassay, Naboo

0215 Hours, Thursday
 
Deel Pohar sat perched on the bar stool casually; eyeing the sultry brunette seated only a few places away.  He was having an amazing string of good luck lately, in both business and with the ladies.  The former law enforcement officer had now moved eleven shipments of illicit goods to the Gungans.  Other people might shudder at some of the cargo, heavy weapons, tank ammunition, etc, but Pohar didn’t lose a minute of sleep over it.  His new life was all about the credits, and he now had more than knew what to do with.  The smuggler turned to face the brunette again, this time making eye contact.
 
Pohar/Grifke motioned for the woman to occupy the empty stool to his left, she responded with an arched eyebrow.  The ruffian’s sly smile grew larger as he motioned to her again, come here and sit by me, he mouthed.  This time the woman obliged, slowly rising from her seat and sexily slinking to sit next to man.  Shellbee easily glided into place next to him, offering a coy come-hither smile.  The unaware thug returned the smile and placed his hand on the intelligence officer’s arm.
 
“I’m Deel, welcome to Lassay,” he greeted her smoothly.
 
“I’m Miss Belle, and thank you,” she answered.
 
“So, what are the chances of you and me spending some time together tonight?” the man asked next.
 
“Oh, I think they are very good,” replied the undercover agent slyly.
 
Hold me …
Thrill me …
Kiss me … Kill me!
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 23, 2011, 11:41:45 PM

Chapter 14
 
The path that I’m walking, I must go alone.
I must take the baby steps ‘till I’m full grown, full grown.
Fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending, do they?
And I foresee the dark ahead if I stay.
 
Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0240 Hours, Thursday
 
The Imperial landing craft flared out into a slow hover and carefully descended onto the small landing pad.  Other than the dark sky, there was little indication that it was nearly 3 in the morning local time.  Crews were busy replenishing fuel and ammo in the Lartys, and making last minute adjustments before picking up 1st Sergeant Ravenheart’s team.
 
Lieutenant Outlaw Sturmwolke noticed Major Jezebel waiting for him, along with her security detail, and a very serious looking Warrant Officer.  They were going to question the delivery truck driver right now, it appeared.  As soon as he was physically able, the Stormtrooper Lieutenant was off of the craft, heading towards Major Kassel.  Outlaw was interested in some news on the other operators that were downrange this morning.  As he briskly walked to the Major, her security detail raced to the Larty to nab the prisoner they’d hauled in.
 
“Lieutenant, I have some news for you,” Jezebel began as Outlaw grew near.
 
“Okay, that sounds ominous, what’s the news?” the Stormtrooper replied.
 
“Your girlfriend, she is in protective custody in Theed,” Major Kassel managed not to sound smug.
 
“Kamiko is in protective custody? For what?” he stammered.
 
“Kamiko, ha … no … Koyi Lom, the twi’lek, she is being held at the Imperial Garrison in Theed,” Major Kassel reported, amused.
 
“Why is she being held?” Outlaw asked, relieved and confused all at once.
 
“Her father is tied to a smuggling ring it seems,” she paused for effect, “the same smuggling ring that was arming our Rebel enemies in the swamps.”
 
“Fracking terrific,” he cursed, “so, why are you telling me this?”
 
“I’m not heartless Theo, I am sure she needs to see a friendly face,” Major Kassel offered, “and I would have bet you’d want to see her too. But, it seems you haven’t lost those feelings for that Corellian girl …”
 
“Okay, enough, Melyssa,” he huffed, exhaling through his nose; “I’m going to Theed then, is that the plan?”
 
Major Melyssa Kassel was momentarily stunned by the use of her first name by the Lieutenant. He had only referred to her as Major or Jezebel since her short affair with a member of his team had ended.  She had initially been very close to the teams as the 220th was first organized.  Outlaw felt she was too close, and when he found out a man on his squad was bedding the Major; he became quite vocal in his opposition.  The man on his squad broke off the relationship at his Lieutenant’s request.  This was when the Major began to pry into the Outlaw’s personal life. 
 
“Yes, go to Theed.  They are refueling your bird and you are to go and find out how the Loms are involved,” she finally answered.
 
The Scout trooper remained standing in front of the Major, in silence, enjoying her discomfort.  He knew he hadn’t called her by her first name since the incident on Lok with his squadmate.  All of his troopers were instructed not to fraternize with the members of the intelligence officers. The chilling of the personal relationship included referring to the Major by her rank or title, and not her first name as she had requested of the troopers.  An intervention by his brother Krienz, a Colonel and the platoon’s CO at the time, had prevented disaster.  The order to refrain from fraternization of the two units was ultimately relaxed, but Major Kassel had distanced herself from the teams after that.  She did continue to ask the operators to call her by her first name, but Outlaw never would.
 
“I will be seeing to the questioning of this delivery truck driver, as you were Lieutenant,” she stated through pursed lips.
 
“Aye Aye Major,” Outlaw replied, swinging his arm briskly into a tight salute.
 
The junior officer held the salute until the Major returned it, and then he turned on his heels and strode towards the Larty.
 
“Damn that man,” Major Kassel sighed angrily, turning to tend to her own duties.
 
 
Imperial Garrison, Theed

0318 Hours, Thursday
 
The lights were low in the garrison commander’s office.  A pair of couches served as the beds for Lord Lom and his wife, about as comfortable as Imperial office furniture could be.  A roll away bed had been mustered for Koyi, only slightly more suitable than her parents current sleeping arrangements.  Ironically, her father insisted she have the actual bed, and she was the only one who could not fall asleep.  She had sent a barrage of messages to Theodorik, all unanswered.
 
“Can’t sleep?”
 
