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Beyond - Legends Following the Thread

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Anedon, Nov 4, 2021.

  1. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Title: Following the Thread
    Author: Anedon
    Timeframe: About 43 ABY
    Characters: Ulrika Grau, Ilona Malek and other OCs
    Genre: Friendship, Adventure
    Summary: In search for her captured Squadmates Ulrika follows a trail of hints gathered by her friends. Meeting new foes and allies along the way.

    This story is the next part in my growing Ilona/Ulrika verse.
    Which includes the Main stories:
    -Shadow over Curean
    -Path of Lies
    -The Value of Freedom
    -Into the Fire

    As well the additions:
    -Anarchists and Aristocrats
    -Summer Camp Shenanigans
    -Old Friends
    -Can Love be a Sin
    -To Dathomir, with a Friend

    Which also feature some of these characters.

    Thanks to @Adalia-Durron and my friend Kenny for their help and support. :)


    One

    Its, amazing... Xenia thought sardonically as she sluggishly moved her fork through the meal in front of her. The food itself was totally fine, could be considered good even compared to what she was expecting she would usually be served in the military. And yet, she couldn't help but have no appetite. Feel none of the relaxation the rest of the squad seemed to display. The rest of her squad she should think, but it didn't felt to her like she was a part of them.

    It wasn't what she had expected, in fact in many ways it was the opposite of what she had expected. There were no slurs, no comments about her green skin, and while a few members of the squad occasionally threw a vary glance at her, that was already the most antagonistic thing they had done. Instead, everyone had been almost surreally nice to her, a far cry from what she had experienced in the hospital on occasion. Even her Squad leader, Colonel Ulrika Grau had apparently felt need to emphasize that she 'didn't see an issue with Xenia not being a human'. That had been the third time someone had said that to her today and so she had lost her temper for a moment and said, 'if it's not an issue, then why did you bring it up in the first place?'

    She shouldn't have done that, Xenia knew. Talking back to a superior officer wasn't something a soldier did, and she felt ashamed for it. The colonels face had turned red at the question and she had muttered a few pleasantries and apologies. But in truth Xenia already knew the reason everyone was acting like this.

    For a moment she looked around the tavern, this world, Curean was a rather small colony that had only fallen into the Eriaduan sphere of influence about nineteen months ago. But even with many of the customers tonight being ORSF soldiers, she was still the only non human here. And that certainly drew in glances and stares. Of course ignoring them was a thing that Xenia had learned from her childhood onwards and yet...

    She was one of the first nonhumans to have joined the ranks of the ORSF, this famed military unit of her homeworld. For most of its existence it had only been accepting human recruits and only a few weeks ago, as the Eriaduans had begun their preparation for a war with the Iron Alliance, things had changed. Even with the new laws non humans where still relegated to non combat roles, but it was a start if nothing else.

    And that's why everyone is treating me like an egg that can't be allowed to break, rather than a person. It was clear that Colonel Grau was amongst those on their homeworld who wanted this change, in fact she had spoken up in favor of it before Xenia had read on the holonet. She suspected Ulrika had given her squad clear orders to be nice to her, to make her feel welcome so she could become a shining example for others to follow. In a way Xenia appreciated the effort, but she would have preferred being seen as a person, not the key to political change on their homeworld.

    She took another fork full of the meatloaf in front of her. It had begun to get a bit cool but she didn't mind. Tonight she might have eaten pressed rations as much as she was able to enjoy the food. She glanced at the other officers at her table. Kinga was gesturing with her new mechanical arm, while Lieutenant Elena Kyr laughed at the story her friend was telling. Both had been nothing but nice to Xenia all day, but she couldn´t help but noticed that both where worried of saying the wrong thing.

    Elena made fun of Kinga's new arm half the evening, and Kinga herself was the one who laughed the loudest about it. Yet they seem to think that I'm unable to swallow anything, that the slightest offence has me suffer a breakdown.

    She felt like an outsider to them, the people of her squad, the people she would head into battle with soon. Its only your first eve with them, she tried to calm herself, give it time, this is a new situation for them as well. She had dreamed of this her entire life, a silly dream perhaps but still. She had desired to follow her step father's footsteps, and in her daydreams more than once imagined becoming the first non human in the ORSF. But now that she was here, it wasn't what she had expected.

    She finished her meal, while half listening to Kinga and Elena's conversation and with the other half glancing across the room to the table where the Colonel sat with a few others. She recognized Ilona Malek, a former ORSF colonel and now an ambassador of Eriadu. The two women next to her Xenia didn't know, both wore civilian clothing and at least the one with the auburn hair seemed to be a local as she lacked the paleness of many Eriaduan humans. The way she and the other woman interacted, though gave away that both where clearly very close and Xenia was sure to have noticed similar wedding bands on their fingers. The last guest at the table was the one who spoke the least, but also the one Xenia knew the most about. Tobin Redan, no, now Malek, the living legend then man whose face even now appeared on at least half of the recruitment posters on their homeworld. Xenia wondered if he knew who she was, if he remembered her. But she didn't want to impolitely step at their table to talk to him.

    Instead, once she had finished her meal she stood up, excused herself to her fellow officers and headed outside. The night was clear and cold, the air fresh and without the toxins she was used to from her homeworld. Finding a bench she sat down on it, leaning back she closed her eyes and relaxed herself, following the same ritual she had used countless times in the hospital. Clearing her mind and dropping the negative thoughts as good as she could. Instead the young Falleen thought of the sea, the oceans of Eriadu where blighted, just as the rest of the planet, but even the massive damage the environment of her homeworld had taken hadn't been able to fully destroy the beauty of the waves.

    The sound of someone lighting a match next to her tore her from her meditation after a while. As she looked up she saw him next to her. Tobin Malek, igniting a pipe next to her. It reminded Xenia of her step father, but that didn't surprise her, considering...

    "You may not remember it," Tobin said after taking the first breath from his pipe. "But we've actually met before."

    "I do," she said, giving him a smile. "I was a small child when you've visited us."

    "A small child playing with her star fighter toys," Tobin added. "While her dad was visited by an old war comrade of his."

    "Step dad, but yeah," Xenia replied. Her real father had died in a work accident not too long after her birth. And eventually her mother had remarried, a human, an ORSF veteran even. "I remembered your eye," she added with a twinkle, glancing at the prosthetic.

    "Private Crean," Tobin continued. "One of the best soldiers I ever served with."

    Xenia's gave him a thankful nod, her stepfather rarely spoke about his military service, had locked his various medals in a wooden box inside their living rooms cupboard and never looked at them.

    "I feel he is the primary reason I'm even here now," she said a bit bitterly, before biting her lip, she shouldn't make accusations of nepotism, least against herself.

    "For sure," Tobin said and Xenia stared at him. She had expected he would deny everything, try to flatter her by talking about her skills. That he, like the others would lie as to not hurt her feelings. Then Tobin continued, "I won't deny that being his stepdaughter certainly helped your application. This is a big step for the ORSF, so they want people they can trust, and being the step child of a veteran certainly makes you stand out. Though I'm sure your skills weren't completely unimportant either."

    Xenia chewed at this for a moment, she appreciated his honesty and thus decided to reply in kind, "I see that. Still wish it wasn't the case. All of this, I wish I could just be a soldier like the others, like dad was. But no, everyone treats me like I'm this super special person that they cant dare offend. Well everyone except you that is."

    Tobin gave her a little chuckle, "I know what you mean, for I once experienced a similar thing."

    She looked up to him, "you? How's that?"

    The human glanced in the distance for a moment, then he said, "when I joined the ORSF I was the center of everyone's attention. I'm a Redan and as you know my family has a long history in the military, but it was more than that. Since the fall of the Tarkins my family might be the most powerful on Eriadu, I was the son, and later brother of the most powerful person on your homeworld. And just as with you, nepotism alone gave me my first command. Every soldier was afraid of getting into trouble with me, because offending me, meant offending my family..." he sadly shook his head for a moment.

    "Did it get better in time?" Xenia asked.

    "No, in a way it even got worse. Whole thing went to my head and made me overconfident. So when I eventually came across a suspicious distress signal I ignored all doubts and no one in the crew dared to oppose my decision to move to their aid."

    "Denon," Xenia muttered, she had heard this story before. The distress signal had been a trap, the unit had been slaughtered. Her father had dragged a heavily wounded Tobin out of the fire. "Dad saved you life there."

    "He did," Tobin said, his voice almost a whisper. "But what the official stories don't tell is how everything was my fault. I was unsuited for command."

    "Was that why you've decided to remain on Coruscant?" Xenia asked. Moved that he told her about this but unsure how it could help her with her situation.

    Tobin took another breath from his pipe before he nodded, "after Denon, I was an outcast, no longer the golden boy, but a failure. Suffered quite a few insults behind my back, but in a way people finally treated me as a person."

    "So I need to screw something up to get people treating me normally?" Xenia raised an eyebrow.

    Tobin said nothing for a moment, "no. But you need to make a connection with your squad one way or another if you want to prevent a disaster. Talk to them, maybe do something they don´t expect. Maybe even get into a fight with someone, as long as it doesn´t escalate. Show them you are just as flawed as they are. Don´t just wait for time to do that, it might make things worse."

    "And where to start?" she asked.

    Tobin shrugged, "depends, look where an opportunity presents itself." He made a pause, "Ulrika is a good woman. She just has a tendency to screw things up now and then. I think that's the reason she is so careful with you currently."

    "She seems rather unnatural currently," Xenia agreed.

    "Well you still have both your eyes, that tells me she is truly acting against her nature," Tobin said with a grin.

    Xenia's gaze was driven back to his implant, "she did that? I always assumed that happened on Denon."

    Tobin shook his head, "many do, but no. Our dear Colonel did it. Maybe ask her about it when you get the time. Could break the ice."

    The Falleen gave him a smile, then she said. "Can you tell me a bit more about your time with my dad? He rarely talked about his military service to me. I know he was with you on Coruscant."

    Tobin nodded, "he was. When I made my decision to stay on the world, and give my space in the ship to a refugee I didn't expect my squad to stay with me. But by then I had won their respect, and so they remained as well. I think it was above all the bond between us that allowed us to survive these two years in the darkness..."
     
  2. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Always Watching..... star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    The plot thickens!!
     
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  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Great interaction between Xenia and Tobin. Great start
     
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  4. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Was actually considering of just putting this story as part of "Into the Fire" but I feel its kinda its own as it brings in new charaters to continue the story.

    Thanks, really felt Tobin needed a bit of screentime as well for once. :)



    Two

    In her dream, she did the right thing. "I'm sorry for how I acted yesterday..." the twelve year old Ulrika said, letting her head hung as she stood before Kat and Ilona. Both had their arms crossed in front of their chests and looked at her harshly. Ilona raised an eyebrow, "oh suddenly you are repentant." She gave Kat a glance, who said nothing. "Please," Ulrika continued. "I made a mistake, I... will take responsibility for what happened, apologize to Tobin for what happened." She saw how Kat and Ilona's gaze began to soften a bit...

    Wait, she hadn't known Tobin's name back then, and of course hadn't done anything of this sort. She had thought about it, yes, but in the end the bitterness over her friends 'betrayal' and the fear of reprisals for the accident, had kept her from even trying to set things right.

    Blinking Ulrika Grau returned into the wakening world, she wasn't surprised that she had dreamed of that night. Earlier this evening she had apologized to Kat, as well as once more to Tobin and Ilona. And they in turn had admitted their own mistakes. The dream Ulrika guessed might have been the last remnant of the shadow that night had cast over them for so long.

    It had been a long eve, and a long day before that. Getting to know the new squad members, then her screw up with Xenia... Ulrika felt ashamed now thinking about it. She had seen the young Falleen as mostly just that. One of the first non humans in the ORSF, a sign of change on her homeworld, a change she had dreamed of for a long time. And now, in her desire to see things succeed she had forgotten that Xenia was a person like anyone else. But of course, I needed to put her on a pedestal and in the same breath demean her...

    On Curean she had first demanded to instantly talk to Xora so they could continue the search for her missing squad mates. But Ilona had been right, the travel here had been exhausting and they needed a rest. They wouldn´t be a help for the seven captives if they blindly charged into the dark with little planning or rest. And yet the worry about her missing soldiers had turned into a constant source of worry in the back of her mind, never fully leaving her even for but a moment.

    With all that was it a wonder she couldn´t sleep properly tonight. Especially in a place like this. Kat and Liz had offered her a room in the tower of the duchess for the night. Ulrika almost wondered if this was some sort of prank against her, especially after they had told her the full story of its previous owner. It sounded insane, like something out of a horror holo-novel, but Ulrika had no reason to mistrust them on this. She herself had seen enough things in this galaxy that should be considered impossible.

    She wished Elena was here with her, that she would have someone to lean against, whose warmth kept her calm. But her soldiers were staying at the tavern for the night and with the new recruits both she and Elena had determined that it was for the best if at least one of the officers stayed with them. She didn't expect them to cause trouble with the locals or amongst each other but it was better to be save rather than sorry.

    But in a way, the eve spent with two happy couples had made Ulrika feel lonely. She knew this domestic life that they lived wasn't for her. That her restless soul would get insane if she was confined into a single place, and to a single partner. Taking care of children and other pets... to some people that might be the goal to reach, but for Ulrika it was a nightmare to consider it. And yet... there were days where she almost could feel the appeal.

    She was surprised how glad had been glad to see Kat had finally found someone, Ulrika had noticed her crush on Ilona back all those years ago, but she had also noticed that Ilona was unable to return these feelings. Maybe if things had gone differently that summer she herself might have reached out to...

    Ulrika froze, she noticed something. Breathing, very quietly, but noticeable. Someone was here, another being in the complete darkness of the room. Her first instinct was to think of a prank, a joke played by Ilona or even Kat at her expense, but given the situation they were in she doubted any of them would think of something like that right now.

    Very carefully, as to give of the impression that she was still fast asleep Ulrika moved her right hand back to the hand blaster under her pillow while her left moved, just as slowly towards the night desk and the lamp there. She felt how her heart began to race, being attacked in her bed. She had experienced that before and just as back then it was different kind of confrontation than meeting an enemy on the battlefield.

