Chapter 1: Proving Grounds
The uneven landscape was inundated with a myriad of strangely shaped trees, odd fungi and plants with colors ranging from vibrant yellows to cold blues or greens. Thick spores of pollen floated lazily in the air. In between the bizarre ground flora, battle droids marched against their animal adversaries as overhead hunter-seeker droids recorded and transmitted the fight to their droid control ship.
From the safety of his AAT, OOM-9 was observing his droid infantry as they fought with the acklays. The air was thick with the pollen of countless diverse vegetation that secreted dozens of outlandish smells and OOM-9 was thankful he didn't have olfactory sensors. The Commerce Guild colony world of Felucia was the perfect place to train, OOM-9 could think of no other planet that offered such difficult and diverse terrain. The battle droid commander was sent to test how well the different droid models of the newly created Confederacy would work together.
The battle droids, super battle droids, and dwarf spider droids were all performing acceptably as homing spider droids and Trade Federation beetle troopers did their best to keep the acklays corralled in a circular perimeter so that the smaller droids could combat them without excessive searching. The battlefront was inundated with multi-legged units and creatures that made the whole battle seem like a trite horror vid. The acklays were being systematically exterminated with little droid casualties while the exotic beauty of the fungal world was being trampled underfoot of the droid war machine.
The occasional yerdua poison-spitters that dotted the landscape proved to be a benign threat to the mechanical fighting force. A yerdua poison-spitter hacked a toxic spitball that plastered the front end of a super battle droid. The silver-plated droid was knocked off balance but regained his composure and responded by firing a wrist rocket into the plant. The yerdua screeched and died.
The super battle droid turned to the nearby B1 battle droid and commented in a deep voice, "Fragile things aren't they?"
"Yes sir," the B1 responded. So much of what Felucia had to offer would have been infinitely more difficult for a traditional army of organic beings but the droids were adapt at killing all obstacles in their path with few to no problems.
A command battle droid with a custom brown and white paint job named EEK-176 was in the midst of the most fearsome fighting. EEK-176's face and shoulder plates were bleached white. The circular spot on EEK-176's abdomen was white instead of the standard yellow of other command battle droids. The rest of EEK-176 had been painted burnt umber brown. The uniquely colored droid was the only soldier in the training group that was wielding a RD-4 radiation launcher. The toxic grenades the weapon fired were quite effective against his organic opponents. EEK-176 had a dwarf spider droid to his left and right and the group was able to kill acklays in one fell swoop using the radiation launcher in conjunction from charged power shots from the spider droid duo. The droid infantry formations had long been broken from the chaos of the battle but droid stragglers were quick to rally around the successful EEK-176 as he left a trail of corpses in his wake.
EEK-176 soon stumbled upon a Felucian slug in his path. Since the creature was not a specific target for the training exercise EEK-176 radioed OOM-9 on how to proceed.
"The benign slug is not a concern, ignore it and save your ammo for constructive killing," OOM-9 ordered his second-in-command through their communication antennas.
The security battle droid SSA-719 and his squad of battle droids came upon a small group of Felucian warriors and reported in to OOM-9. SSA-719's maroon markings made him stand out from the rest of his squad, which was comprised of standard beige B1 battle droids. SSA-719 was no expert on the behavior of organics, but it appeared to him that the blue aliens looked irritated. Since the Felucians were banned from this specific area, SSA-719 had no planned subroutine for dealing with the natives. Although he could have relied on his own judgment, SSA-719 instead contacted Commander OOM-9 on how to proceed with the Felucians.
"The natives know that this is a restricted area, kill them immediately," OOM-9 told his security droid captain. SSA-719 told his squad to fire on the Felucian group. The blue-skinned warriors charged at the droids in response. The droids fired on the incoming attackers and only a single Felucian warrior managed to reach the droids intact. The Felucian struck at SSA-719 with his claw weapon but the security droid managed to evade the blow. The warrior attacked again and still missed. The fighter was able to bludgeon SSA-719 with its shield but the droid retaliated by smashing the butt of his E-5 rifle into the side of the alien's head. When the Felucian fell to the ground SSA-719 put a single blaster bolt to the alien's masked face.
The Lucrehulk droid control ship, the Scrapyard was idly orbiting the fungus planet Felucia. On board the bridge buzzing with busy pilot battle droids stood a pair of human CIS officers named Zako and Katen who were wearing officer uniforms specifically tailored for human use. They had traded in their old black TDF officer uniforms for the new Separatist uniforms that were gray with black gloves and knee high black boots. The two organic beings were observing the ground battle on the planet below on a large video screen. Commander Karl Zako was a stocky human male who looked like he had his head shaved on a nearly daily basis, a visual fact made painfully clear because he would constantly remove his officer's hat and rub his nearly bald head when he was nervous, which he was currently doing.
