1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Saga The Sandtrooper's Story - (Installment 1 - NOW COMPLETE - 10 Chapters)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Terek_Deckard, Aug 7, 2006.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Title: The Sandtrooper's Story
    Author(s): Terek_Deckard
    Timeframe: Just Pre-ANH through OT

    Characters: ANH Sandtroopers as they assemble and are deployed, Lord Vader, a foolish Senator, an old man, a boy and two droids, a Wookiee and his pilot friend
    Genre: Action/Drama
    Keywords: Sandtrooper, 501st Legion
    Summary: The formation of a new Sandtrooper unit on Tatooine, and the events that unfold around our group.
    Notes: This is written in the same vein as Shadows of the Empire. It's Star Wars, from a B-Camera perspective, as seen by the Sandtroopers of the 104th Moisture Farm Patrol.

    Disclaimer: I am just playing in George's Sarlacc Pit here. The obvious characters belong to him, the rest are of my making.

    When you finish all 10 chapters of Installment I, don't miss the beginnings of Installment II here:

    Now, On with the story . . .


    Amidst the ranks of the Imperial Stormtroopers there are numerous divisions of Troops specialized and adapted to varying environments and locale. None of the assignments is as grueling as that of the Sandtrooper. Scattered across countless worlds, they live, work and die in places most people would rather forget. They are Imperial law enforcement assigned to keep the peace, maintain order and protect the citizens on their beat. This is the story of such a group . . .

    Although the two thermal detonators themselves did not vibrate in any way, I could feel a trembling pulsation in my outstretched hands. Tiny embedded lights in the surfaces of the explosive devices winked on and off, pulsing in the dim light between the cloaked figure and me. I was fully prepared to detonate them both, ending the paths of two warriors, and departing this life here, now if that became necessary.

    My lightsaber lay on a stone workbench on the second level. The blade I had used to hunt and execute countless numbers of his kind during The Purge would not help me this time. As I had been taught years before, my mind was clear and guarded, there would be no tricks played by the Jedi that stood between the cave opening and me.

    My preoccupation with the jobs at hand must have been thoroughly distracting. By the time his approach was felt, it was too late.

    In the seemingly endless space between the nanoseconds that now ticked away, my mind raced, crashing through a cascade of memories as I recalled the chain of events that had brought us both to this singular moment . . .

    Chapter 1 - Origins

    In the last years of the Old Republic, leaders of industry and the head of the Mining Guild were assembled by Count Dooku to form a select sub-group of the Trade Federation. None were aware that Dooku was secretly Darth Tyranus, Sith apprentice to Darth Sidious, and that Sidious was masquerading as Senator Palpatine, the Sith Lord who would become Emperor. The veiled agenda motivating the group’s formation lay in the need for pooled resources to bring a sickeningly monstrous undertaking to fruition.

    It was in the early stages of battles that would later become known as the Clone Wars, Count Dooku and a team of Geonosian design experts successfully completed planning and launched the covert construction of a weapon that would carry the Trade Federation and Dooku’s Sith master into a new era of galactic domination and unimaginable power.

    The sheer scope of their plan, not only in physical size, but also in the scale of the deception, was staggering. Planets represented by the Guild were mined for the ores needed; stripped of their raw materials, each burning brightly in the flurry of activity and jobs that the project required as they were consumed.

    As mining efforts were withdrawn and the jobs disappeared, they were left behind as mere shells of what they had once been; barren reminders of the Empire’s blind ambition, all but dying out entirely.

    In extreme cases, breathable gases had to be collected from the atmosphere and forced into contained cities. In the more fortunate locations, only moisture needed coaxing from the air using evaporative collection units.

    The project was kept hidden from everyone except those responsible for its design. Once construction began, the design team was summoned to an emergency meeting. While en route to the meeting, their transport shuttle fell victim to a horrible navigational mishap.
    The ship’s nav’ computer was somehow set for a lightspeed jump on a course that directed it through a tight clustering of stars. The ship was vaporized, and unfortunately, the crew and passengers along with her.

    It was rumored that one of the weapons designers, Moff Rebus, had missed the flight, and gone into hiding following the accident. He would factor into my life years later, during my missions on Anoat.

    In the years that unfolded during the course of the ravaging Clone Wars, many things came to light. General Grievous was sought and ultimately destroyed by General Obi Wan Kenobi; Darth Sidious was entrenched deeper than ever in his plan to unravel the fabric of the Republic, and as the beginning of the end, Sidious’ Sith apprentice, Count Dooku, was slain by Anakin Skywalker; beheaded by his own blade in combat.

    Years before, in Skywalker’s youth, subtle groundwork had been laid, guiding him along a crooked path. It lead him to a decision making crossroad where ultimately he would not only replace Dooku as Sidious’ Sith apprentice of his own choosing as the newly born Sith lord, Darth Vader, he would be instrumental in the complete and utter eradication of the Jedi protectors of the Republic that stood directly in the way of his new master’s power play.

    By the time the Jedi Temple fell under Skywalker’s hand, and the very letter of Executive Order 66 was being carried out by clone units across the galaxy, the skeletal framework of the project was nearing completion.

    Raw materials were flooding in from the Mining Guild to a remote construction location to continue the work. The surreptitious project had been so expertly protected and hidden from even the Jedi by Dooku, that Emperor Palpatine commissioned a Garrison from among the handpicked members of Darth Vader’s 501st Legion, the very troops that had stormed the Jedi Temple alongside him, and placed them in charge of security for the station’s construction.

    To honor his fallen apprentice, he anointed the newly formed group:

    At this time, I was growing up on Tenaab, which had thankfully avoided the gutting so many other planets had endured, mainly because of the Imperial shipyards located there. It had had very harsh cold seasons, so my family would spend that time with relatives on nearby Corellia. My father was an engineer, and my mother worked for an Imperial agency. She spoke little of it, and I never pushed to know more than she offered.

    When I was a boy, I worked for my father at Industrial Automaton, building astromech droids. It was this work that revealed my love of engineering, design and construction. Industrial Automaton, at that time, before their merger with Soro-Suub, was a wholly owned subsidiary of BlasTech Industries. I spent my last few seasons on Tenaab working for BlasTech designing field cannons and orbital platform armaments.

    After my shift, I would sometimes hang around to watch the Imperial Cargo ships arrive, with Stormtrooper guards picking up container after container of E-11’s. I knew someday I wanted to be one of them, but still being slightly underage, that was as close as I could get to the action of the Empire.

    Over the next two seasons, I learned how to install intelligent turbolifts, compactors and garbage chutes in my “life before the Empire”, while interning in the Tenaab shipyards. I spent more time than I care to remember installing mile after mile of turbolifts and massive trash compactor systems in the bellies of starships. As one of my installation assignments came to a close, I was selected, along with a group of several hundred other workers for a new project that would last several seasons. At the new, clandestine location, we installed garbage chutes, trash compacters, waste-recycling economy systems and turbolifts on a massive project that dwarfed any I had previously worked.

    On one occasion I asked a Stormtrooper standing guard what the huge skeletal framework was supposed to be for. I was quickly told it was better to know less and live longer. I had worked on many ships over the years, and it didn’t look like any ship I had ever seen. It looked more like some kind of space station, but I kept my observations quietly to myself. My interest, however, was irretrievably piqued, and it was there that I signed up with the Empire. I was accepted into Stormtrooper training almost immediately and shipped off to Carida for nearly a year of intense training.

    The construction project continued to move ahead as I trained. Its scale was enormous, never before equaled in all of recorded history; the final product would be roughly the size of a Class IV moon. By compartmentalizing their tasks, secrecy was maintained even from those troopers working on it.

    With the birth of the Rebellion, supply lines became compromised in some sectors. The fledgling rebels had no idea what supplies they were diverting or destroying. They simply knew the cargo was stamped with an Imperial security code, and they attacked the defenseless federation convoys. The ambushes spooked many of the regular suppliers. They were transport pilots with families, just working for a paycheck. After the first wave of attacks, many walked away from the job. Those that remained were smugglers for the most part; less than reputable and suspect in and of themselves.

    Shortly after the end of the final clone battles on Kashyyyk, many of the Wookiee survivors were enslaved and taken to work on the construction. In the years that followed, there were several instances of small, unorganized uprisings among the Wookiees, which were dealt with swiftly and brutally.

    One of the smugglers, so troubled by what he saw, broke into the slave quarters, destroying records and freeing several hundred of the hairy Wookiee giants. He set off several dozen explosive charges, destroying a weapons stronghold, and made his escape with at least one of the Wooks aboard his ship. Most of the delivery manifests were destroyed in the raid, and the rogue pilot was never identified.

    The only manifests recovered from the burned out wreckage showed inbound shipments from the remote desert planets Dantooine and Tatooine to the construction site, with continuing flight plans to the Endor system.

    After my graduation from the Academy, I was assigned to Garrison Tyranus and sent for more training in a small unit on one of those very planets; Dantooine. The arid landscape there served as a perfect proving ground for practicing and honing desert survival techniques and skills I had learned in the classroom. Although the assignment was far more intense and challenging than I had ever expected, I enjoyed it, and asked to remain deployed there as a TD designated Sandtrooper.

    I settled in with a small squad of troops in charge of monitoring several mining facilities, each of which fed a constant stream of ore transports to the project build site. In the several years that followed, I kept in contact with others from my garrison who were assigned as security for “the project”. They kept me up to date as I trained to become a sniper, mastering the DLT-19 before being reassigned to Mimban. Soon thereafter, shipments of ore ceased from Tatooine, but continued steadily from Dantooine until many years after my departure.

    Somewhere along the line I lost touch with the troops working security, and my interests were pulled in other directions as my assignments called me to many new places across the galaxy.

    While my friends at the project build site had been able to maintain security, they didn’t have the numbers needed to repel any serious external assaults or onboard insurrections should they have arisen. The project had also grown too large to keep concealed from long-range scanners.

    Loyalists from Alderaan and many other inner systems were merging efforts to scan for possible remote building sites. They feared the very covert operations that were currently under way. They hoped to one day regain the peace they had known before the Empire, and acted to protect the remaining civilized pockets of their broken Republic.

    Remote listening posts, comp scanners and orbital signal-jamming platforms were deployed to assist in keeping the draped veil securely in front of the project. Behind the shroud, armored ground assault vehicles, TIE squadrons, speeder bikes and a weapons stockpile including hand-to-hand weapons along with larger scale, sonic charges was amassed.
    In all, the project progressed for nearly twenty standard years from its inception until all systems were finally brought online, and its existence was made known; its name revealed . . . Death Star.

    With the battle station completed, the security team headed by Garrison Tyranus was reassigned to other duties close to the Sith Lord. Some were dispatched to temporary assignments on the new battle station, some to duty onboard Star Destroyers, with the remainder being assigned to various other posts, depending on their training and specialty.

    Some of the members of Garrison Tyranus were assembled into a small patrol unit, assigned to re-establish an Imperial presence in the closed outpost on Tatooine.

    It was with the formation of this new unit that my standing transfer request was finally answered. Late in the day, as I was returning from a 3 day mission in the caves beneath Anoat City, my CO confirmed the transfer.

    “Deckard, I just got the holonet confirmation of your transfer approval. I don’t remember signing off on this, but I guess I must have if it’s going through.”

    “Thank you, sir” I replied.

    “So, how did things go this time?”

    I shouldered my rifle and glanced back toward the entrance of the caves, “It went as well as could be expected. We found traces of old camp locations Rebus used, but no luck locating his . . .”

    I turned my head back around to look at my CO, only to find that he had walked away from me as I was in the middle of my reply. This had become typical and was not completely without some level of anticipation, but it still pissed me off. He must have had a sudden, urgent need to check in with headquarters. I often wondered if he ever did any work at all. The rest of us in his unit were constantly pulling his weight and making the difficult, necessary decisions while he disappeared at critical moments.

    I glanced skyward. Dark clouds were slowly gathering, and moisture hung heavy in the air as night came on, preparing to dump yet more water on us.

    I entered my barracks, hurriedly gathered my gear together and slipped off my armor plates. I sat down, flipped open my field holonet pack and keyed a special request to the pilot of the shuttle that would be arriving in the morning. Confirmation of my sent message flashed 3 times on the small screen. I leaned back in the chair and switched it off. I wasfinally getting out of here.

    That pleasant thought lingered in my mind as I stood up and crossed the small space to my bunk. I sat on its edge, and lifted my legs up and in as I lay my head back to the pillow. My empty stomach growled, begging to be fed, but after the day I had had, I was just too tired to eat. My eyes burned as thoughts and images from the past several days flooded through my head. My breathing slowed and steadied and I gave in to the seductive reprieve of sleep as the sound of the first droplets of falling rain became an elemental, hypnotic rhythm.

    * * *

    I awoke with a heart-pounding start to the blare of the claxon mounted on the wall of the barracks. Other troopers began slipping on their gear and heading out for chow. It was almost light, and I knew my shuttle would be there soon. I gathered the few personal belongings I had and shoved them into my gear bag. As I was drawing the closure tight, I heard the whine of engines overhead. Standing anxiously, I crossed the room to the door and pushed it open.

    The rain had stopped and through the haze of humidity I could see the morning shuttle arriving on the landing platform. I slipped through the door and jogged the short distance to the base of the platform and took the stairs 2 at a time. As I reached the top and stepped onto the landing pad, I noticed the ground crew already at work unloading supplies from the hold. The pilot was going over the manifest with them when I came running up. He shot me a look, shook his head and smiling, threw me a small, light pouch.

    “I guess you got my message?” I said, snapping a quick, relaxed two-fingered salute his way as I turned away, racing off down the steps.

    “We’re lifting off shortly! Hurry Up, Deckard!” he shouted after me.

    I ripped open the pouch as I disappeared down the stairs. Out slid a new black thermal body glove. I held it to my face and breathed in deeply; it smelled new, nothing like the filthy sewers of Anoat, the way mine did. I had been on this rock for several years, and there had never been any point to getting a new one, knowing I would just be going back into the sludge and muck below in the caves and sewers. But now, well, now was a different story, I thought, as I walked to the barracks. Now I was getting out of here. No more lizard-ants. No more sewers.

    I threw open the door to the empty barracks and disappeared into the shower, as I stripped off the disgusting old body suit. A short time later, I emerged again, clean and adjusting the fit of the new glove. I tossed the old one in the waste chute and slipped on my armor plates. Grabbing my gear bag, rifle, environmental backpack and helmet, I took one last look around, then walked out toward the shuttle.

    This morning, I chewed on a high-energy ration bar for my breakfast as I walked up the boarding ramp into the ship. The last of the supplies had been offloaded and the pilot was bringing the engines online for our departure. I walked between the twin rows of jumpseats. I moved all the way forward, just behind the gunner’s seat and folded my metal seat down. Restraint harnesses hung from the bulkhead in a row behind the seats. I clipped my rifle into the mounted rack in the center of the aisle, and dropped my gear bag and pack to the deck, kicking them back under my seat.

    I placed my bucket down in front of them and stepped one leg into the harness as I sat down. The thin metal was cold and hard, I thought, as I pulled the restraint up. In the grand scheme of things, it really didn’t matter as long as I was leaving this place! I put one arm through a hanging strap, then the other and clipped the two halves of the harness together with the crotch strap into the center clasp at my chest. I settled in for what was likely to be only the first leg of a long flight.

    The ramp retracted and rose into the stowed position, airlocks sealing with a hiss. The pilot called back to me, “You in?”

    I yelled back to be heard over the engines, “Let’s get out of here before somebody changes their mind!” I felt the ship lift under the force of its’ repulsor field, and heard the engines’ whine rising to a loud, dull roar as the shuttle rose further away from the deck and pivoted, climbing skyward.

    The row of stowed jump seats rattled and the swinging restraint harnesses jangled noisily as the upward reaching wings lowered into their familiar triangular shape.

    I leaned forward, peering out the port in front of the gunner’s seat, and watched Anoat slip into the archives of my past tours of duty as we accelerated away into the darkness toward my new post. I closed my eyes and rested my head back against the cold, vibrating bulkhead.

    * * *
  2. Aiden_Sanic

    Aiden_Sanic Jedi Youngling star 3

    Jun 25, 2005
    A Well constructed beginning Terek =D=

    Hope to see more chapters.
  3. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Thanks very much!

    There will be 10 chapters in all. It is a story I have been working on since last November, writing a little every day on my lunch break. I appreciate the feedback. :)

  4. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Chapter 2 - Journey Toward Destiny

    Coruscant. The bustling, shining beacon in the center of the known galaxy, once home to theJediTempleand the Galactic Senate of theOldRepublic, was a planet that had been developed and cultivated over the millennia into one all-encompassing city.

    It was here, beginning with the slaughter of the unsuspecting Temple Jedi by Darth Vader and our troops of the 501st Legion, and continuing with the rise of Emperor Palpatine, the Old Republic crumbled and fell away under the weight of the crushing new Galactic Empire. The last remaining decent members of the Senate were removed, and the integrity of its offices breeched as they were quickly overrun with beauraucrats, fat from their business associations with the Emperor's New Order.

    Many years had passed since those last days of the Clone Wars, and the first days of turbulence and transition that followed under the Empire. Much that was valued had been lost. The innocent grandeur and the stability of power and reason within the Republic had been splintered into a million ruined shards, scattered to the four corners of the galaxy. The Jedi were mercilessly sought, hunted down and exterminated.

    It was believed that when the blasters were silenced on the fourth day following the enactment of Order 66, nearly every one of them had been killed, master and youngling alike, save the Emperor's new Sith apprentice Darth Vader. He once had been a great Jedi warrior and hero of the Republic before his turn to embrace the darker teachings of the Force.

    Coruscant weathered the storm silently, like tall grass in a strong wind, yielding to the revolution, the transition of power. The city lights winked and shimmered like stars across the planet's surface as a lumbering freighter requested clearance to set down in the Imperial shipyards just outsideImperialCity.


    Sparks erupted from the welding tool and rained down over gloved hands as Taka attached the scope rail to the barrel of his custom rifle. He switched off the welder and pulled his safety goggles up onto the top of his head as he rolled in his chair over to check the crackling request coming through on the comm station. He glanced to an adjacent screen for clearance code transmission. It was the Resolute Servant, inbound heavy freighter from Muskree. He then checked docking availability and keyed the comm to respond, “Resolute Servant, you are cleared for approach to landing pad sector 138011. A ground team will be readied and awaiting your arrival.” He keyed off the comm and logged them into the appropriate slot. Then he moved back to his rifle. He screwed the new scope securely in place; it fit down perfectly over the freshly attached mount.

    The grounding clips pulled loose from the gun with a jerk of his hand as he unclamped the long barrel and wiped away several curled metal shavings. The scope flickered to life as he inserted the power cell clip. He raised the new gun to his shoulder and looked into the eyepiece. The reticle imaging floated over a rusted bolt head protruding from the wall on the far side of the room.

    He flicked off the lock and fired a single blast of crimson. The bolt head and two centimeters of the rusted metal plate on either side was instantly vaporized in a bright flash. A small stream of smoke rose from the blast point as he lifted his eye from the scope to inspect the damage, “Now that’s more like it!”

    A voice called out from the hallway, “HEY! Don’t shoot, I’m just looking for my shuttle assignment!” A dirty, armored trooper stuck his head through the door, gearbag over his shoulder and E-11 blaster drawn and held out.

    Taka lowered his rifle, “Sorry, just testing some new sight modifications. Who are you? Where are you headed?”

    "There are a couple of us here. I’m Ddraig Masnachwr, TD-3195.”

    Two other troopers pushed through the door behind him, “Folson Danz, TD-8733 here and TD-1265 as well.”

    Danz looked at 1265 and asked, “Wasn’t the new guy, 1344, supposed to be heading out with us too?”

    1265 nodded his head. “Yeah, he’ll be here, he’s tying up some loose ends regarding his transfer. He said he would meet us at the ship.”

    Ddraig looked over his shoulder, then spoke in a hushed tone, "You know, I heard something from a friend that works in Internal Security, at Imperial Center. Danlin Falker, TD1344, was a Captain and Commander of a covert Recon and Assault unit until he got busted down to Stormtrooper and reassigned."

    Danz asked, "What'd he do?"

    Ddraig shook his head, "I'm not sure. My friend said when he went looking for more details, all that information was marked classified. Whatever it was, he made the wrong person angry. He's shipping out for his new assignment on this flight with us."

    Taka looked them over a bit as memories of his own reassignment after Belliran V resurfaced in his thoughts. “OK, let me see your ID holo tags.” They all leaned in closer and pulled out their dog tags. As he scanned them, he realized they were all assigned to the same flight he had been scheduled for. He was getting a new post assignment, very hush-hush, no information offered as to destination, but a new destination nonetheless.

    A new assignment would be a welcome thing. This office was definitely a dead-end. “Looks like we’ll be flying together for awhile. You guys are on the same ship out as me. Unfortunately it won’t be a shuttle. We’ve been bumped to a small cargo ship. Let me grab my things and we can walk out there together, my shift here is just about over.”


    Danlin Falker, with gear and rifle slung over his shoulder, raced out of the front of the administration building adjacent to Imperial Center. He ran through the crowds across the open plaza toward the loaded air taxi as it rose from its boarding stall and slipped into the congested lanes of traffic in the late afternoon sky. It had been that kind of day to be sure, he thought, as he threw off his gear bag and sat down, bucket in hand, on a bench to wait for the next taxi.

    He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples as the events of the past few days replayed over and over in his head and faint memories of the past crept out. He barely remembered being here so many years ago as a child, before the truth about his uncle had been exposed and his family had paid the price for it. When he was eight, his mother had entrusted him with the information that his uncle was a Jedi Knight. He idolized his uncle, and was eager to become a Jedi himself. Unfortunately, a low midichlorian count had prevented him from joining the order.

    It was during the failed Jedi attempt to seize power of the Republic and overthrow his Excellency, Chancellor Palpatine, that his uncle was killed while trying to assassinate a group of senior Clone officers. He was stunned by the news and both saddened and angered that his dead uncle was a traitor against the Republic. Between this and the bitterness he felt from being denied his own entry for training, he lost all faith in the Jedi and their ways.

    The family business was seized, and all privileges stripped from them. His mother swore it was not because of their association with the Jedi, but he knew in his heart that his uncle had betrayed them. Indeed, all of the Jedi had betrayed the very people they were sworn to protect. It had become a very dark time to live in the Republic, and darker still if you were associated in any way with the Jedi.

    He remembered attending the schools here on Coruscant, before his family had been forced to move to Nar Shadda, and a life far away from their ties with the Jedi. Life was hard on Nar Shadda, but he somehow managed to secure a decent education and was ultimately accepted into the Imperial Naval Academy on Carida, under an assumed name. He worked hard and displayed a sharp mind and a keen sense of both military and unconventional tactics. Following his uneventful graduation, he had been assigned to the 35th Planetary Assault Squadron.

    Following a promotion, he became a detachment leader specializing in recon, boarding, and neutralization of orbital defense platforms. It was not until just a standard week ago, when during a background inquiry performed by his CO, that his true name was discovered.

    He had lied to the Academy entry board, his troops and his superiors, and his family had known ties to a traitorous Jedi. Still, his service record was exemplary and his loyalty to the Empire unswerving. Senior Command agreed, following a passed Internal Security Bureau loyalty test, he would be allowed to continue serving, but would be demoted, stripped of his command and reassigned to the ranks of the Stormtrooper corps. Now, just days later, he sat in the dirty armor he had trained in, waiting for an air taxi to take him to a ship that would connect him to his new assignment. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes as he heard another taxi approaching.

    He gathered his gear and moved closer to the edge of the boarding platform as the large vehicle slowed and settled alongside the gated stall. There were no others waiting as the gates opened, and he made his way into the crowded lower level. With barely even standing room available there, he decided to go up the stairs to the open, upper deck. There were only a handful of others up there; a few couples enjoying the cool air and the romantic sunset.

