The Sparkle Skirmish
One minute later...
Admittedly, Force-thrown snowballs may have been unsportsmanlike, but the shocked looks on his men's faces was priceless, and definitely worth it. Besides, it was every clone's duty to use what he'd been granted, genetically or otherwise, to his advantage, and Stonewall was under no illusions that if any of his brothers had Force-powers in this situation, they'd be chucking snowballs left and kriffing right.
As Milo had said, fair's fair.
"You were right, Weave," he called, lobbing another snowball at the squad medic as they sprinted across the open ground. "This is fun."
He'd thrown that one with the Force, but he also had another, more tightly-packed projectile in his hands, waiting to go, which he then tossed at the other man, who dodged it rather neatly by executing a textbook-perfect roll along the snowy ground. When Weave was upright again, he glanced back at the captain, grinning. "You'll have to do better than that, Stonewall."
Before he could reply the Force trilled a warning; Stonewall ducked but was too late to avoid a spray of snow from behind him, from Milo's direction, where the sniper was still situated behind one of the jagged rock formations. The snow impacted against his face, obscuring his vision with white, wet and cold, and somehow managing to slip past the close fitting edge of his body-glove to trickle down his back.
Forgetting Weave for the moment, Stonewall spun around, searching for the younger man, who'd ducked the moment the captain had turned, making it impossible to see him, just now.
There was a yelp from several meters to his right, followed by a rather impressive collection of swears from the medic as Crest tackled him; the captain heard the impact of both men as they collapsed to the snowy terrain, but his attention was now on the sniper.
Perhaps if he'd been more adept with the Force, Stonewall could have used it to sense his brother's location, but he was too exhilarated to do more than gather his strength for another snow-toss, because when he found Milo...the kid had it coming.
"There he is!" Traxis' voice caused Stonewall to turn, towards a flash of white gear as the younger clone bolted from his hiding spot and began to race for another, nearby hill, one that was close by the entrance to the crystal caves.
Stonewall glanced at his scarred brother; an unspoken sort of truce struck up between them and they both launched themselves across the open ground and after Milo. The younger man was fast and he would have made it to the relative safety of the hill – at least gaining the high ground – but for the fact that he stepped in an unstable snow-drift and went down with a yelp, though he immediately tried to get upright again, scrambling against the ground.
But it was too late. Within a moment, Traxis and Stonewall had descended upon him; the captain grabbed Milo's ankle and pulled him towards them while Trax began shoveling heaping handfuls of snow against his face.
"Fek," Milo sputtered as Stonewall released his ankle and began aiding Traxis in blanketing the younger man. "Guys-"
"You sneaky little chakaar," Traxis replied, dumping another handful of snow on Mi's head. "It's wrong to set your brothers up, Sparkles."
Sparkles? Confused, Stonewall glanced at his scarred brother but Trax ignored him and bent to gather another portion of snow. Beneath them, Milo seemed to sense the captain's momentary lapse in attention and broke out of Stonewall's hold, struggled to his feet, and continued racing for the hillock, where there was another outcropping of rocks.
As he and Trax hurried after him, the captain could still hear Weave and Crest going at it; from the sounds of things, the medic had managed to extricate himself from the ordnance man's grasp and was returning fire with gusto as he made his way for Milo's position, perhaps thinking along the same lines as Trax and Stonewall: teaming up brought more effective results. Huffing, Crest met up with Stonewall and Trax as well, and the three of them descended upon Weave, who himself was on Milo's heels.
The medic and the sniper both ducked behind the rocks and immediately began to hurl handfuls of snow at their pursuers, who paused several meters away and started to return fire.
Snowballs flew through the air, both Force-aided and propelled by clone-hands, along with a selection of curses, jeers and good-natured insults that got progressively more graphic with each throw. Stonewall's breath was growing a little short, his cheeks, face and forehead were freezing but not quite numb enough to not feel the stinging remnants of the snowballs, and his body was filled with energy from the mock-battle, but he still managed to concentrate enough to use the Force to levitate handful after handful of snow and guide it towards his brothers.
For several moments, everything was white, snowy chaos.
Then he heard Kali's voice and everyone went utterly still. "I see you guys found a way to pass the time."
Breathing hard, now, Stonewall turned to her, noting that the others did as well, and he watched as her mouth curved into a smile; he was struck with relief and delight that she was safe and with him again, and also that she was wearing such a fetching outfit, a far cry from her Jedi-robes.
