Before Star Wars: Death and Life <Tales From the Corps series>

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Goodwood, May 11, 2011.

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  1. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Title: Star Wars: Death and Life
    Author: Goodwood
    Timeframe: Pre-KotOR
    Characters: OCs + assorted KotOR characters
    Genre: Character sketch/philosophy
    Summary: For approximately four thousand years, from the earliest conflicts with the Sith Empire to the Ruusan Reformation, the Republic Marines did battle with the enemies of the Galactic Republic. Renowned for their skill in all aspects of galactic warfare as well as their traditions of duty, valor, honor and loyalty, the Marines were one of the foundation stones for civilization throughout the galaxy.

    Every Marine accepts as fact that they are part of the spear of the Republic, and might be called upon at any time to make the ultimate sacrifice in its defense. For Laera Reyolé, a veteran officer who has spent over twenty years fighting for peace and justice, this sacrifice would be fulfilled?and yet, it would be only the beginning. In the wake of one conflict, she must deal with the consequences of her new lease on life, or else she may be consumed by the events to come.



    Part 1

    The sounds of battle were everywhere in the city of Iziz: the spitting whine of blasterfire; the screams of the dying, the pounding of concussive shockwaves slamming into walls and floors. Smoke drifted through the corridor as a squad of soldiers in white, red and black armor stacked up along the near wall. Deep inside a Mandalorian-held strongpoint, the din was a cadence that gave voice to the grim business of war.

    “Come on, just around the bend!” the officer yelled in order to be heard over the racket.

    “Ma'am, we've got Mandalorians on all sides!" one soldier pointed out. "We'll never make it without support!”

    “If we make it, Corporal, we won't need support!" the officer bellowed back. "We destroy this power generator, the defense turrets go dead and the whole Mando line collapses!” The officer gripped her blaster with purpose, then turned back to the junior noncom and the remnants of her unit, her countenance grim. “We're dead if we leave, but just as dead if we stay! D'you want those dogs to sing songs about how they gunned you down?”

    The combat-reduced squad of Republic Marines, their armor chipped and scorched by shrapnel and blasterfire, their faces stained with blood, sweat, and grime, looked at their officer one more time. The eyes of each man and woman spoke of many things: fear, admiration, pure unbridled grit and determination, as well as an overwhelming sense of trust. They knew that, whatever happened, they were serving and fighting alongside brothers and sisters. Barely a moment passed as their commander asked for, and got, their assent to one last, grand effort. As one the soldiers raised their weapons, prepared themselves, and leaped through the accessway into the inner control area.

    For their officer, it was her last leap, as a Mandalorian grenade tore into her chestplate...

    — — —

    “Commander Reyolé did everything right, more than we could have asked for.”

    Malak paced the command center, walking back and forth between Revan's chair and a wall-sized holodisplay. Both Jedi were still clad in their warrior attire; the former wearing his customary high-necked orange greatcoat and robes, the latter in subtle dark grays over matte armor plates, his cowl up to partially conceal the mask he had taken to wearing. The two Jedi Knights, leaders of the Republic war effort against the Mandalorian Neo-Crusaders, looked upon a readout of the assault on Onderon, displaying in excruciating detail the aerial recon from before, during and after, on three separate sections of the huge panorama. As Revan keyed for a close-in view of the moment that everything shifted in the Republic's favor, Malak continued his missive.

    “Finding the intel, scouting out the best route, even ensuring that the mission succeeded. We might not have been able to liberate this world from the Neo-Crusaders if it weren't for her.”

    Revan took a sip from a cup of plain water at his side. “And you think it worth all this trouble to bring her back?”

    “The Republic has been developing this kind of technology in secret for decades, Revan,” Malak replied. “The problem is that they're squeamish; the first attempts were failures, and even after they got it right, they don't want to tackle the ethics of reanimating a body. Not even the body of one of our best soldiers, one of our best combat leaders.”

    “And yet, they'd clone us an army based on her DNA if we asked them to,” Revan agreed, taking another sip of water. “If what you suspect about her is true, this might be well worth our while.”

    Malak turned to face Revan and folded his arms across his chest, his expression contemplative. “None of us had ever been able to sit down with her to confirm this. She always distrusted Force-users, and made no attempt to hide that fact.”

    “Despite her attitude, would you trust this woman with your life?”

    “Having seen her in action, I would.”

    Revan rose from his chair, plunging the room into darkness as he dismissed the holodisplay with a wave of his hand. “Then get it done.”

    — — —

    A dense haze smeared the landscape, making it blossom with light. Trees shimmered in the shine of an impossible sun, leaves splashed with light like liquid as a light breeze tickled their tips. The ordinary glass, set in the ordinary windows of the ordinary residences in this colonial neighborhood, seemed to have become mirrors to a beautiful landscape. Even the stones of the pedestrian path seemed to sparkle, giving the appearance of flowing water.

    But not a sound permeated the air; all was as quiet as the vacuum of space.

    For Laera Reyolé, this wasn't of much concern. She couldn't explain why, but then, she had no inclination to do so. Everything seemed perfect, as it should be, without interference from the outside world. Better yet, free from the outside galaxy. The young woman stared at her home for a brief moment—or several centuries—before investigating further. Everything was good and proper, exactly as she had left it...to go where?