Koyi heard the soft voice, just above a whisper, and leapt up to her feet.  Standing in the doorway was Theodorik, all 6’2” of his rugged frame.  His face was cast in shadow, a light from behind him reaching into the room, giving him a spectral appearance.
 
“Theo,” the twi’lek sighed.
 
Koyi realized that she was relieved to see him, to see that he was not harmed.  It was an emotion she hadn’t allowed herself to think about this night.  She sighed deeply, admitting to herself that the biggest reason she could not be a military wife, was being in the dark.  She was surprised to see him, glad he was okay, but not knowing when he would rush out again, and for how long; that was too much.
 
“I’ve been sending you messages all night.  We sort of got into some trouble,” she breathed, purposely not rising to meet him.
 
“Sorry for that, my personal device is back at the base,” he replied softly.
 
She closed her eyes and nodded.  Tears began to stream down her face as she attempted to explain her feelings to the trooper.
 
“Theo, I don’t think I can do this anymore, you and me, us … I mean …” she said finally.
 
A definitive lump formed in Theodorik’s throat, as ego took charge of his body before common sense could.  He breathing became uneven, and words failed him as he took a step into the room.  He glanced at the sleeping Lord and Lady, and then back to the eighteen year old, wearing a hurt face.
 
“Let’s go out here,” he gestured.
 
She nodded and complied, softly gliding across the floor and into the outer room.  Theo exhaled heavily, watching her go, when a thought entered his head.  You weren’t going to marry this girl, this is for the best.
 
 “I know,” he sighed.
 
“What’s that?” the young girl asked, turning back to face him.
 
Theo shook his head, “I know. Koyi, it’s for the best.  It doesn’t make it easy. But you are right.”
 
“Spirits, that’s the truth, just kissing you, holding you, I am going to miss that,” she admitted.
 
“But I’m only eighteen, and you’ve made me realize that I can do so much more with my life,” she continued.
 
“Yeah, I can’t ask you to wait around until I return.  You should see as much of this galaxy as you can,” he chuckled.
 
“Theodorik, you have opened my eyes in so many ways.  The times we had together,” she paused, closing her eyes and inhaling sharply, “those thoughts will keep me warm at night, knowing that there are men like you in the galaxy.”
 
The Stormtrooper’s face crinkled into a smile, warmth building in his cheeks.  A single tear rolled down his right cheek, which Koyi promptly wiped away.
 
“That means a lot to me, that you think of me that way,” he supplied.
 
“You are a true hero, Theo. And I know that your heart belongs to another, even if I could be with you, you aren’t mine to have,” this time Koyi shed a single teardrop.
 
“I guess I am pretty transparent when it comes to that, and you know … her …” his voice trailed off.
 
“I know, Theo.  I knew when I saw your face in the elevator that night.  Twi’leks read body language better than anyone,” she laughed gently.
 
“I’m glad we had this time together, as short as it was,” he smiled.
 
“It was short, wasn’t it? It seemed longer, but I guess when you think about it, huh …” she laughed.
 
“It was long enough,” he joined her laughter.
 
“Koyi, I won’t forget you, and hell, why are we talking like this? This isn’t goodbye,” he put on a faux stern expression.
 
“Not goodbye,” she agreed, nodding.
 
“I’m going to miss the way your le’ku shake when you nod your head …”
 
She suddenly bounded into him, and enveloped him in a massive hug.
 
“Please be careful, and please keep in touch.  Tell that fire chick that she better take care of you, I know where she lives.”
 
Theodorik and Koyi held that embrace for a few moments, and then the two parted, both literally and figuratively.  The twi’lek was finally able to sleep a few minutes later, her mind at ease.  As he made his way to the elevator, Theodorik kicked himself for not asking about her father or the raid on their pent house.
 
He admonished his reflection in the polished silver doors, “Women really do knock you off your game, don’t they?”
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik June 27, 2011, 05:21:54 PM
Village of Lassay, Naboo

0404 Hours, Thursday
 
Don’t kill him unless you absolutely have to.
 
Vixen twisted her face into a distraught expression as she looked into the refresher room mirror.  The message was slightly disappointing, but the spy understood.  As much as Captain Belle would enjoy leaving Naboo littered with Rebel corpses, it wasn’t practical.  The mission required that she bring Pohar in to be questioned, and then probably turned over to the RSF.  Her personal recordings of him while they talked at the bar were enough to convict him of high treason.  She tucked her hair back behind her ears and splashed water onto her face.
 
“Bragging idiot,” she said aloud.
 
Pohar was currently sleeping off the tranquilizer that Shellbee had slipped him.  He would awake in a jail cell at the field base, surrounded by a few people who wished to make his acquaintance.  Vixen had already sprung her Kaadu from the stable, and placed several tracking devices on the caravan vehicles.  She was now preparing to carry her prisoner off to rendezvous with a drop ship.  Major Kassel informed her that the ship was part of another mission, but could pick her up just before dawn, assuming all went well with its previous pick-up.
 
After confirming the street was clear, Agent Vixen carried the unconscious man to the waiting pack animal, and slung him irreverently over the saddle.  Satisfied that her baggage was sufficiently covered, she led the creature north toward her pick-up point.  The risk was palpable, being alone in the swamps with her “cargo”.  The Captain armed herself with a pair of KYD-21 pistols, but was counting on the pre-dawn hour to be her best defense.
 
“My work here is done,” she sighed.
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0415 Hours, Thursday
 
The makeshift command post had reached a level of somewhat calm, as the field operations began to wind down.  The speeder truck driver was being questioned by Agent Wraith; at last report, he was spilling his guts without hesitation.  Outlaw’s team had returned, as well as the other long range patrol from Field Base Acklay.  Remaining was Ravenheart’s team, who were on to the second phase of their mission, and Captain Belle plus one.  Major Kassel’s nervous stomach had subsided, and she finally relaxed her posture.
 