    There were many comfortable seats there, and he found one along the handrail of the outer edge, put down his things and sat. There was the familiar sounding of the two low tones, and the entry gates closed as the taxi glided away from Imperial Center. The air was cooling off a bit, after a hot day, and the sun was setting in a beautiful tapestry of color and light that painted the Coruscant sky. The wind lifted his hair and made him squint as the large vehicle slipped through the travel lanes and headed a bit further out toward the shipyards and the large waterfront estates of the rich beyond them.

    The cool air and silence was just what he needed to clear his head before he shipped out. Ahead, a tall, narrow docking tower rose up to the travel lane from the shipyards below. He pressed a small button on the handrail, indicating a stop there was needed, grabbed his gear and made his way down the stairs again. The air vehicle slowed and glided to a gentle stop alongside the tower. The two tones sounded and the gates opened. He stepped out to the durasteel platform.

    The tones sounded again, the gates closed behind him and the air taxi moved away, leaving him in silence, except for the whipping of the wind. The view from this height was both dizzying and amazing. The tall structures ofImperialCity had been left behind, and the massive, open expanse of the shipyards now stretched out beneath him, filled with ships arriving, departing, boarding and unloading.

    He felt the tower sway somewhat as he stepped into the turbolift and selected the button for the ground-level of the shipyard below. The lift dropped quickly toward the duracrete far below, as there were no stops along the spindly tower. He closed his eyes, drawing in a slow breath; held it for a few seconds, then let it out slowly. Another tone sounded as the lift stopped. The doors opened and Falker stepped out onto the wide expanse of the Imperial Shipyards.

    * * *

    I was awakened by the clattering of Impervium on the deck plates. I jerked my head up and squinted in the direction of the noise. A tall trooper was clipping his rifle into the center rack at the back of the row on the opposite side from me. His dropped bucket was slowly rocking on the floor at his feet. It was scarred with a single blast mark singed across the left eyepiece. I closed my eyes, squeezed them tight and opened them again as they adjusted to the light streaming in the rear hatch.

    We were in a hangar bay somewhere. The DL-997 Cargo-Loading 'Droid switched off its' shoulder-mounted flood lamps as it finished securing a supply crate further back in the hold. It then retreated down the inclined ramp into the hangar bay outside. It was then that I noticed a modified version of a 2-legged AT-ST just outside.

    I lifted my bucket up and flipped on the chin switch for the navigational pane as the new guy stowed his gear. The tiny display showed a rotating Star Destroyer schematic and flashed the name, Leviathan.

    Immediately to the right of that display, a star chart snapped on and rotated, then closed in on the Talus sector. I had only been sleeping a short time. The Talus system was not very far from Anoat. I glanced back at the new guy and nodded in his direction as we momentarily locked eyes. He nodded back as I spoke. “I’m Deckard, TD-2187. Welcome aboard.”

    “TD-6829, Topolev Mayevkin”, he said as he shoved his bucket back under the jumpseat beside his bag. He sat and fastened his restraints as I had, with a heavy breath and closed his eyes. Desert trooper, I thought, as my eyes slowly drifted shut once more. The boarding ramp raised and the hatch sealed. I was spiraling back into my dreams as the engines roared to life and we streaked away from the Leviathan.

    * * *

    After comm-linking to the Harbormaster, Falker finally found his ship. It sat dwarfed between two enormous ships; on one side by a Super Star Destroyer that was being gutted and refitted and on the other by a Heavy Freighter, a new arrival that was busily being unloaded. He had been on some small transports before, but this was probably the smallest, and definitely not the shuttle he was expecting, but rather a small cargo transport, already loaded down with caged livestock and farming supplies.

    Taka, Ddraig, Danz and 1265 were all focusing their attentions around the Resolute Servant and a squad of intriguing Twi ’Lek dancers from Rhen Var. They stood amongst crates and supplies, playing with their Lekku and smiling as they talked with the eagerly assembled troops.

    The ground crew was busy unloading the rest of the ship’s cargo. There were crates and livestock everywhere. Among the deliveries were several caged Ysalimari for delivery to the office of the Emperor, along with hundreds of Ch’hala Trees to be planted in the main chamber of the Grand Corridor at the ImperialPalace.

    “Hey guys, I’m TD-1344, Danlin Falker. Is this thing my transport?”

    The others laughed and the Twi ‘Leks smiled as Taka spoke up, “Hello 1344, I’m TK-2953, Taka, and yeah, this little thing is our ship; looks like we got the aromatic section.”

    Falker shook his head and closed his eyes as the pilot walked down from inside, “Is this the guy?”

    Taka looked up at him, “Yeah, this is the guy we were waiting on. Let’s get the rest of this gear loaded and get out of here.” He turned back to the dancers, “Sorry ladies, it’s time for us to head out.”

    * * *

    It was dark and quiet where we were, in the cargo hold, save the constant high-pitched whine of the engines. I was unstrapped and watching our slow approach to a small planet with several moons in close orbits. We had navigated around the fringes of a moderately sized asteroid field and now finally we were passing through a thin, vaporous cloud band of cosmic dust. My helmet navigation panel flickered to life, throwing off a bluish glow inside. I turned and glanced over at it in the darkness, sitting on the floor in front of my gear bag.

    The blue glow was reflecting off the metal deck plate from under the black-trimmed edges of the bone-white, armored helmet. There was also a faint glow visible through the dark eye lenses creating an eerie, ghostly appearance. I slid out of the gunner’s seat and knelt on the cold deck, lifting it up to see what it had to offer. As I rolled it over and peered inside, the information display screen was populating. Ralltiir was the name of this place. I glanced into the back of the hold. Topolev was still asleep.

    I moved back to the gunner’s chair, holding my helmet and looking once again through the port. We followed a path that carried us through bright bands of warming light reaching out from the central star in this system; silently streaming through the heavens to finally filter through the translucent veil of dust which surrounded us.

    Our approach eventually moved us beyond the reaches of the orange starlight and into the eclipsing shadow thrown by the planet itself, high above the portion of the surface that was covered in the liquid darkness of night. Then, like a stalking predator in the shadows, the lights of a silent, circling, darkened Star Destroyer suddenly appeared out of the camouflaging darkness of the endless starfield as we cruised past heading for the base on Ralltiir.

    Faint lights on the planet below flickered, twinkled and grew brighter as we entered the atmosphere. Immediately, the smooth ride of the shuttle was interrupted by the jarring turbulence of the air, now buffeting against the wide flat wings and the hull of our craft. From the direction of the cockpit I heard a crackling request for security code clearance.

    There was a lot of interference, as if someone else was transmitting on top of our military frequencies. There were moments of coarse static bursts, and then garbled words and electronic tones streaming over the ground crew transmission. The pilot complied, sending out the ship’s electronic signature. As he did so, an information screen appeared on the other end of the comm line in front of the ground crew member at the base displaying our ship type and specifications.

    Moments later as the static disappeared from the comm channel, we were cleared for landing at the base. The pilot switched on the forward-projecting approach lights and adjusted his thermal sensor settings as our ship descended blindly into a thick fog. I could see nothing, just swirling clouds. Then faintly, I saw a few lights and finally, the barest of outlines of several buildings and towers. They were only visible as slightly darker shades of grey against the white mists of the dense fog. The extended gear touched down in a small designated landing zone near the southern perimeter of the expansive spacefield.

    Topolev was awake now too, and we both unclipped our harnesses as the pilot powered down the reactor and the engines fell silent. “We must be staying here for a while”, I said, standing.

    Topolev responded, looking around the hold as the wall-mounted, battery-powered lights kicked in, “It certainly looks that way”, as he leaned over and grabbed his bucket. I picked mine up too, and walked the corridor toward the rear ramp and the spacefield outside.

    Topolev stepped into the aisle in front of me as the pilot came down from the cockpit, “Hey Deckard, how’s the ride so far?”

    I laughed, “Not too bad, Riggs, if you like the smooth, core-system refinement of a snobby commercial-liner pilot.” I ducked as he threw his gloves at me, laughing. I had known Riggs since I had been assigned on Anoat. He was flying the shuttle that had delivered me and the others to that swampy, mudhole of a planet. It was fitting that he was the one flying me out of it.

    He jokingly shoved me into Topolev as he spoke, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” He backpedaled and pulled away as I took a mock swing at his head.

    Topolev laughed and moved out the hatch, stepping onto the ramp. There was a deafening blast and a violent rocking of the shuttle as an expanding fireball washed over us and we were thrown backwards to the deck. The lowered portion of the ramp we were on had exploded, shredding and twisting the plank into a mangled ruin. We were under attack! Suddenly we weren’t laughing, we were scrambling for our clipped-in rifles, and pulling our buckets on. My ears were ringing from the blast and my heart was racing, “Topolev, you OK?”, I yelled.

    “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m going to need a new chestpiece, though”, as he indicated a hand-sized piece of shrapnel from the ramp partially embedded in the Impervium.

    Riggs reached up, pulled a DLT-19 from one of the crates and powered it on. Smoke poured into the ship and sirens blared as another, stronger explosion rocked it, throwing us across the hold into the wall and scattering us on the deck. One of the main rear landing gear assemblies had been hit, and the heavy shuttle groaned and listed to one side as the damaged gear folded and collapsed beneath us in a tangle of bent, stressed metal.

    The wing-mounted dual repeater cannon on the damaged side spewed a shower of sparks and suddenly opened fire, spitting non-stop, repeating blasts of energy beams horizontally across the landing area, sawing through the tops of the grey tree outlines on the fringe of the clearing beyond.

    The adrenaline was coursing through each of us as we tried to get an assessment of what was going on. None of us could see through the smoke or the fog for that matter. I yelled to be heard over the explosions and blaster fire occurring outside, “If we stay in here much longer, somebody’s gonna be pulling spare armor parts off our dead bodies by morning.”

    Topolev switched on his thermal imaging and scanned the spacefield outside. “You're right about that! There are no nearby targets, though, must be snipers. The firing is coming from beyond the edge of the field. There's a troop transport speeder we can take cover behind just outside and to the right, if we can just get to it. Switch on your thermal imaging.”

    A blaster shot from across the field vaporized a hole through the twisted surface of the ramp just in front of Riggs' un-armored leg, and he yelled, "Well, we can't stay here any longer, let's go!" The three of us charged down the remnants of the ramp and leaped to the duracrete deck, blasters firing. We stayed clear of the repeating cannon blasts, still firing into the darkness of the trees. Several blasts crisscrossed in front of us from the cover of the thick, mist-laden foliage.

    Troops now streamed out of the base buildings on the far edge of the field, running across the paved surface firing red, blue and green blasts of superfocused energy through the fog. I heard the moisture in the air vaporize as I squeezed off several shots. We all threw ourselves back-first against the armored transport, as several waves of troopers joined us, firing on an unseen enemy out there in the mist. "Who's shooting at us?” yelled Topolev.

    One of the base troopers took cover with us behind the transport, blaster rifle raised up beside his head and breathing heavy from his sprint across the field. "They're rebels. They've been under surveillance since we arrived here. We suspected that sympathizers were gathering here with friends on the High Council. Now we know." and he fired off several shots around the rear of the transport. "I'm 4120, welcome to Ralltiir." He stood and ran off the edge of the landing pad into the grass, joining a group of other troopers, his repeating rifle blasting away at anything that moved.

    Topolev and I looked over at Riggs. He was armed, but not armored. “Riggs, you need to stay here, you have no armor, no protection”, I said.

    He nodded and waved us on. I went around the rear, Topolev around the front of the transport, firing as we ran to catch up with the base troops, with Riggs providing covering fire. We jumped over the corpses of several troopers that had been cut down in the charge as another explosion rocked the shuttle behind us. I glanced back as I ran. She was now lying completely over on her side.

    When we reached the edge of the trees that lined the clearing, many of the troops were pursuing the fleeing rebels into the dense, foggy forest. 4120 was following a group of about six rebels that had broken off from the main group and had disappeared down an embankment. We broke left, following him through the tall, damp grass down the slope to a dry creek bed. The scurry of footprints in the dirt led away to the left, and we ran to catch up.

    We came around a bend in the miniature ravine just as 4120 blasted a gaping hole through the torso of one of the rebels, throwing her to the ground in a lifeless heap. There were several others lying on the ground with similar wounds. The two remaining fugitives fled wildly into the woods trying in vain to escape their deaths, yelling at each other, “Where was he? He was supposed to be on that shuttle!” We blasted into the darkness at them. Topolev took one out, and when his comrade turned to look back at his friend, I took him out too. Then there was a moment of silence, and the thick smell of ozone.

    Faint blaster fire could be heard echoing through the woods and then silence. 4120 set down his rifle and then pulled off his bucket, as he turned to examine his injured left hand, which was dangling from the end of his armored forearm gauntlet. I pulled off my bucket, “Are you OK?”

    He cursed in Iridonian and then answered, “Yeah, I’m fine. A shot just grazed me”, as he grabbed the spinning hand and pulled it off with a quick jerk.

    "GRAZED you?" said Topolev. 4120 held it up for us to see closer. Thin metal guides and wires protruded from the charred black “skin” surrounding the wound.

    “It’s OK, it’s cybernetic.” He saw the question on our faces, and stopped us, “It’s a long story. Suffice it to say I got a, uh, nasty infection and had to cut off my own hand before it spread.”

    We slowly nodded and spoke at the same time, “Yeah, OK, Sure.”

    He slapped Topolev on the shoulder, “Come on, let’s head back.”

    Smoke rose from the corpses lying in the sandy creek bed as we turned to make our way back to the base. It was beginning to grow lighter as we stepped out of the thick grass onto the landing pad. A group of ‘droids were extinguishing the fires on the shuttle. Other maintenance ‘droids working on the ship must have disconnected power to the rogue cannon, as it was now silenced. As we drew nearer, we saw Riggs sitting on what remained of a wing, being attended by a medical ‘droid.

    “You OK? What Happened?” asked Topolev.

    The injured pilot looked up, “I’m OK, but won’t be flying anytime real soon. The cannon must have overheated. The ‘droids are telling me the firing mechanism jammed, causing an explosion. I felt something slap me across the back and knock me off me feet. I tried to reach up to the transport to help myself up, but I couldn't raise my arm. When I looked over at it, part of the red-hot gun nozzle was sticking through my shoulder. That’s it there.” He said, pointing with his good arm. The medical 'droid raised one of its’ arms, showing us the discolored metal pipe held tight in the pincers. “Luckily, the thing was so hot, it cauterized the wound immediately, otherwise, I’d be dead.”

    I knelt down beside him, “Take it easy, Riggs. They’ll fix you up and you’ll be flying again before you know it.” He nodded as I stood, and the medical 'droid continued its’ work. Topolev and I stepped past them and climbed over the twisted metal into the hold. The ship now lay on its side, everything blackened from the smoke. We climbed over the bulkhead, which was now the deck. Our gear had been thrown toward the sloping nose. I moved forward and grabbed a bag and a pack, checked them, threw them to Topolev and then grabbed mine.

    “MU-40 there’ll take good care of you. Good sedatives, huh?” 4120 was saying to Riggs as we made our way out of the wreckage. “After he looks at you, I’m gonna need a tune-up myself” he said, holding up his severed hand.

    The med 'droid's head servos swiveled his optical sensors around to inspect the damage, then it spoke, “Again, 4120?”

    The dirtied base trooper laughed, “Come on guys, I’ll find you a place to stash your gear until we get a new transport. I’m outta here with you when you leave. My transfer came through 2 days ago, and I think you guys are my ride.”

    The MU, medical unit, and another ‘droid were loading Riggs onto a repulsor sled as we headed toward the base. It was almost light now, and through the light mist, running along the far side of the base, I saw a river. The waters were quiet and calm, flowing along as if nothing had happened; completely unaffected. Great, I thought to myself, more water. "I can’t wait to get outta here."


    Tiny wisps of white smoke curled up from 4120’s wrist as the med ‘droid carefully removed the cauterized remains of the charred, synthetic 'flesh' with a low powered energy beam. 4120 watched closely as the ‘droid cleaned the wrist stump with a jet of water, until all traces of the cybernetic hand were gone, save the guide rods, ball joint and multiple flexor-cords sticking out from the durasteel cap that covered the end of what was left of his arm.

    The ‘droid swiveled to face him, “4120, soak that in this container of bacta while I prepare the new prosthetic.”

    The trooper complied as the ‘droid swiveled again to a case on another bench. It released the small clasps on the front of the small, metallic crate and lifted the hinged lid. Inside were six compartments for identical synthetic hands. One of the compartments was empty, most likely for the one that had just been destroyed. The ‘droid gently retrieved one of the remaining five hands and closed the lid of the case, securing the clasps.

    It swiveled around to 4120 and brought the hand up before his face, “You only have five left, including this one”.

    The trooper chuckled, trying to keep a straight face and not knock over the bacta.

    “I’m not joking, 4120. I won’t be there to fix you from now on. Your record shows that you are transferring out to another group. You will need to watch me carefully as I reconnect these fittings and wrap the synthetic flesh, so you can do it in the future the next time you do this to yourself. And yes, I know there WILL be a next time!” The trooper laughed again, as the droid put down the hand and raised the soaking stump out of the bacta.

    A jetted appendage extended from the shaft of the ‘droid’s arm and air was blown over the stump to dry it thoroughly. Once finished, it lifted the hand and positioned the socket over the ball joint on the stump. A release pin was pulled out slightly, and the socket slipped down over the ball. When it was confirmed to be in place, the pin was released, snapping back into place as a retainer, keeping the socket from slipping out of its’ new, seated position. The droid then set to work attaching the flexor-cords to the tiny connectors on the structure of the hand. 4120 was watching closely. He knew all too well that he would be doing this to himself someday.

    I turned away from the transparisteel panel and walked out of the doorway, down a small corridor and lay back on my assigned bunk. Topolev was asleep in the one beside it. I closed my eyes as I waited for 4120 to be finished. Riggs was undergoing surgery, and would most likely be fine, but he wouldn’t be taking us on the rest of our flight, that’s for sure. We would need another ship as well.

    My head was pounding. I couldn't stop thinking about the rebels who had attacked us, wondering what their objective had been. They had expected someone else? Had we gotten in the way of something? Our shuttle arrival, with two troopers of no consequence would hardly warrant an attack the likes of what we had just seen.

    4120 walked in as I sat pondering the events of our arrival. He was rubbing his wrist, and flexing the new hand. “I just heard that our task force leader, Lord Tion, has arranged for another shuttle. He’s pulling a pilot familiar with some of the destination ports from field duty now to take us the rest of the way on our flight. Lord Vader will be arriving soon to inspect the Interrogation Camps . . . ."

    That was it! The rebels must have been expecting Vader instead of us to have been arriving on the shuttle. We had walked into the middle of an assassination attempt. Sever the head of the Rancor and the body dies. But surely they couldn't have thought the Emperor would have been traveling with Vader. I realized 4120 had continued talking as I had drifted deeper into my thoughts, drowning him out. I had missed most of what he had said, but he was still talking.

    ". . . and Tion has just received new intelligence that shows a dignitary will be arriving later today for a meeting with the High Council. They were eliminated when we stormed the council chambers. I’m sure Tion will want the visitor brought here and detained for search and interrogation.”

    The MU-40 'droid moved past 4120 and placed the case of cybernetic appendages on his bunk along with another case of medical supplies and tools. "Take Care, 4120, take care", and it turned and left.

    4120 shifted his eyes from the new hand to me, "I'm hungry. Let's go get something to eat." I nodded; it had been a while since I had eaten real food. I roused Topolev from his sleep and we followed 4120 out of the barracks and down a corridor to the mess.

    We each grabbed a tray and began selecting food as we spoke. "So how long have you been here?” I asked.

    4120 spoke without looking back, "About 45 of the local standard days. We were brought in when it was discovered that members of the High council were rebel sympathizers and allowing rebels to assemble here, gathering their forces. Ralltiir is a technology-driven society." He put a hot plate of steak on his tray and licked the thick sauce he had spilled on his finger. "We were given specific instructions to strip their technology from them and leave their world in ruins, begging for the mercy of the Empire. Tion was all too eager to comply, to the very letter of our orders."

    We sat at a table facing a large pane of transparisteel overlooking the landing deck. I had followed 4120's lead and taken a plate of the meat. It was very good and tasted like a dish I had once tried on Cicarpous IV, near Mimban. Topolev had a large plate of exotic-looking, multi-colored vegetation, well-steamed. I could see troops patrolling the perimeter of the deck, watching the woods, blasters at the ready.

    Our shuttle wreckage had already been cleared from the field. Topolev spoke with a mouth full, "How's the hand?"

    4120 nodded as he chewed and swallowed a mouthful of steak, "Perfect, see?” he said as he flexed the fingers in and out twice. On the deck outside, a shuttle similar to our own landed as we continued eating. Several of the ground crew attended to various points along the undercarriage as the front ramp lowered to the ground and a passenger walked down and exited; a passenger in a black helmet, black armor and robes. Lord Vader had arrived on Ralltiir. I continued eating and watched as he was escorted into an armored speeder, being taken to review the interrogation camps.


    Above the surface of Ralltiir, a consular ship was making her approach when TIE fighter escorts appeared from the far side of the planet and intercepted her. They surrounded the ship as communication was finally achieved with the lead TIE pilot.

    "TIE Squadron leader, this is Captain Raymus Antilles of the Tantive IV, acting on behalf of the royal house of Alderaan. We are en route to Grallia Spaceport on a diplomatic mission for a meeting with members of the High Council and are not to be detained."

    The TIE pilot responded, "Captain, you will not be proceeding to Grallia Spaceport, as it now exists only as ruins, as does the High Council. You will follow us to a newly established Imperial base for search and interrogation. This system is now restricted, immunity or not, by Order of Lord Vader and Lord Tion."

    The TIE fighters crossed the nose of the diplomatic ship as she adjusted her course headings to follow their lead toward the new Imperial beacon being sent out from the impromptu military spaceport below. Antillesworried about the cargo they were secretly transporting for the High Council. They were loaded down with field surgical units, medipaks, medical 'droids and more. If the ship were to be searched . . .


    4120 secured his personal items and medical equipment in the large, standard issue gearbag like mine. Topolev was making a few adjustments to his new chestplate when a scout entered the room, "Your new shuttle's ready, guys; outside, ready to go." Topolev grabbed his bag and bucket as did I, and 4120 made one last sweep of his bunk area before he slung the bag over his shoulder and the three of us made our way down the corridor, past the communications room and out to the flight deck.

    It was almost dark. The local days were a lot shorter than what I was used to. We boarded the shuttle and secured ourselves and our gear as a duty-scarred Corellian corvette prepared to set down on the far side of the deck. Her TIE escorts had left her now, as she lowered herself to a landing.

    None of us even noticed her arrival as the rear hatches on our shuttle closed and pressurized. The new pilot lifted off and we climbed once more toward the massive expanse of the stars above.

    * * *

    Our new pilot, Lt. Tank, hadn’t been very forthcoming with any details of our extended flight plan. About the only thing he had said was that our course was being dictated by Imperial Command on Coruscant as we flew, so there was no hope of using the hyperdrive engines. We had to remain in contact with them. He was very young, a recent recruit that, for whatever reason, hadn’t made the cut as a fighter pilot.

    The kid had skills, or he wouldn’t be flying a shuttle, he’d be cooking in the mess. He had plenty of time to grow into a fighter pilot. Flying this shuttle was earning him good flight time experience, even if that training meant we spent a lot more time in flight than necessary. We had been en route at sub-light speeds for what seemed an eternity now.

    Tank came over the comm with an announcement, “We’ve just been directed to make a course change and head to Denon Station. It’s only a small deviation. There’s a freighter on its way there from Coruscant with five troopers that need to connect with this flight.”