    The memory seemed to have vanished, somehow, but even this did not give Laera pause. She picked up a still holo of her parents—at least, she thought it was of her parents—and examined it. Her mother was tall, leggy, with blonde hair and brown eyes and a visage that conveyed constant good cheer; her father, by contrast, was somewhat dour-looking, considerably shorter than his wife, his crown of auburn hair balding in the middle. His blue eyes sparkled with an inner curiosity that belied his ordinary appearance, and seemed to dart into and out of trouble on a minute-by-minute basis.

    Laera smiled at the holo. As she did so, it vanished, as did the idyllic neighborhood that had held it in secret. Even the starshine seemed to shift; instead of an opalescent blue-yellow, it shone with a fiery orange, obscured by billowing clouds of acrid smoke. The young woman, who had inherited her father's hair and eyes but her mother's buoyant features, looked up, suddenly despondent, though she couldn't remember why. Her expression shifting to bemusement, she wandered about the wreckage of the planet that had given her life, almost as though she were in a dream. Not a nightmare; they always came with some sense of dread or loss or catastrophe. This felt different, somehow. More like...watching someone else's life.

    As she batted at a flying piece of debris, the scene changed yet again. An older Laera stood in the landing bay of a starship, accompanied by armored and helmeted figures in the livery of some unknown force or garrison. As though by someone else's volition, her body moved, giving signals to the armored men and women around her; smartly and with good pace, they boarded a medium-sized assault transport. Laera followed them, as though on autopilot, and secured herself at the head of the passenger compartment. After issuing a series of instructions that she could not hear herself give, she began to don her own helmet.

    A breath.

    A single, solitary breath. Followed instantly by the powerful urge to take another. And another.

    A sound.

    Gasping; a human desperately grasping for purchase on a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere.
    More sounds. The steady beeping of a monitor, the drone of ventilation equipment, the soft, slippered footsteps of sentient beings.

    Laera took all this in as though she were listening to an audio recording of someone else's fight for life. Her unseeing eyes allowed her brain to maintain an odd sort of disconnect with the surrounding environment, even as the muffled voices of strangers responded to these new and intriguing sensations. Inwardly, she wondered what sort of holodrama was being played for her benefit; after all, she was supposedly oblivious to outside stimuli.

    The breathing grew more desperate; the monitor pinged more urgently, and an unpleasant beating sensation began to hammer at her awareness. As Laera attempted to reconcile these new events, something hissed nearby. Silence and numbness once again filled the realm of her consciousness, such as it was.

    — — —

    Thump!

    It wasn't so much a noise as it was a feeling, of a soft, weighted instrument striking her knee.

    Thump!

    The feeling had shifted now, this time striking her other knee just below the joint. Two more thumps announced the fact that she had elbows; the sudden jerking that followed in turn gave substance to the arms and hands that they were connected to. Dimly, Laera realized that the two earlier bumps had resolved themselves into legs and feet.


    Snap! Snap!

    A rubbery slapping noise caused Laera to shift her consciousness; in doing so, she realized that she had a head, and that it rested against something. This contact radiated out into the rest of her body, and she was suddenly cognizant of her wholeness. A bright light, partially occluded by some sort of membrane, shone down upon her. In opening them, she discovered that she possessed two working eyes, which fluttered in the brightness.

    “Welcome back, Commander,” a smiling Twi'lek announced in dulcet tones, meeting her upward gaze.

    Laera continued to look up at the man, taking in his gray-green skin, pink eyes, broad needle-toothed grin, and shoulder-wrapped lekku. She recalled dimly that she'd always liked the natives of Ryloth; they had had a noble warrior spirit that nonetheless bore a pragmatic side to it that she could empathize with. As she continued to gaze upon the alien, he continued his work of testing her reflexes and muscle strength. As he was checking her fingers, Laera became aware of the fact that she was naked. She attempted to raise her head to say something, but the doctor gently laid a reassuring hand on her forehead to discourage her.

    “Not quite yet, Commander,” he soothed, his tone mildly reproving. “We'll get you some clothes soon enough.”

    The doctor returned to his ministrations, checking and gently probing here and there. Satisfied that all was well, he left after having pulled a blanket over Laera's still immobile body. Time seemed to pass by in fits and starts as Laera continued to explore herself. As best as she could figure, the sensation was not unlike being liquefied to the consistency of fruit preserves and poured oh-so-gently into another form, only to be solidified around some new framework. Her sense of continuity thrown out of whack, it seemed an eternity before a medical droid arrived. Beeping and humming to itself, it began to bombard her with a series of audiovisual stimuli. The exercise seemed to help her come back to herself, somehow, and for this she was grateful.

    When the droid left, a human orderly entered the ward, carrying a stack of boxes. As he entered, Laera noticed, for the first time, that the whole ensemble bore the unmistakable marks of being a military operation. No hint was given whether this was aboard a ship, planetside in some secret bunker, or even tucked away in some Core Worlds ecumenopolis. The thought made her chuckle inwardly; she'd always wanted to visit Coruscant.

    Still bemused, Laera turned to acknowledge the orderly, who had been gesturing toward the fiberplast boxes that he had set beside her low bed. She remembered how to nod an acknowledgment, and the young man turned to a nearby faucet to draw a glass of water. The sound triggered a new feeling in Laera's mouth, which she was able to recognize as thirst, and she greedily accepted the cylinder of liquid that the orderly offered her. Eyes closed in delight, she sucked the water down, then flashed a grin that was all teeth. It took a minute to remember how...

    “Thank. You. For. This,” Laera managed to stammer, in a voice she recognized as being rough, as though it had atrophied from lack of use. The orderly nodded and returned her smile.

