EDIT: 1/31/15: I have re-uploaded this chapter in order to correct a few grammar and canonical errors. Also the rating of this story has been changed from the original M to T, as I feel the content doesn't need that high of a rating.
One of the big changes I made was to change the title Kieria wants to be called from "Commander" to "Master." When I first started this fic I had seen very little of the Clone Wars, and neglected the fact that "Commander" is the title the clones use for Padawans. And referring to both Kieria and Wolffe as Commander was confusing. So I decided to go with Master, since that's a normal Jedi title.
One last note: This story is set about a year after the start of the Clone Wars.
Transcend political correctness and strive for human righteousness. –Anthony J. D'Angelo
Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it. –David Star Jordan
With the familiar droning hum unique to Republic dropships, a group of six dropped down through the sparse cloud cover, loosely arrayed in a wedge formation, like giant birds of prey honing in on a target. In the distance behind them, a triangular cruiser, steel gray and tipped in dark red, angled slowly towards the planet's dusky beige surface, it's single bridge tower sticking up like a proud flag, but it was not nearly as nimble as the dropships and would take nearly three times as long to reach the landing zone that would be their base of operations, giving the smaller ships, loaded with troops and equipment, plenty of time to secure the location.
They weren't really expecting trouble, and hence the loose formation and sauntering speed of the dropships, but nevertheless these were clone troopers, bred for war; and having lived in one for more than a year now, their training dictated their response to every situation: cautious and thorough.
Within a few minutes, the dropships slowed and hovered before dropping to the ground with practiced precision. The large doors on either side sprang open, and a collection of clone troopers poured out of each side. Despite the barren surroundings of rocks and dusts, they all had their weapons in their hands and raised to eye level, twisting this way and that as they surveyed the area.
Wearing the standard full body suit of armor patterned with green-gray stripes and lines and a kama of matching color, Commander Wolffe of the 104th division, or the "Wolfpack", stepped to the middle of the excitement and immediately began handing out his orders. During their last visit here, amid earthquake wreckage, he had thought the planet was in disarray, and he expected the Aleena should have straightened everything out and that the landscape would have settled a bit.
Now he realized that not a whole lot had changed. In the villages, the rocks had been cleared and buildings restored, but the rubble was only pushed to the outer limits of the little towns, and then left. Sure, it had only been a few months since their last visit, but the clones would never have been comfortable living in such dangerous disarray. He sent out two squads to secure a perimeter and set the rest to clearing ground and setting up their base of operations. Dust from the dropships clicked as it struck his helmet, and he held in a sigh. He remembered this planet, and not terribly fondly.
It bothered him that an entire ship had been diverted to this planet in crisis again; the clones were made for the battlefield and desperately needed there. But he would follow orders. His only consolation was that a Jedi was supposed to meet them here this time; while he certainly didn't mind commanding troops, it meant that he would have to deal with the local inhabitants less. Or so he hoped. And speaking of both…
The troops on patrol began reporting their finds. Wolffe heard the all clear and gave orders to lock down and finish setting up and prepare for the imminent arrival of the cruiser, and then one of his men—Sinker—shouted to get his attention. Wolffe turned and saw the other clone jerk his helmeted head to his right, directing his commander's eyes beyond him, and through the lightly swirling dust and the glare of the sharp sunlight on the rocks, he spotted a slender brown figure approaching, standing out amid the light colored landscape. Shapes ran and jumped around the person, clearly the local inhabitants. Wolffe steeled himself and walked forward to meet them, Sinker falling into step behind him.
The Aleena quieted when they saw the approached clones, although they continued chatting jovially and rapidly in their own language. Wolffe was surprised to realize that the Jedi was a human female, although he didn't show it as he reached up and removed his helmet. For some reason when he thought of Jedi, a sense of masculinity came with it, perhaps because he had not yet worked with a female Jedi? He cast it from his mind and assessed her.
From the neck down, she was draped in the typical brown cloak that all Jedi seemed to wear, and thus most of her physique was hidden from him, except for when the breeze tugged at the hem where a few Aleena weren't holding it and realized sturdy, dusty boots and leggings. Her hair was a natural shade, a dark blond with lighter streaks, and was coiled up into a tight, neat bun at the back of her head, save for a few shorter strands that covered her forehead and framed her face when not fluttering in the wind. She was nearly as tall as he was but not quite; he could tell that if he stood right beside her he would still be looking down at her, and she was very slim under that cloak, which Wolffe considered a good thing: his guess was that it marked athletic shape. He, and the other clones, snapped to attention.
