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Prôxes
May 21st, 2001, 06:14 PM
It was a few hours after the Four Hundred and Thirty-First Barrage and the Ready Room of the Sentinel-Class Landing Craft Bane was alive with activity.

Captain Vronn Colvox, Trooper AX-531 of Imperial Spec-Ops unit Epsilon readjusted his belt straps and glanced around the room. His fellow soldiers were in various stages of last minute training for the forthcoming mission; some were perfecting their aim at the blaster rifle range, others were warming up on the drill machines, and still others were making last minute checks of their various specialized apparatii. With a final tug, Colvox secured his backpack and wiped a bead of sweat from his ashen forehead. It was his first actual mission; after years of hard work and training, Vronn had graduated from the academy on Carida with honors and was finally going to see some action. He had thought that now was what he had always dreamed about; a chance to fight and test his combat skills. But, as he stood five titanium-plated centimeters from the outside world, he was having second thoughts.

“AX-531!”

His thoughts interrupted, Vronn pivoted to face his commanding officer, a rough-faced, balding man of at least fifty years. Colonel Grizzer, known better by his serial number RN-919, was a veteran officer, albeit not a very good one, his subordinates believed. Grizzer was believed to have progressed through the ranks only because he out-aged most of his peers.

“Sir?” Colvox automatically snapped to attention at the bellow of his name.

“Relocate yourself to the Training Core and get prepared!” Grizzer’s face was infamous for reddening easily, and about then it appeared the approximate shape and color of an overripe tomato.

“Right away, sir,” Vronn muttered reluctantly. He shouldered his rifle and shuffled over to the congregation of stormtroopers at the Training Core. Unexpectedly, Colvox’s eye caught the image in a viewport and he approached it curiously.

A small, grayish-colored moon met his gaze -- N’Chob, it was once called. It was covered with misty canyons and desolate valleys, darkened craters and looming mountains. Where blue sky might have been on Earth was only the cold void of empty space. A dozen or so thick, black tendrils of greasy smoke emanated from what must once have been Rebel campsites; the aftermath of intense turbolaser bombardment from the Bane’s parent fleet a short while before.

Vronn turned away from the macabre scene, confused. He tapped the shoulder of one of his men, Lieutenant Benedict, hoping to receive clarification of the scene he had witnessed. This Benedict was friendly to everyone, yet trusted no one; an unlikely combination. A strange and unclear incident involving a meeting with the Rebels had hindered Benedict’s progression through the ranks.

“AX-727, take a look out there,” said Vronn, gesticulating towards the viewport. Benedict set down the automatic pistol he was cleaning and stared outside.

“Our gunners really nailed them, eh? There won’t be a womp rat left for us to mop up on this mission,” Benedict voiced casually.

“Exactly my point,” returned Vronn incredulously. “Why send down an entire battalion of Spec-Ops to clean up a space-to-surface assault that effective?”

Benedict shrugged. “I don’t question my orders, I just follow ‘em. But, just between you and me…” He glanced around, and finding no one within earshot, led Vronn to a vacant corner near the bulkhead. “I overheard some brass in the Mess Hall saying that Intelligence is real worried about this operation. There wasn’t any resistance from them Rebels when we flashed ‘em, just some droid fighters and a couple of KDY w-165s. Everything was automated, and they don’ know if the whole base was a decoy or if Rebels were stationed there at all.”

Vronn’s forehead creased as the ship vibrated slightly from the retracting landing gear. “And we get to go down there and figure out what the deal is.”


* * *


When the last storm trooper within the makeshift Briefing Room of the landing craft had silenced, Colonel Grizzer lowered his hand and engaged a switch on his lectern. A holographic image of the ruins of the Rebel camp flickered into view.

“As you can see, the campsites appear to have been obliterated. However, the Empire likes to be certain of everything. Squadron commanders, take your assigned platoons and search the ruins for Rebel survivors. If you find any prisoners," Grizzer paused, his voice turning grave and dark, "do what you think is best.

“Also, I just received word that Master Sergeant Malcoam has been detained due to 'suspicious behavior,' so Captain Colvox will be substituting for him. I’m hopeful that the captain will prove to be a suitable alternative.” Colvox raised an eyebrow, but said nothing; such changes occurred frequently due to the Empire’s paranoia.

The soldiers began to assemble into their respective groups. Colvox consulted his platoon roster with surprise. Except for Benedict, he didn’t know a single man in the squad. He found this realization startling, considering how many years he’d trained on Carida. He pushed the thought away and waited patiently next to the supply depot for the platoon to join him. Within moments, his unit had assembled, but their overall demeanor was surprising. They looked uneasy, and more than a few were whispering anxiously to one another. Vronn removed his personal datapad from a pocket and switched it on. Reaching for the buttons that would open the file containing his squadron’s orders for the day, Colvox was surprised to see that the file had already been accessed earlier that day. This was unusual, because all orders were transmitted to squadron leaders via computer; never by human hands. Of course, it was possible, however unlikely, that Sergeant Malcoam had viewed his orders prior to his detainment, Colvox reasoned. He thought back to what Benedict had said earlier. Things did seem slightly unusual today…

Abruptly he realized that he was delaying the group, so Colvox cleared his throat unsteadily and spoke to the awaiting soldiers.