    “These are your personals, if you'd like to look at them,” he said, gesturing again to the packing boxes. “Dr. Shak thinks you're ready to finish coming back to life...”

    — — —

    She had been a warrior, a leader of beings, an expert in infiltration, reconnaissance, sabotage, and a skilled sniper. She had been decorated for valor on no less than three occasions—the third being posthumous—and had been vetted for promotion before her untimely death on Onderon. Even the Jedi General Malak had acknowledged her prowess in battle.

    Outwardly, Laera took this in with dispassionate eyes, but her mind was racing as she read her own service history. As she ticked off each citation, each record of contact with the enemy, each assignment, fragments of memories associated with each began to reactivate. It was rather unpleasantly like watching the recap of an episodic series of holodramas before the final installment, where the cast of characters revolved around one central protagonist. Laera had never liked that kind of drama; she'd always preferred the sort that involved an intrepid crew of adventurers who find friendship during the trials of space travel.

    Laera put the flimsi with her service record away, and was about to draw out the one listing her personal history, but decided against it. She wasn't going to let some scrap of paper serve as a link between her first life and her second; if there were things worth remembering, she would remember them, or else be reminded in good time. With a surge of defiance, she balled up both flimsis and threw them into the recycler with such force that the lid bounced.

    Opening the largest of the fiberplast boxes, she found encased within a brand-new set of Republic Marine assault armor, its collar bearing not the symbol of commander, but captain. Apparently that promotion had gone through despite the minor inconvenience caused by her death. She pulled the armor from its box and stacked the components neatly on the other side of her bed in the small military hospital room she'd been given. The box was not yet empty, though; underneath, there was a set of neatly-pressed dress reds, bearing all the appropriate badges, ribbons, and bric-a-brac of a decorated Marine officer of command rank. And yet, underneath that, were three sets of the standard Marine brown-gray-green mottled battle-dress uniforms that she had always preferred to wear when aboard ship or in garrison.

    Unpacking these last items, Laera hurriedly threw off her blanket and donned one of the uniforms. It was light, comfortable, and warm, just as it always had been. Mutely, she patted herself down, making sure all the creases were aligned, all the buttons arranged as they should be, and her boots neat and tidy. The ritual was a touchstone, and flashes of pleasant memories permeated her psyche: that time she and her team had played hide-and-seek in the belly of a Centurion-class battlecruiser, ostensibly as an exercise in intruder detection and apprehension; the time Jarko had smuggled a mawkren aboard their ship, only to have it made the unit's mascot; the massive ration-fight in the mess hall when Bimm had transferred in from the 83rd Assault Division.

    The memories petered out, leaving Laera alone with two more unopened boxes. Before attacking them, she took some time to muster her feelings. It was at that moment that the realization that she had died finally hit her. She had died...a Mandalorian grenade had slashed through her armor before she could even level her blaster carbine. With all her might she tried to muster the memory of the precise moment of her death, but came up with nothing. All she could recall was charging into the control center with her men behind her, several armored figures rising up on the wall opposite, and then everything popping out like a blown glowpanel.

    And then the dreams.

    But were they dreams, or the afterlife? Laera didn't know, and that scared her. She was used to fear; fear kept a soldier on her toes, kept her attuned to her surroundings, lest she miss some crucial moment or detail, and kept her alive despite seemingly impossible odds. But this kind of fear...it was cold, insidious, invading her from within, sucking the warmth from her and the room beyond as it sought to consume her. It took every ounce of strength she possessed to grasp hold of that frozen sickness and force it out and away. “I...am...alive!” she bit out hoarsely.

    The pronouncement of this fact suddenly burned white-hot within her, as though her heart were aflame with the passionate truth of her own survival. A silent affirmation of life shot through every part of her, puckering her flesh and raising the hair on the back of her neck; her heart pounded, beating a triumphal staccato against her ribcage. Laera sucked in deep, affirming breaths, working her diaphragm as though preparing to shout orders at the top of her voice. “I AM ALIVE!” she bellowed, louder than she could ever recall having done before. “I AM ALIVE!

    The rest of the day passed in a blaze as, unbidden, the memories of her old life came flooding back. Laera accepted them, let them roll around like rocks within her, letting her mind pound them together into sand as they intermingled and smashed against one another. In great waves the fragments bonded together, gradually rebuilding Laera into the woman she had been before. However, even as this process took place, she knew, with ironclad certainty, that she would—could—never be the same. It was the beginning of a new life, a new chapter, for her, filled with possibilities. She drifted off to a dreamless sleep, confident that she would awaken the next day with the ability to choose her destiny./>
    Last edited by Goodwood, Sep 4, 2013
  2. Tevase2 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2011
    star 1
    I must say this was beautifully written =D=
  3. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Thank you. This was written last year for a short story contest (which it won, in fact).




    Part 2

    Alone in the corridor of the Republic flagship, Lieutenant Commander Carth Onasi mulled over his latest assignment as he walked: meet up with Captain Laera Reyolé, fly her to Dantooine, then return to the Fleet. It seemed simple enough, if maybe a little too routine a job for a man of his skills, but Carth was military through-and-through, and would carry out his orders to the best of his ability.