The command staff had much more information regarding the supply chain now, which was now effectively ended.  Outlaw was meeting with a CorSec officer in the morning to discuss the movement of the hardware to Naboo.  The missing links were the Trade Minister and his son, Heemo, both never returning from their trip from the day before.  CorSec had promised some answers, including a name from the Corellian side of the smuggling operation.
 
“Major, you might be interested in this,” interrupted a technician.
 
“What?” she asked, sounding more than a little annoyed.
 
“The supply caravan, they initially moved northwest toward our target area, but they’ve just turned due southwest.”
 
“They’re moving away from the target area?”
 
“Yes ma’am, same speed, but all of the tracking devices are now headed southwest.”
 
“Okay,” Jezebel was now on her feet, “Track them closely, keep me posted.”
 
The Intelligence Officer looked at her data device, now resting on the table.  The mission orders for the two LRRP teams were on the screen, centering on the today’s findings and the previous satellite imagery.  The blonde woman exhaled through pursed lips; she had hoped the teams tomorrow would be able to finally find the Rebel headquarters.  The supplies did not take the route that everyone had surmised they would take; the mission orders would have to be changed.
 
“Major, one more thing,” the tech announced.
 
“Yes, Specialist Gestaad,” she huffed.
 
“1st Sergeant Ravenheart’s team has been picked up, she is reporting that they did not observe any supply movement.”
 
“That confirms what the tracking devices are telling us, anything else?” she asked.
 
“There were signs of a path, coming from Lassay and heading northwest, but it had been days or longer since it saw any movement.”
 
Major Kassel’s brain was nearing shutdown, there was a surplus of information coming into her head and she couldn’t handle all of it.  Did the Rebels move their HQ in the last week?  Were there multiple bases out there?  She had one asset left to utilize, one that she normally did not trust.  Major Kassel’s hand was forced, her resources were spread thin, and the equipment and personnel would begin to show sign of fatigue soon enough.  She would send an aerial probe droid to follow the supplies they were tracking.
 
“Get the Theed Stormtrooper Garrison’s watch officer on my holo screen,” she demanded.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik July 08, 2011, 02:43:51 AM
North of Lassay, Naboo

0500 Hours, Thursday
 
The modified infantry transport lifted off the ground, its passengers sat in silence as they looked over the Imperial spy.  Captain Shellbee “Vixen” Belle wore a smug expression, and she looked rather refreshed considering the hour.  1st Sergeant “Slice” Ravenheart noted the subdued smuggler lying on the deck, bound at the hands and feet, with a black cloth over his head.  The non-commissioned officer rolled her eyes and scoffed.  They sent that little girl to bring in a prisoner, she thought, Intelligence must be out of their minds.
 
Sergeant Visk “Hawkbat” Chobrea rested his head against the back wall of the Larty, eyes transfixed on the intelligence officer.  He kept his expression neutral, trying not to let his amusement show.  The energetic looking brunette could have been a fashion model or an actress, he noted.  He nearly laughed out loud when he looked at the grin plastered on her face, but managed to limit it to a smirk.  It was clear from her body language that the 1st Sergeant was not impressed with the young field agent.
 
The entire long range patrol was looking forward to some much needed and well deserved sleep.  Their mission had yielded valuable information, and just like in most cases with a long range recon team, they may never know how valuable.  As they sped toward the field base, the Commanding Major of the operation was already asleep.  An aerial reconnaissance droid would be over a new area of interest within two hours.  Morning would hopefully bring some answers.
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0708 Hours, Thursday
 
Major Melyssa “Jezebel” Kassel sat in the Command Center alone, her entire staff now asleep in their shelters.  The commissioned officer had taken a refreshing two and a half hour power nap of her own, and was glad for it.  At 0800, two technicians were coming in to man the CNC, members of her staff that she had held in reserve so she had fresh operators for the daylight hours.  Until they reported to their consoles, Major Kassel would take care of all of the CNC’s duties.
 
Currently, the task was a simple one.  Only one aircraft was not at its base, and that was Theodorik’s Larty.  The rest of the personnel, the technicians, shooters, medical staff, etc, were secure.  Only one intelligence officer was in the field now, the twi’lek named Cabod Nive.  His latest information was that of a quiet return to office for Mayor Ferran Ryltans in Lianorm.  The only actual work was tracking the supply carts and watching the video of the aerial reconnaissance probe.  The probe was mere minutes away from arriving above the carts, several thousand feet overhead, out of reach of all but the most sophisticated radars.
 
“Theed Station to Field Base Baz Nitch,” crackled the terrestrial radio.
 
“Go ahead Theed,” Melyssa replied.
 
“Visual feed should be available for the aerial droid, you have a delay of about 15 seconds, but otherwise it should be good to go.”
 
“Roger that Theed, I am looking for a circular hover at the coordinates which I am sending you now.”
 
Melyssa raced to a different console and transmitted the coordinates, then raced back to her view screen, which was now showing the view of the aerial droid.
 
“Marvelous,” she said, watching the droid hover 80,000 feet above Naboo.
 
The camera on the droid spotted what looked like movement through the jungle below, the operator in Theed instinctively zoomed in.
 
“Whoa, I lost signal,” reported the droid pilot.
 
On her view screen, Major Kassel could see a round object rapidly come into view, until the screen went black.  She could hear angry shouts through her headphones, as Theed Station was not pleased at the loss of the equipment.  Looking up, the intelligence officer also noticed the tracking devices had ceased transmitting a location.
 
“Frack, they know we are onto them,” she muttered.
 