"CC-3636, yes?" she asked, raising her voice slightly to be heard over the activity around them and the excited Aleena at her feet.
Wolffe nodded sharply. "Commander Wolffe of the 104th Division, General," he replied.
"I am Kieria Irrden," she introduced herself in turn. "But please, call me Master, not General." She waited for his acknowledging nod and then continued. "I've already been to the nearest village." He nodded, remembering hearing a report that a small star fighter had been parked there. "As you know, the situation is dire, whatever other impression these Aleena might give off." She glanced down at the natives at her feet and smiled as they jumped up and down upon attention being turned to them.
Sinker tensed stiffly as one scurried forward to hug his leg. "They are just excited to see us, and the prospect of the help we represent. They already have a hospital back there, and it's already rather full of patients." She looked back up at Wolffe, her smile fading. "As soon as your medics arrive, I would like to have them start their work. And we will need others in the dropships to head out to the next nearest villages and check on them. How long will that take?"
"Not long, Master Irrden," Wolffe answered. A shadow fell over them, and the small group looked up to see the looming form of the Venator-class cruiser bearing down on them, clanking and creaking metallically as it settled on its' landing struts. He turned back down to the Jedi, and then down lower, to where she knelt on the ground, and to his surprise, spoke the local language.
The cruiser had frightened the Aleena, and many of them were hiding under her cloak. Within a few moments, they brightened again, and most of them ran off to somewhere. The Jedi straightened again. "We'll get the medics and supplies unloaded immediately and start for the village. I assume you will lead the way?" He hid his hopefulness from his voice; if she kept the Aleen natives busy, it would be easier for his men to work.
"I probably should, yes," she commented absentmindedly, watching as the first clones, laden with supplies, started down the ramp. She frowned gently. "Commander, don't you think the hospital would be better set up closer to the village? There is more protection from the elements over there, with that slight cliff."
Wolffe hid a sigh, his hopes dissipating. "This is always how we set up, ma'am, with the hospital as close to the cruiser so we don't have to move the supplies as far. And it is safer from any local wildlife. The shelter itself protects from the elements."
The Jedi glanced back at him, as if searching his face, then she gave a short nod. "Well, alright then, I suppose those are valid points. But make sure you keep the supplies upwind of it. We don't want any contaminated food, or supplies." The clone gave another acknowledging nod, holding back his annoyance, certain that she would leave shortly.
"Ah, there are the medics," she said, although he could obviously see that for himself. "Well then, Commander, I had better go along and make sure that things at the village are set up properly. Notify me when the dropships are prepared to go out to the other villages. And when the hospital and other area are assembled." Without waiting for an answer, she turned away, then paused and turned back to him. "And when everything is unloaded as well. In fact, just notify me of any information at all. The lives of these people are at stake, and we don't need any break in communication to damage our effectiveness."
"Yes ma'am," Wolffe replied to her back as she walked away, standing rigidly at attention and saluting even though she couldn't see it.
Sinker came up next to him, removing his own helmet. "Well, she certainly is thorough," he remarked dryly as they watched her walk away, two or three Aleena still clutching her cloak hem.
Wolffe stifled another sigh as he watched her inspect the pile of goods a trooper was unloading and correct him on something that they could not hear. "I get the feeling that this is going to be a long trip," he commented, resigned. Then they turned and hurried about their duties.
Author's Note: Yes, I know I am supposed to be working on Breaking and Entering; that update is coming shortly. For now, enjoy this. Also, any opinions expressed in this story do not represent the actual feelings of myself or anyone I know. All of it is simply the character for the sake of the story. This is the first in a series of short stories and one-shots that I am calling Shooting the Gap, and I intend to keep it on the short side. Hence I have also cut the normal length of my chapters down. Reviews are loved and speed up updates and I am open to scene suggestions, but note that flames will be tossed. This is for my own enjoyment. I have classes for improving my writing skills.