    It had been a year since the defeat of the Mandalorians at Malachor V, and the forces of the Republic were maintaining their vigilance beyond the frontier lest a hidden cadre attempt to renew the conflict. Carth had spent much of that time ferrying people—high-ranking officers, Jedi Knights and Masters, among others—from one flotilla to another, to ensure the cohesiveness of the forces under Revan and Malak's command. Though he was a dedicated soldier and star pilot who had long sworn to serve the Republic, he had begun to detect a subtle change in the character of the officers and enlisted personnel he interacted with. The infantry and Marines were slowly becoming less and less restrained, almost frantic in their training. The starfighter pilots were getting downright bloodthirsty, and the transport crews seemed obsessive in their gunnery and quick-drop drills. Even the officers were starting to change, becoming less concerned with the survival of the galactic government and more so with their own. The Jedi, though...the thought of what was coming over them made him shiver.

    As the commander arrived at the quarters of Captain Reyolé, he thought briefly about the meeting with Admiral Saul Karath that he had attended earlier that day. His mentor had seemed agitated about something, as though worried that some far-off plan was going off-kilter. When the pilot had reported to the senior officer, Karath had talked up their history of service together, even touching briefly upon their unlikely encounters with the rogue Jedi Padawan Zayne Carrick early in the war. Carth had been taken aback when the admiral had entreated him to wonder about the state of the Republic, and whether or not it remained fit to deserve his service. Overwhelmed, he had begged his pardon to the admiral, who had let him go with an almost sad look on his face.

    Bringing himself back to the present, Carth signaled at the hatchway, wondering briefly if a small respite on remote Dantooine would help to calm his mind.

    — — —

    After three days of relentless exercise, Laera had regained her powers of speech even as she worked herself silly in the massive warship's exercise facilities. Her shouted affirmation of life had done nothing to counter the fact that she had felt as limp as a wet noodle afterward, but she supposed that was to be expected after having been reconstructed from a hunk of meat. The time that had passed seemed almost inconsequential; sixteen Standard months were almost nothing when she considered the work that must have been involved. She had been pleased to learn of the final victory over the Mandalorians, though the elation had been short-lived when she learned that her entire unit had been lost. Decimated during the debacle at Jaga's Cluster, when the Mandalorians under Cassus Fett had routed a Republic task force, the remainder had been part of the decoy force at Malachor V itself, and had died as a result of the activation of the Mass Shadow Generator. The superweapon had been largely responsible for the ultimate success of that unholy contest, though the price had been extremely high.

    Confident now that she had won back her strength of body, Laera relaxed in her quarters and perused the summation of events since her death, which had been provided by the doctor at her discharge from the medical bay. She knew that it wouldn't be long before her next assignment came down the chain of command, but what that assignment could be, she had no idea. There were, technically, an infinite variety of jobs for dead Marines, ranging from carrion to fertilizer; the thought made her chuckle to herself. As she returned her thoughts to the datapad she held, the hatch to her quarters chimed. “Enter,” she said.

    The hatch slid open with a hiss and clank, and footsteps announced the presence of a confident but troubled officer. “Lieutenant Commander Carth Onasi, reporting as ordered, ma'am.”

    Laera set the datapad down and stood, returning the man's salute. She recalled having once heard of this Onasi. When the attacking Mandalorian fleet had bombarded Serreco with nuclear missiles, he had played a key part in preventing the disaster from becoming a complete catastrophe for the native Stareb. She knew that he was a couple of years younger than her, that he was married and had a son, but he surprised her with his intensity. She nodded, wondering what to make of this. “At ease, Commander,” she said. “What's this about?"

    Onasi stood at ease, then presented a datapad, which Laera accepted. “I've been ordered to take you to Dantooine,” he said. “It's a farm world, in the Outer Rim. I've been told that the Jedi Order maintains a small enclave there.”

    Laera scrolled through the datapad—a cheap military model useful for handing off official items that could be wiped and reused—and read the orders. She was to be given a Standard month's furlough, where she would be billeted on the outskirts of Garang, the planet's small capital city. Beyond that, however, the document was devoid of details, stating only that this Lieutenant Commander Onasi was to accompany her on the trip. “You've also been ordered to act as my escort, yes?” Laera asked.

    “Yes, ma'am,” Onasi replied.

    “Did anyone brief you on this, or is this just a case of datapad handoff?”

    “The latter, I'm afraid, ma'am,” Onasi replied, his tone mixed.

    Laera frowned at the man. “Speak your mind, Mr. Onasi,” she said matter-of-factly.

    Onasi paused for a moment, looked at the captain askance, then nodded. “Have you noticed the changes going on, ma'am?”

    “'Fraid not, Commander,” Laera replied sardonically. “I don't know if they told you, but technically, you're ferrying a dead woman.” The statement had the effect Laera had desired; blank shock registered on the commander's face, and a yawning silence descended upon the room.

    "'Dead woman', ma'am?" he finally asked in a small voice.

    Laera sat back in her chair, and invited Onasi to sit down as well. “Yep, or so they tell me. I apparently kicked the bucket during the liberation of Onderon. Total flatliner, not one neuron firing."

    There was another very pregnant pause, with Onasi looking as though Mandalore himself had entered the room and started handing out sweets. "How soon do we leave?” Laera asked, unable to take the silence for much longer.

    “At your pleasure, Captain,” Onasi replied, still standing, his voice and expression numb. “The transport should be ready by the time we get to the hangar.”