"Relax," said officer Katen to her squeamish counterpart. Major Ashley Katen had a slender but slightly athletic build and short spiky blonde hair that would slightly jut out from underneath her officer's hat.
"How can I when we are two steps away from going to war with the Jedi Order," Zako protested. "I am not looking forward to fighting Jedi Masters." Like Katen, Zako had been trained in the martial arts of zai ni since childhood. Lightsabers and Jedi combat forms wasn't what worried Zako, it was their Force powers. But in the end Zako's worries were ultimately a result that he was more accustomed to fighting pirates than Jedi.
"That's what the droids are for. What are you so worried about anyway? You die and all your problems end real quick." Katen assured him as she crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.
"I'd like to live a little bit longer. And the Jedi..."
"Blah blah blah, not another one of your stories," Katen cut him off. "Why you majored in history I'll never know." Katen mocked Zako's higher education. Zako never really got any real use out of his degree. All it really enabled him to do was criticize the actions of the Galactic Republic and Jedi Order in minute detail. Katen thought his time in university would have been better spent training to be a better fighter. After all, she had forgone going to university and she turned out just fine.
Zako mumbled something under his breath. The blond female officer Katen gave him a look. "What did you say?"
"Nothing," Zako smirked.
Katen pointed her fingers at Zako and waved them around. "You will tell me what you said," Katen commanded in spooky voice in an attempt to mimic a Jedi.
"Your Jedi mind tricks won't work on me," Zako replied. The two officers looked at each other for a moment and then burst out laughing. "You do a good Jedi," Zako complimented through his smile. Like their battle droid compatriots, the two humans had no respect for Jedi.
The Jedi Order claimed to be defenders of the peace and protectors of the innocent. The reality was the Jedi didn't do anything to help the Trade Federation convoys against attacks from pirates, gangs or terrorists. To regular officers like Zako and Katen, the Jedi did nothing but lounge around their comfy temple on Coruscant while issuing edicts and judgment upon non-Force-sensitives.
"Why did we need to import acklays to Felucia anyway? I thought this planet had rancors on it or something?" Katen asked in a slightly more serious tone.
"Fighting acklays is great practice for the upcoming battle against the Jedi Order since the acklays and Jedi both rely on melee attacks, so in principle fighting them should not be so different, and I don't think the Council had rancor hunting in mind when they told OOM-9 to test the new droid army," Zako answered.
"Sounds like a big waste of money." Katen skeptically looked at Zako with her piercing blue eyes, finding it hard to believe fighting ersatz Jedi was worth the time and effort.
"Actually no, the Geonosians gave us a discount since they bred too many of the blasted things."
"But sir, you talk about how the Jedi are powerful warriors, how will fighting near brainless animals be a proper simulation for combating Jedi warriors?" The pilot battle droid KJZ-8267 said as he entered the conversation.
"The Jedi Order has been steadily decaying over hundreds of years and is much weaker now than in the past. Though I suspect they will still be a challenge. And testing against acklays is better than no training at all," Zako explained to the pilot battle droid.
"Still, they're taking their time down there," Katen complained.
"You could always go down yourself and assist them, Major," the pilot droid suggested.
"What are you crazy? I'm not going down there. I am not going to be skinned alive by whatever flesh eating diseases incubate on that miserable planet."
"Whatever happened to the 'all your problems ending if you die' attitude?" Zako asked.
"Dying is easy. It's living with some incurable disease that slowly eats away at you for the rest of your life that scares me."
KJZ-8267 (as with all battle droids) didn't fear disease or death. If defeated in battle, most droids could be easily repaired later. As long as they were properly maintained, droids were nearly immortal.
Another pilot droid called for KJZ-8267 to come over to the communications console. KJZ-8267 excused himself from the conversation and went to go see what the other droid wanted.
Sergeant 3B3-888, an infantry battle droid that had taken part in the Battle of Grassy Plains with OOM-9 nearly a decade ago, made his way toward his commander's motionless tank. "Nearly all acklays have been terminated and accounted for, but a few of them may have escaped into the wilderness," the B1 battle droid reported. OOM-9 wasn't really concerned with any effects the invasive species might have on the planet but he would have to include the information in his report nonetheless.