    Her right hand reached the hilt of the blaster and fastened around it, yet before her left hand could reach the lamp the attacker was over her. A large strong hand being pressed on her mouth, meanwhile another muscular arm pressed her into her sheets.

    "No sound, if you try to scream you are dead," the voice was that of a woman, but deeper, far deeper than most women Ulrika knew. The hand on her mouth wasn't human, but Ulrika couldn't say which species it was. It was smooth, and Ulrika felt... webs between the fingers. A water dwelling species? She knew a few but didn't have the time to think about them as the voice continued. "Understood?"

    Ulrika nodded slowly, trying to make out anything in the darkness above. She felt her attacker above, she was larger and more muscular then her. She began to sweat, what was going on here? She knew the building had several balconies someone could have climbed up to but...

    She nodded and her captor removed the hand from her mouth. Ulrika drew in a short breath. She would have to act quickly she knew, the longer her attacker was above the greater the risk.

    "You have captured a Falleen, is she here?"

    Ulrika froze, she knew who her attacker meant, Xora. The pirate leader they had captured a few weeks ago and who had nearly enslaved Ilona, Daron and herself. Was her attacker here to free her? Did she belong to the Iron Alliance? That thought filled Ulrika with rage, a rage fueled by her fears about the fate of her squad mates.

    With the rage inside her Ulrika rolled to her left side, off the bed, taking her attacker with her. They both landed on the ground and she heard a muttered curse. But before the other could react Ulrika had jumped to her feet and found the switch of her lamp. Pointing the hand blaster at her attacker she yelled, "stay down!"

    She heard voices in the rooms nearby, probably awoken by the sound of two muscular women falling out of the bed followed by her scream. Her attacker was on her knees and she looked up to Ulrika with a glance that showed remarkably little in the way of fear, though with the utterly black eyes it was hard to determine any emotions.

    She was a Karkarodon, Ulrika had heard of this species but never met one herself. For their allegiance to the CIS the Empire had several punished their species and many of them had died in slavery to their human overlords.

    "Sleeping with a blaster under your pillow? You know the tricks, I like that," the alien woman said with a grin as she placed both of her hands at the back of her head. She wore a tight dark tank top, and practical pants, though surprisingly no shoes on her webbed feet. Her bare muscular arms showed several tattoos, not the elaborate clan based ones Ulrika had seen on Dathomir, but more the simply made ones one could get in every space port.

    But it was her belt that drew in Ulrika's attention. It included a rope launcher, as well as two blasters, a pair of stun cuffs and a large combat knives. If the tattoos hadn't given it half away this arsenal made it clear to Ulrika what her captives was: a bounty hunter.

    The door was opened and Ilona entered, dressed in a long, silken night robe that Ulrika considered so at odds with her usual no nonsense demeanor that she couldn't help but grin. Even more when Tobin quickly followed his wife in a similar silken outfit.

    "Ulrika!" Ilona said loudly as she realized the scene. "Who is that?"

    "I am not sure," Ulrika said, slowly relaxing herself a bit now that the situation seemed to be under control. "She caused me a rather rude awakening."

    Kat and Liz entered the room, both of them wearing much simpler nightwear, that Ulrika couldn't help but noticed seemed as if they had quickly slipped into it after the her scream interrupted their privacy.

    Liz held an ancient looking sword in her hand, while her wife had a blaster she now also pointed at the head of the Karkarodon. "Who are you? And what are you doing here?"

    Their captive still showed absolutely no fear in her glance as her eyes wandered from one to the other. "Never intended to cause such a scene... Yet my question is simple. Do you lovely people happen to keep a Falleen captive in this little tower of yours."

    Ilona crossed her arms in front of her chest, just as her twelve year old self had done in Ulrika's dream. "And if that was the case?"

    Their captives gave them a grin, exposing lines of hooked teeth. "That woman is a wanted criminal. A criminal with a bounty on her head." She turned her head back to Ulrika, "and I think I'm right when I say that you are keeping her here illegally?"

    "Says the woman who broke into private property and assaulted me in my bed," Ulrika shoot back. She couldn't help but admire how calm their captive was. It was clear this wasn't the first situation she had found herself outnumbered and on her knees.

    If the Bounty hunter had possessed eyebrows Ulrika assumed she would have raised them as she replied. "I have to apologize for that, usually I buy a woman dinner before taking her down like that..."

    She is playing with you, Ulrika instantly knew. This strategy, flirting with the enemy to throw them of guard was one she had used herself countless times, both to trick as well as to annoy people. "Look at that, a bounty hunter with some basic manners, how about you give us your name so we write it into your prison record."

    The grin of the Shark Woman grew an inch, "call me Cari, just that." She gave them a quick shrug. "It seems we are quite at an impasse, aren´t we?" She made a pause, again eyeing each of the humans surrounding her. "I suggest the following, you let me leave and in turn I forget about the fact that you are illegally harboring a wanted criminal here. Unless you want to split the bounty on her, would be open for that as well."

    "How did you even know she is here? Do you work for the Iron Alliance?" Kat asked, stepping a bit closer towards their captive.

    The woman, Cari spat at her feet. "I'm not working for slavers. I may be a bounty hunter I still have some morals. I want to deliver that woman to face justice. Not let her continue her crimes."

    Seeing several other blasters pointed at the Karkarodon Ulrika knelt down in front of her and unbuckled her weapon belt and threw it onto the bed. "Mind me taking those before we continue?"

    "Just had to ask nicely." The bounty hunter replied, showing her teeth.

    Guess to get her truly disarmed we would have to pull all those out as well. Ulrika thought before turning around to her again. "Then who hired you? The Eriaduan government repealed the bounty after we captured her."

    "Powerful people," a shrug. "Well at least powerful enough to care about the Iron Alliance. Enough to pay for this special job. Guess you aren't her only enemies out there. But alas, can´t talk about the client. Job ethics you understand."

    "How did you know she was here?" Liz asked leaning onto the old sword.

    "Was easy, she was last seen captured by you, in fact the only ones missing from that day are the old man and that pale young man..." Cari explained, pride dripping from her voice. "She obviously didn't end up in an Eriaduan prison, which makes me think you have her."

    There was certainly a lot to consider with these information's, for one that if this bounty hunter had found Xora here it could draw in others as well. "Sounds like you have some experience hunting down members of the Iron Alliance?" Ulrika asked.

    Cari inclined her head towards her as if she appreciated a compliment. "Just as you. Have been after that bastard Xavius for a long time. Guess I should congratulate you for taking him down."

    For a moment Ulrika was confused but then she remembered what Elena had told her about the Nagai Warlord she had killed. "If you know so much about them can you then..."

    "...help you with getting your missing soldiers back?" Again a grin appeared on the captives face. "Indeed I could, but not without a price. Give me Xora and we can talk."

    Ulrika's first impulse was to say yes. She was certainly willing to hand over that slaver to a well deserved fate to get her squad back.

    But before she could answer Ilona stepped forward. "Before we even consider such an offer I want more information's about you and what you've been doing." She gave Ulrika a mindful look.

    Their captive shrugged, "if you looked deep enough into the holonet you will sure find something."

    "She must have come with a ship," Ulrika added, "best we have a look at that as well."

    "Want to look through my wardrobe to see what secrets it hides?" Cari said, giving Ulrika a deep glance. "If it has to be. My ship is landed at a clearing a mile from the town." She gave them a quick direction. "Is that enough?"

    "We will see," Kat said. "For now you may enjoy the hospitality of our dungeon, until we prove those claims you've made. Ulrika, care to put her in these?" She pointed at the stun cuffs on Cari's belt.

    Ulrika nodded and slapped them across the Karkarodons muscular wrists.

    "Don't be shy, this is hardly the first time I end up in these," their captive teased Ulrika as she finished restraining her.

    A while later, after they had locked the bounty hunter into one of the cells beneath the tower and doubled the guards down there Ulrika had returned to her room. This was getting weirder and weirder. But maybe, just maybe this woman could indeed be the key in getting her squad mates back...
     
  5. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Always Watching..... star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    Very interesting!
     
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  6. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    interesting species that bounty-hunter
     
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  7. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Thanks, glad you like my ideas.

    Yeah, I feel we need more shark people in SW. ;)



    Three

    Kat was looking over some datapads in her study as they waited. While she and Liz had lived for quite some time in the tavern after the duchess's death, where they still helped her family with the everyday business, they had eventually moved to her tower, as Johannes didn't use most of it anyway and it was the closest thing the world had for an administration building.

    The first months of administration had been hard, most people in the town and the other settlements had been rather upset about the death of their immortal ruler, who they viewed as stern but fair and had in parts almost worshipped. Johannes's presence had probably helped as at least the some of the older citizens had still remembered him as the duchess son and thus, not knowing about his role in her death, had accepted him as something of an heir to her.

    But in time they had been able to showcase to the citizens the crimes of their ruler. Had taught them about the human sacrifices and under the table deals with pirates like Xora. But in many ways it had been the former handmaids like Liz who had made the largest impact, as they had stepped forth and spoken about the brainwashing the duchess had put them through, and of the years she had been used for whatever their leader desired them. Disgust had risen through the entire society as parents, siblings, even children had been horrified to learn what their relatives "honorable service" had really entailed.

    Now the planet had begun to embrace this new beginning, and even to show gratitude towards the Eriaduans for the help and protection they offered. Liz in particular had become a symbol of this change to the people and while for now the governing was still carried out by a provisional council Kat was confident that once proper election would be held in a few months her wife had a decent chance at becoming the first governor of Curean.

    She looked across the room at the other officers gathered, and took a deep breath. Ilona and Tobin sat next to each other and quietly talked with Xenia the Falleen medic who had taken a seat next to them. Kat had been surprised and delighted to learn the ORSF was finally allowing non humans into service, in the Vong War and later the second Galactic Civil War she had fought alongside many different species and shed the prejudices of her childhood.

    Ulrika was lounging in an armchair on the other side of the table. It was still new to Kat to been on speaking terms with her again, but in contrast to Ilona she had closed that chapter in her life many years ago and since then largely just ignored the blonde colonel and refused to aid Ilona in what she considered a childish revenge.

    A sentiment she had shared with the woman next to Elena. She hadn´t met Elena very often but knew that Ulrika's second had held similar viewpoints on their commanders feud.

    Still Kat had been touched by Ulrika's honest apology, as late as it had come, and accepted it without much hesitation. Even though Liz's suggestion to have Ulrika at least help out a week in the tavern as means of 'atonement' had its merits, especially as it would give her and her wife a bit of time for themselves in their current double job of tavern maids and political leaders. Ulrika had given them a smile and promised she would do it, once she would get a week of time, which with the current situation wasn't likely to happen anytime soon.

    She gave a quick glance at her own wife and the two shared a smile. Their year together had been the happiest in Kat's life. Not that they didn't fight on occasion, they did, even on small things sometimes. Though she assumed that was just part of every relationship. But she and Liz just usually just understood each other on a level compared to only how close she was with Ilona, well in some aspects this was even deeper. Kat had also embraced her in laws, Liz's parents and her brother Georg. Who had in many ways filled the void that had been left after the death of her own parents a few years ago.

    She looked up to the others and exchanged a glance with Ilona then she gave the two women at the door a nod. "Bring her in, I'm curious what she has to say."

    Their attempts at interrogating Xora early today had been pointless. Just as before when Kat had tried to speak to her in the last few weeks their Falleen captives had refused to even talk to her and instead used her species given pheromones to try and mess with her mind. As an Eriaduan the toxic air of her homeworld gave Kat a greater tolerance for pheromones like this, but in time even her resolve would break. Liz and the other former maids of the duchess took it better, Kat guessed that having been brainwashed before, even if by different means, gave them the mental strength to withstand these attacks.

    Kat allowed herself a prideful smile when she thought of them. During their time with the duchess the maids had been trained in a variety of skills including fighting, which ironically had made them the closest thing to a military force Curean possessed and thus she and Liz had recruited many of them as a security force. She had been surprised how eager many of them where to join, even if it meant working at the place of their former torment. But that only motivated them to join, so they could take part in the process of reforming their world and ensure no one else would have to suffer through the same as they had. And in time their militia had further grown as other citizens of Curean had begun to train under their instructions.

    Yet nothing of it had helped with Xora, not even threatening her with the torture devices they had found in the dungeon as well. Of course, she knows we aren't cruel enough to actually use them. And an empty threat is worthless.

    Today it had almost become real as in her desperation Ulrika had suggested actually putting Xora and had even picked up a spiked collar to apply to her. But then after a moment dropped it by herself in disgust. It had been this moment, more than anything she had said that had made Kat look at Ulrika differently again. She might have a dirty tongue, and a tendency to cause trouble, but in the end her heart is soft.

    So now their best hope for information was their more recent captive.

    As Cari entered the room, flanked by two guards she gave the assembled people a grin. She didn't wear handcuffs but was unarmed. On Kat's gesture she sat down on the chair directly opposed to herself, at the other end of the table.

    Kat gave her a stern look, "so, Cari. We did some work on your background."

    The confident grin grew a bit, "and what did you learn?"

    Ulrika stood up, "that you are indeed a bounty hunter. We have found records of several bounties you collected. You've even worked for the Eriaduan government a few times in the past."

    It was rare for the Quintad or the ORSF to seek the aid of bounty hunters, but on occasion it had to be done, Kat new.

    "And any complains on my skills?" Cari asked her voice giving away real interest.

    "None," Ulrika said with a sigh. "You know your craft."

    "Thanks," the grin became even more smug. "Our reputation is all we mercenaries have. Found anything scandalous on my ship then?"

    Kat shook her head, she herself had lead the search for the ship. They had found it right where Cari had said. It was larger than they had first suspected. If nothing else Cari certainly made a lot of money in her job. Inside they had found the expected things. A quarter with bunk beds, a small medical station, a cargo space, and of course several small cells for prospective bounty. Nothing unusual for a successful bounty hunter this far out in the Outer Rim.

    "Then I'm free to go?" Cari asked and wanted to stand up.

    "Wait," Liz said, her voice stern and confident. "There is the issue of you breaking in here and attacking Ulrika."

    The Karkarodon turned towards her, "didn't we discuss that last night. You are harboring a wanted criminal illegally."