    “Good, my gear's already squared away,” Laera replied smartly, getting to her feet once again and striding to her closet. She secured the heavy duffel and, followed by Onasi, strode toward the hatchway and down the corridor. The two arrived at the warship's shuttle hangar to find the small courier transport that had been prepared for them. As Onasi busied himself with powering up the ship's systems and running through the preflight checklist, Laera strode about the central cabin. Despite having gotten used to existing again, exerting herself, and engaging in conversation, it seemed incredible that she should be alive. She had been given a brief summary of the procedures that had brought about her rebirth: organs cloned from recoverable cells; a few cybernetic implants here and there to keep things regulated; copious amounts of kolto; even a neural reconstruction that had used her most recent medical scan as a baseline. It had been a bit intimidating at first, hearing what had been done, but as she had taught herself to accept life again, these thoughts had gone away.

    An hour later, they had made the jump to hyperspace, leaving the two officers with little to do but wait. The journey from the fleet patrol line to Dantooine was expected to take sixty-three Standard hours at the packet's swift .7 hyperdrive rating and the spice-happy course that the supremely-confident Onasi had plotted. The ship, normally built for up to four passengers, would be comfortably empty for the trip out, leaving the two officers with plenty of room to keep to themselves if they desired. Laera, however, had other plans.

    “Nothing to do now but sit around on our butts, eh, Mr. Onasi?” she asked, leaning against the pilot's couch with one elbow across its back.

    “I'm used to it, ma'am,” he replied, letting his dour mood go long enough to return her smile. “Trips like these make me glad I'm not flying Aureks anymore.”

    Laera posted her head on her fist. “Marines like me don't know much about those fancy jobs you flyboys tool around in, but don't those Aureks lack hyperdrives?”

    “Actually...they do have them...they're just kind of slow...” Onasi looked positively alarmed at the jibe, as though he was unused to such candor from a superior officer. Laera certainly didn't feel like a captain of the Republic Navy at the moment, to say nothing of being the higher-ranking officer, which was probably why she was being so playful with her pilot. Smiling broadly, she decided on the appropriate remedy.

    “Mr. Onasi—Carth—we're going to be on this bucket for a while, and on a two-credit fringe world for even longer than that. We've got to stick together, so as of now, I'm officially ordering you to treat me as though I were your equal in every way. No ranks, no calling me ma'am, and no saluting, until we get back to the Fleet. Is that understood?”

    Carth paused for a moment, looking agape at his passenger, desperately searching for the right words. After a pregnant pause, he found them. “As ordered...Laera...”

    “That's the spirit!” Laera cheered, standing up and playfully clapping the man on his right shoulder. “Care for a game of dejarik to pass the time?”

    “Yeah...sure...”

    Several hours later, the two vacationing officers were in the midst of their fifth game, and each was well into their cups. Carth kept doing odd things with his Mantellian savrip that had Laera spitting in mock fury, but she was giving as good as she got. When not arguing about dejarik, the two were waxing philosophical about the war, managing to avoid the bad parts as only drunken soldiers can. The current game was ostensibly a tie-breaker to see who was the better player; so far, things were split right down the middle. Carth and Laera had made their respective moves, and each was looking over the board and their opponent's faces, trying to read intent and divine strategy and tactics. It was during this rather lengthy pause that Laera finally broke the silence.

    “So tell me, Carth...what was this change you mentioned, before we left the Fleet?” she asked, her voice slurred slightly by the alcohol she had consumed.

    Carth leaned back in his seat, taking in the main cabin and the officer that sat opposite him. “I'd have to know what happened to you, and how long you were...well, dead...before I could answer that.”
    Laera shook her head languidly, then leaned back and crossed her legs, closing her eyes as she sighed deeply. “You remember the liberation of Onderon?”

    “Oh, sure, everyone in the Fleet knows,” Carth replied. “Revan had made contact with the Onderonian resistance, a team was secretly brought onworld to scout the Mandalorian defenses, and they managed to blow a key power station at a time when the main attack was stalled. The Mandalorians were forced to retreat, and the Republic won the day. I was flying medevac for most of it; we saw some pretty bad casualties.”

    Laera smiled sweetly. “Who do you think led that team, Carth?”

    “I don't know, we were never told—wait...that was you?”

    “Yep, sure was," Laera confirmed with a grin that quickly faded. "And that's where I died.”

    “If you don't mind me asking,” Carth replied, leaning forward again to peer into the captain's eyes, “how long ago did they—well, I guess there's really no other way to say it—when did they 'bring you back?'”

    “They woke me up only about a week ago, near as I can reckon,” Laera replied. “Oh sure, they gave me a litany of what had gone on while I was dead: you know, the slogging match that was Dxun, the debacle at Jaga's Cluster, and the final battle at Malachor.” Laera paused, examining her fingernails while she drummed up her thoughts. “So there I was, a dead Marine with nobody to fight, so I guess they decided to send me on vacation.”

    “You don't regret dying?” Carth asked in hushed, almost reverent tones.

    “Marines don't have time for regret, Carth,” Laera sighed. “At least, we don't when there's battles to be fought. A rocket-jumper can regret not securing her backup thrusters when her mains misfire, but only for the time it takes for her to get acquainted with the ground. A Mandalorian can regret taking on a Jedi, but only until the Jedi can decap him and kick his bucket. No, if there's anything I regret, now I've had time to think about it, it's not being there for my unit when they got ravaged and slaughtered in the war's last battles. So, there you have it. For nearly a year and a half I've been little more than a sack of bantha steaks. That about sum things up for you, Carth?”