“I’m Captain Colvox, replacing Sergeant Malcoam, and I’ll be your commanding officer for this assignment. You know the basics from Colonel Grizzer, but more specifically, we’re executing an S-and-D for sectors Aurek through Qek.” He glanced around at his unit, trying to get a feel for each of them. Colvox got the distinct impression that, being a substitute commander, he was the outsider of this platoon; that he was intruding. “Any questions?” he asked suddenly, brushing the intuition away.

No one had any, so they outfitted themselves from the supply depot nearby. Colvox, an excellent marksman in his mind, chose a smallish Blastech rifle with a scope and barrel suggestive of a sniper’s weapon. When his platoon had suited up, they boarded an uncomfortable, utilitarian Triet-class troop transport. Their flight to the drop site was uneventful. Colvox found himself staring out the viewport on the shuttle more often than he’d liked; he had hoped to conceal his feelings of not wanting to be there. Finally, the ship slowed to a creaking halt and the boarding hatch depressurized. Colvox stood up slowly and deactivated the safety switch on his weapon.

“Men, this is sector Aurek. Sweep the area in groups of two, and keep your scanner packs activated. The scanning trooper leads, and the other man covers. Does anyone have any questions?”

Benedict raised a gloved hand. “What should we do if we encounter a Rebel survivor?” he asked in an odd tone of voice.

Captain Colvox frowned; he had hoped to avoid such a question. "'Do what you think is best, Lieutenant,'" he murmured quietly, quoting the colonel. The platoon glanced at one another knowingly. “We'd better get moving if we're going to stay on schedule. Lieutenant, you can come with me-”

Colvox was interrupted by a flash of orange movement in the rocks ahead of him. "Down!" he shouted, diving for cover behind a protruding boulder. In one fluid motion, he unslung his blaster rifle and brought it to bear. The rest of his platoon scattered behind other rocks and debris. Crouching, Colvox positioned his rifle on the top of the boulder and activated the targeting scope. But it was too late; whatever had moved was long gone. His men were grumbling amongst themselves as they got up from the dusty ground. Benedict spoke up again.

"Sir, what’d you see?"

"I'm not sure," murmured Colvox, shaking his head. "It must have been a surviving Rebel; this moon doesn't host any indigenous life." He frowned. "Or maybe it's just my imagination. Either way, we'd all better keep alert. Lieutenant Benedict, come with me, and bring your scanner. The rest of you; pair up. We should meet up again at…" He checked his map. "…Sector Osk. The Rebels' interrogation center."


* * *

Prôxes
May 21st, 2001, 06:14 PM
Captain Colvox shouldered his heavy scanning pack wearily. He and Lieutenant Benedict were nearly finished, and they hadn't found a soul. The entire planet appeared completely vacant.

“Lieutenant, I’m going to check out this last structure. Go and check out the interrogation center. Comm in if you see anything,” he said absentmindedly, adjusting the complicated controls of the scanner. He walked into the shell of what once had been a mess hall. The roof of the structure had entirely collapsed, and the walls were blackened with scorch marks. Ducking inside, he flipped on his helmet's built-in floodlight. Immediately he noticed something moving near the back of the building.

It was a flash of orange, and it was moving fast.

Before he could react, something heavy and blunt impacted the back of his helmet with a cracking sound and Colvox crumpled to the floor. Dizzily, he tried to stand up, but a sharp kick to his neck from the hidden attacker knocked him back down to the cracked floor in a heap.

Abruptly, his combat training came back to him. With practiced reflexes, he rolled away from his attacker and flipped onto a charred table. His fall had smashed the diode of his lamp, and he could only make out a dark silhouette of his assailant. He glanced around furtively for a trace of his blaster rifle, but it appeared to have been knocked into the shadows. The figure moved toward him like an ice-skater on black velvet. Silently, Colvox removed his survival knife from its sheath behind his calf. He grasped the cool metal hilt firmly and leaped towards the attacker, thrusting the knife towards his neck. Like lightning, a booted foot appeared and Colvox’s blade flew through the air and clanged unseen into the shadows behind him. The silhouette kicked out again, but this time Colvox was more prepared. He ducked the kick, at the same time spinning on his heel and following up with a hard kick to where the assassin’s knee would have been. He heard a loud cracking sound, succeeded by what could only have been a body hitting the ground. Colvox groped around until he found where the assailant had landed. Grabbing him by his throat, Colvox lifted him into the air and wrapped his arm around his neck. The man struggled, but Colvox had him in an unbreakable headlock. He dragged the struggling form out the door of the collapsed mess hall and dropped him to the ground.