 

Imperial Garrison, Theed

0738 Hours, Thursday
 
An uncomfortable twi’lek couple sat at the Garrison Commander’s conference table, opposite a pair of serious looking Special Forces Stormtroopers.
 
“I know none of us slept well,” Outlaw began, “so I will keep this short and to the point.”
The First Lieutenant noted that the Lom’s daughter, Koyi, his most recent ex-girlfriend, had not come down to the conference room.  While she hadn’t been requested, the young man figured she was as hungry for answers as anyone else was.  Perhaps she was taking the break-up a little harder than she let on.  It wasn’t high on the concern list currently, however, so Outlaw pressed on.
 
“Let me tell you what I know, you fill in the blanks, deal?”
 
“Yes, that is acceptable,” replied the Interior Minister.
 
It was a slightly surreal experience for the young Lieutenant, questioning the couple that he met under far different circumstances.  Now it was Lord Lom’s turn to be uncomfortable, and Outlaw was the one with all the answers.
 
“Some heavy equipment arrives from Corellia, shipped from a Mr. Vantiss.  It bypasses customs, and is sent directly to RTA.  Corellian Security has pretty good evidence that Trade Minister Tossa allowed this.  Someone, quite possibly under Tossa’s direction, or even he himself, was using your electronic signature to send the equipment to Lassay.”
 
Outlaw paused as Lord Lom grew wide eyed.  The expression on his face told the soldier that Lord Tossa had been a trusted ally of Lom’s, and never would have suspected him of foul play.
 
“Corellian Security was actually investigating both of you, but on a hunch, Master Sergeant Novastriker had RTA change all the electronic signatures, and add a verification code to the process.”
 
“Skip thought we were innocent,” Lady Lom softly interjected.
 
“Correct, and that’s when everything came crashing down for Tossa, who is now missing by the way.”
 
The Lom’s immediately looked relieved, now realizing they were not in any real trouble now.  Outlaw took note of the way Lord Lom grasped his wife’s shoulders reassuringly.  That was when a uniformed crewman burst into the room.
 
“Lieutenant, you’ve gotta come down to the Command Center, right away,” he shouted.
 
“What the hell … okay … wait a damn second …” Outlaw held his index finger up to the man, a scowl forming on his face.
 
Outlaw exhaled hard as the man stepped out into the hallway.  Turning to the Lord and Lady, a tired smile formed on his face. He didn’t notice the door had been left open by the crewman.
 
“Lord and Lady Lom, I am sorry you had to be mixed up in this ordeal.  I also wish that things between your daughter and I could be different.  Koyi will always have a special place in my heart, but she is at an age where she needs to find her own way.  My destiny is with the Empire. Hers, well, who knows?  I hope you let her spread her wings and find herself. She is a wonderful girl.  Now, I am afraid this is the last time I will speak to either of you. So I must thank you for your hospitality and wish you well.  Master Segeant Novastriker will likely take over the questioning, I don't see any point in continuing myself.  I just wanted to shed some light on this situation that we are in.  I figured I owed you at least that much.  If someday, we do cross paths again, I hope that it will be as friends.”
 
Outlaw stretched out his hand to the twi’lek, who now wore a slightly amused visage.
 
“Theo, or should I say, Lieutenant,” he said with a wink, “You are a very honorable young man, I wish you well also.  And believe me, my wife and I know what a gem our daughter is.  I thank you for bringing out the best in her.”
 
The two men rose and reached across the table and grasped hands.  Outlaw offered a smile and a slight wave to the female twi’lek to Lord Lom’s side. She returned the smile and winked, reminding the trooper where Koyi’s looks came from.  The human took a deep breath and joined the nervous man in the hallway.  A muffled “What?” could be heard as they hurried down the hallway toward the elevator.  Outlaw hadn’t noticed a younger purple twi’lek hiding in the shadows across the hallway from the conference room.
 
“I wonder Theo, what would have been if you and I met at a different time, in a different place,” Koyi whispered.
 
Someday, Koyi Lom would find her place in the galaxy and someone to share it with.  Until then, she had the memories of her first love, the gallant Stormtrooper, Theodorik Sturmwolke.
 
I hope you know, I hope you know
That this has nothing to do with you.
It's personal, myself and I,
We've got some straightenin' out to do.
And I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket,
But I've got to get a move on with my life.
It's time to be a big girl now,
And big girls don't cry.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik July 12, 2011, 03:14:54 AM
Chapter 15

Oh my life is changing every day,
in every possible way.
Though my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems.
Never quite as it seems.

Theed, Naboo

0800 Hours, Thursday
 
The modest apartment was dimly lit, the thick curtains still drawn to block the daylight.  Kamiko was a night person as far back as she could remember, preferring artificial light to natural.  She was sitting in her favorite oversized chair, gripping a hot mug of caf tightly.  Theodorik had given her the mug years before, right about the time he had gotten her addicted to the hot beverage.   The young brunette held the cup at arm’s length and inspected the graphic on the side.  It read, “Give Baby Some Sugar”, a nod to her taste for the sweetener.
 
The mug was a gift, and until this morning, had been tucked away in her closet.  Marcus would have a temper tantrum if he saw it, the bottom was marked “To Little K, Love Sturmy”.  Last night, she was struck by the inclination to dig it out, and now she was enjoying a hot mug of sweet memory.
 
She thought back to how her and Theo were always very casual together, especially when they were in the company of others.  He wasn’t much for public affection, aside from the occasional hand holding.  To most onlookers, they were just really good friends, enjoying food, music, and sarcasm together.   When they looked at each other, and when their eyes met, that was the betrayer.  Only recently did Kammi appreciate the love that Theo held for her in his eyes.
 