It was too bad he couldn't see her eyes through the goggles, but her amusement was clearly discernible through the Force, which made him grin as he replied. "We're capable."
Her smile widened and he suddenly felt warm all over; hopefully her mission was done, which meant that they could return to the ship, where he could help her out of that snow-suit, which, while form-fitting and attractive, covered far too much of her.
"But I would be remiss if I didn't ask if you were using the Force to...throw snowballs at the men under your command?" she added, her smile taking on a teasing edge that he knew well.
The others started snickering, but Stonewall ignored them. "Yes. Is that against protocol?"
"Oh, most definitely," she said with a cheerful nod.
That was when Milo chimed in. "The captain used the Force to attack us without warning, too!"
"He called us over, then surprised us with a snowball Force attack," Weave added, his breath still a little short, puffs of it spiraling in the air before him. "That's got to be against regs."
Kalinda's head tilted towards the medic and the sniper, but when she spoke, her words were directed towards Stonewall. "Using the Force for such nefarious purposes," she chided, clucking her tongue. "Attacking your own soldiers...really, Captain?"
"There are no regs for Force-use among clones," he pointed out. "And the Jedi Code doesn't apply to non-Jedi, Kali." They'd had quite a few discussions on the matter during the trip out here, so he thought he was within his rights to remind her of that fact.
"And," he added, shooting a knowing look at Milo. The little sneak. "They were asking for it."
Kali shook her head, the sunlight catching on her goggles and flashing with the movement. "That doesn't matter." She gave a heavy, overly dramatic sigh that was punctuated first by Weave's swift intake of breath, then the sound of a gloved hand smacking the medic's arm. "Now I have no choice but to teach you a lesson, Stone."
He couldn't help himself; his brow lifted and he gave her his most alluring smile, the kind that he knew she loved. "Ah, good. I like your lessons. Very much."
Crest's voice was alarmed. "Uh, Captain-"
But all of his focus was on the woman he loved as she smiled, bright and beautiful, and then the entire back of his head was pummeled with something wet and kriffing cold.
Immediately, he swore and ducked out of pure instinct, but it was not enough to avoid a nearly-crippling barrage of snow, and in the background – along with his brothers' laughter – he heard her voice, honey-sweet. "As far as lessons go, Stonewall, you might not like this one."
Two minutes later...
"Kriffing hell, Captain," Crest hissed, ducking to avoid a spray of snow as it pummeled the rock behind his head. He'd been trying to make out the other team's exact location, but hadn't had an opportunity to do more than snag a quick glance around the area. "You had to go and try and flirt your way out of trouble, didn't you?"
Beside him, Stonewall was ducking as well; there were flecks of snow caught on his brows and in the fringe of his hair. "Can't blame a man for trying."
"Maybe not," Crest replied, cursing again as he was hit by another backlash of broken snow. "But next time you should try thinking with a different head."
Stonewall made a noise of annoyance, but he didn't argue. "It may have backfired," he admitted at last, wincing as yet another barrage hurled towards them. "But she-"
"Less talk, more snowballs," Trax broke in from Crest's other side, where he was preparing to lob off another round. "They're going to win if you both keep yammering away like a couple of old Bothans."
Crest could hear the jeers of the others as they urged his team to "come out of hiding," and "take their beating like men," and various other phrases that were not fit for polite company, much less a Jedi. Half of what she was saying was in languages he'd never heard, and while he applauded her creativity, he didn't want to think too hard about what kind of names he and the others were being called – all in good fun, of course. Weave and Milo, while not having her knowledge of so many languages, were no slouches when it came to this type of thing, and it didn't help matters that their confidence was spurred by the presence of their general.
She's really egging them on, he thought, glancing at the captain, who was rolling his eyes at whatever she'd just called him; he thought it was Huttese, but it was hard to be sure. Not that I didn't know she had it in her, but wow.
Personally, Crest thought that there was no finer Jedi around than Kalinda Halcyon, but with a mouth like that...well, it was no wonder she wasn't on the Council.
Nope, the odds were not in his team's favor; the sniper's accuracy was unmatched and the boss' Jedi-abilities were far and away better than the captain's. But there was nothing for it, the divisions were made, the lines were drawn, and Crest felt a swell of determination to win this, so he gathered another handful of snow and began packing it tightly.
