Space over Jabiim
Consular ship Vigilance
Prudii scanned the Jedi approvingly. Wearing heavy armor under robes, he was a human male in his late twenties. His companion, a female Twi’lek, did not appear to be wearing any armor, but her robes were probably thick enough to turn blaster bolts. The third Jedi, Master Orgus Din, was famed throughout the Republic.
“Sir!” Prudii said. “Sergeant Prudii reporting for duty, sir!”
“I am General Jaysen Holt,” the Jedi replied. “Who are your squadmates?”
“Corporal Tanno Vik,” Prudii said.
Vik was a leathery-skinned Weequay, with a no-nonsense attitude and armor only a bit lighter than Prudii’s. His blaster rifle was slung across his back.
“Corporal Vik reporting for duty, sir!” the Weequay said in badly accented Basic.
“Private Squirt,” Prudii said.
“Why do they call him…?” Jaysen started. “Oh.”
When people said a soldier was standing ramrod-straight, it usually referred to their posture. But in Squirt’s case, it was literal. Although about average height for a human, he was extremely thin, to the point of being wiry. It looked like his helmet hardly fit his head.
“Sir!” Squirt spoke up. “Reporting for duty!”
“Uh…thank you, Private.”
“And Private Biggs Rider,” Prudii finished.
“Private Rider reporting for duty, sir!”
“Good to meet you all,” Jaysen said. “If you’ll follow me?”
He led them down the corridor toward the briefing room. Prudii studied him with the trained eyes of a soldier. He was clearly not a negotiator. Ever step was confident, and he always kept his right hand hovering over his lightsaber. Prudii approved.
Suddenly, Jaysen dropped back to Prudii’s side.
“Is that a hint of a Mandalorian accent I detect?”
Jaysen studied the sergeant’s face for a moment. He seemed shocked. Jaysen hadn’t meant to disturb him, he had merely been curious.
“Sir?” Prudii replied. “I don’t have an accent.”
“I know. But I think I detect a hint of something in your speech…sounds similar to the accent of Mandalorians I’ve spoken to in days past.”
Prudii glanced around. “All right! I was a Mandalorian! But when they started hiring out to the Sith Empire, I dropped out. I worked as a freelancer for almost five years, until the Mandalorians left the Empire…except for some, like that witch, Vizla. Anyway, I joined the Republic then.”
“I’m not critical of Mandalorians,” Jaysen said. “Relax, we can still be friends.”
Prudii raised an eyebrow, nodded, and walked ahead. Jaysen watched him walk, and then headed for the front of the briefing room. He faced the troopers, Qyzen Fess, Teran, and Bowdaar. Degan and Orgus stood behind him near the holoprojector.
“This is an image of the primary Czerka command ship,” Jaysen said. “While Master Orgus and I–as well as our trooper escort–speak with the ship commander, Degan will lead the rest of you–” he motioned to Fess, Teran, and Bowdaar. “–To search the ship. If you find anything suggesting the Sith Empire may be involved, get that information to me–and then start blowing up everything.”
“At least part of this’ll be fun,” Biggs Rider said.
“Quiet,” snapped Prudii.
“Remember,” Jaysen said, “there are other ships around Klatooine, though they are less likely to have Sith aboard. The key is the command ship.”
“Any questions?” asked Orgus.
“No, sir!” the troopers said.
“Dismissed,” Jaysen finished.
Prudii slung his green-marked helmet over his head as he left the command center. How had the Jedi detected traces of Mando’a in his accent? He’d thought he’d been able to get rid of it. In fact, he’d gotten so used to it, he’d almost forgot he’d had it at one point. But the Jedi had been able to detect it.
Well, he did have those powers…
Prudii entered his small cabin and tossed his rifle onto the bed. He removed his helmet and armor, moved to the ‘fresher, and started up the shower. After weeks on Jabiim, he felt the need to shower for a month. Unfortunately, this frigate probably didn’t have that much water.
As he took off the plates of his armor, he thought back to his days as a Mandalorian. He hadn’t ever wanted to drag up those memories, ever again. They were just full of pain. But he had nothing but time to think here…
Prudii watched, horrified, as the building went up in flames. The Empire! He’d thought Mand’alor had made an agreement with them! But apparently, the Emperor didn’t think that agreement stretched to Concordia.
