Major Prudii of Havoc Squad ducked under the bush as the team of Imperial patrol droids went by. One hand on his rifle, he crept past them in the opposite direction.
“Prudii here,” he said. “Report in.”
“Elara here,” replied Lieutenant Dorne. “I’ve got nothing.”
“Captain Jorgan,” said another voice. “Nothing.”
“Sergeant Vik. Nothing.”
“Corporal Yuun sees nothing.”
“This is M1-4X. Confirming all clear.”
Prudii nodded to himself, rose to his knees, and confirmed his squad’s report. Sure enough, the guard droids had been the last patrol.
“Move in,” he ordered.
He flicked on his helmet’s spot-lamp and moved into the Imperial compound. A ray shield and four heavy blaster turrets protected the base, along with a squad of Imperial commandos.
Prudii saw the turrets sweeping their spotlights back and forth across the forest. Prudii ran forward and pressed himself to the wall. He saw Elara on his left, and the others were beginning to emerge from their hiding spots.
“All clear,” Aric Jorgan said. “No one spotted.”
“Now to shut down the ray shield,” Prudii replied.
Yuun, a Gand, snuck forward and stabbed a probe into the control panel. After giving it a quick twist, Yuun nodded to them. The force shield shut down.
Prudii cocked his rifle and led the way inside. Jorgan, Prudii’s second in command and a member of the Cathar species, signaled that the commandos were all inside the central building.
“Surround the building,” Prudii ordered.
“Yes, sir,” they all replied.
Prudii snuck forward and stopped at the front door. Tanno Vik, a Weequay weaponry specialist, stayed with him, while Jorgan and Four-Ex went to the back and Elara and Yuun went up to the roof.
Vik put a breach charge on the door and held up three fingers, then lowered one. Two, one. The charge made a light thump and the door opened.
Prudii raised his rifle while Vik drew a very large vibrosword. The commandos here must have been sloppy, for all the lights in the corridors were off and he heard the sounds of laughter.
Prudii raised his index finger to his helmet’s voice box, indicating for Vik to be quiet. He snuck around the corner, kicked open the door…and found a sound box playing the laughter in a loop.
Knowing something was wrong, he turned to warn Vik, but was stopped cold by a stun blast. He fell and dropped his rifle. The last thing he saw before losing consciousness was Vik being blasted by several stun bolts.
Prudii awoke an undetermined amount of time later, lying on his back. He sat up and found that his hands were bound behind his back. He looked around.
“So, you’re awake,” a cocky voice said.
Prudii rubbed his forehead and sighed. Whatever had hit him, it hadn’t been a normal stun blast. Some extras had been put in. Probably pain enhancers.
“What’s your name, soldier?” the voice asked.
Prudii tried to reply but found that his mouth had been strangely stuffed with a sock. Or at least, it felt that way. He couldn’t speak.
Suddenly, a needle was injected in his arm, and the Mandalorian words that escaped Prudii’s mouth proved that he had regained use of his tongue.
“Prudii,” he hissed.
“Hmm. Mandalorian for ‘shadow.’ Nice.”
“You know Mando’a?”
“Longer than you, soldier.”
“Oh, really? Dar’manda.”
That stung. Dar’manda meant ‘one who is no longer Mandalorian’ or ‘one who had lost his way.’ He hadn’t lost his way…had he?
“Why’d you leave Mandalore?” the voice asked.
Prudii determined that the speaker was behind him and he tried to turn, but it seemed his legs were just as impaired as his mouth had been.
“Differences with Lord Mand’alor,” Prudii said. He hadn’t realized how much he missed his kind. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You really have no choice,” the voice said. “I was paid to keep you occupied until the Empire could get a shipment offworld…so occupy you I shall. If you don’t want to talk, I start shooting your friends.”
“Fine,” Prudii muttered. “Truth is…the truth is that Mandalore allowed the Empire to attack one of the moons of our homeworld. I was living there at the time.”
“I see. Your home was torched.”
“Worse. My family, my…sister.”
The voice said nothing. Prudii heard footsteps and knew that the man was moving. Whoever this was, he was clearly Mandalorian, and he was clearly ‘in charge.’
“I feel sorry for you,” the man said. “But let me give you a hint. Your sister is alive.”
Prudii felt a knife jab through his heard. How dare this stranger tease him about something like this? He tried to stand again, felt the numbness in his legs start to wear off.
“Chakaar,” Prudii snarled.
The man laughed. He actually laughed. Prudii gave standing a third try, and this time was partially successful. But he fell back down.
“I’m telling the truth!” the man said.
