Those of you who've been here for a long time might remember my last endeavour with fanfiction. This is sort of a sequal to that unfinished story, which maybe I'll go back and redo someday. I wrote it over the course of a few hours of free time this week, the characters are very loosely based off of people I know, and it's not reallt a dialogue-driven piece. It's a bit "artsy-er" than my usual style in that respect, but I make no claim as to the quality, and instead leave that up to you to decide.
It had been a long time since Vlet Hansen had visited this section of space. Gazing at the approaching orb of the planet, he thought back to his last experience here. Years ago, he had been tasked with bringing in a crime boss who had fled here. Apparently his employer hadn’t quite trusted him, though, since he hired others to do the same job. Naturally, a certain amount of wounded pride had occurred, and certain incautious people hadn’t survived, but neither had there been a payday. Today’s business was only partly related. During that time, the mob boss who had been so impolitic with his business decisions had contracted his welfare out to a certain group of rather vicious Trandoshans, the leader of which had taken a rather poor attitude towards Vlet after he deprived said leader of one of his eyes. Said Trandoshan was the cause of Vlet’s return to this gloomy little speck out in the mid rim. In the years since that first encounter both of them had gained much prestige, Vlet as a highly successful mercenary, and the Trandoshan as a slaver of no small repute. Despite Vlet’s best attempts to avoid him, the slaver continued to pursue him. That would end today.
Mandalorians were a blunt people, and Vlet was hardly an exception. His years of trying to keep clear had been as close to an overt peace offer as was ever going to happen, and that had been rebuffed. The natural next step would have been a sputter of rapidly launched missiles, but the slaver’s camp had anti-air defenses that far outstripped Vlet’s current resources for a personal mission, so he was required to find a more delicate solution to the problem. This planet had long since lost anything resembling a government, let alone air traffic control, having been devastated by war centuries past; so it was a simple matter to fly in low, using the terrain as cover to set down undetected a few kilometers outside the target compound. Of course, assaulting a Trandoshan camp alone would have been suicide, so he had hired a few of his friends to help out. The small band congregated just below the line of the nearest ridge. There was Reed, an able medic and ever-uplifting voice in the fray. There was also Boznovk, an explosives fanatic with deep connections with various mobs across the galaxy. Covering the rear were “Nails” and Rohn Hansen. Hansen was no relation that Vlet knew of, it was a common enough surname on Corellia. Nails was one of the most dedicated friends Vlet had ever known, she had actually seemed more offended by the slaver’s assaults than Vlet himself had been. And next to Vlet, just barely looking over the top of the ridge, was the silent figure of the Vampire. Few outsiders knew anything of the Vampire, from the origin of the nickname, to the Mandalorian’s real name, to what connection there was to the rest of the group. Anyone who got close enough to know who was behind that mask, if they survived, was guaranteed to never speak of what they had seen.
Vlet stuck the tip of his head over the ridge, his rangefinder sweeping down into place to augment the rest of his helmet’s visual augmentation systems. Nothing new was to be seen within the walls of his foe’s camp. It was lightly defended, since the slaver’s lieutenant was on a raiding party with most of the force, including the primary dropship, leaving less than thirty defenders to overcome. Still, a six-to-one ratio, where the six has walls with mounted medium cannons, was hardly going to be an easy day. He slipped back below the ridge to pass the news to his comrades. Soon they were moving up the draw around the ridge, closing quietly on the hostile position. Vlet signaled a halt when they were about fifty meters from the walls, at the last bit of covered ground to be found in the area. He set his allies on their tasks with a quick series of terse commands. Boz was off to prep an innovative new type of bomb; he had developed a kind of “mortar-fougasse” that would be blown over the wall and spray a stream of napalm across what appeared to be a barracks. Nails and Rohn were going to provide high-angle support fire from the top of the hill with a portable mountable grenade launcher. Once Boz regrouped, the assault team would strike through the hole that Boz’s other trick would open in the wall ahead, off to find the slaver and end the feud for good.
