AN: Thanks to JediMaster12 for the great ideas on the beta.
Cerban pulled his gold uniform helmet off his head and ran a hand through his sweaty dark black hair. Even keeping it cut military short the Sith soldier still perspired like a bantha in his armor. Tucking the helmet under his left arm Cerban looked over at his superior and said, "Hey Sarge, how about givin' me a smoke?" Cerban attempted a charming smile, but it came out more like his usual smirk.
"Dammit Cerban! If Lesko catches you smoking on duty he's going to hang you up by the short hairs." Sarge's voice sounded hollow under his own helmet.
"Aw c'mon Sarge," Cerban whined. "Brig duty's boring as hell and no one ever comes down to check on us anyway. Besides, I'm sure you could use a cigarra as much as I could." Cerban looked hopefully at the older man.
Sarge yanked his own head cover off of his salt and pepper colored scalp and sighed wearily. "Alright, but this is the last time I let you mooch off of me. Next time bring your own damn smokes." Sarge reached down into his knapsack and pulled out a pack of cigarras. He pulled one and stuck it in his mouth, and then handed the pack to Cerban. Cerban snatched the pack and pulled out a cigarra. He held the smokes out to the third guard standing with them.
"Want one Pary?" Cerban asked the new recruit.
Pary removed his helmet and shook his head. "I don't smoke, but thanks anyway." Pary's dark blond locks swung back and forth as they hung damp from his head. Hair longer than a buzz cut in an armored soldier was a sure sign of a newbie. Cerban couldn't remember meeting anyone, male or female who hadn't shaved most of their hair off within the first six months. It was just too fracking hot.
"Live a little will ya?" Cerban asked the kid. "You're not on the farm anymore. No one's gonna bust your chops for havin' a smoke."
Pary smiled nervously and slowly took a cigarra from the pack. He wanted to fit in and not be seen as naive or innocent. It was true he hadn't been much of anywhere before enlisting except Levita, a small Outer Rim planet in the middle of nowhere. Pary's father was selling their farm to support himself and Pary's mother in their golden years. Since there wasn't much else to do on Levita but farm, Pary had hopped the next transport out with his parents' blessings.
"So kid," Sarge started as he lit his cigarra and took a deep inhalation, "how'd you end up in the Army?" The fresh faced young man couldn't have been a day over twenty. Sarge was naturally inquisitive and at times downright nosy.
"Well, my parents were selling the family farm. Three years of drought in a row had pretty much used up any savings we had, and there's not much else to do on my home planet so…" Pary's recitation was interrupted by a violent coughing fit as the cigarra smoke hit his lungs. Cerban began laughing and pounded the kid's back.
"That'll put hair on your chest!" Cerban said appreciatively. "Oh and I forgot to tell ya, you don't inhale unless you're used to it." He was chuckling, having fun at the newbie's expense.
Pary tried to respond but was too preoccupied relearning how to breathe. "I can't…believe…you actually…enjoy this!" he finally sputtered out.
Sarge chuckled. "You get used to it. I only smoke on a tour; wife hates these things and harps constantly if I light up in the house."
"Hey Sarge," Cerban started after he took a drag, "You see those female prisoners they brought on board? Pretty nice…" he wiggled his eyebrows lewdly.
Sarge snorted. "Forget it Cerban. Those are top priority captives, not to mention Jedi."
"Jedi?" Cerban asked skeptically as he took a drag. "Aw c'mon Sarge you're yanking my chain."
"Nope," the end of Sarge's cigarra glowed red as he inhaled. "Heard it from Tager up on deck five." Sarge continued melodramatically, "And you'll never guess which Jedi…Bastila," his voice dropped at the name.
Cerban and Pary's mouths dropped open. "Oh come off it, now I know you're screwing with me," Cerban responded.
"Really…Bastila?" Pary's voice was low with awe. "You mean the Bastila with the Meditation thingy?" Everyone in the Sith fleet had at least heard of the infamous Jedi and how anxious Lord Malak was to get his hands on her.
"Yup," Sarge nodded, "that Bastila. Lord Malak is very interested in her." Sarge had buddies and informants on just about every deck of the Leviathan and knew all the good gossip.
"Whoa," Cerban's eyes were round in disbelief and his cigarra dangled from his bottom lip, forgotten. "Which one is she?"
"The brunette with all the ponytails," Sarge looked down and flicked the ashes off of the tip of his smoke.
"Sarge she is hot!" Cerban's comment caused Sarge to roll his eyes. Cerban's face brightened as a new thought occurred to him. "What about the other chick, the one with the braid? Ni-ice…" Cerban dragged out the last word to illustrate his appreciation.
"Dunno much about her," Sarge started. "The brass is being very hush-hush, but only high level personnel are being allowed in to see them and that Onasi guy."
"Onasi," Pary interrupted, "as in Carth Onasi?" Sarge nodded. Pary continued, "I've heard of him, supposed to be one of the Republic's best pilots."
Sarge shrugged his shoulders as if it were no big deal. "Oh that's not why he's getting the elite treatment." Sarge was enjoying the other two men's attention. "Apparently rumor has it that Carth Onasi was Admiral Karath's prodigy back during the Mandalorian Wars. Scuttlebutt is the Admiral was grooming Onasi as his successor. When the Admiral joined the Sith, he tried to get Onasi to come with him, but Onasi refused."