“What’s goin’ on?” shouted a voice.

Colvox pivoted. The entire platoon had appeared, led by Lieutenant Benedict.

“I found the rest of the platoon takin’ shelter in the interrogation center, sir,” Benedict said carefully. “Who’s that?” he asked, gesturing towards the orange-suited assassin sitting on the ground.

“I’m not sure. He jumped me in that mess hall…and almost killed me,” Colvox murmured, blinking. “You’re all right, Lieutenant?” Benedict nodded. Colvox directed his boot at the assassin’s orange flight suit. “It’s a Rebel X-wing pilot, I’m fairly sure. The orange flight suit pretty much gives him away.”

Benedict prodded the fallen man with the muzzle of his blaster rifle. “That’s what you are, ain’t it?” The man nodded and opened his mouth to speak.

“I’m the only one left. I managed to find cover before the bombardment. No one else was prepared.” He grimaced at his broken knee.

Colvox glanced at the X-wing pilot, and then at Benedict. “You think he’s the only one? We didn’t find anyone else.” He turned to face the rest of his unit. “You guys find anybody?” Negative. Colvox shrugged. “I guess we’d better take care of him. He’s obviously demonstrated that he’s capable of causing some trouble…” He trailed off, and cocked the bolt of his automatic pistol loudly. Abruptly, he realized everyone was staring at him coldly. “You all heard the colonel before. We have to do this…it’s an order.”

Colvox aimed the pistol at the X-wing pilot’s head.

“You are charged with high treason against the Empire. Do you have any last words?”

The X-wing pilot laughed evilly. “Do you?”

A shot rang through the air.

Colvox slumped to the dirt, a dark pool spreading from the hole in his head.

Benedict shouldered his smoldering blaster rifle, his entire demeanor changing to one of command and power. “That would have been so much easier if you would have done your job, Telson,” he bit out, glaring at the X-wing pilot. “You certainly fought more like a feeble X-wing pilot than the trained assassin you are.” He turned to grin at the others. “Nice acting, men. For a moment you even had me fooled.”

One of them grinned sheepishly. “Thank you, sir...if I may say so, you did a fine job yourself. But you know our loyalty is only to the Rebellion.”

Benedict nodded. “Of course. It’s unfortunate that Malcoam had a loose tongue; otherwise, we’d have him to assist us, and Telson, our “X-wing pilot” wouldn’t have had to take care of this rookie substitute. No matter…let’s complete our mission and liberate the rest of our friends from their hideaway. That underground cavern beneath the interrogation center should have kept our Rebel friends safe from the bombardment, but I doubt it’s very comfortable."

The man smiled again. “Yes, sir. What should we do with the body?” He tilted his head towards Captain Colvox’ corpse.

Benedict shrugged casually. “Leave it. When we gather our hidden forces and liberate the galaxy, we won’t have to hide anything from the Empire ever again.”

Telson, the X-wing pilot, sneered maliciously. “How can you be certain that we can eliminate the remaining Imperial presence here so easily?”

“History has proven time and time again that the element of surprise is always the most formidable weapon any man can possess,” Benedict answered smugly. “Now let’s free our comrades. This will be a day long remembered.”

Foo
June 25th, 2001, 02:53 PM
Yet Again Why the BEWARE SW..
Yet again nice story and Idea, like it.

Prôxes
June 25th, 2001, 08:30 PM
Thank you for your comments on both stories. I write "Beware" because this board is primarily made up of Star Trek fans...I on the other hand prefer Star Wars.

Foo
June 28th, 2001, 07:36 AM
Well you never know it could be good for them to have a change now and again :D

Prôxes
July 11th, 2001, 12:01 AM
Apparently not, judging by the amount of replies. :p

General Phoenix
July 11th, 2001, 12:49 AM
Don't know why I missed this before, but I really enjoyed it! My only nitpick would be that Benedict got a bit "preachy" in his speech at the end. I would suggest keeping his dialogue more informal like the rest of the story.

Still, I love the way the mutiny played out, and I like the foreshadowing you acheived by naming the Lieutenant "Benedict." Nice touch. :D

I trust we'll see more of this soon?

Prôxes
July 11th, 2001, 11:28 PM
Thanks for the wonderful comments, Mr. Phoenix. I really appreciate it. I'm pleased you caught the hidden meaning behind "Benedict" -- you are the type of reader my story was written for! I agree with your criticism of Benedict's "speech" at the end. In my excitement to clarify the ending I ignored continuity. Well, I've learned from such mistakes and it should improve my writing in the future.

More, you ask? Assuredly. :) This is one of my favorite stories but certainly not my last. I think the next one will involve more action in space and less on the ground.

Again, thank you. :)