    A grin appeared on Liz's face. "I beg to differ. Curean is an independent world, and that woman committed crimes against its people. The council and I all agreed that she is to be captive here until we can put her in front of a proper trial. There is nothing illegal in our actions. If you want us to hand her over to you, you have to make an official claim in the name of whoever send you."

    For a moment the grin vanished from Cari's face as she realized the situation. A more serious expression appeared instead. "I see. So I am the criminal here. Yet the fact that you didn't leave me simply in that cell you've put me in tells me one thing. You want to offer a deal."

    "It's more than that," Ilona said. "But first yes, tell us you know about our missing soldiers."

    For a moment Cari said nothing, then, her eyes dating from one to the next she took a deep breath and said, "I don't know where they are exactly. I think barely anyone does. Even if you grabbed an member of the Iron Alliance and got them to talk they wouldn't know. There are several logical places. They could have brought them directly to their capital on Koan it's as good as hopeless. But... from what I've gathered it where mercenaries who took them right?"

    "That´s true," Elena said. "I spent a night in their loving care as well. And for what it's worth they recognized the captives value as hostages, thus protected us from abuse. As well as others from taking possession of them."

    "Exactly," Cari nodded. "If they brought the hostages to Koan they would have no hope of holding onto them. There are thousands of pirates there. Instead of paying for them they would simply kill the mercenaries and take the captives."

    "There truly is no honor amongst thieves..." Tobin threw in.

    The grin appeared back on Cari's face, "did you expect there was? But true. I think the mercenaries keep your squad mates somewhere save. Maybe on their ship, maybe on a base of their own, maybe with a minor pirate Lord they trust." She made a pause. "Its unlikely they keep them on their ship for long. Again for fear of others trying to take them, they also seem to have entered the region pretty recently, so they might not have a base of their own."

    "So you say they are with a pirate Lord?" Ulrika asked.

    "I suspect so," Cari said. "And he or she either doesn´t know who the hostages are or is promised a cut of the money."

    "It would be hard to hide their identity," Xenia said, for the first time speaking up. "All ORSF members possess a tattoo showing their allegiance."

    At these words Kat and Ilona's faces turned red as they thought of their particular tattoos, while Liz and Tobin gave their spouses and almost synchronized grin.

    "Then they probably know," Cari said, clearly amused at the sight in front of her. "I think going back and forth I could narrow the list down, I've been active in this region for long and know quite a few."

    "There is also that other option we've discussed," Elena suggested as she gave Kat a look. "You've mentioned these Southwestern Liberation Front?"

    Cari snorted at this, "those guys? You think they´ll help you?"

    "You know them?" Kat asked.

    "I do, though never worked for them, they are the sort of people who expect you to help them just because. Well half of them, the other half are those are Altuin and his dreamers who think they are still fighting the Clone Wars."

    "Mikael Altuin?" Tobin said, sitting up.

    "Yeah, an old Umbaran." Cari said. "Never met him, but he is supposed to be a legend. The last soldier of the CIS..." She shook her head.

    "I know him, well at least know of him. He and my uncle where friends back before the Clone Wars," Tobin explained. "I had no idea he is alive. Maybe this connection could get us his help."

    "I think we should follow both leads." Ulrika said firmly. "As our guest said. They probably haven't sold my squad mates yet. But I can't take long until they do. If we split our forces we have a better chance of finding them before it's too late."

    "Which is why I want to hire you." Ilona said and gave Cari a look.

    Arguably only for the second time surprise appeared on the Karkarodon´s face. "Hire me? You know we bounty hunters usually work differently."

    "Well as long as the credits are given that shouldn´t be an issue. Besides, if you help us with this, the government of Curean," she gave Liz a glance. "Will offer you a full pardon for your acts of trespassing and assault."

    "You are quick to trust me," the shark woman replied.

    "Oh we don't trust you one bit," Ulrika said with a small grin on her face. "But we have found out about another bounty, on your own head. Set by the Iron Alliance. That gives us reason to believe you won't betray us."

    "You truly did your homework..." Cari said with a sigh. "If that's the case, I'm with you. Until we have found your squad mates."

    "That's the deal," Ulrika agreed. "And don't think of going on your own. I'm coming with you when you check on the most likely warlords."

    "Me too," Ilona said firmly. "I've made a promise."

    "Count me in as well," Xenia said, her voice shaking a bit.

    Cari gave them a nod, "as you wish. We would have to take my ship then, and find some proper outfits for you to blend in as soldiers of fortune. But we shouldn't be too many."

    "We can get that organized," Elena said, before turning to Tobin. "This means the two of us take most of the girls and visit this Liberation Front?"

    Tobin nodded slowly, "sounds like a plan. Though I think we should take Xora with us as well. If you could find her here its only a matter of time until others show up."

    "Then I'll come with you as well," Liz said, standing up. "I'm resistant to her brainwashing pheromones. Besides you would need a replacement medical officer if Xenia goes with the chiefs."

    During her time serving the duchess Liz had not only been trained to fight but also when it came to medical skills Kat knew. But she also knew what that meant, another couple to be separated. "Then I'll stay here, someone has to look after Curean. Especially if your worries about others finding their way here are true." It hurt her to stay behind while her friends put themselves in danger, but as the military commander on this world she had a duty to its citizens. "Promise me you won't win the entire war without me though."
     
  8. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Always Watching..... star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    Things are getting interesting! Let's do this!!
     
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  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Yes they are going to get those squad-mates
     
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  10. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Indeed, getting into the action now.

    Its still quite a long road.


    Four

    Xenia had expected much when she had considered joining the ORSF. The stories of her stepfather had told her, in addition with what she had heard in school or at the hospital. What she certainly hadn´t expected thought was that she would one day lead her squad leader around on a leash across a slave market.

    She knew Ulrika´s reputation for unorthodox strategies and infiltration tactics but still, this was going faster than she could have ever guessed. This slave market was different from the ones she had learned about in school, those that the Empire had set up, that the Eriaduans themselves had conducted in the past. It was far more unorganized, reminding her a bit of the fish market in Phelar, with various traders yelling against each other, praising their 'goods' to the crowd. Many had created makeshift stages on which the slaves were huddled together.

    The second difference was the people. On the slave markets she had read about humans had sold nonhumans of various kind, including her own species. Here the situation seemed to be reversed, at least in part. While she saw a few humans in the crowds of buyers, as well as a few alien slaves on offer, most of the slaves were humans and all but a few in the crowd weren't. Which is probably the reason I am to take the lead today.

    She felt disgust at the setting around her, the same disgust she had felt when looking on a picture of Falleen being sold off during the Galactic Empire. She wanted to scream, to pull out her blaster and just fire into the crowd. Do whatever she could to save these people. But she knew that she would be dead within seconds as guards patrolled the entire area.

    The slaves looked at her with utterly revulsion and fear, which at least told her that her disguise was working well enough. As she had a huge bounty on her head Cari wore a full set of armor today, blending in with other Karkarodons in the crowd, but kept at the back of their group. With her robotic arm and am armor cobbled together with what they had found on Curean, Lieutenant Kinga made up the second part of Xenia's 'bodyguards'. Ilona was the third, dressed in a leather hunting outfit, quickly twisted a switchblade in her hands while giving everyone in the crowd dark looks.

    Xenia herself wore an outfit that had once belonged to the Duchess of Curean. A tight sleeves black dress that hugged her figure and showed a decent amount of her cleavage and legs, with knee high boots, beneath a heavy cloak made from animal pelts. It certainly gave her the attention of quite a few beings in the crowd and Xenia asked herself what her parents would say if he could see her like this.

    But it was Ulrika who had made no doubt the greatest sacrifice when it came to the clothing. Dressed up in a Veiled Dancing girl outfit that revealed her taught stomach and pierced navel, yet kept her face largely covered. A slave collar rested around her neck, connected to the leash in Xenia's hand. They had first debated whether dressing her up as another bodyguard would work, but felt that having an actual slave with them would improve the illusion. Ulrika had been very hesitant to put on these clothes, but in the end decided that saving her squad was worth the indignity.

    Xenia admired her for that, in the two days traveling here she had been bolder and even asked Ulrika directly about the incident with Tobin's eye. She and Ilona had given her a extensive recollection of the incident, during which they had often 'corrected' each other on certain details. It had helped Ulrika let her guard down with her new medic and the two had begun to talk to each other on a more relaxed level.

    Now however Ulrika's face, what little of it was visible behind the veil was filled with a blissful expression as she pretended to be in the sway of Xenia's pheromones. The young medic had never been comfortable with that part of her heritage, the ability make almost anyone instantly attracted to her. She had only used it once, on a friend in the hospital, as a test. Her friend had known what she was planning to do, and yet, within minutes of being exposed to the pheromones she had pressed Xenia against a wall and tried to kiss her. Xenia had instantly stopped and the two of them had been utterly horrified by the experienced, especially as neither of them was even into other women. Can certainly understand why it makes many beings afraid of us. She had concluded and vowed to never use the pheromones again.

    They continued their way through the crowds until they reached the largest stage, build in front of a large concrete building. It had once been the administrative center of the Imperial rule over the Southwest Xenia knew. This world, Qaelan had been the crown jewel of the Colonial Territories, but it had fallen to the Iron Alliance long ago its inhabitants killed or enslaved. Some might have called it a just fate, especially after the suffering the Empire had brought over so many species´ and worlds, yet Xenia felt nothing but disgust, especially when she looked upon the stage, her eyes wandering over the slaves arrayed there. Her heart nearly broke as she saw two young children, the slightly older boy hugging his little sister as good as his handcuffed hands allowed him. His gaze met Xenia's for a moment and she saw nothing but pure hatred in it.

    "Anything here of interest to you my lady?" A good looking Woman asked her. Xenia shivered. She was another Falleen, even in age she seemed to be similar. Yet this woman wore armor and had her hair open instead of in the tight braid Xenia kept hers.

    "Matter of fact yes," Xenia responded, trying her best to keep her voice clear and calm. She climbed up onto the stage so they could talk eye to eye. "I'm looking for human slaves. Specifically Eriaduan ones, to keep my little pet here company." She gave Ulrika's leash a little tug, while apologizing internally to her squad leader, while thanking the goddess that she had chosen an acting club in school.

    A grin appeared on the slavers face, "that's some fine stock you have there, I must say. Where did you get her?"

    Xenia was unsure what to answer, they hadn't expected getting many questions asked about them. So she decided to improvise. "Via a friend of mine, Xora. She's been dealing in Eriaduan slaves for years."

    The other woman's grin vanished for a more somber expression. "Xora is my mother, last I heard the Eriaduans have her."

    Xenia froze, Xora had a daughter? Well of course even evil pirates and slavers had families, yet this could soon turn problematic. Especially if this woman had any information's on the exact people who had captured Xora. She knew the next seconds would be the most important.

    So she gave a shrug, "happened a few years ago. Haven't seen her since then." She made her voice sound as uncaring as possible.

    "You still don't mind me having a little chat with that 'pet` of yours?" The slaver responded, taking a step closer towards Ulrika.

    You are losing the control over the situation and a slaver can never allow herself to lose control over a situation. It shot through her head, and so she did something she never would have thought herself capable of. She punched the other Falleen into her stomach right into her solar plexus, so suddenly it caused her to gasp and fall on her behind.

    Never underestimate close combat skills of a doctor, we know the weak points of every body. Xenia thought to herself as she pulled out her blaster and pointed it and the head of the slaver. Ilona stepped next to her, throwing her knives from one hand to the other.

    "I'm saying this only once," Xenia said, slowly. "Hands off my property, or you won't have any hands at all anymore."

    As the young slaver looked up to her Xenia for a moment almost felt pity for her. For in that moment she truly was just a young daughter worried about her mother. But then, as she looked up the slaves whatever pity she had held for a second vanished again.

    The other Falleen got back to her feet, none of the other slavers made any attempts to help her, it seems this was a usual occurrence in a business like this. "I'm sorry, miss. I intended no offence." she quickly apologized with a little bow.

    "It was taken," Xenia said, again keeping her voice bare of any emotion. "But I'd rather get back to business."

    The other Falleen took a second before she replied. "I'm sorry my lady, but we don't have any Eriaduan slaves to sell. And even if we had, the Iron Lord has demanded all Eriaduan captives to be handed over to him, now that we are at war." She threw another glance at Ulrika, but didn't dare to act on this order.

    "I know of some Eriaduans," an old man, standing not far from the two children said. Xenia had noticed that he had been watching their fight. "Freshly captured ones."

    The medic raised her head as her heart began to run fast, could it be? Could this man have what they needed?

    The slaver hit him into the face, blood running from his lip down into his tidy white beard. "you only talk when you are ask slave!" she told him.

    Xenia stepped closer to him. There was something... off about him, she couldn't say. "How much for him?"

    The young slaver looked at her puzzled, "what do you want with this old fool? He is just saying this so you get interested. He doesn't actually know a thing of Eriaduan slaves."

    The slave looked at Xenia, as if he wanted to say something. Somehow she felt that she could trust him, as if he was talking to her, but on a whole different level. "I asked how much?" She said, her voice cold again.

    The other Falleen shrugged, "500 credits. He has some medical skills so can't give him away for nothing."

    Xenia grinned to herself at how the 'oh so useless slave' had suddenly become oh so valuable. Not that they needed another medic, but this information might be more than ten times the charged money. "I'll take him," she said firmly. She handed over the necessary credit chips to a guard, then gestured Cari to take care of the old man for now.

    This was it, they had what they wanted. They could leave this hellish place behind and all take a good shower on Cari's ship. Yet Xenia found herself unable to leave just yet. And so she asked, "how much for the children?"

    ----/----

    Two hours later Cari's ship had made a jump to hyperspace, Xenia sat in the small lounge next to Ulrika and across the old man they had freed. Cari was leaving in one of the doorways while Kinga stood straight inside the room. After leaving the world they had first taken care of the two kids. Both had screamed for their parents and been hard to calm down, especially as Xenia and Cari had frightened them, and so Ilona had taken to talking to them alone which finally had calmed them down a bit. Now she was sitting with them in the med bay of the ship, trying her best to further comfort them.

