Author: Jedi Gunny Prefix: Saga Synopsis: A continuation of the Summer 2011 RPG of the same name, found here: http://boards.theforce.net/threads/rostus-renegades-return-with-the-jedi.31790914/ If you're ever interested, I suggest you read the entire game thread (it's not too long). It's a good read, and gives you insight into who the characters are and why they're where they are. Back Cover-ish Thing: The 44th Experimental Division is back, and better than ever! Join them as they face perils far and wide, continually trying to fit in as the Clone Wars rage on around them. Full of action, suspense, friendship (or lack thereof), and betrayal as the 44th slogs through it's biggest challenge yet. Notes: I was one of the players in the original RPG game, along with tjace, Trieste, UnknownRogue and a few others (including The Loyal Imperial as our awesome GM), as the character Napp. The game was originally designed to be a "Summer Blockbuster", and occur over just a month of real time just like a movie has its time restraints. However, I wasn't satisfied with leaving our intrepid gang go away after the game finished, because there was still a lot to write. So here's the first of hopefully several stories bridging the gap between the RPG and the end of Episode 3. And now, to the story! Chapter 1: The 44th Division A blaster bolt whizzed by, narrowly missing the surprisingly-red head of an otherwise green-skinned Rodian. He wheeled around to take a shot at his attacker with his DT-57 heavy blaster pistol, but his arm was grabbed from the side and tugged upon with quite a bit of force. He fell down a split-second before the enemy soldier could squeeze off another shot, landing behind a large rock that would easily cover his body from the enemy’s sights. Picking himself off of the ground, he looked at who had “saved” him. Above him was a large Feeorin, his eyes blood red in color, staring back at him. The being’s skin was jet black in color, beads of sweat running down and soaking the simple gray battle tunic that he wore. His large biceps were covered in multi-colored tattoos, most of which no one quite understood their personal meaning. All anyone could really tell was that that they were everywhere on his flesh. “I had him,” the Rodian said simply to the Feeorin. “It was an easy shot.” “You were lucky you weren’t killed, Bazak,” Napp said, gripping his blaster pistol in one hand. “We can’t afford to have our medic go down on the battlefield. If we did, you’d probably roll in your grave just thinking about how the rest of us would be festering our wounds without your expertise. Plus, I don’t think you had the angle.” “Right, Mr. Big Shot,” Octro Bazak said with a tinge of sarcasm, lifting his torso off the ground so he was finally in a sitting position. With one hand, he wiped some dust off of his black jacket, and then proceeded to wipe off his worn combat boots. “I’d like to see you do better.” “Fine,” Napp said. He crawled past the Rodian and looked around the side of the rock the two were hiding behind. The enemy soldier who had shot moments earlier noticed his presence, and instantly fired a bolt in Napp’s direction. Instinctively, Napp rolled out of the way of the shot and held his DL-44 blaster aloft. Firing it off, he ducked to cover without seeing where his bolt had struck. Seconds later, he decided to look and see what damage he had done. The enemy’s body lay limp on the ground, a hole evident in the diminutive Gossam’s chest where a blaster shot had gone through and killed it. “That was easy,” Napp said. From the look of it, the bolt had done quite a bit of damage when it had entered the Gossam’s body. “Always taking credit for things that you didn’t do, eh, Napp?” said a familiar voice. Napp wheeled around to see a green-skinned Khil woman dressed in pearly-white Republic-issued armor holding a standard-issue blaster and giving him a slight smirk. Or, it as much of a smirk as a Khil could give you. The end of her carbine was still smoking, displaying that it had just been fired. “I’d say that you missed by a good ten meters.” “Nice shot, Corporal,” Napp said, somewhat deflated by this. He had to admit; she was a pretty good shot in her own right. The Army had taught her well when it had come to weapons training. Now, they hadn’t fixed her attitude, but that was what made her stand out. Actually, that was something that the entire 44th Division was known for. Instead of following orders and staying in strict battle strategies like the clones did, the 44th was a bit more . . . flexible. If something went wrong, they could quickly regroup and change up the plan. No suicidal charges for a bunch of soldiers interested in keeping themselves alive in order to cash that monthly paycheck. Maybe they were all in it to see the Separatist forces destroyed, or maybe they just were in it to get paid. Whatever