As they waited, Reed was watching the base, and Vlet was poring over a display of the base’s layout, running over the assault in his head over and over again. The Vampire watched him, not the chart. They sat like in that position for several minutes. From the outside it’s often hard to tell if Mandalorians are speaking, due to their soundproofed helmets, but in this case both truly were silent. There were few words, if any, exchanged between them these days. There never had been a need for many, anyway. Finally, the Vampire broke the silence: “It’s not that easy, and you know it. This won’t stop the problem.” He grunted a begrudging assent, following it by saying “That’ll never matter. You’ve known me long enough to know I’m all about lost causes...” With that they returned to silence until Boz returned from his task.
The button was pressed. In the shows, explosions always have massive amounts of fire swirling about, guttering out smoke regardless of the explosive. In sharp contrast, the explosive that blew a hole in the wall had only the slightest flash at its source; and instead of mass amounts of smoke, it produced a massive fountain of dirt, following the distinctively straight paths of anything flung by high explosives. The other bomb, however, produced a much more cinematic gush of fire that lit up at least a third of the camp with its dread payload. Before Vlet was even on his feet to rush the wall he could already hear the screams of immolated lizards. The napalm was never intended to distract from the attack, it was only to keep reinforcements from arriving, and it was doing that job perfectly. The beautiful new hole in the wall, however, left the Trandoshans in no doubt as to where the assault was coming from. Already, the gunner manning the only remaining cannon left on this side of the wall was swinging the barrel towards their charge. Vlet never even looked. Had he, he would have only seen the emplacement vanish in a sharp blast, shattered by the grenade launcher mounted on the hill. After that first shot, the launcher began pumping covering fire into the compound. During the entire charge to cover inside the wall, not a single shot flew towards the assault team, the covering fire was so effective. Vlet smoothly dropped to a knee and shouldered his weapon, firing three shots into the midsection of a slaver armed with distinctive twin blades that was bearing down on him. At the hole in the wall, a lizard had waited with a longer blade had attempted to ambush Boz as he entered. The Mandalorian repaid the gesture with a knife to the throat with such force that the tip bit into the duracrete wall on the other side of his foe’s neck. Reed dropped behind a crate and began unloading on the door of the central bastion, keeping the head slaver from escaping. Vlet and the Vampire ran, almost back-to-back, across the compound. They dropped into position at the door, covering Boz and Reed as they crossed.
Whatever door had been here before, there was only a few ragged scraps of metal left in the armored frame, blasted apart by the grenades from the hill. Vlet snapped the bayonet on his rifle into place and slipped around the edge of the portal. The halls seemed quiet, much like a city after a thorough bombing. “Looking clear.” He relayed to his team, and they entered. They kept the group tight, no point risking a solo confrontation. This slaver had proven to be very hard to kill. But as they delved farther and farther into the compound, the building remained quiet. Not a single sign of life was found. The complete lack of resistance started to worry Vlet. Anything out of the expected in a mission was almost invariably a very bad thing. “You know,” Reed intoned into the silence, “There’s always a chance he was out with his troops. He might just have been broiled along with the rest of them. Nice job with that, by the way.” Boz nodded in gratitude as he swept a darkened room. Finally, they found a sign of occupation: deep inside the fortress was a blast door with a large lock, glowing green, obviously recently used. Boz stepped up to the door and placed a sensor against it. “No good.” He said, “I don’t have enough left to break through this, and I haven’t seen anything lying around. My guess is any stock they hasd is either in there, or it was in the blast zone outside. Give me a minute here…” He prowled off into the areas they had already swept, Reed backing him up in case the sweep hadn’t been as good as they thought. Vlet checked up with Rohn outside, making sure nothing odd had happened. He shared a short glance with the Vampire. Their gazes, as best as can ever be determined