    Xenia had expected Ulrika would scolded her for dragging the two children with them, but instead her squad leader had given her a tight hug and told her she had done the right thing. Now back in her usually tank top and pants Ulrika was much more relaxed again as she turned over their informant. "Now, I think it's time for you to fulfill your end of the bargain. But just to be curious when did you realizes that we weren't actual slavers."

    The old man gave them a smile, "pretty much right from the start. In my life I have learned to read people pretty well. You were far too calm, your mind far too collected for a slave in your situation. But where are my manners, Darek Halcion, wandering medic and information broker." He added with a twinkle.

    "Ulrika Grau," the blonde woman introduced herself, "this is Xenia, Kinga and Cari. We are..."

    "Looking for your missing squad mates I know." He said softly. "And yes I can help you with that."

    Xenia asked herself how he could know this much, and again felt there was something off about him. Something that allowed him to see more than normal humans. She gave him a nod to go on.

    "I heard about the recent battle of Calixt 7. How an attack against the Imperial colony was defeated by an Eriaduan Force. Lead by a colonel who completely matches your description. And I overheard where the mercenaries who fought in this battle headed afterwards." He made a pause meanwhile Ulrika activated a map of the galactic Southwest on the holographic table. "The good news is that the Iron Alliance doesn't know if the mercs brought any captives with them. Which lets me guess they haven't revealed their hand yet."

    Ulrika and Kinga exchanged a look of utter relief.

    "Then where did they go?" Kinga asked, stepping closer to the table.

    Yet before the old man could answer a shock went through the entire ship and everyone lost their footing. Falling over each other Xenia did the best to protect her head. Sitting up everything spun around her and she tried her best to get a clear head again.

    "Someone pulled us out of hyperspace!" Cari yelled as she left them and moved into the cockpit.

    Xenia had read of this technology and knew only few ships possessed it. Then her gaze meet Ulrika's and she noticed the colonel was staring outside in disbelieve. "This is impossible..." she muttered.

    The young medic followed her gaze and couldn't help but agree. The ship attacking them, it was Eriaduan.
     
  11. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Always Watching..... star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    But why!!?!? :eek:
     
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  12. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    what's happening now?
     
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  13. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Well, you will you have to wait and see. ;)



    Five

    "Arien Redan, been ages since I last heard that name," the old general said, his face turned towards the window at the back of his office, not even giving his guests a glance of acknowledgement. "Well at least not that Arien, his namesake's is much cursed around here."

    Tobin had never met an Umbaran before, nor heard much about this species. They were humanoid but their skin was pale, even paler than that of the Eriaduans. Their hair was white and their eyes lifeless. They looked like corpses to him, but Garth and Xora are both very attractive, beauty is deceptive.

    The man wore a military uniform, his hair was cut short and his face clean shaven like that of a professional soldier. Tobin recognized the colors of the uniform, from old history books. He still dressed in the colors of a nation that was dead for four decades by now.

    "He was named after the original one," Tobin explained. "Like many members of our family. I myself..."

    "...bear the name of the original Arien's son, I know." The general replied. "The Sith had captured him and tried to use him as a hostage, but his father refused to give up, so the boy was executed." He turned back around to them, "your Arien told me that story. And it's in many of your history books."

    "A prestigious history for sure," the woman sitting on the chair next to the old Generals said. "but we live in the present, and are here to discuss matters of the present."

    She was a human, her dark brown hair filled with grey streaks, her face giving away a life of struggles and battles. Her name was Kaiya Adrimetrum and she had served in the Rebel Alliance during their campaign in the Galactic Southwest, or at least that was what Tobin had heard about the Co Leader of the Liberation Front.

    "History is important, only if we understand it we understand it we can judge was course to follow in the present," the old general said as he sat down again.

    Kaiya let out a sigh but said nothing, she was apparently used to this behavior. Tobin knew enough about the Empire and the Rebellion to know how unlikely this duo was. A Separatist and a Rebel, fighting not Imperials but pirates. And yet they were the best hope that people in the Southwest had.

    "General Altuin," Liz said after a moment of silence. "If I understood you correctly you knew Tobin's uncle. How did it come that you've ended up on different sides of the war?" It was a naïve question but Tobin didn't mind as sometimes making Smalltalk could help break the ice and help people find a common cause.

    "Because we were loyal to our worlds, to a fault one could say. He and I met years before the Clone Wars, serving with the Judicial Forces of the Republic. Two outsiders amongst the mostly core based soldiers. So we became friends, over our shared love for music if nothing else. Used to play the violin together..." he made a pause, clearly lost in his thoughts, but it was clear that the memory had allowed him to relax himself a bit, his expression had softened.

    Tears filled Tobin's eyes for a moment as he thought back to his uncle playing the violin to him. It had been one of the rare instances where he had been truly at peace with himself, when the shadow that followed him everywhere had vanished, if only for a moment. "He taught me to play as well." He pressed through his dry lips.

    "In the first year of the Clone Wars my people stood with the Republic as you might know," General Altuin continued. "But we switched sides after our Senator and head of the pro Republican Faction was murdered. So when we became Separatists I stood with my people, until the bitter end."

    "The siege of Umbara," Tobin muttered. He had read about it, at least to some historian it was considered the worst battle of the entire war. Altuin had been in command during it.

    "Aye, after our surrender I became a prisoner of war. But was treated decently, the Emperor, well still chancellor back then was very concerned with my well being. I suspect he wanted to collect me for his plans." Altuin shook his head.

    "But you did escape?" Elena the third member of their 'diplomatic embassy' asked.

    "I did, got lucky and could escape in the chaotic days when the New Order was declared. When the Republic showed its true colors and became the Empire."

    Kaiya let out a grunt at this and rolled her eyes, "isn't that a pretty biased perspective?"

    Altuin shrugged, "in the end, everything is. Each spoken word serves a purpose, just as your young guest clearly only brought up his uncle because he hoped that the name could win him any favors here, aren't I right?"

    "You are," Tobin said, not wanting to try and hide this obvious fact. It was a pretty obvious attempt anyway and so maybe honesty was the better option.

    "Seems you've inherited at least something from your uncle, other than playing the violin." Altuin said and for a moment a small smile played around his broken lips. But as soon as it had appeared it was gone again. He exchanged a look with his co leader. "I know why you are here, to propose a coalition against the Iron Alliance. But I fear we can't offer you much."

    Tobin had expected this answer, yet it was still a bit disappointing to him. But he also knew that this word wasn't final, if the Liberation Front was utterly uninterested in any cooperation they would have simply denied holding these talks in the first place. They want something, so they play hard to get, or they flat out haven't decided for themselves yet.

    "We all would benefit from this endeavor," Tobin said. "The Iron Alliance hurts all of us."

    "Don't compare your situation to ours," Kaiya shoot at him, her eyes glowing. "We have been fighting them for pure survival for decades, while you sat in your mansions and grew fat from slave labor."

    Tobin didn't become angry at this, as he knew she was right, if exaggerating. "Things change."

    "Did they really? Or is this just a nobles attempt at a bit of positive PR? A campaign to win support that will be stopped once it has run its political use?" She continued to ask.

    "Such as your campaign with the New Republic?" Elena threw in. Tobin noticed how she bit her lip afterwards but now it was too late to take it back.

    "Don't use that word," Kaiya said bitterly. "There was little 'new' about it. Once the elites from the core had what they needed from us Rim People they abandoned us to our fate. We were good enough to fight the empire, but once our homes were under threat all we heard was 'we are sorry, there are more important fronts'."

    As Tobin mustered her he noticed something of her uniform, it was missing the insignia of the New Republic and instead spotted those of the Rebel Alliance. It was a subtle change but underlined her words. This woman never stopped being a rebel, for her the liberation day is still in the distance.

    "I can assure you that the Quintad intends this to be a full campaign set to defeat the Iron Alliance for good," Tobin said, but knew it was little more than an empty phrase. While his own sisters was determined in this, many other nobles weren't and so their support was hesitant.

    "And who else is in this?" Altuin asked. "We heard you've been fighting alongside the Imperial Remnants in the Sector."

    "We hope to win them for our alliance yes," Tobin confirmed, worried of the reaction.

    Kaiya and Altuin exchanged a look. Than the rebel said, "they are monsters, worse than the Iron Alliance in many cases. They don't know what suffering they brought across these worlds."

    "Do you want to blame their kids for that?" Elena said, her voice was calm but fierce. "Call it just to enslave and murder them? Most people who committed those crimes are dead. The soldiers we met on Calixt 7 where honorable, some of them risked their lives to save me and some of my squad mates from slavery." She stood up, "come Tobin, here is nothing for us."

    Kaiya looked at the young woman, not with anger, but rather sadness, so her voice as she spoke was soft. "I can understand your sympathy for them, but you have to understand that barely anyone here hasn´t lost a friend or family member to the Imperial Colonial Government. My husband was killed in a purge, a purge organized by an Eriaduan officer, Wilhuff Tarkin."

    Tobin let out a sigh, why does it always come down to that man?

    Elena turned around and looked the older woman straight in the eye. "We are not like him, my homeworld has its problems, I'm the first to admit that. But you can't judge an entire people by their worst member, cause if you do, you are the one just like him." Then she softened her expression. "Please, we are trying to do the right thing here. How are we ever supposed to move on from our past when we aren't given a chance."

    Kaiya said nothing for a moment, then she said. "You have a brave heart, young soldier. But this is a larger issue and there are many problems. One speech doesn't change that."

    "Certainly not, but we intended to back up our words with deeds," Tobin said. "Some of our soldiers have been taken captive, we assume they are held by a minor pirate Lord currently. We seek to free them."

    "Putting your own soldiers at the top," Altuin pondered after a while. "It's certainly something I understand, yet... I've seen a coalition fall before for that exact reason." He took a deep breath. "After I escaped imprisonment I traveled here, and linked up with other surviving CIS commanders, Gizor Dellso, that droid Commander Kalani... We assembled what forces we had and struck the Empire. They were still consolidating their power so we could take over many systems in the early days of the War. Retook some of our old Droid Factories, on Mustafar and other planets. For a while there seemed to be real hope... But everything fell apart. The galaxy should have risen up with us. But they didn't. Organa, Mothma, Bel Iblis, they wouldn't risk their soldiers to fight for Rim worlds, nor would they risk their reputation by standing at the side of former Separatists. We stood alone, and in time our ranks began to break apart, commander after commander deserted. They became pirates, warlords, the first of the Iron Alliance as you will know them. Dellso was slain on Mustafar, and the Empire conquered the Southwest. What tells me it's going to be different this time? That you and your allies not retreat to their save homeworlds once the tide threatens to turn?"

    Tobin thought about this for a moment, he wasn't sure if he should give a promise he couldn't keep or admit how little assurance he had.

    But before he could say anything Liz stood up, "I can't tell you the answer. For I myself don't know it, as I only speak for the people of Curean. The two of you have been honest with me so I want to respond in kind. It might be that we fail, that in the end we leave the Southwest in a position worse than it currently is. But, isn't it still worth the risk? The Iron Alliance holds Millions of slaves, millions of beings who have been deprived of everything. I've been a slave myself, not to them but to a woman to whom I was nothing but a plaything. Now I am a free person, free to chose my own path, for that alone I am more grateful than anything else in my life. We can do the same to countless others. Yes we can sit here in our strongholds and pretend the outside world doesn't exist, as my people did for decades, but then we are lying to ourselves. Can this war fail? For sure, but I would rather die trying to change something in this galaxy than do nothing. Cause if two young travelers hadn't done the same on my world hadn't done the same I would still be a slave." She made a pause, "you know who killed my slaver? I myself did it, if I, just a normal girl could kill a woman like her, than what can veterans like you two do? I'm sure a lot more. I read about the battle of Umbara on the way here, general. You've caused the Republic more trouble on a single world than generals like Grievous did in entire sectors. And you, Captain Adrimetrum, the list of Imperial Commanders you've brought down can rival that of heroes of the New Republic. If you stand by our side we would have the strength to win this war. It's the right thing to do, for that I can promise you that the people of Curean won't abandon this fight, that I never will and nor will the people I consider my friends."

    Tobin looked at his friend with surprise and respect. He had never seen this glow in her eyes before, nor heard his confidence in her voice. But he understood know what had attracted Kat to her, and why she was considered the favorite for the post of governor on Curean.

    A small smile appeared on Altuins face, "a speech, truly worthy of the great Count Dooku, if he were still alive. You certainly did your homework, but so did we. I know about Tobin Redan, his decision to stay on Coruscant has reached even us out here."

    "As did the deeds of your commander Grau's clash with the Iron Alliance recently." Kaiya added. "Therefore we do consider joining this coalition. If you can prove to us that the Eriaduans are truly willing and capable fight this war."

    "That's why we came here," Tobin responded.
     
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  14. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Great discussion between Tobin, Kaiya, Altuin and Liz
     
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  15. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Glad you enjoyed it. :)


    Six

    "They aren't reacting!" Ulrika yelled through the small ship as she again send a code through her comlink. But the hopes of this being a simple misunderstanding where low. Eriaduan ships would usually not simply engage with an enemy. At least not without demanding a surrender first, whoever was attacking them here seemed to have no such reservations.

    Ilona looked up to her, hugging the two children who clung themselves to her, the closest thing of safety they still had left in this galaxy.

    "We are not getting out, they are blocking our attempts at getting into hyperspace!" Cari shouted from the cockpit, as another salvo hit the ship. "Shields won't hold much longer."

    Ulrika looked around herself, Kinga had run towards the cockpit to help Cari, while Xenia helped the old man, Darek stop the bleeding from a wound on his forehead. "Did they send any messages whatsoever?" She yelled back towards Cari, still trying to figure out what was going on here.

    "Just one, we are to surrender." Was the answer.

    Ulrika exchanged a look with Ilona, her hands shaking, as she realized the reality of the situation. Taking a deep breath she said, "then we will. We can´t fight this ship. If we surrender we at least have a chance of getting out of this." Her heart was racing in her chest, as she knew what this might meant. She quickly touched the blade hiding in her right boot. It she was to be enslaved, she would fight, or at least spare herself that fate.