    4120 rolled his eyes and Topolev shifted uncomfortably in his seat as I rubbed my temples, "This flight just kept getting better and better."

    * * *

    Denon Station turned out to be quite a beautiful place. It was situated in a sparse belt of asteroids orbiting near the planet Denon, not far from Corellia, near where the Corellian Way and the Hydian Way intersect. The series of stations had been constructed around a central core of asteroid.

    Having docked some time ago, we grew impatient as we waited on the freighter from Coruscant.

    4120 and I sat with buckets off at a small table overlooking our shuttle and the landing bays below as Topolev waited at a window for our food. 4120 put down his drink and stared out at the adjacent station and the darkness of the stars beyond. I put my drink down and asked him, “So, are you going to tell me about cutting off your hand? What really happened?”

    He shifted a bit in his seat, and then spoke as he rubbed his left wrist, “It’s been quite a few years now. It started with a trip to visit my Twi’Lek girlfriend’s uncle. He had been called in to help decipher ancient Iridonian artifacts unearthed on a dig expedition near the great pyramids there. I had been called in to recover a specific piece for the Hutts.”

    Topolev walked over with our food. I turned to him, “He’s explaining how he lost his hand. Please go on.” We started to eat as we listened.

    “We made it to Iridonia without incident, and located her uncle. I was amazed at the items they had recovered, ancient battle armor, early vibroblades, several jeweled bowls and an odd-looking book of flimsies which pre-dated even holocrons. Her uncle had identified it as an early Sith writing, a book bound in Rancor hide and written in blood. It detailed burial rites, funerary chants and other Sith rituals used for laying slain masters to rest. As we all know, with the Sith, there are only two.

    The ancient Sith order were many in number and were narrowed by greed and their quest for power to only two, a master and an apprentice. This book chronicled the lives and deaths of the ancient Sith masters and contained many of their secrets. We were in the main tent of the dig one evening. My girlfriend and I were looking at the artifacts as her uncle read through several passages he was translating. As he carefully opened the yellowed pages, he uncovered a small compartment buried in the center of the book, but as he opened it, he was consumed in a white light.

    Without thinking, my Twi’Lek rushed to grab the book away and help him. She was caught up in the blaze. I reached out to stop her and it started into me as well. I let go of her and watched helplessly as they were both incinerated and turned to dust. It was only then that I realized it was eating into my hand. I grabbed one of the ancient vibrocutters on the next table and severed my hand at the wrist to keep the reaction from spreading up my arm and avoid dying. With the vibrocutter I closed the book and the reaction seemed to be stopped."

    I noticed a small cargo ship landing below on the platform not far from our shuttle as he spoke, but I kept my attention on him.

    “I cinched my wrist and gathered the book into a small container, sealed it and fled. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I had to get rid of it, but it was a power far too dangerous for gangsters like the Hutts to wield. I located an elder in a neighboring settlement. His med ‘droids fixed my hand and he helped me undergo an ancient rite, one that involved reading of ancient texts, burning incense and ritualistic body tattooing. At the end of the week-long process, I was rendered a spiritual messenger, free to transport the book without fear of its horrible power. I had paid my respects to the source from which it had come.

    The Hutt, however, was furious. He thought I had fled the planet, keeping the book for myself, and put a contract out on my life. I joined the Empire and became a nameless, faceless Stormtrooper, evading capture. I journeyed to Coruscant and was granted a meeting with Emperor Palpatine. It was there that I turned the book over to him. As a reward, I was offered a place in the 501st Legion to serve Lord Vader; my loyalty having already been proven. What started as a way to hide turned into a love for what I do. I’ve been on the front line ever since, and have gone through a few incarnations of cybernetic hands. The one you saw is the most recent and most realistic one so far.”

    Topolev finished the last of his food as 4120 finished speaking, “Pretty amazing story. How much of it is B.S.?” and he laughed.

    4120 laughed as he drank, “Laugh if you like, that’s the truth.”

    I swallowed the last of my drink, “I think the others are here”, and I pointed to the bay below as I gathered up my trash. Several troopers were emptying out of the cargo ship. We all grabbed our buckets and headed for the lift.


    The new troops were unloading their gear as we came walking up. “So you guys are joining us, huh?” said Topolev.

    1344 leaned toward him and grabbed his hand, shaking it as he responded, “That’s right. Let me tell you, your shuttle looks great after the flight we just had, shoved in with cargo and livestock.” Ddraig, Danz, Taka, 1265 and Falker all shook hands with us as we helped them haul their gear into the hold area. Tank brought the engines online and prepared for lift-off as we all strapped in. He lifted us off the deck and set a course away from Denon Station that would take us through Hutt space.

    * * *

    We had all been talking a bit, exchanging some stories of past missions and assignments to break the ice and the monotony of this flight. I closed my eyes, as more thoughts from the past churned through my mind; vivid, overlapping images from Dantooine, Mimban and Anoat. I was wondering if my old detachment members had found Moff Rebus yet. Rebus was an eccentric weapons specialist that had been working for the Empire since the Clone Wars.

    After designing the Superlaser for the secretive Death Star project he had disappeared. Many thought he had suffered the same fate as the battle stations chief design team, but recently, Intelligence intercepted information indicating he had constructed a hidden stronghold located deep beneath the sewage systems of AnoatCity.

    While our primary mission had been to infiltrate and take control of the planet and its capital city, we were also part of a much smaller group searching for the elusive Rebus. Memories and images washed through my mind of the dark, foul-smelling caverns and sewers. Searching for a way into Anoat City, a way to surprise the inhabitants and quickly overtake them. And thoughts of even darker missions . . . grisly rescue missions, exploring amidst the dead for survivors inside starships that had crashed into the vast oceans, casualties of the numerous battles above the planet.

    The worst were the missions searching for Rebus, beneath the sewers, deep in the caves in complete darkness working with infrared bucket visor panels and the swarming lizard-ants from that one mission, all over us; inside our armor. I awoke with a start, realizing I had momentarily drifted off.

    The ship rocked as something struck the hull with a hollow, wrenching sound. We all unclipped and moved forward for a look. The pilot lifted the nose to avoid more of the small floating debris. As he lowered it back on course, we were all amazed at what lay ahead. Volumes were spoken in our silence.
    Ahead was the final resting place of three dead, imploded stars. We were on the edge of a place each of us had heard of since childhood as a place to avoid.

    We were approaching . . . the Maw.

    For centuries, folk stories had been told throughout the galaxy, in millions of languages, about the lost ships and their crews that were pulled into the powerful, spiraling vortex whose gravitational pull sucked in even light if it dared venture too close. The chain reaction death of three stars in close orbit around each other had created this treacherous navigational nightmare.

    The navigation panes in all of our buckets simultaneously blipped on as we passed within transmission range for the settlement ahead. Not one of us bothered to look at it, we knew where we were. There was a medium-sized moon, just outside the pull of the gravity well and quite devoid of life, save an Imperial base and its' inhabitants.

    It had been left in that desolate state after the cataclysmic supernova explosions, subsequent implosions and the howling solar winds from a thousand generations ago ravaging across its surface as they were sucked down into the bottomless black pit of the Maw. We, however, were not heading for the dead moon, but rather the smaller, frozen asteroid that now lay between us and it.

    We were headed for Kessel.

    An equal number of folk stories existed about this place, but for reasons far, far darker. The Kessel moon was the site of an Imperial base that once housed an entire Garrison to oversee the nearby asteroid mining facility and one of the most feared and brutal Imperial prisons in the known galaxy. For all condemned, a trip to the containment facility at the spice mines of Kessel was a one way affair.

    In most posts, you saw the good, the bad, and the horrific. The inmate population on Kessel was the collected masses of the truly horrific from every corner of the galaxy. Most every known violent, anti-social and deviant behavior was well represented here. Guards were generally rotated around the prison after two standard years to keep the staff sharp and unforgiving.

    The asteroid, on which the prison was built, was too small to possess even enough gravity to hold on to anything bit a very thin atmosphere, too thin to sustain life. Imperial engineers had installed numerous atmospheric generator facilities which endlessly blasted out streams of breathable air across the surface of the lifeless rock. It slowly slipped away from the surface, venting out into the vastness of the stars like life-support gases streaming from a crippled starship with a breach in its hull.

    As a result, the surface air was breathable, barely, but the miner-inmates and their Stormtrooper guards down in the mine shafts had to wear re-breather masks and oxygen cells at all times to keep from passing out. Inmates and guards alike were issued only one mask and one cell per day, to ensure no hording of oxygenation equipment.

    Distant starlight broke around the edge of the nearby Garrison moon as we began our approach, skimming the lifeless surface of the asteroid.

    We had received the transmission from the identifier beacon, but as far as I could tell, there had been no communication with anyone at the facility. The cockpit had been quiet. The shuttle flew low over the alkali flats and climbed abruptly to avoid a low mountain range. It was then that we saw the only surface evidence of inhabitants; an empty landing deck, starkly jutting out from the steep walls of the mountains ahead.

    We maneuvered around to line up with the deck below as the lower wings folded up and the landing gear lowered. Slowly, we descended through the magnetic Atmospheric Retention Shield to the landing pad beneath us on the dark side of Kessel. As the engines wound down, we prepared to disembark. We all had buckets in hand as the airlock seals at the rear hatch de-pressurized. Taka said he was going to stay behind and work on his rifle.

    The access ramp lowered as Topolev turned to me joking, "You can go down the ramp first this time!" and he rapped on his new chest armor plate.

    Our pilot left the cockpit and followed us down to the outside deck. The silence was absolutely deafening. We all looked around for other troopers, some sign of life, and there was none. I looked up the side of the mountain to the stars beyond, then down to our shuttle and past it to the expansive Alkali flats we had crossed on our approach. Further in the distance, like a waiting trap, lay the swirling Maw with the Garrison moon orbiting somewhere in between.

    After glancing around, we crossed the deck heading for the shield doors that led inside the facility. No one seemed to know or care that we were there. Danz spoke up, “They probably don’t get too many visitors. I guess few, if any people voluntarily come to Kessel.”

    “Yeah”, said Ddraig as he looked around. We had almost made it to the doors when another small craft gently pushed through the magnetic membrane of the shield above us and set down beside our ship. It was a small craft, a 'droid-piloted Payload Retrieval ship with spider-like arms encircling its hull. They were designed for recovering any cargo floating about after a ship was damaged or destroyed. As we watched it touch down, the shield doors behind us opened and several troopers walked through followed by a slower, portly Rybet who ordered them to unload the 'droid ship's cargo.

    They moved a floating repulsor sled alongside the small craft and opened several well-concealed hatches, exposing the recovered items inside as the Rybet turned, looking us over. In a slimy, guttural voice he demanded, "Who are you?", his nostrils flaring. Lt. Tank pushed past us, taking the Rybet by the arm and turning him away from us, speaking quietly, "I have been directed here by Imperial Command on Coruscant to pick up two troopers for reassignment. Who are you?"

    "I am Moruth Doole, prisoner trustee and the most powerful person in this system beside the Warden, Commander Kluskine." There was a crash as a small crate fell to the deck. Doole whipped his head around, "Be careful with that, you know it can't be exposed to the light or it’s useless to me!" He slowly turned back to our pilot, "The only thing I like better than making a killing by selling Spice, is making another killing by selling it again a second time! Ha ha ha! One of the last starships out dumped her shipment when one of my ships in the blockade threatened to board her."

    His voice trailed off, and he stared off into the darkness of the empty hallway as if he were speaking only to himself now, "I know a special customer who will not be so very happy with Captain Solo." The small band of duty-worn troopers pushed the full sled away from the small ship toward the open shield doors.

    Our pilot handed Doole a small, thin data card, "Here are the reassignment orders."

    "Come inside", said Doole, "everyone, come inside while I locate these men." The ground shook hard beneath our feet.

    4120 looked around, "What the . . . "

    Doole spoke up quickly, "Just tremors from the deep core blasting . . . nothing to worry about. We're directly above the prison and mining operations. They're several levels down, through a number of security checkpoints. This is the way we bring in new arrivals. You'll get to see firsthand what it's like so you can tell others how you survived a stop at the Kessel Spice Mines", and he waddled off through the doors.

    "I'll alert Commander Kluskine and let him know you're here. Ever been to Kessel, boys?" We all shook our heads no as we followed him further along the corridor.

    The stony walls which had been smooth near the shield doors were now uneven and jagged and blood-stained. As I walked, I noticed fingernails and claws stuck in the discolored rocks from the hands of those who had been dragged in, screaming and fighting.

    "The evil and darkness that lives in the hearts of the inmates here have robbed this place of any warmth, any soul. It gets to you after a while", he chuckled, "I should know. I worked the darkness of the deepest mineshafts for over twenty years."

    I suddenly felt that if these dark, stone corridors could speak, they would scream in horror as they told the tales of the countless numbers that had passed this way to their fate, and the few, if any that ever came out alive.

    Doole went ahead of us, stepping out onto a metal catwalk that crossed over a pool of an undetermined green liquid. The two trooper guards at the doors on the other side stepped out, glancing our way to see who was coming with him.

    We all advanced around the room and came to the doors on the far side. Doole stepped up to the security plate and pressed his right hand to it at the same moment he entered a code number with his free hand. The doors opened, and we all stepped through, leaving the guards behind as the doors closed.

    No experience in any of our lives could have prepared us for what lay in the darkness beyond the second set of blast doors. The roar of thousands of voices flooded out as the doors parted. We stepped through onto another gridded, metal gantry suspended from the stony ceiling of the cavern by thick cables. It swayed slightly from our movement as we crossed the open prisoner’s common area far below. We heard screams and yelling and as I looked down I could make out an undulating living sea of inmates whose actions had brought them to this hellhole that was Kessel.

    We walked through another set of blast doors and followed a small, dim corridor that opened onto an enormous mezzanine, half encircling an expansive labor pit below. I stepped up to the tranparisteel and looked out into the surface mining operations facility. 'Droid workers were busy removing rock in the never-ending quest to find yet more Spice.

    Doole stepped forward, "And this is only the very top of the operation. The tunnels where the Glitterstim is mined are worked by the inmates in complete darkness, far, far below us. It has somewhat of a depressing effect on them, and tends to add a bit of claustrophobia and paranoia to their already abysmal working conditions, but it must be completely dark. The light activates the Spice, so it has to be carefully mined and wrapped in sheathing before it is brought to the surface for sale. Sit here a moment while I identify the troopers you're looking for. I won't be long."

    He turned and disappeared down a narrow hallway. The pristine landing deck outside was definitely no indicator as to what the inside would look like. The area we were in now was damp and musty with the stale smell of an aging, heavily-worn government facility. The only signs of current technology were found in the security systems and atmospheric shielding. The 'droid loaders working in the pit were hopelessly outdated and showed signs of heavy wear and minimal repair or upgrade, just enough to keep them running.

    Topolev walked to the transparisteel panel beside me and looked down in to the pit, "I've heard stories about this place my whole life. I never thought I would be here."

    "Yeah", I said, tapping the transparent pane as the others walked up beside us, also looking down into the yard below, "just be glad you're on this side of the security doors."

    Doole waddled back into the room, "C'mon, follow me. One of the troopers you're looking for is a drilling foreman on a platform several levels below us." We all turned and followed him a short way to a turbolift. He handed each of us an oxygen mask and gas cylinder. "The air is a little thin as you go down further. It might be uncomfortable for you, so use these to help." We all pulled on the masks and dialed on the cylinders as we entered the lift. Doole unlocked the lower level with a security code and the doors closed. The floor of the lift vibrated and shook as we passed silently beneath Kessel's stony exterior skin.

    When it stopped, the doors parted, opening out into a noisy, dimly lit area with a metal gridded floor. We all stepped out, and Doole led the way down the tall, open hallway between huge machines toward the increasingly loud whirring sound that filled this level. He deactivated a yellow energy shield, allowing us all to pass as we moved further ahead toward the sound.

    As the shield re-activated behind us, I noticed there was now a fine mist hanging in the air and as we came to the end of the hallway, water and bright light showered from above, splashing away from the enormous spinning drill shaft that ran from floor to ceiling. The water was being sprayed onto it to keep it cool as it burrowed deep into the dark heart of Kessel. Doole tapped the foreman on the shoulder, who turned around to face the group assembled behind him.

    Seeing them, he reached over to a large control arm on the giant machine beside him and pulled it down, cutting power to the main drilling system. The raining water stopped falling and the spinning shaft slowly wound to a halt as did the loud whirring, and again the masked foreman turned to face us.

    He drew back his synthetic, waterproof hood and pulled the re-breather mask from his face. "Doole, what can I do for you?" He eyed us all warily.

    “You’ve been reassigned, you and 0600. You’re outta here”, said the Rybet.

    The man looked irritated, “I’m not in the mood for your jokes, Doole. I don’t need your sick psychological games.”

    Lt. Tank stepped forward and activated his holocron showing the orders, "TD-1009, these troopers and I are here to pick you and TD-0600 up. You've been reassigned. The orders come directly from ImperialCenteron Coruscant.”

    1009 shot a glance over to Doole, through the holographic image. The Rybet laughed, “I bet you guys never thought you'd see anything but the belly of this stone beast for the rest of your life, huh?"

    “This is for real?” asked 1009, water dripping from his cloak and hood.

    Doole snorted, “Do you really think I would waste my time dragging troopers down here and faking a holo just to play a trick on you? I have spice to sell and better things to do”. Our pilot nodded in agreement as he snapped off the holocron. 1009 exhaled and closed his eyes a moment, as if an enormous weight had been removed from a tired beast of burden at the end of a long, arduous journey.

    He unclasped the front of his wet gear and the hooded, waterproof cloak fell away to the ground revealing his heavily worn armor beneath. He stepped over to a small shelf beside the drilling control panel and grabbed his bucket. Turning back to Doole, he looked the Rybet squarely in the eyes, "Let's go. I've been here long enough."


    Kessel had rotated, and now their side of the asteroid was facing the Kessel Star, the fourth and last remaining sibling of the three that had perished so long ago. Stone flew in every direction, thrown high into the light streaming down from the opening overhead and the ground shook as explosives were detonated on the floor of the pit, opening the entrance to a new mineshaft.

    TD0600 maneuvered his large cutter into the opening even before the debris had stopped falling. He switched on the mechanism and was busy watching over it when Doole, 1009 and our group entered the freshly blasted wound on the surface of Kessel, several minutes later. We moved inside the dark hole and followed the burrowed path for a few meters. The roar from the cutter was overpowering.

    Doole led the way as we advanced into the space directly behind the cutter. Our shadows fell across the rotating blades as we blocked the light filtering in from the surface. 0600 noticed the shadow and turned to see us coming. He caught sight of Doole and switched off the giant digging machine. It ground to a halt as he grabbed his T-21 and turned back to face us, unsure as to why the Rybet was confronting him down here in the tunnels with a trooper escort.

    TD1009 stepped forward and pulled off his bucket, “I’s OK. We’ve been reassigned! We’re getting out of here.”

    0600 pulled his bucket off, “What?”

    “We’re getting out of here. They haven’t given me the destination, but the orders came from Imperial Center on Coruscant, I saw the holo myself.” 1009 slapped a hand down on 0600’s shoulder, smiling wide, “We’re leaving on a shuttle with these blokes as soon as we assemble our gear. Say your goodbyes to this awful place.”

    0600 had much the same reaction as 1009 had, his face relaxed, and you could almost feel the weight lifting from his shoulders as he smelled the faintest hints of freedom. He and 1009 walked out of the mineshaft past one of the tall, groaning atmosphere generator towers and headed for the lift.


    Neither Rogue nor 0600 had any personal belongings to speak of. They had gathered what little gear they had collected over the years, tossed it in their bags and now were waiting on the landing platform with the rest of us for Doole to return with their approved transfer orders.

    We had packed their gear and were talking when the Warden’s admin ‘droid came through the sliding blast doors and over to Lt. Tank, “Inmate Trustee Doole”, the ‘droid incorrectly addressed him as it continued to malfunction, sparking with white smoke streaming out of it’s logic unit, “Commander Kluskine has 'officially' approved the transfer orders for 1009 and 0600, but also feels they know too much about his personal spice operations to be let go. You are to detain them until troops arrive or inform the blockade to destroy their ship as they depart Kessel.”

    Tank swiftly drew his sidearm and destroyed the malfunctioning ‘droid in a shower of sparks and yelled, “LOAD UP. We’re already on our way out of here!”, as he raced into the shuttle.

    The rest of us ran in after him, strapping in as Topolev quick-sealed the hatch. Rogue and 0600 threw themselves into two empty seats and were buckling their harnesses as Tank powered on the engines. “Rogue?” said Taka, clipping his rifle into the rack, “is that you?”

    Tank sharply pulled back on the controls and the ship shot up off the deck and was passing through the magnetic shield as Doole and his troops poured through the blast doors onto the duracrete landing pad. “Taka?!” said Rogue as he clicked his last harness in place.

    0600 leaned over and grabbed Taka’s arm, “Been a long time. Here we go again, another hasty exit.”

    Doole’s troopers raised their blasters and fired on us, but we had already pushed through the shield membrane. Their blasts bounced back at them. “CEASE FIRE!” yelled Doole, “The blockade will have to take care of them now.”

    Tank was calculating coordinates for a short hyperspace jump as the wings lowered and locked into position. “This has to work, or they’ll follow us.” An aging Imperial Cruiser moved in behind our shuttle, her guns training on us. She fired, and Tank rolled us hard to the left, as the blasts shot past us. The cruiser then fired missiles at us, but he accelerated to stay ahead of them until the hyperdrive ‘nav computer sounded a tone, locking in the data for a secure jump.

    He dumped several concussion bombs behind us without activating them to act as countermeasures. The missiles mistakenly destroyed them in a blinding flash just as Tank activated the hyperdrive jump and our shuttle slipped away into hyperspace as the fireball dissipated, covering our escape.

    The Cruiser’s gunner made his report, “Target destroyed. Advise Commander Kluskine that the ship and her crew has been eliminated.”


    The ship shuddered and we were shaken as Tank abruptly reverted from hyperspace after a short cruise at light speed. The streaking brilliance of the starlines slowed to stationary points of light. He checked his ‘nav computer. We had passed through the heart of Hutt Space and were now near Lannick.

    He made a slight course change which would take us past Moonus Mandel and Leritor, skirting the Outer Rim and the wild space of the unknown regions beyond. We kept this heading for several days’ time, passing near Bothan space and approaching the Arkanis sector and the outer leg of the Corellian Run.

    * * *
  5. Oh_Behave_Kenobi

    Oh_Behave_Kenobi Jedi Youngling

    May 24, 2006
    I really like this so far, nice work!

    Some of the storyline in chapter 2 reminds me of the old NPR radio show of A New Hope from when I was a kid. Are you tying this into that story?

    Please post more chapters, I want to see more of what these characters are going to do.

  6. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Thank you. The story I am telling needed to begin before the events of ANH, and using the timeline of the NPR Radioplay allowed me to step back a short time and show how the Sandtroopers in this story came to be where they were when we catch up to them in ANH. I will skirt the events of the screen and fill in many of the things we all know happened, but haven't seen....until now.

    We will encounter characters that were all but, or completely cut out of ANH, and in some cases, view the events of the movie screen from the equivalent of a second camera the same vein as Shadows of the Empire.

    I will finally explain the disappearing metallic dice hanging in the Falcon's cockpit, and we will see what Han Solo does when he isn't drinking in the Cantina.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm. There is more to come. I hope you enjoy and keep the feedback coming...good or bad, I really want to know what you think.
  7. Oh_Behave_Kenobi

    Oh_Behave_Kenobi Jedi Youngling

    May 24, 2006
    Nice! I haven't thought about the NPR radio show in a long time.
    I lurk alot here and read, not posting alot, but I like where this could go.