    Ashen-faced, Carth could only nod his understanding, such as it was. He expected that his inability to get around the fact that he was speaking to someone who had literally been resurrected was not out of the ordinary. Cloning was common enough that such things were never really bothered with, despite the lack of a system to “teach” a clone prior to “birthing” it. He suspected that the process had involved a lot of cybernetics, prostheses and other such feats of technology, but since Laera hadn't said anything, he decided that she either didn't know, didn't care, or didn't want to discuss it. Probably all three.

    “Well, let's call this one a draw,” Laera said, shattering the doleful silence that had fallen over the cabin. “I'm hitting the sack, and so should you. We'll talk more in the 'morning,' okay?”

    Carth nodded, then stood and headed for the aft berth as Laera headed for the forward bunk. As small as this packet was, there were no real quarters; instead, four fold-down bunks in small niches set off the main cabin served as sleeping areas. It wasn't the most luxurious way to travel, but for a Marine used to tight quarters aboard an assault shuttle, it served her needs well enough. Laera hadn't always been an officer, and knew well what the enlisted soldiers had to suffer. Sleep came for her almost before she had settled into the plush frame of the bunk.

    — — —

    “It's like they're forgetting what they had fought for, almost,” Carth said, his brow creased in worry, his hands in his lap as he stared off into hyperspace. The flight to Dantooine was entering its thirtieth hour, and the two officers were once again ensconced in seats on opposite sides of the hologame table. Laera was nursing a cup of stimcaf, while Carth sucked on a pouch of zueber syrup. “We've been flitting about the frontier for a year now, supposedly looking for the last remnants of the Mandalorian fleet, but there's no fleet out there. They surrendered after Malachor, and Revan personally oversaw their disarmament. We should have gone back to Republic space, let the crews and soldiers rotate out, and gone back to routine patrols within the border with fresh people.”

    “I would imagine the Jedi had to report to their Masters about the success of the war, right?” Laera asked.

    “That's what really bugs me, though,” Carth replied. “None of the surviving Jedi went back to Coruscant, at least, none that I remember. There was a report not long ago of one who did, though. She was the general in command of the bait force at Malachor; I thought she'd been killed in the battle, but someone told me that she'd survived. Something about having 'gone deaf' and wanting to find out why.”

    “General Sunrider?” Laera inquired.

    “Yes, that's the one,” Carth commented after a beat. “I think she was one of the first Jedi to join the fight against the Mandalorians. Admiral Karath once mentioned that a handful had gone to Serreco to investigate the situation.”

    “My unit, Besh Company, Third Battalion, was under her overall command,” Laera admitted. “She had given approval to the Onderon mission after Revan had gotten confirmation from the resistance. I kind of liked her; she didn't seem like the typical Jedi. Most of them were a bit standoffish; you know how they can be, always preaching about something or other. But General Sunrider...she seemed to 'get' it. She led by example, and never asked any of us to do what she wouldn't do herself. If only one Jedi went back, I'm sure it was her.”

    “I imagine the rest of the Order isn't too pleased with her.”

    “Well, I can't see why,” Laera countered. “We needed the Jedi. If it weren't for the Revanchists, we'd have lost the war long ago.”

    “You're not wrong there,” Carth replied. “But still...there's something wrong with the ones that have stayed with the Fleet. Do you remember those homespun robes they used to wear?”

    “You mean the ones that look like they'd been sewn from bantha hair?” Laera laughed. “Those things must chafe like gritpaper. What are they wearing these days that has you so worried?”

    “It's not just their clothes, as if that's not unsettling enough; most of them have taken to dressing as though they're going on night recon, but some of them have even started wearing armor. It's their faces, their bearing, that really stands out, though. You can almost look into their eyes and see that something behind them has changed, shifted, gone dark. I don't pretend to know anything about the Force, or what they call the 'light' and 'dark' sides, but this just creeps the hell out of me.”

    “I see,” Laera replied after a pause. She drained the last of her stimcaf to give her time to compose her thoughts. Eventually, she decided to share her own knowledge. “You remember the Sith War, right? Exar Kun's little Force-user insurgency?”

    “Only from the history books,” Carth admitted. “Kun was a Jedi who fell to the dark side and drummed up a following; this following then tried to destroy the Order from within. At the same time, his Krath forces were attacking the Republic left, right and center, and even managed to raid Coruscant itself. They were eventually chased back to their base of operations and destroyed.”

    “That's about the size of it,” Laera acknowledged. “My homeworld was one of the victims of Kun's campaign. My family survived, but only barely; we lost everything in the attack. As if that weren't enough, the Jedi-led relief force refused to lift a finger to help us get back on our feet, saying something about not having the resources to rebuild the neighborhood. My family needed the income that Republic military service would bring, and so I signed up; getting my officer's commission ten years ago was the happiest day of my life. The day the Jedi came to my town, that was the day their talk of 'doing the best for everybody' got shot out a proton torpedo tube, as far as I was concerned. I stopped trusting Force-users of all stripes, especially Jedi, right up until they joined the war.”

