A/N: Just as a note, this is the fourth story in a series of fanfics. I'd highly recommend reading the first, second, and third fics first, as this one will contain spoilers for the previous ones.
Disclaimer- I own nothing Star Wars. It all belongs to George Lucas, etc. All I own are the characters I've created and the plotline I've come up with :)
Fog covered the Imperial controlled city like a curtain, causing both civilians and Imperials to seek shelter inside their homes or barracks. The air was thick and cold, but it seemed to have no effect on the red and gold armored Mandalorian perched on one of the city's rooftops. He had an almost perfect view of the Imperial's central command complex, as well as the surrounding streets thanks to the systems embedded in his helmet.
Laniff Dreysel smiled grimly, taking in the fog with satisfaction. He had been waiting for an opportunity just like this, when the Empire's troops were content to abandon their patrols for the day in favor of a hot cup of caf and a warm barracks. The advanced head's up display embedded in his helmet, commonly called a HUD, informed him that the temperature was steadily dropping and that the streets were practically empty.
He placed one hand to the side of his helmet, activating his comlink to get in contact with Ran Scorlo. Laniff wouldn't exactly call the man his boss, but the word was close. After all, he was the one who always chose the missions and the jobs. He was in charge, and Laniff was usually glad to follow and obey orders with the occasional wisecrack thrown in just for good measure. But for now, the normal order of things had been suspended. At the moment they were simply a team trying to save a mutual friend. Kadira Sal, a crack pilot, smuggler, and fellow Mandalorian had been kidnapped by a clone who went by the name of Jett. Jett had demanded that Ran and Laniff help rescue some of his squad buddies in exchange for Kadira's freedom. Which was why Laniff was now out in the middle of a foggy city planning an op to recover a much needed ship from the Empire, instead of enjoying his own cup of caf somewhere. He was definitely going to have to talk to Kadira about avoiding kidnappings in the future.
"Ran? Streets are clear. Looks like our buddies decided it was too cold for them."
::Can't say I blame them. Streets are clear on this side too. We'd better get moving before an officer decides to send the patrols out.:: Ran replied calmly.
"Please don't jinx it, Scorlo. Our luck is bad enough already," Laniff grumbled, making his way down from the rooftop. The fog did little to disguise the chipped red and gold paint of his armor or the sinister T-visor helmet that marked him as Mandalorian, causing the few beings in the street to scatter as soon as they caught sight of him. Laniff watched them go, shrugging nonchalantly. Their obvious nervousness didn't bother him in the slightest. It just meant there would be fewer people to get in the way if things went south. Not that he'd ever shoot down a civvie if he could help it, but the Imperials probably wouldn't be so careful. Laniff already had enough regrets to deal with without adding that to the list.
::Are you coming, Laniff?:: Ran asked impatiently, causing Laniff to sigh in exaggerated irritation, knowing full well that Ran would pick up the sound over the comm. It was truly amazing how impatient the man could be.
"I'm coming, your highness," Laniff replied. "Please be so kind as to remember the fact that I had twice as far to come, cityboy."
::And you traveled half of it across rooftops, instead of winding streets. I'd say we're even.::
Laniff rolled his eyes. He had been wondering what had happened to the grouchy Ran he'd first met when he'd joined Kadira on this job. It looked like he was back in full force.
"I'm coming, I'm coming. Give me five seconds and I'll reach the entry point. Try not to trip over anything when we go in, cause I'm apparently too slow to get there in time to help you out."
::Quit talking and get ready for a silent entry,:: Ran replied shortly. ::This is the only shot we get.::
Laniff grunted in response, knowing Ran was right. If they wanted any chance at keeping Kadira alive then they'd have to pull this op off perfectly. Hopefully their consistent bad luck had decided to take a day off for once.
"Jett, try not to break my pistol, you chakaar," Kadira complained, watching as the clone fiddled with her modified scout pistol. He'd already taken it apart twice, and she was beginning to wonder if he planned to put it back together this time. "I'm going to want that back in one piece, you know."
"Doesn't seem too safe, having a pressure pad instead of a trigger. It seems like a good way to shoot yourself in the foot, actually," Jett observed calmly, ignoring her obvious ire. He was infuriating that way, and she could have sworn he did it on purpose.
"It's because of the armor," she explained through gritted teeth. "It's a lot easier to shoot fast if you're not worried about your glove being too thick to fit in the trigger guard."
Jett snorted softly. "Since when do you have to worry about shooting fast, Kad'ika? You have that fancy armor to take whatever anyone decides to throw at you. All you have to do is hunker down and let that Mandalorian iron take the impact, unlike us clones. We just get shiny white plastoid. Which can't take a direct blaster bolt by the way, in case you were curious. I hear your armor can."
"I thought I told you not to call me Kad'ika," Kadira complained, closing her eyes briefly. "And having beskar'gam doesn't mean that getting shot doesn't fierfeking hurt, di'kut." She knew she should probably have ignored the bitter jibe, but she just wasn't in the mood to let it slide.
It wasn't her fault the Empire couldn't be bothered to find better armor for their soldiers, and she was tired of being blamed for the Empire's attitude towards clones.
"Believe me, not something I recommend trying. And as for why I would need to shoot fast, I'm a smuggler, you idiot. Everybody wants to shoot a smuggler and either confiscate their cargo or steal it for themselves. Occupational hazard. Add to that a few personal enemies, an Imperial Agent with a vendetta and an assortment of less than safe bounties and you basically have a small army that would love to see my head on a plate...Besides, every type of armor has a weak point, even beskar'gam. You should know, you're the one who shot me with a dart while I was wearing my armor. It's like they say, the best defense is an excellent offense. So don't you dare break my blaster."