Kammi slowly took a sip from the mug, noting it was still extremely hot on her lips.  She raised an impish eyebrow and her face formed a smirk.  She was suddenly thinking of something else that was hot on her alluring lips.
 
“Boy, what I wouldn’t give for a hot glass of you right now,” she said aloud.
 
He was surprisingly gentle with her when they were alone, a detail she had never shared with anyone.  The handsome Stormtrooper had been her first, and took such special care of her that she cried when their first lovemaking session had ended.  Behind closed doors, the boy was such a contrast from his “street” persona.  His tenderness was something that none of her other lovers had ever been able to match.
 
The musical tone of her doorbell abruptly ended her daydream.  Kammi bolted upright and deposited the mug on her end table, spilling some of the liquid.
 
“Nuts,” she muttered, “Who the heck could this be?”
 
She trotted to the door, holding her hip length robe closed. Clearing her throat, she thumbed the button for the intercom.
 
“Hello, who is it?” she asked groggily.
 
“This is Captain Sykes of Royal Security Forces,” responded a gruff voice.
 
Kamiko tightened her face, confused.
 
“Can you show me some ID?” she asked, switching on her view screen.
 
A middle aged man was outside, wearing a long brown trench coat.  He reached inside and produced a flat holo card, then held it up in the camera’s view.
 
Gavin Sykes
Captain
Royal Security Forces
Investigations Division
 
Kammi shrugged, tied her robe, and depressed a button on the keypad in front of her, opening the door.  She figured that anyone that had gotten past Skip was legitimate, and he started his shift an hour ago.
 
 
South of Theed, Naboo

0840 Hours, Thursday

“You still haven’t told us where we are going!” Corporal “Milky” Berran shouted over the Larty’s engines.
 
“I am not one hundred percent sure yet, Milk.  Just like I told you, there is some activity south of Lassay that caught the Major’s attention,” Outlaw shouted back.
 
“Why is Imperial Intelligence always so vague?” chimed in Sergeant “Buzz” Candro.
 
“Wish I knew, Buzzy, I just do what I’m told,” Outlaw shrugged.
 
The pilot held up his hand and waved, drawing Outlaw’s attention, and then pointed to his ears, indicating the scout leader should put on his headphones.
 
“What is it?” Outlaw asked as he stuck his head into the bulky ear coverings.
 
“You may want to check in with your base station. I was getting some unusual sounding radio traffic about 90 seconds ago, and now I am getting static. I’ve got a strong feeling that we are getting jammed.”
 
“Jammed? Are you serious?” asked the Lieutenant.
 
“Yes, and I think my radar is also being jammed,” replied the pilot.
 
In the background, one of the men noted seeing smoke in the distance.  Outlaw removed the headphones and plunked his armored helmet over his head, and attempted to contact the CNC by terrestrial radio, but was met with static.  Just then, his information center received a message.  The squad leader removed his headphones and shouted to the men aboard the air speeder.
 
“Something’s going on guys; you better get ready to slug it out with some Rebels.”
 
The men momentarily exchanged confused looks, and then went about checking their gear.  Outlaw opened the message.
 
**URGENT MESSAGE**
 
MASSIVE HOSTILE INVASION FORCE COMING FROM SOUTH.  ESTIMATED AT BRIGADE SIZED ELEMENT OR LARGER.  APPEARS LASSAY VILLAGE IS FIRST TARGET. TERRESTRIAL COMM BEING JAMMED.  GET TO LIANORM TO HELP EVAC.
 
MAJOR KASSEL
 
“Brigade sized? Frack, that’s something like 9,000 troops,” he said aloud.
 
“Brigade sized? What the frack is going on ‘Law?” interjected Staff Sergeant “Hammer” Abstreiter.
 
“We’ve got major problems,” Outlaw said, exhaling through his mouth heavily.
 
He grabbed for his headphones again, forwarding the message to his squad.  Outlaw then alerted the pilot of the intended destination.
 
“Guys, check your info centers,” the Lieutenant ordered.
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0858 Hours, Thursday
 
A small feeling of relief washed over Major Melyssa Kassel when she read Outlaw’s reply.  Got it covered was all it said.  Two large military transports were sent from Keren to evacuate Lianorm, as it appeared the enemy force had intentions of capturing it.  The long range team that the Major had tried to insert into the area had turned around after taking a rocket to the tail.  All passengers and crew were unscathed, but the pilot was forced to put the craft down about 4 kilometers south of Lianorm.
 
The LRRP’s aboard the doomed Larty reported around 2500 mechanized vehicles of many different types before the terrestrial communications network (TCN) went silent.  The Major assumed the logical course of action for the stranded troopers was to head to Lianorm.
 
“Major, I’ve almost isolated the jamming frequency; we should have the TCN back shortly.  In the meantime, the SatCom satellite is being repositioned,” explained Specialist Gestaad.
 
“Good,” she replied; the Intelligence Officer did not like being blind.
 
The Major took a deep breath.  A huge invasion force coming out of nowhere, she thought, they are going to have my head for this.  After the long range team was hit by the rocket, the commissioned officer reached out to the Theed Stormtrooper Garrison.  The Colonel readied four battalions of Stormtroopers, and ordered them to Baz Nitch.  He himself, and a small command staff, were also headed to the Field Base to command the operation.
 
With the expansion of the Galactic Civil War, the planet now quartered only the I Corps of the 3rd Imperial Army of Naboo, the rest of her troops were elsewhere.  While the I Corps boasted 48,000 troops, they were spread out across the planet, and could take up to 72 hours to assemble.  For now, the Colonel was relying on the 31st Air Assault Battlegroup, 10,000 troopers, 500 repulsorcraft, and 106 heavy tanks.  The entire Battlegroup was in orbit around the planet, on board I Corps' transport ship.  Initial elements of the highly mobile force would be on the ground within the hour.
 