    I want to read and find out more about these troopers, post more soon!
  8. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Feb 5, 2004
    You've got a good start here. I look forward to reading more. :)
  9. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Thanks very much for taking the time to read my story VaderLVR64!

    Here's the next installment:

    Chapter 3 - Arrival

    In another system, far from our cruising shuttle, a small, covert task force took their positions around the perimeter security fence of an Imperial Holonet communications tower on Toprawa. One of them leaned in close to the woman leading the group and whispered, “Bria, this has to work, or there's no future for the Rebellion. There’s no room for error or failure here.”

    She stared back at him, full of resolve, “It’ll work. It has to. We’ve come too far and lost too many of the Red Hand already for it not to.”

    As she carefully studied the base of the tower and the Stormtrooper guards, her thoughts drifted back to the friends that had fallen along the way. When the data had been recovered from the attacked Imperial convoy and smuggled to Darknell, many had died to get it that far.

    She remembered the long hours in the still darkness hiding in the caverns of the nearby moon, swallowing the grief and tears for her friends as they waited, hoping the search teams would pass without discovering them. Finally, the time was right to slip by unnoticed and make their way here, to Toprawa.

    "The Holonet communication center here is our best chance of getting these plans into the hands of someone that can actually do something with them." She glanced skyward, following the lines of the enormous communication tower that stretched up into the clouds.

    “You sure they’ll be here? This is a restricted system. No one is going to be allowed to just orbit above the planet.”

    She glanced over to him and then back to her work, exposing the inner wires of the power cable running in the dirt beneath her feet, “They’ll be here. The Tantive IV has diplomatic immunity, although this opens a new era in the fight against the Empire. Alderaan has chosen a side. Thankfully it's ours. Our troops on Raltiir created enough of a diversion to get word to a member of the Royal house while they were there to deliver medical supplies to the high council. They were given the coordinates, timing and their codename. They'll be here.”

    She silently motioned to the team on the far side of the tower and they simultaneously cut the power system for the perimeter shields. The low-pitched tone of the defense shields evaporated, as did the protection they afforded.

    The two relaxed stormtrooper guards conversing at the tower entrance immediately went into a defensive stance as the third guard stepped inside the tower’s base to check the reason for the system failure. Bria’s readings showed the shields were down.

    She gave the signal, and her team rose up from their cover and stormed the entrance, blasters blazing. The guards were outgunned, and fell in the blinding flurry of blaster fire.

    Bria and her faction boarded the turbo lift bound for the transmission control room at the top of the tower. Only tense focused breathing could be heard as the small group silently closed in on the top of the massive structure. All were here risking their lives to regain what had been taken from them, and the whole of the Republic. Each one of them sensed the importance of this mission. They could feel that change was near, that a new hope was coming, and that their actions would be told in stories for generations to come as the turning of the tide against the Empire.

    The lift came to a stop and the durasteel doors slid open. A crouching Bria fired a single shot through the chest of the officer in charge. Then, only the sounds of the machines cut the silence of the empty command center. They rushed out of the lift, through the drifting smoke and smell of burnt flesh, spreading their gear out on a console. Bria reached inside her vest and withdrew a slender, armored metallic box and opened it. Inside was a transparent data card embedded with the information that could end the reign of the Empire, allowing a rebuilding of their once-noble society.

    She delicately lifted the card out, loaded it into the transmission data port and dialed in a transmission channel. She turned to her team, “Our contact’s codename is Skyhook. Let’s do this.”

    The young rebel by her side pulled on the headset and slipped into the seat in front of the communication console. He keyed in the frequency code, pleading into the headset, "Come in Skyhook, Come in Skyhook!"

    Far below, a squad of Stormtroopers raced out of the forest toward the base of the tower.

    * * *

    It had been a long flight with many stops; dropping off supplies, changing ships, picking up a trooper here and there. One by one they had settled in, dropped their gear, worn in most cases, in a pile by their side, pulled off their buckets and strapped in for the flight. From the looks of their armor, they had all been in service to the Empire for some time, as I had, and knew the drill: take a seat, rest your body, rest your mind as long as you could.

    The sub-light engines’ gentle whine under their stress, and the slight jostling of the solar winds rocking us back and forth in the dim light of the cargo hold was the perfect catalyst for drifting in and out of sleep. Sleep. Troopers learned early on in their training that when you had the chance, you grabbed it, not knowing when you might see it uninterrupted again, for a long time.

    The troopers from Kessel apparently knew Taka from a past station assignment. Although their initial greetings had been friendly, there had been a fair amount of tension during the flight, and the situation appeared to have been awkward for all three. They had spent a short time talking in the rear of the ship and then drifted off to sleep like the rest of us. My chest armor was pressed tight against my webbed harness as I leaned forward into it, my head hung heavily forward. I was drifting in and out of consciousness when through the murkiness of my dreamstate I heard equipment crates creaking and rattling, and then, disembodied voices talking about an incident with a suspected rebel craft. There was someone on an intercom and a live voice within our ship. It was Lt. Tank asking if it was safe to proceed on his current plotted course.

    My eyes opened slightly. I was staring at my feet on the metal deck plate. I lifted my head a bit and saw everyone else hanging similarly.

    The voice on the comm cracked back, "This is the Star Destroyer Devastator. We have tracked a vessel receiving beamed communications from a suspected rebel source in a restricted solar system. They were using the guise of engine repair to cover their presence in the restricted zone. We hailed the ship and commanded her captain to heave to for boarding. Our order was ignored, and the Corellian Corvette attempted to flee, disappearing into a hyperspace jump. What the captain failed to realize was that we had an embedded spy onboard. They transmitted the jump coordinates back to us and we surprised them by reverting back to normal space just behind their new position. We gave chase, firing on the small vessel as it again tried to run and jump away. We easily overtook it once the main solar fin had been destroyed and the reactor damaged. We’ve just pulled it in with our tractor beam and are attaching moorings now. As for you, your current course plot is clear.”

    Our pilot spoke back, “Devastator, I am hauling troops for deployment and have need of supplies. Our last stop did not have the equipment they will need to activate their new outpost. Request permission to dock and take on what we need.”

    The comm crackled in silence a moment, then the Devastator replied: “Sorry for the delay, I have some rookies in here watching the boarding party on our monitors as a training exercise. Permission granted to dock. Proceed with caution. The Corellian ship is in our bay now. Troops are boarding it as we speak and we are taking fire from the occupants. Follow protocol, and maneuver into sub-bay 3.”

    I was fully awake now. I raised my head and looked around. Everyone else was still asleep. I leaned forward and to the side, straining my neck to look out the gunner’s viewport and saw the brilliant tan curvature of a planet beneath us, and the Devastator just ahead.

    As we drew closer, the pilot slowed the drive system and engaged the landing gear. A rumbling, mechanical vibration began rattling the long row of jumpseats as the lower wings of the shuttle gracefully folded into their upward-reaching position for landing. The other troops stirred and lifted their heads, and the vast sea of stars disappeared from the gunner’s port as we flew under the enormous Destroyer.

    I saw the rim of the yawning hangar bay, and we smoothly began to ascend inside when I saw it; a really beautiful Corellian ship under high-tension energy restraints. A retractable boarding tunnel had been positioned under the bay doors in its belly. The Devastator’s troops had most likely used heavy-duty vibrocutters to cut their way inside to the bay, and would then have blown the inner door for entry.

    As I watched, I saw several bright explosive flashes from the side of the ship, as four escape pods were jettisoned in a shower of tiny metallic fragments from the midsection. Our shuttle shook violently, as the hurtling pods narrowly missed us.

    Occasionally when a vessel was boarded, wiring damage sustained from interior firefights caused the escape pods to randomly eject. I watched as the destroyer’s guns trained and locked on the falling pods. Two were destroyed almost immediately. The other two were allowed to fall away toward the planet below.

    The gunners had most likely scanned them and found no lifeforms onboard. I settled back in my seat as our craft slid silently up and into the third recessed sub-bay on the back wall of the main hangar. Waking up slowly was a luxury I drank in whenever the opportunity presented itself. Usually I was awakened by an explosion, sudden blaster fire or screaming proximity alarms.

    I felt the landing gear gently bump the deck, then give and settle under the weight of our ship. There was some chatter in the back.

    The troopers we had picked up on Kessel were talking with Topolev and Danz about their training on Carida. My time at the Imperial Training Facility on Carida seemed like an eternity ago; another place, another time; another me. As our shuttle settled to the deck, a loud noise filled the cargo area where we were, and the rear hatch airlock seals released followed by the ramp slowly lowering to the bay floor outside. The pilot walked down from the cockpit, past us without a word and down into the bay.

    4120, Ddraig, Falker and several of the others were already out of their harnesses and following him onto the Destroyer, stretching. I looked down and released the clasped five-point buckle at the center of my chest and stood. We were en route to our post, so we were not required to wear our helmets. Leaving it behind, I sauntered down the plank into the hangar. Steam belched from release valves near the extended gear.

    As I stepped off the ramp, I adjusted my neckseal and drew in a lungful of air. It was heavy with the smell and faint taste of deodorizers and disinfectants from the onboard atmospheric scrubbers. The air in these huge Destroyers was rarely changed out, it was simply purified and recycled.

    Our pilot was in a small room behind a plate of transparisteel talking to a uniformed flight crew technician, most likely the voice on the comm. Several troopers stood behind them watching some action on a large display. It was being broadcast from inside the captured Corvette from a tiny camera in one of the Troopers’ buckets.

    The turbolift doors opened, and a black-uniformed officer had a silver protocol 'droid by the arm, briskly escorting it toward the security blast doors on the opposite side of the hangar bay. He was de-briefing the 'droid as they walked, and I could hear a bit of what they were saying as they passed me. "Yes, that’s right, and the special programming you were given worked perfectly, U-3PO. You will no longer be serving aboard the Tantive, you will have a memory flush and be reassigned to . . ." and they disappeared into the corridor on the far side, blast doors closing behind them.

    4120, the crew from Denon Station and the Kessel guys were looking at the Sentinel ship beside us. Topolev was telling them some of its specs, as he had been deployed on one during the tail-end of the conflict on Kashyyyk. I walked over and placed my hand on the transparisteel panel, and leaned in close, blocking the reflected glare of the bay, trying to get a better look. I could hear nothing, but the screen showed a handful of troopers walking down a dimly lit gantry. Suddenly a figure in white stepped out from behind part of the hyperdrive engine and fired a point-blank shot at the camera.

    The screen went blank with static, then another cam snapped on, this one on a helmet further back in the group. The fallen trooper was at the bottom of the frame, his head smoking. The girl was darting away as a series of expanding, blue stun rings was flung out from another trooper's lowered blaster, hurtling toward the fleeing girl.

    The first ring tapped her on the back and knocked her to the deck, unconscious, as the other rings washed over her.

    Foolish girl. It was useless to resist.

    Shaking my head, and backing away from the window, I turned and walked to the edge of the sub-bay and peered down into the cavernous, echoing main bay. The planet I had seen on our approach lay far beneath us; a bright, massive planet slipping by against the darkness of the stars beyond.

    Far above all of this, in the Devastator’s bay, the captured Corvette’s back was scored and streaked; sparking flames and smoke rising from where the solar fin must have been. Suddenly, another of the ship's escape pods, from the stern cluster, ejected in a flash of light and a spewing of shrapnel. I watched again as the destroyer’s guns trained and locked on the falling pod, preparing to destroy it, and then, nothing. The blast never came. The tiny pod tumbled and rolled toward the massive planet beneath us.

    The Corellians certainly did know how to make a fine ship. It was a very bold design. Her lines were sleek, with a broad stroke of red down the sides and a large cluster of engines in the rear. On her side, just behind the command deck was a crest of some kind. I reached for my belt, and unclipped my macrobinoculars as I squinted and tried in vain to make it out.

    The blue electro-image flickered to life with a buzz as I raised the macros to my eyes. I adjusted the zoom, reaching out across the hangar, until the image was clear; the royal house of Alderaan. Lowering the macros, I thought to myself, “Could that be right?” I had no idea where we were, but I knew it wasn’t anywhere near Alderaan.

    I glanced back toward the shuttle as I snapped off the macros and reattached them to my belt. I turned to walk back to the monitors and watch more of the boarding party when a protocol droid stepped in front of me offering a drink. I took it, and watched the mech hand a drink to Falker and then walk off in search of the others in my group. It was one of the passions of my youth, droid mechanics and maintenance, but I swear if this one had not spoken I would have run right into it. Droids always seemed of no consequence, blended into the background like a food processing or weather-sensing unit until they were malfunctioning. That’s usually when I got involved if there were no maintenance techs around. I rubbed my eyes with my gloved hand and took a sip of the cool drink as I walked back toward the comm station.

    I barely noticed several droid load-lifters as they adjusted the settings on a repulsor-lift sled. In my peripheral vision I saw it rise about 3 feet off the ground, floating with our new bundled supplies on top. With a firm push from their servo-mechanical arms, the supplies slid silently up the rear ramp of the shuttle into the cargo hold, with the droids walking behind. I took a deeper swallow of my drink as I walked. I was more focused on the troops in the comm station and the training feed they were watching.

    The monitor revealed that Lord Vader was now aboard the Corellian ship. He was in the main corridor questioning the captured girl in white.

    Princess Leia Organa, member of the Royal house of Alderaan, and an Imperial Senator now stood before him in the hallway. Although I was a trooper in groups that had been deployed in many remote regions, most of us had heard of the young, beautiful princess from Alderaan. In a sea of crusty old Senators, she definitely stood out. Vader was ruthless and relentless in his pursuit when he wanted something, and he believed she was hiding something from him. I found it hard to believe that this young, powerful Senator was the recipient and custodian of stolen Imperial documents or plans beamed onboard by rebel spies, but she seemed to be holding her own as the dark Lord questioned her.

    A dozen or so troopers filed into the bay from within the bowels of this massive destroyer and fell into formation just behind the Sentinel.

    Several of the others in my party were sitting on the edge of the cargo ramp talking to one of the troopers from the Devastator that had filed out with the others and walked over to our ship. He had a bag full of gear. It appeared we were picking up another new passenger. His armor gleamed in the bright lights of this sub-bay, a sharp contrast to the other troopers whose armor had not seen clean in a very long time.

    The doors to the turbolift opened, and a well-worn, veteran Sandtrooper walked out with a gearbag slung over one shoulder and carrying a heavy rifle. He stopped a deckhand and they spoke for a moment. The deckhand looked around to the drop ship and then over to our shuttle and pointed toward us. Nodding, the trooper turned and began walking our way.

    The load-lifter droids marched out of the shuttle after securing our supplies inside. Tank had pulled Rogue aside and was speaking privately with him. He handed the invoice for our new supplies to him, then he turned and crossed the bay toward us, “OK, everybody on board, we’re getting out of here.” He briskly walked past us and up the ramp. The clean trooper eagerly gathered his gear and followed him into the ship. Rookie.

    We all reluctantly complied, slowly making our way back inside the shuttle. As the trooper from the lift walked past me I said hello, “Hey, I’m Deckard, TD-2187, this is 4120.”

    He shook our hands, “I’m Ardan Drone, TD-0582, but call me Blade.” As he spoke, he looked past us and up to a gantry that ran high above near the hanger ceiling. I looked up to see what he was staring at. A dark figure stood there, raised one hand then turned and walked away. Blade turned and walked up the ramp shaking his head.

    I wondered what his story was. Maybe I would find out, maybe not. I took a last look back at the monitor. The young princess was being escorted off of the Corvette by a detachment of troopers. Lord Vader would most likely have a false distress signal sent out from the ship, as if they were in trouble.

    It would make it all the more convincing when he informed the Senate that everyone on board was killed. The beautiful princess would most likely never see the light of day again, and everyone would think she had met her untimely end in a tragic accident.

    I found it funny how fate had a way of bringing people to their destiny. Turning away, I stepped onto the ramp as it began to lift into the stowed position. I walked its’ length and found my way through the other troopers back to my metal jumpseat.


    Somewhere, high above the surface of the planet beneath the Devastator, high above this unimportant desert planet, this . . . Tatooine, a tiny, Corellian-made escape pod streaked across the dark skies heading for a giant expanse of emptiness known as theDuneSea. As impact drew near, the ejected, tumbling, empty pod suddenly fired its' steering and braking thrusters . . .


    The new guys were just settling in and the engines were coming up as I sat and clasped the harness across my chest; another glorious day in service to the Empire. The clean trooper shouted out to the group over the engine noise, “I’m Etz, Engedi Etz, TK-1255.”

    Everyone nodded in his direction as we were all thrown back and forth while the ship lifted off from the deck and turned to exit sub-bay 3. We glided over the edge and down into the main bay. The front of the Corvette slid silently past and we slipped through the magnetic airlock membrane, exiting the hangar bay.

    Then suddenly we dove hard and steep, thrusting away from the Destroyer and falling like a stone toward the surface of the expansive, tan planet beneath us. "Damn it Tank!" He just laughed back from the cockpit. He had a long way to go to approach Riggs' skills, but he was good, and having a bit of fun at the expense of our stomachs!

    These pilots were almost always frustrated TIE pilot wannabes or fighter school rejects and loved to perform twisting dives on planetary approach. I wished I had not had the drink, as I felt it rising in my throat. He rolled the shuttle over several times. We covered our heads as our gearbags and Impervium helmets tumbled through the air like missiles. Thankfully, our rifles were clipped in. The rolling stopped and proximity claxons blared through the ship as the ground rose up to meet us far too fast. We blasted into one of the deep canyons etched on the planet’s surface, pulling up at the last possible instant, screaming along at full speed.

    The ship was rattling wildly, and I leaned forward to look out the gunner’s port again, my heart beating wildly, adrenaline coursing through me. Straining against my harness, I saw the walls of the canyon flying by on both sides. 4120 pointed out the port and yelled, “ROCK!” A huge rock formation loomed in the center of the canyon, and we were coming up on it fast . . . too fast!

    It was tall, with a slotted opening in the center, far too small for our speeding craft to pass through, and definitely too wide to pass on either side! At the last possible moment, the pilot broke hard right down a side canyon just before our headlong impact. He followed it for some time before he pulled up above the canyon rim.

    Then his voice blared over the bulkhead-mounted speakers, “This is Lieutenant Tank, and that, gentlemen, is known to the locals as the Stone Needle. Too bad we’re a little too big to try threading it today. I’ve seen it done, but never tried it myself.”

    The crosswinds buffeted the shuttle as we rose beyond the protective stone walls into a sandstorm that was raging on the shifting dunes.

    The roar in the cargo bay from the waves of howling sand blasting the hull was deafening. As we ascended, and finally cleared the edge of the storm, the roaring sound subsided and we could now see a small city in the distance, with ships coming and going.

    As our approach brought us nearer, we saw many cluttered streets, domed buildings, smoke, then the spaceport, and row after row of tiny underground docking bay pits spreading out in a semi-circular fan.

    We slowly flew over several open bay pits as one was sought out for us.

    Once the bay assignment was confirmed by the spaceport authority, Lt. Tank lowered the landing gear and folded the wings upward once again, giving us and our equipment a last shake and rattle as the powerful wing mechanisms lumbered beneath our seats.

    He yelled down to us from the cockpit as the ship banked and then descended into our assigned bay's opening, “This is the end of the line everybody . . . Mos Eisley Spaceport, Tatooine.” The ship gently touched down, “Everybody up and out. I have your orders.”

    We exchanged glances, all realizing at once that those we thought were casual, passing acquaintances with troopers we had swapped stories with were going to become the core members of a new unit. None of us had any idea we were all being assigned to the same destination until this moment.

    I looked around at the other troopers that had been brought on since Anoat: Topolev, 4120, Danz, Ddraig, 1265, Falker, Taka, Rogue, 0600, Blade and the other new guy, Etz. We were being thrown together on the backside of nowhere on the outer fringes of the Outer Rim territory. I shook my head. We must have all done something really terrible in a previous life.

    As the front ramp lowered from beneath the sloped nose of the cockpit of the Lambda-class shuttle, a blast of hot, dry air washed over us and bright sunlight streamed in. Tank handed Rogue a data card containing our orders, and then disappeared down the ramp, pulling off his gloves, "There are environmental packs here for anyone that doesn't have one”, gesturing to one of the large crates, “I'm going to get a drink." We grabbed our buckets and gear and made our way down the ramp. Some of the troops stopped to grab a pack as we disembarked. Stepping off the metallic plank onto the stone floor of the small bay here was quite a contrast to the gleaming Imperial bay we had been in just minutes before so far above.

    The walls were worn and dirty. We all stopped briefly, glancing around and then up. Sand had blown in from the opening overhead and drifted across the floor, collecting in small dunes around the grungy, worn out fueling lines in the corner. No magnetic shields here.

    As I looked around I realized he wasn’t kidding when he said this was the end of the line.


    Many of us had worked in these conditions before, but the new guys, Taka and Etz, appeared to have come from starship posts. The whine of the engines was winding down into silence now, and I could feel my environmental body glove begin to cool slightly in waves across my skin, adjusting to the heat. I shouldered my pack, and propped my rifle against the ramp as Rogue activated the holo message embedded in the card and the others gathered around to see what was in store for us.

    A small bluish-purple hologram of an officer sprang forth in the palm of his hand and began relaying the terms of the assignment. The holographic officer explained that we were to establish a new unit, the 104th Moisture Farm Patrol, to protect and manage the local farmers of the region, moisture farmers.

    “Tatooine is a desert as far as the eye can see, barren and unforgiving. Water is a rare and valuable resource here. Among the local inhabitants are the moisture farmers. These farmers use evaporative moisture condensers or ‘vaporators to pull precious drinking water from the air, as natural precipitation does not occur. The moisture farms are large and widespread, skirting the established towns. There are small pockets of indigenous creatures here and there, scavengers and desert nomads for the most part. The small, crowded cities are generally populated by lowlife spacers; smugglers, gamblers and bounty hunters who have a great desire not to be noticed or found.”
    As I looked around at the stained stone walls, I could not think of a better place for that than where I was now standing.

    “TD-1009 has been appointed the Commanding Officer, with TD-4120 as his second in command. You are to establish your unit and enforce Imperial law. While this planet is in the furthest reaches of the Outer Rim territory, and does not have any significance to speak of, it is considered Hutt-controlled and smugglers use it as a refuge and a base of operations. Their services are utilized from time to time to complete official Imperial business in situations where troops would attract far too much attention. It is in our best interest to maintain a presence here. Your involvement on Tatooine must fall outside the jurisdiction of the 501st and that of the Empire as well. The Empire cannot have any official ties to the underworld. While you will remain Imperial troops, you will not officially exist.

    There are quarters for your group near the spaceport. TD-1009’s helmet feed will display the information necessary to locate it. There is a local cantina nearby frequented by pilots of all types that is considered a bit of a hot spot. Your patrolling presence will help control this establishment as well.”

    With that, the flickering image retracted into the small wafer-sized card. Rogue slid it into his belt pouch and said, “Lt. Tank informed me that our shuttle was going to be followed down by a Sentinel-class troop drop ship. Those troops will be working both alone and with us on our first mission here. Apparently the ship the Devastator captured ejected several escape pods during the fighting. Most were destroyed by their gunners. Several made it through. Onboard one of those pods is sensitive Imperial Intelligence of interest to Lord Vader. One pod was never pulled into the planetary gravity well, and was recovered in orbit, above, but no information was found onboard. Three made it all the way down here. Our job is to help recover that intelligence if it made it to the surface. OK men, let’s get going and find this bloody post we’ve been assigned to, it looks like we are going to be here awhile.”

    There was the slight evidence of an accent of some sort. I had heard it before, but couldn’t quite place where; somewhere at one of the many posts over the years. Everyone grabbed up their gear and an environmental pack if they didn’t have one and fell into a line behind him. They ended up with several different styles of packs. I guess Tatooine didn’t warrant the new stuff.