"Come on, vode," he said, ignoring another spray of snow behind his head. "Let's show 'em what we're made of."
Traxis made a noise of agreement, and began packing together as many snowballs as he could, as quickly as he could. "Captain, how many do you think you can throw at one time with the Force?"
Crest missed Stonewall's reply, as he'd straightened in order to heft a round at their opponents, noting with satisfaction that his aim was true, catching Weave smack in the face. When he crouched back down again, he noted that both Trax and Stonewall were grinning dangerously.
Excitement curled within him as he looked between his brothers. "Alright: what's the plan?"
"Ambush," they said in unison, and Crest found himself grinning, too.
"They're going to try an ambush. I can feel it," Kalinda said, closing her eyes just for a moment as she pushed her goggles onto the top of her head.
When she opened her eyes again, Milo was gaping at her. The younger clone been in the act of packing together a stack of snowballs, but at her words, he'd looked up. "You can tell that with the Force...?"
"Not quite," she laughed. Had she been focusing on the rest of her men and not the lobbing of snowballs she might have been able to sense such intent, but her awareness was rather narrow at the moment. Additionally, her Huttese was rather rusty; hopefully, she'd gotten her point across to Stonewall. Thinking he can flirt with me and get his way, the scoundrel. "But it seems the most logical option for them."
"That's true," Weave said thoughtfully. "Between you and Milo, we have the long-range advantage."
Leaning up on her knees, Kali peered over the edge of the rock formation behind which she and her mini-team had taken shelter, searching for Stone and the others. There! About thirty meters away, behind another rock-formation. She could see them, gathering up snowballs and getting to their feet as if preparing to charge, and a brush with the Force confirmed their intent.
There was also an almost wild abandon to the mood of all the clones, and she didn't blame any of them; part of the feeling was because she knew that it was difficult for anyone, let along a group of active young men, to be cooped up on a little ship like the Wayfarer for any length of time. Of the squad, only Stonewall had the opportunity to expend his energy in other ways, and while Kali didn't mind that part – far from it – she knew that the others went a little stir-crazy sometimes, especially after a long trip like the one to Ilum.
The other reason for their feeling was because this was a blast, and she chided herself for not thinking of an activity like this sooner. For the clones, it was the perfect recipe for fun: all the thrill of battle with no one getting shot at, which was why she'd thrown herself into the situation with gusto.
"Get ready, guys," she said, glancing back between Weave and Milo. "We're going to meet them, head-on."
"Aye, sir," Milo replied, snapping off a crisp salute that made her chuckle. "They're going down."
Weave nodded as well, a grin on his normally composed face, which she returned. Moments later, they each had an armful of snow-ammo, and not a moment too soon, as Kali could feel the ground starting to tremble. In the moment before she and her mini-squad started running, she took in the sight and thought – not for the first time since she'd started working with these men – that she was thankful they were all on the same side, normally.
It was an impressive sight: Stonewall, Crest and Traxis in full, cold-weather gear – minus their helmets – barreling directly towards her across the swathes of snowy ground; three fully-grown, armored men with one single purpose, one clear goal, one intent, and they were fast approaching. As they ran, she could hear them yelling something in Mando'a that she couldn't think to translate, right now.
The moment they saw her and the others, they began lobbing a veritable hail of snowballs, so that chunks of snow and ice impacted all around Kali, though none hit her, just yet. She figured that would change, soon, but was determined to win this round. Milo and Weave sprang up on either side of her, and just before she used the Force to send a pile of snow towards her captain, she called out, "show no mercy!"
Several minutes later...
Once the groups met in the middle of the open snow, everything became a blur.
Milo knew at once that any advantage he and his team had had – save the General's greater Force-ability – was lost in the open ground, and that their opponents had the advantage of being physically stronger. But he was no slouch, and his aim was fantastic whether he was running or holding still, so he thought he was making a pretty fair showing for himself.
First shot: it had landed squarely in the center of Trax's chest with enough force to knock the weapons expert back a few paces.
Fourth shot: this one had caught the crown of Crest's head, which was actually a perfect target, as his bare scalp glinted in the sunlight. Later on, Milo didn't remember exactly what he'd yelled as he'd hit the ordnance man, but he was pretty sure it had included something along the lines of "who's shiny, now?" and a few new words he'd picked up from the general.