    It took a moment, then Cari transmitted the signal and returned to them with Kinga. The three soldiers exchanged a look as they prepared themselves. Waiting anxiously for what fate awaited them. "I´m sorry," Ulrika said.

    "Not your fault," the bounty hunter responded. "I planned this course, they might have hidden a tracker onboard the ship. I should have checked." She lowered her head. Huddling the children and the old man behind them the women disarmed themselves, placing their weapons on the ground.

    Maybe this is a giant joke, Ulrika told herself. Maybe they would soon laugh about the whole thing with some overeager ORSF commander. She heard how the other ship docked with theirs, how the airlock opened, then how boots moved through the ship towards them.

    It was two humans who entered, yet they weren't wearing ORSF clothing. Several more followed them, still mostly human but Ulrika noticed a Twi'lek, a Trandosian and a Devaronian. "Get your hands behind your back!" The later commanded and they followed his command.

    "Now onto your knees pretties," A human woman added. Then she stepped forth and slapped a pair of handcuffs over Ilona's hands.

    The Eriaduan was helpless to watch as Kinga, Cari and Xenia where restraint as well. But with her the Twie'lek stepped next to her, "not you. We are on your side."

    On my side? Ulrika didn´t understand. She saw how two of the human approached Darek and the two kids, but instead of cuffing them they began to comfort them. "You are save now."

    Meanwhile the four women in handcuffs where dragged into the middle of the room. "Relax girls, pretty things like you will sure get a lot of attention on the slave market."

    "Leave them alone!" Ulrika shouted as she jumped to her feet, grabbed the Twie'lek and placed her knife at her throat. "Let them go or your friend is dead!" She still did not understood what was going on here, but she had made her choice, she would fight.

    One of the humans, a young man raised his hands and carefully stepped closer toward her, "relax. You are safe, you don't need to be their slave anymore."

    Their slave? Could it be... A thought came to her mind, almost too insane to be real, but with it all of this suddenly made sense. So she took a deep breath and said, "I'm not their slave. Matter of fact, I am Ulrika Grau."

    She felt how a murmuring went through their attackers, many stared at her with open eyes, in some cases open mouths. She heard the muttering, "Ulrika Grau? Is that even possible?"

    Then after a tense moment the young man pulled out a comlink, "captain, you need to come down here. Now."

    When Ulrika had seen the young redhead for the last time she had been dressed in a skimpy slave outfit, and had worn her hair long and open. Now she was clad in a loose tunic and combat pants, wearing several pieces of armor over it. Her hair was shaved on one side of her skull and kept long on the other. There was an expression of utter shock on her face, that quickly turned into a smile as she recognized who had taken her squad member hostage.

    "Ulrika!" She said, almost yelling as she approached.

    "Hilda!" The blonde woman replied as she let go of the Twie'lek. They would get out of this alive, she was sure of that now.

    She and Hilda hugged for a moment, as the emotions returned, the emotions of that eve more than five years ago. "Thought I would never see you again," Hilda muttered.

    "Same," Ulrika replied as she slowly let go of her friend. "But please, release my friends, so we can sort this out."

    Hilda looked at Ulrika for a moment, then she nodded. "Do as she said."


    An hour later Ulrika, Kinga, Xenia and Darek sat, together with Hilda at the officers table of the Vigilance the ship Ulrika had allowed Hilda to steal the night she had helped the slaves escape the Senex Juvex Sector. Ilona sat together with the two kids on a couch close to them, listening in on their conversation with half an ear. Cari had excused herself to have a look at the damage caused to her ship a while ago.

    Since then Ulrika and Hilda had caught up with each other and Ulrika's head was still swirling a bit from what she had heard. After escaping the Senex Juvex Sector several slaves had left the group to return to what was left of their homeworlds but Hilda and a few others had decided that they could do more, especially with the ship under their control. "So we begun hunting slavers and traders going in-between the Iron Alliance and the Senex Juvex Sector, freeing more slaves." Many of them had returned to their homeworlds but some had joined Hilda's steadily growing crew.

    She herself, Ulrika had found out, had become an almost mystical figure for the escaped slaves. A paragon whose example they followed. It had both amused, touched and embarrassed her a bit how much her actions five years ago had impacted these people.

    "Who would have thought that you off all people became a positive influence to someone?" Ilona had commented on these news, but her smile had been open and friendly, as she had messed up her rivals short hair.

    "Jealous?" Ulrika had shot back as she had poked Ilona´s belly with her elbow. "You had your time to bask in your glory while we were on Curean so don't act all left out."

    Though what Hilda had told them afterwards had put concern in both women's hearts. To finance her crusade and to enact revenge on them Hilda and her crew had sold any captive slavers into slavery herself.

    In a way Ulrika could understand them, and especially early on in her career she had often wished they had done similar things to the slavers captured by the ORSF, but in time she had learned that this way of thinking made them no better than their enemies.

    When Ulrika had voiced her disapproval Hilda had looked at her with a mixture of shame and disappointment. "It's dirty business that's true. But what else should we have done with them? We don't have a prison at hand for that. Our only other option was to shoot them and that would have earned us nothing."

    "I understand that," Ilona had said. "But if you engage in slavery yourself you are pretty much as bad as the people you fight."

    Hilda had jumped to her feet at those words, "don't compare me to them! You have no idea what I went through. How I grew up a plaything of these people. I didn't have the nice childhood you nobles had. I couldn't allow myself to develop these ideals while being raped a dozen times a week."

    Ulrika had place a hand on each of their shoulder, "please, we are all friends here. Or should be, as we fight for the same cause. Ilona, we shouldn't judge these people for what they did to survive. But Hilda, now that your fight has become ours as well... we need to find a better way." Both women had looked at her, then both had nodded and they had sat down again.

    In time Hilda's influence had grown to the point that she now even had spies on the larger slave markets, like ones who had noticed Xenia buying Darek and the two kids on Qaelan and who had placed a tracker on Cari's ship so Hilda and her crew could take them down.

    Then, finally after catching up with each other's stories Ulrika had returned her attention to her current objective. And so now she turned to Darek, "so, we had been interrupted by Hilda and her crew. You said you knew where my squad mates are hidden?"

    The old man gave her a sad look, "I said I heard of them. I know they have been brought into the care of a Keran Sarne. Who I suspect is a warlord."

    Ulrika jumped to her feet, "so you didn't know anything but a name?" She felt how rage filled her body, he had used them. A part of her even regretted having saved him from slavery.

    "Keran Sarne?" Kinga asked. "Is he related to Kentor Sarne? The former Imperial Commander in these regions?"

    "He is," Hilda said, slowly. "His younger brother, who only ever got his post out of nepotism. He switched sides to the Iron Alliance when the Imperial Control broke down. He is one of the few humans to hold a higher position in their ranks."

    "Do you know where his stronghold lies?" Ulrika asked, maybe they could still salvage this.

    Hilda nodded, "I do, it's the world his brother left him to govern back in the day, Qelic V. But attacking there... would be a huge risk."

    "If my squad members are there then I will do it," Ulrika said firmly. She gave Hilda a look. "Can we count on you?"

    The young captain nodded, "of course. It will be suicide several times over to attack a warlords stronghold directly, but... you saved my life and I intend to repay that debt."

    "Then let me lend you a hand as well," Darek said. "Im sorry my information was so limited, let me make it up to you by helping you with getting your squad back."

    At least something, Ulrika thought while giving him a nod. She wasn't sure of how much help the old man could be, but she was grateful for any offer of assistance.

    "We should also inform Tobin and Elena of this," Ilona suggested.

    Hilda raised an eyebrow, "the pretty boy from the gala, he is here as well?"

    Ulrika nodded, "he is, alongside the rest of my squad. Currently still playing the diplomatic game, but I'm sure they can come and aid us. Maybe with a few new friends of their own."

    "So a ragtag crew attacking a warlords stronghold? Maybe you find someone who buys the holomovie rights for it before we attempt it." Darek said with a grin.

    "Don't get too excited so early." Hilda warned them, "Qelic V is a hellhole of swamps and bogs, terrible terrain. I hope these alliances you've made are able to take that on. Plus its governor has a considerable force of ex Imperial soldiers for his protection. Plus whatever pirates have joined him since then."

    Ulrika nodded slowly, then another thought came to her mind, "impossible odds you say, for Ilona and myself that's nothing but a normal day. And besides, if this Warlord is truly an Imperial turncoat, then I know of someone else who might want to have a hand in bringing him down too."
     
  16. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    great plans and more help coming.
     
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  17. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Indeed ;)


    Seven

    Anela rested her head against the dark concrete wall, her eyes closed she breathed in counted to five, then breathed out. Continuing like this for a while as she felt how her muscles relaxed and she became more calm again. It was simple ritual taught to every recruit during their first days in the ORSF and had helped her many times in the past, and so it did today. As she opened her eyes again she looked over the others. As the oldest of the captives she had effectively become their leader, or at least the person they looked to for guidance.

    "Anything?" She asked Katia who stood at the door of the small cell and pressed her ear against the durasteel.

    "Nothing," Katia replied, she and Anela had joined the military together at the eve of the Vong War and just been with the squad the longest.

    "Shouldn't they at least bring us something to eat?" Janice asked and Anela noticed the fear in her voice. She was a young soldier, had just joined the squadron a few weeks ago and this was her first big assignment.

    Mikaela looked over to them, a hand on Ryna's forehead. "The fever is getting worse, I don't know how long she can still take make it."

    The five of them were the last captives, Lana had died on the mercenaries ship from an infected wound. While Slata had somehow been able to slip out of her handcuffs and grab a mercenaries blaster as they had been brought here. She had been able to take down two enemies but in the end her bravery had earned her nothing more than a quick death.

    Which might still be better than what awaits us, Anela thought darkly. She wasn't sure how much time had passed since they had been captured, several days at least. The women's tank tops and shorts were drenched in dried sweat, and that was nothing to say of their underwear.

    Anela stepped closer the one of the beds Ryna was laying and placed a hand on Mikaela's shoulder. "She will make it," then she turned to Ryna herself. "You will make it." She said firmly.

    Ryna's eyes were glassy as she mumbled, "of course I will." Anela saw how the young soldier tried to force a smile onto her lips.

    Letting out a sigh Anela sat down on the other bed next to Janice. "We will get out of this. I am sure, Ulrika will rescue us." Having been part of her squadron for so long Anela usually referred to the colonel by her first name rather than her rank.

    Janice tried to smile but she failed, letting out a sob instead, "how can you be so sure? Its been goddess knows how long and we are here on some forsaken world. How could she even find us? Wouldn't High Command demand to give us up? Aren't we supposed to now try to die with as much dignity as we can? Do you know what they will do to us? I've heard stories, I don't want to end up as the plaything of some sadistic warlord. We should just strangle each other while we still can, before they make slaves out of us." She talked quickly, tears filled her eyes and her breathing got faster and faster as the panic overcame her. Anela said nothing, she knew that others, particularly people outside the military would have called Janice a coward for her reactions but Anela knew that it was only human, especially for such a young recruit.

    So she gave her time, placed an arm around her shoulder but did not interrupt her, allowed her to let out her feelings.

    "It's hopeless, why did I sign up for this? I... I just can't do this. I should have never come here, why was I even chosen. I'm clearly not the person for this. I..." Janice stopped, now only breathing heavily, but with Anela's arm around her shoulder and a confident glance from Katia she began to breath a bit slower again.

    A time of silence followed as Janice slowly calmed herself down again. Then she looked Anela, "I... I'm sorry. I'm such a coward, I should have never come here."

    "It's okay," Anela said, softly. "You've been very brave until here. We all have moments of darkness where our fear becomes too strong. A coward is just someone who lets their fear control them."

    Katia gave Janice a grin, "Anela there was so nervous before her first fight she was shaking so much we all heard her teeth grind against each other."

    Anela returned the grin, "bold that story coming from you. Didn't you wet yourself when those Voxyn charged at our trench?"

    Katia rolled her eyes, "not out of fear. I just wasn't able to visit the restroom having to save your sorry butt all the time..."

    "You saved mine? When? I seem to recall having been the one keeping you alive the last two decades." Anela shot back, glad to see a small smile on Janice's face.

    Katia stuck out her tongue at her old friend. "You know what, we'll ask the Colonel which one of us served with more distinction once she has rescued us. That is if we didn't managed to escape on our own before she gets here."

    Janice whipped her tears from her face and looked up to the two older women, "are you sure the Colonel is coming? It seems so impossible."

    Mikaela turned towards her, she had joined the squad after the Vong War, around the time Ulrika had taken command. "Haven't you heard the stories about her at the academy?"

    Janice smile grew a bit, "mostly about the pranks she pulled and her rivalry with Ilona Malek... Which to be fair probably means she is a good soldier when High Command lets her get away with things like that."

    "She is, and what she lacks in knowledge and foresight Elena more than makes up for," Anela said firmly. "When Katia and I first met her we didn't think much of her and like pretty much everyone else we did believe she and Elena had betrayed us." She sadly shook her head. It was only a sign of how well the two had played their parts but Anela still felt some guilt over having lost her faith in the now commanders of the squadron. But then again everyone believed she was a traitor back then... everyone save Ilona Malek. It was ironic that of all people it had been Ulrika's rival who had been convinced she wasn't a traitor.

    "I heard she lead a revolt in the Peace Brigade?" Janice asked, now having fully calmed herself down again.

    "She did," Katia said. "I will never know how but she did manage to convince some of the leaders to take the risk. Showed them that the Vong would have no mercy on them once they lost their usefulness as servants."

    The story was pretty well known on Eriadu and while Ulrika and Elena couldn't hope to match the legacy of Tobin Redan and his survival on Coruscant both of them had become war heroes. Though neither of them had ever spoken much about this time, not even with their squad. Now and then they made a comment or spoke about a specific event but never answered any questions about it.

    "Someone is coming," Katia said suddenly and moved away from the door, sitting down on the other side of the cell leaning against the wall. "Its several people, armored boots."

    In the next moment the durasteel door opened and several people looked into their cell. One of them was the Zeltron mercenary who had captured them. Several more were soldiers, humans as Anela recognized surprised. Wearing the same mismatched armor as the other members of the Iron Alliance they had seen in the past, though in their case pieces of imperial armor were especially prevalent.