The man stepped out in front of Prudii. He was a human, strongly built, with large muscles, a thick set of beskar’gam–Mandalorian armor–and an ugly scar covering almost his whole face. He had yellow hair and bright blue eyes.
And he was Prudii’s brother-in-law.
* * *
Verd looked down at his brother-in-law and tried not to make a face. Prudii’s right cheek was a horrible web of scars. Verd shuddered imperceptibly.
“She’s alive, vod,” Verd said.
Prudii had stopped struggling, at least. Verd saw the expression on his face darken, then go impassive. That was bad. When he was spitting made, he could at least be controlled. When he calmed, he had made up his mind.
“We didn’t know you were alive, either,” Verd said. “Had we, we’d have found you.”
Prudii still said nothing. Verd sighed. If he had known that his brother would be his contract, he would not have accepted it. He reached down, primed his blaster, and walked behind Prudii.
“So you’re going to kill me?” asked Prudii.
“Not hired to kill you,” Verd replied. “No, I will not kill you.”
He fired his blaster at the binders holding Prudii’s wrists together. Prudii sagged forward and stood a little unsteadily. Verd holstered his pistol.
“They paid me to hold you until they got away,” he told Prudii. “Not to deal with you after.”
“You’ll let us go?” Prudii asked.
“You bet,” Verd replied. “In an hour. After they are offworld. Then, I’ll tell you where they went.”
* * *
Two hours later, Prudii’s ship was hurtling offworld at top speed. They were headed for the remote world Athiss, in Sith space.
The shipment they’d gotten here was fifty crates of black market weapons. Each crate held enough weapons to supply a squad of Imperial commandos. That meant fifty squads of Imperials with weapons the Republic couldn’t match.
“Time for Operation: Hammer Strike,” Prudii said to his squad.
“Four-Ex,” said Jorgan, “display the map.”
M1-4X displayed a hologram of the spaceport on Athiss. The shuttle with the supplies was going to land in docking back 81, and Havoc Squad would be in 97. Thanks to Verd, they knew a faster hyperspace route to Athiss.
“Elara and Yuun will come in from the spaceport rooftop and lay down covering fire, while Vik and I will attack from the main entrance. Jorgan and Four-Ex will be our recovery team.”
Time to get the op started.
Prudii stood with his body hidden from sight of any soldiers inside the docking bay. He charged his rifle and glanced around the corner. The shuttle’s landing ramp came down, and two commandos exited.
“Now,” Prudii ordered.
Yuun front-flipped from the roof and attacked one of the commandos with his electrostaff. Elara took the easier route and rappelled down before opening fire with her pistol. The rest of the security team ran from the shuttle.
Prudii rolled in and opened fire, full auto. His rifle caught one guard full in the chest. Prudii emptied his clip and reloaded. Vik followed him in, vibrosword swinging.
“Elara!” he called. “Scan the area!”
“Two in the shuttle,” she confirmed. “One pilot, one officer. Officer’s got a…thermal detonator!”
Prudii turned and leapt away as the grenade rolled down the ramp. The explosion sent him flying into the far wall. Suddenly, out of the control tower, ten Imperial troops came in, rifles raised.
“Surrender now!” ordered the captain. “Now!”
And suddenly a roaring inferno engulfed the bay.
Verd landed in the docking bay and turned on his flamethrower. The fire killed the officer first, but the other troopers were protected by their armor.
He fired an explosive dart into the neck joint of one trooper and fired his pistols at another. The eight remaining troopers turned on him.
Prudii raised his rifle and fired at one of the other troopers. Verd looked down and saw that Prudii was covered in flames, as was his Weequay ally.
Prudii rolled through the dirt to put out the fire and then leapt at one of the remaining Imperial troops with his knife. Eventually, they defeated the squad of Imperials.
“Jorgan, Four-Ex, load the bomb.”
The two walked into the shuttle. There was the sound of a scuffle and a tied-up Imperial pilot was tossed down the ramp.
Prudii smiled to himself. He took his helmet off and walked over to join his brother. Verd was looting a rifle off of one of the troops.
“Thanks, vod,” he said.
And then Verd activated his jetpack and was gone.
An hour later, the op was over. The weapons had been torched and thrown into the nearest star, much to General Garza’s annoyance. She would have liked to have the weapons for the Republic. But illegal was illegal.
“Well, I can’t question your motives,” Garza had to admit. “I’ll let you off. Return to Coruscant.”
As the comlink turned off, the squad dispersed. Prudii tapped his helmet and looked around. He’d go back to Coruscant, all right. If there weren’t an op for him to take, he’d request time off.
He’d find his sister. And he’d make up for all he had lost with his family. Then he’d return to his life in the military.
And he’d live it happily.