Seventh shot: Milo was rather proud of that one. It'd smacked the captain's forehead, right when his mouth had been open to call out something to the Jedi. Stonewall had gotten a face and mouthful of snow, and whatever he'd been going to say had been lost in a sputter.
Since the pace of the battle had picked up, no one had time to form true snowballs; they had to suffice with throwing handfuls of snow, wild chunks that burst on impact and slithered down one's neck, and the air was filled with what looked like sprays of white powder. There wasn't even enough time for the Force-users to do much damage with the strange energy, and everyone was on a more common – if also more chaotic – ground.
Presently, Milo was engaged in close combat with Crest and Stonewall, while Traxis and Weave were several meters away from the melee. Crest lunged; Stonewall swiped at him at the same time. Thankfully Milo was agile, able to duck out of their reach at the last possible moment, otherwise the two older clones would have nabbed him again, and he was in no hurry to repeat that particular experience.
Milo wasn't quite sure where their Jedi was, but he hoped she had a plan of some kind, as he had his own shebs to worry about, what with the captain and Crest ganging up on him.
Luckily, it didn't last too long.
Even though the captain had the Force, Milo thought that all of his energy was being taken up with avoiding heaps of incoming snow, which was why he didn't notice the Jedi until it was too late. A blur of something white and a little furry – her snowsuit – collided with Stonewall as she leaped on his back and plopped a huge measure of snow on his head, laughing as she did so.
In response, the captain reached around to grab her, but she'd placed herself rather perfectly on his back, and with his limited mobility in the cold-weather gear, he was unable to do much more than flail his arms uselessly.
"Milo, Weave," she called out. "Attack!"
It was the perfect opportunity; she'd created enough of a distraction to cause everyone's attention to shift to her and Stonewall, but at her words Milo dropped, gathered more snow, and began pelting it at the officer as hard as he could, perfect aim be damned. Weave started to do much the same thing, and for a few breathless moments they lobbed as much snow as they could at the captain; the Jedi ducked her head to avoid any friendly-fire, but a few flecks still got caught in her dark hair, as her hood had fallen back from around her face.
But it didn't last long.
Crest and Trax, though Milo thought that they were torn between throwing snow-ammo at their captain too, apparently decided to remain loyal to his command and came up with a plan of their own.
Distracted as he was, Milo didn't see Crest's incoming tackle until it was too late. One second he was upright, cocking his arm in order to send off a particularly hard throw; the next, the sky and ground were tumbling in his vision and his breath was short, and he was on the ground, rolling over and upside-down. He barely got a chance to shout, though, because the bald clone was shoveling snow on his face, even trying to work it into his body-glove, where he'd remained unscathed, so far.
"Taste that, Sparkles?" Crest hollered as Milo got a mouthful of snow. "That's the cold, wet taste of defeat!"
But Milo refused to give in; bracing himself as best he could against the ground, he shoved out with his feet and pushed his brother away, then scrambled to his feet. "Nice try," he said with a grin. "But not good enough, baldy."
"No kriffing way," Trax called from nearby, where he was still pelting Stonewall. "Only I'm allowed to call him that, shiny!"
Before anyone could say anything further, however, a feminine shriek met their ears; turning, Milo watched as Stonewall dropped to his knees and canted his body forward, effectively tossing the Jedi to the ground. She never made it, though, as the captain caught her neatly and held her tight against his chest, grinning wickedly at her while he bent to scoop up a handful of snow with his free hand. Squirming in his grip, Kalinda gave another shriek of laughter, adding a few protests as well, even though Milo thought she wasn't really trying to escape.
But Stonewall ignored her pleas.
"Payback time, General," he said in a bright voice, then proceeded to dump the lot of it down the back of her suit, causing her to squeal and wriggle in his grasp.
Of course, they were all distracted by this, which was when Weave – Milo wondered if the saying was true and the quiet ones were the most devious – took the opportunity to pelt Trax with another snowball, and chaos reigned once more.
By the time Shadow Squad left Ilum, the sun was sinking below the horizon. As they clambered aboard the Wayfarer, knocking snow off their boots and brushing it off of each other's backs, all that anyone could think about was a hot shower, a warm change of clothes, and a nice, steaming cup of caf, all of which were arranged in fairly short order.
All in all, it was one of their most successful missions.
Thank you so much for reading! :)