    Next to the Zeltron stood another man, clad in a white Uniform, like Imperial Grand Admirals and Generals of the past. He had dark eyes and wore his pitch black hair long, which in addition to his beard contradicted the professional soldier appearance that the uniform seemed to evoke. His broad shoulders and muscular frame indicated that he once had been a good looking man, who had now with his growing age let himself go, as an impressive gut, stretching the white uniform indicated. His hair was grizzled with grey streaks and the dark eyes were heavy and gave away his advanced age. He looked at his captives with a hunger in his eyes, that made Anela shiver and move a bit as to protect Janice with her body.

    "So, you are the famed ORSF soldiers?" He asked, his voice soft and cultivated, that of a man who had lived amongst a certain nobility for much of his life.

    Unsure what to do Anela stepped forward. "I am Petty Officer Anela Grak."

    "A pleasure," the old man replied, "I am Keran Sarne the Ruler of this little spot of space."

    "We are in service of the ORSF," Anela said, seeing some unexpected hope in the man's polite demeanor. "I can assure you that the government of Eriadu would appreciate any efforts you could take to ensure our safe return home."

    An almost playful smile appeared on the old man's face, "oh would they? This is kind of a shame, as my government is currently in a state of war with yours and such negotiations like that tend to go rather slowly."

    "Then why did you visit us?" Katia asked.

    "Well, I think it's a matter of simple manners, isn't it? Even in war a host should take the time to visit his guests. Which is why I want to invite to my table for the evening. Enjoy the pleasantries of a nice hand cooked dinner."

    "You are surprisingly generous for a pirate who kept us down here for days without as much as providing any food or medicine," Mikaela said a bit heated.

    The old man slowly shook his head, "what harsh words coming from such a pretty mouth. But I can forgive that given the state you yourself, are in. A nice bath and a new set of clothes will hopefully make up for my earlier mistakes."

    "So this is it?" Anela said with anger in her voice. "You want to have your fun with us for an eve? Bask in the triumph your lapdog won for you?" She pointed at the Zeltron who still stood utterly silently next to his paymaster. "Take away what little dignity we have before you do what? Hand us over to your Iron Lord."

    The smile stayed on the old man's face, but as he continued to talk his voice was cold as ice. "matter of fact, that is exactly what I intend to do. And if you want your feverish friend there to get her medicine, you better do as you are told."
     
  18. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    pleasure before slavery. I hope they will be found soon
     
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  19. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    @earlybird-obi-wan Help is on their way. ;)


    Eight

    "I am just a merchant," the young man said, his voice filled with panic.

    "Yeah right," Captain Laric replied, his voice cold and professional. "A simple merchant who owns a ship made to transport slaves... while within territory of notorious slavers."

    "It's not illegal to trade with them," sweat was running into his expensive clothing. "The Galactic Alliance has enshrined our rights to keep our economy working. We are hardly the only ones, who..."

    "The galactic alliance doesn´t matter out here, least to any of us," Ulrika said firmly.

    They had discovered the ship approaching Qelic V and decided to strike, expecting it to be another vessel of the Iron Alliance, but instead they had quickly figured out its true heritage.

    "Then what do you want? My homeworld is rich, I am sure the Senex Juvex Sector will pay for my safe return," The man talked fast, the panic in his voice was clear and audible.

    "Would they?" Hilda raised an eyebrow as she stepped a bit closer to their captive. "You are lying to yourself, after losing your ship they will clap you into irons and make you a slave as well. Your society doesn't tolerate any weakness." She gave Ulrika and Laric a glance. "Seriously, we should just sell him and his crew back to them. The result will be the same but we gain a few credits."

    The young man's eyes widened but his reaction made it clear that Hilda was right on the money. Part of Ilona enjoyed seeing him squirm like that, but another part almost felt pity for him. He was probably just a middleman for the slavers, not one himself.

    "Please," he said. "You can't...."

    "We can and have done so in the past," Hilda said, her voice devoid of any mercy.

    "Or if you prefer we could hand you over to an Imperial judgment," Laric added. "Will only be a couple hundred years of hard labor but you wouldn't be a slave."

    "What do you want?" The young man asked frantically. "I will do anything."

    Ilona stepped forth, "you will tell us everything about your trade agreements and trade partners. Especially the ones in this system." She made a pause, to give him a moment to think. "The Eriaduan government is looking for witnesses on the trade between the Senex Juvex and the Iron Alliance. If you and your crew cooperate we can offer you clemency. Just a few years in prison for you."

    "I..." the young man's eyes darted from one to the other.

    "It's the best deal you gonna get," Ulrika said firmly. "Your crew might would probably be outright released if they talk to us as well. So best use this chance to cooperate while it's still there."



    It's truly a strange coalition we have here, Ilona thought as she and the other leaders sat around the hololithic table on the Vigilance, which displayed a projection of Deran Sarne´s fortress on Qelic V.

    "These maps are quite outdated mind you," Laric said. "That blasted traitor might have changed certain aspects of the fortress since then. Or maybe it has fallen in disrepair, which might be an advantage to us."

    Ilona was surprised how eager the Imperial Captain had responded to Ulrika's call. Though then again, Sarne is a traitor to his people, of course they would want vengeance on him. In a way the captain seemed to be almost an anachronism to her a soldier more from the days of her father than the modern era. She had been hesitant to trust him, but Ulrika had vouched for him, so she was willing to give it a shot.

    "From what I heard of Sarne," Hilda interjected. "He isn't an idiot, if he was rivals the Iron Alliance would have long since killed him, so he probably made sure to keep his defenses up to date."

    "We now have a way inside," Ulrika reminded them. "Even if it's only for some of us. That trader mentioned that Sarne is hosting a feast for them tonight."

    "But they have never met before," Ilona added nodding. "Which means some of us could take their place. Just like we did on the slave market."

    They had locked the traders into one of the cells meant for slaves, and on Hilda's insistence put them in simple slave tunics and applied collars to them. So they 'get at least a feel of what they were doing to other people'.

    "If we do that then I will go," Hilda said. "I know the Senex Juvex Sector and their customs best of us. Though I will leave most of my crew behind. They aren't professional soldiers. Attacking pirates and traders on their ships is one thing, but this battle is too much for them."

    "You can count me in instead," Darek raised his hand. "I've dealt with members of the Iron Alliance before, know some of their customs."

    Just who is this guy? Ilona asked herself not for the first time. The old man clearly harbored quite a few secrets. "I'm coming as well. Enjoyed those leathers." Ilona said with a smile. And it allows me to keep an eye on our friend. "Cari and Xenia should come too I feel, the merchants weren't all humans either."

    "After our battle with them the Iron Alliance probably knows my face," Ulrika added chewing on her lip. "And this time there is no excuse for me to wear a veil."

    "A real shame," Ilona teased her rival. "I enjoyed you as a slave girl."

    Ulrika rolled her eyes, "if that was what it needed to convert you to the true faith of lesbianism I'll gladly do it again."

    Ilona stuck out her tongue, "sorry dear, already taken. But just wait until I tell Elena you been flirting with other women again..."

    "Our bed is large enough for tree of us..." Ulrika shot back.

    "Done with teasing each other?" Laric asked, shaking his head. Then as everyone's attention returned to him he said, "the fortress has another weak spot. See this hill?" He pointed at it on the holo. "If we make it there my squad and I could use jump packs to get onto this section of the wall. It's in a blind spot from the other towers."

    "You guys are flying now?" Ilona asked.

    Laric rolled his eyes but said nothing.

    "If you have two packs to spare Kinga and I could join you," Ulrika said.

    The Imperial gave her a nod, "that should be doable. Will be good to fight alongside you again Colonel."

    "Same, but please call me Ulrika," the blonde woman said. "We are all allies here."

    "Indeed," Hilda said with a nod. "Good to have you on our side captain."

    Ilona had been surprised how well the former slave got along with the Imperials, but then she had found out Hilda herself had been one of them. The daughter of Imperial colonists before the Iron Alliance had destroyed her home.

    "You would always be welcome to return, the Imperial military could use women like you for a full time commitment." Laric offered.

    "Thanks but no thanks," Hilda replied. "I would rather continue fighting the slavers my own way."

    Laric raised an eyebrow, "as you wish." He turned towards the holo again. "Once we are on the wall we can take down the Anti Air Guns of the fortress, allowing for an airstrike if need be."

    "My soldiers are in that fortress," Ulrika reminded him. "Not to mention hundreds of further slaves! If we commit an airstrike they will die as well."

    "In war people die all the time, Colonel, and in the end I would rather sacrifice their lives to ensure there is one warlord less in the Southwest," Laric responded firmly. "But you are right an airstrike shouldn't be our first option. The fortress has a massive strategic value, capturing it would give us an advantage in this system."

    This man is as cold as ice, Ilona reckoned. But at the same time she couldn't help but agree with his judgment. "Tobin and the others will join us in a few hours, hopefully with some reinforcements. If the anti air is down by then, we could have them land on the pads of the fortress. Inside we the enemy looses most of their advantages."

    "Sounds like a plan. Let us hope they will be able to get some support," Ulrika concluded. "If it's just our squads it will be one hell of a fight."

    "I suspect it will be either way," Laric muttered.

    "Then let's all get some rest before we head out," Hilda said and the others nodded.

    Ilona stood up, there was something she needed to do before they went into battle. As she quickly walked towards the quarter assigned to her she was surprised to find that Ulrika followed her.

    Opening the door she found the two children, Saskia and Tobias drawing something on one of the walls with the marker Ilona had given them.

    "Ilona!" Saskia came and grabbed her hand, pulling her towards the little piece of art. It showed a stick woman, holding the hands of two stick children, a boy and a girl.

    "Is that supposed to be me?" Ilona asked, a bit touched. In the last three days she had done what she could for the kids. Read stories to them, listened to what they wanted to tell her, had played whatever games with them that were possible on this warship. She had wanted to drop the kids of somewhere save, but that would have cost them too much time. Time Ulrika's soldiers might not have.

    "Yeah," Tobias said, proudly.

    Ilona couldn't help but smile, they were still young kids, so they forgot their grief quickly, at least as long their weren't reminded of it again. But sooner or later both would need to be brought into the care of a professional.

    "Who are you?" Saskia looked up to Ulrika.

    "I'm Ulrika, I'm Ilona's best friend in this galaxy." The blonde woman said with a smile.

    Best friend? Not getting ahead of yourself here are you? Ulrika was probably in her top five now that they spoke to each other again, but still. "She and I played countless pranks on each other over the years."

    Ulrika sat down cross legged next to them. "Yeah once I filled her entire clothes with itching powder."

    The kids chuckled which compelled Ilona to respond, "and spend a long night inside your own locker at the academy as a punishment." She chuckled a bit as well on the memory, but it also made her sad. Sad to remember how much she and Ulrika had despised each other back then.

    "What did you grownups talk about?" Tobias then asked.

    Ilona wanted to say something but Ulrika laid a hand on her shoulder, "some of our friends have been captured by the same people who captured you. We are going to rescue them."

    The children looked at them, their eyes wide with awe, and hope. "Do you rescue them? All of them?"

    "That's the plan," Ilona said with a smile.

    "Will you rescue mum and dad as well?" Saskia asked, looking at the two adults with wide eyes.

    Ilona and Ulrika exchanged a glance. They had inquired with the slave trader about the kids parents, but she hadn't been able to provide them with any information on them. So it was impossible to say where the parents were now, and if they were even still alive.

    "We will do our best," Ulrika said.

    Tobias gave her a hug, while his sister said. "You are the good girls, you will always win."

    Again the two adults exchanged a look. Ilona thought of the task ahead, the war they had now entered in. Will we, or will in the end our legacy be nothing but a field of graves?
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2022
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  20. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    great plans. I hope they can find their way in
     
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  21. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    You know what they say, "getting in is the easy part." ;)


    Nine

    "We need to go back." Ilona said firmly, biting her lip. Their ship was moving through the upper atmosphere on Qelic V.

    Xenia understood why she was so angry, and in a way shared her point of view. She looked at the two children, Saskia hiding behind her brother. Both had their heads lowered like a pair of rouges who had finally been caught, which was exactly what they were.

    "We can't turn around now," Hilda reminded Ilona. "The fortress has already noticed us on their scanners. If we back out now they will realize something is off."

    Ilona let out a sigh but did not give up her position. "Still it's too dangerous, we can't take the kids with us down there."

    "But we want to help." Tobias said, his voice as firmly as his age allowed him. "Help you save your friends... and our parents." They had snuck onto the ship during the chaotic boarding as the two teams had split up and headed towards their destinations. Hiding in one of the cargo rooms they had only been discovered now, when it was almost too late.

    It tore Xenia's heart looking at the two, their enthusiasm, coupled with their naivety about the situation. They are more afraid of Cari and me than of that pirates and slavers waiting down there. The absurdity would have made her laugh, if the situation hadn't been so serious. "And if we let them stay on the ship?" She offered as a compromise. Some of Hilda's crew would stay as well, to have an eye on their captives.

    "My folks can look after them," Hilda agreed, giving Ilona a look.

    Ilona clearly wasn't convinced, but she also probably knew how little choice they had.

    Giving up the entire mission, the chance to save hundreds, for two children, not a choice I want to make. Xenia knew, glad to only serve as a medic, not a commanding officer.

    Cari entered the room, once again fully clad in her armor to hide her face, "it's now too late anyway. I made contact with the fortress, they seem to believe our little lie so far, but if we make a run for it now... their TIEs might shoot us from the sky."

    With all eyes resting on her Ilona took a deep breath, "I..." she knelt down next to the children. "You stay here on the ship. You do what Hilda's folks tell you. You will be safe here."

    "But we want to help," Saskia said, now a bit more confident.

    "You are already helping," Ilona said and patted the young girl on her head. "Help us keep the ship ready for take off. If things go bad we might have to leave quickly."

    ---------

    "Welcome honored guests," a human woman greeted them as they left the ship. Xenia had expected armed pirates to greet them. But this woman was unarmed, clad in a red dress that would have been considered risqué even on a place like Zeltros. The skirt was so short it barely covered anything, while the cleavage almost extended down to her navel. A metal collar rested a around her neck, the collar of a slave. Her smile was forced, that of a person smiling as if their life depended on it.