    0600, who had a lip full of Mandalorian sweet grass, lifted the lower edge of his bucket and spit. “Welcome to the ass-end of space gentlemen.”

    * * *
  10. Ocelotl_Nesto

    Ocelotl_Nesto Jedi Master star 4

    Oct 29, 2004
    Just found your fic-- great backstory. You articulate detail well without being boring.

    Well done
  11. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Thank you VERY much for the nice feedback. I have had a great deal of fun writing this so far. Here is Chapter 4 I hope you will continue to read and ask your friends to check it out.

    Chapter 4 - Settling In

    After securing the shuttle, we walked up a small flight of sandy stairs toward a hallway that would eventually empty us out on the street. As we walked the length of the hallway, we passed the entrances to many docking bays like the one we arrived in . . . 88 . . 87 . . 86 . . . as we passed the entrance to docking bay 85, I saw the hulking, hairy back of a Wookiee disappearing down the stairs with his human male companion. They were arguing, in somewhat hushed tones, about how best to break the news to someone called Jabba, about a blockade and a dumped shipment of spice. The Wook was howling and flailing his arms as they disappeared around the corner at the bottom of the stairs.

    Beneath the cover of my bucket, I shook my head, closing my eyes and letting it go for now. I was sure I would be dealing with it soon enough.

    The smell from the streets of Mos Eisley drifted over us before we ever reached them. This was a run-down little city, formed from the sand and rock on which it sat.

    It was old, dirty and well broken in, a lot like most of us. There were street vendors everywhere peddling practically anything to anyone who glanced in their direction. Food of varying origins was cooking in small street-side cafes. Deals were being made and beasts of burden were everywhere, hence the smell. There were Rontos and Dewbacks mostly, but I did see a tethered Bantha down one of the side streets.

    It was unremarkable, and reminiscent of any one of the countless urine-soaked, poo-doo splattered city streets I had seen on any number of different worlds, except for the heat. I had been stationed in desert locations before, but a glance skyward told me Tatooine was unique in that it had two suns, binary suns, and both Tatoo I and Tatoo II were blazing down on us as we marched onward through the streets. The body glove beneath my armor was struggling to keep up with my rising temperature under the mid-morning blaze, but it was decidedly an uphill battle. There were citizens of all species walking the streets wrapped in loose-fitting desert garments.

    This was a harsh environment, and most of the species we had seen so far appeared to have successfully adapted to living in the hot climate. Some sat at the street's edges, leaning back on the buildings in what little shade there was to be had.

    Some smoked long pipes as young street children of varying species ran through the roadway playing games in the sunshine, trying to make a credit or two for the occasional odd job, and in some cases stealing food and water from the merchants or off unattended, uncleared cafe tables to keep from starving to death.

    This was definitely the part of town that throve on the traffic from the spaceport. Based on what we had seen flying in overhead, straying one or two roads in either direction away from the immediate vicinity of the spaceport or marketplace left you in areas almost completely deserted. Here though, there was shop after shop of spare starship parts, cluttered with every outdated part you could imagine.

    In one window I happened to catch sight of a thermal hydrospanner pack for a Sullustian WaveRunner. Those things had been out of production for several generations. Still, the shop owners were trying to wring a meager living out of what they had to offer. I watched their eyes following us as we marched past. I saw the uneasiness in their faces.

    Some Imperial troops were nothing more than thugs, especially when charged with policing an out of the way place like this. It was the old “Big Otay in a little pond” story. That wasn’t my style. While I had no problem enforcing the law, or detaining someone of interest, I never shook down shop owners for credits, although I knew plenty who had over the years.

    They had done so long enough to stockpile their “earnings” for a nice quiet getaway from the Empire once they amassed enough to live on comfortably. We passed a fabric and clothing dealer, several gaming and gambling dens, and a second-hand blaster shop with lots of guns and parts. Taka was hopelessly intrigued with the last one, stopping momentarily to step close, shielding the glare with his hand and peer in through the dust-covered plate of transparisteel at the weapons and parts displayed.

    Damn it was hot.

    I felt the first beads of sweat forming on my brow as we came to an intersection. The group turned right. I glanced down the street to the left. Nothing but more sand there, and the Sentinel flying low over the Mos Eisley rooftops.

    I turned right and caught up with the group, mentioning the Sentinel to Rogue. We were marching down a canyon of small buildings toward what looked like a dead-end. Further down, where the road ended, there were vehicles parked in front of a low-slung building with a small, recessed, semi-circular doorway. Jawas hung around, running their hands over all of the swoops and speeders left unattended outside. They scurried away, jabbering with their yellow eyes glowing brightly, whenever someone walked past toward the door. It seemed to be a popular place. It was probably the tavern mentioned in the holo. I would have to check it out later.

    Our barracks were located in a sun-bleached, white building on our right. TD-1009 rapped on several of the door panels. It was secured, and from the look of the sand drifted up against it and in the crack of the seals, it had been for some time.
    Rogue pulled out his assignment datacard and inserted it into a small slot in the door access panel on the wall. With a creak, the rusty, sliding door opened. He entered, and the other troops followed him inside. I turned and stepped through the blast door into the shade.

    Immediately, the polarized lenses in my bucket adjusted to the darkness. A mixture of infrared and heat sensing imagery appeared before my eyes as a heads-up, real-time display. We were all looking around, trying to figure out where everything was when the CO moved to a control panel. Four rusted portals in the wall facing the street slid open with the horrible scraping of metal on metal as he activated the switch. Daylight streamed in, and just as suddenly as it had appeared, my imaging display was gone, and I could now see the room in detail.

    Thick dust hung in the air, sliced by the bright light, and now blown by the gentle, hot breeze. There were several small data terminals, holonet ports and several large storage crates in this front room. I pulled off my helmet and walked through a narrow hallway lined with slim closets and shelves and found myself in a large room in the rear of the building. There were six sets of bunks and bedding, and more sand on the floor. Somehow, I didn’t think we would ever get away from it.

    I walk into the room and lights flickered on. I slid the field pack off my shoulders and dropped it on the first lower bunk on the right side. The other troops filed past me, each looking around and then claiming their own space. I walked a bit further back, through a wide arch and then a plate metal door. Behind the bunk room was a storage room. The walls, ceiling and floor were fortified with plate metal armor. It appeared to be a secure room for storing supplies and weapons.

    Falker and Blade were working on activating a holonet data stream terminal and Rogue was taking inventory of what we had to work with, “We’ll need our supplies brought over from the Spaceport.” I volunteered to go back to the shuttle for our stowed supplies, “I’ll get them”.

    “I’ll help him”, said TD-600, dropping his pack and gear bag. Pulling on our buckets, we stepped back out to the street and headed back to the spaceport. The twin suns had slipped from their highest peak, and were beginning the afternoon descent toward nightfall they had been making for millennia across the Tatooine sky. I watched the ships slowly lifting skyward from the spaceport bays, gently riding their silent repulsor-lift fields, then slowly engaging their drive systems to climb toward the cold darkness of the stars above. TD-600 rested his DLT-19 rifle on his arm. “So, where are you coming in from?” he asked.

    I glanced over to him as we walked, “I have served on more worlds than I can remember, but only stationed long-term on a few. After I finished my training on Carida, I was assigned to Dantooine, a remote desert planet a lot like this place. I enjoyed the solitude there. Not many inhabitants. It was there that I learned and honed my desert survival techniques and received my sniper training. Learning these things from my instructors had been one thing. Actually using them to survive was something altogether different.

    After the planet was secured, a permanent listening post was established, to monitor a vast number of mining facilities. Ore was being cut out of the planet and shuttled away on gigantic barge sleds at a rate that made me wonder how long the planet would remain on anyone’s star charts. I was in a small squad of troopers left in charge for several years and then reassigned to Mimban. I was there a year before I could transfer out.

    I was most recently assigned in the Anoat system . . . Sniper and Demolitions. The only inhabited planet, Anoat II is a filthy world of dense, humid jungles, deserted ruins and rainforests honeycombed with subterranean sewers and caves.

    Most of my time there was spent crawling through those caves and sewers during our initial occupation and seize of command. We had to fight our way into the cities from below, as the indigenous lifeforms had the upper hand, entrenched in the ruins above. We lost more than a few good troopers in those battles.

    I spent more time than I care to remember in the stinking water and sludge under that city and retrieving the wounded and trapped from deepwater starship wreckage brought down in that battle.

    I am more than happy to be back to a familiar, dry assignment for a change. What about you? What's the story with the Kessel assignment?”

    He turned his bucket toward me for a moment, and then spoke as we continued down the street, sand crunching beneath our boots.

    "This isn't my first time in this dump", he said, glancing around. "It was here on Tatooine, a long time ago now, that I decided to become a Trooper. My brother and I had made our way here in the cargo hold of a freighter after our parents were killed. He was really mechanically inclined, a real wizard with machines, and we had been prepping this beaten down old pod for his boss to enter in some hyped local race.

    The old man ran a little repair shop on the edge of town, and he had hired a palefaced lady gunslinger to protect the pod in off hours, until the race. Apparently there were some pretty hefty rivals breathing down his neck. I got to talking to the woman one day, and she agreed to take me out to the canyons and show me how to target and shoot like a professional.

    My brother was busy working on the pod, so we were satisfied nothing would happen while we were gone."

    "We were on our way back to the city after a great afternoon of picking off womprats when we saw the thick, black smoke against the blue sky. The garage had been bombed while we had been out. The pod was destroyed, and my brother was killed instantly in the explosion. Once he was gone I was alone. I did some digging for suspects, some real hard work to find his killer, and then I took care of business, ya know? It was later that I discovered the guy was a goon for one of the Hutts.

    Some of the locals were talking about it and how somebody was going to pay for it with their life. I needed a way off this world, and a way to hide for the rest of my life. I had no money and nowhere to go, so I signed up with a squad that was passing through. They came in rotations every other season or so to check on things and used our barracks as temporary housing while they were here. The Empire took me to Carida and then on to other assignments over the years. It was in the jungles on Malastare that another trooper introduced me to Mandalorian Sweet Grass. You want some?" he asked, producing a small bag of the moist leaves.

    I declined as he raised the lower edge of his bucket and spit into the hot sand, turning to look at me again. I glanced his way as I spoke, “So, you and 1009 have known each other for a while? Did you guys train together on Carida, or just know each other from Kessel?"

    He took a few steps in silence, then turned back to me, "Just between you and me, OK?"

    I nodded back, "Of course."

    He glanced around, then began his story, "Yeah, we trained together on Carida, and he goes by Rogue, but have you ever heard of Belliran V?"

    I thought for a moment, "Yeah. It was all over the holonet a few years ago, who hasn’t heard of it. There was a huge massacre there, quite a scandal. Why? What does that have to do with you?"

    He motioned to the hallway just ahead that led to the docking bays. Once inside the hall he stepped into the shadows and stopped, pulling off his bucket. I stopped and removed mine as he glanced around again.

    "Typical", he said. "I'm sure the Empire covered it up, all neat and tidy while they flogged their scapegoats. Rogue and I had just arrived on Belliran V, transferred in from Malastare and newly assigned to a small squad. We were learning the ropes about our new duties and the local inhabitants, the Hammerheads; the Ithorians. They were a group of Ithorian, herbivore pilgrims that had splintered from the main population on Ithor and relocated to Belliran V seeking religious freedom. Our mission was a simple one, to protect and defend a small-scale mining operation. The Empire had struck a deal with Incom. The starship manufacturer had set up a small mining colony and was drilling out a semi-rare mineral used as an additive in the production of durasteel, to make it stronger and lighter.

    The Hammerheads were a peaceful colony that found their way of life turned upside down by the mining. It was being destroyed by the presence of Incom and the Empire. Several of their sacred grounds were demolished without a second thought to make way for a landing platform complex as well as observation and gun towers. Our towers kept the Hammerheads at bay, but we started experiencing vandalism during the night hours. This quickly escalated into other terrorist activities and ultimately evolved into a full scale, organized Rebellion.

    It was about 10 standard months later that Incom officials reported to the Empire that it had successfully mined out all of the ore that it could, and was closing the installation. The Empire considered leaving a base behind, but their investment in facilities was minimal and it was decided that once the Incom personnel were safely off-planet, that our troops would vacate as well and destroy the base from orbit, leaving what Hammerheads survived behind with their explosive anger over the desecration of their holy grounds. As misfortune would have it, the task of covering the troop extraction fell to our squad.

    The last Incom cargo ship was loaded and prepping for departure when terrorists infiltrated our defenses, destroying our gun tower and opening a huge breach in the perimeter. The cargo ship was slowly lifting off as thousands of angry Hammerheads swarmed into the complex, blasting anything that moved and destroying the mining machinery. There were explosions all around and the high pitched squeal of blaster fire was heavy.

    The Hammerheads hurriedly assembled a crude cannon and fired on the departing Incom ship. The hull ruptured in a shower of sparking, hot metallic fragments that rained down on us. The ship rolled over twice before crashing headlong into the base, digging a fiery trench from one side to the other. The fuel cells ignited, exploding with amazing force, rocking the entire complex.

    We retreated through the still-falling debris and scorched ground toward the landing platform, but most of our squad was killed in a matter of minutes. I remember seeing our Squad leader throw off his bucket and grab up a T-21 repeating rifle from one of our fallen. He charged to the top of a smoking rubble pile and blasted away at the Hammerheads, but there were far too many of them. They swarmed over him, beating him with sticks, drowning him in a seaof Ithorianrage.

    Rogue and I were retreating through the thick smoke toward our shuttle when an overhead gantry was rocked by an explosion and buckled, throwing others from our squad to their deaths. We were caught in the cascade of bodies and twisted durasteel that came down. Everything went black at that point."

    He stopped, taking a breath. "When we came to, there was silence. We were caught beneath a pile of bodies; men we had served with. The Hammerheads had overlooked us, believing us to be dead also. I pulled Rogue out of the bloody pile and dragged him across the devastated landing pad toward the heavily damaged shuttle. Taka, who at that time was also in our squad, had somehow managed to survive and was already onboard trying to bring the engines on-line.

    I clipped Rogue into a harness and went to work trying to re-route power to the drive system. I finally got that figured out, using the metal body of my blaster between two key contact points as a makeshift bridge for the power to course through. I moved over to secure the rear of the ship and saw Hammerheads advancing our way; thousands of them. I manually raised the access ramp and quickly hand-pumped the airlocks seals. Taka kicked on the repulsor controls, and the energy field pushed off hard from the deck as the angry Ithorians swarmed onto the platform, jumping for the retracting gear on our ship.

    As we made our escape out of the atmosphere, the entire base, all of the buildings and thousands of Hammerheads were obliterated from orbit by one of our Destroyers, which immediately performed a hyperspace jump away from the planet. Left behind, we slowly limped away from Belliran V. The engines were way underpowered, as my blaster offered too much resistance to the flow of energy.

    Several days later we made an emergency landing on Malastare. All three of us were taken to a medical lab and sedated for healing. Rogue was treated for his wounds, but had very fitful sleep; recurring nightmares of the invasion and the swarming masses prevented any true recuperative rest. When we were revived, we got the biggest surprise of all. We discovered that we had been moved to the medical lab of a prison facility.

    Taka was gone, but we were being held on formal charges of Desertion of Post and informal charges of Cowardice in a Battle Situation. Rogue and I both wondered, and still do I guess, if Taka worked a deal to be let go, in exchange for our imprisonment. There’s a lotta years of thinking about it and a fair amount of resentment towards him. I’m sure he’s not too comfortable being reassigned with us. He probably thought he’d never see us again. He said he thought we were dead. I just don’t know. It was a shock seeing him when we strapped in back on Kessel. It stirred up a lot of things that probably would have been better off left in the past.

    The Holonet portrayed us as the troops that had destroyed the Incom base and along with it, thousands of Hammerheads. Basically we were being molded into just the scapegoats the Empire needed to cover up the Belliran V massacre. We were sentenced to 4 years in the Imperial Prison on the moon of Kessel, to be followed by a lifetime post there. We were completely shamed, shipped there immediately after sentencing and locked up in the general population with common scum inmates from a thousand worlds.

    We survived the slow passage of time. Time that only seemed to intensify the terrifying dreams that Rogue suffered from. Something in him just snapped that day at the base and he was never the same afterward. The guards knew what we were in for, and treated us like dogs. After the first 2 years, we were made to work deep in the pitch black mine shafts, drilling and then carefully extracting the only reason Kessel was inhabited at all . . . GlitterStim.

    GlitterStim is a naturally occuring mineral, a spice that lies dormant in the darkness of the mines. It’s collected in complete darkness and contained in light-shielding wraps for distribution among the galaxy's biggest crime bosses. Users of the spice know that GlitterStim is dormant until removed from its' light-shielding wrap. It then begins to spark and sparkle a bright blue. Once it begins the sparking, the user ingests it, allowing them a rush of euphoria and temporary telepathic abilities. Eventually, we were made to continue working in the mines, but now we were working for Doole, overseeing the spice mining and distribution, and his personal side business.

    Rogue was made a drilling foreman, and I was put in charge of demolitions and new mine shaft development. We would still have been doing that if someone hadn't volunteered us for duty here. I’m still trying to sort out if it was someone who thought they were helping us, or someone who thought this was a fate worse than where we were", he pulled his bucket on, continuing on toward our docking bay. "Rogue's dreams have subsided somewhat, but Belliran V haunts us both. Neither of us really likes to think of that night. When you guys picked us up, we were both given a new opportunity, a way out, so we accepted without hesitation. I had no idea it would be here, or that Taka would be a part of it."

    I followed in stunned silence.

    He just looked ahead as we passed docking bay 85. I looked back at the stairs. "Hey, let's check something out."

    He nodded and walked back to the steps with me. We silently descended the stairs, stepping lightly as we made our way to the sandy bay floor. I could hear nothing but the hum of the charging and pumping units. He glanced around the corner. We saw a battered old freighter connected to refueling lines, but nothing of her crew, nothing but still silence.

    "After what I saw and overheard earlier, I think it might be a good idea to just check this out."

    I listened a few moments longer and satisfied there was no one around, I slid my slung rifle off my shoulder and switched it on as we made our way toward the extended entry ramp. 0600 glanced around once more as we paused at the bottom of the ramp and then ascended into the heavily worn ship.

    The interior was no prettier, showing the signs of years of constant, heavy wear and smelled of freshly-welded metals and hyperdrive cooling fluid. I noted that some modifications had been made as I walked past the holo-gaming table and crew bunks.

    The ship, however, appeared empty. As we walked, the thermal imaging system in 0600's helmet showed only trace heat signatures near the engines. I walked out a short hall and stepped into the cockpit, knocking a pair of dangling chance cubes with my bucket as I looked around. The two seats here were empty as well.

    We completed our inspection of the cargo areas, walking the metallic planking that encircled the core of the ship’s interior.

    Satisfied with having found nothing, and there being no visible evidence of spice cargo, we exited the ship and headed up the stairs toward docking bay 98.


    Several droids attended to the fueling of our ship as we walked past to the cargo ramp. Tank had already unloaded some of our gear from the shuttle and now was going over the manifest. He set his drink down as we walked up. “Take your time guys, as much as I loved leaving this place when I left, I’m in no hurry to shove off until you’re finished.”

    We propped our rifles against the ramp hydraulics and moved inside. 0600 turned back to Tank, eyeing him cautiously, “So, you’re from here?”

    The young pilot sipped his drink as he reclined on the top of the refueler beside one of the landing gear feet, “I was born and raised here. Well, not HERE in this city, but Anchorhead, not far from here. Tion made it very clear I needed to be on my way back as soon as you were dropped and unloaded. Ralltiir is still too unstable, and they need me. He pulled me from my regular duties because I know Tatooine and Denon Station. Normally I fly combat surveillance sweeps, and there are still too many pockets of resistance left to flush out. I wish I had the time to go see some of my old friends. You know, show them how far I’ve come and how planet-bound they all still are.”


    He laughed, grinning widely. “I’ll stop by and see them on my next trip back.” His eyes swept around the room slowly, then lifted them skyward, his grin fading as he took another drink. “I know they’ll all be right where I left them. Nothing ever changes around here except the dunes.”

    “Right”, we nodded as we worked, removing the restraints from our repulsor-sled. The straps and heavy metal buckles fell to the gridded deck plate, and the sled lifted slightly. We eased it back down the ramp. The load was large, but there was plenty of room for the other gear scattered out here to be added on top, and we got to work.

    There were packages of dried food rations, portable powerplants, chargers and blasters among other supplies. One of the huge crates on the sled was marked "Raw Impervium", in Aurabesh. Every piece of Stormtrooper body armor was formed from Impervium, a very strong, durable material. It could be shaped using a small device with pre-designed parameters loaded in memory. An armor part was selected from the displayed listing. A trooper would then pour the measured amount of the raw material, the consistency of a thick soup, into a small container. The tiny extended electrodes on the tip of the display unit were pushed into the liquid and the forming program was initiated. The Impervium was then charged with a flux of ions passing through it in a pulse pattern; a pattern distinctive to the part desired. The ion flux warped and distorted the white material into the perfect shape of the armor piece needed.

    Once the ion field was removed, the armor piece hardened, never to liquify again. Helmets could not be created in this way in the field due to the extensive electronics embedded in them, but most protective body, arm and leg panels could be created on site, on the fly. Impervium armor was a great defense. Low-powered, or indirect blaster fire generally glanced off the hardened surface, although it did little to protect against full-power, direct head on shots.

    Tank disconnected the fueling lines and disappeared inside the shuttle as 0600 crisscrossed the load with wide straps and cinched them tight. With the sled secured, we grabbed our rifles and shoved the floating load toward the cargo lift, just beyond the stairwell. We maneuvered the sled onto the platform and raised the sand-worn lever. The ancient mechanical lift jerked to a start and slowly rose to the level above. Tank walked to the end of the boarding ramp. I called down to him, “You’re all clear, thanks for the ride.”

    He yelled back, “Enjoy the sand!” We pushed the hovering sled ahead of us down the hallway toward the street, and I swatted a few Jawas away from the supplies as we walked.


    We made our way through the streets with our supply sled, as citizens who had not seen us before hurried to tell others that there was once again a Stormtrooper presence in Mos Eisley. We stopped in front of our post and stepped inside. Our CO, XO and others had been busy while we had been clearing the shuttle's hold. They had emptied the storage crates in the front office of their contents and had put together the beginnings of a respectable command post information center. Falker and Blade had successfully connected to the holonet and were streaming the most recent information regarding wanted smugglers and deviants thought to be somewhere on this rock. 4120 cracked the seal on the final crate as we entered. He looked up from the case of E-11s.

    "I love the smell of new blasters! AHHH!!!"

    Rogue stepped out of the bunk room, “Take the supply sled down the side alley to the rear of the building. There’s a loading dock around back. You can just push the whole load into the storage room behind the bunk room.” 0600 nodded and stepped back outside as I turned and drew my blaster on the same Jawa that had been trailing us from the docking bay, and he scampered away.

    TD 600 dragged the sled back to the alley and turned down the narrow corridor.

    The setting suns now threw long shadows on the buildings and streets as we both pushed on the sled. The narrow alley opened into a much wider courtyard between our building and the one behind it. The sky was now beginning to darken as our XO, 4120, raised the rear bay door and Etz and Taka came out to help us. We pushed the sled up the slightly inclined ramp and inside. I stepped back out onto the loading dock, noticing what looked like a battered transport parked amidst a pile of junk and discarded scrap metal across the courtyard. An enormous moisture 'vaporator rose up over the building just beyond it, probably for use in the spaceport.

    I jumped off the loading dock and walked over to the transport. It bore faded Imperial markings and was obviously intended for troop deployment, but I wondered as to it’s' effectiveness in all of this sand.