they were in all this for, it had led them to action with the Republic regulars in the Rim campaign. Getting employed by the Army meant putting oneself into harm’s way, but at least it paid well. “Nice shot indeed,” Corporal Talnar said. “Now, we need to move to that rock formation over there. That’s what the Major said was the closest position to the Seps’ operations.” She pointed across the landscape towards a large formation a good thousand meters away that pierced into the pale blue sky and cast a wide shadow around its base. From this distance, it looked almost like a formerly-square chunk of rock that several Gundarks had gotten hold of and ripped to shreds. However, it probably had not been creatures attacking the rock; that job had been taken by Separatist gunners firing at the main body of the Republic Third Army. This was the army that had accompanied the 44th Division to the small and insignificant planet of Moorja on their first ever mission as a unit, and had screwed things up royally by attacking the capital city of Moorjay, which had been a CIS stronghold, before the 44th had enough time to rescue a captured Jedi General. That failure had been a specter in the minds of the 44th ever since that battle, and they were trying to use it as motivation in going forth. Even though it probably wasn’t too important that they had failed, given that most of the so-called “Renegades” of the 44th were looking to get paid over winning the war, it still wasn’t a good mark to have on the military record that you failed in your mission, especially when it involved little in terms of fighting skill and was more an undercover rescue operation than a battle. It was one of those pride issues, and for a bunch of fame-seeking individuals, they hadn’t gained much notoriety for the Moorja campaign. It was time to show the Third Army command staff that the 44th deserved better action . . . and, if possible, more pay. “Agreed,” Napp said. “Does the Third have any guns aimed on those rocks?” The corporal shook her head. “Just as I figured. We’re on our own out here.” He looked to Octro, who had now stood up completely. “It’s going to be a mad scramble to get over there, and we’ll be going in blind. Doubt there is much cover on the way, so it’ll be a straight shot. If we get there in one piece, we can proceed.” “Where are Bo and Jai?” the corporal asked. She was referring to Bo-Yinko and Jai Hespera, the other two members of the Renegades. “No idea,” Napp said. “Haven’t seen them since we peeled off from the rest of the Army. Maybe they’re still out there on the front lines?” “It’s possible,” the corporal said. “I’m going to contact them.” She picked up her comlink and waited for a response. Finally, someone came on the other end. “Where are you two?” Some words were exchanged, and then the Corporal lowered her comm. unit. “They’re already by that rock formation. Apparently the front line is slowly coming this way as the armies attack and then counterattack. We don’t have much time before the Seps are on top of us.” “Those damn clones can’t do anything right,” Octro commented. “We’re going to have to do this ourselves.” “All right. “Tell them we’re coming over,” Napp said to the Corporal. “Octro, make sure that if either of us fall, you’re right there to clean up the mess.” “Don’t get too bloody, because I only have a limited supply of bacta,” Octro said. “I don’t want to have to amputate anything today either.” “What a pleasant thought,” Talnar said. “I’m glad you’re here to give us these bloody details.” She then relayed the information to the other Renegades. “We’re ready to go when you are, Napp.” “Let’s go. The sooner we leave, the better the chance we have to survive.” Without warning, Napp emerged on the other side of the rock and started to run towards the rock formation. Looking at each other, Octro and the Corporal followed the Feeorin across the barren landscape, blasters at the ready. Almost immediately the three came under fire. Separatist troops, both organic and droid, opened fire on the three, the energy bolts whizzing through the air like a nest of angry hornets. Napp raised his pistol and let off two shots, downing two droids with ease. The Corporal followed suit, gunning down a Nemoidian who was carrying some loose explosives with a well-aimed shot to the torso. Octro fired at some of the enemy troops as well, but his shots were off the mark, probably because he didn’t have enough time to aim well before squeezing off his shots. “Wouldn’t have it any other way!” Napp shouted to the others as he came upon a battle droid. Dodging its blaster shot, Napp swung his arm down on the droid’s neck joint. The tremendous force that resulted from this motion severed the circuit in two, cleaving off the droid’s head and causing the rest of the body to fall to the ground in a heap. Looking at the