Though Prudii had been born on Mandalore, he had moved to Concordia after turning eighteen. There, he’d met the woman he’d married, and settled down. Though he still worked as a mercenary, and more importantly, a Mandalorian, he’d spent most of his time with his growing family.
Now, he saw that the Sith Empire could not be trusted, could never have been. As his house was burned to the ground and he was forced to watch by the two Imperial soldiers holding his arms, he realized that this had been the Emperor’s plan all along.
He broke free from the soldiers and snapped the first one’s neck. Then, he snatched the sidearm from the dead trooper’s holster and blasted the second twice, first in the leg and then in the neck. The trooper dropped.
He tried to run back to his home, but his legs gave out. With no hope of saving his family, he shouted his rage to the orbiting strike cruisers.
Weeks later, he’d returned to the world of Mandalore, landing in the capital city, Keldabe. He headed for the Mand’alor’s home. He knocked on the door twice before the dark-skinned man opened the door.
“Prudii?” Mandalore asked.
“Please, we need to talk, Mand’alor,” Prudii replied.
Prudii had been one of Mandalore’s most trusted bodyguards before he’d turned eighteen. When he had gone to Concordia, Mandalore had been disappointed, but had not argued. He, more than most, knew that Mandalorians should have free choice.
“Surely you must see, now,” he said, “that the Empire cannot be trusted.”
“I am sorry, Prudii,” Mandalore said. “But we must help the Emperor. He is our only hope of survival. The Republic cannot match the Empire’s force. The Sith Lords will win this war.”
“But they slaughtered countless of our people!” Prudii exclaimed. “They attacked the settlements on Concordia!”
“I truly am sorry, my friend.”
Prudii sighed. He’d feared this.
“Then so am I,” he said. “I cannot serve alongside the people who slaughtered my family. I will be leaving this world. I am going to begin work as a freelance mercenary. I will not stand in your way, nor will I help you. Goodbye, Mand’alor.”
Prudii shook his head, the memories still painful. Years later, he’d heard that Mandalore had been killed, and a new leader had taken his place. The new Mandalore had declared the clans neutral.
Prudii watched the transmission, feeling sadness at the death of Mand’alor. He had held no animosity toward the man. He’d simply taken the best possible job. Only now, at his death, did the clans have a new chance at freedom.
But he would not return to the homeworld. This new Mand’alor had begun some kind of strange game, in which the Mandalorians would compete for the title of Mand’alor. Prudii found this a disgusting perversion of the Mandalorian tradition.
About that time, he was on Nar Shaddaa, when he saw a group of men being assaulted by two armored beings. Deciding to intervene, he’d fired on the two armored beings. Instead of returning fire, they’d turned and fled. Helping the two men up, Prudii had asked if they were okay.
“Yes,” replied one.
“Why did they attack you?” Prudii asked.
“They were Imperial agents,” replied the second man. “We’re Republic officers.”
Prudii instinctively reached for his blaster before realizing that he’d left his armor in his apartment. These men couldn’t have possibly known he was Mandalorian, since he had taken pains to learn how to speak without the traditional accent of Mandalorians.
“You know what?” Prudii said, a sudden idea hitting him, “I’m looking to join up.”
“Really?” the first asked. “Good, you’ve got some skill with a blaster. We could use a guy like you, especially one with such good morals as to help two people under attack by more heavily-armored men than yourself.”
Just a week later, Prudii had found himself on Ord Mantell, fighting separatists. He’d met Commander Harron Tavus, helped squash the rebels, and from there had gone on to many smaller engagements such as Jabiim. Ord Mantell had been six months ago.
Sighing, Prudii turned off the water and dressed quickly. They’d reach Klatooine soon, and he was eager to get this mission over with.
Lord Methic, a Sith Warrior, stood in the bridge’s shadows and watched as the large Hutt talked to Kina Deltablaster, the Imperial agent assigned to be the formal face of the Sith Empire on this assignment. Since Angral had left, Methic had been forced to deal with the Hutt in private quite often, something he found repulsing.
“When the Republic arrives–” Deltablaster was saying, “and they will–you will let them aboard. Act as if we are not here–because we won’t be, at least not visibly. You will not give them reason to think that any Sith or Imperials are aboard, and you will not give us up.”
“I understand,” Krah’kmah replied.
“You had better,” Deltablaster replied. “If not–I let Methic work his magic.”
Methic touched his lightsaber knowingly and grinned. He looked forward to gutting the blob of fat. But there would be time for that later. The Jedi would be arriving soon.