    Then Xenia saw it and took in a sharp breath, a ORSF tattoo on the woman's left shoulder. A second later she recognized her. It was Janice, the youngest of the seven captured squad members. At least we came to the right place. But seeing her fellow soldier put into this, it caused worry to rise inside of her. What had they been doing to them. She realized how the others recognized her too, Ulrika had shown them pictures of the seven.

    Darek was the first to find his confidence again, "well thanks, but we are to talk to your master as soon as possible." His voice was calm, business like. Xenia wished she had his self control.

    Janice gave them a quick bow before leading them towards the main building. Hilda and Darek acted as the leaders of the group, while Cari, Xenia and Ilona served as their bodyguards. The Falleen looked around. This place truly was a fortress, high walls, towers littered with anti air guns, in one corner of the courtyard she saw the energy source for the shield generator. Guards patrolled on the walls, some clad in bits of imperial armor, others more resembling the Iron Alliance soldiers they had seen before.

    There were several more landing pads in the yard, all empty for now, but in extended hangars she could see several rows of TIE fighters being stored, techs working on them. This was it, they were truly here, in the belly of the beast. Xenia just hoped she could keep her nerves straight.

    "Welcome," Keran Sarne awaited them in a large hall. another man was with him but in the shadows. Luxurious carpets littered the ground while the walls were covered with exotic pieces of art. A large stone fireplace with a roaring fire filled the room with a pleasant warmth while a large transparisteel window on the other side gave the view onto the courtyard and the land beyond the walls. The large table was made from Wroshyr Wood, as were the stools around it. The furniture and decorations of this room alone were worth a fortune, on a world like this, they had said much about their owner.

    Darek shook the former Imperials hand. "A pleasure to finally met you Lord Sarne. We heard a lot about you and your victories."

    A smile appeared on Sarne's face, "the pleasure is all mine. It is always a reason to celebrate when someone from the civilized side of the galaxy visits my little corner out here. But please, call me Keran."

    "Darek," the old man smiled. "It is quite a comfortable corner I must say."

    "A shadow of what I aspire, but it's a start." Keran's gaze wandered over the others. "Your bodyguards?"

    "Our bodyguards," Hilda stepped forth, offering her hand to the warlord.

    "My lady," Sarne took her hand and gave her a polite kiss. "Rarely have I seen such beauty in my court."

    "Your servant would suggest otherwise," Darek, said, giving a quick glance to Janice.

    The pirate lord chuckled, "yeah, part of my latest acquisition. Cost me quite a bit but your reaction tells me it was well worth it."

    Xenia wanted to hit him, to strangle this dammed smile out of him, but she had to control herself. As on the slave market she had to play along, as hard as it was.

    "You have arrived quite late, we've expecting you a few hours ago," the man who had so far stood in the shadows stepped forth. Xenia recognized his pink skin as that of a Zeltron. In contrast to Sarne in his immaculate white uniform this man wore dark and simple clothing, his long hair tied into a braid. A belt with a blaster and several knives around his hips. Xenia recognized him from what Elena had told them, he was the commander of the mercenaries who had taken their fellow soldiers captive. Xenia thanked the heavens that none of the fighters from that battle were with them right now.

    "Daecon, this is no way to talk to a honored guest," Sarne said, scolding the mercenary. "But where are my manners, this is Daecon, the gentleman who helped me acquire this little dove." He ran a hand over Janice's cheek and Xenia noticed how the young woman shivered.

    "Indeed our schedule has been extended," she had quickly to draw his attention back to them. "The outbreak of war has made travel in these parts considerably more dangerous."

    "Oh right, the war." Sarne made a dismissive gesture. "If you ask me it will be over soon, the Eriaduans want a bit of PR, that's all. Some of their squad leaders got a bit too eager. Soon enough there will be a new treaty, we've experienced this before, but, given what sort of slaves it nets us, I'm not complaining. Speaking of them." He clapped his hands and three more women entered the room, all of them dressed in skimpy outfits, each cut in such a way to reveal their ORSF tattoos. All of them wore slave collars, and had plates with food or cans with drink in their hands.

    "Please, take your seats and be my guests tonight," Sarne said, still smiling.

    Slowly almost robotic Xenia sat down. She knew his intentions. This was a demonstration of power, a show of force, to intimidate everyone. Look, I've reduced these proud female soldiers to mere slave maids. Four of them were here, which left the fate of the remaining three still in doubt, had they been killed? Or were they held elsewhere? Blasters pointed at their heads to ensure their comrades obedience?

    "Four of them?" Ilona asked, her voice giving away slight shivers. "Must have cost you quite a fortune."

    The Warlords smile was unbroken, "not four. Six. One of them is currently enjoying the luxury of my dungeon. And you are number six, aren't you? Ms Malek?" With that he stood up, his smile still bright as the door opened and soldiers entered the room. Clad like mercenaries and lead by a tough looking Twie'lek woman.

    Xenia's heart stopped for a second, Sarne knew! He seemed to know everything.

    The Pirate raised his goblet and took a sip, while gesturing his 'guests' to remain seated. Then he slowly placed the cup on the table again. "Just how dumb do you think I am? Don't you think I have my own ears on the slave markets? Especially now with slaves like this in my possession? I knew the ORSF would come. I knew Ulrika Grau would try something like this."

    "You know Ulrika?" Ilona asked, shaking slightly.

    Sarne raised an eyebrow, "everyone in the Iron Alliance knows her after her little stunt on Calixt VII. Old Xavius has been a thorn in all of our sides for years. That he was slain by a human, that made waves. And in contrast to my dear late brother, I always did my homework as a kid. Wasn't too hard to determine Ulrika's background. Earned herself quite a bit of praised for her infiltration tactics, but I must say, her track record has gone down lately."

    Xenia still was unable to even properly think, she glanced outside and her heart stopped again for second. Their ship, they needed to warn Hilda's crew, they needed to get the children out of here. Her heart raced faster.

    "And what a collection of people she delivered to me," Sarne continued calmly. "Ilona Malek, there are many who are interested in your head." He stepped next to Hilda, "you dear have been causing trouble for long enough. The Senex Juvex wants you back, just as the Iron Lord, I think we will hold an auction, or maybe I sell each of them one half of you?"

    "Go screw yourself," Hilda said and spat at him.

    Sarne looked at the tiny bit of spit on his uniform. His smile remained. "My dear, it seems you still haven't realized what predicament you are in." He gave one of the mercs a sign.

    "No," Darek muttered, as if he knew something no one else did. Xenia followed his gaze, out, out the window and down to their ship. She saw how several of the Anti Air guns turned towards it. Then they fired.

    "No!" Ilona yelled trying get up but a large Transdosian held her arms.

    Xenia realized how she had begun to scream as well, all of them were, the room was filled with chaos. Then the ship burst into flames, the fires illuminating the courtyard for a brief moment before the explosion shook it. In the next moment the young Falleen's skin had turned orange, she was acting without thinking but her pheromones filled the room dazzling the mercs standing behind her. She saw how one of the took his blaster and aimed it at Sarne, controlled by Xenia's own inner rage. Rage over the deaths of Hilda's crew, though most of all the two innocent children. The shot hit the Warlord in the shoulder, he stumbled back, "kill her. But keep the others alive." He ordered as the Zeltron grabbed him and dragged the wounded man out of the room.

    Several of the mercenaries were still dazzled some had turned their weapons against each other. The one who had fired at Sarne received a blaster bolt to his skull. Ilona managed to pull out a knives and stabbed the man holding her in the throat, while Hilda fired her blaster. Meanwhile Cari was wresting down two mercs with her sharp claws. The chaos began to grow, but in the end their efforts were hopeless against an entire squad of experienced fighters. They would die here, as would the slave girls. Well, at least it was better than falling into the enemies hands alive. Then another shock hit them room, throwing several mercenaries to the ground.

    Darek had jumped onto the table, in this moment he looked at least ten years younger than just a moment before. But the most puzzling thing laid in his hand. Its red glow filling the room. Several mercenaries were cut down by its blade.

    This was too much, despite still holding the numerical advantage the mercenaries panicked, fleeing outside of the room. While those still under Xenia's sway were cut down by their vengeful slave girls as they picked up the arms of the fallen.

    "They will come back soon," Cari said, as a moment of quietness filled the room. "We only won a few seconds to breathe."

    Meanwhile Ilona stared at Darek. "A red lightsaber? Are you some kind of Jedi?"

    "One of the worst," the old man said, his voice grim and determined.
     
  22. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    And now escape. Darek a Sith?
     
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  23. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Who knows, the red lightsaber would indicate it, but... aren´t the Sith all dead? :confused:



    Ten

    Ulrika had dropped down on one of her knees as she looked through her night goggles across the fortress. The ship was closing in and she felt how her heart rate began to heighten a bit. Soon enough the fighting would break out, then they would see if the information leading them here had been worth it.

    "Guess we have about an hour or so, should wait and given our friends some time until we advance," she said looking up to Laric behind her.

    The Imperial stood atop the hill like a general posing for a painting. Like his squad he had exchanged his usual white armor plates for dark grey ones that blended in better with the surroundings. He currently wasn't wearing his helmet but Ulrika knew he would take it back on once the fighting began.

    Something she herself didn't share. "Honestly, this armor is killing me." She said, once again taking hold of the chest plate, trying to at least make it a bit more comfortable. Clearly made to suit a male body it was too wide around her stomach and too tight over her chest. Yet it came with the jump pack so she had to wear it.

    Kinga gave her squad leader a sympathetic smile, "heavier than I had expected as well. The replica we had on Eriadu was far lighter."

    Ulrika remembered the mock battles they had taken part in, in the summer camps during their late teens. By then her rivalry with Ilona had been in full swing and both young women had found each other leading opposite teams against each other. Ironically it had been Ulrika and her side who had been assigned the role of the imperials while Ilona and her friends had been allowed to dress up as rebels (no Eriaduan girl worth her reputation would ever want to fight the ORSF so replica equipment from other nations was used in these mock battles).

    Ulrika nodded, she had always assumed Stormtrooper armor was made from plastic, given how useless it seemed but it was indeed solid metal. The helmet was even worse, as it was almost impossible to see something with it, so she had discarded it as had Kinga.

    "How do you even fight with this stuff?" Ulrika asked. Eriaduan infantry equipment was much lighter, putting more emphasis on allowing the wearer full movement during a battle.

    "Don't have the muscles to wear it? I thought you Eriaduan girls were oh so well trained," one of the Stormtroopers said with his emotionless synthesized voice.

    Ulrika jumped to her feet, anger rising inside of her, her homeworld had many problems but at least there she had never been insulted for her gender. She was glad that Laric apparently didn´t share the Imperials general condescension for women, but it seemed not everyone in his squad agreed on the matter.

    "Let me get out of this clingy armor and I will show you how well trained I am," she spat at the Trooper, only now recognizing the signs of an officer on his shoulder pads.

    "Oh, trying to be the brave one," the trooper raised his fists.

    "Lieutenant Duran, this is not the way to treat an ally," Laric said sharply. Stepping closer to them.

    Ulrika though wasn't appeased, "I'm sorry Captain, but I feel this boy of yours could use a lesson how to treat women."

    The trooper took of his helmet, or rather... hers. The face underneath the helmet was harsh, the dark skin grizzled from a long life of war, yet undeniably feminine, even with the head being shaved completely bald. Ulrika guessed her to be in her mid forties, younger than Laric but older than herself. Her body was muscular for a woman, maybe even more than Elena's. The body of a woman who had fought in heavy armor for many years. "Well Colonel, I think the first two lessons might be not assume a person's age or gender out of the blue."

    Ulrika felt how her face threatened to turn red, but she couldn't allow herself to lose control over the situation. So she shot back, "a woman in the Empire. So I guess you are the squads medic? Or their cook? Both? Probably also clean after the men? I wonder, do you also warm their beds at night?"

    "Ulrika!" Kinga said, her voice clearly giving away her disappointment at her squad leaders behavior.

    She had gone too far, but her initial anger, combined with the shame over her mix up and the tense situation had, once again overruled her common sense.

    In the next moment Duran's armored hand hit Ulrika into her face. Ulrika stumbled back she saw how several other Imperials stepped closer to her, some had taken of their helmets to show her that they were indeed female too. Duran hadn't been on Calixt, the Imperial soldiers they had seen there had been male, but it now it was clear to her that women served in the regents forces as well.

    "Lieutenant Sarah Duran." Laric said sternly, but didn't step in further.

    The situation was clearly escalating. So Ulrika bit her lip and stopped herself from giving the rude answer that she had held on her tongue. She couldn't allow her temper to ruin everything again, not as it had several times in her life.

    Dannika stepped forth, in front of Ulrika. Both to shield her from the incoming scorn but also to take charge of the situation. "I'm sorry for my squad leader words, she didn't intend."

    "I am sure she knew exactly what she intended," Duran said, her voice surprisingly calm again. "And its disappointing how she thinks about the people who are her allies, who came here to help her squad."

    Laric stepped between the two women, "enough. Colonel Grau, you should stop judging other people by what you heard about them." He turned towards his own squad member, "Same for you Lieutenant. We have a mission ahead, lives depend on us."

    His voice was calm but everyone on the hill noticed the underlining threat.

    Ulrika slowly stepped closer to Duran again, "well then Lieutenant, I say we postpone me kicking your butt to the training room after this mission then."

    A lopsided smile appeared on the Imperial Veterans face, "deal, prepare yourself to..."

    An explosion from towards the fortress made both of them turn around. Ulrika's heart stop for a second as she saw the burning remnants of the captured slaver ship rain through the night.

    "Seems the battle has already begun," Laric, said, even his voice giving away a tiny bit of worry.

    They heard blaster fire coming over from the fortress. It seemed their friends inside were fighting for their lives.

    "We need to move in, now." Duran said firmly and Ulrika gave her nod. The animosity between them was gone, at least for now they stood side by side with the same goal.

    The Imperials readjusted their helmets, "taking the right tower as our first goal." Laric ordered. Then they jumped.