Jett was silent for a moment, obviously distracted.
"Why do you hate Spike so much?" he asked finally, taking her off guard with the abrupt change in subject. "To tell the truth, he doesn't seem very fond of you either."
Kadira laughed slightly, leaning her head back against the durasteel bars of her cell. "That's an understatement. You sure you want to ask me? Spike probably has a different view of it."
"Spike isn't the talkative type."
"Unless he's trying to talk you into something," Kadira responded, a hint of bitterness leaking into her voice. She saw Jett glance up curiously, obviously picking up on her tone. She sighed softly, resigned. Jett wouldn't quit asking until she told him. "He was an adviser in the Empire at the same time I was serving as a scout. He's the one who got the orders, planned the op, and sent out the scouts and soldiers. I did as I was told, thinking I was doing the right thing. You know, serving the Empire, bringing glory to the Emperor, helping bring civilization to the galaxy."
She trailed off and Jett looked up again, studying her face.
"What happened?" he asked softly.
Kadira shrugged, looking at the clone. "I was stupid. I let myself be charmed by Spike and his compliments. We started going out when I wasn't on missions and he wasn't off advising some other squad. Then about six months after we started dating, Spike assigned me to a mission. It wasn't an unusual one, just a run to some backwater planet. Spike told me I was resupplying a garrison on the outer rim. I didn't normally transport troops, but I trusted him… When I landed and the troops got off the ship, I found out I'd been wrong. Spike had told me what I needed to hear in order to transport those troopers. Their real mission was to wipe out the planet's inhabitants. Official orders later said that the civilians were guilty of rebellion, even harboring Jedi. But they were just farmers who disagreed with their di'kut of a governor. There were no Jedi and no rebels on that planet. But it didn't matter. Some of the scouts tried to stop it, and I was one of them. The troopers opened fire on us as well, under orders from Spike to take out anyone who protested. I ended up firing back, shooting down the very men I had brought to that planet... I'm not proud of it, but it's all I could think to do. There was no reasoning with them, no stopping them. Some of the scouts who got involved tried to talk them down, but the troopers simply shot them and kept going. Spike comm'd me and told me to back off and let it go, that there was nothing I could do to stop it."
"But you didn't," Jett said.
"I didn't," Kadira confirmed. "I was too stubborn even then. I ended up with a cargo hold full of civilians I managed to grab before they were executed. I don't think even Spike knows about that. I was terrified, but I turned in my resignation and got the people I could off planet. I made multiple runs back to that world, but I didn't find many survivors. The troopers were very thorough."
"You could have been shot for treason," Jett said slowly. "And here I thought all the smuggling was just because you just liked to thumb your nose at society."
Kadira shrugged slightly. "That part's fun too," she said, struggling to lighten the mood. These weren't memories she liked to dwell on. Jett studied her for a moment before shaking his head slowly, looking troubled.
"Get some sleep, Kad'ika," he said finally, smiling slightly at her exasperated sigh. She could swear he called her that just to annoy her. "Spike wants to move safehouses again tomorrow."
"Again? ...Shab, does this mean you have to drug me?" she grumbled, already knowing the answer. "I just got over the last headache."
Jett winced apologetically. "Sorry. Spike's orders, not mine. He seems to think you might be tempted to try to escape. Now I wonder where he would get an idea like that?" he asked, some of his usual humor leaking back into his voice.
"I wouldn't know," Kadira answered, all innocence. "I'm as submissive as they come."
Jett simply snorted, apparently not deeming to respond.
Things never went according to plan. Laniff should have expected it by now, but he was an optimist by nature. Bad luck had to break eventually, or so he'd always thought. The entire galaxy seemed determined to prove him wrong lately.
The officers might be willing to let the troopers avoid patrolling the streets, but they had doubled the guard on the Vanguard. Apparently Laniff wasn't the only one who knew fog was the perfect cover for a strike mission. Normally it wouldn't be a problem, but with the troopers spread out as far as they were, there was little chance that they'd all be knocked out of play when Laniff activated the Vanguard's special security feature. The ship would release a wave of electrical energy when given the correct codes, knocking out anything electrical or organic within a short range. Unfortunately even with the durasteel beams and pipes running around the hanger the troopers were still too far apart to guarantee that they'd all be incapacitated by the blast.
"Any brilliant ideas?" Laniff asked, knowing Ran was seeing the same dilemma.
::Not even one,:: Ran replied over the comm.
"Shab. I was hoping not to have to resort to a dumb one. Do you remember how to set off the system?"
::Yes…:: Ran replied, drawing out the word suspiciously. ::But I thought you were going to set it off.::
"I was. But I can't run and activate the systems at the same time. Well actually I can, but I'd hate to leave you out of the fun."
::What exactly are you going to be running from?:: Ran asked slowly.
Laniff simply chuckled and rose to his feet. "Stormtroopers, of course. It makes fantastic sport I'm told. Sometimes you can even run them into a wall."
"You're the one who doesn't have an ingenious backup plan, cityboy. Now, pick me up once you get the Vanguard out of here. Just make sure not to scratch Kadira's ship or she'll kill us both."
A/N: Thoughts anyone? I'll try to keep updating as often as I can, but school has been crazy lately. (And yes, I'll keep begging for reviews. They really do make my day, honest.) There are some guest appearances coming up within the next few chapters, so stay tuned. :)