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Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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.
Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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.
Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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.
Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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.
 “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.

Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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.
General Discussion / Re: Comments on "Restless Hearts"
« Last post by Onyxs on April 08, 2011, 03:07:15 pm »
Eagerly awaits the next chapter

Me too!!

Chapter 10 started out so well. I definitely want to see Shellbee kick some more ass.

And all of Chapter 9 was simply incredible. Most of it I could completely see in my mind as I was reading.
General Discussion / Re: Comments on "Restless Hearts"
« Last post by Operative Ghost on April 08, 2011, 12:54:42 pm »
Eagerly awaits the next chapter
Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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.”
Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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,


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.
Stories / Re: Restless Hearts
« Last post by Theodorik on 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.
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