carnage he had just created, Napp grinned. Not many Republic soldiers could pull that off like he had. This was when there was a loud explosion in the immediate area. Someone was shooting mortars in their direction, given their distinctive sound as they whizzed through the air. Napp followed the trace of the next shell by figuring out its sound pattern and weaved out of its way by diverting from his otherwise straight path. The resulting explosion cut down two battle droids and severely injured another Nemoidian, but the three Renegades were unharmed. Napp knew that they could not stay out much longer in this open environment. They were far too exposed to be effective, and those CIS gunners were undoubtedly going to keep firing these shells in hopes of killing them before they could reach the rocks. Their only hope was to the get to the others’ location without losing limbs. Two more mortars made their presence known as they exploded on the ground, sending dirt flying everywhere. Napp looked back at the other two; they were now in a breakneck run, no longer content on shooting enemy soldiers while on the move. The introduction of the high explosives to the situation had caused them to resort to fight-or-flight response, and in this instance, it was better to flee than keep fighting. Plus, the enemy troops were just as disoriented as they were, which gave the Renegades the chance they were looking for. Stowing his blaster pistol in its side holster, Napp began to run harder than before, intent on reaching the formation before the gunners finally had him in their sights and would land a mortar on top of him. By his estimates it was about another 300 meters to the formation. A battle droid tried to shoot him in the side, but he reached out and punched the droid as he passed, knocking it to the ground. Another mortar landed about twenty meters behind Napp as he was in the home stretch. He looked back, hoping that the other two, who had been trailing him the entire time, had not gotten caught in the blast. As the smoke and dust settled, he looked on the ground for any sight of two bodies. If he saw that, they would surely be dead. The Seps were using high-energy mortars; if one of those caught you napping, you were dead. The only time Napp had fired off mortars was back when he was in a professional mercenary gang. Back then, they had only used low-powered mortars, mostly used to frighten opposition long enough to ready the landing party and claim their prize. These shells were a lot more powerful than those he had been using previously, and the holes they left in the landscaper proved his point. Out of the dust came the Corporal, closely followed by Octro. The Khil woman had a scratch on her head, but otherwise they were unscathed. Napp breathed a sigh of relief; that could have ended really badly. Losing two of the five team members would put a serious dent in the 44th’s movements, and would rob them of a medic and trained Army officer. But, that hadn’t happened, and now they were close to the rock formation. Plus, the dust could potentially be useful as cover for the final stretch. “Almost there,” Napp shouted to the others before taking off once again. No more enemy soldiers stood in his way, probably due to the mortars. Although the battle droids were not effected by loud sounds and filtering dust like the organic troops were, their lack of an effective brain to process thoughts prevented them from being a real issue at this point, and thus Napp did not see any of them escape the cloud of smoke. If the CIS gunners were going to keep firing in that patch of open ground, it would make things easier for the Renegades. Preoccupy the heavy artillery, and then mount an assault by coming in the back door. It was a simple military maneuver, one that was undoubtedly etched into the brains of officers going through Republic military school. The Corporal would be able to pull it off with ease because she had practiced it many times throughout the war with actual armed forces, but would the others be able to follow her lead? Napp finally reached the rocky outcropping. Drawing his blaster, he peered around the side of the rock. A distance away stood about fifteen NR-N99 Persuader tanks, their blaster cannons and various other armaments standing at the ready. Littered amongst the crowd were several AAT tanks, their droid commanders poking their heads out as they waited for instructions. It seemed like they were waiting for something; was the 44th walking into a trap? The other two Renegades caught up and joined Napp in staring around the corner of the formation. “Those tanks mean business,” Talnar said. “They’re waiting for us to arrive, aren’t they?” “We need the Army to get them out of the way for us,” Octro offered. “No way we can destroy them by ourselves, especially not with just the three of us.” “Agreed,” Napp