    Etz walked up beside me, “Looks like its seen better times.”

    I nodded in agreement, “It sure has.” I said, noting the multiple blast points and running my hands over the crumpled metal skin of the pilot’s door. “When I was on Dantooine we commandeered some of the local beasts of burden for troop mobility. I imagine we’ll probably be seeing more of the local Rontos and Dewbacks, especially if we’ll be searching the wastelands for the missing pods. Poodoo. I just can't seem to escape Poodoo.”

    I shook my head as Etz walked back to the loading dock. I turned and followed, stepping inside and pulling the door closed behind me. We walked out of the rear storage room into the bunk room. Rogue was busy working on a schedule for spaceport sweep shifts on the wall display. If sensitive information did make it to the surface, this would be the most likely place it would be brought, to make it off-world. If we could secure that, the data could be found. It was only a matter of time.

    I pulled off my bucket, “Anybody up for a look inside the little bar across the street? I’m so hungry I could eat one of those Rontos we saw earlier.”

    Rogue turned and straightened up a bit nodding his head and said, “Yeah, I could use a bite myself, but we should go in our flight suits and blend in with the other pilots; try to get a low-profile first look at some of our local clientele. Just a thought.”

    “And a good one” I agreed.

    Etz, 4120 and the others pulled off their buckets and started peeling off armor plates. “We’ll need to eat, check things out for awhile and then settle in for the night. The Commander on the Sentinel contacted us while you two were gone. He has secured Dewbacks, and will be running a series of daylight sweeps on the far side of Tatooine looking for escape pod beacon signatures. We’ll pick up where they leave off at dawn. They will be in bay 98 to pick us up at first light.”

    I nodded, and was also removing armor, as my thoughts drifted back to the Wookiee and the pilot I had overheard earlier. I wondered if they might be drinking tonight. Our first day on Tatooine was drawing to a close.

    I pulled my flight suit from my gear bag. There was no way we could have known what lay ahead.

    * * *
  12. Oh_Behave_Kenobi

    Oh_Behave_Kenobi Jedi Youngling

    May 24, 2006

    I love the way in chapter 3 we are starting to see things from A New Hope from another viewpoint...for the troopers. The details are really well written and have me imagining the scenes very vividly.

    I wished they had elaborated on the Stone Needle in the Special Editions, along with adding back in the Anchorhead footage, but I like how you've tied it and Tank (That's what you said when Biggs and Tank left.) into the story.

    I want to see more!! Please post another chapter soon.

  13. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Thanks for all the feedback! I really need to hear more of what people think. I like where it is going, but want to get other people's reactions too.

    I will have chapter 5 posted sometime today, I promise!

  14. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    As promised, here's the next installment:

    Chapter 5 - Feeling Out Mos Eisley

    The scanning blue lights of the antique door sensor unit jumped back and forth, and a low, gurgling sound streamed out of it as we passed through the vestibule of the Mos Eisely Cantina. The bartender glanced up at the sound, and with a weary scowl, went back to pouring his drinks.

    The room was alive with the sounds of voices and music. The roar of many voices speaking at once was competing with the Bith band in the corner, busy jamming out their music. It reminded me of the mixed sounds drifting out of some of the little pubs way down on the surface of Coruscant, the ones that served the best tasting food, the ones you had to really look hard for.

    It was dimly lit by small table-top luminaries and a light hanging over the bar. The uneasy air was thick with the smoke from a dozen or more pipe smokers seated throughout the room and at the bar, mindlessly fogging the room with their intoxicating, aromatic haze. The bartender was serving 2 twin females at the bar, and trying a little too hard to impress them.

    Tables filled with patrons, local regulars and pilots from the spaceport, littered the floor surrounding the central bar and were filled with heated card games and half empty drinks. Recessed table alcoves scalloped the exterior walls, for those customers seeking, a bit more privacy.

    The others walked down the steps. Taka, Rogue and Topolev headed for the bar. I followed down into the room, slowly scanning for the Wook. I didn’t see him, but the place was packed with an impressive array of outlanders, spacers and throttle jocks from all over the known galaxy. Falker and Blade were checking out the crowd as well.

    Rogue had made himself at home and was talking to the twins at the bar as he waited for his drink. They laughed and drank Sullustian wine as they moved closer to him, hanging on his shoulders. His drink was slammed down on the bar in front of him, the contents of the container sloshing over the rim. He looked down at it and then up to the bartender as the rotund server turned his back and moved on to the other numerous orders awaiting him. Taka caught Rogue’s eye and shook his head at the poor service.

    Topolev received his drink in much the same manner as Rogue and walked past me toward the band. I heard him talking to one of the locals, asking about the music. Figrin Da’n and the Modal Nodes was their name. Only on Tatooine. He walked over to them, eyes skimming over the dimly lit crowd as he walked through the room. The Bith band members played very unusual instruments and swayed and pitched their large bulbous heads around in time with the music. Their long fingers moved with agile skill over the keys and sensors producing a bouncy, smooth sound.

    4120 had a dark, brewed drink with thick foam sitting on top and was walking through the crowd, scanning the room. As my eyes swept the crowd, I noticed a dark, hooded figure with a broad, long beak wearing large goggles watching him from just outside one of the dimly lit side alcoves. 0600 walked over to me and handed me one of the brews.

    “Cheers”, he said, holding out the drink. I took the container and nodded in the direction of the dark creature watching our XO, and 0600 flicked his eyes to the creature.

    “He’s been watching 4120 since we walked in. I was looking for the Wookiee I saw earlier when I spotted this guy. He’s taking quite an interest.”

    We both moved to the outer edge of the room and wandered slowly toward him, watching as his attention was focused on 4120 and not us. A green-skinned Rodian pushed gruffly past 0600, giving a grunt and a surly look as he passed. He moved a little too quickly, but no one seemed to be following him. He wore a gun belt and was looking around the room nervously.

    We moved closer to the dark, robed figure just ahead. He was making squeaking noises into a device in his palm, when his head jerked in our direction as he caught sight of us. It was, however a moment too late, as 0600 and I took him by the arms and shoved him into the adjacent alcove, knocking into the table inside. We startled a Bith, seated alone, drinking at the table. He knocked over his container in his scrambling attempt to escape unharmed.

    I shoved the creature to the bench seat as he squeaked in fear. I held tight and took a deep sip of my drink and looked around the room to see if anyone had noticed. The barkeep was watching, but when he caught my eye, quickly turned back to his other patrons.

    0600 placed an extended finger to his mouth as he stepped in front of the captive. The struggling figure quieted. My fellow trooper pointed to his ear and shook his head to let him know we didn’t understand. I turned my head to scan the outer room again, no civilians seemed to have noticed our move, although the other members of our party had seen our takeover of the Bith's table, and were walking our way.

    0600 put his drink on the table and withdrew a small earpiece from his belt and placed it over his ear, switching the small device on. I motioned for him to speak again. He started squeaking, and the earpiece scanned varying conversion algorithms, until 0600 heard the squeaks translated into Basic. He looked up to the creature, nodding his head. The dark figure began again.

    “I am Garindan. You don't have to use your hands, I understand you perfectly. I simply lack the vocal cords to reproduce your language. I have served the Empire before, here on the Streets of Mos Eisley, when the other troops were here before you.”

    He shook his head as he saw our realization. “Yes. I know you are in service to the Emperor. I worked with the last unit stationed here many seasons ago to gather and funnel intelligence from the streets and would like very much to continue that with you, in exchange for your good favor, small shipments of Spice to support my habit, and the occasional turning away of your eye to my deeds.”

    Rogue, Topelev, Etz and 4120 were now standing just outside the booth area, watching the crowd as 0600 digested what he had just heard. Taka was in position near the door with Blade, watching the entrance. Falker and 1265 covered the back door as Ddraig moved through the crowd, watching everyone.

    0600 lifted his drink and took a long sip. "We have us a snitch, guys, and he's looking for work."

    Rogue ran his eyes over the cowering form of Garindan, "What makes him think we need or want his assistance, and why should we believe anything he tells us?"

    0600 commented as he switched his earpiece onto speaker mode, "He can understand what you're saying, ask him."

    We all pulled closer to listen over the noises of the bar as Garindan began speaking again, "I know this city, and the people in it. They come and go, but it is usually the same faces. Occasionally there are newcomers, but they pass through here either arriving to stay, or leaving for good. I can help you, and my needs are few."

    Rogue was thinking, staring at the luminary on the table, as 4120 broke the silence, pushing Garindan aside to speak privately to us, “You heard the holo, we’re outside the Legion, hell even outside the Empire on this one. We’re hanging out here all by our lonesome and we could use some help to hit the ground running. If his knowledge of the city and its people is as good as he's boasting, it’ll make our lives a lot easier. He may even have already heard something that could help us with our current mission."

    4120 moved back, allowing Garindan closer again. Rogue nodded in agreement as he looked at the snitch, "OK. We'll try this and see how it works, understand? If it doesn't, or you cross us, I will have no hesitation about making you disappear from the streets of this city as if you never existed."

    Garindan nodded his understanding. I released my grip on his arm and took a deeper swallow of my drink as he straightened his cloak.

    Rogue pulled a commlink from his belt and handed it to our new agent. "Use this if you uncover anything of use to us. I will answer." Garindan nodded again as Rogue continued. "There are others sweeping the landscape right now searching for an escape pod beacon. There is something of interest to us onboard. Have you heard talk of this or did you see a pod come down?"

    The snitch though a moment, and then spoke, "I have not heard of what you speak, nor have I seen any such object fall from the sky, but this is a big place. I know that some of the desert scavengers, the Jawas, have huge Sandcrawlers that crisscross the desert in search of scrap and salvageable parts and supplies. If anyone would know about it, they would. They may even already have the item for which you search. Let me see what I can find out, and I will report in shortly."

    Rogue nodded, allowing Garindan to slip between us and make his way past Falker and 1265, out the back door of the Cantina. We all slid into the bench seat and took over the table we had been standing around. Etz put his plate of food on the table and spoke up first, "I have a very bad feeling about this." Topolev grabbed a piece of grilled meat from the plate and took a bite, as Etz shot him a look. The others casually walked over to the table, still watching the crowd.

    We all considered his comment, then all started to speak at once. 4120's voice was the loudest, so he continued, "If it doesn't work, we make a public example out of him, showing how bad an idea it is to cross us. I see this as a win-win situation. If it works out, we find the pod and the information; a rapid success for our first mission here. If it fails, we sacrifice the snitch, instilling a little fear in the local residents, and still find the missing intelligence. It may take a little longer, but the result will be the same either way. We stand to lose nothing."

    Several nods of agreement came back from around the table as we all now ate from Etz' plate. Rogue raised his container above the luminary, “To our first night in our new post. To the Sandtroopers of the 104th Moisture Farm Patrol. Long Live the Emperor!"

    We all raised our cups and brought them together in the center of the table before each downing a mouthful of the intoxicating liquids. As I swallowed, I noticed a large hairy beast coming down the steps into the bar. The Wookiee had decided to drink tonight after all. For his size, he moved with incredible agility through the crowded room toward the rear of the bar.

    An old man standing at the bar stopped the hairy hulk, and the two spoke for several minutes. They both nodded their heads slightly, and the old man smiled, patting the Wook on the shoulder as their conversation came to a close, as if they knew each other.

    The Wookiee continued on toward a dimly lit table in the back of the Cantina as the old man pulled his hood up around his face. I turned my head to follow the Wook to the table, and when I looked back to the bar where they had been, the old man was gone.

    The dim table in the alcove contained a human seated with a lady friend, having drinks. He wore a vest, and military trousers bearing a broken red stripe down the outside of the legs. Somewhere in his past, an act of extreme bravery had earned him the distinction of the Corellian Blood Stripe. He and the woman were reclining quite comfortably as they watched the band play.

    His eyes cautiously flicked toward the door occasionally, making sure he knew who was coming and who was going.

    The Wook slid in on the opposite side of the table. The human sat up, leaning away from the girl, and had a small conversation with the Wookiee. The Wook grunted and nodded, rising from the table, crossing the floor of the bar and disappearing out the front entrance. The pilot took a final swallow of his drink, and settled back in with his companion.

    I finished my drink and rose "I'm going to get a little air", moving to follow the hairy beast. The entry sensor gurgled its' blue light again as I walked past, out into the sandy street.

    The Tatooine night air was cool, and the vast sea of stars above had popped from the hazy blue sky of the daylight and now shone brightly against the endless black. I thought of the Sentinel crew flying their sweeps, and how we would join the search in the morning. I watched as the giant Wookiee walked away down the street . . . almost out of sight, then he turned and disappeared into the hallway leading to the spaceport docking bays, most likely heading back to their battered Corellian YT-1300 freighter.

    The Rodian from inside the bar pushed past me and muttered something under his breath as he made his way down the street toward the hallway the Wook had just taken. He stopped, turned around, and scanned both sides of the street before disappearing down the dark passage himself. Several ships were lifting off from their bays, and a Dewback grunted and coughed to my right, as it rattled the restraints holding it in place.

    I heard a throaty cry from far off, echoing on the winds . . . more strange creatures to discover. I was just about to follow the Rodian, when the rest of the group came through the door.

    "All right, let's get some sleep. I have an alert set to wake us just before first light. We need to be in bay 98 waiting for that drop ship" said Rogue as he handed me a container of warm food. I put a piece of the grilled meat in my mouth and began to chew as I turned to look at the passage once more before following the others across the street to our barracks.

    It would keep.

    * * *
  15. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Chapter Five was a little bit short, so here is six as well.


    Chapter 6 - Needle In A Sand Dune

    The silent, empty streets were still dark and cool with the chill of night as we marched; proceeding into the narrow hallway heading toward the rendezvous point in the spaceport.

    One by one, we filed down the stairs, and found ourselves in the service bay adjacent to the bay pit itself.

    Instead of the sandy floor of an empty bay or the Sentinel ship we expected to find, there was a worn shuttle and a small gathering of men. While most were dressed in the simple desert cloaks and tunics of the region, one stood out from the others, wearing the military uniform and black cape of a graduate of theImperialNavalAcademy.

    A Flight Officer dressed completely in black was checking names from a list and addressing the small gathering.

    “ . . . . and Samira Tevddeh. You men will be assigned to the starship Dominator. Our last recruit, Academy graduate Biggs Darklighter will be assigned as Third Mate to the starship Rand Ecliptic. We’ll be under way shortly and delivering you to your assigned posts, please board now and find a seat.”

    The flight officer caught sight of us as he wrapped up with his men and walked over to meet Rogue. Our CO stepped up to him, “I'm TD-1009. We were expecting a Sentinel ship from the Star Destroyer Devastator, circling above” and he gestured skyward with an extended thumb.

    The caped graduate, Darklighter, cocked his head slightly to the side, listening to their conversation as the officer responded, “No 1009, I’m not your ride. The Sentinel is on its’ way in, I’m just shuttling some new recruits offworld, although I did hear that the Devastator captured a ship of rebels yesterday.”

    Rogue nodded, “That’s right, we’re searching for some sensitive data that was ejected from the ship during the fighting.”

    Darklighter smiled and laughed quietly to himself as one of the other recruits leaned closer to him, “What’s so funny?” The dark-haired Tatooine native turned a bit more serious, “I just realized my best friend was right about something, and no one believed him, that’s all.”

    A tech stepped out of the shuttle, “Sir, the Sentinel just signaled. We need to vacate the bay so they can land.” The flight officer spun away from Rogue and walked back toward his shuttle, calling back over his shoulder, “Good Luck in your search, TD-1009. OK, Everybody in!”

    The small shuttle powered up as Biggs Darklighter took a last, slow look around and whispered, "I'll be watching for you, buddy" and boarded. A ‘droid scurried around removing the fueling lines from the ship's belly as her hatches sealed; then she rose out of the bay and away into the deep blue of the morning sky. For a few moments there was silence. Then, the whine of the drop ship's engines rained down on us as it moved into the space over the pit opening. It carefully descended, coming to rest just beyond where we were standing.

    The Sentinel-class troop drop ship. Sienar Fleet Systems and Cygnus Spaceworks had borrowed heavily from their elegant Imperial shuttle design in the development of the Sentinel-class landing craft. My helmet display rapidly cycled through several ships and finally displayed a schematic for the ship before me.

    Its' enlarged cargo hold could carry six squads (a total of 54 soldiers) as well as a dozen repeating blasters and six speeder bikes. It boasted four deflector shield generators, four retractable laser cannons, two concussion missile launchers, an ion cannon, a bank of rotating repeating blasters, and optional combat armor plating. To be fully manned, it required a command crew of five, which includes the pilot, the copilot/sensor officer, and three gunners. In the field, they were generally flown with a pilot and a sensor officer with the gun controls slaved to the pilot.

    The Sentinel's removable seating units allowed the ship to be quickly converted to a straight combat vehicle delivery vessel or troop-deployment drop ship. In this mode, the landing craft could carry three dozen speeder bikes or a dozen compact assault vehicles. As the dual rear cargo bay doors opened to the sides and the ramp lowered, we could see that, in fact, the seats had been removed and 3 Dewbacks and a Bantha were tethered to restraints in the floor plates. Several troops marched down the ramp toward us as the smell of the Animals wafted out of the hold, washing over us.

    Rogue removed his helmet, "I'm the CO, Captain", speaking as the lead trooper from the ship crossed to us.


    The other trooper removed his bucket as well, "I’m Captain Tyrell. We have swept the portions of the planet that were exposed, possible landing sites for the pods. Two have been located, neither had the plans inside. There is a third signature that we picked up out in the Dune Sea, way beyond the city here, even beyond the borders of the moisture farms and the Jundland Wastes. We were going to inspect the site, but time was nearing for us to meet, so we aborted. A few of my men will continue on with you. The flight crew has been rotated. The remainder of my crew and I will catch some rest. Let us know if you recover anything of interest." And he snapped a salute to Rogue, who returned it.

    None of the locations Tyrell had described held any meaning for us yet, we would have to review the data charts in the shuttle to get a better feel for where we were heading. He and his troops disappeared up the stairs toward the city as we entered the rear of the cargo area. One of the troopers left behind came forward into the light as we walked up the boarding ramp, "We have a lot of ground to cover between here and the indicated point of impact. I'm TD 1023, Davin Felth. Welcome aboard. Pilot! Let’s go!"

    I shook his hand, "TD 2187, Terek Deckard" and continued on to the jumpseats. Rogue and 4120 were reviewing the log and the navigational charts as the engines came back online, and the flight crew prepared to head back out.

    We all strapped in as the ship lifted clear of the bay pit. The darkness of the cool Tatooine morning was shattered as Tatoo I broke the horizon, streaming sunlight across the sands and rocky terrain, slicing across the highest peaks of the domed buildings.

    As we disappeared into the distance, the Corellian freighter 0600 and I had searched the day before, the freighter owned by the Wook and the Human, silently rose out of her docking pit into the morning air and flew off toward the little town of Mos Espa, even though her destination was a much closer section of the nearby mountains between Mos Espa and Mos Eisley.


    The Dewbacks and Bantha were grunting and shifting, trying to maintain their footing as the ship rocked side to side. One of the desert lizards snapped his tail against the side wall with a deafening thud. Felth was sitting, strapped in between Danz and Blade, several seats down from me. He yelled in my direction to be heard over the engines and the livestock, "The pod's signature was pretty weak. We’re going to need these guys to help us cover the ground near the impact site", he gestured toward the dewbacks. I nodded, as the ship raced away from the spaceport of Mos Eisley toward the open expanses of the Dune Sea.

    The sand seemed to go on endlessly in every direction; rolling dunes that shifted with the hot winds, changing the landscape before your eyes, if you watched closely enough. 4120 was manning the navigator's station, and watched as we drew nearer to the small pinging mark on the scope. "Just ahead. Find a place to set her down" he said. "We should do the rest on foot, or we might miss it entirely".

    The pilot nodded, and the craft slowed and rolled to the right. The Dewbacks scraped at the deck trying to maintain traction as the craft pitched into the turn. I heard the gear extending beneath us, and then the gentle bump as we contacted the sand, and settled in.

    The engines wound down, as the flight crew exited the cockpit. Rogue released the rear door seals and opened the broad doors wide allowing the already warm morning air and bright orange sunlight in. As the others exited into the sand, Etz, Topolev and I released the clamps tethering the Dewbacks to the deck plate. We coaxed them down the ramp into the sand, leaving the Bantha behind for now. Felth was eager to get moving. He seemed to want to impress his Captain by locating the pod.

    The tanned Ronto-leather saddle strained and stretched as Etz grabbed the hanging straps of the fur-covered saddlebag pouch and climbed onto the back of the of the first Dewback. Topolev and 4120 did the same, climbing onto the remaining two sand lizards. They settled into the large leather saddles and retrieved the Dewback stun prods from their protective pouches, screwing the long poles together in the center.

    The giant animals shuddered a bit beneath them as the lumbering beasts adjusted to the weight of the riders. 4120’s Dewback roared, and bucked abruptly as he shocked the beast just behind the head with the long stun prod. The angry animal turned and wandered slowly off toward the nearby ridge, shaking its head and kicking up a spray of sand with each step under its' powerful limbs.

    As Etz lowered the front of his prod to shock his Dewback into action, the mount cried out, shaking his head and hurrying to catch up with 4120. Falker, 1265 and Taka walked ahead, in their tracks. 0600 and I followed close behind them with Rogue, Ddraig and Felth.

    All of us on foot walked in a staggered formation, fanning out, advancing off toward the horizon, scanning in every direction for a glint of sunlight, a blown hatch, any hint of a part of the ejected pod. It came hurtling from space, and impacted somewhere near here without firing its braking thrusters. There should be some visible evidence; a crater, scorched sand, something.

    We walked on for quite some time, over several large dunes finding still nothing each time we crossed the next crest. Rogue raised the Sentinel crew on his commlink, and asked for another sweep to try and pinpoint the target a little more precisely. We had walked to the bottom of the next valley before they flew overhead and swept past us over the next several dunes. I pulled out my macrobinoculars and snapped them on, scanning the horizon line.

    The problem with the rolling dunes out here was that the horizon could be a days' walk or a short hike depending on the size of the dune that was in front of you. I snapped them off again. They were pretty useless from the ground, unless things were to flatten out more.
    “All these dunes are starting to look alike.”

    Etz sat up tall in his saddle, straining to see, as the comm crackled, and the Sentinel crew reported a sharper ping on the beacon just over the next ridge.

    * * *

    The landing gear of the Corellian freighter settled into the sand and her engines wound down as the captain switched off all systems in the cockpit, “We’re in good shape, nobody followed us.”

    The Wook was opening a panel cover in the wall of the engine compartment when the human walked past, yelling back over his shoulder as he reached into his personal bunk space for a tool box, “Chewie, let’s wait on that. Take the rest of those cases out of the smuggling compartments and put them in the cache. You never know when we might need to use that space, and they’ll need to be empty. When you’re done, I need you to check out the targeting system for the upper quad gun array.”

    The Wookiee grunted and growled a reply as he closed the panel back over and instead grabbed a small electromagnetic handle. He made his way toward the top of the boarding ramp and knelt down. Placing the handle on the floor plate, he pressed the button set into the grip, firmly attaching it to the plate. His Wookiee arms easily lifted the first of the heavy metal panels. Once opened, he set to work digging out a half dozen cases of contraband spice from beneath the deck.

    The human captain walked down the access ramp behind his co-pilot, carrying his tools. He set them down and stripped off his vest and shirt, dropping them in a careless pile at the bottom of the ramp next to the tools. As the Wook walked past him with an armful, Solo stepped off the ramp into the sand and moved beneath the ship, opening an access panel in the underbelly.