    Laera rose to refill her cup. “And now we're heading for a planet filled to the brim with Jedi,” she added bitterly. “Worse, the same Jedi who wouldn't come out of their libraries and archives to help us fight off the Mandos.”/>
    Last edited by Goodwood, Sep 4, 2013
  4. Tevase2 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2011
    star 1
    Very interesting [face_thinking]

    Brilliant chapter :D
  5. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Part 3 of 3:




    Throughout the rest of the trip, the two Republic officers spent their idle hours discussing the differences between serving in the Fleet and being a ground-pounder. Laera had always been rather hopeless at flying; the best she had ever managed to do was to keep up some pretext of being willing to obey landspeeder traffic laws. Carth, it turned out, was a crack shot with blaster pistols, and the two vowed to pit their skills against one another at the first opportunity. The Marine officer admitted to herself that, perhaps, she might have been able to become good friends with this starry-eyed flyboy. That assumed, of course, that he could wrap his mind around her having been dead. However, life in the military tended toward the unpredictable; it was possible that, after this leave, she would never see or hear of him again. Pilots and Marines tended not to intermingle much.

    To his credit, Carth adapted to Laera's situation easily enough. He figured that as far as he was concerned, she had simply been roused from a sixteen-month coma brought on by battle wounds, saying as much as the two engaged in yet another round of dejarik and drinking. “There's one thing I'm curious about, though. I've heard that people who've recovered from comas sometimes remember having experienced...well, dreams, I guess. Do you know if you had anything like that?”

    “Are you asking me if I saw the afterlife?” Laera teased. Carth grinned at that, shaking his head. “In answer to your question,” she continued, her voice settling down as she set aside her glass, “yes, I saw something. Whether it was a dream like you say, or some glimpse of a great beyond, I have no idea. Seeing as how these...visions...resembled my old life, it could be both. Or it could have been the Force at work, for all I know. In any case, I'm here now, so it all seems kind of irrelevant. Like scuttlebutting the mission before it's been planned, you know?”

    “Yeah, I know. Doesn't stop a pilot from thinking about it, though.”

    “Or a Marine.”

    “That, too.” Carth took a long pull off his bottle of Corellian ale, draining it and dropping the container to the table with a dull thud. Silence reigned in the cabin for several long minutes, during which the abandoned dejarik board winked offline. Laera drained her own glass of Iridonian stout, setting it aside a bit more gently than the pilot had. She cricked her neck, cracked her knuckles, and luxuriated in her seat, her eyes glazing as she fell into a minor stupor. Eventually, her vision clouded over completely.

    A panorama of stars, occluded here and there by the presence of a capital warship, spread itself before her. Though the nearest sun bathed the fleet in light, an unnatural shadow seemed to creep across the universal vista, blocking out stars like a black tide. As it came into contact with each vessel, it went dark, save for the lights shining in viewports across its hull. Once every ship was consumed, a wave of pseudomotion, almost unobservable, washed out, and the viewports were no longer there. All was inky darkness.

    “...Laera...Laera, are you all right? Captain?”

    The gentle hand of Carth Onasi pulled Laera from her stupor. She looked around the cabin, vaguely wondering how long she'd been out. The navigational computer's rhythmic tweeting told her that they must have arrived at Dantooine, and that the pilot was checking on her before making planetfall. Dimly, she remembered the alcohol-induced dream, the creeping shadow that had consumed the fleet she had left behind some sixty hours prior. Sitting up, she shook her head violently to throw the cobwebs from her mind. “I thought,” she said, her voice slurred slightly, “that I ordered you not to call me by rank, flyboy?”

    “My apologies, Cap—Laera. You kind of drifted off, and when the navicomp started going off and you didn't stir, I thought something might be up. You look a little pale, by the way.”

    “It's nothing,” Laera said, dismissing the idea with a wave of her hand as she regained her feet. Wobbling a little, she caught her breath, letting it out in a sigh as she fought for equilibrium. “Too much of that Iridonian stuff, probably. What's our status?”

    “We're orbiting Dantooine now. Garang Spaceport control just confirmed our approach vector, we can land whenever you're ready.”

    “Take us in, then, Carth,” Laera replied, sitting back down. “And when we hit groundside, fire up the hypercomm. I want to talk to Fleet, make sure they know we got here.”

    “As ordered,” Carth replied, and returned to the cockpit.

    — — —

    The packet transport touched down in one of the landing pits closest to the center of the spaceport, where military vessels were usually granted preferred access. Laera was impressed with the pilot's ability to make the transition from floating on repulsorlifts to standing on the ship's landing skids without so much as a twinge. Now back to her own right mind, she stood up and punched in the button sequence to lower the small courier's boarding ramp, which prompted a deluge of hissing as the ship went through the outgassing process. Extracting her duffel from the small cargo hold, she slung it over her back just as Carth appeared beside her. She grabbed his as well, tossing it to him as she headed for the ramp.

    Laera was immediately struck by how beautiful the air of Dantooine smelled, even through the usual odors of a busy spaceport assaulting her nasal passages. Living a soldier's life in space, constantly on the move from world to world, she had long since learned how to filter them out. The two officers made their way through customs, thanking the sleepy-looking young Bothan female at the counter for her assistance before leaving the terminal and entering the city proper. Garang itself was not very old; most of the buildings still retained most of the sheen of slightly-used duracrete that marked recent construction. Traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, was light, with most folks preferring to walk. Humans predominated, but a few other species were in evidence, including Bothans, Gran, and the occasional Twi'lek, bundled up against the “cold” of Dantooine's otherwise mild temperatures.

    This tableau reminded the Marine of her own hometown, a newly-settled population center situated some two hundred fifty kilometers from the planet's capital and original settlement. With ill-disguised longing, Laera led Carth on a brisk march through the city center as she took in the beauty of the place. For the first time in many years, she felt as though she'd come home, truly home, as opposed to returning to a familiar posting after a grueling stint out in the field. Carth seemed to pick up on this, remarking that Dantooine's small city and grassy landscape reminded him of his own homeworld of Telos IV. After lunching at a local Bothan-owned café, the two spent the afternoon taking a rented landspeeder out into the grasslands and farm country beyond the city limits.