    For a moment Ulrika enjoyed the cold nightly air around her bare face, the burning shipwreck in the center of the courtyard illuminating the walls and the soldiers on top of them, most of them focused inward, towards either the burning ship or the sounds of battle, so they were too late to react to them.

    Ulrika took down one with a quick salvo while still the air, but then messed up the landing as she lost her balance and fell over. On the ground she heard the footsteps of several enemies approaching.

    Looking up she saw two pirates closing in on her. Ulrika threw her combat knife at one of them, it met her exposed throat and the woman broke down screaming. Meanwhile her partner raised his blaster, the first shot hitting Ulrika in the shoulder, but the armor took the worst of it.

    Before he could fire a second a robotic arm was slung around his neck. The man dropped his blaster and tried to get the cold metal from his throat, panic filling his eyes. Ulrika looked away as she pulled herself back to her feet, but even then shivered as she heard the distinct breaking of his neck. Looking up she saw Kinga step over his corpse.

    "This thing is actually quite useful." She said with a dark smile.

    "You can thank Laric for his insistence on having it cut off later." Ulrika reminded her as she rolled the first guard onto her back to recover her knife.

    Around them the Imperials were securing the parameter. Remembering the briefing Ulrika knew that there were four main towers hosting anti air guns. Though she also threw a glance at the main structure. We need to aid Ilona and the others. Saving lives was more important than clearing, the towers, besides, so far Laric and his soldiers seemed to be able to handle thing on their own.

    "Set the explosives," the old Imperial Commanded, standing over the reinforced door into the first turret tower. Two of his soldiers where working on it while the others had formed a defensive formation around them, scanning the courtyard as well as the walls and opening fire on any armed figure within range.

    "Captain, can you take down the towers on your own?" Ulrika asked him, expecting to be yelled at again for 'risking the mission over a handful of lives'. Though she would stand her ground, like she had always done when arguing with Laric.

    The Imperial gave her a quick nod, "if things stay as they are. Lieutenant Duran, take your squad and assist Colonel Grau."

    Why her of all people? Ulrika almost let out a sigh, but then she understood. He wants her and me to fight side by side, so we might get over our feud. Just like he did when he came along to rescue Elena and the other hostages.

    Duran stepped forth, giving Ulrika a quick salute. "Colonel."

    "Lieutenant" Ulrika returned the gesture for a moment. "I'm glad you are assisting us."

    "Be careful for traps in there," Laric reminded them. "Keran Sarne is no idiot, he probably prepared for a day like this in the three decades since he betrayed the Empire. Maybe even earlier."

    "Anything we should do to him?" Ulrika asked, glad the captain didn't stand in her way. "Do you guys want him alive so he can stand trial?"

    Laric shook his head, "he forfeit his life the day he sold this world out to the Iron Alliance. There is no point in wasting time and money on a trial everyone knows the verdict of anyway. If you come across him feel free to end his traitorous life."

    Ulrika and Kinga gave the old man a salute, "Aye Sir."

    They turned towards the main structure of the fortress. Behind one of the windows Ulrika saw the lights of blaster fire and a strange red glow.

    Duran stepped next to her, "is that a lightsaber? Does Sarne have a Dark Jedi in his retinue."

    Behind them Laric spat on the ground, "we have dealt with a number of those before, a cancer on the entire galaxy. If there is one, fire with all you have."

    "We best land on the roof," Duran added. "Then move downwards to.."

    "No time," Ulrika said, giving Kinga a nod, then she sprinted to the edge of the wall and jumped, activating her jump pack aiming straight for the window.

    The armor took the worst of his but the splintering glass of the impact still cut into her skin, especially her bare face. Again she failed with the landing as she crashed straight into the massive wooden table in the middle of the room. She felt the impact, once more only somewhat mitigated by the armor. I will feel those bruises for the next month, at least.

    Stumbling she got back to her feet, first locating the source of the red light. She saw how Darek stood now next to the table, the blade raised, though as he recognized her he lowered it.

    "He is on our side," Kinga yelled standing at the broken window, as Duran and several of her soldiers landed. "At least I think he is."

    "Is that you Ulrika?" Ilona moved towards her friend, her upper arms covered in blood and a knife in her hand.

    Clad in an Imperial Armor, bruised and bleeding from a deep cut across her face Ulrika turned towards her. "I am, seems you already started the party without waiting for us."

    "You sure know how to make an entrance boss." Someone else said. A woman clad in a extremely skimpy dress, and three similar dressed ones who now approached their squad leader.

    Letting out a sigh at their sight Ulrika allowed herself a smile. She had found her lost squad.
     
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  24. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    great to see them united and now escape with all
     
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  25. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Well, they intend more than just to escape mind you. They want to take the whole pirate den down...


    Eleven

    "Yes, I have not always looked like this," Elena told Corvey Adrimetrum as sat in the officers lounge together. Corvey was the younger daughter of Kaiya Adrimetrum and served as an officer in the Liberation Front. Elena suspected that she was not just here to provide military assistance but also to have a closer look at the ORSF soldiers and officers.

    "I..." the woman in her forties stumbled a bit across her words. She clearly hadn't expected that.

    During her life in the military Elena had gotten used to the stares, they always came when she met new people, well almost always at least. Usually the bewilderment faded quickly and very rarely had they turned hostile. Yet Corvey seemed to have been unable to get her eyes of Elena since they sat here together. So Elena had eventually decided to answer her unspoken question.

    "I'm sorry Lieutenant Kyr, I didn't intend to stare," the older woman averted her eyes.

    "It's the blue hair isn't it?" Elena said jokingly.

    "No... I, mean its.." Corvey continued to stutter. Then she let out a sigh, "I'm sorry. I didn't..."

    Elena gave her a friendly smile, "there is nothing wrong with being curious. I'm Elena Kyr, and I'm happy with who I am. And so is my squad."

    "I'm sorry," the brown haired woman replied. "Never met someone like you before."

    "I'll take that as a compliment," Elena returned. Though she understood it, in the harsh battle for survival the Liberation Front was engaged in every day there was little room for things like this. Yet she couldn't help but notice the irony that Laric had been far less puzzled than this Rebel officer.

    Corvey finally relaxed herself again and leaned back in her chair, "to be honest, I've never even met an Eriaduan before. You are certainly not what I've expected."

    "Why?" Elena's grin grew a bit. "Because I haven't blown up a planet yet?"

    "Don't joke about that!" Corvey said, suddenly dead serious.

    "I'm sorry," now it was for Elena to apologize. Given how often she had already been misjudged and insulted for her homeworld, she had developed a sarcasm about, as had many other Eriaduans.

    The older woman's gaze softened again as she gave Elena a nod, then she said. "My father was killed in a purge instigated by an Eriaduan, Wilhuff Tarkin. As where many other members of my family. I was too young to remember but... I heard the stories, felt their losses." She made a pause. "Not that I am judging you for that. You weren't even born then. It's just, for all my life you Eriaduan's have been a boogeyman, monsters that come in the night. Even as I grew older I learned little to challenge that worldview."

    Elena took a deep breath and asked herself again why she had to be judged in regards to that man. "My homeworld has many problems," she said and for a moment she thought of her father. "my dad certainly contributed his share."

    "Then you are... Cedryc Kyr's daughter?"

    Elena nodded, slowly. "I am, though when I was born he was already out of politics." Her father had been the Senator for Eriadu in the Imperial Senate, and a committed human centric all his life. His publications had been used by the Empire for propaganda purposes and helped justify the enslavement of entire species. After the Fall of the Empire her father had lost his noble status and most of the family business but his books had earned them enough to live comfortably.

    "Did he mistreat you because of..." Corvey asked, then stopped herself.

    "No," Elena said firmly. "He never did, he was a loving father to me my whole life, and had nothing but support for who I am." It had been paradoxical to learn of the other side of her father as she grew up. Of his political ideals and the things he had done. It had taken time until she had been able to reconcile this cruel hateful man with her loving father. For a time she had tried to adopt some of his ideals for herself, but in the end she had found them too revolting to consider.

    "I won't judge you for what he did," the older woman assured her.

    "Thanks," Elena said, "I wanted to stand up to him for a long time. Just say to his face what I thought of his politics. But... he was still my dad, and a loving one at that. I just couldn't turn my back on him." So she and her father had eventually agreed to leave politics out of their meetings altogether and thus remained at peace until his death a few years ago. After his death Elena had shut down the publication of his works, but she wasn't naïve enough to believe it would do anything, as the books were already all over the holonet.

    "What about your family? Are there any others left besides your mother?" She asked. It was a personal question, but after opening up about her father Elena felt she could expect the same from Corvey.

    The older woman shook her head, "none, had a sister, Sina, but the Iron Alliance got her years ago. It's just mom and me these days."

    "I'm sorry to hear that," Elena said sympathetically.

    Corvey shrugged, "happened all a long time ago. Live goes on, couldn't spend the rest of my life worrying about what could have been. For if we don't fight, there will be even more families like mine."

    "True," Elena agreed. "Must be insane for you, fighting alongside Separatists, Imperials, now Eriaduans, while the High Riders of the Galaxy do nothing."

    "It is, and I certainly don't trust the Imperials one bit. What they did, they can't hope we will allow the a role in the Southwest once the Iron Alliance is gone." Corvey said, bitterly.

    "Well to even get there we have to defeat the Iron Alliance first, and who knows how long that will take," Elena replied, worried about the hatred in Corvey's words. This Alliance, whatever it is, is build on sand, a single misstep and we are all doomed.

    The irony was that she would have agreed with Corvey not even a month ago, but fighting alongside Laric's men, seeing their bravery and dedication, as well as the Captains own integrity had begun to change her opinion.

    "True," Corvey agreed, "who knows if we even survive the battle today. We might be dead long before your government decides to pull out of the war."

    "They won't," Elena said, weakly. She knew that this was a real possibility especially if things would turn sour.

    Before Corvey could answer Tobin entered the room. "We are there in an hour, we should ready our forces."

    The older woman's stood up and gave the two Eriaduans a nod. "I will ready my squad, see you down there."

    Tobin and Elena moved quickly through the ship, while Elena pulled out her comlink. With Ulrika being absent she was now in charge of the soldiers on board and so she gave a quick order. "Everyone, get into gear, planetfall in 60, let's make the boss proud and cause no delays."

    Entering the dressing room she quickly changed from her casual grab into her dark tank top and pants. Then the light tunic on top of which she began applying the armor, every step of a routine she had done a million times before. The other soldiers arrived shortly, following the same routine. Some chatted with each other, while others muttered a quick prayer, further ones simply stayed silent to prepare for the coming mission. The heavy soldier boots came last and Elena took her time to ensure they were as tight as possible so she wouldn't risk slipping during combat.

    Once she had finished dressing up Elena went over to the armor to get her equipment. Being the first, as usual she quickly took her sniper carbine, and placed inside the sheath on her back. The handblaster for short range combat as well as the combat knife, went into her belt, alongside the rope launcher and two flash grenades. Keeping her helmet loosely in her hand she stepped outside on the corridor and checked her chrono, there was still time.

    She had replaced Ulrika as Squad Leader before so she knew the rituals, still something was missing. When Ulrika was here the two usually followed their own ritual to ease of the tension before the battle in that they made out in the rest room for a few minutes, the Just in Case Last Kiss, as they called it. But now Elena no little choice but to lick her lips and hope Ulrika was okay.

    Tobin stepped next to her, having dressed up for combat as well. "We are closing in, no message from what's happening on the planet yet."

    Elena forced a smile onto her face, "its Ilona and Ulrika together. I suspect all hell has already broken loose."

    Tobin returned the smile, "they might have already won when we arrive."

    Elena took a deep breath, then she asked, "will you fight under my command?"

    The Raven haired soldier nodded, "I outrank you, but it's your squad, you should keep command."

    Elena returned the nod, honored by the gesture. "Alright Sir."

    When the rest of the Squad had assembled Elena gave them a quick overview over what was ahead, using the holo of the fortress the Imperials had send them. She split the squad into two ground and handed one to Dilara, who had recovered from her leg injury.

    As they boarded their shuttle Elena knew that now was the time to address the soldiers, and that their new 'allies' might be listening in as well. So she had to choose her words carefully. This was Ulrika´s specialty, finding the right words to motivate the squad, while Elena usually preferred to stay quiet. But now it was her duty.

    As she turned around she saw how the squad members looked at her, she saw the determination and dedication in their eyes. They trusted her, would follow her into this hell without flinching. Taking a deep breath she began.

    "This is it ladies, we are about to engage in combat with the enemy. The enemy who holds some of our sisters captive. I know that some of you hope that we find your friends down there, though I cannot promise that this will be the case our information's point to it. But this goes further than a simple rescue mission. We are at war now, any pretense of this being just a series of border skirmishes will be gone after tonight. The ORSF marches to war, in a new Crusade to liberate this world from the darkness. Our enemies are slavers and pirates, a cancer on this very galaxy. A cancer we have ignored for too long. They believe they own the Southwest, but tonight we will show them who truly rules this Sectors. Tonight we will make each and every one of them regret having taken our sisters as slaves. Tonight we kick in the door of this entire corrupted structure and we will not rest until its torn down once and for all. To victory." With that she drew her blade and held it up high for a moment. She was rewarded with the roaring and howling of her soldiers echoing through the ship as the shuttles engines started and they left the hangar.

    As the noise began to fade Elena turned towards the young Jola and gave her a nod. She had proven her bravery in the days of captivity, now she would have the honor. With her young and clear voice she began to sing:

    Our last hour, the Twelfth one, is striking,
    Do you hear the voice that is summoning us?
    The voice which is forgotten but native,
    The voice, which is beloved, familiar and dear to us?


    Elena fell in, as did several other veterans amongst them.

    The voice which is forgotten
    But native,
    The voice, which is beloved,
    familiar and dear to us.


    More and more raised their voices as the shuttle made its way into the planet's atmosphere.

    You hear that powerful call
    To converge into a united, mighty rush,
    Into a formidable swarm of winged eagles,
    So fearsome for our primordial enemies....


    Now every soldiers was singing, they sang to keep their courage, to prepare their thoughts. They sang until the first anti air lasers began firering at them.