    It was still fairly early in the day, but the twin suns were already beating incessantly down on Tatooine. The massive hull of his ship overhead shielded him from the direct rays, but the heat was all around, radiating up from the sand. He reached inside the panel opening up to his elbow as he checked on the integrity of some of his custom modifications. Several of the specialized parts needed re-seating. He reached into the box for a tool and set to work.

    The shaggy co-pilot had walked several meters away from the ship carrying the metal cases full of smuggled Kessel spice, up a steep incline. They had originally had MUCH more spice onboard, but were forced to eject most of the obvious, visible cargo when they were threatened with boarding by an Imperial blockade.

    These hidden cases were all that remained of Jabba’s shipment now.

    It would not be enough to appease the Hutt’s anger over his loss, and could be sold in the future for cash without him being any the wiser. He turned and looked around, scanning the cliffs and canyons to make sure no one was watching and to ensure that the Krayt Dragons that nest in the nearby rocks were otherwise occupied.

    Smuggling spice was not something he thought he would ever do, but it had become a necessary part of his life after the fall of the Republic, and was part of his duty to repay his life-debt to his friend, Captain Solo. It also kept him connected to Tatooine and in frequent, inconspicuous contact with the aging General, for the inescapable duty Yoda had entrusted to him.

    The enormous Wookiee knew that call to duty was now fast approaching. He moved toward a dark shadow among the rocks of the cliff face and stepped right into the darkness of the narrow slot, disappearing into an all but hidden cave.

    The cool of the shadows here was welcomed as the Wookiee carried his armful to the rear of the cave. He squeezed between stacked crates of blasters and rifles, a lockbox of money, military medical supplies and other various recovered treasures from his many years of flying co-pilot to Han Solo. This was one of several private stashes of goods, money and arms for whatever opportunity might come their way. The Wookiee reached the back wall of the cave and stacked the cases of Glitterstim on the ground, then turned and walked back to the entrance of the dim cave, to head back to the much-needed repairs awaiting him.

    He stopped abruptly inside the entryway to the cave, standing motionless.

    A huge scale-covered leg was making its way past the opening, followed by a whipping tail. The Wookiee leaned forward slightly, peering around the rocks, one hand on his crossbow. A fully matured male Krayt Dragon had been just outside, on patrol, guarding its home. This smugglers cache of Solo’s would never be in any danger of being pilfered. Few had the stomach to be so close to the nesting area of the huge beasts. Even the Tusken Raiders left them alone. When the area was clear, he moved out of the cave and down the hill to the ship below.

    * * *

    We all turned toward the hovering drop ship and walked in the direction of the next dune of mounded sand hopefully lying between us and the pod. The early morning heat was taking its' toll. Our body gloves were straining to keep us cool, and our environmental packs quietly whirred away pulling moisture from the air for us to drink, but the glaring, reflected heat from all of the sand wasn't helping our search efforts. We made our way up to the top of the ridge and once again looked for any indication that a pod had come down here.

    A hot, gusting breeze blew small intermittent streams of sand across the ground, giving the appearance of a low-lying, tan fog. The tiny stone particles whipped against our boots and shin armor with a sound similar to that of swift running water.

    At first, there was nothing out there to be seen. Then Topolev spotted something. He was up high on the Dewback, and could see over this small valley into the next. "There's definitely something there. Not sure if it’s our pod, but there’s something."

    We all raced down the incline of the dune into the valley, sand and dust spraying up against our leg armor from the rapid advance. Then we mounted the eroding sands of the slope on the far side, slowly making our way upward. With each step, I felt my boots sink down up to my ankle in the sand, slipping, and making very little forward progress.

    The Dewbacks dug in and climbed with their broad, flat feet up the sandy embankment, pushing mounds of sand down in their wake. As we cleared the top of the ridge line and caught our breath, we were treated to what Topolev had seen. It was unmistakable. We saw it. We all saw it. We had found the impact site.
    A wave of accomplishment and relief settled over us. Lord Vader would not need to make an appearance here after all. Rogue ordered the drop ship to set down on the ridge. We all moved down the slope, sand spraying once again against our shin armor as we half stepped and half slid down the steep grade.

    As we drew nearer and nearer to the impact site, what had looked like shadow from a distance, became the unmistakable marks of eroded footprints in the immediate vicinity of the pod. If there had been tracks any further out, they had been wiped clean by the winds.

    Topolev and Etz remained on their Dewbacks. 4120 dismounted and walked about with his rifle lowered, surveying the skyline. He and Taka watched our backs as we advanced.

    Falker, Ddraig and Blade surveyed the area around the pod with 0600. The barely visible marks in the sand that remained gave no indicator as to whether or not they led to, or away from the crash site. The pod could not have made it past our gunners with someone on board. They would never have let it get past. It must have been the desert scavengers and their Sandcrawler. But if it was the Jawas, their crawler would surely have left far deeper tracks than these footprints, and they would likely have taken the entire pod.

    "This doesn't make any sense! Do these tracks lead to, or away from the pod?" asked Rogue.

    0600, Danz and Falker moved in closer and inspected the inside of the pod. Danz stepped back out into the sand, “Nothing here", he reported, "No data recordings, nothing, but I can tell you someone opened the hatch . . . from the inside."

    Felth and I walked slowly along the line of prints in the sand, buckets down, checking the ground for clues, anything. Felth knelt down as Rogue looked back at the pod. He noted the direction of the prints and how they curved away from the impact site. "Well, if the hatch was opened from the inside then the only thing that makes sense here is that . . .”

    He paused, turning away from the pod, his eyes scanning the directions the tracks seemed to indicate. “Someone was in the pod. The tracks go off in this direction", he said, pointing his E-11 across the dunes as the realization hit him.

    Felth abruptly stood up from his crouch, examining a small metallic ring in his hand, rocking it back and forth for Rogue to see. “Look, sir, Droids!"

    Rogue let the comment sink in a moment before responding. “That certainly explains why no life forms were scanned by our gunners. Now we know that the data made it to the surface, and that a 'droid must be in possession of it. We also know it presents us with a whole new issue.” He paused for a breath as he scanned the horizon. “Which 'droid, and where is it now?"

    Felth shook his bucket. We were back to the first step of our search again. Rogue knew it, we all knew it. "Judging from the tracks, we’re looking for a biped of some type." said 0600. Rogue nodded his agreement. "A bi-pedal 'droid that is used to starship duty and finds itself walking in an environment like this couldn't have made it very far on foot." He switched on his comm, "Sentinel crew, recalibrate the search parameters and prepare for dust-off. We need to do a more specialized sweep of the surrounding areas. We're looking for 'droids."

    * * *
  16. Oh_Behave_Kenobi

    Oh_Behave_Kenobi Jedi Youngling

    May 24, 2006
    Really very nice work here.

    I like the story from the troopers point of view and can't wait to read more. The blending in with the ANH film timeline is nicely done, seeing things that were happening but not seen, gears set in motion that affect things later on.


  17. Peagis

    Peagis Jedi Youngling star 3

    Apr 14, 2005
    Cool story if you have a PM list please add me to it!
  18. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    THANK YOU! I'm so happy a few people are reading the story.
    I have really enjoyed writing it from a Sandtrooper's perspective.

    Please tell your friends to check it out!

  19. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Here is the next installment . . .

    Chapter 7 - Droid Hunt

    The Wookiee had the complex targeting system from the upper quad gun array torn apart and scattered across the boarding ramp. He probed the exposed circuitry with a diagnostic scanner in search of the problem.

    Captain Solo was working down inside one of the engine vents on the rear upper hull when he heard a loud Wookiee growl echoing off the surrounding hills as his co-pilot lost his patience with the job he was working on down beneath the ship. Solo stood up into the bright sunlight, squinting and grinning broadly at the familiar, frustrated growl of his friend, and laughed to himself.

    He bent back down inside and sprayed lubricant on the louvered heat dispersing vanes under his feet. He reached down and worked the vane back and forth with his hands until it moved freely. In his mind he pictured his frustrated first mate. Laughing a bit to himself again at the thought of the irritated Wookiee, he climbed out of the open vent wiping a thick, dark fluid from his hands with a red rag before throwing it down on the metal skin of his ship.

    As he replaced the gridded vent cover he yelled out, loud enough to be heard below. “Relax Chewie, I’ll be right down and give you a hand”.

    * * *

    I watched as wave after wave of sand in this barrenDuneSea washed silently beneath the low-flying drop ship.

    As our search wore on, there was no escaping the smell of our animal passengers in the cramped cargo area. Etz called out as he spotted a cascade of bones from a large beast stretched out over a ridgeline beneath us, "Hey, check that out." Felth stood, looking out the gunner's viewport.

    I leaned forward and nodded as I looked out. 0600 poured the sand from his boots into a small pyramid on the deck, “That’s the bones of a Krayt Dragon. They’re usually found in the rockier parts in mountain caves, but they come here, to the dunes to die. Banthas do the same thing. Somewhere out here there’s a Bantha Graveyard full of bones. Sometimes the older local kids used to skip classes and waste the day out here looking for it.”

    Although we had been sweeping for hours, the scanners had not picked up any droid signatures yet. It was late in the day, and the twin suns were sliding toward the horizon when 0600 spotted tracks in the sand beneath us. The pilot circled back around and dropped down closer to the surface to check them out.

    He set us down beside the tracks and released the door mechanism. We exited down the rear ramp into the sand to check out what 0600 had seen from the air. Rogue and I knelt, examining the depth of the tracks as Falker looked off toward the hills in the distance. The tracks were definitely not from any organic creature. They were made by something large, and with great weight bearing down on a mechanical drive system, no repulsor field for this vehicle. Perhaps these were the tracks of the elusive Sandcrawler.

    Topolev was crouched momentarily, also examining the tracks. He stood, following them with his eyes. They headed in a straight line toward the sharp, upward thrust range of sand-swept stone mountains that Falker was staring at. “They’re heading off that way, toward those hills in the distance.”

    Danz and Falker agreed, “Let’s go.” We boarded the ship, dusted off quickly and raced toward the stony mountains, following the tracks.

    We set down near the base of the hills, and once again we all filed out the back, leaving the animals behind to eat on large bales of food, and the doors open wide to help ventilate the hold and relieve the smell. There were small foot tracks, many appearing among the larger, vehicular tracks, and then fanning out, leading up into the hills following several paths. These may very well have been Jawa tracks.

    TD-0324 and a couple of other troopers from Tyrell’s flight crew walked off on their own, following one trail of tracks up the sharp embankment of a ravine.

    We followed a snaking trail of the small tracks up into the hills as we drew our blasters, powered them on and holding them at the ready. There was no telling what might be found among the rocks ahead. TD-0324 and a couple of other troopers from Tyrell’s flight crew walked off in another direction, following a branching trail of tracks up the sharp embankment of a ravine.

    We were about halfway up the coarse embankment, scanning for life when I heard the same throaty cry I had heard howling on the wind outside the Cantina. It was joined by a chorus of several other howls and wails and grunting followed by a horrible scream and a discharged E-11 blast, then several other quick blaster discharges followed by silence.

    My group turned and doubled back, quickly scrambling in the direction of the noise. We came over a sandy rise and saw a robed, grunting creature with a disfigured head stooping over TD-0324, rummaging through the Impervium utility belt at his waist. There were 3 dead troopers lying scattered behind it and several other creatures were racing away further up the hill on foot.

    As we appeared, the creature rose, turning toward us, standing tall and thrusting a meter-long metal club over its' head and letting out an even louder war cry. We could now see that the head was not misshapen or disfigured, it was wrapped with bandages. It had a breather opening at the mouth and metal portals where the eyes should have been. Metal spikes were randomly thrust out of the bandages on its' head, giving it an even more fierce appearance.

    The head wraps and loosely draped garments were a primitive form of desert survival, protection from the sands and winds in this wasteland. It was shaking the club back and forth over its' head as it wailed and snarled from beneath the head wrappings. One end of the weapon was curved into a blunt, round club head with a sharp center spike. The other end tapered into a spike surrounded by sharp, bladed fins. This end was covered in the blood of the impaled trooper lying at the creature's feet.

    We all froze for just a second, not quite sure what to make of this thing. It was 0600 that reacted first, lowering his blaster rifle and blowing a gaping hole through the chest of the wailing desert nomad. It fell to the sand in a heap, dropping the club as smoke curled away from the wound imposed by the sudden burst of energy from the heavy rifle.

    We walked closer to get a better look. I raised my eyes and blaster, scanning the cliffs around us, in case the others were watching, waiting for a chance to attack the rest of us. There did not appear to be any that I could see. This trooper and the others were dead, as was the creature. "Tusken Raider", said 0600, kicking the twitching leg of the body lying in the sand. "The locals also call them Sandpeople. These things are not to be messed with", he said as he walked over to the discarded weapon and picked up the dropped Gaffi stick.

    He turned the war club over in his hands as he slowly walked a bit further up to the plateau at the top of the hill. "Check this out guys", he called back down to us as his eyes swept across the rocks. We walked up to the top of the ravine and he pointed across the flat mesa to a cave in the face of the wall just ahead. "I bet we find the others in his raiding party, or maybe a fugitive droid in there", he said, pointing to a small opening in the rocks.

    Rogue and the others circled around a large rock and moved in closer to the cave to get a better look. 0600 was looking over the heavy club as I walked past to join the search group, "I think I'm gonna hang on to this", he said, "You never know when it might come in handy." I nodded in agreement, "Nice little trophy too.” He walked after me toward the cave.

    4120, 1344, Danz, Etz and I entered the cave as Rogue, 0600 and Topolev covered us, watching the cliffs surrounding the plateau. Confident there were no Tuskens to our rear, they followed us inside, leaving Taka to guard the entrance. Our infrared bucket imaging systems flickered on in the darkness of the cave. It smelled of death in here. The remains of several small desert animals lay on a small rock inside, most had been slaughtered and eaten, but what pieces remained permeated the room with a foul smell. Topolev found several clubs resting against the cave wall as we advanced, “Those are mine when we head out”, he said, pointing to the Gaffi sticks.

    Danz picked up a small mechanical device off the floor of the cave, and shrugged, “I can’t be sure, but it looks like a calibration tool of some kind. I bet they bought it from our Jawas”. We spread out as the narrow entrance room expanded into a darker, larger cavern with craggy stalactites hanging from the ceiling. A few shabby blankets were wound into sleeping nests on the uneven ground in the darker areas near the walls.

    Rogue went to examine them as Etz happened to look up at a sudden movement among the rocks overhead just in time to see a Tusken dropping down howling; its bladed gaffi pointed straight down for the kill. Instead of being stabbed through his neck and down into his chest, the blade struck him on his protective shoulder armor and glanced off, knocking him to the ground. Another creature jumped on Danz, who swiveled away and cracked the creature square in the face with the butt of his rifle, driving the metal eyepieces back into the skull beneath the wraps. In the ensuing confusion, I was knocked to the floor from behind by the blunt end of a gaffi in my back.

    My bucket flew off and rolled aside as the creature jumped over me wielding the club and howling. Etz blew a hole through the Tusken on top of him and rolled over, taking aim at the one just struck by Danz, but Falker beat him and Topolev to it, blasting a smoking hole through the bandaged neck of the beast. 0600 turned abruptly at the waist, jamming the gaffi stick he held firmly through the chest of the Tusken charging him as Topolev blasted it. 4120 took aim at the creature struggling with me but couldn’t get a clear shot.

    I kicked the feet out from under the robed Tusken standing over me and rolled to my feet as the creature rose up, flailing its stick at me in wide arcs, cutting through the air just in front of me. I jerked my head back out of the way to avoid being struck, but was a second too late, as the sharpened spike on the tip of the weapon sliced through the skin on my brow. As the sharp tip flew by again, I reached up, grabbed the Tusken by the neck, jammed the muzzle of my blaster in the flailing creature’s mouth and quickly pulled the trigger. I saw a bright red flash in the eyepieces, and the limp Tusken corpse dropped to the cave floor.

    I spun back to the others with my blaster held out, squinting to see in the dim light. They had their blasters pointing my way. When they realized it was me, they quickly holstered them. I bent down and picked up my bucket, putting my gloved hand to my forehead. When I pulled it away, blood covered the palm and dripped freely from my sliced head.

    We turned back toward the entrance of the cave and walked past Taka back out into the light of the day. I wiped the blood from my face and eyes, and pressed hard against the slice wound as I took a seat on the small rock just outside. Topolev came out behind Danz carrying an armful of the deadly spiked metal clubs. “There’s one here for each of us, if you want them.”

    I opened several of the belt compartments on my utility belt searching for bandages. The first had reinforced cord and a small grappling hook, the second a small concussion charges. Finally I found the right one with several small packages of bandages and a topical bacta spray. Topolev dropped a gaffi beside me. Etz and 0600 walked past me as I squeezed my split skin together and stretched the bacta-coated bandage in place, pressing it down hard. I looked up, "Hey, is your shoulder OK?"

    He looked back, "Yeah it's fine, I was lucky. How's the head?"

    "I'll live.”

    0600 walked around the corner and called back to us, "I thought this was where we were. Behold gentlemen, the ruins of the first B'omarr Monk temple on Tatooine." It was a small ruined pile of stone. I stood up and we all walked over for a closer look.

    "The B'omarr built this small shrine as a gathering point to meditate in the tranquility of the desert after the crash of their starship, right over there”, he said pointing to another of the sandy peaks.

    The shifting sands over the centuries had all but buried the remnants of the B'Omarr vessel, but the main drive thrusters could still be seen protruding from the cliffside.

    “The first B’Omarr had a temple here. This small shrine was just the top of a network of tunnels and caverns inside these jagged hills, but that, gentlemen, is a story and excursion into the desert for another time", and he walked away from the small crumbling building. “The monks built a much more heavily fortified palace further out in the Dune Sea before they began shedding their bodies. We may pass near it later if we continue on our previous course."

    "Excuse me, did you say 'shedding their bodies?", asked Etz, rubbing his shoulder.

    0600 grinned wide beneath his bucket, "That's right. After the palace was completed, the monks all underwent a procedure that removed their brains from their bodies, and placed it into a life-supporting nutrient-rich liquid in clear jars. They felt if they were free from the restraints of the physical body, their meditations would take them deeper into understanding the universe. There’s a small army of spider-walker 'droids in the palace. They remove the jars from the central meditation chamber when a monk has the desire to move about."

    Etz said nothing more.

    I stood up, holding my head, "These Sandpeople must have bought that calibrator from the Jawas. Those ‘crawler tracks were recent. We need to be looking for Jawas, and their Sandcrawler. They must have picked up our wandering 'droid." I walked to the edge of the plateau and looked down into the vast valley stretching out before me. Tatoo I had just sunk beneath the mountains on the horizon, and Tatoo II was not far behind. The landscape in this direction was brutal. "Sandcrawler or not, they didn't go this way."

    0600 nodded his bucket in agreement with me. "You're right about that. Even a 'crawler wouldn't make it through that. We need to head back to the ship and set our sensors for a Jawa Sandcrawler. That should be a little easier to find than a half-buried escape pod or a lost 'droid."


    The ride was fairly smooth as we raced the Sentinel across the sands in search of the large mechanized transport of the Jawas. The second of the twin suns was almost setting as we raced through a pass in the low hills. 0600 sat forward, "There's the palace." We all looked out the gunner's port as we moved past the massive structure.

    Etz sat back uneasily, contemplating the dismembered brains walking about inside. 0600 spoke under his breath; more to himself than anyone else. "They're not the only tenants anymore."

    As our ship disappeared toward the horizon, an occupant emerged from another ship that had landed just outside themonksPalace. He stepped off the extended ramp into the sand, the heat baking his Mandalorian armor.

    There was a job to be done. He had been called in to help collect from a smuggler, by one of the Palace’s newer tenants, Jabba the Hutt.

    * * *

    The second of the two suns was disappearing beneath the horizon as Captain Solo snapped the last piece of the targeting system back in place under the long barrels of the upper Quad-Gun array.

    “It’s getting dark, let’s finish this up. We can stay here tonight and head back to the spaceport in the morning. I want to take a quick inventory of the cache, and I have more work to do inside anyway.”

    The Wookiee barked a response as he re-connected the power couplings and cycled through a synchronization process on the gun. When it finished, he slipped into the adjacent gunner’s chair and grabbed the controls. The small display monitor before him flickered to life as the guns rose on the outside of the ship, mimicking his movements. He howled again, appearing satisfied. Outside the window, Solo stood up and stepped away from the swiveling guns, heading for the top hatch.

    * * *

    Tatoo II had settled just below the horizon and it was almost dark when we dropped over a ridge and came across what we had been searching for. There, just ahead, stopped for the night, with a camp made and fires blazing, was not one, but two of the massive Sandcrawlers.

    Our pilot rolled toward them and set down just outside their camp. We could see the little creatures scurrying around their huge vehicle as we disembarked.

    As we walked away from the Sentinel and drew closer to the Crawler, we could see many of the little creatures hiding behind the massive treads of their vehicle, watching us closely to see what we would do. One Jawa warily left his hiding place and walked slowly over to us with his arm outstretched, as if to welcome us. He jabbered several small phrases before 0600 could switch on his bucket translator.

    A series of small whistles issued from his helmet as it scanned the translation algorithms trying to convert to speech. Then he nodded his head, "I've got it. It's a little broken, must be the local dialect, but I think I can translate it."

    0600 spoke to the little creature, and his bucket emitted a series of garbled messages, converted to the Jawa language. "We are looking for a 'droid that you may have found wandering in the desert. It probably looks like us, with 2 legs." The small, brown-robed creature seemed to think a moment and then respond. "Many 'droids and scrap we have, from the wastes, but no recoveries of any that stand and walk as you do. I check with the others" and he turned and ran toward the front tread on the looming Crawler.

    Rogue instinctively raised his rifle at the quick movement, but 0600 waved a hand. "It's OK, he's just going to see if any of the others know anything. He says they have many droids. Some collected from the wastelands, but they haven’t picked up any bipeds." Several other Jawas poked their heads around the side of the vehicle and joined the messenger, yellow eyes glowing brightly in the dim twilight. They all turned their backs to us and began to jabber among themselves, but turned around several times to check on us.

    When the small band had finished discussing the 'droids, the little leader returned to us, saying that the driver of the other Crawler had not recovered any bipeds either, but noted that there was at least one other Crawler out in the Dune Sea that may have. 0600 thanked the little creature and stood up to face Rogue. "They don't know anything about a biped 'droid. We surprised them, they're pretty shaken. He would have told us." We all lowered our blasters and filed back on board the drop ship. "Back to square one", said 4120 as he sat down in his jumpseat. “Yup”, replied Blade.

    The little Jawa scratched his head, watching as our drop ship lifted off into the bright, fiery orange of the dying daylight.

    He wondered if perhaps any of us might possibly have been interested in the little blue astromech the other, third Crawler out in the dunes had recovered among the rocky canyons at the edge of the wastes.

    * * *
  20. AnakinsFavorite

    AnakinsFavorite Jedi Knight star 5

    Apr 10, 2006
    Thank you for pointing out this interesting tale to me. It is rather interesting- most fics are about the main characters, and the minors (aka, stormtroopers/sandtroopers) are often left out so it was nice to hear another perspective. It seems that you like writing long stuff like me!
  21. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    Thank you for checking out the story. I wanted to have the main characters be players in the story, but not the MAIN players.

    This story tells the events leading up to and through the beginning of ANH, in the film it took very little time to skim pass the passage of 3 FULL days on Tatooine. There was a lot going on that we saw the result of, but never saw firsthand. I wanted to expand on those days, revive the players from Anchorhead that were cut from the film, and re-introduce the depth and importance of the Tatooine beginnings of ANH.

    I hope you enjoy it. I have been writing this story since November of last started as a 7 page draft...something fun, and has evolved into a 10 chapter story, that may or may not be finished even there...