    As the sun began to set, Laera remembered that she'd wanted to contact Fleet and appraise them of their status. With Carth's expertise, the two made it back as the first of the planet's two moons began to rise. Checking her chronometer, which she always kept at ship's time as well as setting it to local, Laera knew that she would reach the alpha watch. “This is odd,” Carth said as he brought the hypercomm unit online and attempted to interface with the HoloNet.

    “What is it?” Laera asked, joining the pilot as he leaned over the communications console.

    “The comm is working, we're getting a return from the local HoloNet relay terminal, but I can't raise the Leviathan.”

    “Try the Corusca,” Laera suggested, shaking her head. Like most senior Marine officers, she was well-versed in fleet operations and basic warship protocols, and knew when things weren't as they should be. “The Leviathan's comm officer isn't as vigilant as he should be.”

    “Checking...” Carth tapped another series of buttons, his face turning in a scowl. “No response. Not even static, it's like they've gone off the grid. I can't even raise the Readyrun, and they've got the most powerful comm in the fleet.”

    Before Laera could think of what to say, a tapping noise came from the hull near the boarding ramp. “Keep trying, maybe the comm buoys are down in that sector,” she suggested. “See if you can raise Fleet Command on Coruscant, if that doesn't work.”

    “As ordered,” Carth replied.

    Laera turned away to investigate the source of the tapping, strapping on a gunbelt as she arrived at the entryway. Resting a sure hand on the blaster at her thigh, she hit the controls, and the ramp lowered swift and silent. The landing pit itself was empty as far as she could see; night had fallen, but the myriad of glowpanels around the pit bathed the area in sterile white light. “Is someone there?” Laera called as she descended the ramp.

    “You need not fear,” said a voice to her left. Laera whipped around to regard the source, and found herself looking at an older man, his hair balding at the crown, his Jedi robes flowing in the mild breeze so that the tip of his lightsaber's hilt was visible.

    “I'm not afraid,” Laera said, relaxing a little. “It's just that I'm not used to visitors who don't want to blast me knocking on a hull. Most folks just use the comlink.”

    The stranger smiled cryptically. “Sometimes, the extraordinary must supplant the ordinary.”

    “If you say so,” Laera replied with a shrug. “Captain Laera Reyolé, Republic Marines, at your service. Up in the ship is Lieutenant Commander Carth Onasi, Republic Navy. Is there something we can do for you, Master Jedi?”

    The Jedi, Laera was pleased to see, had lost his smile. “Jedi Master Vrook Lamar, and I have urgent need to see your hypercomm unit. The Order has reason to believe that something terrible has happened, and we must confirm the full extent of this calamity as soon as possible. If what we suspect is true, the entire galaxy may be in grave danger.”

    — — —

    Far, far away, well beyond the fringes of the Outer Rim, a fleet of warships appeared to materialize out of vacuous space. The storm-racked surface of Malachor V served as backdrop to the scene as, on the bridge of the flagship, two ex-Jedi paced back and forth. "She has arrived," came Revan's even voice from behind his mask.

    "As you intended, Master," Malak acknowledged with a nod. "The project is complete, then?"

    "It is," Revan replied. "The Dantooine Masters will soon learn, and then they will train her. She will become one of them, and then we will have our spy."

    "What of the pilot, Lieutenant Commander Onasi?" Malak inquired.

    "Admiral Karath assures me that he will not be a problem, but I have other ideas. He is a strong individual, after all." Revan crossed his arms. "He will prove to be vital to my plans."

    Fin
    hand as she regained her feet. Wobbling a little, she caught her breath, letting/>
    Last edited by Goodwood, Sep 4, 2013
  6. Tevase2 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2011
    star 1
  7. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    I thoroughly enjoyed this story when it was first posted. The technology described intrigued me. You should post some more of your stories or join in on some of the other writing challenges. You certainly have the chops for it.
  8. Findswoman Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 2014
    star 4
    Wow—I see why this won an award! Beautifully written: very heady, heavy issues of life, death, and eternity being tackled here.

    Love the way you write Laera's progression from death back to life again, and love that it's gradual and sometimes halting and that it proceeds in slowly unfurling stages rather than all in one blinding flash. Also that there are implications and complications: she doesn't just go back automatically to being just the way she was, but rather has to relearn several basic skills and aspects of her own personality.

    And of course, not surprising to see the Dark Side behind the whole thing. Love how the Sithy "everything is going as planned" ending—in true SW fashion—hints at possibilities to come and whets the appetite for future stories. You do seem to like endings like that, I see! ;)

    One small thing: you may want to double-check the formatting. I think there's some funny truncation issues at the end, though, because not all of the "Fin" section seems to be present.

    Again, wonderful work, and congrats! =D=
  9. Goodwood Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2011
    star 4
    Thank you once again for your critique, @Findswoman!

    The story itself is based on the beginning of Mass Effect 2, where Shepard is killed by a race called the Collectors and is brought back to life by Cerberus, a fringe/terrorist organization. Of course in the game Shep comes back quickly and ready for battle, and that never really seemed that realistic to me, so I kind of wanted to further explore the ramifications of such a resurrection. Glad to see you think I succeeded in this task. ;)
    Findswoman likes this.
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