All rights reserved by George Lucas/Disney although Lego deserves credit for the story idea.
The Mandalore affair had been a messy one, Commander Vargus thought as the shuttle settled onto the surface of Concordia with a thump. He wasn't entirely sure why General Kenobi had felt that he needed to poke his nose into the affairs of a government that was supposed to be neutral, but true to form, he had. Death Watch had abandoned their base shortly afterward, vanishing without a trace.
After the police task force from New Mandalore had accidentally tripped several booby traps that Death Watch had kindly left behind in their camp, Clone Marshal Cody had considerately volunteered a GAR bomb squad to help clear the area and train them in bomb disposal. Apparently, it wasn't good politics for Republic military ships to be seen in Mandalorian space, which is why Vargus and his company's demolitions experts were currently packed into a nondescript civilian shuttle. Politics, he sighed to himself, yet another reason to be thankful he never had to deal with them. Still they were here now.
Vargus opened his external com channel with a swift eye movement. "Right gentlemen, we're here to dismantle this death trap of a base so the authorities can turn it upside down for leads. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get back to the rest of the company."
"Yessir!" Dom, Tari, and Ren chorused.
The bomb squad clones were perfectly matching in their orange armour; the bulging white Republic packs they wore stood out like a sore thumb. Vargus didn't really approve of orange armour, but some Republic bigwig had decided on the colour scheme. Against the inertia of bureaucracy, the disapproval of one clone Commander wasn't going to carry much weight even if he happened to be a company CO. His own amour sported tasteful swathes of pale green. Green was a good colour, and it was more likely to blend in with his surroundings.
The shuttle's hatch lowered slowly to reveal another clone waiting for them. For a moment Vargus, used to seeing Falco in a standard Phase I helmet, was perplexed by the distinctive visor and breathing system of the Recon gear.
Falco saluted. "Advanced Recon Force trooper Falco reporting for duty, sir."
Vargus returned the salute and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "My memory is not that bad, Falco. I know who you are, even with that fancy new Recon kit." As he came down the ramp, Falco fell in beside him.
"Sorry, sir. I've been loaned out to a number of different commands since completing my recon training. I've gotten used to having to report in each time." Falco paused, waiting while the shuttle had lifted off noisily. Once it had gone he continued, "The Death Watch camp is just over the rise. General Kenobi ah, got a bit enthusiastic when he was down here, so we've had to use an alternative landing zone."
"Not a problem." Vargus followed Falco as the other man led them up a narrow dusty track that looked like it had a seen a lot of activity recently. The path was steep and Vargus found himself breathing more heavily as the trail climbed up the hillside. Finally they were at the top, the camp stretched out before them, small buildings huddled together in a round crater. Judging by the stepped sides of the bowl, the Death Watch had made use of an old mining quarry to hide their base.
Vargus looked over at Falco, noticing the other man's paint job for the first time. "I didn't know Recon customised their armour. That green looks good on you," he remarked as blandly as he could.
Falco cleared his throat self-consciously. "Well, sir…"
Vargus grinned; under all the new training and armour it seemed that Falco still had the same tells. "At ease, Falco. I'm just giving you grief."
On the other side of him, Dom spoke up. It seemed he'd quickly gotten over his shyness about meeting an ARF trooper. "Green's overrated, sir. Orange is really where it's at."
Falco grunted. "Sure - as long as you don't mind being a living target."
Vargus couldn't resist. "Nah, it's just to make it easier to pick up the pieces afterwards."
Dom shrugged. "I prefer to think of it more as a handy warning for friendly forces: if the bomb boys are running—do your best to keep up."
"Commander, the Mandalorian police officers are eager to get started." Falco pointed out one of the curved structures below them. "They're using one of the Death Watch barracks as the CP. I've already swept the building twice for traps—it's clean. "
Vargus shifted his decee so it wasn't pressing his sidearm into his ribs. "Good work, Falco. Ren, Tari, Dom, your students await you."
Vargus yawned. The warm sunlight against his face was making him a little drowsy. It probably didn't help that he was bored out of his skull. Falco had sloped off after the first couple of hours, muttering something about scouting the surrounding area. Vargus didn't blame him: Tari, Ren, and Dom were still busy teaching the civvies about IEDs, wiring, and whatever else went into blowing things up. He had finished cleaning both his pistols and his decee long ago. The company roster had been double-checked and he was now up to date with all his paperwork. With the Mandos in charge of site security, there wasn't much for Vargus to do now besides sit around in the sun.
He much preferred being a line trooper. Things were so much simpler; point your weapon towards the enemy and pull the trigger. Minimal sneaking around. No worrying about gadgets. No covert missions. Nothing out of the ordinary. Let the battalion commander worry about General Kenobi and the latest tactics of Dooku and his minions. Vargus was a simple guy and being a consultant wasn't really his style.
He checked his chrono and frowned. Falco should've checked in a while ago. Even if he wasn't technically part of Vargus's company anymore, the Recon trooper should've kept in contact. Vargus tapped his wrist com. "Falco, this is Vargus." Nothing. He tried again. "Falco, this is Commander Vargus. Report in!" Still nothing. Vargus's internal alarm bells began to ring. He checked his weapons one last time, then replaced his helmet and started walking towards the training room.
Tari snapped to attention when he entered the dim room. From the looks of it, he had been running a couple of police officers through the finer points of circuit boards. Dom and Ren were nowhere to be seen.
"At ease. Tari – where's Dom and Ren?"
Tari relaxed. "They're both putting the recruits through their paces. Ren's group is clearing the mine; Dom's is working their way through the other buildings in the camp."
Vargus fingered a pistol grip, thinking.