    I would like to continue it with "Tales of the Sandtroopers" and fill in the timeline between when the Falcon blasts out of Bay 94, and Rebels begin arriving and watching the activities of Jabbas court and Palace after the events of The Empire Strikes Back.

    I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I have writing it.

  22. Oh_Behave_Kenobi

    Oh_Behave_Kenobi Jedi Youngling

    May 24, 2006
    I'm loving this story! A nice new slant on the old story.

    I can't wait to read what happens next.

    If you have a PM list, please add me to it.
  23. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006

    I have been busy editing the last chapters for is chapter 8:

    Chapter 8 - Interrogations

    We continued on, sweeping the seemingly endless rolling fields of sand for the missing Sandcrawler, until the last of the days’ light had faded away. Although our instruments could continue picking up signals, we were exhausted beyond reading them. We set down at the base of a rocky outcropping along the edge of the DuneSea, near the Jundland Wastes.

    The livestock was offloaded and tethered to the side of the ship, left to graze on large bales of food brought from the cargo area. Temperatures were beginning to drop without the warmth of the suns overhead, so we took several of the compressed food bales and set them afire just outside the rear of the ship. The first shift guard was in place, scanning the area with his thermal imaging so the rest of us could get some sleep. We gathered around the blaze and settled in for the night.

    Danz propped himself up on one elbow, the firelight throwing flickering light and shadow across his armor as he looked over to Blade, “So what was that all about back up on the Devastator? Who was that up on the gantry?” We all turned to face Blade, curious to hear.

    Etz asked, “What are you talking about?”

    Danz sat up fully, “Back up on the Devastator, just as we were about to leave, I was strapped in near the rear hatch and Blade here was boarding. He was talking to Deckard and 4120 when I saw him look up to a dark figure on an overhead access gantry. Whoever it was raised a hand, then turned and disappeared into the shadows as we lifted off. So who was it, Blade?”

    Ddraig looked over at Taka, who looked over to Falker and Rogue, then they all turned toward Blade. He stared silently into the fire for a few moments then drew in a breath and began his story, “I’m a third generation soldier. I am very proud of our service history and have worked hard to live up to my family's expectations. My father’s position has been both a blessing and a curse for me though. He always wanted me to stand in his footsteps one day on the bridge of a cruiser but I just never considered myself Navy material. My determination to not let family ties influence my path as a soldier has, in some regard, been my undoing.”

    1265 paced back and forth, scanning the darkened dunes, blaster drawn and at the ready but kept an ear open as we all listened closely to Blade over the sound of the wind. "My goal from as far back as I can remember was to join the Imperial Guard. My thoughts take me back to when, as a boy, I visited my father on his ship. On that rare occasion I remember standing in fear and awe as special visitors came aboard. I caught only glimpses of the dignitaries with their long red-robed protectors with the gleaming, faceless red helmets. I could feel their intimidating glares and stern disposition, even from beneath their expressionless armor. Only the best, the toughest, most dedicated were permitted among their ranks. From that day on I knew my destiny, or so I thought.” One of the Dewbacks groaned as he continued.

    "Many early years of training and preparation yielded my placement near the top of my class coming out of the Academy. Two seasons later I was with a chosen few selected to continue my training with the Guard themselves. My father was proud even though I know in his heart he had wanted a different outcome for me. For several months members of my squad had butted heads with one of the other trainees who had been installed as our squad leader and superior. He was the son of a well-known politician. His position in guard training had been maneuvered and bought. The father was well-known for his unscrupulous tactics for pushing agendas through the Senate. My father had served with him, and knew the full extent of his corruption."

    Blade looked around the fire into our eyes as we listened. Some eyes were on him, some on the fire, some off into the stars.

    "My father knew him well. They had clashed many times, and as time progressed, my father advanced, whereas the politician-to-be eventually wound up a little further down in the ranks. There was an altercation one night with several women in a local club, and the other man was dismissed from service. He wasted no time moving into politics, using his contacts, blackmailing anyone and everyone he had information on to move himself ahead. On numerous occasions the others in the unit, and I myself, had similar problems with his son. We had to correct him on matters of procedure and protocol and continually pick up his slack both physically and mentally.

    My father warned me to watch him, and he was right. Our training group decided it would be a solid testimony to us all if we made it through under his leadership, or lack thereof. Eventually he would fall by the wayside. We just had to keep training and following his commands, but doing it faster and better than he could. He let it go with everyone but me."

    0600 slid his pack off and sat down on an empty equipment crate near the entry ramp and spit into the darkness. The flames of the fire flickered in the light breeze as Blade continued.

    “He was on me constantly, riding me harder and harder right up until our last furlough. It was just before our sequestered training began, separated from the general populace on Carida. It was late in the evening, and I had been finishing up a squad report, that he was supposed to have filed, before I headed out. The group was out for a night of drinking before our strict regimen of clean body, clean mind became a way of life. Most of my squadmates had been drinking for hours and were halfway down the row of pubs in the bottom by the time I arrived. Our “superior” had apparently enjoyed one too many and was busy spouting off at the mouth about me when I arrived.

    I moved to the bar, ignoring him. I stood there with quiet rage, drinking my drink as he belligerently berated me and mocked my exemplary performance. I would not let him get the better of me, not this close, not now. I was determined to keep it together. I successfully kept my anger in check until my family’s loyalty to the Empire was questioned. I didn’t make a move, or strike out at him; I just wryly smiled back at him as I took another sip of my drink. My apparent amusement enraged him. He wanted so badly for me to hit him and start something. The drink had gotten the better of his senses and he finally swung his drink container at me, shattering it against my head. There was a brief scuffle in the back of the tavern in which I gave him the beating he had long deserved. Somewhere along the way he tripped in his drunken stupor and fell backward into the bar, snapping his neck just below the base of his skull. My fate and future was sealed before his lifeless body hit the floor.”

    There was a moment’s silence as he paused, trying to think of how best to proceed, “It’s hard to explain how it feels to have everything you have worked so hard to accomplish just vanish . . . gone in an instant. I was eventually acquitted based on the testimony of my squad mates and the other bar patrons. It was clearly self-defense, but all my life I had wanted one thing. I had spent years preparing my mind and body. I was so close to what I wanted and it would never happen. I thought surely the Guard would want someone who stood up for their beliefs, especially when defending the reputation of the Empire, but I guess the death of his son was more than the twisted politician would allow. I’m certain he used his influence to make sure the door to the Guard was closed to me forever.

    After the publicity of the trial dies down, my father asked that I not contact him unless I was in danger. Although his request was not in anger, we haven’t spoken in almost ten standard years. We don’t really have to though. He knows what the fight was about, and he’s proud of me, but he also knows that if anyone ever thought he was using his influence on my behalf, it could be taken the wrong way by the wrong people. Distance was best.

    I was assigned to desert training on Dantooine, but with the decreasing demand for that specialty, I was moved again and cross-trained as an AT-ST pilot. While working my way up to AT-AT Commander, I was strangely and quickly reassigned. In the middle of the night I was unceremoniously awakened, and told to leave everything behind. A cloaked figure escorted me to a remote hangar telling me that my belongings would follow shortly.

    Papers had been prepared and orders processed for my transfer back into a Stormtrooper position. I found myself strapping on my armor once again, shipping out to a remote building site to oversee and protect a group of structural engineers and an encampment of Wookiee slaves working on a “top clearance only” project.

    It was later that season that I earned my call sign. Two slaves broke their shackles and in seconds had overpowered three troopers, killing the first two. It’s amazing how fast those big creatures can move when they’re motivated. The smaller one grabbed my XO but received a head shot from one of my squadmates for his trouble. The other lunged for me but I literally cut him in half with blasts from my -15. The boss called me Blade after that and the name stuck. It was the first time I had lost friends in combat. Unfortunately, it would not be the last."

    With the engineers work on the outpost nearly completed I was awakened once again in the middle of the night and told to leave at once. It was the cloaked figure as before. My room had been emptied while I slept and my things already loaded for the abrupt reassignment. This time the destination was the SSD Devastator. There I would catch a shuttle to my new unit and pick up extra gear for the next assignment. Our long final approach was extended due to the seizure of a hostile ship in the main hangar bay.

    Various craft circled to other access points on the massive vessel. Small flashes of light illuminated from beneath the Destroyer, but our holding pattern kept us from a direct view of the incident. Our shuttle was finally cleared to approach a small service bay under the bridge. As we touched down, various personnel went about their tasks, business as usual. Whatever was taking place on the other side of the ship was literally of no consequence here.

    I worked my way through the endless maze of halls and corridors down through the core of the Destroyer to a central turbolift cluster. After a long descent, the lift doors finally parted to a flurry of activity in a small sub bay where I was to catch another shuttle for the next leg of my journey. There were quite a few Stormtroopers moving at the double quick. A deck hand told me my original flight had been cancelled, but directed me to your ship. I walked over and spoke briefly to a couple of you on the ramp as we were loading up. It was then that I caught sight of the shadowy figure on the gantry, and got the strangest feeling of recognition. I was convinced it had to have been my father.

    I know he asked me not to contact him out of concern for me, and I’m sure he has been the one quietly moving me around over the years based on inside intelligence as the situation required. I just wish he could reassign me publicly based on my record. The fact that my new group was full of veterans was a relief. Half of you guys were asleep by the time the engines fired up.

    In my minds’ eye, I watched as my father, the hangar bay and the Devastator were left behind as we fell away, making that long, stomach-dropping arc toward Tatooine.”

    He took a moment to catch his breath, looking into the licking flames of the fire. “I’m finding it hard letting go of my training. In the Guard, the closer you come to the inner circle of power, the less you are allowed to trust. You’re trained to watch everyone, even each other. It’s different out here. Being a trooper in the field, your unit is all you have. You have to depend on each other. That’s the way it should be. Just bear in mind, and know that it’s nothing personal, but until I’m more comfortable, I’m watching each of you closely. We all must have reasons why we were assigned here. It certainly isn't the best post in the Empire."

    We all glanced warily around the fire at each other. None of us really knew all of the others, but we would need to rely on each other to make this work. Rogue walked away to check in with Captain Tyrell and his men to let them know of our progress. The rest of us settled a bit more for the night. I wiped the fine, sandy dust from the lenses of my bucket as I sat on the edge of the ramp. As I finished and lay back on the inclined metal plank, I rubbed my head and stared up into the massive expanse of stars looming overhead. Somewhere up there was the Devastator, and Lord Vader, awaiting the recovery of the stolen data recordings. I closed my eyes and almost immediately drifted off to sleep.

    * * *

    Across the darkened dunes, far away from our small, fire lit encampment in the modest dwelling of an aging knight; after 20 years buried under several layers of personal belongings in a small chest, the lightsaber that had been used to slay Jedi in the final hours of the Temple’s grandeur, to slaughter younglings and masters alike with no mercy; this elegant weapon lay poised, ready to return once again to the hand of a Skywalker.

    * * *

    The stillness of the morning air was almost deafening. I was still reclining on the metal boarding ramp of the Sentinel and had been watching the suns come up when Topolev sat up and rubbed his eyes. I knew we weren't far from the edges of several of the local moisture farms. We had flown over them on the trip out. I wondered if the other ‘crawler had ventured in that far to peddle their 'droids to the local farmers? Rogue moved and sat up now as well, noticing a flashing message indicator on his comm link. He noted it was from Tyrell as he listened to the recording. "Damn. He's cutting my search team in half!"

    "What is it?" said Falker.

    "Tyrell had another shuttle dropped from the Devastator overnight. It looks like most of his team was recalled. The destroyer is returning to DS Station and they're going with it. He's going to intercept us this morning and pick up two of his men from our flight crew along with Taka, Danz, Blade, Ddraig and you to help him with his search efforts."

    "I don't mind working for Tyrell for a while as long as we find the missing data. Just don't leave me with him. I don’t think I could take the guy for long!" said Falker, and he slapped Rogue on the shoulder. "Come on, let's get moving."

    "Right", said Rogue, understanding perfectly, "We have a lot of ground to cover, but I think we're close. I can feel it."


    The suns were climbing into the sky and the drop ship cruised along, as we searched for the remaining Jawa Sandcrawler. We were skirting the edges of the rocky Jundland Wastes when Tyrell's shuttle intercepted us. We slowed and landed as his ship circled and descended to the sand in front of us.

    Rogue sent five of his troops and two of Tyrells troops out of the Sentinel, double-timing it over to the extended ramp of the shuttle.

    Tyrell’s voice crackled in Rogue’s headset, "We'll re-group back in Mos Eisley. Good hunting." He never exited his ship or showed his face. We watched as our troops disappeared up their boarding ramp and the shuttle climbed back into the sky, heading down one of the ravines into the Wastes.

    Rogue exhaled under his bucket, "He's trouble."


    The ground below became dotted with moisture 'vaporators, spread out in every direction as far as the eye could see as we flew over several sprawling moisture farms. Finally, we came across the remnants of the signature tread trail of the lumbering, mechanical Jawa transport vehicle. After following the tracks for some time, we came over a rise and saw the Sandcrawler we had been searching for.

    The pilot banked hard to the right, circling around to the front of the ‘crawler and then coming around to hover beside it. The clanking treads of the large vehicle slowed and then stopped moving altogether, as the transport lurched to a halt, steam venting from various ports around the base. There were several moments of silence, then a side hatch opened and a ramp lowered to the ground. Several Jawas came cautiously wandering down the ramp through clouds of venting gases to the sand. Our pilot lowered the hovering Sentinel to the ground and opened the rear hatch. We all filed out and circled around to face the Jawas, leaving him at the controls of the ship.

    0600 moved ahead of the rest of us and already had his helmet translator switched on as he approached the leader. He was speaking with him as 4120, Felth and I came walking up.

    It was clear the Jawas were anxious as they conversed with us. The leader was scratching his head, appearing to be confused and nervous as he tried to remember the things 0600 was asking for.

    "He says he thinks he remembers picking up two bipeds, one of them found out in the dunes, but they sold both just yesterday. One was sold to a moisture farmer and the other to a repair shop in Anchorhead. He's not sure which farm, but thinks it may have been the last one before theDuneSea."

    Tensions were running high. We had been looking for this missing droid now for two days, and Lord Vader was not patient or forgiving.

    Felth spoke up, his own patience with the little creatures wearing thin, "We're most likely halfway back to Mos Eisley by now, that's a fair bit of backtracking. Is he sure he has it right, is he sure he isn't hiding something? Maybe we should take a look onboard the ‘crawler" and he drew his blaster, pointing it toward the group gathered at the base of the ramp.

    The little Jawa was not sure what to make of Felth's comment, or having the blaster pointed at his friends, and became agitated. Several other Jawas on the ramp began jabbering away.

    Silently, a small portal in the hull of the Sandcrawler opened and a nozzle protruded past the protective metal armor plating. Topolev noticed the barrel pointing in our direction, and knocked Rogue out of the way, as the Jawas in the ‘crawler opened fire on us!

    Topolev and Rogue rolled out of the way as the bolt seared past, burning into the already hot sand. Felth swiveled and drew his E-11 Blaster as the little leader Jawa moved out of the line of fire and ran. He took a shot at the little creature, missing. I turned and blasted the little creature off his feet as he ran away.

    The Sandcrawler's guns blazed again several more times, as we dove for the sand and took precise aim, returning fire at the turrets and the tread drive mechanisms, blasting them in a shower of sparks, rendering the Crawler defenseless and undriveable. 4120 ran toward the ‘crawler and up the main ramp, blasting several Jawas out of his way and hurling a handful of thermal detonators inside. He turned and ran back toward us, Jawas scurrying down the ramp of the vehicle, behind him. He dove for the sand as the devices erupted in a series of violent concussive blasts inside the hulking vehicle. Rogue had not seen him toss the detonators and was turning toward the crawler just as the explosions ripped it apart.

    He was knocked off his feet as the whole structure blew outward, armored metal panels hurtling off the vehicle. They flew out and rained down into the sand of the desert around us as the superheated gases and the concussion of the detonator thrust the massive armor plates outward with deadly force, killing anything within the blast radius. I stood up and turned to see the damage, just as our pilot lifted the Sentinel ship from its gear and fired into the command deck of the Crawler.

    We were all firing on the fleeing Jawas now, avoiding their blaster fire and taking them out one by one. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The hovering Sentinel settled back into the sand once more. The wisping wind carried the unmistakable, nostril burning stench of charred Jawa flesh as we moved in close to the burned out vehicle. Our rifles were now slung on our shoulders and E-11's drawn for close combat. Etz and 0600 led the way up the ramp into the colossal structure. 4120 and I followed up the ramp as Felth, Topolev, Rogue and 1265 set up a perimeter around the base of the ‘crawler, watching all sides for any possible approaching onlookers attracted by the smoking ruin.

    It was dark inside. Smoke drifted through the small corridors, and the remnants of dead Jawas were everywhere. We stepped over them and moved higher into the vehicle, making our way around the sites where the detonators had done their damage. Footing was not good, as most of the ramp had been blown away. The bulkhead alongside it had been pierced, exposing the main cargo bay. Several of the detonators had gone off inside and it was now a tangle of metal, droid parts and smoke.

    I kicked the dome from a red R5 unit out of the way as we moved still higher to the Command deck and the steering room. Here we saw the damage from the Sentinel's blasts. The hull had been breached by the green burst of energy from our ships' guns. Anything in the path had been vaporized. Black, acrid smoke billowed out of sparking, burning electronics and swirled out the gaping holes in the hull into the desert wind. We all began to search for transfer documents showing any recent sales. A wounded Jawa clawed at 4120’s leg, Etz blasted it once in the head to end its misery.

    0600 pulled the lifeless bodies of two dead Jawas off a small console and was sifting through some of the documents that had been spread out beneath them as he looked for evidence of the droid sale. There were records showing two sales today so far. One for a machinist droid to the Toshi Station in Anchorhead, and one prior to that, to a moisture farmer, the last farm out before the Dune Sea. The paperwork showed a transfer of 2 droids, a protocol droid and an astromech. He grabbed the paperwork and turned to make his way out of the burning structure, "I've got what we need. Let's take a closer look outside."

    The smoke had cleared somewhat and we could now see the bodies of Jawas littering the sand around the base of the ‘crawler.

    Rogue flipped on his commlink and contacted Captain Tyrell, asking that he check out the machinist 'droid sold to the Tosche Station in Anchorhead, while we doubled back to the moisture farm. The winds were picking up as we walked back to the drop ship. 4120 and I were discussing how to leave the scene, when 0600 and Topolev walked over discussing the sales documents.

    I turned to him, "We were just talking about this scene, and how we should leave it. If the locals see Imperials slaughtering Jawas, they're going to know something is up and start asking a lot of questions; questions we don't need, and won't be allowed to answer. If we're going to be stationed here, we need to camouflage this scene; lead the trail away from us." The others nodded in agreement. 0600 turned toward the group, "Etz, untether the Bantha. She just became very important to the mission."

    * * *

    An old woman stepped out of a small building to cross the street, when she stopped herself, and checked both directions carefully, then continued cautiously across the street. Anchorhead was relatively quiet this morning; no damned kids screaming by in their speeders, skyhoppers or swoops.

    Catching sight of a small group of Imperial Stormtroopers making their way toward her, she hurried across the street into the building there, and closed the door, watching them nervously as they passed by. Falker had already made a sweep of the perimeter of the buildings at a small repair shop further down the street known as Tosche Station. When he was confident of the number of occupants and their positions, he silently waved to Tyrell and the others to advance to his position. They assembled near him and then fanned out, taking up positions around the station.

    Windy laughed, taking his pool shot as Deak watched. “Can you believe Skywalker? First I catch him out in their techdome listening to an Academy recruitment tape while checking out applicant information packets, and then he comes blasting in here yesterday all charged up about a battle over Tatooine, what a joke. Nobody would ever fight for this place. I doubt anyone even knows we still exist way out here.”

    “Yeah, Wormie’s got a big imagination, alright”, said Deak, “he’s spent too much time in the hot suns fixing ‘vaporators. Hey, did he come by for those power converters Fixer set aside for him? If he doesn’t, I want them. You got the last pair.”

    Deak and Windy were arguing over who got the last set of power converters as they played their game and Camie was curled up sleeping in the chair behind Fixer’s parts-piled desk when the abrupt invasion occurred. Tyrell burst through the front door of Tosche Station with his blaster drawn as Taka, Danz and Ddraig flooded in after him, herding the startled three young kids to the center of the room.

    Falker and Blade escorted a young mechanic in from the maintenance bay in the next room. His sleeves were rolled up and his arms dirtied with grime and vehicle lubricants from the speeder he was working on.

    Tyrell spoke, “Now that we have your attention, we will search your building. Laze Loneozner, did you recently purchase a new droid?”

    Fixer was shaken, scared and confused as he answered, but tried his best to look calm in front of Camie and the others, “Call me Fixer, everybody calls me . . .”

    Tyrell slammed a fist down on the desk, “I don’t give a damn about who you are! What about the ‘droid?”

    A shaking Fixer replied, “Yes, yes I did, I did! I mean we did. I mean, Merle did. Merle Tosche. He owns the place. He told me to get a new machinist ‘droid, but he paid for it. I bought it from a Jawa Sandcrawler that came through here yesterday. What does that have to do with anything, though? I’ve bought and sold a lot of droids, and never had the Empire care about it.”

    Tyrell gave a small nod. Falker grabbed and folded Fixer’s arm high up behind his back, slamming Loneozner’s head down on the desk, spare parts clanging to the floor. Fixer winced in pain, Camie recoiled a step, covering her mouth, her face betraying her feelings for him. Tyrell stepped closer and removed his helmet leaning down a bit, sweat dripping from his nose, “Show us the respect we deserve and cooperate . . . ”, he was speaking just over Fixer’s head as his gaze lifted and came to rest on Camie, “ . . . or we will leave your repair station in smoking ruins and take all that is precious to you.” Camie, shaking, took a cautious step back as Tyrell’s eyes looked her up and down, but Ddraig was there with a blaster in her back to keep her from escaping.

    “Take the girl and the others outside, but leave Loneozner here”, barked Tyrell, “I want this place turned upside down. NOW!”

    * * *

    0600, Rogue and a disappointed Topolev moved around the scene of the Sandcrawler and dropped several of the Gaffi sticks he had collected in random locations amongst the twisted metal plates and scattered 'droid parts, "I'm keeping one of them!", said Topolev, holding on to the last gaffi. Meanwhile Etz rode the Bantha past the Crawler several times . . . leaving several side-by-side rows of tracks in the sand to give the appearance of many Tuskens riding past.

    He continued this exercise until the ground appeared trampled by many of the lumbering beasts moving in a herd. Then he walked her back up the ramp of the Sentinel and slipped off her back, snapping her restraints back into the large ring in the floor. The area now had the look of a confrontation between the Tuskens and the Jawas.

    We should be able to successfully avoid any of the local moisture farmers raising questions, and by taking the purchase orders, we had effectively eliminated any evidence of the droids' existence here.

    Taking a last look around the site, we retreated up the ramp of the drop ship and lifted skyward. The pilot moved away slightly, then rotated back and fired several shots, scorching the ground where our landing gear had settled, leaving no traces of our presence behind. We banked away from the smoking ruin heading off toward the edge of the Dune Sea, and a moisture farm owned by someone named . . . Lars.

    * * *
  24. Oh_Behave_Kenobi

    Oh_Behave_Kenobi Jedi Youngling

    May 24, 2006
    Too bad Sandtroopers don't know that Sandpeople always ride single file, to hide their numbers!

    I'm having a blast reading this story. Great stuff here.

    It's the story I knew happened, but now I can actually see it happening in my head.

    This is a very fun read.

    More Please!!

  25. Terek_Deckard

    Terek_Deckard Jedi Master star 2

    May 18, 2006
    I'm very glad you are enjoying the story.

    I should have the next chapter up in a day or so.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.