As the two droids were talking an acklay sprang forth from nearby foliage and rushed towards the droids. 3B3-888 sidestepped out of the way and the acklay scurried up the front of the AAT. OOM-9 pulled out his E-5 blaster rifle and used the rapid fire feature to fill the alien full of holes. The bug-like creature died on the front of the tank. OOM-9 ordered his tank driver to back up a bit, and the corpse easily slid off the AAT.
"What did you say?" Katen demanded of the pilot battle droid KJZ-8267.
"We've received word that Geonosis has been defeated by the Galactic Republic. Ground communications were jammed so a distress signal was sent out only after the droid armies retreated into space."
"The battle is already lost, how can that be? The Jedi are not that capable," Zako worryingly commented.
"The Jedi were only a secondary force to a clone army under the command of the Republic," KJZ-8267 informed the two humans.
"Clones? Clones of what?"
"Where did the Republic get an army of clones?" Katen asked to no one in particular.
"I don't know but we better tell OOM-9 to pack up down there and prepare to move out," Zako said.
Major Katen contacted the command droid present at the hanger bay. "Z23-Y75, we need transports deployed for a full retrieval."
"Roger roger," the command droid acknowledged the order.
OOM-9 received the message from the Scrapyard; unfortunately he now had other problems to attend to. An adult sized rancor had wandered into the training perimeter and starting causing mass havoc. Battle droids fled to the cover of large flowers, trying to hide from the rampaging rancor.
EEK-176 climbed up a large tree root and jumped onto the pad of a giant mushroom overlooking the purple-striped rancor. He lobbed several radiation grenades against the large creature but to little effect. EEK-176 succeeded only in getting the creature's attention. The rancor struck at the droid but only hit the stalk of the mushroom. The rubbery fungus twitched from side to side and EEK-176 lost his balance and fell to some cushiony undergrowth below.
The rancor boisterously approached EEK-176's location as the droid crawled behind a large leaf. The rancor noisily sniffed with its snotty nostrils in a vain attempt to pick up EEK-176's nonexistent scent. The previously passive hunter-seekers unfolded into attack positions and started firing on the rancor to draw its attention away from the hiding droid commander. The monster reached with outstretched arms trying to grab the flying droids but was unable to make a connecting blow.
A line of dwarf spider droids formed from behind the rancor with OOM-9's battle tank in the middle of the group. OOM-9 examined the situation through his electrobinoculars for a moment.
"Open fire!" OOM-9 ordered as he gave a hand signal to the spider droids. The attack line opened up with full power on the rancor, which turned and charged the battle line. The concentrated fire proved too much for the animal and the rancor collapsed face first onto the ground.
"Cease fire!" OOM-9 ordered and the attack stopped a second later. The downed rancor started to move an arm in an attempt to grab OOM-9's tank. The pointy claws weakly tried to hold the front end of the tank when the rancor let out its final breath and died. OOM-9 found himself having to order his tank driver to back up his AAT from its second corpse today.
"That was impressive." 3B3-888 commented to his commander. It wasn't every day they got to kill rancors. The roar of the approaching C-9979 landing craft prompted the droids to look skyward.
The transports touched down and hundreds of PK worker droids were released to recover the remains of the few battle droids that were destroyed in the fighting to be rebuilt or recycled depending on the severity of their condition.
OOM-9 entered the Scrapyard's bridge, flanked by SSA-719 and 3B3-888. "What's the situation, Commander?"
"Sir, the Republic launched a pre-emptive strike on Geonosis and consequently captured the planet."
"What's the status of the Council?"
"Unknown sir, we're still trying to contact them."
"Where's Count Dooku?"
"What's going on over there? Who's running things? We must hurry to the aid of Geonosis and find out what's going on."
"Preparations are already under way Commander OOM-9, we—" Zako was cut off by the appearance of two miniature holograms of Nute Gunray and Rune Haako.
Author's Note: One of the goals of this chapter is to explain why there are acklays on Felucia. They are not native to the planet, yet in the videogame Star Wars: Battlefront II, the clone army is attacked by acklays during one of the campaign levels.
OOM-9, SSA-719 and 3B3-888 all originally appeared in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
EEK-176 originally appeared in the videogame Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, where he assisted OOM-9 in conquering Naboo.
KJZ-8267 is an OC since there has never been a named pilot battle droid before (or at least at the time I wrote this). The number '8267' comes from the pilot droid figure that came with the Episode I armored scout tank mini-rig. In Aurebesh, '8267' is printed on the pilot droid's back.
Often in Star Wars there are two token droid characters (ex: HK-47 and T3-M4 or C-3PO and R2-D2). For OOM-9's Revenge, I flipped it around and included two token human characters.