through a helmet, seemed to lock for a second. The small, quiet figure’s helmet shook slightly from side to side in disapproval, and he turned away, chuckling to himself. Had someone been there to ask what was so funny, he probably wouldn’t have even been able to explain it. The humor was particular to them. Soon Boz signaled them, calling them to his new location. They entered a featureless storeroom a few doors away. Vlet spoke first: “Let me guess. Structural weakness? Strongbox not so strong?” “Right in one. I can punch through this easily. Charges placed already and everything. Stand back…” They stacked the sides of the wall, outside where Boz said the blast zone would be. Perhaps with someone else, Vlet would have been nervous about standing less than two meters away from a frame charge, but he knew Boz knew what he was doing. “In three…”
Vlet launched himself into the room, bayonet held ready to thrust into the bloated belly of his foe. His eyes scanned the room, expecting some sort of trap, knowing it couldn’t be this easy. He saw his foe in the middle of a comfortable (by Trandoshani standards) saferoom. His foe had been crouched behind a barrier, shotgun pointed at the door that had been so thoroughly bypassed. The fat lizard began to turn his helmeted head, showing the odd scanner that replaced the lens where his eye no longer needed to see, sweeping the shotgun up. Vlet was within a lunge of his foe, so lunge he did, thrusting his blade towards the folds of that scaly neck. But the shotgun wasn’t being used to fire. Its swing was instead a hasty block, knocking the rifle’s trajectory over the Slaver’s shoulder, as the other claw reached out to grab Vlet’s strong hand and pin it against the Slaver’s side. Vlet was not a weak man, but that seemingly torpid lizard was able to pull him in close, Vlet narrowly avoiding a broken elbow in the process. The Slaver’s other arm dipped behind his back and came up holding a knife, another of those fearsome Trandoshan slaver blades. The knife thrust into Vlet’s side. He let out an involuntary grunt of pain as he brought his free elbow down on the knife hand, knocking the blade free. The thrust had been too low, it had missed the weak spot in the armor just under the armpit, and instead had lodged in the flak vest. It had still penetrated far enough to make him bleed, but he had suffered far worse. With a twist, Vlet grabbed the Slaver’s belt from behind with his pinned arm, his leg swept behind the Slaver’s as his other leg pushed off, and they tumbled towards the ground. As they fell, Vlet’s free hand snapped down to belt level and came back with his skinning knife, which he thrust with all his might into the Trandoshan’s belly, twisting and cutting open his abdominal wall. Even with his intestines so exposed, however, the Trandoshan had the presence of mind to use the momentum to continue the tumble, rolling on top of Vlet, grabbing his head and smashing it against the duracrete. Even inside a helmet packed with the most modern equipment for protecting one’s head, his perceptions were thrown off by the force of the blow. The Trandoshan drew his other knife and was in the process of thrusting it into Vlet’s chin when a thin, silver blade pushed off his helmet from within. Death was instantaneous, the Slaver simply went slack, held up by the blade of the long knife that the Vampire had thrust from the back of his head, through the space just between his reptilian eye sockets.
Boz pulled Vlet to his feet as Reed checked the scrape in his side: “Drink more water, rub some dirt in it, you’ll be fine.” He said. Vlet gave him a mock-frustrated dismissal and relayed the news to Nails and Rohn. He put a hand on the Vampire’s shoulder for a second, a mute gesture of thanks, but his attention was suddenly interrupted by Rohn’s report: the dropship had returned, it was on the scopes, and it would be touching down in a matter of minutes. From the still-raging fire outside, and the lack of response to any communications, it would be obvious the camp had been attacked, and fighting a force of slavers that large hadn’t been a part of the plan. “Nails.” Vlet said, “I need you two to get to the ship, on the double-““We’re not going to leave you down there!” She cut in. “That’s ascribing a bit more nobility to me than I’m feeling right now. What I was going to say is, get to the ship and come and rescue us, okay? There’s no one on the anti-air right now, so if we tie them down so they don’t notice you coming, a couple missiles into that ship should remove any major threat, and then you can just come in and shoot everyone, okay? That’d be great.”