He looked up to see Tari staring at his hand. "What is it, Tari?"
"With respect, sir, you only play with your blaster just before things start going south."
Vargus grinned crookedly. "True, very true."
He decided to cut to the chase and opened a com channel to all his men. If he was lucky, Falco would overhear them and chime in. "Falco hasn't reported in, probably tripped over a tree and broke his comm unit." Vargus hoped that were the case. "I'm going after him. You lot stay here and finish the job."
There was an awkward silence on the coms. Ren cleared his throat, the sound crackling through the com-line. "Commander, I can finish up here while Tari and Dom go with you."
Vargus's reply was chilly. "I wasn't aware that this was a democracy, Sergeant."
To his credit, Ren didn't give up. "With respect, commander, Commander Cody would be very unhappy if anything happened to you."
In the training room Vargus could see Tari fidgeting, the clash of wills was making him uncomfortable. He sighed. "Fine. Dom, turn your group over to Ren then get over here. I do not want a bunch of rookie bomb techs working without supervision."
Vargus cussed eloquently when he heard that Falco had taken the only speeder. It meant that Falco could be that much farther away from the base. He, Tari, and Dom were perched on the lip of the crater, trying in vain to catch a glimpse of white armour in the dense forest below them.
"What now, sir?" Tari asked.
Vargus stopped swearing and switched his helmet's speaker back on. "Now we find Falco," he said grimly.
"Sir!" Dom had a pair of binoculars glued to his visor.
"What is it?" Vargus snapped.
"Faint smoke column. About four clicks east."
Smoke was better than nothing. Four clicks: they could make that distance in less than half an hour but without transport, they couldn't carry much gear with them and if Falco was severely injured… Vargus fretted briefly about the logistics of getting Falco back to base camp. "Right. Let's go find our missing scout." He took off at an easy lope down the path and the other two fell in behind him.
They reached the source of the smoke just as the sun reached its zenith against the moon's tiny horizon. It was immediately obvious what had caused it: the wreck of the speeder was mashed against a tree, barely recognisable. Flames spluttered faintly against the damp ground cover but from the look of the blackened surrounds, the fire had died back since the initial impact. Vargus silenced his speakers with a swift eye movement and let rip another string of curses. He shouldn't have lost anyone on this mission! It wasn't even complex enough to be called a mission for Force's sake!
He switched his coms back on. "Dom, check the wreck. Tari, scout back along the speeder's route. I want to know what happened here."
The two orange forms snapped into action. They probably guessed from his tone that now was not the right time for a smart remark. Vargus kicked savagely at a nearby tuft of grass and tapped his wrist com. "Ren."
The only reply was a faint, distinctive crackling from the com channel. Vargus's skin prickled and he threw open his coms. "Our communications have been cut off. Tari - get back here on the double!"
Just then a welcome voice came over the line. "Commander, is that you?"
Vargus shut his eyes, relieved, and blew out a slow breath. "In the flesh, Falco, and impatiently awaiting for your report. Where are you?"
"With Tari, sir. Gave him a bit of a fright."
He could hear Tari grumbling in the background, something about recon troopers and bells. Then they were both there, running out from the surrounding trees, and saluting him.
"Someone took a pot-shot at me, sir." Falco reported. "Melted clean through one of the speeder's stabilisers and sent her into a spin. I managed to get clear in time only to find that my coms weren't working."
"Did you manage to get a visual?"
Falco shook his head. "No, sir."
"So we're back to square one, less a speeder," Dom muttered.
Even though he knew Dom couldn't see it, Vargus couldn't help himself, he fixed the other clone with his iciest glare. "But plus one trooper." His gut was tingling again: no decent enemy took a pot-shot and didn't check that the job wasn't done properly. He wouldn't anyway.
A noise caught his attention. "Find cover!" The others melted into the surrounding forest. A detached part of him noted that Tari and Dom were less noticeable in their orange armour than he would've expected. As for Falco, well, being hard to find was in the man's job description.
A small Mandalorian speeder came hurtling between the trees, zooming towards them. The small figure atop it had the distinctive shape of blue armour that Vargus recognised from the mission briefing: Death Watch. Vargus lined up his decee's reticule on the rider's chest and waited. Closer… Closer… Then he remembered—Death Watch all wore blaster-resistant armour! He quickly moved his crosshairs up to the distinctive T-visor and squeezed off a shot. He watched with satisfaction as his target went flying. Riderless, the small speeder keeled to one side and skidded slowly to a halt.
Vargus waited for a moment longer but the sounds of the forest seemed to have returned to normal. Keeping his decee aimed at the still figure, he approached and flipped it onto its back with a nudge of his boot. His shot had shattered the visor; apparently that wasn't blaster-resistant.
"Death Watch!" Falco spat.
Dom bent down and reached toward the dead man's belt. Falco grabbed his arm. "Booby traps!"
"Explosives expert!" Dom retorted.
Falco let go and Dom started rifling through the belt's contents. "Aha!" he said, triumphantly pulling out a piece of flimsy. "What do we have here?"
Vargus reached down and took the folded scrap, opening it up. "Apparently nothing, unless your idea of a clue is a still-life drawing. In any case, we need to get back to base and let the Mandalorian authorities know about this."
Tari had righted the enemy speeder. "Any chance this thing would take four?" he asked hopefully.
Vargus laughed. "I think you're being a bit optimistic, trooper. We're returning to base the low-tech way."
A/N: Commander Vargus, and clone troopers Dom and Falco are from EU. Thanks for reading. If you've got some time, I'd love to find out what you thought of the story.
Part 2: Vargus and co. run into more Death Watch trouble whilst on their way back to camp.