"Why?" Pary asked.
"He was more loyal to the Republic than to Revan and Malak." Sarge said this with scorn.
"What have you got against the Republic?" Pary asked in curiosity.
Sarge gave him a level look. "I watched the Mandalorians burn my home world. I watched their troops rape and murder thousands of my fellow Serraconians. I lost my father in one of the bombings and a sister to a Mandalorian gang rape. I know who I owe my loyalty to, and it isn't the Republic. Any sympathy for the Republic in this army will get you a vibroblade in the back kid." Sarge's jaw was clenched as he finished with the warning and his hand was in a tight fist. If he had his cigarra that hand, it would have been crushed to a pulp.
Pary held up his hands and attempted to pacify the older man. "I was just curious is all; I swore my oath and intend to follow through."
Cerban laughed, "Hell I'm just here for the credits!" Sarge snorted at the other man's comment. "So what about the Twi'lek?" Cerban asked Sarge, trying to bring the conversation back to his favorite topic: girls.
"Force Cerban, the kid can't be a day over fifteen!" Sarge looked at Cerban in disgust.
"Yeah but she's a well developed fifteen." Cerban held his hands out in front of his chest to illustrate his point as he leered. Pary blushed at the motion. He had seen the blue Twi'lek being taken to a cell and admired her as well. Who wouldn't? Anyone with eyes could see that she was a looker. He'd never seen a Twi'lek that vibrant a color before.
Sarge frowned at him. "You're a sick puppy Cerban. I've got a daughter about her age."
Cerban opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted by a blaster shot sound from down by the detention cells. Sarge pulled his cigarra out of his mouth and activated his com. "Forgat, was that you? Report!" Sarge barked.
"Uh, yeah I thought I saw something," a nervous voice came out of the communicator.
"Well did you see anything?" Sarge queried in irritation.
"Naw, I must have been imagining things," the guard down by the containment cells responded.
"Well watch what you're doing you trigger happy lunatic! And quit wasting your power cell on Force ghosts. Sarge out. Idiot," Sarge mumbled the last word after he shut off the com.
Pary looked a little nervous. Sarge watched him momentarily and asked, "You seen any combat kid?"
The private looked a little sheepish. "Um, no sir, not yet."
Sarge gave him back a reassuring smile. "Well don't look too worried, not much ever happens on brig duty, aside from brainless banthas who can't tell the difference between an enemy and a shadow. And if you want to get on my good side don't call me sir, I work for a living."
Pary laughed nervously, "Got it. Thanks Sarge."
"So, why did you join the military son?" Sarge asked continuing their previous conversation. He was hoping to get Cerban's mind off of girls. The man was damned near impossible when he got started on females.
"Well like I said there weren't many prospects at home, so I used what little credits I had and hopped the next freighter out. Ended up on Korriban of all places. I'm no Jedi," the young man shrugged, "but I talked to the military recruiter at the Czerka office and it sounded better than busing tables at the local cantina. So I signed up, and two months later here I am." He smiled slightly at the other two.
"Well you'll love it, trust me," Cerban put in, pointed his right finger and cigarra in emphasis. "Adventure, glamour, a girl in every port…" Sarge snorted at Cerban, which seemed to be something he did a lot. You couldn't blame Sarge since all Cerban did think about was sex. "Hey just because you're terminally monogamous don't insult the rest of us," he retorted at the sergeant.
"And just because no woman can stand you for more than one night doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you right?" Sarge smirked back.
"One night's all I need man," Cerban smiled proudly.
Sarge raised his gray eyebrows. "Funny I didn't think any of those gals gave you a say in the matter."
Pary laughed at the indignant look on Cerban's face. His grin quickly turned to a frown as he heard a scuffing noise behind him. Turning, Pary looked down the hall and saw…nothing.
"What's up kid?" Sarge queried.
Pary shook his head. "I thought I heard something."
"Ships make a lot of noise, you'll get used to it," the older man responded absently. "Cerban you idiot pick that up! Your mother doesn't work here!" Sarge ordered as he caught the other man throwing his cigarra butt one the deck and extinguishing it with his boot. Cerban frowned but complied. Picking up the butt he put it in one of his armor pockets.
"Force Sarge, you could have fooled me with the way you nag," Cerban said in a pout.
Pary smiled in amusement at the two men's exchange. His smile quickly turned to a look of horror as the tip of a sword bloomed out of the center of his chest, spraying the other two soldiers with drops of Pary's blood. Before either man could react the blade retreated and Pary crumpled to the floor. Behind him stood the previously mentioned blue female Twi'lek in common combat armor and an aggressive stance. She looked anything but cute with her face set in hard lines and her eyes narrowed menacingly. The female swung her blade to the side and cut clean through Cerban's neck before he could finish pulling his blaster rifle up to a firing position. Sarge had his blaster up and fired of a shot before the sword sunk into his stomach. He looked down at the small Twi'lek's face as she retracted the blade. The next thing Sarge knew he was lying on the floor staring into the eyes of Pary's shocked features. Sarge could hear the girl swear and inject a medpack somewhere above him as his blood pooled out in front of him to mingle with the dark maroon puddles leaking from Pary chest wound and Cerban's lifeless corpse. As Sarge's vision dimmed his last thought was he hoped someone would mail off the present for his daughter he had sitting in his personal locker. The father had promised her he wouldn't forget her Naming Day.