“Spirits help me,” sighed the Major.
 
 
Alliance Underground Headquarters

Gallo Mountains, Naboo

0902 hours, Thursday
 
There was a noticeable commotion throughout the underground base; Captain Krieger could sense it even from his dim jail cell. Despite the rattle of keys at his heavy wooden door, he remained still. A frantic Lieutenant Burchenall rushed into the holding area.
 
“Krieger, I need your help,” blurted out his replacement.
 
“What?” the Corellian replied, his voice devoid of emotion.
 
“It’s the Gungans; they’ve started the attack early!”
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik July 12, 2011, 06:28:42 PM
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0911 Hours, Thursday
 
“Something just occurred to me, Gestaad,” Major Kassel mentioned as she stood abruptly, “any movement on the tracking devices on the tanks?”
 
“The devices placed by the recon patrols? No ma’am, no movement at all.”
 
The Major wondered, were they decoys?  Then another idea altogether formed.
 
“We have TCN yet?” she asked.
 
“No Ma’am, but the satellite has been repositioned,” reported another technician, “the 31st’s Ground Support Wing is reporting heavy losses.”
 
“Already?” came the Major’s shocked reply.
 
An Imperial Army Corps Ground Support Wing was 40 aircraft deep, including a dozen TIE bombers.  The Empire was throwing combat elements haphazardly at the enemy, and they were paying the price for it.  The Major needed to talk to the Stormtrooper Colonel before they lost anymore assets.
 
“What’s the Stormtrooper Colonel’s name?” demanded the Major gruffly.
 
“Colonel Waynright, his shuttle took off moments ago, should be here in a matter of minutes,” shouted a Comm operator.
 
 “I need a link-up with that shuttle, I mean, right the hell now.”
 
 
Lianorm, Naboo

0915 Hours, Thursday
 
The approach to Lianorm gave the troopers a much different view than the last time they cast eyes on her.  To the south, the smoke and haze of battle was all the Imperials needed to know about the fate of Lassay.
 
“Mother fracker, do you see that?” shouted Milky.
 
A TIE bomber lay just west of the city, its flaming wreckage plowed halfway into the soil.
 
“Great,” sighed Hammer, “we’re going to get fracking smoked.”
 
“Okay, this doesn’t look good, but let’s do our thing and get the frack out of here,” Outlaw shouted, attempting to steady his crew.
 
Suddenly a rocket trail could be seen coming at them from the south.
 
“Hey! Hey! Incoming rocket, do you see it?!?” screamed Milky into his headphones.
 
“What? … A What? … I have nothing on the screen,” responded the pilot, “Oh frell, there it is … Frack me, I have no countermeasures.  This one is going to hit us.”
 
The pilot banked hard to the left, trying to put the massive armored bottom of the craft toward the incoming projectile.  All of the inhabitants of the crew compartment were thrown to the left hard. A scream of pain came from the port side door gunner as several troopers crashed into him.  The Larty’s motor began to struggle against the impossible maneuver, the pilot gritting his teeth as he forced the yoke with both hands.
 
The air speeder lurched violently forward as the rocket exploded meters below its tail.  The concussion from the blast caused the tail to twist and tore the starboard wing completely off.  They were 200 feet in the air and losing altitude rapidly.
 
“I’ve still got maneuvering thrusters, we ain’t dead yet,” reassured the pilot, calm demeanor unchanged.
 
The pilot was using his forward maneuvering thrusters to counter their rapid decent.  Outlaw felt the craft begin to slow slightly, and his visions of a spectacular fiery crash were replaced with a slower and less dramatic crash. Probably kill us anyway, he sighed.
 
“We are still going to hit hard, clip into something!” shouted the pilot, a tinge of urgency finally creeping into his voice. 
 
 The men occupying the compartment each quickly clipped their web gear into one of the many snap hooks throughout the cabin.  The Lieutenant knew his aircraft well; he knew that if the pilot did not strike the ground nose first, none of them had a chance.  Outlaw closed his eyes and took a deep breath; it was in the pilots hands now.
 
 
Alliance Underground Headquarters

Gallo Mountains, Naboo

0918 hours, Thursday
 
Captain Krieger allowed the Lieutenant, his replacement, to explain the situation at hand fully.  The first phase of the attack, the Gungan charge on Lassay and Lianorm, had been initiated early.  The Alliance’s forces were not fully in position for their part of the invasion, but it looked like it was now or never.  The Corellian saw his chance to make a move.
 
“I am certain the Spec Ops troops are prepared for their part of the attack.  It’s just a matter of the armor and mechanized infantry being ready,” replied Krieger.
 
Lieutenant Burchenall sighed heavily, “I am glad to hear you say that, you don’t mind if I keep this meeting a secret, do you?”
 
“As far as I know, you were never here,” he replied, reaching his hand out to the XO, “Hey, in this cell or not, we are still on the same team.”
 
“I am glad you feel that way, sir,” Burchenall replied, grasping the Captain’s hand, “I will see about getting you out of here.”
 
Captain Dale Krieger knew it was a lie, but put a warm smile on his face anyway.
 
“I’ve gotta go, thanks again Captain,” the rebel Lieutenant announced, turning on his heels and striding out of the room.
 
Moments later, the wooden door was again slammed shut and locked from the outside.
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0920 Hours, Thursday
 
“Colonel, we need a more coordinated response, this is only the first phase of a much larger attack,” pleaded Major Kassel.
 
So far, her satellite video conference was not going well with Colonel Waynright.
 
“Major, with all due respect, you are an intelligence officer; you have no experience with large scale battles.  I am confident that the Air Wing has wiped out much of the opposing force; a few Stormtrooper Battalions should mop them up easily,” replied the Colonel, still smarting from the loss of his office the evening before.
 