said. “But we have to get past them if we’re going to win this battle.” He pulled out his macrobinoculars and stared through the eye piece. Through the lens, he could see the tanks guarding several launch spots, which probably were the site where the mortars were being shot. From this vantage point, Napp could tell that they were about ten meters wide and roughly eight meters wide, with the center few meters acting as the launch site. Around each platform were the remaining warheads, their fuses ready to be lit at a moments’ notice. In order to destroy the mortar launchers, they would have to remove the tanks first, which would be quite the challenge. “We have to get rid of those tanks.” “That’s suicide!” Talnar said. “The Army certainly knew what it was doing in sending us out here ahead of the regulars. Those damn clones get all the credit, yet we’re going to be the ones opening up the enemy’s defenses, probably at the cost of all our lives. It’s just not worth it, especially against those Persuaders. We’d have more of a chance against Hailfires, to be honest.” “But we’re stuck here,” Octro said. “We have to get out, or they will pound away at us until there’s nothing left for us to hide behind. And then we’re in perfect range for their cannons.” “They’re out of range for my explosives,” Napp said, still looking through the binoculars. “I’d say that we’d need to almost be right on top of them for a grenade to work.” “Or a thermal detonator,” Talnar said. Napp nodded. “But we’re still out of effective range for those,” Napp said. “With their armor and this distance, they’ll only be scratched. We need to get in closer somehow . . .” “Closer?!” Octro exclaimed. “Are you insane? They’ll blow us away!” “We have no choice, Bazak,” Napp said, his face sullen. “If we stay here for too long, the Seps will figure out that we made it through the wasteland, and will then start firing right at us with those tanks. We need to stay on the move if we’re to survive.” “I knew you would say that,” Octro said. “Corporal, what is the status of your slugthrower? How much ammo do you have left?” Talnar looked down at her slug rifle. Opening up the carbine, she peeked inside. “I have a few slugs left, but not enough to dispatch all of those tanks.” “That will have to do,” Napp said. “New plan. Corporal, you will go find a good sniping spot where you have a good view of this area. Clear our path to the mortar platforms. Bazak, you and I will go in there and destroy the platforms before they do much more damage. Make sure you have a det with you; those will come in handy at some point.” “Shouldn’t we meet up with the others first?” Talnar asked. “They can help us. Jai is one of the best snipers in the Third Army. And Bo’s no slouch when it comes to fighting.” “For all we know, they could have gotten caught up in the whirlwind,” Napp said. He pointed east; out there was the front line of the battle between the CIS forces and the Third Army. Blue blaster bolts met with red laser bolts in a dizzying array of color, and explosions were common, engulfing many combatants in deadly flames each time. No doubt the Republic forces were sustaining heavy casualties; they always did. Even during the Moorja campaign, clone losses were high. That’s why the 44th had come into being; to try and finish battles off by sneaking around and destroying key installations before enemy forces could do in more Republic troops in the main fighting. Of course, sneaking into heavily-guarded outposts was just as dangerous as fighting on the front lines, so the ragtag Renegades weren’t being done any favors by getting these assignments. Actually, although they wouldn’t admit it, maybe these missions were actually more dangerous than front-line action was. “Fine,” Talnar said. “Just don’t get yourself killed.” With that, she lifted her slugthrower and ran towards a more advantageous position in the craggy rock formation. Napp put away the binoculars and drew his blaster from its holster. “You ready for this, Medic?” he asked. He really didn’t care what the Rodian was going to say, because he had already made his mind up. It was time to run into the heart of the storm and teach these enemies a lesson. “Damn it, Napp!” Octro said, an angry expression on his face. “You’re going to get us killed! Or, at the very least, captured and then tortured!” “That’s what makes this so fun,” Napp said, a small grin on his face. “You don’t get to do this back at HQ.” “Bet they’re safer there,” Octro muttered. “They’re not following a crazed meathead into a storm of blaster fire.” Napp stood up and charged forward, his blaster pistol raised in the air. He squeezed off a shot at the lead tank; it didn’t even leave a scratch on the side plating. “This is where the fun begins!” he shouted back to the Rodian, who reluctantly followed him into the upcoming firestorm.