They established a hasty defense just inside the bastion’s door. Soon enough, the patrol craft swooped into view. It settled its ponderous weight into the center of the facility and dropped its ramps. The lizards inside didn’t rush out, however; they carefully slipped out, dispersing into defensive formations along the edges, seeking out the source of the destruction. They had no way of knowing what they were facing, or even if whatever it was was still there. However, that meant they were being far too careful and attentive for Vlet’s like. He decided to take matters into his own hands. He opened the salvo with a grenade towards the ramp of the ship, following it with a pair of well-aimed shots towards an exposed Trandoshan examining the hole in the wall. His team followed suit, opening with a flurry of fire that did a fine job of attracting their attention. The turret on the craft with the best view of the door swung around to target them. Reed saw it first; with a shout of warning he grabbed Boz and Vlet by their collars and flung himself back. The Vampire tried to move, but the shot was already out. The bolt missed, but the massive concussive force of the heavy cannon blew the armored body against the interior wall. The Vampire smashed into the wall and fell to the floor, uttering a muffled cry. Reed sprang into action, triaging the casualty, while Boz and Vlet returned to the fire line. The ship seemed to be distracted, the repulsorlifts fired and the ship jumped clumsily into the air. Vlet could hear his own ship approaching, obviously the cause of the new activity. The ship, alerted as it was, was still too late. The small pod at the front of Vlet’s Pursuer puffed three times, three small streaks flung across the sky, and three fireballs blossomed across the Trandoshan craft’s hull. The engines were blown apart, the repulsorlifts shredded. Inside the control cabin, Vlet could see fire engulf the crew. In this moment of distraction, however, a tall, thin Trandoshan had rushed across the field towards them. Vlet recognized it as the Slaver’s lieutenant, nearly as fierce an opponent. This time, however, he didn’t have the element of surprise.
The oncoming form flung aside its rifle and reached up over its shoulder, drawing a long vibrosword. Reed was still trying to stabilize his patient, so the defense was up to Boz and Vlet. They fired, but it was far too late. With a single leap, the lieutenant cleared the last ten feet, smashing into Boz. The Trandoshan’s weight and momentum was too great, Boz was sent flying into the doorjamb. He hit badly, his head snapping back. Despite wearing some of the finest Mandalorian Iron, there was nothing he could do about whiplash. The disorientation would take him out of the fight for at least the next few seconds, and by then there might not be anyone left. The lizard’s momentum carried it into Reed, who, crouching over his patient, was in no position to defend himself. The lieutenant raised his arm for a strike, but Vlet lunged out and caught his arm. Pulled off balance, the lizard kicked spastically as he fell, one massive clawed foot catching Reed just under the chin. His shout was choked short, his head hitting the wall. Vlet dropped his knee onto the Trandoshan’s arm, hoping to break it, but the angle was wrong and the lizard swung a fist into his assailant’s stomach. With a strained groan, Vlet fell backwards off his opponent, who then pulled back onto one knee and raised the sword for a thrust. Vlet ducked under the blow, deflecting it upward with his gauntlet; as his other hand flashed down to his knife and rammed it towards the Trandoshan’s neck. It hit too low, glancing off the chestplate, and the sword was already coming back for his ribs, so Vlet dropped his arm in a block and flung himself to the side. The lizard kicked the knife out of Vlet’s hand before he could roll out of the way, but the sword’s blow landed on Vlet’s backplate, instead of his vulnerable side. Rolling to his feet, Vlet reached up, grabbing his opponent’s sword arm on the next strike. The Trandoshan was strong, and he couldn’t hold the position for long, but his free hand was already bringing his pistol up under the lieutenant’s chin. One shot was all it took to remove the life from those orange eyes, the sword falling from the slackened grip of the claw. Without pausing to observe, he ran to his allies. A quick check showed Boz would be fine. Reed had a broken jaw, muting his otherwise cheery demeanor. The Vampire, however, had been badly burned all down the left side, and was showing signs of a major concussion. Behind him, the ship had landed, and Nails was running towards them. Boz was on his feet, helping Reed to the hatch. Nails skidded to a halt next to Vlet, who was hastily wrapping the vampire’s burns with a bacta-soaked bandage. She let out an audibly anguished cry: the she was as close a friend to the Vampire as Vlet was, and they had known each other far longer. She helped with the bandage, then Vlet lifted his patient onto his back and ran across the field to his ship. With speedy treatment, it was likely the Vampire wouldn’t even suffer any scars. Once Nails signaled everyone as being onboard, Rohn took the ship up, away from the burning fortress that had been brought low by a dozen warriors. Vlet took the Vampire to her cabin, which Reed was quickly transforming into a medical suite, and settled the limp form onto the bunk. “Sleep well, cyar’ika.” He whispered, half to himself, half to her. “I’ve still got your back.”