“You might want to talk to Theed on the SatCom, that Air Wing received 80% losses on their first sortie.”
 
“What are you talking about?” asked the Colonel, now thoroughly confused.
 
The Stormtrooper CO could be seen speaking with someone off camera, he then turned back to face the image of Major Kassel.
 
“I can’t confirm that information, but we are having electronics and communications failure of major proportions over here,” he began, then after a long pause, “when we touch down, you and I will pool our resources and try and figure out what we are up against here.”
 
Like a good commander, he didn’t pull the trigger on a major operational order until all sources were considered.  He had not heard back from the Air Wing, so he did not have confirmation of their success or failure.
 
“Thank you sir, it is my position that we are dealing with a two pronged attack.  I have strong intelligence indicating a large force located north and west of the current invasion.  We need to address some of its possible targets when you arrive.”
 
“Very good, we arrive in less than five minutes,” the Colonel answered, maintaining his professional tone.
 
For a moment, the Major wondered if she was right about a secondary force and an additional potentially more valuable target.  Right or wrong, they had a hell of a fight on their hands.
: Re: Restless Hearts
: Theodorik July 17, 2011, 01:46:08 AM
Theed, Naboo

0930 Hours, Thursday
 
Kamiko settled back into her chair, the RSF investigator moving on to the next contestant on “What Happened to the Loms?”  The brunette could not offer Captain Sykes any information; her odd hours meant that she rarely saw the regal family from the penthouse.  Of course, there was the time she saw Koyi in the elevator with Theo, but Kammi did her best to forget that.  Part of her wondered if the twi’lek family’s hasty exit from the building was due to the operation the Lieutenant was running.
 
At first, Kammi resisted the urge to call Theo and ask him what was going on. What if he hadn’t heard that Koyi and family were missing?  She didn’t want to be the one to give him that sort of news.  After a few moments of self debate, she decided the best course of action was to call him.  She picked her comm device up off of the table and punched in his number.
 
The connection took much longer than usual, she noticed, and then suddenly, a long, loud tone filled her ear.
 
“What the hell?” she exclaimed tearing the device away from her head.
 
She ended the call and tried the number again, this time receiving the “number is not available” recording.
 
“That’s unusual,” she shrugged, “guess I will just send him a message.”
 
Theo,

Call me when you can, it’s important.

Love,
Kammi

That should do the trick, she thought.
 
 
Lianorm, Naboo

0935 Hours, Thursday
 
Kaece Murran had found himself in precarious positions before, but this was something new to add to the resume.  Aircraft continued to buzz overhead, punctuated by what had to be the occasional crash of one of the crafts.  What looked like an entire mechanized infantry brigade was bearing down on the village, and he was suddenly transformed from bodyguard into evacuation coordinator.  One military transport had already departed with several villagers, and the second was nearing capacity. 
 
“Where are all these people coming from?” scowled Murran as he herded a couple and their children aboard the transport.
 
Mayor Ryltans directed another family onto the craft.
 
“This is the last of them,” he shouted as he ushered them in, “Kieren and Mai Lee are already on board, Lolana, get in!”
 
“Oh no, Dad, did anyone fetch Lady Taisia?” Lolana screamed back.
 
Lady Taisia was one of the longest residents of the village, but could not get around on her own.  She relied on the villagers to take care of her, which they gladly did.  In their haste to make a retreat, it seemed no one had gone to check on her.  Kaece’s first inclination was to leave the old lady, but the sense of urgency in Lolana’s liquid brown eyes changed his mind immediately.
 
Ferran turned to the transport ship and grabbed one of the crewmen by the wrist.
 
“I need three minutes, do not leave until we get back,” he begged the man.
 
“Three minutes,” replied the crewman, “No more.”
 
The Mayor knew it was futile to argue that his daughter stay while he and Kaece went for the old woman.  They did not have the precious time to spare debating the point, so they all ran down the street to Taisia’s humble dwelling.
 
“It’s the third one on the left, right there!” shouted Lolana, pointing to the village elder’s residence.
 
Kaece broke into an all out sprint toward the home, noting that a humanoid form began to slowly emerge from the structure.
 
“Young man, what is the meaning of all of this commotion?” Lady Taisia called out.
 
Suddenly, appearing at the end of the street was a pair of armored land speeders.  The gun turret from one of them swiveled in Kaece’s direction.
 
“Get back in the house!” he shouted, running at a track star’s pace.
 
In one impressive motion, the bounty hunter scooped up the diminutive old woman, and bounded into the front entrance to her home.  With as much care as the situation allowed, he dumped her onto a worn looking couch and then made his way back to the door.  Before he could peer outside, the streets were ablaze with gunfire; and Kaece got a sick feeling in his stomach.  He withdrew a pair of pistols and took a look out of the front window.
 
The Mayor and his daughter were across the street, tightly clinging to the side of a stone staircase.  So far, it looked like the infantry vehicle had not seen any of them, and after another 20 seconds of wild blaster fire, the turret ceased its operation.  The turret gunner had lost sight of the man on the street, so the squad leader ordered his troops to dismount and find him.
 
The transports were Arrow-23’s, actually developed for civilian all terrain use, but recently modified by the Alliance for military use.  Kaece watched as five well armed troops began to exit the vehicle, no doubt to try and locate him.  The hired gun took a second look at the humanoid forms filling the street.
 
“Gungans?” he said bewilderedly.
 
He took a deep breath, holding both pistols at the ready.  If he timed it right, he could take several of them out, and they wouldn’t know what hit them.  All he needed was the right moment to strike.  That was when the Imperial transport lifted off and rocketed into the sky.
 
“Ah frack,” he muttered looking at his chronometer.
 
“Wow, they actually waited four minutes,” he laughed.
 
 
Command & Control Center

Field Base Baz Nitch, Naboo

0935 Hours, Thursday
 
The Stormtrooper Garrison’s command staff had displaced all of Major Kassel’s people save one, Specialist Gestaad.  He was so deep in electronic signals and satellite link ups that the Colonel’s technicians dared not interrupt him.   It was apparent that the incoming force was employing some kind of pulse weapon that disrupted electronic equipment.  Terrestrial communications had now improved to sporadic, radar systems had not come back online yet.  The TIE pilots that had not gone down in the swamps reported failure of several of their electrical systems.
 
Major Kassel and Colonel Waynright stood over a table top with holograms representing the assets they had in the field.  The Major’s look was more troubled than her Stormtrooper counterpart, no doubt from years of being in this very position.  The older officer pointed to Lianorm on the map.
 
“It appears the enemy is intent on occupying Lianorm.  My best guess is that Keren is the next target,” the Stormtrooper Colonel suggested.
 
“Here are my thoughts Colonel, we have evidence of another force in this area right here,” Melyssa began while pointing to the map, “The two major targets in that region are the Weapons Development Facility, and the Royal Lake Retreat.”
 
“I see. I should tell you then, that I had ordered the 133rd Infantry Regiment to prepare to move out to reinforce Keren.  Their Regimental Commander estimated four hours until they were ready.”
 
“Sir, you have to trust me on this one, I think that the Weapons facility is the real target.”
 
“Ma’am, I will trust your intelligence, especially since you have clusters of armored vehicles marked in several locations.”
 
Melyssa responded with a nod.
 
“Now, the Lake Retreat on the other hand, is extremely vulnerable, but the surrounding terrain will make an attack by the mechanized vehicles unlikely,” stated the Major.
 
“The first elements of the 31st are landing northwest of Lianorm, to hopefully stop the advance of the Rebels.  I don’t have any rapid force to commit there, and I still have to consider the retaking of Lianorm and Lassay.”
 
Specialist Zehrmatt Gestaad suddenly slammed his headphones onto the console in front of him and cursed loudly.
 
“Ma’am, the terrestrial network is still giving me trouble, but I think I just copied a transmission from Royal Security, the Lake Retreat has been captured by some kind of Special Operations element,” he huffed angrily.
 
 
Lianorm, Naboo

0941 Hours, Thursday
 
Kaece Murran took a deep breath and took another look at the dismounted infantrymen.  He had to form some kind of plan, both to eliminate the Gungans and to get his gang out of the hostile city.
 
“One thing at a time, Kaece, just take these suckers out first,” he whispered to himself.
 
He lined up the lead infantryman in his pistol sights, hoping he could get off enough rounds to get them all before they returned fire.
 
“Okay, just walk a little further,” he whispered, Lady Taisia remained silent on the floor behind him, puzzled.
 
The turret of the other Arrow-23 suddenly whirled around in the opposite direction and began to fire.  The dismounted Gungans froze for a moment, and then were sent flying as the Arrow-23 that was firing exploded into a fireball.  Showtime, thought Kaece. Blaster bolts filled the air as Kaece began to fire on the stunned troopers.
 
The first Arrow responded by swiveling its turret around in the same direction as the now exploded one.  Before it could fire, however, a smoke canister was deposited somewhere near its rear door, obscuring the entire end of the street.  Kaece decided it was a good time to move the woman, and unceremoniously grabbed her up onto his shoulder and dashed through the front door.
 
“What’s going on?” asked Lolana as she met her body guard in the street.
 
“The damned Gungans are attacking, but I think someone is fighting back,” he shouted, “come on; let’s get the hell out of here.”
 
From within the smoke, a loud bang could be heard, followed by a pair of weapons discharging.  Kaece and company ducked at the noise.
 
“Wait, Kaece, look!” shouted Mayor Ryltans.
 
The trio turned, with Lady Taisia still hoisted over the bodyguard’s shoulder, to see several armed figures come out of the smoke.  One of them pulled off his helmet and began to run towards the group.
 
“Lolana!” Melky shouted.
 
“Melky? Melky, what the hell are you doing out here?” cried the brown haired beauty as he took her into his arms.
 
Hammer, Doc, Outlaw, Buzz, and a crewman from the Larty emerged from the smoke.  Hammer had what looked like a man in a pilot’s outfit slung over his shoulder.
 
“No time to explain, we have to move,” shouted Outlaw.
 
 The sudden emotion of the situation was too much for Lolana to bear.  Suddenly, the wise cracking tough girl melted into her rescuer, sobbing uncontrollably.  Everything had come crashing down on her at that moment.
 
"Lolana, it’s okay, I am here. Everything is going to be okay now," Milky reassured her.
 
"For fracks sake Melky, we don't have time for this," scolded Outlaw.
 
"I know Law, I've got it covered," he shot back angrily.
 
The girl's crying eased slightly as Melky stroked her hair.   
 
"I thought we were dead," she managed to say through her tears.
 
Corporal Berran wiped her tears, looked into her eyes and thought for a moment.  He was trying to think of something to say that wasn't cliché, or sounded like it came from a fictional story, but he failed.  Shaking his head and fighting back his own tears, he took a deep breath and said the first thing that came into his mind.
 
"Nothing is gonna happen to you, Lolana, not as long as I am here."
 
Lolana smiled at the statement, no matter how trite the line may have been, she knew it came from his heart. 
 
 
Now I tell you openly
You have my heart so don’t hurt me
For what I couldn’t find
Talk to me amazing mind
So understanding and so kind
You’re everything to me
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